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What is meant by meditation in Psalm 48:9 and Psalm 104:34?

The English word “meditate” evolved its meaning in the mid- to late-1900’s. Previously, it had been more like ”to contemplate”. So how can a modern Westerner understand it in these verses?

From my memory, I previously came across a dictionary definition from the 20’s or 30’s saying essentially (or maybe exactly), “to quietly ponder or consider”, and I recall with certainty that word-for-word the example was: In the predawn hour, the General meditated the war.

How should I think about the word in these verses? Is the same word being translated to English and what did the author most likely mean?

The extra context in the second case is because I’m confused, and it sometimes seems to be a lot like prayer?

Psalm 48:9 New International Version

9 Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

Psalm 104:33-35 New International Version

33 I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord. 35 But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the Lord, my soul. Praise the Lord

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    Oxford English Dictionary : The action or practice of profound spiritual or religious reflection or contemplation; In Christian writing, meditation which engages the intellectual faculties ?c1225 (▸?a1200) Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 178 Naut ane hali meditaciuns as of ure lauerd & of alle hise werkes. c1390 W. Hilton Mixed Life (Vernon) in C. Horstmann Yorkshire Writers (1895) I. 289 (MED) mony oþur meditacions..not as I hed fulli schewed þe maner of meditacions as þei are in a mannes soule
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 5:40

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The verbs in each case are different verbs.

Ps 48:9

Here the operative verb is דָּמָה (damah) whose meaning is (according to BDB) is:

1 liken, i.e. consider to be like, compare, causative of

Qal followed by לְ of external appearance Songs 1:9; of quality or condition Isaiah 46:5 (object ׳י) Lamentations 2:13; followed by אֶל of external appearance Isaiah 40:18,25 (both object God in reference to idols); absolute use comparisons or similitudes (parables, symbols, etc.) Hosea 12:11 (subject ׳י).

2 imagine, form an idea, devise 2 Samuel 21:5 (on context compare Dr); think, intend, followed by Infinitive Numbers 33:56 (J or H) Judges 20:5; Esther 4:13; absolute Isaiah 10:7; compare Isaiah 14:24; think that, followed by object clause (Imperfect without conjunction) Psalm 50:21; think of, followed by accusative Psalm 48:10. Hithpa`el make oneself or become like; Imperfect אֶדַּמֶּה לְעֶלְיוֺן Isaiah 14:14 I will make myself like the Most High (on form compare Ges§ 54. 2).

That is, the central idea is to "think about or consider, ponder, plan". and thus included "meditation".

Ps 104:34

The operative noun here is שִׂיחַ (siach), which means (according to BDB):

שִׂיחַ noun masculinePsalm 104:34 complaint, musing; — absolute ׳שׂ 1 Kings 18:27 Proverbs 23:29; suffix שִׂיחִי 1 Samuel 1:16 +, שִׂחִי Job 23:2, שִׂיחוֺ 2 Kings 9:11; Psalm 102:1; —

1 plaint, complaint: Job 7:13; Job 9:27; Job 10:1 ("" מר נפשׁ), Job 21:4; Job 23:2; Proverbs 23:29; Psalm 55:3 ("" אָהִימָה); קוֺלִי בְּשִׁיחי Psalm 64:2; ׳לפני י ׳שָׁפַךְ שׂ Psalm 102:1; Psalm 142:3. following are dubious:

2 musing, 1 Kings 18:27 (E) of a god, "" שִׂיג לוֺ, (so RV; SS 'nachdenken'; Buhl 'beschäftigt sein'; AV talk); Psalm 104:34 of man (Buhl SS. Bae 'Rede, oder Gesang').

CONCLUSION

Thus, the cognate meaning of these two words can overlap at the place where both mean to think upon, ponder. This idea of meditating on the goodness and love of the LORD appears in many places such as:

  • Ps 19:14 - May the words of my mouth and the meditation [ הִגָּיוֹן ] of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
  • Ps 49:3 - My mouth will impart wisdom, and the meditation [ הָגוּת ] of my heart will bring understanding.
  • Ps 39:3 - my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated [ הָגִיג ], the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:
  • Ps 77:6 - I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated [ שִׂיחַ ] and my spirit asked ... [See also V3, 12.]
  • Ps 143:5 - I remember the days of old; I meditate [ הָגָה ] on all Your works; I consider [ שִׂיחַ ] the work of Your hands.

Thus, several Hebrew words are used to describe meditating, musing, considering and pondering.

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  • Thank you! Seems from that, maybe, the former has a more intellectual flavor, just slightly, such that “to think about” wouldnt be totally wrong in that case. (Or at least less off than for the latter. Also “liken” was interesting. We liken you to unfailing Love. Kindve🙂
    – Al Brown
    Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 2:41
  • Im surprised at how much more info there is that I wouldnt have known from the English. Ive read that several times, especially the first one; theres an implication of considering and thinking about the likening or causing, certainly at least comparative. As if “Within your temple O God, we consider carefully the ins and outs of how you are the source of, and similar if not equal to, unfailing Love.” I overstated it a little but not much. Thats in the word.
    – Al Brown
    Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 6:36

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