Bible blog Psalm 119

9PSALM 119 (This psalm is in 26 sections of 8 verses, each beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.)


The reader will easily see that I have chosen to represent the Hebrew in half-lines, making a 16 line unit in English. I have in almost all cases used the ancient name Yahweh, rather than the later “Lord”. Given that Hebrew words are much less unitary in meaning than English words, I have not always translated the same Hebrew with the same English, but felt free to welcome alternatives.

I started out thinking of this psalm as a chore, a boring exercise in piety. I have ended thinking of it as wonderfully composed, subtle, and beautiful, not to mention its theological depth.

It is the meditation of a person for whom God’s presence is the presence of the holy tradition, probably in written form as Torah, the books of the Pentateuch. This does not make him a fundamentalist, but rather an imaginative disciple of the words which have been given to him. S/ He interprets the tradition with his/her life and soul. The substance of the tradition is called Teaching, Commandment, Judgement, Testimony, Witness, Rules, Decree, Statute, Advice, Guidance, words which are used and re-used in different contexts and with a range of meanings. Each section is an act of meditation, and can be used by the reader as such. The psalm as a whole plays with the various acts of listening, reading, understanding, obeying, and cherishing which together make up the wisdom that God offers his “slave.”

There is a confident self-consciousness about the psalm, joined with humility before God, which makes it am attractive mixture of ancient and modern.

Psalm 119

All happiness for those whose ways are wholesome

Who walk in the teaching of Yahweh!

All happiness for those who value his advice

Who approach him with all their heart!

Indeed they do no wrong

But walk in his ways.

You insist that your precepts

Are carefully kept.

I truly wish that my ways were aligned

To keeping your decrees.

Then I shall not be shamed

When I attend to all your commandments.

I will praise you with an honest heart

When I learn your just judgements.

I will keep your decrees:

do not desert me!


By what means can a young man keep his act clean?

By observing your sayings.

With all my heart I approach you;

Stop me straying from your commandments!

I have hidden your word in my heart

To avoid any sin against you.

May you be blessed by mortals, Yahweh!

Make me memorise your decrees!

I will relate with my lips

All the just judgements of your mouth.

I am delighted with your wise directions

As if with the wealth of the world.

I will ponder your precepts

And behold your highways.

I will delight in your decrees

And I will not forget your word.


Care for your slave with kindness

That I may live to watch over your word.

Unseal my eyes that I may see

The treasures of your Teaching.

I am an immigrant on your land;

Do not conceal your commandments from me!

My soul is squeezed with eagerness

For your true judgements at all times.

You reprove proud people, whose ways are doomed

For they wander from your wise commands.

Set me free from scorn and shame

Since I value your advice.

Though princes sit and slander me

Your slave will ponder your precepts.

Your advice is very pleasant to me,

It gives me guidance.


Dust is the destiny of my soul;

Enliven me with your law!

I have revealed my life to you and you responded;

Set me to learn your statutes!

Help me see the road of your rules,

So that I can meditate on your marvels.

My soul sinks down in sadness;

Lift me up by your law!

Remove me from the road of deception

And grant me the grace of your teaching.

I have taken the road of truth;

I have placed your fair judgements before me;

I have adhered to your advice.

Please, Yahweh, do not put me to shame.

I will run the road of your commandments,

For you are helping my heart to grow.


Educate me Yahweh in the lifestyle of your statutes

And I will keep to it continually.

Give me the wit to be guided by your Teaching

And to heed it with all my heart

Forward me on the footpath of your commandments

For I find pleasure in it;

Turn my heart towards your testimony

Not to the love of lucre.

Turn my gaze away from gain

And revive me on your road.

Perform for your slave the promise

Made to those who fear you.

Turn away from me the taunts that I fear;

For sure, your judgements are fair.

In truth I desire your statutes;

Join me to life in your justice.


Favour, your favour Yahweh, may it flow to me!

Your welfare, as promised by your word!

Then I shall have something to tell those who taunt me

For I have put my trust in your promise.

Do not snatch from my lips all mention of your loyalty

For I await your wise judgements.

Then I will retain your Teaching

At all times for all time;

And I will walk as in a wide space

Since I practice your precepts.

