Category Archives: Faithlife Study Bible

October 16, 2017: Verse of the day

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O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

    You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

    You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

    Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

    You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it. [1]


139:5 “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). And because His knowledge of us is so inconceivably absolute, He can guard us behind and before. Ever and always His hand is laid protectingly upon us.[2]


139:5 enclosed me. God used circumstances to limit David’s actions.[3]


139:5 lay your hand upon me. A gentle gesture (cf. Gen. 48:14, 17), giving reassurance.[4]


139:5 You barricade me It is unclear what connotation the psalmist intends when using the Hebrew word tsur here; it can mean “to bind,” “encircle,” or “lay siege to.” In Ps 139:6, the psalmist indicates that he accepts close scrutiny from God, but that he does not understand it.[5]


139:5 You hem me in. The Lord sets His limits around the psalmist’s actions.[6]


The Lord’s Discernment of Individuals (139:1–6)

Commentary

1–6 The Lord “knows” his own. The knowledge of God is relational. He knows his own (see 1:6), as he discerns the righteous from the wicked (cf. vv. 19–20). The root ydʿ (“know”) occurs throughout this section: “you know me … you know when … you know it completely … such knowledge.” It signifies here divine discernment. The Lord discerns the actions of his own (v. 1), whether they sit or stand (v. 2; see 1:6). This discernment belongs uniquely to God, who alone is the Judge of all flesh. Hence the psalmist exclaims that this divine prerogative is beyond him: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (v. 6).

In his prayer (vv. 23–24), which gives expression to his recommitment, the psalmist prayed for the Lord’s justification of his acts against those who maligned him. He prayed for the Lord to examine him as in a judicial case and to declare him innocent of the charges (vv. 23–24; see comments there). Now that the ordeal is over and he has been justified by the Lord, the psalmist testifies that the Lord is a righteous judge. He has come to a new level of relationship with the Lord, who knows him through and through: “you have searched me” (v. 1; cf. 7:9; 17:3; 26:2; Jer 17:10), “you know” (vv. 1–2, 4; see above), “you perceive” (bîn, v. 2; or “you have an understanding of”), “you discern” (v. 3, or “you have winnowed me”), and “you are familiar with.” The Lord knows his every move (“when I sit and when I rise,” v. 2).

But the accused is not afraid of his judge. The divine Judge is more than an arbiter, because he is also the one in whom the psalmist has found protection. He hedges in his own for the purpose of protection (“behind and before,” v. 5). This thought receives further amplification in v. 5b: “you have laid your hand upon me.” The placement of the divine hand signifies protection and blessing (cf. Ge 48:14, 17; Ex 33:22).

This knowledge of God is nothing less than a knowledge that discerns and discriminates in favor of those who are loyal to the Lord. The discerning and favorable acts of God are gracious. It is grace that justifies, and it is by grace that humans are blessed. Though the psalmist has taken seriously his responsibilities in all of his ways (his sitting, rising, going out, lying down, and speaking; cf. vv. 2–4), still he exclaims that God’s favorable acts toward him are “too wonderful” and “too lofty” to apprehend (v. 6; cf. Ro 11:33; see Reflections, p. 603, The Mighty Acts of Yahweh).[7]


139:1–6 / Verses 1–12 hymn the comprehensive nature of God’s knowledge and presence: from sitting to rising (v. 2), from activity (going out) to inactivity (lying down, v. 3), from the heavens to the depths (i.e., vertical space, v. 8), from the east (“the wings of the dawn”) to the west (“the far side of the sea,” i.e., horizontal space, v. 9), and from darkness and night to light and day (vv. 11–12).

The opening section of the psalm begins with a general confession that you know me. But even this general statement about divine omniscience does not indicate an automatic comprehension: you have searched me. The Hebrew verb behind you discern (Hb. zrh) my going out and my lying down is normally used for “winnowing” or “sifting” wheat. God himself participates in the process of becoming acquainted with us. His knowledge is not static; it too goes through a dynamic process. Examples of what God knows then follow. The various postures one takes during the day point to the various activities one may engage in. God’s knowledge goes beyond mere activity to my thoughts and my ways. One’s speech is also singled out as an area of divine interest. God’s comprehension is comprehensive, both around and over us (v. 5). And so our ability to comprehend is limited, such knowledge is beyond us (v. 6). It is difficult to know whether God’s actions in verse 5 are comforting or oppressive (e.g., Hb. ṣwr, hem … in, is often used in the ot for “besieging,” and God’s hand upon a person can denote affliction, cf. 38:2). The verse may be intentionally ambiguous, though we should note from the next section that the speaker’s immediate response is one of flight.[8]


Exposure to God’s scrutiny (139:1b–6). The speaker of the psalm has come to the sanctuary to present his prayer, hoping for a divine oracle to vindicate him. He protests his innocence of certain charges evidently brought against him, before Yahweh who has insight into the whole of his life. Every detail of his daily routine, every unspoken thought, is known to God, who knows him inside and out, as the alternating parallelism of vv 2a and 3 and vv 2b and 4 conveys. In the OT such terms as “know” (ידע), “examine” (חקר), “see” (ראה) in vv 16, 24, and “probe” (בחן) in v 23 are used with God as subject to refer to a providential role as judge—not necessarily in a formal sense but by way of metaphor—punishing the guilty and acquitting the innocent. These associations of the terms used in the psalm indicate that the psalmist is in some situation of attack. The psalm is comparable with Jeremiah’s appeal for vindication: “You know me, Yahweh; you see me and probe my attitude toward you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter” (Jer 12:3 [author’s translation]; cf. Jer 15:15). The psalmist is not engaged in quiet reverie on a divine attribute but pleading for justice to be done. A polemical element is implicit from the outset.

Yahweh is “far away” (מרחוק) as the transcendent God who observes all from heaven (cf. Ps 11:4–5; Jer 23:23). He is also close by, surrounding the psalmist and controlling his movements. The psalmist reacts to God’s omniscience with wonder: it is beyond his ken and too sublime to comprehend. In the area of knowledge a gulf lies between Yahweh and himself. He is driven to avow his own sense of limitation and inadequacy (cf. Job 42:2, 3b). Kras̆ovec (BZ 18 [1974] 232–33) studied the polar expressions used in the psalm to express totality: in vv 2a, 3a, 5a they are used within single cola, while in vv 8, 9, 11 they extend to whole lines. In this connection Holman (VT 21 [1971] 301) noted the contrast between the human and divine representations in vv 1–12. On the one hand there is the multiplicity of the psalmist’s activities and the agitation of various human possibilities; on the other is the majestic superiority of God’s knowledge, expressed in sober, calm tones, comprehending everything by the mere fact of presence.

