Psalms Chapter 119

Psalms 119:1-176
Study Guide Type:
Verse by Verse Notes

NKJV Study Notes by Clark Peddicord
Edited by Bob Caldwell

This extravagant psalm is the longest chapter in the Bible; 176 verses or lines of poetry, all arranged in an acrostic in which each letter of the Hebrew alphabet (22 in number) begins eight verses of poetry. It was designed to teach the supreme importance of God's word and impress this upon the memory and thinking of each and every believer who recited it.

v. 1 undefiled - blameless

in the way - derek (Heb.) road or path. For the psalmist, the life of faith is a way. The word for "way" reappears 12 more times in this psalm (v. 3). The men and women of the early Christian church were called followers of "the way" (Acts 9:2; 18:25-26; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14).

Who walk - halak (Heb.) Life with God is a journey (1 John 1:7).

Law - torah (Heb.) instruction

v. 2 whole heart - an undivided focus upon God as the center of life and action

v. 3 They also do no iniquity - The godly man or woman does not live in sin.

v. 4 precepts - The first synonym for torah.

v. 5 statutes - Another synonym for torah.

v. 6 commandments - The Hebrew word (in singular form) is mitzvah, familiar to even non-Jews in the name of the coming-of-age ceremony, the Bar Mitzvah, in which a Jewish boy takes the first step to manhood and becomes a "son of the commandment."

v. 7 uprightness of heart - honestly and without hypocrisy

righteous judgments - mishpat (Heb.) ordinances

v. 9 a young man - In the ancient Hebrew tradition of Wisdom, a na'ar or lad needs instruction on how to live; hence the connection with torah (God's instruction).

cleanse his way - 'orach (Heb.) live his life on God's "path"

taking heed - patterning one's life

v. 10 With my whole heart I have sought You - Wholeheartedness is the key to walking on God's path, unlike the double-souled man of James 1:8.

wander - Again, the picture is of a path, which the careless or thoughtless can stray from.

v. 11 word - 'imrah (Heb.) utterance or speech; i.e. the active and living communication of God. 'imrah is a favorite of the poet; he uses it a total of 19 times in this psalm.

That I might not sin against You - live a life that does not offend God's character

v. 13 With my lips I have declared - There is a proper spiritual movement from learning to speaking or teaching.

All the judgments of Your mouth - All the decisions that God pronounces.

v. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies - Note again the conjunction of "way" and "testimony" (yet another synonym for the Word of God).

v. 15 meditate - talk (also to oneself)

contemplate - focus on

v. 17 keep Your word - observe Your Word

v. 18 Open - galah (Heb.) also means to discover

wondrous things - marvelous truths

v. 19 I am a stranger in the earth - The Bible teaches that the believer is a sojourner, a "resident alien" in the world, living a transient life, exposed to dangers and discrimination.

Do not hide Your commandments from me - Only God's instruction can guide us safely through such an obstacle course.

v. 21 You rebuke the proud-The cursed, who stray from Your commandments - God speaks out against the arrogant, those who wander from the path of His instruction for life.

v. 22 Remove from me reproach and contempt - the contempt of the arrogant pictured in the previous verse

v. 23 Princes also sit and speak against me - Ps. 1:1

v. 24 my delight - my enjoyment

my counselors - men of my counsel (Heb.)

v. 25 soul - nephesh (Heb.) innermost being

clings to the dust - faced with death

revive me - give me new life

v. 26 I have declared - retold or recounted

v. 27 Your precepts - Your "decrees"

v. 28 heaviness - anguished grief or sorrow; the image is of wax melting before a flame

v. 29 the way of lying - the other path; the way of deception and falsehood, of appearance rather than reality

and grant me Your law graciously - Better translated, "Through Your instruction give me grace."

v. 30 I have chosen the way of truth - in contrast to the "way of lying" from the previous verse

Your judgments I have laid before me - Through a conscious decision the psalmist has set his mind upon God's Word.

v. 32 course - derek (Heb.) way or path

for You shall enlarge my heart - give me true understanding

v. 33 Teach me - Hebrew verse, like most other poetry, uses sound patterns to connect ideas and statements together. Associations are formed in the brain when words and phrases sound like previously used terms. (This is why poetry, like music, really needs to be heard.) The Hebrew form of the verb that begins this verse ("teach") is horeni; it sounds like the word for "law/instruction" (torah); so the connotation is: "teach me / ‘instruct' me in the way of your statutes."