I will mention your recorded wisdom before monarchs

And will not be made ashamed.

Your commandments captivate me

I love them dearly.

I will lift up my hands to your commands that I love

And murmur over the laws that you have made.


God, you have given me hope;

Please remember your promise to your slave

For this is my medicine in misery:

Your law gives me life.

Arrogant people ridicule me

But I do not turn away your Teaching.

By bringing to mind your judgements of former times

I can medicine myself, Yahweh.

Horror at wrongdoers takes hold of me

When they trash your Teaching.

Your statutes have been my songs

In the place of my pilgrimage.

Your name I have remembered at night Yahweh

And I will treasure your Teaching.

This has been my blessing:

To have kept your commandments.


Here is my inheritance Yahweh:

Keeping your commandment.

I hope for your smile with all my heart;

Be good to me, as you have guaranteed.

I will watch over my ways

And turn my feet to your established truth.

I step to it and do not saunter

In keeping your commandments.

Though snarled in the snares of criminals

I do not turn from your Teaching,

But get up at midnight to give thanks

For your just judgements.

I am a friend to all who fear you

Who practice your precepts.

The earth, Yahweh, is laden with your lovingkindness;

Discipline me in your decrees!


Indeed you have done good to your slave

Yahweh, as you promised!

Train me in good taste and understanding

As I cleave to your commands.

Before I was brought low, I would go wrong

But now I respect your sayings.

You are good and do good;

Discipline me in your decrees!

Presumptuous people plaster me with lies

But with all my heart I perform your precepts.

Their hearts are heavy as if with fat

While I tread lightly with your Teaching.

It is good for me that I was brought low

So that I might be disciplined in your decrees.

More precious to me is the teaching of your mouth

Than gold and silver coins in plenty!


Just your hands have formed and fashioned me;

Give me the wit to learn your wishes.

Those who fear you will feel joy when they see me

Because I wait on your word.

I know Yahweh that your judgements are just:

Out of loyal love you brought me low.

May your lovingkindness comfort me

As you have assured your slave.

May your compassion mother me so that I may live

For your teaching entrances me.

May arrogant people be put to shame

Who by deceit have slandered me;

As for me, I will study your statutes.

May those who fear you not be far from me

The ones who know your wisdom.

Let me be perfect in your precepts

So that I may not be made ashamed.


Know that my soul is dying for your deliverance;

And I am waiting for your word.

My eyes weary for your word;

And I ask, When will you attend to me?

Though wizened like a wineskin in smoke

I do not forget your fixed requirements.

How many days must your slave endure?

When will you pass judgement on those who pursue me?

Proud people have dug pits for me

In contempt of your Teaching.

All your commands are constant in truth,

But they pursue me with a lie: Protect me!

They have nearly ended my life on this earth

But I have not abandoned your advice.

Give me life with your lovingkindness

And I will watch over the witness of your mouth.


Lord, your word lasts forever;

It holds firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness joins the generations.

You established the earth and it stands.

By your fair judgements they stand firm today:

All things are your slaves.

If your law were not my delight

I would have wasted away in my affliction.

I will never forget your wise guidance

For by it you led me to life.

I am yours, Yahweh, deliver me

For I look to your guidance.

Wrongdoers lie in wait to destroy me

But I have regard for your recorded wisdom.

All completeness has its closure

But your legislation is beyond limit.


My true love is your Teaching!

All through the day it is my devotion.

Your Commandment makes me wiser than my enemies

It is always with me.

I have greater attention than my teachers

For your spoken witness is my study.

I show more sense than my seniors

For I do what you demand.

I have pulled back my feet from every evil path

So that I can watch over your word.

I do not turn from your true judgements

For you have been my teacher.

How pleasing are your words to my palate

More than honey to my mouth!

Through your demands I get discernment:

So I detest every deceitful path.


Now your word is a lamp for my feet

A light on the trodden way.

I have made a vow which I will verify

Not to reject your just judgements.

I am hugely humbled, Yahweh:

Repair my life as you have promised.

Oh, may the praises of my mouth please you, Yahweh

As you teach me your true judgements.

AlI day I hold my life in my hands

But I do not neglect your Teaching.

Evildoers are trying to trap me

But I do not avoid your advice.