The force of the expressions in v 5 is ambiguous. The verb צור used in v 5a is often used in a hostile sense “besiege,” but it can be employed of enclosing for safekeeping. Similarly Yahweh’s כף, “palm,” or hand, can refer to loving care or to punishment. Probably the verse is to be pressed to neither extreme but is simply a neutral statement of God’s absolute control of the psalmist’s movements (Dahood, 288).[9]


1–6 God the all-knowing: from inner thoughts to outer ways. These verses are full of verbs of ‘knowing’. The general statement of v 1 is applied to life’s outward activities and inner thoughts (2), everyday acts and lifestyle (3, ways), and unexpressed thoughts (4). Personal life falls wholly within divine limits, behind, before and over, (5, ‘You cup your hand over me’—a picture which reveals that it is all for my protection and comfort Jn. 10:27–30).[10]


139:1–5 You have searched me: God is active to search and test His servants. He knows our motives, desires, and words before they are expressed. In short, He knows His servants completely. But as v. 5 makes clear, the purpose of His intimate knowledge of His servants is protective and helpful, not judgmental and condemning.

139:6 such knowledge: Here the poet gasps aloud at the wonder of the intimate relationship He has with God, and God with him. It is simply too much to comprehend; the human mind with all its ability is no match for the mind of God![11]


139:5–6. David’s initial response to this staggering knowledge was that he was troubled. Like many who respond to the fact of God’s omniscience, he thought it was confining, that God had besieged him and cupped His hand over him.

Moreover, this kind of knowledge was out of David’s control—it was too wonderful for him. The word “wonderful” is in the emphatic position, at the beginning of the sentence. On the meaning of “wonderful” as “extraordinary or surpassing,” see comments on 9:1. In other words divine omniscience is too high for humans to comprehend (also cf. comments on 139:14).[12]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 139:1–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 769). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 139:5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1116). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 139:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 860). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[7] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 959–960). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[8] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (pp. 484–485). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[9] Allen, L. C. (2002). Psalms 101–150 (Revised) (Vol. 21, pp. 327–328). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[10] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 578). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[11] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 738). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[12] Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 891). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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October 15, 2017: Verse of the day

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Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,

and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.

    Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;

reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

    Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;

teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. [1]


9:7–9 Wise people receive reproof and rebuke with appreciation; fools do not.[2]


9:7–9 These verses present three statements about what happens if one corrects a scoffer or the wicked (vv. 7a, 7b, 8a) plus three contrasting statements about reproving a wise man (vv. 8b, 9a, 9b). The point is twofold: if a person desires to be wise, he must examine how his heart responds to wise reproof or correction (see v. 12); and in order to be wise with others, he must have the prudence to observe other people’s actions. It is clear that the “wise” or “righteous” person does not rest content with his attainment, nor is he presented as morally “perfect.” He becomes still wiser, and will increase in learning, through correction.[3]


9:8 rebuke the wise In contrast to the scoffer, the wise person accepts rebuke. Throughout Proverbs, the wise person exhibits wisdom by humbly looking to increase in wisdom (12:15; 21:11).[4]


7 As already indicated, there is an abrupt transition here to standard wisdom instruction. The meaning of the verse seems to be that it is more than futile to issue a correction to certain people, such as the arrogant (or scoffer, Hebrew ל֬, parallel to “wicked” here and also in Ps 1). Well-meant advice meets with not just rejection but contumely. As a matter of fact, the sages generally seem to regard fools/wicked as (relatively) incorrigible. Hence there is the frequent injunction to avoid their company. This meaning is also supported by v 8a. The meaning of v 7b is obscure because of the ambiguity of the final phrase “his blemish” (translated above as “shame”). Some understand it as referring back to the one who reproves. This is unlikely since it is not conceivable that he should be stained by the wicked. The blemish must be that of the wicked, meaning something like harm or “insult” in v 7a, with which it is parallel.

8–9 What was enunciated as a saying in the previous verse is now set forth as a prohibition in v 8a. There is a close parallel in the Instruction of Ankhsheshonq: “Do not instruct a fool, lest he hate you. Do not instruct him who will not listen to you” (7, 4–5; Lichtheim, AEL, 3:165). The advice given in v 8b is at the heart of the wisdom enterprise: the wise almost by definition are docile; they listen, and they are open to reproof; see the Explanation below. 9 This verse supports the claim of v 8, and significantly equates the wise and the just, or wisdom and justice. This teaching is familiar, and could indicate that the speaker is the parent/teacher. But what was the intention of the editor in positioning verses such as these between the two invitations? Perhaps the answer lies in the central importance of v 10, without which the wisdom enterprise is in vain.[5]


9:7–9 The continuity here seems to be broken, but perhaps these verses explain either why the invitation is not sent to scorners, or why Wisdom’s guests must forsake them.

If you correct a scoffer, you get only abuse for it. If you rebuke a wicked man, he will turn on you and assault you.

The way in which a man receives rebuke is an index of his character. A scoffer hates you, whereas a wise man will thank you. How do you react when parent, teacher, employer, or friend corrects you?

Instead of resenting criticism, a wise man takes it to heart and thus becomes still wiser. A just man benefits by increasing his store of useful learning.[6]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 9:7–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 9:7–9). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1150). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 9:8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Murphy, R. E. (1998). Proverbs (Vol. 22, pp. 59–60). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 813). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

October 14, 2017: Verse of the day

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In the obedient and loving church that God has planned for His children, if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Only that sort of mutual love and concern can prevent or heal division and preserve unity. The one who is hurt is consoled and the one who is blessed is rejoiced with. There is no disdain for one another, no rivalry or competition, no envy or malice, no inferiority or superiority, but only love—love that is patient, kind, and not jealous, boastful, or arrogant; love that does not act unbecomingly or seek its own and is not easily provoked; love that never rejoices in unrighteousness but always rejoices in the truth (1 Cor. 13:4–6).[1]


26 Paul goes on to express the emotional unity that should be present in the church. If one member of the church experiences an honor of any sort, this is not the time for others to get jealous and attempt to steal the spotlight or downgrade that individual. Rather, we should all rejoice with that person. By the same token, if one member experiences pain of any sort—physical, emotional, relational, economic, etc.—then all the other members of the body should be there for that individual and rally around him or her. What is natural in the human body (i.e., a malfunction in any single part of the body can lead to the entire person’s feeling sick and out of commission) should also be apparent in the body of Christ.[2]


26. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

This is one of the most beautiful texts in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians. It describes the effect genuine care can have on the members in the Christian church. When love prevails, we see the church as a live physical body. A stubbed toe impairs one’s ability to walk and thus affects the entire body. Filling one’s stomach with delicious food satisfies all the parts of the body, but the pain of a stomach ulcer has an opposite effect. Similarly, when a member in the congregation mourns the death of a loved one, the entire congregation grieves with the mourner. When one member receives recognition for either an accomplishment or an anniversary, the rest of the members surround the recipient with joyful adulation. The Christian community mourns with those who hurt and rejoices with those who celebrate.[3]


12:26 What affects one member affects all. This is a well-known fact in the human body. Fever, for instance, is not confined to one part of the body, but affects the whole system. So it is with other types of sickness and pain. An eye doctor often can detect brain tumor, kidney disease, or liver infection by looking into the eye. The reason is that, although all these members are distinct and separate, yet they all form part of the one body, and they are so vitally linked together that what affects one member affects all. Therefore, instead of being discontent with our lot, or, on the other hand, instead of feeling a sense of independence from others, we should have a real sense of solidarity in the Body of Christ. Anything that hurts another Christian should cause us the keenest sorrow. Likewise, if we see another Christian honored, we should not feel jealous, but we should rejoice with him.[4]