I shall keep it to the end - probably in the sense of "certainly keep it"

v. 34 understanding - biyn (Heb.) prudent discernment

I shall observe it with my whole heart - Wholeheartedness is the mark of a person whose attention is focused upon knowing and obeying God.

v. 35 Make me walk - "Walk" is the verbal form of derek ("way" or "path"). "Walk me on the path" would be a more exact translation. Admittedly, this sounds a little strange in English, but we do have expressions such as: "Please walk me through the process step-by-step."

v. 36 Incline my heart - "turn" or "bend" my heart in the right direction; the inner work of the Holy Spirit in His battle against our flesh (Gal. 5:17)

covetousness - a preoccupation with selfish personal gain or profit

v. 37 Worthless things - shawv (Heb.) worthless content, emptiness

revive me - give me new energy

v. 39 reproach - public dishonor and disgrace

v. 40 Behold - The second half of this verse again articulates the poet's desire for a fresh input of God's energy into his life; hence re-vival and re-vive

v. 41 mercies - Note the plural form; the word refers to specific and multiple acts of kindness on God's part. Note also the parallelism between "mercies" and "salvation."

v. 42 him who reproaches me - Or, the enemy who taunts me. This verse has the tone of appealing to God for help against specific foes.

v. 43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth - Utterly probably means "in any way" or "to any degree."

v. 45 And I will walk at liberty - literally, "I will walk in a wide-open place"; in freedom and security (see Ps. 118:5-6 study notes)

v. 46 kings - those at the top of the social and power hierarchy

v. 48 My hands also I will lift up - In a posture of prayer; traditionally, prayer was done standing with raised arms.

v. 49 Remember the word to Your servant - the specific promises and covenant commitments God has made to His people in general and the psalmist in particular

v. 50 Your word has given me life - this is the united testimony of all of God's people through the ages

v. 51 The proud - In Hebrew thinking, those who do not follow God's commandments and go their own way are the "proud."

v. 53 Indignation - The translation tones down the original Hebrew considerably: "burning rage" is a better choice.

v. 54 Your statutes have been my songs - The Word of God, sung by His people.

In the house of my pilgrimage - the biblical view is that our physical bodies are "dwellings" or "tents" on our journey through life and beyond (2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Peter 1:13)

v. 56 This - The Name of God from v. 55. We "take possession" of our relationship to God and our spiritual heritage by faith.

v. 57 portion - share or inheritance

v. 58 I entreated Your favor with my whole heart - "My" is lacking in Hebrew; better translated, "with a whole (i.e. undivided) heart.

v. 61 The cords of the wicked - as a prisoner bound with ropes

v. 63 companion - chaver (Heb.) friend

v. 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray - Suffering impels us to consider how we are living our lives and do course-correction.

v. 68 You are good, and do good - a primary confession of biblical faith

v. 69 forged - to smear or plaster over something (Heb.)

v. 70 Their heart is as fat as grease - unfeeling and uncaring

v. 73 Your hands have made me and fashioned me - The biblical understanding is that each human being is, in a special sense, an individual creation of God.

v. 75 in faithfulness You have afflicted me - Troubles are not intended by God to destroy us but lead us to light and truth.

v. 76 Let, I pray - God's mercy should console us in the troubles of life.

v. 77 delight - enjoyment (v. 24)

v. 78 the proud - arrogant enemies

they treated me wrongfully with falsehood - Literally, "They twisted me." They presented the psalmist in a completely distorted way.

v. 81 My soul - nephesh (Heb.) my deepest being

v. 83 I have become like a wineskin in smoke - A striking image; the poet visualizes his life like a wineskin hanging in the smoke that has dried up and become hard.

v. 84 How many are the days of Your servant? - Or, with my life so short, why do You not act against those who falsely attack me?

v. 85 The proud have dug pits for me - a typical way to trap animals

v. 89 Your word is settled in heaven - it stands firm

v. 90 Your faithfulness - emunah (Heb.) consistent fidelity and steadfastness

You established the earth, and it abides - The Bible uses the apparent stability and abiding existence of the earth and the heavens as a metaphor for God's faithfulness in preserving His covenant people (Jer. 31:35-36).

v. 91 They - all created things; the "heaven" of v. 89 and "earth" of v. 90

For all are Your servants - Genesis 1 makes clear that all things in heaven...sun, moon, and stars...are not some kind of "gods" but created things serving God's purposes and plan.

