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"And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me," N.K.J.V.

If David believed some of his days had been fashioned by God, he might, I suggest, have not included the day when "Then David sent messengers, and took her." 2 Samuel 11:2.

If David believed all his days were fashioned by God he would include that day.

If on a certain days God withdrew His grace to resist temptation, from David's life, so that David would be confronted by his sinful nature and thus in time be humbled, might this not as much as a day of forgiveness, be part of God's teaching programme or fashioning?

[Sometimes caring teachers give their pupils work where the pupil is certain to fail in order to correct their over-confidence that they can always and easily get things right. Educational psychologists have referred to 15% failure rate as best for optimum learning. "for One is your Teacher, the Christ". Mat 23:10].

In Psalm 139:16 is David saying that:

  1. absolutely all his days were fashioned by God and written in His book. or,

  2. all the days fashioned by God are written in His book. [Leaving room for some days to be not fashioned by God]?

I have tried here to make a case for 1 and 2 both being valid alternatives because the N.K.J.V. leaves, I think, some wriggle room for interpretation. So, does the Hebrew clearly endorse 1 or 2?

  • It feels like you’re arguing from the English translation. The verse is not referring to the things a man does everyday being fashioned but the (total number of) days ascribed to him. Why do you get the impression that it’s about God predetermining a man’s choices in advance? What am I missing? – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 18 '20 at 12:04
  • @Nihil Sine Deo The biggest structures are made of the smallest parts. How could the overall shape be concluded without reference to the details? The total days would be constructed out of endless details, I think. – C. Stroud Apr 18 '20 at 13:03
  • Yes the biggest structure - life - is constructed of the total number of small parts - days - why are you adding more to days? It’s not predetermined what you do with those days. God created Lucifer, He didn’t then create satan. You can opt out of God’s plan. – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 18 '20 at 16:47
  • @Nihil Sine Deo I ask if the Hebrew clearly endorses 1 or 2. Whether one is a free-willer, compaibilist or hard-determinist should not affect the grammar, I think. – C. Stroud Apr 18 '20 at 17:14
  • Then why does your question not limit itself to the Hebrew and also include your two (incorrect) interpretations? – Nihil Sine Deo Apr 18 '20 at 17:21
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Psalm 139:16 New International Version

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

This is the psalmist's way of expressing the concept of God's omniscience. Yes, absolutely all his days were fashioned by God and written in His book.

Despite David's grievous sins, God is in control:

1 Kings 15:5 For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life--except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.

It shows the bigger picture of God's omniscience.

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Ellicott observes:

The Hebrew language likes to use a pronoun before the word to which it refers has occurred (see Note, Psalm 68:14); and, in spite of the accents, we must refer all of them to “days” (Authorised Version, “in continuance”).

“Thine eyes beheld my embryo, And in thy book were written

All the days, the days

Which were being formed,

When as yet there were none of them.”

But a much more satisfactory sense is obtained by adopting one slight change and following Symmachus in the last line—

“The days which are all reckoned, and not one of them is wanting.”

All the ancient versions make that which is written in God’s book either the days of life, or men born in the course of these days, each coming into being according to the Divine will.

Thus, the Psalm is talking about the number of days allocated to David (by the Divine Sovereign will) and not the actions that David might elect to complete on any given day. There is nothing here to suggest that God decides in advance what we will do. Quite the contrary, here is a sample show the freedom of choice we have to serve God or otherwise and the consistent encouragement to choose to serve Him:

  • Gen 2:16, 17 – the original choice given to Adam and Eve to choose service to God.
  • 1 Cor 10:13 – God is gracious enough to only allow temptations that we can bear. This is reveals that God recognises the effect that sin has on our will; sin weakens our will but God helps by both strengthening our will and only allowing temptations that we can bear.
  • 2 Peter 3:9 – God is patient wanting all people to decide for Him.
  • Gal 5:13 – We are given freedom by God but the privilege should not be abused.
  • John 7:17 – People can choose to do the will of God and such a choice bring further enlightenment.
  • Josh 24:15 – The Israelites were encouraged to choose God.
  • Mark 8:34 – Choosing to serve God involves personal sacrifice which is why it is such a serious decision.
  • Rev 3:20 – God wants to be with us but we must choose to allow Him into our lives.
  • Gal 5:16, 17, John 8:34-36 – Sin enslaves but the Christian life by the Spirit gives freedom.
  • Isa 55:6, 7 – Isaiah encourages the people to choose service to God over all else.
  • Deut 30:19, 20 – Moses encourages the people to choose between life and death.
  • Exe 18 – an entire chapter about the consequences of choice which ends with the plea, “Repent and live!”

Back to Ps 139:16. The ideal for each person is marked out by divine providence. Unfortunately, none if us lives up to this ideal. The Cambridge Bible commentary observes:

all my members; Lit. all of them, which A.V. and R.V. interpret to mean all the members into which the embryo was to develop. But it is better (cp. R.V. marg.) to regard the pronoun as anticipatory, and to render,

And in thy book were all of them written,

Even days which were formed,

When as yet there was none of them.

Each day of his life with all its history was pre-determined by the Creator and recorded in His book, before one of them actually was in existence:—a clear expression of the truth that there is an ideal plan of life providentially marked out for every individual. (Ephesians 2:10.)

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This is poetry and should not be pressed literally.

In context, David is suffering at the hands of his enemies (v 19-20.) He praises God, acknowledging that God knows everything about him. Therefore, he calls upon God to examine him and decide whether God should intervene on his behalf. David assumes that God will choose to support him.

In verse 16, David acknowledges God's omniscience and applies it to himself. Essentially, David says that God is not constrained by time and that God sees David's entire life even as David is in the middle of living it.

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