12:26 all the members suffer together Implies that the individual members of the church are interdependent, rather than self-sufficient. Paul expresses that when the community of believers functions properly, it shares pain and joy, as a person would in his or her own body (1 Cor 12:12).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 321–322). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 368–369). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, p. 438). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1793–1794). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Co 12:26). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

October 2, 2017: Verse of the day

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Yahweh has claimed to be their Father (e.g., 1:2; 9:6 again; 43:6) and their go’el (e.g., 41:14; 43:14; 60:16). The prophet asks that Yahweh now behave like one. Abraham was the people’s father (41:8; 51:2), as was Jacob-Israel (45:25; 58:14). They bore this family name (44:5; 48:1). But far from the Israelites’ being acknowledged among the nations (61:9), even the progenitors do not acknowledge this people. Abraham and Israel do not treat this people as their descendants and therefore pass on to them the privileges of being their children. Their earthly fathers have cut them off. That makes it the more pressing that Yahweh indeed treat them as father. It is perhaps this consideration that makes the prophet abandon for a moment the usual ot restraint over calling Yahweh “Father.”[1]


16 “For you are our father” picks up the theme of the sermon from v 8, which has God speak of ancient Israel as his “children.” The anguished cry wants to claim that the relation to ancient Israel should apply to them also across all the intervening centuries. It is the cry of one who represents a group not normally identified with the traditional Israel of twelve tribes, as the following qualifying clauses show. The appelation אבינו, “our father,” for God is rare in the ot, appearing only here (twice) and in 64:7. The notion of YHWH as Israel’s father appears also in Deut 32:6, Jer 31:9, and Mal 1:6 and 2:10. Isaiah refers to Israelites as disobedient sons (1:2, 4; 30:1, 9) and also as children of Zion (43:6; 49:22; 60:4). In addition, the metaphor of Zion as the bride or wife of YHWH (49:14, 18; 54:5; 61:10; 62:5) rounds out the repertoire of Isaiah’s family images for God (see Goldenstein, Gebet der Gottesknechte, 244).

“Abraham did not know us” confesses that they cannot claim to be descended from Abraham. Who, in Jerusalem of the fifth century b.c.e., could this be? Is it one of “the people of the land,” persons brought to occupy sections of northern Israel under the empires (2 Kgs 17:24–28) who learned to worship at YHWH sanctuaries (cf. Zech 7:1–3)? The Zadokite priests would also fit into this classification, but not into the one that follows. “Israel does not recognize us” complains of a current disenfranchisement. This points to the people of the land (see Zech 7:4–14; Ezra 4:1–3) who Ezra and Nehemiah also excluded from cooperation or marriage with Israelites. The verse shows the diversity of persons seeking to work and worship in Jerusalem at this time. The Vision calls for openness toward them. Other leaders suspected them and refused cooperation.

A group of direct descendants of Israel from the exodus on claims YHWH as their “redeemer, from that age.” They want God to recognize that he is their “father,” perhaps implying that he is only theirs.[2]


63:16 Abraham … Israel. The nation’s physical ancestors, Abraham and Jacob (Israel) played a crucial role in Jewish thinking. It had been the besetting temptation and sin of the Jews to rest on the mere privilege of descent from Abraham and Jacob (cf. Mt 3:9; Jn 4:12; 8:39), but at last they renounce that to trust God alone as Father.[3]


63:16 Abraham does not know us Abraham would not recognize his own descendants because of how far off the path they’ve wandered from following Yahweh (see Gen 15:6 on Abraham’s faith).[4]


63:16 our Father. God has always been the Father of His people (64:8; Ex. 4:22, 23; Jer. 3:4, 19); they are His children by adoption (Deut. 32:6; Rom. 8:15).[5]


63:16 The people of Israel are the Lord’s children (v. 8). He is their Father because He created them as a nation (Deut. 32:6; Jer. 3:4, 19). It is rare in the pages of the Hebrew Bible to find the explicit statement of the Fatherhood of God, though it is often presented implicitly. Abraham and Israel, the people’s human fathers (51:2), were limited in their knowledge by time and space—in contrast to the Lord, the people’s Father and Redeemer from Everlasting (41:14).[6]


[1] Goldingay, J. (2012). Isaiah. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (p. 359). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Watts, J. D. W. (2005). Isaiah 34–66 (Revised Edition, Vol. 25, pp. 902–903). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 63:16). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 63:16). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1042). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 872). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

October 1, 2017: Verse of the day

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1 God (Elohim) is portrayed here as ready to judge. He “presides” (niṣṣāb; cf. Isa 3:13; Am 7:7; 9:1) as the Great Judge. God assembles the “gods” together for judgment in “the assembly of El” (MT; NIV, “the great assembly”). The assembly of El is a borrowed phrase from Canaanite mythology, according to which El, the chief of the pantheon, assembled the gods in a divine council (see Dahood, 2:269).

For Israel there is no other God than Yahweh. He embodies within himself all the epithets and powers attributed to pagan deities. The God of Israel holds a mock trial so as to impress his people that he alone is God. Zimmerli, 155, has expressed the superiority of Israel’s God well in these words: “Whenever a hymn speaks of those other divine powers, whose existence is by no means denied on theoretical grounds, it can only be with reference to the One who will call their actions to judgment (Ps. 82), or in the spirit of superiority that mocks their impotence (Pss. 115:4–8; 135:15–18).”[1]


82:1 / In the opening verse a liturgist or prophetic voice provides the congregation with the psalm’s visionary setting in God’s heavenly royal council chambers. Here, we enter a world very foreign to us.[2]

82:1 The court is called to order. The Judge has taken His place at the bench. It is God Himself. He has called a special session of the divine council in order to reprove the rulers and judges of the earth. They are called gods because they are representatives of God, ordained by Him as His servants in order to maintain an ordered society. Actually, of course, they are only men like ourselves. But because of their position, they are the anointed of the Lord. Even if they do not know God personally, yet they are God’s agents officially and therefore dignified here with the name of gods. The basic meaning of the name is mighty ones.[3]

82:1 His own congregation. The scene opens with God having called the world leaders together. midst of the rulers. The best interpretation is that these are human leaders, such as judges, kings, legislators, and presidents (cf. Ex 22:8, 9, 28; Jdg 5:8, 9). God the Great Judge, presides over these lesser judges.[4]


