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This is one of my favorite verses,

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. 105נֵר־ לְרַגְלִ֥י דְבָרֶ֑ךָ וְ֝א֗וֹר לִנְתִיבָתִֽי׃

I've always had my own interpretation of the verse, but is the psalmist trying to convey anything significant with his different choices of "lighting"? And is there any particular significance to the "path" he chose?

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  • You will need to be more specific in this question. Both the words for "path" and "light" here are very common and not the least unusual. "Light" here is the same word used several times in Gen 1, "let there be light", etc.
    – Dottard
    Oct 30, 2021 at 10:50
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    @Dottard Sometimes I prefer to not get too specific, for fear of limiting people's creativity. Maybe somebody has an idea why the psalmist used נָתִיב instead of אֹרַח for example. Does the Word shed different types of light? I don't know, maybe somebody will have an interesting insight. Often I am surprised with what people come up with. Otherwise, no one will answer and that's fine too. Oct 30, 2021 at 11:16

3 Answers 3

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To be a "lamp to my feet" is to clarify the actual path before me, so that I avoid stones, potholes, snakes, bad companions, and the like.

To be "a light for my path" is to illuminate the goal towards which to walk, and therefore which path to take. It gives overall meaning to my life.

The Torah (which means "Teaching" in everyday Hebrew -- e.g. a "Morah" is a female teacher, a "Moreh" is a male teacher) does both. "Law" is an entirely incorrect and misleading translation very commonly found, unfortunately. In Hebrew, there are other words for "law," such as "Din" or, for Jewish law, "Halachah." What God gave at Mt. Sinai was His Teaching, to illuminate our lives.

In Hebrew songs, Torah is frequently equated with Orah, "Light," in fact. To teach is to enlighten, to give light.

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  • Welcome, Evan! Love that name, btw. You seem to be the kind of person that will contribute much to enlightenment on this site. Thank you! Oct 30, 2021 at 22:38
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The poetry

לִנְתִיבָתִֽי וְ֝א֗וֹר דְבָרֶ֑ךָ נֵר־לְרַגְלִ֥י (Psalm 119:105, MT)

This verse has a synonymous parallel. נֵר־לְרַגְלִ֥י is synonymous with לִנְתִיבָתִֽי וְ֝א֗וֹר. Both are predicates of דְבָרֶ֑ךָ. נֵר־לְרַגְלִ֥י is more specific physical terms and לִנְתִיבָתִֽי וְ֝א֗וֹר is more general terms leading to the spiritual meaning.

Terms for Light

אֹור is the word for light. As far as specific terms it relates to astronomy, not artificial lighting.

Figure 1. Senses of אֹור in the MT (generated with Logos Bible Software) enter image description here

Lighting has gone through significate development over the millennia. The English term lamp is less specific than the Hebrew terms. What we call a lamp in our house is a מְנֹורָה (menorah) in modern Hebrew. It is usually translated lampstand in the Tanakh (MT). In our lamps we have lightbulbs. Our lightbulbs need power. So, we can’t light our path using a lightbulb without power. We use flashlights (hand torch in British English). In the Tanakh, they had נֵרוֹת (lamps) on their מְנֹורָה (lampstand, See Exodus 25:31-40). The נֵר was an oil lamp with a wick. One could carry it to light the way in the dark.

The Path

Both have the prefixed proposition לְ. Both primary meanings of to or for fit. רֶ֫גֶל is the word for foot or leg. The term נְתִיבָה (path) also means conduct. Thus, God’s word (דְבָרֶ֑ךָ) shows us how to conduct our lives like a light lighting our path in darkness.

Figure 2. Senses of אֹור in the MT

enter image description here

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    An illuminating answer! Thank you Perry! Oct 30, 2021 at 22:20
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Light א֗וֹר “Or” of Tehillim 119 (verse 105) is wisdom from the [Torat YHVH , תוֹרַ֥ת יְהֹוָֽה] or “Law-[of] YHVH” referenced in (verse 1) :

[verse 105] “Your-word [is a] lamp to-my-feet, and-[a]-light for-my-path.” (נֵר־לְרַגְלִ֥י דְבָרֶ֑ךָ וְ֝א֗וֹר לִנְתִיבָתִֽי)

[verse 1] “Praiseworthy are those whose way is perfect, who walk with-[the]-Law of YHVH.” (אַשְׁרֵ֥י תְמִֽימֵי־דָ֑רֶךְ הַ֜הֹֽלְכִ֗ים בְּתוֹרַ֥ת יְהֹוָֽה)

For legal matters, King David was required to walk with his own copy of the Torah [Deuteronomy 17:18-19].

[Deuteronomy 17:18] “And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah on a scroll from [that Torah which is] before the Levitic kohanim.” (יחוְהָיָ֣ה כְשִׁבְתּ֔וֹ עַ֖ל כִּסֵּ֣א מַמְלַכְתּ֑וֹ וְכָ֨תַב ל֜וֹ אֶת־מִשְׁנֵ֨ה הַתּוֹרָ֤ה הַזֹּאת֙ עַל־סֵ֔פֶר מִלִּפְנֵ֖י הַכֹּֽהֲנִ֥ים הַֽלְוִיִּֽם)

[Deuteronomy 17:19] The King is required to walk with Torah : “And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord, his God, to keep all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to perform them” (וְהָֽיְתָ֣ה עִמּ֔וֹ וְקָ֥רָא ב֖וֹ כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֑יו לְמַ֣עַן יִלְמַ֗ד לְיִרְאָה֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהָ֔יו לִ֠שְׁמֹ֠ר אֶת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֞י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּ֛את וְאֶת־הַֽחֻקִּ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה לַֽעֲשׂתָֽם)

Psalm 119 is a song about the legal light of Torah required for Kings of Israel to guide them in the decisions of their daily life.

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  • That's a step in the right direction! Ps. 37 23מֵ֭יְהוָה מִֽצְעֲדֵי־ גֶ֥בֶר כּוֹנָ֗נוּ וְדַרְכּ֥וֹ יֶחְפָּֽץ׃ Oct 30, 2021 at 17:54

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