For my blog post on Psalm 119: Ayin, I will focus on v 128.
literal translation of the Masoretic Text for this verse is: Therefore
all precepts of all I made straight; every way of deception I hated.
phrase "all precepts of all" is rather awkward. Keil-Delitzsch
interpret this to mean that the Psalmist declares to be right every
single commandment of God, whatever that commandment may concern. Maybe
that works. I wouldn't be surprised if there are some religious
interpreters who regard "all precepts of all" to be an affirmation of
the sufficiency of Scripture: all of God's precepts are relevant to
every situation and contain all that we need for a fulfilling and
righteous life. I think of II Timothy 3:16: "All scripture is given by
inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may
be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (KJV). The thing
is, I don't believe that Scripture is necessarily sufficient for a
fulfilling and righteous life, though it does contain good principles.
Some people may need medication, or guidance from a human being. Even
in Scripture, there is a view that there is more out there than the
Scriptures to profit us: there is the church, for example. And, even in
Psalm 119, the Psalmist wants more than Scripture: he desires God's
direct guidance and God's deliverance of him from peril.
Allen refers to an idea that was proposed by Mitchell Dahood and J.H.
Eaton regarding "all precepts of all." The Hebrew word for all is
"kol", which contains the Hebrew letters kaph and lamed. If you take
the kaph and attach it to the end of "all precepts of", what you have is
"All of your precepts." What do you do with the lamed, then? The
lamed goes in front of the following verb, yisharti, and serves as an emphatic lamed. This may work. An emphatic lamed can come before a verb (see here). I should also note that the Septuagint for Psalm 119:128 does not have "all precepts of all."
How should one interpret the Hebrew word yisharti
in Psalm 119:128? My literal translation renders it as "I made
straight", and the reason is that the piel of y-sh-r (which is what the
verb is in Psalm 119:128) often means to direct, or to make straight
(see Proverbs 3:6; 11:5; 15:21; Isaiah 40:3; 45:13). But this doesn't
seem to make much sense in Psalm 119:128 because what exactly would the
Psalmist make straight or direct? God's precepts? Why would God's
precepts need to be made straight? They are already straight, aren't
they? Or is there a sense in which God's precepts become straight when
they are applied----when they are brought from the abstract into the
concrete and thus can manifest their straight nature and their
Keil-Delitzsch say that yisharti
means that the Psalmist is declaring God's commandments to be right, or
straight. Perhaps that works, but isn't there a difference between declaring
something to be straight, and actually making it straight? Maybe.
Yet, to go postmodern here, there is a sense in which perception is
reality: that something is truly straight when people recognize and
regard it as such. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to
hear it, does it make a sound? If a commandment is straight and nobody
recognizes that, is it really straight? Well, one could perhaps argue
that it's straight in God's eyes!
The Midrash on the Psalms says
that the idea in Psalm 119:128 is that David is shedding light on God's
commandments before God's children. This interpretation may be saying
that David makes straight God's commandments by teaching people what
they are: people are more likely to find God's commandments to be
straight when they learn what they are and how to follow them. In a
similar vein, Edward Cook's translation of the Targum on the Psalms for
Psalm 119:128 says that "I have harmonized all the commandments
whatsoever." The commandments may look confusing and contradictory,
but the Psalmist makes them straight by harmonizing them.
note that the piel of y-sh-r does not always mean to direct or to make
straight, even though it mostly does. Proverbs 9:5 refers to passengers
who go straight on their ways, using the piel of y-sh-r. Perhaps Psalm
119:128 is not saying that the Psalmist is making anything straight,
but rather that his walk is straight----meaning right.
Septuagint for Psalm 119:128 has the verb in the middle, which would
mean that the Psalmist directs himself, or makes himself straight or
right. Augustine says that the Psalmist is made straight or right
because he loves and clings to God's precepts. By loving what was
right, Augustine contends, the Psalmist becomes straight, or right.