82:1 in the divine council; in the midst of the gods. Many would take these terms in vv. 1 and 6 as describing the assembly of angelic beings who surround God’s throne as a divine court (cf. 1 Kings 22:19; Job 1:6; 2:1). This finds support in the way that the title “sons of the Most High” matches the label “sons of God” in Job; cf. also the “heavenly beings” (or “gods”) in Ps. 8:5 (see note there). On the other hand, these “gods” are said to “judge” among men (82:2–4) and to die like men (v. 7); God is to judge the earth and to inherit the nations (where mankind lives, v. 8). This makes it better to see these as human rulers, who hold their authority as representatives of the true God (and therefore deserve respect; cf. 58:1; Rom. 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:13–17). Of course this does not require ultimate loyalty that overrides faithfulness to God, or that silences testimony about God’s justice, as this very psalm makes clear. Jesus seems to have read the psalm in this way, since in John 10:34–35 he cites Ps. 82:6, describing the “gods” as those to whom the word of God came, which means they were human. See also note on v. 6.[5]


82:1 stands The Hebrew word used here, nitsav, is a singular verbal form, which means that its subject, which is elohim in Hebrew—and could be translated as “God” or “gods”—should be translated in the singular as “God.” The imagery that extends from this verb is one of presiding, since the setting is a formal council meeting.

the divine assembly A descriptive phrase used of the heavenly host. Like other ancient Near Eastern cultures, the psalmist conceived of God as directing the affairs of the unseen world through an administration of divine beings. The members of the heavenly host are often referred to as a “council” or “assembly” (see 1 Kgs 22:19–23).

in the midst of the gods The Hebrew preposition used here, qerev, requires the Hebrew word elohim to be translated as a plural here—as “gods.” The gods in the verse are the council members, the heavenly host (see Psa 82:6). A council of divine beings is also mentioned in 89:5–7, where they are depicted as in heaven or the skies.[6]


82:1 the divine council. The exact scope of this congregation is unclear. It may be the heavenly assembly (including only spiritual powers), or it may include earthly kings.[7]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 623). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (p. 336). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 674). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 82:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1041–1042). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 82:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 810). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

September 29, 2017: Verse of the day

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33 But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” [1]

33–34 The Lord refuses Moses’ offer and replies, “Whoever has sinned … I will blot out of my book” (v. 33; cf. Pss 9:5; 51:1). Thus the OT principle is reaffirmed: the person who sins is accountable for his or her own sin (cf. Dt 24:16; Eze 18:4, 13, 17). Whereas in the past the Lord led (12:42, 51; 13:17; 15:13; 20:2), with Moses being only God’s servant, from now on Moses and an angel are to lead (v. 34). “The time comes for me to punish” is literally, “in the day of my visitation.” Perhaps this is the beginning of the day-of-the-Lord warnings by the later prophets.[2]

32:33–34 The Lord affirms the presumption in Moses’ request that the Lord determines whose names will be in his book, a reality which is referred to in both the OT and NT in various ways: “the book of the living” (Ps. 69:28), “the book” (Dan. 12:1), “names … written in heaven” (Luke 10:20), “the book of life” (Phil. 4:3).[3]


32:33 I will blot Refers to the practice of lifting wet ink from parchment, which results in the illegibility of what was written, and also a visible smudge. Sometimes this area could be written over, but it would always appear as a blemish.[4]


32:33 Whoever has sinned. Moses’ intercession is partially successful: God does not finally reject His people, but the sinful individuals will be judged. The limitations of Moses’ mediatorial office and ministry point to the need for a greater Mediator who will present a full and efficacious atonement for sin (Heb. 3:1–6; 10:11–18). See “Christ the Mediator” at 1 Tim. 2:5.[5]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ex 32:33–34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (2008). Exodus. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis–Leviticus (Revised Edition) (Vol. 1, p. 543). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 198). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ex 32:33). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 142). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

September 28, 2017: Verse of the day

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So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. [1]


4–7 The purpose for this strong warning to the priests is to caution them against the perversion of their office that has already begun (v. 4). The Lord made a covenant with Levi guaranteeing him life and well-being (thus Heb. šālôm), but only as he revered the Lord and served him faithfully (v. 5). This duty is precisely what the postexilic priests are failing to fulfill; thus they are already in violation of the covenant and are in danger of being cut off from their sacred office, that of custodian and teacher of Torah (v. 7).

The covenant referred to here no doubt pertains to the one made with Phinehas, a grandson of Aaron who at a crisis point in Israel’s spiritual life showed himself mightily on behalf of the Lord. When the Hebrews encamped on the plains of Moab, they became enticed by the Baalism of the area, and some began to involve themselves in lascivious idolatry (Nu 25:1–5). Having witnessed one particularly egregious act of sexual immorality, Phinehas, with spear in hand, slew the guilty parties, an Israelite man and a Midianite woman (v. 8). The Lord therefore held back the plague that was already underway and then singled out Phinehas for special recognition. God praised him and promised to make with him a covenant of everlasting priesthood characterized by well-being (šālôm; vv. 10–13).

In the words of Malachi, Levi (i.e., Phinehas, his descendant) “stood in awe” at the name of the Lord and was known as one whose mouth uttered “true instruction” (lit., “a tôrâ of truth”) and not falsehood. He walked in peace and uprightness and was responsible for the conversion of many to the Lord (v. 6). This rich legacy could and would be forfeited if the priests addressed by Malachi do not repent of their corrupt ways and once more serve the Lord in integrity and truth.[2]


The purpose of the covenant (v. 5)

To give life and peace

One of the most productive lies of the devil is that God enjoys making life miserable for human beings, that he gives us certain rules to spoil our happiness.

The truth of the matter is, of course, just the opposite. The laws of God are designed, not to destroy our happiness, but rather to secure it. Such was the case with God’s covenant with the Levites. By obeying it, they would bring both life and peace to the nation and to themselves. By disobeying it, they would bring destruction and unrest.

To produce fear of God

To fear God is to stand in awe of him. It is to revere his person, to submit to his authority and to dread his displeasure. This may seem to run counter to our happiness, but it is not. The more we stand in awe of God, the more likely we are to obey, and the more we obey the more happiness we find.[3]


2:4–5 / As a result of this punishment the priests would know that God had sent this admonition (see also v. 1) with a purpose—that the Lord’s covenant with Levi, which the priests had “violated” (v. 8), might continue. God was not ready to abolish the priesthood but intended, by means of judgment and the prophetic word, to reform the priests. The ministry of Malachi, the prophet and the book, was to call the priests back to their covenant obligations (vv. 5–7), to call them to work in the interim toward the purification to be completed in days to come by “the messenger of the covenant” (3:1–4).

