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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

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Commentary on Psalms

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Ps. 19 :

This psalm is recited as part of the preliminary morning service on Saturday and at festivals. It divides neatly into three sections: Vv. 2–7 are a hymn, focusing on creation, specifically on the sun; vv. 8–11 are a hymn focusing on torah; and vv. 12–15 , which are connected to the immediately preceding section (see v. 12 , them), are a petition to be saved from sin, and for prayers to be heard. Many scholars believe that either two psalms have been combined (vv. 2–7 and 8–15 ), or that a later psalmist who composed vv. 8–15 incorporated the earlier vv. 2–7 , which have a different topic, style, and poetic structure. Vv. 8–15 , but not 2–7 , show significant connections to wisdom ideas and vocabulary (see below). The difference between vv. 2–7 and 8–15 was realized already by the medieval Jewish interpreters, who suggested various ways that creation, the sun, and torah may be connected. The discovery of ancient Near Eastern texts, where justice is often part of the sun god's realm (so, e.g., Shamash, the Mesopotamian sun god), has offered a new way of understanding the psalm as a unity. Some modern scholars have understood the poem as a whole as focused on God's revelation in heaven and on the earth (Radak is similar), while others have noted that torah is associated with light (e.g., Prov. 6.23 ), allowing the two sections to function together.

2–7 :

The absence of God's personal name (“YHVH”; LORD in NJPS) here suggests to some that this section may have been adapted from a non‐Israelite hymn praising the sun.

2–4 :

The cosmos praises God; the creation testifies to God's greatness. It is unclear if the sound is metaphorical, or if some Israelites believed in the music of the spheres, an idea later associated with Pythagoras. An Ugaritic epic speaks of “Speech of tree and whisper of stone, converse of heaven with earth” (ANET, p. 136 ). An alternative rendering of v. 4 , “their sound is not heard,” means that the celestial bodies “speak” soundlessly; they convey their message simply by their being.

5–7 :

The sun was typically associated with a major deity in the ancient Near East. Cylinder seals with winged sundisks have been found in Israel, and 2 Kings 23.11 and other sources offer evidence for solar worship in ancient Israel.

6–7 :

The sun, shining and eager, traverses the sky.

8–11 :

This section is suffused with wisdom terminology, including simple, wise, fear of the Lord, and wisdom or torah being compared to gold (of great value, and in this case, also the color of the sun). The highly stylized, repetitive form of vv. 8–10 is very striking, though in Heb, v. 10 is slightly different in structure from the previous vv.; v. 11 concludes this section by breaking the structure altogether. Heb “torah” is here translated as instruction, on the assumption that this psalm was written before the Torah was canonized; traditional Jewish interpretation, which assumes that this is a Davidic composition from the period after a Mosaic Torah, understands “torah” as the Torah.

13 :

In Heb, unperceived guilt (“nistarot”) plays with v. 7 , “escapes” (“nistar”), lending additional unity to the psalm. (See similarly v. 9 , “light up,” which as Rashi points out [v. 8 ], connects back to the sun.)

15 :

This v. is reused as part of the conclusion of the “‘Amidah,” the main daily prayer. In its original context, it is unclear if the words of my mouth and the prayer of my heart refer to the immediately preceding vv., asking forgiveness from sins, or if this entire psalm served as an introduction to a larger liturgical complex.

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