Today’s stanza of Psalm 119 is brought to you by the letter Yod (or Yodh). The 10th letter of the Hebrew Aleph-bet is the equivalent of the Greek Iota, and is what is referred to in Matthew 5:18, where Jesus says “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” In the King James version, it is a “jot” or a “tittle” – jot being the Anglicized word used for iota. In either case, it is the smallest letter, and the tittle refers to a small stroke that is merely a part of a letter. In verse 75 of this stanza, the psalmist recognizes that there is value to the soul to be had in the trials of life.
The superscript in Psalm 39 has the familiar “to the choirmaster” notation, but with “To Jeduthun” as the instruction. While the exact meaning of this is not clear, we do know who Jeduthun was. He is mentioned also in Psalm 62 and Psalm 72, and was one of David’s three Music leaders, the other two being Asaph and Heman (1 Chronicles 16:37-42). He was also the King’s Seer (2 Chronicles 35:15).
The exact occasion of this psalm is not known, but David does indicate his distress at the Lord’s rebuke of him for his sins (verses 10-11). Verses 4-6 have him asking God for the measure of his days. But notice as he makes general observances about man’s brevity of life, that the second part of verse 6 sounds an awful lot like Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes. Compare “man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather” to Ecclesiastes 2:18,21, and 26 part of which says: (“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me”).
Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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