There is no account in the ot of the making of this covenant with Levi, but Jeremiah 33:20–26 and Nehemiah 13:29 also speak of it. Several passages stand behind Malachi’s formulation (cf. the marriage covenant in Mal. 2:14). According to Deuteronomy 18:1–8, the entire tribe of Levi had been set aside for service at the sanctuary. Like Malachi 2, the blessing of Moses (Deut. 33:8–11) personalizes the tribe of Levi as an individual. Levi was “the man you [God] favored,” who “watched over your word and guarded your covenant.” According to Deuteronomy 33:10, Levi carries out the priestly duties of offering incense and whole burnt offerings, as well as teaching God’s precepts and law (torah) to Israel. “True instruction” (torah) is a major priestly responsibility in Malachi 2:6–7. Leviticus 1:10–11; Deuteronomy 17:8–12, 18; 21:5; 24:8; and 27:14–26 all speak of the requirement to teach and make decisions according to the law (torah). God had granted to Phinehas, a descendant of Aaron, and to his descendants a covenant of lasting priesthood, a covenant of peace, because of his zeal for God’s honor (Num. 25:10–13; cf. Mal. 2:2, 5). But Malachi gives the label “covenant” to the special obligations and provisions for all the priests, who are Levites, as set forth in the law (e.g., Deut. 17:8–13; 18:1–8; Num. 18). The ideal priest revered the Lord and stood in awe of the Lord’s name, for God had kept covenant by giving him life and peace—the best gifts of God to humankind, gifts no one else can bestow.[4]


2:4, 5 My covenant … with Levi. The relationship of God to the priesthood was clearly set forth in the Levitic covenant (Nu 3:44–48; 18:8–24; Dt 33:8–11). The covenant was one of mutual responsibility, in which God expected reverence for Himself in exchange for life and peace for the priests. Verbally similar to the covenant made with Phinehas relating to the lineage of the High-Priest (cf. Nu 25:10–13), this covenant was made with Aaron of Levi’s line and his descendants. The Jewish priests of Malachi’s day had deceived themselves by claiming the privileges of the covenant, while neglecting the conditions of it, as if God was bound to bless them even while they rejected the obligation to serve Him.

2:4 Then you will know. The priests will know the price of disobedience by bitter experience with the consequences.[5]


2:5 with him Levi was the ancestor of Aaron who was ordained as the first priest of Israel (see Exod 28–29). Levi did not personally serve as a priest and is not prominent in Genesis. (He is primarily mentioned in passing in lists of Jacob’s sons apart from the story in Gen 34:1–31). In Mal 2:5–6, he stands symbolically for the institution of the priesthood in general.[6]


2:5 one of life and peace. The central thrust of Deuteronomy is to show the connection between covenant obedience and life. Commitment to God leads to a full life. Some see in “covenant … of … peace” an allusion to the covenant with Phinehas mentioned in Num. 25:10–13.[7]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mal 2:4–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Merrill, E. H. (2008). Malachi. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, p. 852). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Ellsworth, R. (2007). Opening up Malachi (p. 45). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[4] Goldingay, J., & Scalise, P. J. (2012). Minor Prophets II. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (p. 337). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mal 2:4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Mal 2:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1346). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

September 26, 2017: Verse of the day

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20    My son, keep your father’s commandment,

and forsake not your mother’s teaching.

21    Bind them on your heart always;

tie them around your neck. [1]


20–21 The youth is exhorted to cling fast to the teachings of his parents (see P. W. Skehan, Studies in Israelite Poetry and Wisdom: Proverbs 5:15–19 and 6:20–24 [Washington: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1971], 1–8). Implicit in these verses is the basic understanding that a good home life (i.e., father and mother sharing the rearing of the children together) will go a long way to prevent youth from falling into immorality. But the teachings must become a permanent part of the youth’s thinking; they must be memorized and practiced.[2]


20–21 The address to “my son” is an introduction to the final section of the chapter that deals with adultery. These opening verses (vv 20–21) are similar to Prov 3:1–3 and also to 7:1–3. Here, too, the youth’s attention is called to the instruction and command of the teacher; they are to be “bound” on the heart, “tied” on the neck, and also “written on the tablet of the heart” (3:3; 7:3). Such recommendations seem to be a deliberate recall of Deut 6:6–9 (the “Shema”) and Deut 11:18–21, as pointed out by C. Maier, ‘fremde Frau,’ 153–58. The agreement among these three introductions is significant. One may even draw the conclusion that sapiential and “Yahwistic” teaching do not differ, one from another. The teaching of the parents are on a level with, or better, analogous to the commands of Moses. It would not be surprising to find these prescriptions concretized in amulets and other objects. Their apotropaic character (warding off evil) is also to be presumed; cf. P. Miller, JNES 29 (1970) 129–30.[3]


6:20 The subject of adultery or unfaithfulness is taken up again here. The frequency with which it recurs is not accidental. The words of verse 20 are a sort of formula used to introduce important instruction.

6:21 Some extreme literalists in Jesus’ day thought they obeyed this verse by wearing phylacteries, that is, small leather boxes containing Scripture portions. During prayer, these Jews wore one on the left arm (near the heart) and one on the head (near the neck). Some Jews still use them today.

But what this verse really means is that we should make the Word of God so much a part of our lives that it will accompany and direct us wherever we go. It is not just a question of honoring the Scriptures outwardly but of obeying them from the heart.[4]


6:20 your mother’s teaching. In the appeals of chs. 1–9, usually only the father is mentioned. The mother as teacher appears here and in 1:8 (see note on 1:8). The young man’s mother represents respect for the institutions of family and marriage.[5]


6:20 My child, keep the commandment of your father See 1:8; note on 1:8–9:18.

6:21 Bind them on your heart The son is charged to keep his parents’ commandments close and ensure they will not be forgotten. Compare Exod 13:9.[6]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 6:20–21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 88). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Murphy, R. E. (1998). Proverbs (Vol. 22, pp. 38–39). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 806–807). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1145). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 6:20–21). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

September 25, 2017: Verse of the day

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1 The psalmist pronounces a blessing on those who “live together in unity.” During the pilgrimages, the Israelites enjoyed an ecumenical experience on their way toward and in Jerusalem. The pilgrims came from many different walks of life, regions, and tribes as they gathered for one purpose: the worship of the Lord in Jerusalem. Their unity was in conformity with the regulations for the three annual feasts (Ex 23:14–17; Lev 23:4–22, 33–43; Nu 28:16–31; 29:12–39; Dt 16:1–17). During the feasts the Israelites celebrated their common heritage—redemption from Egypt and their encampment around the tabernacle in the wilderness (cf. Nu 2).[1]

133:1 Unity among brethren is a sight to behold. However, unity does not require that they see eye to eye on everything. On matters of fundamental importance they agree. On subordinate matters there is liberty for differing viewpoints. In all things there should be a spirit of love. There can be unity without uniformity; we are all different but that does not prevent our working together. All the members of the human body are different, but as they function in obedience to the head, there is a glorious unity. There can be unity without unanimity; God never intended that everyone should agree on matters of minor importance. It is enough to agree on the basics. On everything else we may disagree as long as we can do it without being disagreeable. The real enemies of unity are jealousy, gossip, backbiting, censoriousness and lovelessness.[2]

133:1 brothers. Those whose lineage can be traced to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. unity. While national unity might be on the surface, the foundation must always be spiritual unity. This would be the emphasis here, since these songs were sung by Jewish pilgrims traveling to the 3 great feasts.[3]

133:1 brothers dwell in unity. The expression appears in Gen. 13:6; 36:7, where a particular region could not support “brothers” (relatives) and their families dwelling close together. If this is the background for the psalm, then Ps. 133:1 describes a situation in which the land is fruitful enough for brothers to live nearby (perhaps a family inheritance, cf. Deut. 25:5). Since this is a Song of Ascents, the “brothers dwelling in unity” would be the fellow Israelite pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem, abiding in peace with one another. The ideal Israel is a community of true brotherhood, where the members practice mutual concern for one another; if this were achieved, it would indeed be good and pleasant. This should be the goal of church life (John 17:20–23).

