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Ps 119:1-176. This celebrated Psalm has several peculiarities. It is divided into twenty-two parts or stanzas, denoted by the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza contains eight verses, and the first letter of each verse is that which gives name to the stanza. Its contents are mainly praises of God's Word, exhortations to its perusal, and reverence for it, prayers for its proper influence, and complaints of the wicked for despising it. There are but two verses (Ps 119:122, 132) which do not contain some term or description of God's Word. These terms are of various derivations, but here used, for the most part, synonymously, though the use of a variety of terms seems designed, in order to express better the several aspects in which our relations to the revealed word of God are presented. The Psalm does not appear to have any relation to any special occasion or interest of the Jewish Church or nation, but was evidently "intended as a manual of pious thoughts, especially for instructing the young, and its peculiar artificial structure was probably adopted to aid the memory in retaining the language."
ALEPH. (Ps 119:1-8).
1. undefiled--literally, "complete," perfect, or sincere (compare
2. testimonies--The word of God is so called, because in it He
testifies for truth and against sin.
3. his ways--the course He reveals as right.
4-6. precepts--are those directions which relate to special conduct,
from a word meaning "to inspect."
8. Recognizes the need of divine grace.
BETH. (Ps 119:9-16).
9. The whole verse may be read as a question; for,
10-16. We must carefully treasure up the word of God, declare it to others, meditate on it, and heartily delight in it; and then by His grace we shall act according to it.
GIMEL. (Ps 119:17-24).
DALETH. (Ps 119:25-32).
25-27. Submitting ourselves in depression to God, He will revive us by His promises, and lead us to declare His mercy to others.
28-32. In order to adhere to His word, we must seek deliverance from
temptations to sin as well as from despondency.
HE. (Ps 119:33-40).
33-38. To encourage us in prayer for divine aid in adhering to His
truth, we are permitted to believe that by His help we shall succeed.
37. Turn away mine eyes--literally, "Make my eyes to pass, not noticing
38. who is devoted to thy fear--or better, "which (that is, Thy word) is for Thy fear," for producing it. "Which is to those who fear Thee." God's word of promise belongs peculiarly to such (compare Ge 18:19; 1Ki 2:4; 8:25) [HENGSTENBERG].
39, 40. Our hope of freedom from the reproach of inconsistency is
in God's power, quickening us to live according to His Word, which He
leads us to love.
VAU. (Ps 119:41-48).
45-48. To freedom from reproach, when imbued with God's truth, there is added "great boldness in the faith" [1Ti 3:13], accompanied with increasing delight in the holy law itself, which becomes an element of happiness.
ZAIN. (Ps 119:49-56).
49-51. Resting on the promises consoles under affliction and the
tauntings of the insolent.
50. for--rather, "This is my comfort . . . that," &c.
52-56. The pious take comfort, when harassed and distressed by
wickedness of men who forsake God's law, in remembering that the great
principles of God's truth will still abide; and also God's
53. Horror--rather, "vehement wrath" [HENGSTENBERG].
54. songs--As the exile sings songs of his home
so the child of God, "a stranger on earth," sings the songs of heaven,
his true home
In ancient times, laws were put in verse, to imprint them the more on
the memory of the people. So God's laws are the believer's songs.
56. Rather, "This is peculiarly mine (literally, to me), that I keep Thy precepts" [HENGSTENBERG and MAURER].
CHETH. (Ps 119:57-64).
58. favour--Hebrew, "face" (Ps 45:12).
59. So the prodigal son, when reduced to straits of misery (Lu 15:17, 18).
61, 62. This the more, if opposition of enemies, or love of ease is
overcome in thus honoring God's law.
62. At midnight--HENGSTENBERG supposes a reference to the time when the Lord went forth to slay the Egyptian first-born (Ex 11:4; 12:29; compare Job 34:20). But it rather refers to the Psalmist's own praises and prayers in the night time. Compare Paul and Silas (Ac 16:25; compare Ps 63:6).
64. While opposed by the wicked, and opposing them, the pious delight in those who fear God, but, after all, rely for favor and guidance not on merit, but mercy.
TETH. (Ps 119:65-72).
65-67. The reliance on promises (Ps 119:49) is strengthened by experience of past dealings according with promises, and a prayer for guidance, encouraged by sanctified affliction.
68. Compare as to the Lord Jesus (Ac 10:38).
69, 70. The crafty malice of the wicked, in slandering him, so far from turning him away, but binds him closer to God's Word, which they are too stupid in sin to appreciate. HENGSTENBERG refers the "lie" to such slanders against the Jews during the captivity, as that in Ezr 4:1-6, of sedition.
71, 72. So also affliction of any kind acts as a wholesome discipline in leading the pious more highly to value the truth and promises of God.
JOD. (Ps 119:73-80).
74. So when He has led us to rely on His truth, He will "make us to the praise of His grace" by others. "Those who fear Thee will be glad at my prosperity, as they consider my cause their cause" (Ps 34:2; 142:7).