Psalm 19 – “Hymn About the Heavens and the Torah”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist praises God’s heavens and Torah and begs to be kept from sin.

II. Photo
The psalmist praises God’s works: “He placed in [the heavens] a tent for the sun, who is like a groom coming forth from the chamber, like a hero, eager to run his course.” (vv. 5b-6)

III. Select Verses    
2-5a: The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky proclaims His handiwork. Day to day makes utterance, night to night speaks out. There is no utterance, there are no words, whose sound goes unheard. Their voice carries throughout the earth, their words to the end of the world.
5b-7: He placed in them a tent for the sun, who is like a groom coming forth from the chamber, like a hero, eager to run his course. His rising-place is at one end of heaven, and his circuit reaches the other; nothing escapes his heat.
8-11: The teaching of the LORD is perfect, renewing life; the decrees of the LORD are enduring, making the simple wise; The precepts of the LORD are just, rejoicing the heart; the instruction of the LORD is lucid, making the eyes light up. The fear of the LORD is pure, abiding forever; the judgments of the LORD are true, righteous altogether, more desirable than gold, than much fine gold; sweeter than honey, than drippings of the comb.
13-14: Who can be aware of errors? Clear me of unperceived guilt, and from willful sins keep Your servant; let them not dominate me; then shall I be blameless and clear of grave offense.

IV. Outline
1. Superscription
2-7. Hymnic praise: the heavens proclaim God’s glory
8-11. Hymnic praise for God’s precepts
12. Proclamation of innocence
13-14. Prayer (petition?) to be free of sin
15. Wish to be heard

V. Comment
Psalm 19 contains two hymns; the first is about God’s heavens and the second is about God’s precepts, i.e., Torah. Some authors believe that the first hymn, which climaxes with a description of the sun (vv. 5b-7), was originally used for sun-worship (see Gerstenberger, 101). Although there is no direct evidence to support this claim,  it is interesting to note that sun-worship did exist in biblical Israel. See the following verses:

  • He rebuilt the shrines that his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he erected altars for Baal and made a sacred post, as King Ahab of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the host of heaven and worshiped them, and he built altars for them in the House of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “I will establish My name in Jerusalem.” He built altars for all the hosts of heaven in the two courts of the House of the LORD. He consigned his son to the fire; he practiced soothsaying and divination, and consulted ghosts and familiar spirits; he did much that was displeasing to the LORD, to vex Him.  (2 Kgs 21:3-6)
  • He suppressed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed to make offerings at the shrines in the towns of Judah and in the environs of Jerusalem, and those who made offerings to Baal, to the sun and moon and constellations — all the host of heaven. (2 Kgs 23:5)
  • He did away with the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance of the House of the LORD, near the chamber of the eunuch Nathan-melech, which was in the precincts. He burned the chariots of the sun. (2 Kgs 23:11)
  • At that time — declares the LORD — the bones of the kings of Judah, of its officers, of the priests, of the prophets, and of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be taken out of their gravesand exposed to the sun, the moon, and all the host of heaven which they loved and served and followed, to which they turned and bowed down. They shall not be gathered for reburial; they shall become dung upon the face of the earth. (Jer 8:1-2)
  • Then He brought me into the inner court of the House of the LORD, and there, at the entrance to the Temple of the LORD, between the portico and the altar, were about twenty-five men, their backs to the Temple of the LORD and their faces to the east; they were bowing low to the sun in the east. (Ezek 8:16)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Photo copied from http://www.solarpowerninja.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/holding-the-sun.jpg

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