133:1 Unity among God’s people is produced in Christ and in his Spirit (Eph. 4:1–6).[4]


133:1 dwell together in unity This expression probably reflects statements like those in Gen 13:6 or Gen 36:7, where extended families are described as being unable to dwell peaceably together because the land could not support them.[5]


133:1 brothers. This term could refer to family members, but here probably refers to tribal and national comrades as they unite in worship.[6]


133:1 “Brethren” denotes the members of the larger family of Israel. National unity is likened to: (1) the precious and sacred anointing oil used in the consecration of the high priest (cf. Ex. 29:7; Lev. 8:12); and (2) the refreshing and life-giving dew, known for its abundance on the slopes of Mt. Hermon (cf. 89:12, note). This exhortation to unity would, of course, be applicable to believers today (cf. Eph. 4:3). Cf. also 120:title, note.[7]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 935–936). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 762). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 133:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1110). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 133:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 856). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[7] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Ps 133:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

September 24, 2017: Verse of the day

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“O Lord, make me know my end

and what is the measure of my days;

let me know how fleeting I am!

    Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,

and my lifetime is as nothing before you.

Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah

        Surely a man goes about as a shadow!

Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;

man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! [1]


4 Unable to resolve his problem, the psalmist turns to the Lord for instruction. The purpose of knowing life’s end is not that he may plan for every day of his life. He does not ask to know all that will happen but only what is the purpose of life. In the greater awareness of the brevity of life, he hopes that the Lord will guide him in an understanding and acceptance of this brevity. Notice the threefold mention of the brevity of life: “my life’s end,” “the number of my days,” and “how fleeting is my life” (cf. Ps 90; Job 11:7–9; Ecc 2:3).

Prayer is God’s means of instruction. In the quietness of prayer, the psalmist returns to the revealed insights pertaining to his life and to life in general. Because the question was personal, his first insight is personal. But the sage in him is not content until he has generalized it to be applicable to humankind.[2]


39:4–6 / The resulting prayer is not what we expect. It is initially a prayer about knowledge or insight (Hb. ydʿ is used twice, rendered in the niv by show me and let me know), not about a moral dilemma, but about how fleeting is my life. This is thus a prayer for perspective. The realization that he asks God to impress upon him (introduced in v. 5 with Hb. hinnê and emphasized in v. 6 with Hb. ʾak) is the span of my years is as nothing before you, and in fact, each man’s life is but a breath. Verse 6 shows the relevance of this prayer for the speaker’s moral dilemma: Man … bustles about, but only in vain (Hb. hebel, “as a breath”); he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. One’s life is too short of time and of guarantees to busy oneself with piling up things.[3]


39:4–6Lord, how long is this nightmare going to last? Tell me how much time I have left, and when it is going to run out. At best the span of my life is only about the width of my palm; compared to Your eternity, my lifetime isn’t worth mentioning. All of us humans are as unsubstantial as a vapor. We go through life like phantoms. We rush around in frenzied activity—but what does it all amount to after all? We spend our lives scrimping and saving, and leave it all behind to be enjoyed by ingrates or fools or strangers![4]


4–6 The burning question. Poetically v 4 asks ‘Am I going to die?’ This was the question he felt he should suppress before those who did not share his faith, for, with a heavenly prospect (49:15; 73:24) ahead why should he fear or resent dying? But the question will out and David faces the acknowledged brevity, insubstantiality and uncertain point of earthly life (5–6).[5]


39:4 For similar prayers about the brevity and burdens of life, cf. Job 6:11; 7:7; 14:13; 16:21, 22; Ps 90:12; Ecc 2:3.[6]


39:4 The threat of death hangs over all human existence and finds relief ultimately only through the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:12–26, 35–58).[7]


39:4 Let me know, O Yahweh, my end The psalmist asks for perspective and awareness regarding the brevity of human life.[8]


39:4 measure of my days. Their own short, hard lives tempted the faithful as they compared them to the prosperity of the wicked and questioned God’s wisdom and justice. See note Ps. 88:5.[9]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 39:4–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 360). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (p. 188). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 609). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 511). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 39:4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[7] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 986). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 39:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[9] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 770). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

September 18, 2017: Verse of the day

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17    I love those who love me,

and those who seek me diligently find me.

18    Riches and honor are with me,

enduring wealth and righteousness.

19    My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,

and my yield than choice silver.

20    I walk in the way of righteousness,

in the paths of justice,

21    granting an inheritance to those who love me,

and filling their treasuries. [1]


17–21 Wisdom rewards those who love her. The emphasis here is that Wisdom not only possesses all these attributes but also makes them accessible to those who seek her. Loving (ʾāhab) and seeking (šāḥar) point up the means of finding (māṣāʾ) Wisdom (v. 17). Those who find it obtain honor and wealth (vv. 18, 21). This honor and wealth come along the way of righteousness (v. 20), for divine blessing is always connected to obedience, i.e., ethical behavior. Earlier the teacher had instructed the disciple to walk in the way of righteousness; now we see that Wisdom walks in this way.[2]


Wisdom and Jesus offer you great rewards (8:17–21)

Wisdom loves and blesses those who love and seek her (v. 17). They enjoy success in their vocations, in their families, with their finances, and in their relationships. Jesus loves and blesses those who seek him (John 14:21; Matt. 7:7–11). Because we are by nature wayward and would never seek him (Rom. 8:7–8), he draws us to himself, giving us new desire for wisdom (Jer. 31:3; Rom. 8:9–11; 1 John 4:19). Just as Wisdom offers great treasure to those who seek her, so Jesus makes all who come to him spiritually rich, at great cost to himself (2 Cor. 8:9; Matt. 6:19–20; Rev. 3:18). In him we have an imperishable heavenly inheritance (1 Peter 1:4–5).[3]


8:14–21 Some of the rewards or benefits of Wisdom are:

Good counsel (v. 14a)

Sound judgment (v. 14b)

Understanding (v. 14c)

Moral strength to do what is right and to resist evil (v. 14d)

Leadership ability (vv. 15a, 16a)

Judicial skill (vv. 15b, 16b)

Affection and companionship (see John 14:21) (v. 17a)

Ready access to those who mean business (v. 17b)

Enduring riches coupled with honor and righteousness (v. 18)

Character that is worth more than fine gold or choice silver (v. 19)

Guidance in paths of righteousness and of justice, bringing wealth in abundance (vv. 20, 21).

We have already mentioned that these passages dealing with Wisdom can be fittingly applied to the Lord Jesus, since the NT refers to Him as Wisdom (Matt. 11:19; Luke 11:49; 1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Col. 2:3). Nowhere is the application more clear and beautiful than in the following verses. The Christian Church has consistently regarded this paragraph as referring to the Lord Jesus Christ.

