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Psalm Cxxxix: Text, Syntax, Meaning

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image of Vetus Testamentum

The speaker is aware that YHWH knows him completely and is near him wherever he might go. The night, he says, may assault him, for in God's presence the darkness is as light to him as the day (vv. 11b, 12ba circumstantial clauses). That he can speak like this is because God himself made him the human being he is, with his own specific disposition (v. 13 'kidneys'; v. 15 'frame'). Indeed, of old he has been immensely distinguished (v. 14: nipleti). When there was just his lump of clay, YHWH's eyes saw it (v. 16). And of all the times that such golems were fashioned (yamun yussaru), each of which is remembered in heaven, there was that 'day' of his own golem (Qere welo), when he was made the person he is. By night, as a sign of distinction, the speaker may 'see' God's innumerable thoughts, and very precious they are to him. What bothers him a great deal, however, is the existence of the wicked. His hatred of them makes him feel uneasy. It is his prayer that God, who knows him so well, may test him on this point. The prayer in vv. 23f., thus related to the preceding passage, fits in with the structure of the poem. The textual transmission is problematic in v. 20.


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