Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #335 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Psalm 139-140 today and our focus is on Is There Knowledge and Understanding of God Too Great For Us To Comprehend? + Where Was I Before I Was Born? Did We Exist Before we were Born? We are a daily 10ish minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Western Cape, South Africa, Kiev, Ukraine, Madrid, Spain, Tokyo, Japan, Bavaria, Germany, Quebec, Canada, Nova Scotia, Canada, Parts unknown, Nepal, Bihar, India, Columbus, Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio, Hartford, Connecticut, Salinas, California, New York, New York, Richmond, Virginia, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Bakersfield, California, Panama City, Florida, San Diego, California, Traverse City, Michigan. Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Though our primary focus today will be on Psalm 139, I must say that there are very few better or more powerful prayers to pray when you are in trouble than Psalm 140 – what a powerful appeal to God for protection AND justice – the punishment of the evil and violent. I particular love vss. 7-8
Lord, my Lord, my strong Savior,
you shield my head on the day of battle.
8 Lord, do not grant the desires of the wicked;
do not let them achieve their goals.
Otherwise, they will become proud.Selah Psalm 140:7-8
Wonderful! Let’s go ahead and read both of our Psalms and then discuss the first one.
Let’s kick off with a bit of an esoteric and strange topic, because – I’ll be honest, a verse in today’s reading has given me pause and consumed an untoward amount of my time this evening researching it. I’ve read Psalm 139:15 before, but never thought about it too deeply until today, and once I did, I can say that it is quite the head scratcher:
My bones were not hidden from you
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:15
Insert record scratch sound effect here. David – what do you mean, that “I was formed in the depths of the Earth”???? Let me read that again in a different translation, surely this verse is just a CSB translation issue:
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Psalm 139:15 KJV
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Psalm 139:15 NASB
What in tarnation does that mean?! How in the world was David – and we, presumably – FORMED IN THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH?
Well, let me tell you – the commentators and scholars are quite divided on this passage, if they discuss it at all. Basically, there’s two different viewpoints.
Dr. Patrick Boylan, a scholar with works printed by Oxford University, wrote:
The place where the psalmist’s being began was as dark as the netherworld: the darkness amid which a man’s life begins is like that in which it ends. There is no reference here to a sort of divine laboratory, or ‘factory’ in the depths of the earth. Nor is there, as some recent writers fancy, a suggestion here of the idea of ‘Mother Earth’: the ‘hidden place’ of the first half of the verse is paralleled by the ‘depths of the earth’ as another hidden place, and the reference in both is to the mother’s womb as the dark place of origin of men.
Patrick Boylan, The Psalms: A Study of the Vulgate Psalter in the Light of the Hebrew Text: Introduction and Notes, vol. 2 (Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, Ltd., 1921–1924), 353.
So, in other words, David is just being poetic here – “depths of the Earth,” means my mother’s womb. Yeah. maybe. I guess. That’s certainly the most rational possibility, but still – it is a bit of poetic license?
Hebraic scholar Dr. Mitchell Dahood, however, just flat out goes for it though, and does so in the most scholarly way possible:
the depths of the nether world. The fifth NOTE on Ps 63:10 examines this translation of taḥtīyyōt ʾāreṣ, which effectively rules out the exegesis of this expression as “figurative language for the ‘womb’ ” (CCD). This definition and the identification of ʿal, “Most High,” in vs. 14, relate this passage to Ps 86:13, “Since your love is great, O Most High, you will rescue me from deepest Sheol.” Certain commentators (cf. Briggs, CECBP, II, p. 497) deny the concept of the creation of the substance of the human body in Sheol, the abode of the dead, beneath the earth. Such a concept would imply pre-existence, a thought elsewhere unknown to the Old Testament, according to these same expositors, and improbable in itself. But an impressive number of texts take for granted that man originated and pre-existed in the nether world; cf., e.g., Gen 2:7, 3:19; Ps 90:3; Eccles 3:20, 5:14, 12:7; Ecclus 40:1; Job 1:21.
Mitchell Dahood S.J., Psalms III: 101-150: Introduction, Translation, and Notes with an Appendix: The Grammar of the Psalter, vol. 17A, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 295.
So. Dr. Dahood is saying that this verse means that humans pre-existed BEFORE conception in their mother’s womb. Have you ever thought about the possibility of pre-existence? Did you exist before conception, somehow? I would say the answer is most certainly YES- at least in a sense, because of what verse 16 says:
Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in your book and planned
before a single one of them began. Psalm 139:16
You observe my travels and my rest;
you are aware of all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue,
you know all about it, Lord.
5 You have encircled me;
you have placed your hand on me.
So, God knows what we are going to say before we say it. All of our days ARE PLANNED before they began. God saw us when we were formless. WHOA, whoa, whoa – that is mind-blowing and staggering. For God to know us before we were born, and for Him to see us when we were formless…does that mean that we were something before we were born? Did our soul somehow exist before our body existed? OR, was God either looking into the future and seeing us just as clearly as anybody sees anything in the present? Or-yet another option-does God somehow exist outside of time and sees all things simultaneously?
Am I making your brain hurt? I think I’m making my brain hurt. I don’t know the answers to these big questions, so I will just go right along with David and make vs. 5 my confession:
This wondrous knowledge is beyond me.
It is lofty; I am unable to reach it. Psalm 139:5
and it’s New Testament near corollary:
Oh, the depth of the riches
and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments
and untraceable his ways! Romans 11:33
I have most certainly waded into water way too deep for me to swim in, so let’s turn to our old pal Charles Spurgeon to help us out of here:
5. Thou hast beset me behind and before. As though we were caught in an ambush, or besieged by an army, we are surrounded by the Lord. Behind us there is God recording our sins, or in grace blotting out the remembrance of them; and before us there is God foreknowing all our deeds, and providing for all our wants. Lest we should imagine that the surrounding presence is yet a distant one, it is added, And laid thine hand upon me. The prisoner marches along surrounded by a guard, and gripped by an officer. God is very near; we are wholly in his power; from that power there is no escape. It is not said that God will thus beset us and arrest us, but it is done—Thou hast beset me. Shall we not alter the figure, and say that our Heavenly Father has folded his arms around us, and caressed us with his hand?
6. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. I cannot grasp it. I can hardly endure to think of it. The theme overwhelms me. I am amazed and astounded at it. Such knowledge not only surpasses my comprehension, but even my imagination. It is high, I cannot attain unto it. This truth seems to be always above me, even when I soar in spiritual thought. Is it not so with every attribute of God? Can we attain any idea of his power, his wisdom, his holiness? Our mind has no line with which to measure the Infinite.
Charles Spurgeon, “Introduction,” in Psalms, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 326–327.
Bible Memory passage for the month of December: Revelation 5:12, “They said with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
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