What then do we learn about Christ in “this noble specimen of sacred eloquence?”[4]


8:17 love. Wisdom’s love for the one who receives it is proven by the benefits mentioned in vv. 18–21.[5]


8:17 I love those who love me reinforces the calls to seek wisdom (e.g., 2:1–4; 4:5, 7), for she will show favor and then grant multiplied benefits. Those who seek me diligently find me reinforces the promise that the Lord will give wisdom (e.g., 2:5–11; James 1:5) and its benefits (see Prov. 8:18–21, 35).

8:18–21 Riches and honor come with wisdom (this often happens when a society is functioning justly), but also something even greater: an unspecified kind of enduring wealth and righteousness (v. 18), a fruit that is better than gold and silver (v. 19), and an abundant inheritance (v. 21). While this description would include any material blessings that come to those who seek wisdom, these things cannot compare to the greater value of what is promised here: life and favor from the Lord (see v. 35).[6]


8:17 those who seek me diligently Both statements in this verse aim to motivate the reader to seek wisdom (compare vv. 18–19). The vocabulary of love suggests that in the pursuit of wisdom, there is a need not just for an emotional commitment, not just a pragmatic vision. Its attainment therefore involves heartfelt satisfaction.

8:18 enduring wealth and righteousness The pairings in this verse speak of honorable wealth. While unprincipled people may possess certain characteristics of wisdom, their wealth is not the kind described here because it lacks honor (see v. 20). Wealth and power are neither indications of the kind of wisdom God desires, nor are they necessarily indications of divine blessing. The writer avoids blessing wealth for its own sake.

8:19 My fruit is better than gold Wisdom is often depicted as preferable to gold or other precious metals (3:14–15).

8:20 I walk Indicates a habitual activity.

paths of justice The Hebrew word used here, mishpat, refers to a fair ruling or decision. It is associated with truth and righteousness. See note on 1:3.

8:21 I will fill their treasuries Wisdom promises rewards of permanence and continuity across generations (13:22). See note on 3:2.[7]


8:17 I love those who love me. The statements contrast with wisdom being hidden from fools (1:28, 29). Wisdom cares for her own (4:6, 8, 9).

those who seek me … find me. See 2:4, 5; 3:13–15. This suggests a relationship between wisdom and the grace of God that causes Him to draw near to us (Is. 55:6). Jesus, Himself the final revelation of divine wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Col. 2:2, 3), possibly alludes to this verse in Matt. 7:7.

8:18 Riches and honor. See 3:2, 16. Solomon’s early reign was an example of the material and social benefits of wisdom (1 Kin. 10:1–9).

righteousness. This means obedience to God’s law, extending to the cultivation of right relationships between God, people, and creation. See Rom. 12:18; 1 Tim. 2:1–4.[8]


8:17–18. Wisdom, available to all, is acquired only by those who love her (cf. v. 21; 4:6) and seek her (cf. 2:1–4). Those who are wise receive riches and honor (cf. 3:16), enduring wealth (cf. 8:21; 14:24; 15:6; 22:4), and prosperity. “Enduring” is literally “surpassing” or “eminent.” The riches that come to the possessor of wisdom are genuine, not artificial substitutes purchased with silver or gold. Being honored in a community is a product of one’s walk (conduct) rather than one’s wealth by itself. “Prosperity” is literally “righteousness” (cf. v. 20). Godly living is the major benefit from having wisdom.

8:19–21. The word yield (v. 19) is a term used in the marketplace; the verb focuses attention on wisdom’s ability to produce benefits far superior to what fine gold (ḥārûṣ; cf. v. 10) and silver provide. Wisdom goes with righteousness and justice (cf. v. 8). The form of the Hebrew verb walk conveys the idea of walking steadily or continuously. (On the distinction between righteousness and justice see comments on Amos 5:7.)

As in many places in Proverbs, way (s) and paths are used synonymously (see comments on Prov. 2:13). As stated in 8:18, those who love (cf. v. 17) and acquire wisdom gain wealth (cf. 3:16; 14:24; 15:6; 22:4). Like many statements in Proverbs, this one is a generalization to which exceptions should be noted. Material substance is replenishable (keeping one’s treasuries full) because of the skill a wise person has to maintain it.[9]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 8:17–21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 99). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs (p. 90). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 810–811). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 8:17). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1148–1149). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 8:17–21). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[8] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 884). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[9] Buzzell, S. S. (1985). Proverbs. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 922). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

September 17, 2017: Verse of the day

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Nebuchadnezzar Restored

34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;

35    all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,

and he does according to his will among the host of heaven

and among the inhabitants of the earth;

and none can stay his hand

or say to him, “What have you done?”

36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. [1]


34–37 The conclusion of the fourth court story returns to first-person narrative, as King Nebuchadnezzar resumes his personal testimony of events associated with his dream of the great tree. The story not only recycles back to its beginning by way of the narrator’s voice, but also to its theme as the king recapitulates his doxology lauding the Most High God and published in the form of a royal letter (vv. 34c–35; cf. vv. 2–3). Porteous, 73, comments that Nebuchadnezzar’s praise “of Daniel’s God is more generous than what he had to say of the God of the three confessors [ch. 3]. This time he had not only witnessed the power of God, he had felt it in his own person.” Critics of the historicity of Daniel remind us that “extant Babylonian records say nothing of Nebuchadnezzar’s losing control of or vacating his throne for a significant period of time” (Redditt, 85; cf. Gowan, 84). But the argument from silence is just that—inconclusive for want of evidence.

The phrase “at the end of that time” (v. 34a) simply refers cryptically to the period of “seven times” stipulated for the duration of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness (cf. vv. 16, 25). The king’s “sanity” or “reason” (NASB) was restored, but not automatically. The expression “I … raised my eyes toward heaven” suggests seeking God’s aid (so Goldingay, 90), even a simple act of repentance (cf. Seow, 72; Russell, 82). The restoration of Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity (and subsequently his honor and splendor; v. 36) is testimony to God’s grace (cf. Miller, 143) and a reminder that the book of Daniel teaches that such “transformation is possible” (Smith-Christopher, 77). The king’s experience has taught him that the Most High is sovereign over human kingdoms (vv. 17, 25), thus demonstrating “the point which animates the narrative” (Towner, 64; cf. Russell, 82).

Nebuchadnezzar’s doxological confession is the longest of such testimonials in the book of Daniel. Smith-Christopher, 76, has isolated three important themes in the king’s confession: (1) the perpetual or eternal sovereignty of God as his kingdom or dominion endures from generation to generation (v. 34c; cf. 3b); (2) God’s rule extends to all the earth; and (3) no one has the power or ability to question the work of God. Nebuchadnezzar’s declarations about God are in keeping with OT teaching about the nature and character Yahweh of Israel (e.g., Pss 115:3; 145:13; Isa 14:27; 40:17; cf. Baldwin, 115).

