Studies in Psalm 119:33-40 HE - Gleanings from Historical Commentaries                                         Collected by Jack Kettler


Introductory observations from The Treasury of David:


“Verse 33-40. A sense of dependence and a consciousness of extreme need pervade this section, which is all made up of prayer and plea. The former eight verses trembled with a sense of sin, quivering with a childlike sense of weakness and folly, which caused the man of God to cry out for the help by which alone his soul could be preserved from falling back into sin.” (1)


33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.


From the Pulpit Commentary:


“Verse 33. - Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes. This is the main prayer of the psalm - a prayer for spiritual enlightenment. It occurs eight times (verses 12, 26, 33, 64, 68, 108, 124, and 135). And I shall keep it unto the end. Either “to the end of my life,” or (as Dr. Kay thinks) ‘to the uttermost.’” (2)


A gleaning from Strong's Lexicon:

Teach me,

הוֹרֵ֣נִי (hō·w·rê·nî)

Verb - Hifil - Imperative - masculine singular | first person common singular

Strong's Hebrew 3384: 1) to throw, shoot, cast, pour 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to throw, cast 1a2) to cast, lay, set 1a3) to shoot arrows 1a4) to throw water, rain 1b) (Niphal) to be shot 1c) (Hiphil) 1c1) to throw, cast 1c2) to shoot 1c3) to point out, show 1c4) to direct, teach, instruct 1c5) to throw water, rain


Cross-References for verse 33: Exodus 33:13; Psalm 18:21; Psalm 119:5; Psalm 119:12; Psalm 119:44; Psalm 119:112


34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.


From Barnes' Notes on the Bible:


“Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law - Give me right views of it, of its nature and obligation. It is not a prayer that God would give him the faculty of understanding or intelligence; but that he would enable him to take just views of the law. The word is the same as in Psalm 119:27, rendered there, ‘Make me to understand.’


Yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart - See Psalm 119:2. I will keep it with undivided affections; I will make it the sole guide of my life.” (3)


A gleaning from Strong's Lexicon:

Your law,

תֽוֹרָתֶ֗ךָ (ṯō·w·rā·ṯe·ḵā)

Noun - feminine singular construct | second person masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 8451: 1) law, direction, instruction 1a) instruction, direction (human or divine) 1a1) body of prophetic teaching 1a2) instruction in Messianic age 1a3) body of priestly direction or instruction 1a4) body of legal directives 1b) law 1b1) law of the burnt offering 1b2) of special law, codes of law 1c) custom, manner 1d) the Deuteronomic or Mosaic Law


Cross-References for verse 34: 1Chronicles 22:12; Psalm 119:2; Psalm 119:27; Psalm 119:69; Psalm 119:73; Ezekiel 44:24


35 Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.


Matthew Poole's Commentary captures the Psalmist’s thought:


“Make me to go, by directing my mind into the right way, by inclining my will, and strengthening my resolution.


For therein do I delight: forsake not him who delighteth in the and in thy service; and as thou hast wrought in me to will work in me also to do.” (4)


A gleaning from Strong's Lexicon:

Direct me

הַ֭דְרִיכֵנִי (haḏ·rî·ḵê·nî)

Verb - Hifil - Imperative - masculine singular | first person common singular

Strong's Hebrew 1869: 1) to tread, bend, lead, march 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to tread, march, march forth 1a2) to tread on, tread upon 1a3) to tread (a press) 1a4) to tread (bend) a bow 1a5) archer, bow-benders (participle) 1b) (Hiphil) 1b1) to tread, tread down 1b2) to tread (bend with the foot) a bow 1b3) to cause to go, lead, march, tread


Cross-References for verse 35: Psalm 25:4; Psalm 112:1; Psalm 119:16; Isaiah 40:14


36 Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.


Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible:


“Incline my heart unto thy testimonies,.... To read the word of God, to hear it opened and explained, to observe and keep the things contained in it; to which there is a disinclination in men naturally: but the Lord, who fashions the hearts of men, and has them in his hands, can bend and incline them by his efficacious grace to regard these his testimonies; which, as Aben Ezra observes, are more precious than all substance, and so are opposed to what follows:


and not to covetousness; not to mammon or money, as the Targum; the love of it, which is the root of all evil, and very pernicious and harmful; in hearing the word it chokes it, and makes it unfruitful, 1 Timothy 6:9. Not that God inclines the heart to evil, as he does to good; but he may suffer the heart to be inclined, and may leave a man to the natural inclinations of his heart, and to the temptations of Satan, and the snares of the world, which may have great influence upon him; and this is what is here deprecated; see Psalm 141:4.” (5)


A gleaning from Strong's Lexicon:

my heart

לִ֭בִּי (lib·bî)

Noun - masculine singular construct | first person common singular

Strong's Hebrew 3820: 1) inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding 1a) inner part, midst 1a1) midst (of things) 1a2) heart (of man) 1a3) soul, heart (of man) 1a4) mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory 1a5) inclination, resolution, determination (of will) 1a6) conscience 1a7) heart (of moral character) 1a8) as seat of appetites 1a9) as seat of emotions and passions 1a10) as seat of courage


Cross-References for verse 36: Mark 7:21; Mark 7:22; Luke 12:15; Hebrews 13:5; Joshua 24:23; 1Kings 8:58; Psalm 119:112; Psalm 141:4; Ezekiel 33:31


37 Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.


Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:


“37. Turn away mine eyes—literally, “Make my eyes to pass, not noticing evil.”

vanity—literally, “falsehood;” all other objects of trust than God; idols, human power, &c. (Ps 31:6; 40:4; 60:11; 62:9).

quicken … in thy way—make me with living energy to pursue the way marked out by Thee. Revive me from the death of spiritual helplessness (Ps 119:17, 25, 40, 50; 116:3).” (6)


A gleaning from Strong's Lexicon:

from worthless things;

שָׁ֑וְא (šāw)

Noun - masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 7723: 1) emptiness, vanity, falsehood 1a) emptiness, nothingness, vanity 1b) emptiness of speech, lying 1c) worthlessness (of conduct)


Cross-References for verse 37: Psalm 71:20; Psalm 119:25; Isaiah 33:15


38 Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.


Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible:


“Stablish thy word unto thy servant,.... Either God's word of promise, which never fails, is firm and stable in Christ; and the sense is, that God would assure him of the fulfilment of it, and give him a strong faith and firm belief of it; for otherwise the word of the Lord cannot be surer or more stable than it is: or else the word of his grace; and then the sense is, that he might be established in it, and the truths of it, and be established by it; for the word is a means of establishment, and a good thing it is to have the heart established with grace, with the doctrine of grace, Hebrews 13:9;

who is devoted to thy fear; who served the Lord with reverence and godly fear; who feared the Lord and his goodness; that grace being a reigning one in his heart, and ever before his eyes. Or, “which is unto thy fear” (d); that is, which word is unto thy fear; which leads unto it, and has a tendency to promote and increase it; and so is a commendation of the word of God from this effect of it.” (7)


A gleaning from Strong's Lexicon:

reverence for You.

לְיִרְאָתֶֽךָ׃ (lə·yir·’ā·ṯe·ḵā)

Preposition-l | Noun - feminine singular construct | second person masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 3374: 1) fear, terror, fearing 1a) fear, terror 1b) awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear) 1c) fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety 1d) revered


Cross-References for verse 38: 2 Samuel 7:25; Psalm 119:39


39 Turn away my reproach, which I fear: for thy judgments are good.


Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers:


“(39) My reproach which I fear.—The word for fear is an unusual one, used in Deuteronomy 9:19; Deuteronomy 28:60, for very strong dread. The reproach may be either the disgrace in God’s sight of violating His commands, or, as the context (Psalm 119:42) suggests, a reproach from men for keeping God’s law.” (8)


A gleaning from Strong's Lexicon:

Your judgments

מִשְׁפָּטֶ֣יךָ (miš·pā·ṭe·ḵā)

Noun - masculine plural construct | second person masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 4941: 1) judgment, justice, ordinance 1a) judgment 1a1) act of deciding a case 1a2) place, court, seat of judgment 1a3) process, procedure, litigation (before judges) 1a4) case, cause (presented for judgment) 1a5) sentence, decision (of judgment) 1a6) execution (of judgment) 1a7) time (of judgment) 1b) justice, right, rectitude (attributes of God or man) 1c) ordinance 1d) decision (in law) 1e) right, privilege, due (legal) 1f) proper, fitting, measure, fitness, custom, manner, plan


are good.

