Psalms - Chapter 19
(The following material is compiled predominantly from an anthology of Orthodox Jewish commentary, written and arranged by Rabbi Avroham Chaim Feuer from the Artscroll Tanach Series Tehillim Volume 1. Additional insights from a Nazarene Israelite perspective have been added by Jason Jordan. Additional Tehillim translation by Rabbi Hillel Danziger)
The vast heavenly bodies orbiting with flawless precision in the skies are a clear manifestation of the infinite wisdom and power of the Creator. Nevertheless, the celestial panorama is not the ultimate form of divine revelation. It is the study of Elohim’s will as revealed in the Torah which represents the clearest available perception of the Creator. The Torah is the Word of Truth which was made flesh and manifest in Messiah Yahshua. The Torah and Messiah are one and the same. John 1:14; "And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of favour and truth." This verse is a realisation of Isaiah 40:5; “And the glory (majesty and splendour) of the Master shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Master has spoken it.” One of the most liberating experiences of a new believer (as he comes to embrace the Sabbath, the Name and the Covenants according to Isaiah 56) is the realisation that Yahshua is not the end of the Torah, but he is the Torah.
The study of Torah and its complete observance is not too difficult. It was originally stamped on every human’s DNA. Romans 10:6-8; "But the righteousness that is by faith says: Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' (that is, to bring Messiah down) "or 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). But what does (the Torah) say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith which we are proclaiming.”
These verses are a realization of Deuteronomy 30:11-13; “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?"
Messiah Yahshua wasn’t the first Rabbi to condense the whole Torah down into two teachings, one of which was love your neighbour as yourself! This teaching followed in the spirit of the famous Rabbi Hillel’s comment to a Gentile who said he would convert to Judaism if the whole Torah could be taught to him during the time it takes him to stand on one leg. He responded to the Gentile by saying, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour. That is the rest of the Torah is just commentary.” Needless to say, the Gentile converted. But I digress.
In this chapter, the Psalmist proves in six ways that the comprehension of YHWH gained through Torah scholarship surpasses the perception gained through scientific research. Moreover, even the astronomical secrets of the heavens are unlocked before the Torah sage.
Schmuel bar Abba said, ‘I know the pathways of the skies as well as I know the streets of my city, Nehardea [ ].’ Did Schmuel fly up to the heavens to learn this? Rather, because he toiled incessantly in the study of Torah, all of the wisdom of the skies was revealed to him (Midrash Shocher Tov).
Job 9:9; “Who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades, And the chambers of the south?”
Job 38:31; "Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion?
Amos 5:8; “He who made the Pleiades and Orion And changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the surface of the earth, YHWH is His name.”
The study of Torah reveals not only the pathways of heaven, but man’s way on earth, as well. Before his sin, Adam led his life which was straight and pure; as predictable as the orbit of the sun and stars. Sin warped man. Only Torah study can right him once again.
First the Psalmist extols the unerring precision of the heavenly spheres. Then he turns to man and exhorts him to follow the example he sees in the sky, saying in effect: ‘Learn Torah and return to what you should be!’ The Torah of YHWH is perfect, it brings back the soul. The Torah is ‘upright’ and ‘it enlightens the eyes’ and it is pure.’ Accept the Torah and imitate Adam before the sin.
Small wonder that the Vilna Gaon (Ma’aseh Rav 196) designated this psalm to be the, ‘Song of the Day’ for the festival of Shavout when we celebrate the presentation of the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai.
Verse 1-2; “For the Conductor; a song of David. The Heavens declare the glory of Elohim, and the expanse of the sky tells of His handiwork.”
Are the heavens capable of speech? No. But they can stimulate men to articulate the praises of Elohim. However, Radak and Metzudat David suggest that the equivalent of speech may be attributed to the heavens. Their astoundingly precise orbits declare the glory of YHWH in the most vivid and eloquent manner. Indeed, their testimony to Elohim’s greatness is such that, as Ibn Ezra remarks, one cannot truly appreciate the celestial wonders described in this Psalms if he is not well-verses in the science of astronomy.
All stars and celestial bodies possess a spirit and an intellect and knowledge. They are alive and they exist with a comprehension of ‘He who spoke and brought the world to be.’ Each one of these, according to his individual level, praises and lauds the Creator like the ministering angels (Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 3:9.
Each member of the cosmos, whether perceived as great or small, plays its role accordingly, complimenting its surrounding counterparts. The stars would have no brightness in the night sky if the canvas they were painted on was not perfectly black to allow them to sparkle. Romans 12:3-8; “For by the unmerited power (grace) given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith Elohim has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Moshiach we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the unmerited power given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
Verse 3-4; “Day following day brings expressions of praise, and night following night bespeaks wisdom. There is no speech and there are no words; their sound is unheard.
