God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence are the subjects of David’s meditations in this beautiful psalm. In this psalm David asked God to examine him thoroughly to affirm his innocence. The psalm has four strophes of six verses each. The message progresses significantly from one subject to another. His first meditation is on God’s knowledge, that every aspect of his life was searched out and controlled by what the Lord knew. He then realized it was impossible to escape from such omniscient control, no matter how far or fast he might go, for God is everywhere. David then stated that God has such control over him because in His power He created Him secretly and planned his life with great care. On the basis of these meditations, David then affirmed his loyalty to God and prayed for God to prove him by examining him.
A. The omniscience of the Lord (139:1-6)
139:1. The theme of verses 1-6 is announced in the opening verse: the Lord knew David penetratingly. David said God’s knowledge came as if He had scoured every detail of David’s life and thus knew him intimately.
139:2-4. Samples of how well God knew David are stated here. The Lord (You is emphatic in Heb.; cf. v. 13) knew every move he made; the two opposites of sitting and rising represent all his actions (this is a figure of speech known as a merism; cf. vv. 3, 8). God knew not only David’s actions; He also knew his motivations (thoughts; cf. v. 17). Afar evidently refers not to space but to time.
The daily activities of the psalmist were also thoroughly familiar to the Lord. The opposites of going out in the morning and lying down at night represent the whole day’s activities (another merism; cf. vv. 2, 8).
But the one sample that epitomizes God’s omniscience is in verse 4. Before the psalmist could frame a word on his tongue, the Lord was thoroughly familiar with what he was about to say. (The Heb. for “word” is millaÆh and the similar-sounding word for completely is kuµllaµh\)
139:5-6. David’s initial response to this staggering knowledge was that he was troubled. Like many who respond to the fact of God’s omniscience, he thought it was confining, that God had besieged him and cupped His hand over him.
Moreover, this kind of knowledge was out of David’s control—it was too wonderful for him. The word “wonderful” is in the emphatic position, at the beginning of the sentence. On the meaning of “wonderful” as “extraordinary or surpassing,” see comments on 9:1. In other words divine omniscience is too high for humans to comprehend (also cf. comments on 139:14).
B. The omnipresence of the Lord (139:7-12)
139:7. The thought of such confining knowledge (vv. 1-6) may have prompted David’s desire to escape, as verses 7-12 suggest. This is indicated in verse 7 by two rhetorical questions: there is absolutely no place where he could escape from the presence of the Lord (cf. Jer. 23:24).
139:8-10. Hypothetical examples of where David might try to escape are given here. He first asserted that the Lord is present in the heavens above and in sheol (niv marg.) below. These opposites signify that all areas in between (a third merism in this psalm; cf. vv. 2-3) are also in the Lord’s presence.
Moreover, if he could fly at the speed of light (the wings of the dawn) from the east across the sky to the west (far side of the Mediterranean Sea) he could not escape from the Lord.
God’s presence then began to take on a new meaning for the psalmist, as if the light were dawning on him. Now, he stated, the hand of the Lord would lead and comfort him.
139:11-12. David developed the theme of light a little further. The darkness might bruise him (probably referring to the oppressive nature of darkness). (Hide is an interpretive rendering of sûuÆp_, “to crush or bruise”; cf. “crush” in Gen. 3:15; Job 9:17, its only other uses in the OT.) But David could not be concealed from God, for darkness and light are the same to Him because of His omniscience and omnipresence.
C. The omnipotence of the Lord (139:13-18)
The thought that darkness cannot conceal anyone from the Lord (vv. 11-12) brought to David’s mind this meditation in verses 13-18: God knew all about him when He created him in his mother’s womb. Verse 13 begins with “For,” indicating that this strophe (vv. 13-18) explains the preceding two strophes (vv. 1-6, 7-12): since God can create a person, He certainly knows him intimately and is with him everywhere.
[i]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.