Psalm 139

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psalm 139 summary

Psalm 139 is attributed to King David, and according to the Jewish tradition, belongs to the fifth book of the psalms (the fifth book is the last forty-four psalms up to psalm 150). This scripture is often used to validate God's omnipresence, e.g. that He is everywhere present (verses 7 -12). The scripture is also indicative of God's knowledge, as it appears that David believes that the Lord knows everything about him (verses 1 -6), and that God is creator - not only of the heavens and earth that we read about in Genesis 1, but the Lord also appears to have crafted David together when he grew as a baby inside his mother's womb (verses 13 -16). This concurs with Genesis 2 - the Lord is the designer and maker behind humanity.
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The omniscent (all-knowing) and omnipresent nature of God are further developed in verses 17 to 18. In psalm 139:17 it is written that David likens the thoughts of God to the grains of sand on the seashore - so many to be beyond counting. And in verse 18, God has not abandoned him. This foreshadows Christ in the New Testament. After the resurrection, Jesus commissions his followers to make disciples of all nations, adding "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28, verse 20).

Questions in response to psalm 139

1. David is in awe of God's handiwork. He marvels at how he has been created in his mother's womb. What does this mean for how we are to perceive others? Regardless of disablility, belief, skin colour or ethnic group, the Lord has been at work in each of our "creations" in the womb. And on a personal level, belief that God has fashioned us into something that is wonderful can not help but deeply impact the way we perceive ourselves and our own sense of self-worth.


2. How do we respond to David's assertion that God is everywhere, and that he knows everything about us?

At the end of Psalm 139, David soberly assesses himself before God, inviting the Lord to "cross examine and test me" (Psalm 139 verses 23-24, The Message). We remind ourselves that God is love, he is our heavenly father who ultimately desires the very best for us. So as we allow God into every corner of our lives, we can trust in Him to lead us in the "everlasting way" (verse 24).


Psalm 139


For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David.

1 Yahweh, you have searched me,
And you know me
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up.
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But, behold, Yahweh, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in behind and before.
You laid your hand on me.
6 This knowledge is beyond me. Itís lofty. I canít attain it.
7 Where could I go from your Spirit?
Or where could I flee from your presence?

8 If I ascend up into heaven, you are there.
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the dawn,
And settle in the uttermost parts of the sea;
10 Even there your hand will lead me,
And your right hand will hold me.
11 If I say, ďSurely the darkness will overwhelm me;
The light around me will be night;Ē
12 Even the darkness doesnít hide from you,
But the night shines as the day.
The darkness is like light to you. 13 For you formed my inmost being.
You knit me together in my motherís womb.
14 I will give thanks to you,
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful.
My soul knows that very well.
15 My frame wasnít hidden from you,
When I was made in secret,
Woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my body.
In your book they were all written,
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more in number than the sand.
When I wake up, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would kill the wicked.
Get away from me, you bloodthirsty men!
20 For they speak against you wickedly.
Your enemies take your name in vain.
21 Yahweh, donít I hate those who hate you?
Am I not grieved with those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred.
They have become my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart.
Try me, and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.


(World English Bible)



Commentary and writings on Psalm 139


Psalm 139 is one of the most famous scriptures in the bible, and has been extensively written about by theologians and biblical scholars through the ages. It is often quoted when referencing God's omniscience (the capacity to know everything that can be known) and His omnipresence (God is present everywhere at all times), - Matthew Henry especially devotes much of his commentary on this psalm to developing his theological viewpoints on these topics.


'I am fearfully and wonderfully made' is a phrase often quoted from this scripture, and Henry observes that glory is to be given entirely to God for authoring us - our parents 'were only the instruments of it'. Adam Clarke's analysis of psalm 139 demarcates the work into four sections - God's omniscience and omnipresence, King David's hatred of evil, and his desire to be led in the right way. In Alexander Maclarens exposition of psalm 139 he explains that when David writes you have 'searched me', this literally means to 'dig deep' and so it is a request for God to delve into the inmost part of him, and reveal him as he really is.


If you are thinking of leading a meditation on this scripture, in the navigation (on the right) you'll find a link to a free mp3 on psalm 139 which can be used for group prayer and reflection. There is also a bible study suitable for small groups with questions at the end to help stimulate discussion about what psalm 139 might mean for us today. If you are teaching psalm 139 to children, there is a resource page with links to craft activities, worksheets, and simplified versions of the psalm. Also in the navigation are several versions of the scripture, such as the traditional King James Version (KJV), a reading from the Young's Literal Translation, and versions in other languages, such as the original Hebrew, and in Latin (from the Catholic Vulgate).


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Commentary & Sermon Aids

Psalm 139 Interpretation Commentary by John Calvin

Concise Commentary by Matthew Henry
Psalm 139:1-6 Commentary Explanation of Psalm 139:7-16 The Meaning of Psalm 139:17-24
Complete Commentary by Matthew Henry
Psalm 139 Summary God's Omniscience
Psalm 139:1-6
God's Omnipresence
Fearfully and Wonderfully made 139:13-16 God's Omniscience
God opposes the wicked
'Search me, O God, and know my heart' 139:23-24
Analysis by Adam Clarke
About Psalm 139 Psalm 139 Analysis The Omniscience of God Psalm 139:1-6 The Omnipresence of God Psalm 139:7-12 The Providence of God
Psalm 139:13-16
The Purposes of God
Psalm 139:17-18
God opposes the wicked
Psalm 139:19-22
'Lead me in the way everlasting' Psalm 139:23-24
Bible Notes on Psalm 139 by John Wesley

Exposition of Psalm 139 by Alexander MacLaren

Psalm 139 Study bible study for small groups

Bible Versions

Psalm 139 KJV King James Bible Version

Psalm 139 Scripture American Standard Bible Version

Psalm 139 Text Webster's Bible Version

Psalm 139 Bible Reading Young's Literal Translation

Psalm 139 Words World English Bible Version

Psalm 139 Modern Bible in Basic English

Psalm 139 Catholic (Latin) From the Roman Catholic Vulgate

Psalm 139 for Children
Psalm 139 in Hebrew From the Westminster Leningrad Codex


Psalm 139 Lyrics
Psalm 139 Online links to other online resources

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