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. Psalm 139:9The future form אסּק, customary in the Aramaic, may be derived just as well from סלק (סלק), by means of the same mode of assimilation as in יסּב equals יסבּב, as from נסק (נסק), which latter is certainly only insecurely established by Daniel 6:24, להנסקה (cf. להנזקת, Ezra 4:22; הנפּק, Daniel 5:2), since the Nun, as in להנעלה, Daniel 4:3, can also be a compensation for the resolved doubling (vid., Bernstein in the Lexicon Chrestom. Kirschianae, and Levy s.v. נסק). אם with the simple future is followed by cohortatives (vid., on Psalm 73:16) with the equivalent אשּׂא among them: et si stratum facerem (mihi) infernum (accusative of the object as in Isaiah 58:5), etc. In other passages the wings of the sun (Malachi 4:2) and of the wind (Psalm 18:11) are mentioned, here we have the wings of the morning's dawn. Pennae aurorae, Eugubinus observes (1548), est velocissimus aurorae per omnem mundum decursus. It is therefore to be rendered: If I should lift wings (נשׂא כנפים as in Ezekiel 10:16, and frequently) such as the dawn of the morning has, i.e., could I fly with the swiftness with which the dawn of the morning spreads itself over the eastern sky, towards the extreme west and alight there. Heaven and Hades, as being that which is superterrestrial and subterrestrial, and the east and west are set over against one another. אחרית ים is the extreme end of the sea (of the Mediterranean with the "isles of the Gentiles"). In Psalm 139:10 follows the apodosis: nowhere is the hand of God, which governs everything, to be escaped, for dextera Dei ubique est. ואמר (not ואמר, Ezekiel 13:15), "therefore I spake," also has the value of a hypothetical protasis: quodsi dixerim. אך and חשׁך belongs together: merae tenebrae (vid: Psalm 39:6.); but ישׁוּפני is obscure. The signification secured to it of conterere, contundere, in Genesis 3:15; Job 9:17, which is followed by the lxx (Vulgate) καταπατήσει, is inappropriate to darkness. The signification inhiare, which may be deduced as possible from שׁאף, suits relatively better, yet not thoroughly well (why should it not have been יבלעני?). The signification obvelare, however, which one expects to find, and after which the Targum, Symmachus, Jerome, Saadia, and others render it, seems only to be guessed at from the connection, since שׁוּף has not this signification in any other instance, and in favour of it we cannot appeal either to נשׁף - whence נשׁף, which belongs together with נשׁב, נשׁם, and נפשׁ - or to עטף, the root of which is עת (עתה), or to צעף, whence צעיף, which does not signify to cover, veil, but according to Arab. ḍ‛f, to fold, fold together, to double. We must therefore either assign to ישׁוּפני the signification operiat me without being able to prove it, or we must put a verb of this signification in its place, viz., ישׂוּכני (Ewald) or יעוּפני (Bttcher), which latter is the more commendable here, where darkness (חשׁך, synon. עיפה, מעוּף) is the subject: and if I should say, let nothing but darkness cover me, and as night (the predicate placed first, as in Amos 4:13) let the light become about me, i.e., let the light become night that shall surround and cover me (בּעדני, poetic for בּעדי, like תּחתּני in 2 Samuel 22) - the darkness would spread abroad no obscurity (Psalm 105:28) that should extend beyond (מן) Thy piercing eye and remove me from Thee. In the word יאיר, too, the Hiphil signification is not lost: the night would give out light from itself, as if it were the day; for the distinction of day and night has no conditioning influence upon God, who is above and superior to all created things (der Uebercreatrliche), who is light in Himself. The two כ are correlative, as e.g., in 1 Kings 22:4. חשׁיכה (with a superfluous Jod) is an old word, but אורה (cf. Aramaic אורתּא) is a later one.
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