Psalm 119 'beth'

This is the second post looking at a stanza of Psalm 119. The first looked at the first eight verses called aleph. This second stanza is called beth (apparently pronounced like ‘bet’). In Hebrew these eight verses all begin with the letter beth.

These eight verses, from the NASBĀ®1, interspersed with my comments read as follows:

9. How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.

  • A fairly well known and oft-quoted verse.
  • Even though it refers to young men, it can be applied by/to all people - male or female, young or old. But the younger you start, the easier it is!
  • David may2 have been reflecting on some of his life choices and concluded that living life in accordance with God’s word would have saved a deal of pain, anguish and hurt.

10. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments.

  • Not half-hearted searching and seeking, but with all my heart.
  • David is asking that his seeking not be in vain - that he will not wander during the search.
  • This search is not a one-off search, but a continual seeking and finding. The depth of the Almighty God is such that eternity will not be long enough for us to discover all there is to know about God.
  • Matthew Henry observes, ‘The best are sensible of their aptness to wander; and the more we have found of the pleasure there is in keeping God’s commandments the more afraid we shall be of wandering from them and the more earnest we shall be in prayer to God for his grace to prevent our wanderings.’

11. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.

  • Another well known verse. Sounds very Davidic to me.
  • The word treasured is to hide, to hoard up, to reserve, lay aside and protect. It suggests to me an intentional act. It’s not like someone saying, ‘Oh, I just happened to have this bit of Scripture memorised’, but planned and intended.
  • Matthew Henry makes some interesting comparisons in this verse. He says, ‘God’s word is a treasure worth laying up, and there is no laying it up safely but in our hearts; if we have it only in our houses and hands, enemies may take it from us; if only in our heads, our memories may fail us:’

12. Blessed are You, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes.

  • Blessedness is now ascribed to the Lord. It had previously only been spoken over the believer/follower (verses 1 and 2).
  • In verses 1 and 2 the Hebrew word translated as ‘blessed’ is esher (Strong’s number H835) which means happy. But in this verse it is H1288 barak which, at its core, means to kneel. So the implication is that God is one we would kneel before as an act of adoration.

13. With my lips I have told of All the ordinances of Your mouth.

  • The first use of ‘ordinances’ as a descriptor.
  • Speaks of the idea of proclamation - of declaring or speaking God’s word.
  • Interestingly it is written in the past tense ‘I have told of all the ordinances’ rather than ‘I will continue to tell’ or ‘I intend to tell’.

14. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.

  • Another verse in the past tense ’ I have rejoiced’.
  • And this rejoicing has been in the way (manner, outcome, results) of the Lord’s testimonies. David is reflecting on the results of following the Lord’s teaching and he can conclude that it is joyous.
  • He values the Lord’s testimonies as much as all riches. And this coming from a man who was king of an expanded and successful nation. Not at Solomon’s level of wealth, but what David had he used more wisely (most of the time).

15. I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways.

  • This is the first occurrence of the word ‘meditate’ in Psalm 119.
  • To _meditate+ is to dwell on and ponder over - to reflect on and turn something over in your mind. Clearly you can only meditate on something that you have memorised or where the words are sitting before you.
  • The idea of ‘regarding the Lord’s ways’ points firstly to understanding and then to obedience. And the best understanding will flow from having meditated on the Lord’s ways or precepts.
  • In a way meditation can be viewed as not only reflecting and pondering on the word of the Lord, but also its implications for our lives - how we can be obedient to it, or to consider and repent of ways we have been disregarding or disobedient.
  • So meditation is a positive activity - intentional reflection but with a view to taking action in the light of the truth we see.

16. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.

  • We see a progression across verses 14 to 16 - from part tense, to future. I don’t know if this progression is intended or reflected in the Hebrew, but it exists in the NASB at least.
  • This gives the idea or impression that studying/meditating/reflecting/delighting in the word of the Lord is something we are to persist in doing. Even if we didn’t do it yesterday but start today and continue tomorrow then we can say ‘I have delighted in Your word’ and ‘I do delight in Your word’, and ‘I will delight in Your word’.
  • The phrase ‘I shall delight…’ shows intent and purpose. David doesn’t see the word of the Lord as being transitory and of limited value but a permanent marker in his days.

I’ve enjoyed this second stanza of Psalm 119. Whilst most of the verses are standalone, there are some connections and progressions between verses. What strikes me after just 16 days/verses is how all-encompassing Bible reading and meditation was to David, and how he attempts to portray that to us, some 3,000 years later.

  1. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation. ↩︎

  2. purely conjecture on my part. ↩︎