In Psalm 139:17, most of the Eglish versions would go like this:

Psalm 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! (NIV)

For the Hebrew:

Psalm 139:17 וְלִי מַה־יָּקְרוּ רֵעֶיךָ אֵל מֶה עָצְמוּ רָאשֵׁיהֶם׃ (TM)

The Hebrew רֵעֶיךָ is rendered as „thoughts”. However, if you are looking into LXX, you will find this:

Psalm 139:17 ἐμοὶ δὲ λίαν ἐτιμήθησαν οἱ φίλοι σου ὁ θεός λίαν ἐκραταιώθησαν αἱ ἀρχαὶ αὐτῶν (LXX)

Indeed, רֵעַ seems to be translatable as „thought” and as „friend” too.

I got across this version (with „friends”) in some translations into vernacular in Eastern European Bibles. Which is understandable, as most probably they follow the LXX.

My question is: how it comes that for the Hebrew רֵעֶיךָ, in the Greek we have φίλοι, i.e. „friends”, and in most of the English translations we have "thoughts"?

Is there any explanation for the LXX version of the Hebrew רֵעֶיךָ? And the same for „thoughts”. Is there any explanation for this?

  • 2
    Constantin the link you provided for "thoughts" actually shows "friends" as the only viable option. Seems to be a mistake.
    – bach
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 14:17
  • @ Bach Thanks a lot, my mistake, sorry. Hope is all right now. Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 20:15
  • Is the word רֵעַ an Hebrew homonym ? Young's Concordance lists three meanings - noise/shout, friend/neighbour and thought.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 21:05
  • 2
    @ConstantinJinga in any case I think saying that this Hebrew term can just easily be translated as "thought" is a stretch. The most natural way to translate this term is by "friend", the other meaning I would say is open for debate as it does not rest on solid ground.
    – bach
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 0:28
  • @ Bach Yes indeed. Perhaps I have put it the other way round. To me, it is intriguing that most of the English Bibles are for "thoughts". In addition to this, if you are looking at how the end of it is translated, רָאשֵׁיהֶֽם (the sum of them, cannot be numbered) it is even more intriguing. Even Strong's is listing this meaning as an 8th option, as "other phrase are..." But this could be another question. Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 5:20

1 Answer 1


Most Jewish commentators explain it as "thoughts". But Rashi, he explains it as the LXX. He says the following: כנסת ישראל אומרת - The Jewish Nation says - מה נכבדו בעיני הצדיקים שבכל דור ודור - How respected are in our eyes the righteousness of each generation! - ומה עצמו ראשיהם - And how large are their heads! - meaning to say - חשבון ספירותיה - how large is the count of their population - לשון כי תשא את ראש בני ישראל - The term "head" could be used also for "count", as we encounter in Exodus 30:2.

This means that "friends" refer to God's friends - the righteousness.

This verse stats, that the Nation recognizes their greatness.

It also makes more sens with the next verse with the LXX's - Rashi's interpretation

  • Thank you for taking the time to answer. Can you please provide some context or a source for Jewish commentators who are explaining רֵעֶיךָ as "your thoughts"? Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 14:24

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