v. 93 I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life - All life is a gift of God's "Word," His living will (1 Peter 1:22).

v. 96 I have seen the consummation of all perfection - Better translated, "I see a limit to all perfection"

v. 97 my meditation - an object of musing and study

v. 98 for they are ever with me - or, Your Word is mine forever

v. 99 more understanding - a wonderful promise for the young and inexperienced

v. 103 How sweet - compare with Ps. 19:10, the psalm of praise for God's Word

v. 104 I hate every false way - every deceptive twisting of the truth

v. 107 I am afflicted very much - The suffering of the poet is a recurring theme in this psalm.

v. 108 freewill offerings - In the view of the psalmist, prayer serves as a substitute for "offerings" before God.

v. 109 My life is continually in my hand - constantly at risk

v. 111 Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever - as my personal inheritance

v. 112 I have inclined - directed or led

v. 113 I hate the double-minded - compare with James 1:8

v. 114 You are my hiding place and my shield - God is the psalmist's shelter and protection.

v. 119 dross - The impurities in metal ore that are burned away by the heat of the smelting process.

v. 122 surety - offer Yourself as a pledge or "co-signer" to insure good for Your servant

v. 123 My eyes fail - spent or are wasted away

v. 125 give me understanding - insight

v. 126 It is time for You to act, O LORD - the cry of God's suffering people through the ages (Rev. 6:9-10)

v. 127 I love Your commandments - compare with Psalm 19:7

v. 128 right - straight. We use the same expression in English: "Tell it to me straight!

v. 130 entrance - doorway, portal or gate (Ps. 24:7, 90). The image is that God's Law opens to reveal a brilliant light shining. Reminiscent of God's first word of creation (Gen. 1:3).

the simple - peti (Heb.) the inexperienced and easily misled; usually a youth

v. 131 I opened my mouth and panted - like a person or animal panting for water

v. 132 as Your custom is - "as You always do"

v. 133 Direct my steps - Make my footsteps sure.

let no iniquity have dominion over me - Do not allow me to be ruled by any wrongdoing.

v. 134 the oppression of man - human injustice and subjugation

v. 135 Make Your face shine upon Your servant - calls to mind the "Aaronic" blessing of Numbers 6:23

v. 136 Rivers of water - The poet is genuinely and deeply sorrowful at the rejection of God's Word by the society around him.

v. 139 My zeal has consumed me - Ps. 69:9, John 2:17

v. 140 Your word is very pure - as a refined and precious metal (Ps. 19:9-10)

v. 141 I am small and despised - The poet recognizes himself as "puny" and unloved.

v. 147 I rise before the dawning of the morning - "I greeted the dawn."

v. 148 My eyes are awake through the night watches - "My eyes greet the watches of the night"; i.e. I am awake through the night. The night hours were announced by the watchmen as they went through the city or on its walls.

v. 150 They draw near who follow after wickedness - Literally, "Nearing are those who pursue wickedness." The Hebrew word for "wickedness" can mean "evil purpose" and also "idolatry" (hence, "loathsome things"). These kind of people are at my heels.

v. 151 You are near, O LORD - God is "near" and that makes all the difference.

v. 152 You have founded them forever - God's "statutes," His eternal Word, is anchored in creation itself and before creation. The New Testament clearly associates this idea with Jesus as the eternal Word (logos (Gk.), John 1:1).

v. 154 Revive me - chayah (Heb.) enliven me or give me life

v. 158 the treacherous - "traitors" to God and His covenant with His people

v. 160 The entirety of Your word is truth - Your Word is true in its totality

v. 164 Seven times a day I praise You - may either indicate fixed times of prayer or stand for "praying constantly"

v. 165 Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble - It would be strange indeed if the "Shin" section of this acrostic psalm left out shalom, the famous Hebrew word for peace. This verse begins (literally): "Peace+great to those who love Your instruction [Torah]." To them, nothing is truly a stumbling block.

v. 168 all my ways are before You - God knows us through and through.

v. 169 my cry - "my ringing proclamation" (song of prayer)

v. 170 my supplication - my "plea for favor"

v. 171 My lips shall utter praise...my tongue shall speak - Note the Hebrew style of using concrete nouns to anchor abstract ideas in real life.

v. 174 Your law is my delight - Your law is the object of my joy.

v. 176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep - a picture very deeply rooted in the biblical world view (Is. 53:6, Luke 15:1)