Psalm 139:13
For you have possessed my reins: you have covered me in my mother's womb.
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For thou hast possessed my reins - The word here rendered "possessed" means properly to "set upright," to "erect," and hence, the derivative of the verb is applied to a cane or reed, as being erect. Then the word means to found, to create, Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22 - as the heavens and the earth; and then, to get, to gain, to purchase, etc. Here the word seems to be used in its original sense, to make, create, etc. The idea is, not as in our translation, that God "possessed" or "owned" them but that he had "made" them, and that, "therefore," he knew all about them. The word "reins" means literally the "kidneys;" and then, it comes to denote the inward part, the mind, the soul, the seat of the desires, affections, and passions. Jeremiah 11:20. See Psalm 7:9, note; Job 19:27, note. The meaning here is, that God had made him; that the innermost recesses of his being had been constituted as they are by God; and that, "therefore," he must be able to see all that there is in the very depths of the soul, however it may be hidden from the eye of man.

Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb - The word here rendered "cover" means properly to interweave; to weave; to knit together, and the literal translation would be, "Thou hast "woven" me in my mother's womb, meaning that God had put his parts together, as one who weaves cloth, or who makes a basket. So it is rendered by DeWette and by Gesenius (Lexicon). The original word has, however, also the idea of protecting, as in a booth or hut, woven or knit together - to wit, of boughs and branches. The former signification best suits the connection; and then the sense would be, that as God had made him - as he had formed his members, and united them in a bodily frame and form before he was born - he must be able to understand all his thoughts and feelings. As he was not concealed from God before he saw the light, so he could not be anywhere.

Thou hast possessed my reins - As the Hebrews believed that the reins were the first part of the human fetus that is formed, it may here mean, thou hast laid the foundation of my being. For thou hast possessed my reins,.... His thoughts and counsels, the reins being the seat of instruction and counsel; hence God is called the trier of the reins, and searcher of the hearts of the children of men; he is the possessor or master of their most secret thoughts, and thoroughly knows them; see Psalm 7:9; they are also the seat of the affections, which are naturally sinful and inordinate, and set upon carnal and earthly things; but the Lord possesses and engrosses the affections of his people in the best sense, Psalm 73:25; moreover the reins are the seat of lust, the bed in which it is conceived and brought forth, and God knows the first motions of it there; and that the imagination of the thought of man's heart is evil continually, Genesis 6:5;

thou hast covered me in my mother's womb; with the secundine, or afterbirth, in which he carefully wrapped him, a proof of his knowledge of him, and care for him in the womb; or with skin and flesh he covered his bones with as they grew there; see Job 10:11; or the sense is, he protected and defended him in his embryo state, and when ripe for birth took him out from thence, and held him up ever since, Psalm 22:9; he had his eye on him when no other eye could see him, not even his mother that bare him, and before ever he himself saw light. The Targum is,

"thou hast founded me in my mother's womb.''

For thou hast {h} possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

(h) You have made me in all parts and therefore must know me.

PSALM 139

Ps 139:1-24. After presenting the sublime doctrines of God's omnipresence and omniscience, the Psalmist appeals to Him, avowing his innocence, his abhorrence of the wicked, and his ready submission to the closest scrutiny. Admonition to the wicked and comfort to the pious are alike implied inferences from these doctrines.

The Aramaic forms in this strophe are the ἅπαξ λεγομ רע (ground-form רעי) in Psalm 139:2 and Psalm 139:17, endeavour, desire, thinking, like רעוּת and רעיון in the post-exilic books, from רעה (רעא), cupere, cogitare; and the ἅπ. λεγ. רבע in Psalm 139:3, equivalent to רבץ, a lying down, if רבעי be not rather an infinitive like בּלעי in Job 7:19, since ארחי is undoubtedly not inflected from ארח, but, as being infinitive, like עברי in Deuteronomy 4:21, from ארח; and the verb ארח also, with the exception of this passage, only occurs in the speeches of Elihu (Job 34:8), which are almost more strongly Aramaizing than the Book of Job itself. Further, as an Aramaizing feature we have the objective relation marked by Lamed in the expression בּנתּה לרעי, Thou understandest my thinking, as in Psalm 116:16; Psalm 129:3; Psalm 135:11; Psalm 136:19. The monostichic opening is after the Davidic style, e.g., Psalm 23:1. Among the prophets, Isaiah in particular is fond of such thematic introductions as we have here in Psalm 139:1. On ותּדע instead of ותּדעני vid., on Psalm 107:20; the pronominal object stands once beside the first verb, or even beside the second (2 Kings 9:25), instead of twice (Hitzig). The "me" is then expanded: sitting down, rising up, walking and lying, are the sum of human conditions or states. רעי is the totality or sum of the life of the spirit and soul of man, and דּרכי the sum of human action. The divine knowledge, as ותּדע says, is the result of the scrutiny of man. The poet, however, in Psalm 139:2 and Psalm 139:3 uses the perfect throughout as a mood of that which is practically existing, because that scrutiny is a scrutiny that is never unexecuted, and the knowledge is consequently an ever-present knowledge. מרחוק is meant to say that He sees into not merely the thought that is fully fashioned and matured, but even that which is being evolved. זרית from זרה is combined by Luther (with Azulai and others) with זר, a wreath (from זרר, constringere, cingere), inasmuch as he renders: whether I walk or lie down, Thou art round about me (Ich gehe oder lige, so bistu umb mich). זרה ought to have the same meaning here, if with Wetzstein one were to compare the Arabic, and more particularly Beduin, drrâ, dherrâ, to protect; the notion of affording protection does not accord with this train of thought, which has reference to God's omniscience: what ought therefore to be meant is a hedging round which secures its object to the knowledge, or even a protecting that places it in security against any exchanging, which will not suffer the object to escape it.

