Friday, September 30, 2016

A Tour through Ps. 119: Reflections

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I began the journey back in March...I really didn't have the intention of exploring all the Hebrew all the way through.  It's funny how these things take on their own style and character apart from anything I plan.  This became way more academic and technical...not to mention a lot more work, lol...than I ever expected.  It evolved as I went...I didn't start writing down the Hebrew until, I think, Teth.  And I didn't include an attempt to describe the letters until sometime after that.  So the weeks are not completely consistent.

But it was a good study.  No, I can't read Hebrew from a study of the alphabetical Psalm, but I do at least have a passing acquaintance  with it and it doesn't look totally foreign anymore.  And I really learned how to dig down to the origins of a verse.

And I did notice patterns in the 8-verse sections.  Not all of them followed the pattern, but many did.  The Psalmist, somewhere in the 8 verses, generally did some combination of:
1) Declares his love for the word (law, decrees, statues, ordinances) of God
2) Declares his intention never to leave, abandon or forget that word (law, decrees, etc)
3) Laments the persecution he is is enduring from the ungodly, wicked,  misled, often in authority.
4) Requests God to deliver him from those persecutors
5) Asks God to increase his understanding of God's word (law, decrees, etc)
6) Admits that he has wandered astray from God's perfect way and requests restoration
7) Declares the righteousness and perfection of God's word (law, decrees, etc)
8) Asks God for favor and blessing (not generally in those words)

My key verse for the chapter, though, is verse 160, in the Amplified:

The sum of Your Word is truth [the total of the full meanings of all Your individual precepts] and every one of  Your righteous decrees endures for ever.

To anyone who hung with me through this rather fine-toothed-comb study...thanks!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Tour through Ps. 119: Taw

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The final letter in the Hebrew alphabet is Taw (or Tau), and it looks very much like the letters He and Heth, which look a lot like the Greek letter Pi.  But Taw has a squiggle on the left leg, so that's how I've been distinguishing it from the other two in my head. (For the record, He's left leg stops a little short of the cross bar...that's the difference between He and Heth...).

Taw begins each of the last eight verses in the Psalm, and the NIV 84 has translated that passage so:

May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word.
May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise.
May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.
May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, O LORD,  and your law is my delight.
Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.  Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.

We are finishing up with a set of verses that have a very poetic structure...the first 5 verses all follow the same format.    The Hebrew interlinear I was consulting showed  the letter Taw in front of the first word on all those verses, and I took that letter to somehow indicate the word 'Let' or, as the NIV translated it, 'May'.

[Let] my ringing cry come near your presence, Yahweh; by your word give me understanding.
[Let] my supplication come into your presence; by your word rescue me.
[Let] songs of praise pour out of my two lips, for you have taught me your statutes.
[Let] My tongue testify of your word because all your commandments are righteous.
[Let] it be your hand helping me, because I have chosen your precepts.
[I] have longed for your salvation, Yahweh, and your law is my delight.
[Let] my soul live and praise you, and [let] your judgements help me. 
[I] have wandered off like one of the flock that has strayed; seek your servant, because I have not ceased to care for your commandments.

Verse 174 uses a word, ta'ab,  which is translated as 'long for' that is used only twice in the whole Old Testament...and both times are in Ps. 119 (the other use is back in verse 40).  That makes me wonder what was unique to that word that it was used so specifically and so deliberately.  As a fledgling songwriter, I know my word choices sometimes have more to do with making the rhyme scheme/prosody work than with being the best word for the thought...but I also know that sometimes I will change the rhyme scheme to fit the perfect word. Hebrew poetry doesn't rhyme, per se, but there are structural elements that may influence word choices.  Generally speaking, I wouldn't use an obscure word if I were writing a song that would be published somehow.  Ta'ab must have something unique to it that made it THE choice for those two verses.

Because, you know, we're still singing these altered versions, to be sure, but we're still singing them. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Tour through Psalm 119: Sin and Shin

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
The next to last letter is two letters in one; Sin and Shin.  It looks a lot like a capital W...with a flat bottom and the middle spike kind of offset to the left..  It has really taken me a while to not think 'W' when I'm looking at it...but I'm gradually learning to  think 'sh' when I see it.

Sin and Shin is the letter that starts each of the verses numbered 161 - 168, and that section reads like this in the NIV 84:

Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word.
I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.
Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
I wait for your salvation, O Lord, and I follow your commands.
I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly.
I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you.

