Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms - I just realized that when I read it once again while preparing this post! The verse at the top of the page is Psalm 139:17, “And how precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great has been the sum of them!”
You know how it is sometimes - no matter how often you read a passage, some things never jump out at you. Until a propitious day. One of my best friends gave me a beautiful magnet with this verse on it. At first I didn’t realize it was a Bible verse, since there was no reference. But then, later on, I came across the phrase in my Bible reading. I know I had to have read it before - but only now did it leap off the page, into my heart. (Just like God’s Word should, huh?) When I was planning my blog, I knew this was the perfect verse for the top.
One of my favorite ways to study the Bible is to analyze the words in Hebrew. (Even Hebrew translations of the New Testament have been made, and I like checking out the Hebrew concepts behind the Greek words.) So I thought, why not do that here with my “theme verse”? So here it is, word by word.
First of all, the main idea of Psalm 139, written by David, seems to be amazement and praise for the infiniteness of Yahweh’s knowledge. He is everywhere. He knows everything. He knows me more than I do. “O Yahweh, You have searched me and know me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought from afar.” (Verses 1-2)
In verse 17, our verse, the first word is v’li, which means “and to me.” In Hebrew, many times the first word of a sentence is placed there for special emphasis. The second word is mah, which implies something is an unknown. It can mean what, how, why, etc. - so it may not have a limit, or its limit is incalculable. The third word completes the thought - yaq’ru. It means “they are precious.” Precious, as in costly and desirable, like a prized precious stone. Re’eykha is next, informing us what is so much of a prize: “Your thoughts.” El, which means God, is the next word and says who is being addressed. To me, re’eykha, re’a at its base, is the most intriguing word of this verse. Strong’s Concordance shows how it is related to re’a, the word for associate and friend. A thought is an association of ideas. But I also looked at etymological dictionaries* and found a stronger interweaving of meanings: The root of re’a is ra or ra’ah, and its most basic meanings are: feed, shepherd, desire, tend, satisfy needs. Feeding satisfies needs. A shepherd satisfies the needs of his sheep. A desire needs to be satisfied. Friendship satisfies. The thoughts we’re looking at in re’a are the deepest ones, the ones that are seeking spiritual sustenance. Yahweh understands our thoughts from afar (Ps. 139:2) and so we seek out His thoughts, which are so profound, so wide and deep and beautiful, that we can lose ourselves in them. We don’t want to emerge from thinking His thoughts, because they are utterly satisfying. Putting it together with the previous words of the verse, we exclaim that our desire for His thoughts is limitless!
This velcros to so many other verses of Scripture, including:
Proverbs 3:15 - “[Wisdom] is more precious than rubies, And all your delights are not comparable to her.”
Matthew 13:44-46 - “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man, having found it, hid, and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a man, a merchant, seeking fine pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Next time we’ll look at the second half of Psalm 139:17.
Questions? Comments? Found more associations that we can make?
Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, by Jeff A. Benner, and Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, by Matityahu Clark