Psalm 139:9
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
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(9) If . . .—Literally,

I lift wings of dawn

I dwell in the end of the sea.

The wings of the morning.—This exquisite image suggesting not only the pinions of cloud that seem often to lift the dawn into the sky, but also the swift sailing of the light across the world, may be compared to the “wings of the sun” in Malachi 4:2, and the “wings of the wind” in Psalm 18:10.

The uttermost parts of the sea—i.e., to a Hebrew the extreme west. The poet imagines himself darting from east to farthest west, with the rapidity of light.

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.If I take the wings of the morning - literally, "I will take the wings of the morning." That is, I will take this as a supposable case; I will imagine what would occur, should I be able to take to myself the wings of the morning, and endeavor to escape "by flight" from the presence of God, or go where he could not pursue me, or where he would not be. The "wings of the morning" evidently mean that by which the light of the morning "seems to fly" - the most rapid object known to us. It is not to be supposed that the psalmist had an idea of the exact velocity of light, but to him that was the most rapid object known; and his language is not the "less" striking because the laws of its flight have become accurately known. The word rendered "morning" refers to the dawn - the daybreak - the Aurora - the "first" beams of the morning light. The beams of light are in fact no swifter then than at any other time of the day, but they seem to be swifter, as they so quickly penetrate the darkness.

And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea - The end of the sea; that is, the "west," as the sea referred to undoubtedly is the Mediterranean, which was west of Palestine, and which became another name for the west. The idea is, that if he could fly with the rapidity of light, and could be in an instant over the sea, even beyond its remotest border, still God would be there before him. He could not escape from the divine presence.


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.

If I should flee as swiftly from try presence as the morning light doth, which in an instant scattereth itself from east to west; for the sea being the western border of Canaan, is oft put for the west in Scripture. And wings are poetically ascribed to the morning or morning light here, as they are elsewhere to the sun, as Malachi 4:2, and to the winds, as Psalm 18:10 104:3, and to other things of eminent swiftness. If I take the wings of the morning,.... And fly as swift as the morning light to the east, to the extremity of it, as Ben Melech; as far as he could go that way, as swiftly as the wings of the morning could carry him thither; so the morning is represented by the Heathens as having wings (f); or as the rays of the rising sun, called wings for the swiftness of them, Malachi 4:2;

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; in the most distant isles of it, in the farthest parts of the world, the sea being supposed the boundary of it: or "in the uttermost parts of the west" (g), as opposed to the morning light and rising sun, which appear in the east; and the sea is often in Scripture put for the west, the Mediterranean sea being to the west of the land of Palestine; and could he go from east to west in a moment, as the above writer observes, there would God be. The Heathens represent Jupiter, their supreme god, as having three eyes, because he reigns in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth (h).

(f) Vid. Cuperi Apotheos. Homeri, p. 177. (g) "in novissimo occidentis", Pagninus. (h) Pausan. Corinthiaca, sive l. 2. p. 129.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
9. If I should lift up the wings of the dawn &c.] If I were to fly with the swiftness of light from the east to the furthest west. The dawn swiftly spreading over the sky, is naturally represented as winged. Cp. ‘wings of the wind,’ Psalm 18:10, ‘wings of the sun,’ Malachi 4:2.

The sea, from the position of the Mediterranean to the west of Palestine, denotes the West.Verses 9, 10. - If I take the wings of the morning. If I were to speed across the earth on the wings of the dawn, and, having done so, were then to dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea - the extreme west, where the sun sets - even there shall thy hand lead me. In that distant region I should still find thy guiding hand. And thy right hand shall hold me. Thy strong right hand would uphold me. 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.

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