Psalms 138

1I will give you thanks with all my heart;
before the heavenly assembly
The referent of the Hebrew term אֱלֹהִים (’elohim) is unclear. It refers either to the angelic assembly (see Gen 3:5; Ps 8:5) or to the pagan gods (see Pss 82:1, 6; 86:8; 97:7), in which case the psalmist’s praise takes on a polemical tone.
I will sing praises to you.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple,
and give thanks to your name,
because of your loyal love and faithfulness,
for you have exalted your promise above the entire sky.
The MT reads, “for you have made great over all your name your word.” If retained, this must mean that God's mighty intervention, in fulfillment of his word of promise, surpassed anything he had done prior to this. However, the statement is odd and several emendations have been proposed. Some read, “for you have exalted over everything your name and your word,” while others suggest, “for you have exalted over all the heavens your name and your word.” The translation assumes an emendation of “your name” to “your heavens” (a construction that appears in Pss 8:3 and 144:5). The point is that God has been faithful to his promise and the reliability of that promise is apparent to all. For a fuller discussion of these options, see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101–150 (WBC), 244.

3 When
Heb “in the day.”
I cried out for help, you answered me.
You made me bold and energized me.
Heb “you made me bold in my soul [with] strength.”

4 Let all the kings of the earth give thanks
The prefixed verbal forms here and in the following verse are understood as jussives, for the psalmist appears to be calling upon the kings to praise God. Another option is to take them as imperfects and translate, “the kings of the earth will give thanks…and will sing.” In this case the psalmist anticipates a universal response to his thanksgiving song.
to you, O Lord,
when they hear the words you speak.
Heb “the words of your mouth.”

5 Let them sing about the Lord’s deeds,
Heb “ways.”

for the Lord’s splendor is magnificent.
Heb “great.”

6 Though the Lord is exalted, he takes note of the lowly,
and recognizes the proud from far away.
7 Even when I must walk in the midst of danger,
Or “distress.”
you revive me.
You oppose my angry enemies,
Heb “against the anger of my enemies you extend your hand.”

and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord avenges me.
Heb “avenges on my behalf.” For the meaning “to avenge” for the verb גָּמַר (gamar), see HALOT 197-98 s.v. גמר.

O Lord, your loyal love endures.
Do not abandon those whom you have made!
Heb “the works of your hands.” Many medieval Hebrew mss read the singular, “work of your hands.”

Psalm 139

Psalm 139. The psalmist acknowledges that God, who created him, is aware of his every action and thought. He invites God to examine his motives, for he is confident they are pure.

For the music director, a psalm of David.

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