“Day following day brings expressions of praise…” The daily renewed works of creation beginning with the rising of the sun should stir us to seek daily renewal with YHWH through prayer and study, which leads to strengthening and deepening our connection with Him (Rashi). Prayer and Torah study are a foundational form of praise. Prayer and the study of Torah are the most pure form of fuel that ignites a truly tumultuous praise and worship experience.
“…and night following night bespeaks wisdom.” Night after night, the sun sets beneath the horizon, only to rise and set again tomorrow. [This continual pattern attests to Divine wisdom and control] (Rashi). The onset of night identifies itself most uniquely to a person who has lost track of time, allowing him to reorder his ways.
“There is no speech and there are no words; their sound is unheard.” Just as a container that is full of coins makes no sound when it is carried, so to a wise man makes no sound with his mouth, rather his actions speak for him. On the other hand, a container with only a few coins jingles loudly when it is moved, but it contains only a few pennies. So too with the fool, who is speaks of wisdom, but does little in applying it.
Verse 5-6; “Their line goes forth throughout the earth, and their words reach the farthest ends of the land. In their midst He has set up a tent for the sun. The sun is like a groom coming forth from his bridal chamber rejoicing like a warrior to run the course.”
In the course of construction a plumb line[ ] is used to insure accuracy. The perfection of the celestial structures is referred to as a line which is stretched out to the ends of the earth. This means that the precision of the cosmos is evident all over the earth to any observer (Radak).
Rabbi S.R. Hirsch relates the word “line” to ‘the measured line’ (Jeremiah 31:38) which stakes off a certain territory for a specific purpose. Here it means that the heavenly forces control and set limits and boundaries for the development of everything existing on earth.
The moving bodies of the cosmos are far reaching and despite their extended length and breadth they change not. "I am YHWH, I change not." (Malachi 3:6)
Hebrews 13:8; “Yahshua is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Ephesians 4:14; “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming”
2 Timothy 4:3; “For the time will come when (brethren) will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” Don’t settle for pot luck teaching on any subject you found on the web. Read the Sages advice first and then filter it through your revelation of Messiah Yahshua. At every turn seek guidance from trustworthy sources and if possible learned rabbis and kosher teachers within our movement.
Acts 8:27-31; “And (Phillip) arose and went; and behold, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship. And he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” And when Philip had run up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?”
A tent for the sun is a case which envelopes it. [If the sun were not cloaked in a protective case, its tremendous heat would burn the earth to a crisp in a flash. The ‘case’ also refers to the various atmospheric levels which surround the globe like a shield, and filter out the undesirable elements of the sunlight before they reach earth] (Rashi).
An apostle is a “sent one.” He is sent out only after he has been appropriately trained and if he has not been trained he will sink quickly into a mire of false teaching. Matthew 14:28-30; “And Kepha answered (Yahshua), ‘Master, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ He said, ‘Come!’ So Kepha got out of the boat and walked on the water, and he came toward Yahshua. But when he perceived and felt the strong wind, he was frightened, and as he began to sink, he cried out, ‘Master, save me!’”
The office of apostle is an abused post made into a joke by many people today. Too often, it’s used as an excuse to congregation hope and avoid committing to one part of the body. Don’t tell me that your wondering from congregation to congregation is an apostolic appointment unless your speaking on some official bases at the places your frequenting. Because the only alternative is going along and sneaking behind that backs of other congregation leaders and dropping whispers of a titbit message to members of the flock that though it might be true, is being delivered in a deceptive way. Rabbi Sha’ul never snuck into different congregations, going behind the back of community leaders spreading his message. Congregation leaders knew his office and if they weren’t overly suspicious of his background, welcomed him to speak. Doing otherwise will cause dissention as you join the masses in the formality of the service and then challenge sheep one-on-one behind the back of the group’s leaders.
Like the grand order that sets the complicated mechanics of the cosmos into play, we should be structured in our walk with a commitment to be unified so we can work more effectively on a weekly bases in a solid group of many hands that make light work.
Verse 7-10; “Its source is the end of the heavens and its circuit is at their end; nothing escapes its heat. The Torah of YHWH is perfect, it restores the soul, the testimony of YHWH is trustworthy, making the simple one wise. The orders of YHWH are upright, gladdening the heart. The command of YHWH is clear enlightening the eyes.”