(Note: This Verb. tert. Arab. w et y is old, and the derivative dherâ, protection, is an elegant word; with reference to another derivative, dherwe, a wall of rock protecting one from the winds, vid., Job, at Job 24:7, note. The II form (Piel) signifies to protect in the widest possible sense, e.g., (in Neshwn, ii. 343b), "[Arab.] drâ 'l-šâh, he protected the sheep (against being exchanged) by leaving a lock of wool upon their backs when they were shorn, by which they might be recognised among other sheep.")

The Arabic ḏrâ, to know, which is far removed in sound, is by no means to be compared; it is related to Arab. dr', to push, urge forward, and denotes knowledge that is gained by testing and experimenting. But we also have no need of that Arab. ḏrâ, to protect, since we can remain within the range of the guaranteed Hebrew usage, inasmuch as זרה, to winnow, i.e., to spread out that which has been threshed and expose it to the current of the wind, in Arabic likewise ḏrrâ, (whence מזרה, midhrâ, a winnowing-fork, like רחת, racht, a winnowing-shovel), gives an appropriate metaphor. Here it is equivalent to: to investigate and search out to the very bottom; lxx, Symmachus, and Theodotion, ἐξιξηνίασας, after which the Italic renders investigasti, and Jerome eventilasti. הסכּין with the accusative, as in Job 22:21 with עם: to enter into neighbourly, close, familiar relationship, or to stand in such relationship, with any one; cogn. שׁכן, Arab. skn. God is acquainted with all our ways not only superficially, but closely and thoroughly, as that to which He is accustomed.

In Psalm 139:4 this omniscience of God is illustratively corroborated with כּי; Psalm 139:4 has the value of a relative clause, which, however, takes the form of an independent clause. מלּה (pronounced by Jerome in his letter to Sunnia and Fretela, 82, MALA) is an Aramaic word that has been already incorporated in the poetry of the Davidico-Salomonic age. כלּהּ signifies both all of it and every one. In Psalm 139:5 Luther has been misled by the lxx and Vulgate, which take צוּר in the signification formare (whence צוּרה, forma); it signifies, as the definition "behind and before" shows, to surround, encompass. God is acquainted with man, for He holds him surrounded on all sides, and man can do nothing, if God, whose confining hand he has lying upon him (Job 9:23), does not allow him the requisite freedom of motion. Instead of דּעתּך (XX ἡ γνῶσίς σου) the poet purposely says in Psalm 139:6 merely דּעת: a knowledge, so all-penetrating, all-comprehensive as God's knowledge. The Ker reads פּליאה, but the Chethb פּלאיּה is supported by the Chethb פּלאי in Judges 13:18, the Ker of which there is not פּליא, but פּלי (the pausal form of an adjective פּלי, the feminine of which would be פּליּה). With ממּנּי the transcendence, with נשׂגּבה the unattainableness, and with להּ לא־אוּכל the incomprehensibleness of the fact of the omniscience of God is expressed, and with this, to the mind of the poet, coincides God's omnipresence; for true, not merely phenomenal, knowledge is not possible without the immanence of the knowing one in the thing known. God, however, is omnipresent, sustaining the life of all things by His Spirit, and revealing Himself either in love or in wrath - what the poet styles His countenance. To flee from this omnipresence (מן, away from), as the sinner and he who is conscious of his guilt would gladly do, is impossible. Concerning the first אנּה, which is here accented on the ultima, vid., on Psalm 116:4.

139:7-16 We cannot see God, but he can see us. The psalmist did not desire to go from the Lord. Whither can I go? In the most distant corners of the world, in heaven, or in hell, I cannot go out of thy reach. No veil can hide us from God; not the thickest darkness. No disguise can save any person or action from being seen in the true light by him. Secret haunts of sin are as open before God as the most open villanies. On the other hand, the believer cannot be removed from the supporting, comforting presence of his Almighty Friend. Should the persecutor take his life, his soul will the sooner ascend to heaven. The grave cannot separate his body from the love of his Saviour, who will raise it a glorious body. No outward circumstances can separate him from his Lord. While in the path of duty, he may be happy in any situation, by the exercise of faith, hope, and prayer.Verse 13. - For thou hast possessed my reins. Thou knowest me and seest me always, because thou madest me. Thy omniscience and thy omnipresence both rest upon thine omnipotence. Thou hast covered me (rather, woven me) in my mother's womb (comp. Job 10:11). 13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!

