The Remarkable Psalm 119
AN ALPHABETICAL ACROSTIC
Psalm 119 is marked with several God-breathed figures of speech which arrest the reader’s attention and spotlight the significant truths being emphasized. Certainly, most evident is that the entire Psalm is presented in 22 sections of 8 verses each, giving a total of 176 verses, the longest of all the Psalms. These 22 sections correspond to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Here is the alphabet:
1. א aleph 5. ה he 9. ט teth 13. מ mem 17. פ pe 21. שschin
2. ב beth 6. ו vau 10. י jod 14. נ nun 18. צ tzaddi 22. ת tau
3. ג gimel 7. ז zain 11. כ caph 15. ס samech 19. ק koph
4. ד daleth 8. ח cheth 12. ל lamed 16. ע ain 20. ר resh
The first section of eight verses is distinctively identified with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph. The first words of all eight verses of this first section begin with the letter aleph. The second section is identified with beth, and all eight first words in verses 9 through 16 begin with the letter beth. The third letter gimel similarly marks the third section, and this continues throughout all 22 sections. In the original Hebrew text this is easy to see, but is not evident in the text of other languages.
In the ninth section of this Psalm, the featured letter of the Hebrew alphabet is teth. The letter teth corresponds to our letter t. In the King James translation, the letter t begins every verse of the ninth section except two. If we make an appropriate change in these two verses, we can get an idea of how the original Hebrew text appeared to the reader.
65. Thou hast dealt well with Thy servant, O Lord, according unto Thy Word.
66. Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed Thy commandments.
67. Till I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy Word.
68. Thou art good, and doest good; teach me Thy statutes.
69. The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep Thy precepts with my whole heart.
70. Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in Thy law.
71. Tis good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes.
72. The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.
The use of the letters in sequential order makes this an Acrostic Psalm. An acrostic is “a series of lines or verses in which the first, last or other particular letters, when taken in order, spell out a word or phrase”. The acrostic spelled out in Psalm 119 forms much more than a word or a phrase but the complete alphabet. Therefore, it is an Alphabetical Acrostic.
How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.
Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them.
The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
Thy Word is very pure: therefore Thy servant loveth it.
The Remarkable Psalm 119
THE SYNONYMOUS TEN WORDS
There are Ten Words used repeatedly throughout Psalm 119 that are synonymous. All Ten Words refer to the revealed Word of God, or to a characteristic truth which distinctively describes the Word of God. In all 176 verses of this Psalm (except one: verse 122) one of these Ten Words is used, and in many verses two of the ten are found. Here are the Ten Words in Hebrew and their equivalent meanings in English.*
1. Derek = Way 6. Torah = Law
2. ‘Edah = Testimonies 7. Mishpat = Judgment
3. Piqquwd = Precepts 8. Tsedeq = Righteousness
4. Mitsvah = Commandments 9. Choq = Statutes
5. ‘Imrah = Spoken Words 10. Dabar = Word
These ten nouns are derived from action verbs whose meanings will help us in understanding the truth being declared by each word. Here is a list of the Ten Words and the meaning of their root verbs. Also given here is the total number of times each word is found in Psalm 119, as well as the first verse where each one is used.
1. Derek = Way. Derived from the verb darak which means to tread with the feet, and denotes the act of walking. Hence the noun, derek, means a going, or way, or journeying. Derek occurs in this Psalm 13 times. It is first found in verse one.
1. Blessed are the undefiled in the way (derek), who walk in the law of the Lord.
2. ’Edah = Testimonies. Derived from the verb ’ed which means to turn back again, to go over again, to reiterate; then, to testify. Hence, a testimony or evidence. Edah occurs in this Psalm 23 times. It is first found in verse two.
2. Blessed are they that keep His testimonies (‘edah) and that seek Him with the whole heart.
3. Piqquwd = Precepts. Derived from the verb paqad which means to take oversight or to take charge. Hence, rules of action or conduct prescribed with authority. Piqquwd occurs in this Psalm 21 times. It is first found in verse four.
4. Thou hast commanded us to keep Thy precepts (piqquwd) diligently.
4. Mitsvah = Commandments. Derived from the verb tsavah which means to set up, to appoint, or to constitute; then also, to order, to charge or to command. Hence, fundamental or essential commands.
Mitsvah occurs in this Psalm 22 times. It is first found in verse six.
6. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments (mitsvah).
*Adapted from, The Companion Bible, Appendix 73, The Ten Words of Psalm 119, E.W. Bullinger, 1922.
5. ’Imrah = Spoken Words. Derived from the verb ’emer which means to bring forth to light, or to say. Hence, an utterance, saying or words spoken. ’Imrah occurs in this Psalm 19 times. It is first found in verse eleven.
11.Thy Word (’imrah) have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.
6. Torah = Law. Derived from the verb yarah which means to project, to issue; also, to point out, to show; then also, to instruct, to teach. Hence, instructions. The torah is the Lord’s instructions to His people, teaching them His will. Torah occurs in this Psalm 25 times. It is first found in verse one.
1. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law (torah) of the Lord.
7. Mishpat = Judgment. Derived from the verb shaphat which means to set upright, to erect, to judge. Hence, upright, just, or just judgment. Mishpat occurs in this Psalm 23 times. It is first found in verse seven.
7. I will praise Thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned Thy righteous judgments (mishpat).
8. Tsedeq = Rightness, Justice or Righteousness. Derived from the verb tsadaq which means to be right, upright, just, or righteous. Hence, the noun means rightness or justice. The word has reference to equal balancing. Tsedeq occurs in this Psalm 12 times. It is first found in verse seven.
7. I will praise Thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned Thy righteous (tsedeq) judgments. [the judgments (mishpat) of Thy rightness (tsedeq)]
9. Choq = Statutes. Derived from the verb chaqaq which means to hew, cut in, engrave or to inscribe; then, to decree, or to ordain. Hence, a decree or ordinance. Choq occurs in this Psalm 22 times. It is first found in verse five.
5. O that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes (choq)!
10. Dabar = Word, Words. Derived from the verb dabar which means to arrange in a row; then, to set forth in speech, to declare, to promise. Hence, the declared word or words, whether spoken or written. Dabar occurs in this Psalm 24 times. It is first found in verse nine.
9. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word (dabar).
God has set one or more of these Ten Words in each and every verse of this remarkable Psalm 119, except one. Verse 122 is this singular and significant verse.
122. Be surety for Thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me.