The full restoration of King Nebuchadnezzar both to physical health and his position of royal authority on the throne of Babylonia (being accorded even greater honor and splendor than before; v. 36) is a reminder that God honors those who honor him (1 Sa 2:30; 1 Ch 29:12). The king’s reference to his “advisers and nobles,” who seek him out, speaks to his formal reinstallation as king of Babylonia (v. 36b). The king’s praise of God as the “King of heaven” (v. 37) is a unique epithet for God in the OT, and the repetition of the term “heaven” echoes what Baldwin, 116, has observed as a “catch-word” in ch. 4 (vv. 13, 20, 26, 34, 37). Ironically, Nebuchadnezzar confesses that God does what is right and that his ways are just (v. 37)—essentially the instructions Daniel gave the king in his summons to repentance (v. 27).

Goldingay (97) summarizes ch. 4 by citing King Nebuchadnezzar as an example—“a warning of how not to be led astray by power and achievement, a model of how to respond to chastisement and humiliation … [and] a promise that earthly authorities are in the hand of God, not merely for their judgment, but for his glory.” And though Nebuchadnezzar’s formal acknowledgment of God’s power and justice may fall short of penitence and true faith (so Baldwin, 116; cf. Gowan, 83, “Nebuchadnezzar is not ‘converted’ ”), the king is also an example of another important biblical principle, namely, that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6; 1 Pe 5:5; cf. Pr 3:34). Nebuchadnezzar has learned the lesson of humility tragically but confessed the truth of the proverb with conviction given the aftermath of his personal experience (v. 37c). In fact, his confession encapsulates the basic message of the Bible: assume a posture of humility before the Most High God (cf. Isa 57:15; Mic 6:8; Mt 18:4; 23:12; Php 2:8).[2]


4:34–37 / In this last segment of the chapter, the narrative reverts back to the first person. Nebuchadnezzar testifies concerning his recovery and restoration. It begins when, at the end of that time, he raises his eyes toward heaven (4:34). The decree indicates that his punishment will be for a limited period: “seven times” or “years” (4:16, 23, 25, 32), seven being the number of perfection or completion. However, the decree also says that he will remain in his beastly state until he acknowledges “that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes” (4:25, 32). Does his restoration occur because the time is up or because he acknowledges God’s rule? Clearly both of these are significant to the writer. God determines the time, but human actions are important as well. Just as Nebuchadnezzar set in motion his downfall by his boast (4:30), so now he initiates his recovery by his turning toward God. By lifting his eyes to heaven, he is acknowledging the authority of God. This is one difference between humans and the animals: we are aware of God. This leads to the return of human reason, another distinctive feature that separates us from the beasts. Nebuchadnezzar states, “my sanity was restored” (4:34). The text more literally says, “my knowledge returned to me,” or “my reason returned to me” (nrsv). These are better translations, because the story seems to be about a metamorphosis from human to beast and back again rather than temporary insanity. What commences with a symbolic gesture, lifting the eyes, leads to restoration of human reason, knowledge, or intelligence, which in turn leads to worship (4:34). Nebuchadnezzar finishes as he began (4:1–3), with praise. And the apocalyptist returns to dominant themes: God is sovereign (4:17, 25, 32, 34, 36) and his kingdom is eternal (2:44; 6:26; 7:27).

Of course, God’s rule is not limited to human kings. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven (4:35). This does not mean that God is capricious in his dealings with angels, for God’s deeds are just and consistent with his nature. Rather, it affirms that the Most High exercises control over heavenly rulers as well as earthly ones like Nebuchadnezzar. According to the book of Daniel, there are spirits in the high places who govern kingdoms (Dan. 10:13, 20–21). Paul agrees, speaking of a hierarchy of evil rulers, authorities, and powers above (Eph. 6:12). In the last judgment God will “punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below” (Isa. 24:21). No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Dan. 4:35). God may question us, but we must be careful how we address him. There is a fine line sometimes between the lament psalms and murmuring in the wilderness. Lamenting is not only allowed but encouraged, while murmuring is not. The believer who is suffering may complain bitterly to God (e.g., Ps. 22), but he or she must come meekly, as a supplicant. It is possible to complain in a faithless way (Exod. 16:7–8; Num. 14:27, 36; 16:11; 17:5); those who did so were condemned to die without entering the promised land. Humans must never think they can stand over God in judgment or put him on the witness stand to cross-examine him. When Job crossed over the line while contending with heaven, God turned the tables on him by firing at Job a withering stream of questions about creation, which he could not answer (Job 38:2–39:30; 40:7–41:34). This humbled Job and taught him not to question God in an arrogant or accusing way.

In Daniel 4, verses 36–37 repeat the thoughts of verses 34–35. Nebuchadnezzar gets his knowledge or reason back (vv. 34 and 36), and then he praises God (vv. 34–35 and 37). The niv obscures this by translating, At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom (4:36). This rendering smooths things over to make verse 35 appear to resume the thought of verse 34 in order to develop it. The nrsv reading is superior: “At that time my reason returned to me.” This means when the seven years were finished, or at the time when he turned his gaze heavenward. In other words, these verses form a doublet; two different versions of the conclusion of the story are preserved here.

Verse 34 (nrsv)

 

Verses 36–37 (nrsv)

 

my reason returned to me

 

my reason returned to me

 

I blessed the Most High, and praised

 

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol

 

and honored the one who lives forever

 

and honor the King of heaven

 

The two endings are not exactly alike, for the second one adds the information regarding the return to the throne, which is not contained in the first.

Once again we see that the God of the Jews is greater than the gods of Babylon. He is identified as the Most High (4:2, 17, 24, 25, 32, 34) and the king of heaven (4:37). He is the one who can interpret dreams, and he is the one who humbles Nebuchadnezzar. Overweening pride will be punished, for God does not allow hubris: those who walk in pride he is able to humble (4:37). God gives sovereignty “to anyone he wishes” (4:17, 25, 32), which means that he even allows pagans like Nebuchadnezzar to rule over the Jews, at least until the end (2:44–45; 7:26–27). In fact, after his ordeal, the Babylonian king becomes even greater than before (4:36). Apparently, foreigners do not necessarily need to convert to Judaism, but they should acknowledge the Most High God (4:17, 25, 32) and do righteous deeds (4:27).[3]


4:34–37 Nebuchadnezzar’s Exaltation. At the end of God’s appointed time of judgment, Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes to heaven and his reason was restored. Once brought low by God, he was brought back to the heights and restored to control of his kingdom, demonstrating that the Lord is able both to humble the proud and to exalt the humble. The great and mighty persecutor of Israel, the destroyer of Jerusalem, was humbled by God’s grace and brought to confess God’s mercy. He blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever. God used Daniel’s faithfulness to bring light to this Gentile.[4]


4:37 that he is able to humble those who walk in pride Refers to his former way of living (see Dan 4:30).[5]


4:34, 35, 37 Although Nebuchadnezzar confesses God’s sovereignty, he does not confess a belief that the God of Israel is the only God. See theological note “God Reigns: Divine Sovereignty.”

4:37 King of heaven. This unique title brings together the theme of the chapter: the rule of God from heaven (vv. 3, 26 and notes).[6]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Da 4:34–37). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 99–100). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Nelson, W. B. (2013). Daniel. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 138–140). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1594–1595). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 4:37). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1220). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.