And, once more to the land of dictionaries and lexicons:

Rulers have harassed me for nothing, but my inner man in is awe of your word.
I rejoice over your word, finding abundant treasure.
[I] hate deceit and consider it an abomination, [but] your Law [I] love.
Seven [times] in the day [I] praise you because of your righteousness [and] judgements.
Those who love your law [have] great peace, and nothing can cause them to stumble.
[I] have waited for your salvation, Yahweh,  and have observed your commandments.
My soul has observed your testimonies and I love them abundantly.
I have observed your precepts and your divine testimonies, for all my ways are in your view.

The word translated 'peace'  in V. 165 is, of course, shalom.  The lexicon cited in the Blue Letter Bible entry   lists the synonyms wholeness, safety, and soundness.  I have been told the implication is nothing missing, nothing broken.

And the condition that brings about such a desirable state in one's life?

Loving the law of God.  So simple...

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Tour through Ps. 119: Resh

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

If you were to take the top and right side of a square, add an little bit of boldness to the top, you'd have something that is a reasonable facsimile of the letter 'resh', which begins each of the verses in Ps. 119:153-160.

In the NIV 84:

Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.
Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.
Your compassion is great, O LORD; preserve my life according to your laws.
Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes.
I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word.
See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your love.
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

And, here's the results of my crawl through the dictionaries:

Perceive my misery and deliver me, because your law [I] never ignore.
Act as a kinsman-redeemer in my dispute and ransom me; by your word restore my life.
Distant from [the] wicked [is] salvation, because your statutes [they do] not consult.
Your compassion is great, Yahweh;  by your judgments sustain my life.
Many [are] my persecutors and adversaries; from your testimonies [I do] not turn aside.
I perceive treacherous [ones] who give no heed to your word and [my self] grieves.
See how I love your precepts, Yahweh; cause me to flourish in your compassion.
The totality of your words is truth; all your righteous judgments are everlasting.

Ok...I'm going to be straight up honest; there was a particular verse  that prompted this whole study.
A quote I'd  heard years ago mentioned a verse that I wanted very much to find, but the concordances didn't turn it up in the NIV or the King James.  I figured it *had* to be in Ps. 119, so I decided to do a fine-toothed comb study to see if I could find it.

I knew when I read verse 160 that I had found what I was looking for, but not the NIV translation.  Not the KJV, either (Thy word is true from the beginning: and everyone of thy righteous judgments endureth forever).

I grabbed the Parallel Study Bible and found that the translation I'd heard was the NASB:

The sum of Thy word is truth, and every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting.

At least the use of 'Thy' explains why I thought it was King James...

But while I was in the Parallel Bible, I checked the other translation listed there...the Amplified:
The sum of Your Word is truth [the total of the full meanings of all Your individual precepts] and every one of  Your righteous decrees endures for ever.


Do you see it?  We have a definition of truth...the totality of the word of God.

The Hebrew word which is translated 'all' in NIV, 'sum' in NASB and AMP, 'totality' in my paraphrase and 'Beginning' in King James is the word rosh (Strong's 7218) and has this entry on the Blue Letter Bible site:

1. head, top, summit, upper part, chief, total, sum, height, front, beginning
  1. head (of man, animals)
  2. top, tip (of mountain)
  3. height (of stars)
  4. chief, head (of man, city, nation, place, family, priest)
  5. head, front, beginning
  6. chief, choicest, best
  7. head, division, company, band
  8. sum

 I can sort of see where the KJV translators got 'from the beginning', but, honestly 'total' and 'sum' are the  best fitting translations.  And the dictionary indicates that the word has a particular construction that makes it dependent upon another this case, it would be either 'word' or 'truth'; there's no indication of a preposition.

The sum of your word is truth.  That means one passage cannot be interpreted or applied in a way that is inconsistent with the rest of the word.  It also means that one passage or instruction cannot be pulled out and called 'out of date' and discarded; that takes away from the sum.  Not to mention that the rest of the verse indicates that those decrees are everlasting; they do not have an expiration date.

It also lends a new light to John 1:1, 1:14 and 14:6

...In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God ...And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us....It was he who said, 'I am the way, the truth and the light...'

God's word is truth...both the word he spoke and the word incarnate.

To borrow another great word from the Psalms...Selah.

Just two more letters to go...