18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

Psalm 139:13

"For thou hast possessed my reins." Thou art the owner of my inmost parts and passions: not the indweller and observer only, but the acknowledged lord and possessor of my most secret self. The word "reins" signifies the kidneys, which by the Hebrews were supposed to be the seat of the desires and longings; but perhaps it indicates here the most hidden and vital portion of the man; this God cloth not only inspect, and visit, but it is his own; he is as much at home there as a landlord on his own estate, or a proprietor in his own house. "Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb." There I lay hidden - covered by thee. Before I could know thee, or aught else, thou hadst a care for me, and didst hide me away as a treasure till thou shouldst see fit to bring me to the light. Thus the Psalmist describes the intimacy which God had with him. In his most secret part - his reins, and in his most secret condition - yet unborn, he was under the control and guardianship of God.

Psalm 139:14

"I will praise thee:" a good resolve, and one which he was even now carrying out. Those who are praising God are the very men who will praise him. Those who wish to praise have subjects for adoration ready to hand. We too seldom remember our creation, and all the skill and kindness bestowed upon our frame, but the sweet singer of Israel was better instructed, and therefore he prepares for the chief musician a song concerning our nativity and all the fashioning which precedes it. We cannot begin too soon to bless our Maker, who began so soon to bless us: even in the act of creation he created reasons for our praising his name. "For I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Who can gaze even upon a model of our anatomy without wonder and awe? Who could dissect a portion of the human frame without marvelling at its delicacy, and trembling at its frailty? The Psalmist had scarcely peered within the veil which hides the nerves, sinews, and blood-vessels from common inspection; the science of anatomy was quite unknown to him; and yet he had seen enough to arouse his admiration of the work and his reverence for the Worker. "Marvellous are thy works." These parts of my frame are all thy works; and though they be home works, close under my own eye, yet are they wonderful to the last degree. They are works within my own self, yet are they beyond my understanding, and appear to me as so many miracles of skill and power. We need not go to the ends of the earth for marvels, nor even across our own threshold; they abound in our own bodies.

"And that my soul knoweth right well." He was no agnostic - he knew; he was no doubter - his soul knew; he was no dupe - his soul knew right well. Those know indeed and of a truth who first know the Lord, and then know all things in him. He was made to know the marvellous nature of God's work with assurance and accuracy, for he had found by experience that the Lord is a master-worker, performing inimitable wonders when accomplishing his kind designs. If we are marvelously wrought upon even before we are born, what shall we say of the Lord's dealings with us after we quit his secret workshop, and he directs our pathway through the pilgrimage of life? What shall we not say of that new birth which is even more mysterious than the first, and exhibits even more the love and wisdom of the Lord.

Psalm 139:15

"My substance was not hid from thee." The substantial part of my being was before thine all-seeing eye; the bones which make my frame were put together by thine hand. The essential materials of my being before they were arranged were all within the range of thine eye. I was hidden from all human knowledge, but not from thee: thou hast ever been intimately acquainted with me. "When I was made in secret." Most chastely and beautifully is here described the formation of our being before the time of our birth. A great artist will often labour alone in his studio, and not suffer his work to be seen until it is finished; even so did the Lord fashion us where no eye beheld us, and the veil was not lifted till every member was complete. Much of the formation of our inner man still proceeds in secret; hence the more of solitude the better for us. The true church also is being fashioned in secret, so that none may cry, "Lo, here!" or "Lo, there!" as if that which is visible could ever be identical with the invisibly growing body of Christ. "And curiously wrought it in the lowest parts of the earth." "Embroidered with great skill," is an accurate poetical description of the creation of veins, sinews, muscles, nerves, etc. What tapestry can equal the human fabric? This work is wrought as much in private as if it had been accomplished in the grave, or in the darkness of the abyss. The expressions are poetical, beautifully veiling, though not absolutely concealing, the real meaning. God's intimate knowledge of us from the beginning, and even before it, is here most charmingly set forth. Cannot he who made us thus wondrously when we were not, still carry on his work of power till he has perfected us, though we feel unable to aid in the process, and are lying in great sorrow and self-loathing, as though cast into the lowest parts of the earth?

Psalm 139:16

continued...

for thou

Job 10:9-12 Remember, I beseech you, that you have made me as the clay; and will …

covered me

Psalm 22:9,10 But you are he that took me out of the womb: you did make me hope …

Psalm 71:6 By you have I been held up from the womb: you are he that took me …

Job 31:15 Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion …

Isaiah 44:2 Thus said the LORD that made you, and formed you from the womb, which …

Isaiah 46:3 Listen to me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house …

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came …

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