Continuing my translation with comment of Psalm 119
PSALM 119 (This psalm in 26 sections of 8 verses, each beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.)
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.
Readers if I have any, may have anticipated the dread with which I have approached Psalm 119, the longest of all psalms. And it’s not just the length; it has a reputation for repetition and a legalistic piety that many find unattractive. Well, it’s a complex set of linked poems celebrating the Torah, the Teaching of God.
A: it consists of 26 sections of 8 verses, each section beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
B. Each section includes the same range of words that point to the Torah; commands, precepts, words, precepts, decrees, and so on, which are used in slightly different contexts throughout the psalm.
So, although each section can be appreciated individually, only the whole psalm can reveal the author’s meaning.
The distance between our culture and that of the psalmist can be seen if we ask: do we any longer expect a young man to find delight in the decrees of God?
When we can read every day the words of politicians and other leaders, which come from their limited experience and inadequate values, we can identify with the psalmist, whose soul is “squeezed with eagerness” for God’s true judgements, and who values God’s advice. He is not boasting, but quietly asserting the worth of what he has learned in faith. Students of the wisdom that comes from faith and clear thinking should not be over modest in expressing their values.
Please note in section D the repetition of the word “road” each time in slightly different contexts. Although the psalm is meditative, the aim of faith is practical living. The student must walk/run as well as meditate. It is a lovely idea that the practice of goodness enlarges the heart, so that it can do even better.