A Psalm of David, in his being in the wilderness of Judah. O God, Thou art my God, earnestly do I seek Thee, Thirsted for Thee hath my soul, Longed for Thee hath my flesh, In a land dry and weary, without waters.
Psalm 63:1 Additional TranslationsKeil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
If the words in Psalm 63:2 were אלהים אתּה אשׁחרך, then we would render it, with Bצttcher, after Genesis 49:8 : Elohim, Thee do I seek, even Thee! But אלי forbids this construction; and the assertion that otherwise it ought to be, "Jahve, my God art Thou" (Psalm 140:7), rests upon a non-recognition of the Elohimic style. Elohim alone by itself is a vocative, and accordingly has Mehupach legarme. The verb שׁחר signifies earnest, importunate seeking and inquiring (e.g., Psalm 78:34), and in itself has nothing to do with שׁחר, the dawn; but since Psalm 63:7 looks back upon the night, it appears to be chosen with reference to the dawning morning, just as in Isaiah 26:9 also, שׁחר stands by the side of אוּה בלּילה. The lxx is therefore not incorrect when it renders it: πρὸς δὲ ὀρθρίζω (cf. ὁ λαὸς ὤρθριζεν πρὸς αὐτὸν, Luke 21:38); and Apollinaris strikes the right note when he begins his paraphrase,
Νύκτα μετ ̓ ἀμφιλύκην σὲ μάκαρ μάκαρ
At night when the morning dawns will I exult around Thee,
most blessed One.
The supposition that בּארץ is equivalent to כּאשׁר בּארץ, or even that the Beth is Beth essentiae ("as a," etc.), are views that have no ground whatever, except as setting the inscription at defiance. What is meant is the parched thirsty desert of sand in which David finds himself. We do not render it: in a dry and languishing land, for ציּה is not an adjective, but a substantive - the transition of the feminine adjective to the masculine primary form, which sometimes (as in 1 Kings 19:11) occurs, therefore has no application here; nor: in the land of drought and of weariness, for who would express himself thus? ואיף, referring to the nearest subject בּשׂרי, continues the description of the condition (cf. Genesis 25:8). In a region where he is surrounded by sun-burnt aridity and a nature that bears only one uniform ash-coloured tint, which casts its unrefreshing image into his inward part, which is itself in much the same parched condition, his soul thirsts, his flesh languishes, wearied and in want of water (languidus deficiente aqua), for God, the living One and the Fountain of life. כּמהּ (here with the tone drawn back, כּמהּ, like בּחר, 1 Chronicles 28:10, עמד, Habakkuk 3:11) of ardent longing which consumes the last energies of a man (root כם, whence כּמן and כּמס to conceal, and therefore like עטף, עלף, proceeding from the idea of enveloping; Arabic Arab. kamiha, to be blind, dark, pale, and disconcerted). The lxx and Theodotion erroneously read כּמּה (how frequently is this the case!); whereas Aquila renders it ἐπετάθη, and Symmachus still better, ἱμείρεται (the word used of the longing of love). It is not a small matter that David is able to predicate such languishing desire after God even of his felsh; it shows us that the spirit has the mastery within him, and not only forcibly keeps the flesh in subjection, but also, so far as possible, draws it into the realm of its own life - an experience confessedly more easily attained in trouble, which mortifies our carnal nature, than in the midst of the abundance of outward prosperity. The God for whom he is sick [lit. love-sick] in soul and body is the God manifest upon Zion.
Now as to the כּן in Psalm 63:3 - a particle which is just such a characteristic feature in the physiognomy of this Psalm as אך is in that of the preceding Psalm - there are two notional definitions to choose from: thus equals so, as my God (Ewald), and: with such longing desire (as e.g., Oettinger). In the former case it refers back to the confession, "Elohim, my God art Thou," which stands at the head of the Psalm; in the latter, to the desire that has just been announced, and that not in its present exceptional character, but in its more general and constant character. This reference to what has immediately gone before, and to the modality, not of the object, but of the disposition of mind, deserves the preference. "Thus" is accordingly equivalent to "longing thus after Thee." The two כן in Psalm 63:3 and Psalm 63:5 are parallel and of like import. The alternation of the perfect (Psalm 63:3) and of the future (Psalm 63:5) implies that what has been the Psalmist's favourite occupation heretofore, shall also be so in the future. Moreover, בארץ ציה and בּקּדשׁ form a direct antithesis. Just as he does not in a dry land, so formerly in the sanctuary he looked forth longingly towards God (חזה with the conjoined idea of solemnity and devotion). We have now no need to take לראות as a gerundive (videndo), which is in itself improbable; for one looks, peers, gazes at anything just for the purpose of seeing what the nature of the object is (Psalm 14:2; Isaiah 42:18). The purpose of his gazing upon God as to gain an insight into the nature of God, so far as it is disclosed to the creature; or, as it is expressed here, to see His power and glory, i.e., His majesty on its terrible and on its light and loving side, to see this, viz., in its sacrificial appointments and sacramental self-attestations. Such longing after God, which is now all the more intense in the desert far removed from the sanctuary, filled and impelled him; for God's loving-kindness is better than life, better than this natural life (vid., on Psalm 17:14), which is also a blessing, and as the prerequisite of all earthly blessings a very great blessing. The loving-kindness of God, however, is a higher good, is in fact the highest good and the true life: his lips shall praise this God of mercy, his morning song shall be of Him; for that which makes him truly happy, and after which he even now, as formerly, only and solely longs, is the mercy or loving-kindness (חסד) of this God, the infinite wroth of which is measured by the greatness of His power (עז) and glory (כבוד). It might also be rendered, "Because Thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee;" but if כּי is taken as demonstrative (for), it yields a train of thought that that is brought about not merely by what follows (as in the case of the relative because), but also by what precedes: "for Thy loving-kindness...my lips shall then praise Thee" (ישׁבּחוּנך with the suffix appended to the energetic plural form ûn, as in Isaiah 60:7, Isaiah 60:10; Jeremiah 2:24).
Psalm 63:1 Parallel CommentariesBurning David Desert Desire Dry Early Earnestly Faints Flesh Judah Longs Need Psalm Seek Soul Thirsted Thirsteth Thirsts Thirsty Waste Wasted Water Weary Wilderness YearnsBurning David Desert Desire Dry Early Earnestly Faints Flesh Judah Longs Need Psalm Seek Soul Thirsted Thirsteth Thirsts Thirsty Waste Wasted Water Weary Wilderness YearnsThe ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
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