The rays of the sun reach every place on the earth without exception, even though their intensity is not the same everywhere. The Psalmist chooses his words carefully. He does not say that nothing escapes the sun’s light; indeed a person can take shade from its light, but even if one would incarcerate himself in an insulated chamber, he would still be affected, having to confine himself.
The Roman Emperor Antonius came to Rabbi Judah the Prince and asked that he pray for him. The Rabbi responded: ‘May you be saved from the bitter cold.’ Said Antonius: ‘This is a worthless prayer. Just pout on another warm garment and the cold will have no effect.’ So Rabbi Judah prayed again: ‘May you be spared from the scorching heat that burns the earth.’ ‘Ah,’ said Antonius, satisfied, ‘This is a true prayer. May this prayer be heard, for Scripture says, ‘and nothing escapes its heat.’ (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10:5).
“…the testimony of YHWH is trustworthy…” After completing his description of the heavenly wonders which proclaim the wisdom of Elohim, the Psalmist proceeds to declare that there exists a testimony to Elohim’s greatness which far surpasses the heavens. That testimony is the Torah which is perfect (Ibn Ezra; Metzudat David; Malbim)
All Five Books of Moshe are called the Torah, not only the commandments, but even the stories and narratives. All of these are a ‘guide’ showing the proper way to come close to YHWH.
Matthew 5:17; "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” Even the stories and the narratives found in the Torah can be likened to Yahshua’s more intricate bodily parts that escape first notice, but upon deeper scrutiny perform a critical role in perceiving him fully and understanding his workings.
“…it restores the soul...” Torah study removes the soul from the pathway leading to death, and restores it to the pathway leading to life (Rashi).
“The orders of YHWH are upright, gladdening the heart.” YHWH has incorporated and deposited into the very soul of man a tendency to appreciate the importance of His divine orders. Man’s intellect naturally and instinctively understands their significance (Ibn Ezra; Rada).
“The command of YHWH is clear…” Every command is flawless and free of imperfection (Radak).
“…enlightening the eyes.” Torah lights up the eyes beneficially and never hurts them, but prolonged staring at the sun injures the eyes (Metzudat David; Radak v. 10).
Verse 11-13; “They are more desirable than gold, - than even much fine gold; Sweeter than honey, - than dripping from the combs. Even Your servant is careful of them, for in observing them there is great reward. Yet, who can discern mistakes? From unperceived faults cleanse me.”
Gold can diminish in value, but the Torah remaines pricless. Precious gems and stones only retain value when their numbers are scarce, but the Torah is a plentiful and boundless resource that retains its eternal value. Even if every man on earth were a Torah scholar and enjoyed the most intimate relationship with Elohim, the Torah would be even more precious to him. This is why the Scriptures say, “In the days of Solomon silver was not worth anything” (1 Kings 10:21). When Solomon’s wisdom was at its height the usual things of value in the world became worthless compared to the kingdom over which he was faithfully ruling.
“Sweeter than honey, - than dripping from the combs.” To the taste buds, honey is the sweetest of all delicacies. Yet its taste lingers for but a brief moment. Furthermore, if one eats too much, it will make a man sick. Not so wisdom – it endures forever, and the more one ingests, the better (Rashi).
“From unperceived faults cleanse me.” True, I have made every effort to exercise utmost care in keeping Your commandments, yet who can be so careful that he never errs unintentionally? (Rashi; Radak).
Verse 14-15; “Also from intentional sins, restrain Your servant; let them not rule me. Then I shall be perfect and cleansed of great transgression. May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favour before You, YHWH, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
“Also from intentional sins, restrain Your servant…” This request is puzzling because we know that Elohim does not interfere with a person’s free choice and He does not exert control over his ability to decide between good and evil.] Ibn Ezra [apparently in response to this difficulty] explains that David’s request is not for direct intervention but that Elohim make the external circumstances of his life conducive to good and devoid of temptations to do bad. Accordingly, Ibn Ezra interprets “intentional sins” as wanton sinners, and renders ‘Guide me away from wanton sinners and let them not dominate me.’
“…let them not rule me.” [Radak lays down another principle concerning instances where one can merit divine assistance in choosing good.]
‘Do not let my evil inclination overpower me. I will try with all my strength to fight it, therefore You can assist me in this choice. For, Elohim helps those whose hearts yearn to do what is right and proper.’ [cf. Yoma 38b.]
“May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favour before You…” David requests: ‘Let my words be favourably inscribed as a legacy for all time, for all generations. Let them not be read casually like the poems of Homer, rather let these Psalms be studied and contemplated like words of Torah, like the weighty laws of purity and impurity (Midrash Shocher Tov, Psalms 1:1).