I inherit your laws as my forever home

For they are the joy of my heart.

I have stretched my heart to perform your statutes

For ever, right to the end.


Oh I hate half-hearted people

For I love your Law.

You are my secret place and my shield;

I await your word.

Get away from me you wicked people

And let me keep the commandments of my God.

Support me Yahweh as you have promised, and I will live

That no one may heap shame on my hope.

Support me and I will be saved

To study your statutes unceasingly.

You weigh up all who wander from your statutes

So that their guile is good for nothing.

You dump earth’s evildoers like dross

So I love your wise laws.

My flesh trembles in terror of you;

I revere your just rulings.


Please, I have done what is due and just,

Do not leave me in the power of my oppressors.

Be the guarantee of good for your slave,

Do not let arrogant people oppress me.

My eyes are red with watching for your rescue

For the appearance of your promised justice.

Care for your slave with your lovingkindness

And help me learn your written laws.

I am your slave: give me the insight

To understand your words of witness.

It is time for Yahweh to take action:

For they are trashing your Teaching.

Because of this I love your commandments

More than gold, yes, more than fine gold.

Because of this I regard all your precepts as right

And detest every deceitful path.


Quite wonderful your witness!

That’s why my soul watches over it.

Unfolding the scroll of your words sheds light

Giving insight to the simple ones.

Open-mouthed I gasp,

Grasping at your commandments.

Face me and show me favour

As you do for those who delight in your name.

Steady my steps in your word

And let no malice master me.

Free me from human force

That I may practice your precepts.

Oh smile on your slave,

Turn and teach me your statutes!

My eyes weep rivers of water

Because people do not treasure your Teaching.


Ruler, you stand for the right

And your judgements are just!

In justice and great loyalty

You laid down your legislation.

Indignation ignites me

That my enemies neglect your words.

Your word is well -refined as in fire

And your slave loves it.

I am insignificant and despised

Yet I do not neglect your guidance

Your justice is just forever

And your Teaching is truth.

Anguish and affliction have found me

But your decrees are my delight.

Your witness is justice always:

Give me insight and I shall live.


So answer me Yahweh!” I cried with a whole heart,

“that I may observe your statutes.”

“Deliver me!” I demanded

“that I may respect your rules.”

I anticipate dawn asking for help;

I wait for your word;

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night

To ponder your promise.

Listen to my voice in your lovingkindness;

In your good way, revive me.

They press close, the pursuers of harm,

They are distant from your decrees,

But You are near, Yahweh,

And all your rules are reliable:

Long ago I knew of your Laws

That you had founded them forever.


Take note of my affliction and rescue me

Since I never fail to attend to your Teaching.

Argue my case as my kinsman-advocate

Enlivening me with your eloquence.

Rescue is far from the wrongdoers

Since they do not study your statutes.

Colossal is your compassion Yahweh:

Wake me to life as is your way.

Those who hassle and hate me are many

But I do not swerve from your set requirements.

I look on crooked people with loathing

Because they do not keep your command.

Look how I love your precepts Yahweh

In your lovingkindness, enliven me.

The totality of your word is truth

And every one of your just judgements is forever.


Utterly without reason, princes pursue me,

But my heart is weak only before your words.

Indeed I delight in your speech

Like one who discovers rich booty.

I detest deceit and despise it

But I love your Law.

Seven times a day I sing your praise

For your just judgements.

There is large peace for lovers of your Teaching:

No cruel trick can trip then up.

I yearn for your rescue Yahweh

And I do what you demand.

My soul attends to your testimonies

Because it loves them dearly.

I will attend to your precepts and testimony

For all my ways are open to you.


Vital that my yelling reaches you Yahweh:

Give me wisdom through your word.

Vital that my call for kindness reaches you;

Pluck me from problems as you have promised.

Praise will pour from my lips

For you are instructing me in your statutes.

May my tongue testify about your word

That all your requirements are right.

May your hand be poised to help me

Since I choose to practice your precepts.

I desire your deliverance Yahweh;

Your Law is my delight.

Let my soul live to praise you;

May your decisions defend me;

When I have strayed like a lost sheep

Seek out your slave,

Since I cannot forget your commandment.

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