The 119th Psalm may well be the most extraordinary of the collection. Many have attributed it to King David, suggesting it may have come at the end of his life as he prepared his son, Solomon, to reign over Israel. There is no historical account to either support or refute this claim, and the identity of the author is really uncertain.
The Psalm is a perfectly structured acrostic poem. It is, of course, the longest in the entire book. There are twenty-two sections, each corresponding to one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each section has eight verses, with each verse in the section beginning with that section’s letter. The first eight verses each begin with the letter aleph, the next eight with the letter bet, and so forth. Many Bibles will identify these sections by the Hebrew letter.
The clear focus of the Psalm 119 is on the Torah of Yahweh.
How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law [Torah] of the LORD.
How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
Though torah (Strong’s Hebrew word #H8451) is often translated as “law,” the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says “the word ‘torah’ means basically ‘teaching’” (TWOT word #910d). Torah is the instruction our Father has given for how we, His people, are to live. In this week’s Torah portion Yitro we find Israel preparing to receive instruction from God. Having declared, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” (Exodus 19:8), they wait as Moses climbs the mountain and God begins His instruction with the Ten Words, or Ten Commandments.
Throughout Psalm 119, the Psalmist expresses his love for, delight in and dependence upon the Torah of Yahweh. Each section seems to build around some central idea while maintaining a unity with the rest of the Psalm. The words torah, usually translated “law,” ’imrah (Strong’s #H565), usually translated “word,” and mitzvah (Strong’s #H4687), usually translated “commandment,” occur 68 times in Psalm 119, along with other references and descriptions of the Divine Law. In the section marked Tsadeh, the Psalmist finds strength and comfort in the instructions of an awesome God, and in the following section marked Qoph he lifts his prayer to be in constant communion with the Father and to be obedient to His instructions.
Your word is very pure,
Therefore Your servant loves it.
I am small and despised,
Yet I do not forget Your precepts…
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I wait for Your words.
My eyes anticipate the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.
(Psalm 119:140-141, 147-148)
The Torah of Yahweh is the Word of Yahweh, and John tells us that the Word of Yahweh is Yeshua. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Matthew records that Yeshua, as the Torah in living form, said of Himself, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). He came to fulfill – “to cause God’s will as made known in the law to be obeyed as it should be, and God’s promises given through the prophets to receive fulfillment” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (Complete) on Strong’s #G4137 as specifically used in Matthew 5:17).
And He did so in a manner consistent with Torah: “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
We should consider for a moment what Scripture does not say: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Though this verse from John 1:17 is quoted here exactly as the traditional King James text has it, there is a problem. You will notice in the KJV that the word “but” is shown in italics, indicating it has been added by the translators for clarity – or for doctrinal confusion, as the case may be. It does not appear in the Greek text, nor does it appear in most contemporary translations. There is no contrast. This is a parallel thought, repeating what was stated in the earlier passage (John 1:14). The Word of Yahweh has been made flesh among us, and the Torah given through (a better translation than “by”) Moses has now been revealed through Yeshua. It is as it has always been, full of grace and truth.
Yeshua is the way, the truth and the life, and He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). As you read through this most precious 119th Psalm, realize that every portrayal and description of Yah’s words of instruction – His Torah – are vivid images of Messiah Yeshua. Every emotion and passion expressed by the Psalmist should be burning within us as we consecrate ourselves wholly to our Redeemer and Savior. The Living Word of Yahweh is from before time, was present at Sinai, and walked this earth. He is here with us today and will reign for eternity.
You are near, O LORD,
And all Your commandments are truth.
Of old I have known from Your testimonies
That You have founded them forever.
For a Hebrew/English Interlinear edition of the Psalms, I recommend The Artscroll Series Book of Psalms.
Enjoy this presentation of the 119th Psalm highlighting several Hebrew words.Psalm119
4 thoughts on “Psalm 119 – Torah Portion Yitro”
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the whole Bible, and I agree with your article that there are many Messianic echoes throughout it. Indeed, Jesus is prophesied in so many places within the Psalms, even though many people don’t realize it. You have made a great presentation of this, will you make more for other wonderful chapters? I certainly hope so!
I love the Psalms and yes, there is so much about the Messiah woven throughout them. I hope to write about more of them here, so do come back. Thanks for the comment.
You did a very thorough job in explaining the meaning and importance of Psalm 119 as it appears in the Bible. You take the time to explain the historical importance of this psalm stating that it is not definite who exactly composed it. You also in writing out the full Psalm midway down in the article, (the reader having the opportunity to slowly scroll through it) also highlighted the important original Hebrew words that appear throughout the text.
I took note of the fact on your “about me” page that you come from a very religious family, your father being a minister as you grew up. There’s also the fact that you, yourself are an ordained minister.
I praise you for working in the prison system with inmates in helping them understand the importance that religion should play in all of our lives – no matter the individual’s specific denomination that he/she believes in.
This was an outstanding article that you wrote, Larry. Thank you for sharing it with your readers.
Thanks for the encouragement, Jeff. Like so many of the Psalms and other passages, there are jewels in the Hebrew text that are too easy to miss in our English translations. It is amazing to dig into them.