Psalm 119 Study Notes


119:1-176 Psalm 119 is an acrostic par excellence. The eight-verse sections are arranged according to the order of the Hebrew alphabet. Nearly every verse contains one of eight words for God’s revelation: “instruction,” “decree,” “precept,” “statute,” “command,” “judgment,” “promise,” and “word.”

119:1-8 To be blameless derives from the Hebrew word for “perfect, unblemished.” The psalmist prayed for total commitment to obedience. His conscience reminded him of his weaknesses (vv. 5-6). The Hebrew word for upright ( yshr, v. 7) means “sincere” or “straight.”

119:9-16 A young man is one who lacks experience and wisdom. He is easily tempted by worldly desires (Pr 1:8-19; 2:1-22) and enticed away from God. The loyalty of the righteous is maintained by the value they place on God’s word. To meditate is not to empty one’s mind, but to fill it with the Torah in order to internalize it.

119:17-24 Deal generously translates the Hebrew word for “recompense” or “benefit” (see note at 103:1-2). Contemplate means “consider carefully” (“think about” in v. 15). The psalmist characterized himself as a stranger, a resident alien living on God’s earth and dependent on him. The purpose of rebuke is to correct and bring God’s people back into relationship with him (Mt 18:15).

119:25-32 The Lord is the source of all life. Only he can rejuvenate those who are bowed down. The psalmist sought clarity, relying on God to help him understand and apply the Torah to his life. The righteous person rejects the way of deceivers (1:6; 16:11; 32:8), and depends on the Lord to keep him on the path of righteousness.


Hebrew pronunciation [toe RAH]
CSB translation law, instruction, teaching
Uses in Psalms 36
Uses in the OT 223
Focus passage Psalm 119:1,18,29,34,44

Singular (Lv 14:32) or plural (Pr 7:2), torah indicates particular laws or instructions. Torah as a collective denotes instruction for particular individuals (Dt 17:11) or nations (Dt 33:4). Torah describes civil (Ex 18:16) and religious (Lv 6:9) laws, the book of Deuteronomy (Dt 1:5), all of Moses’s writings (Jos 8:31), the Prophets (Dn 9:10), or the whole Word of God (Ps 19:7). The focus of torah is not a specific literary form but divine authority; any communication from God constitutes torah. Torah also pictures a parent’s teaching (Pr 6:20). It appears as instructions (Nm 5:30), revelation (2Sm 7:19), ruling (Hg 2:11), legal (Nm 19:2), and legally required (Neh 12:44). Torah derives from yarah (47x), which means teach (Ex 4:12), instruct (Dt 17:10), or show (Ex 15:25). Once yarah is determine (Lv 14:57), prepare (Gn 46:28), and gesture (Pr 6:13). Yarah and torah appear together seven times (Dt 17:11).

119:33-40 This section focuses on God’s reward for obedience. The pursuit of dishonest profit leads to sin, but life is found in the ways of the Lord. On with all my heart, compare Dt 6:5.

119:41-48 The psalmist longed for expressions of God’s chesed (Hb for “covenant loyalty, faithful love”; see word study at 136:1-26) in light of the persecution and hostility against him. He sought God’s salvation from oppression. The freedom offered the person who walks according to God’s word enables him to remain strong through adversity and to maintain his focus on God’s decrees. The righteous person is courageous enough to speak of the Lord, and he will not be ashamed (vv. 6,31,42).

119:49-56 The righteous person is comforted by the Lord’s judgments, certain that he will execute justice with integrity (v. 52). As the Lord rescued Israel in the past through his miraculous intervention, so the expectations of the psalmist were based on the testimony of God’s works. The psalmist expressed righteous indignation against the arrogant and the wicked who neglected the instructions of God (see notes at 15:4; 109:1-31).

119:57-64 Just as the Levites received no allotment of land during the settlement of Canaan and thus relied on God, so the psalmist depended on God alone for his livelihood. The threat of the wicked endangered the psalmist’s life, but he remained focused on God’s righteous judgments.

119:65-72 The psalmist’s past affliction was the direct result of the Lord’s discipline. In retrospect, he acknowledged his moral weaknesses (v. 67) and realized God’s rebuke served him well (v. 71). The rebellious ones smeared him with lies. The court language suggests false accusations. The value of God’s instructions is beyond measure (19:7-10).

119:73-80 The psalmist did not want to be ashamed, but he prayed that the arrogant would be put to shame and reiterated his request to be blameless.

119:81-88 This section consists of a lament, in which the psalmist asked when the Lord would bring relief. Although near death, he remained loyal to God’s precepts, putting his hope in God for life itself (vv. 87-88).

119:89-96 The word of God is the central theme of these verses. The Lord’s judgments that maintain order in the cosmos provide order for human life as well. Verse 96 could be a summary of the book of Ecclesiastes (Ec 12:8-14).

119:97-104 Intimate acquaintance with God’s word results in wise and discerning behavior (Dt 4:5-6; Jr 15:16; Ezk 3:3). Just as those with God’s word are wiser than those without (vv. 98-100), so also the gospel is understood by “infants” but hidden from the worldly wise (see Lk 10:21; 1Co 1:18-21; 2:8).

119:105-112 The lighted path is not whatever we want it to be, but righteous judgments and God’s precepts; on such a path there is no danger or trap but a heritage and joy. Thus the guidance of the Lord’s instruction enabled the psalmist to negotiate right and wrong (19:11-13; Pr 6:23; Jn 8:16).

119:113-120 The upright life surrenders to God’s divine instruction for maintaining a relationship with him. The presence of the wicked and deceitful remains pervasive in this section, suggesting the severe hostility that threatened the psalmist.

119:121-128 The upright are loyal, showing righteous anger toward God’s enemies (v. 126; cp. v. 53). The frustration of the psalmist is apparent, as he called on the Lord to intervene.

119:129-136 The revelation is literally the “door” or “opening” (v. 130). Like a hungry and thirsty animal, the psalmist longed for God’s instruction (v. 131). Though sometimes the psalmist expressed righteous indignation at those who did not obey God (vv. 53,126,139,158), here he expressed sorrow (v. 136; cp. Mt 23:37; Lk 19:41; Ac 20:31; Rm 9:2-3; Php 3:18).

119:137-144 On v. 138, compare 19:7; on v. 140, compare 19:9. The psalmist reinforced God’s role as Judge.

119:145-152 The psalmist called on the Lord, seeking his help in overcoming those who devised evil plans against him. He expressed trust and assurance in the Lord’s faithfulness. While his enemies were physically near, they were spiritually far from the commands that protected the psalmist because the Lord was near (vv. 150-151).

119:153-160 Realizing his utter dependence on God, the psalmist prayed that God would give him life (vv. 154,156,159). The psalmist despised the way of the wicked (vv. 155,158; cp. v. 53).

119:161-168 Peace fills the lives of those who trust in God’s instruction. The goal is not to obey God’s precepts for the sake of obedience, but in order to enjoy abundant life in God’s presence (v. 168).

119:169-176 The psalmist concluded the psalm with words of praise, an affirmation of his faithfulness to the Torah, and a final, heartfelt plea for intervention.