טוֹבִֽים׃ (ṭō·w·ḇîm)

Adjective - masculine plural

Strong's Hebrew 2896: adj 1) good, pleasant, agreeable 1a) pleasant, agreeable (to the senses) 1b) pleasant (to the higher nature) 1c) good, excellent (of its kind) 1d) good, rich, valuable in estimation 1e) good, appropriate, becoming 1f) better (comparative) 1g) glad, happy, prosperous (of man's sensuous nature) 1h) good understanding (of man's intellectual nature) 1i) good, kind, benign 1j) good, right (ethical) n m 2) a good thing, benefit, welfare 2a) welfare, prosperity, happiness 2b) good things (collective) 2c) good, benefit 2d) moral good n f 3) welfare, benefit, good things 3a) welfare, prosperity, happiness 3b) good things (collective) 3c) bounty


Cross-References for verse 39: Psalm 119:22; Psalm 119:42


40 Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.


Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament:


“The eightfold He. He further prays for instruction and guidance that he may escape the by-paths of selfishness and of disavowal. The noun עקב, used also elsewhere as an accus. adverb., in the signification ad extremum (Psalm 119:33 and Psalm 119:112) is peculiar to our poet. אצּרנּה (with a Shebג, which takes a colouring in accordance with the principal form) refers back to דּרך. In the petition “give me understanding” (which occurs six times in this Psalm) חבין is causative, as in Job 32:8, and frequently in the post-exilic writings. בּצע (from בּצע, abscindere, as κέρδος accords in sound with κείρειν) signifies gain and acquisition by means of the damage which one does to his neighbour by depreciating his property, by robbery, deceit, and extortion (1 Samuel 8:3), and as a name of a vice, covetousness, and in general selfishness. שׁוא is that which is without real, i.e., without divine, contents or intrinsic worth, - God-opposed teaching and life. בּדרכך” (9)


A gleaning from Strong's Lexicon:

Revive me

חַיֵּֽנִי׃ (ḥay·yê·nî)

Verb - Piel - Imperative - masculine singular | first person common singular

Strong's Hebrew 2421: 1) to live, have life, remain alive, sustain life, live prosperously, live for ever, be quickened, be alive, be restored to life or health 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to live 1a1a) to have life 1a1b) to continue in life, remain alive 1a1c) to sustain life, to live on or upon 1a1d) to live (prosperously) 1a2) to revive, be quickened 1a2a) from sickness 1a2b) from discouragement 1a2c) from faintness 1a2d) from death 1b) (Piel) 1b1) to preserve alive, let live 1b2) to give life 1b3) to quicken, revive, refresh 1b3a) to restore to life 1b3b) to cause to grow 1b3c) to restore 1b3d) to revive 1c) (Hiphil) 1c1) to preserve alive, let live 1c2) to quicken, revive 1c2a) to restore (to health) 1c2b) to revive 1c2c) to restore to life


Cross-References for verse 40: Psalm 119:20; Psalm 119:25


Concluding summary from Matthew Henry’s Bible Concise Commentary Psalm 119:25-32:


Teach me thy statutes, not the mere words, but the way of applying them to myself. God, by his Spirit, gives a right understanding. But the Spirit of revelation in the word will not suffice, unless we have the Spirit of wisdom in the heart. God puts his Spirit within us, causing us to walk in his statutes. The sin here prayed against is covetousness. Those that would have the love of God rooted in them, must get the love of the world rooted out; for the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Quicken me in thy way; to redeem time, and to do every duty with liveliness of spirit. Beholding vanity deadens us, and slackens our pace; a traveller must not stand gazing upon every object that presents itself to his view. The promises of God's word greatly relate to the preservation of the true believer. When Satan has drawn a child of God into worldly compliances, he will reproach him with the falls into which he led him. Victory must come from the cross of Christ. When we enjoy the sweetness of God's precepts, it will make us long for more acquaintance with them. And where God has wrought to will, he will work to do. (10)


Notes on Psalm 119:25-32 HE:

  1. C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. II, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p. 208.
  2. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Psalms, Vol.8., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 105.
  3. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Psalms, Vol. 5 p.1806.
  4. Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 184.
  5. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Psalms, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 1386.
  6. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 450.
  7. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Psalms, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 1386.
  8. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Psalms, Vol.4, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 262.
  9. Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Psalms, vol. 5, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1985), p. 248-249.
  10. Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Psalms, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p. 958.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: