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Psalm 138 (New American Standard Bible 1995)

1 I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing praises to You before the gods. 2 I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your [a]truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name. 3 On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.

138:1 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex לְדָוִ֨ד ׀ אֹודְךָ֥ בְכָל־לִבִּ֑י נֶ֖גֶד אֱלֹהִ֣ים אֲזַמְּרֶֽךָּ׃

138:2 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex אֶשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֨ה אֶל־הֵיכַ֪ל קָדְשְׁךָ֡ וְאֹ֘ודֶ֤ה אֶת־שְׁמֶ֗ךָ עַל־חַסְדְּךָ֥ וְעַל־אֲמִתֶּ֑ךָ כִּֽי־הִגְדַּ֥לְתָּ עַל־כָּלשִׁ֝־מְךָ֗ אִמְרָתֶֽךָ׃

138:3 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex בְּיֹ֣ום קָ֭רָֽאתִי וַֽתַּעֲנֵ֑נִי תַּרְהִבֵ֖נִי בְנַפְשִׁ֣י עֹֽז׃

I was reading commentaries on https://biblehub.com/psalms/138-2.htm

However, I was Not satisfied with "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers" which states the following about Psalm 138:2 because it sort of substitutes "Your promise(s)" for "Your Word"

" It is true this would have been expressed more in accordance with our expectation by "Thou hast magnified Thy Name above Thy promise;" "

Also, I was Not satisfied with "Pulpit Commentary" because it sort of substitutes "Your promise(s)" for "Your Word"

" For thou hast magnified thy Word above all thy Name. Some would amend the text, and read אמתך, "thy truth," for, אמרתך "thy Word." But if we keep the text, and understand אמרתך as "thy promises," the sense will not be very different. God has magnified his promise, and his faithfulness to it, above all his other revealed attributes."

Therefore, could someone please analyze Psalm 138:2 in Hebrew, and possibly other English translations, and provide a more elaborate explanation about said verse?

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  • If we just thought about it, we could reword like this: Your name's greatness entails and implies magnification of Your spoken word
    – crazyTech
    Dec 8, 2021 at 14:59
  • Another way of interpreting said verses is by rewording it like this: Just like Your name is great, therefore, accordingly , You magnified Your spoken word
    – crazyTech
    Dec 8, 2021 at 20:06

3 Answers 3

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‎אִמְרָה ʼimrâh, im-raw'; or אֶמְרָה ʼemrâh - clearly means word, or specifically ‘that which is spoken’ - utterance, speech, word .

And essentially the translation of this verse you quoted “For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.”, is accurate.

This expresses a truth, a simple truth, except or unless you allow a doctrinal foundation to make you have to ‘reason’ it out.

The simplicity comes from the truth that it is Gods Word that is sovereign. Supreme. Where as the traditional doctrinal expository works to have God [the ‘person’] as sovereign. But, the truth is that God, and his Word - are one. Whatever God speaks - is. Even God, and his name, are subject to His Word.

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  • 1
    Would Psalm 138:2 be somewhat analogous in terms of meaning when it comes to giving significance to words spoken by important persons like presidents/prime ministers/monarchs since said persons are important?
    – crazyTech
    Dec 9, 2021 at 0:19
  • 2
    @crazyTech Yes, in a similar vein. Any ‘words’ spoken by ‘anyone’ are only as good [worth] as ‘the person’. That common saying [well, common from where I’m from] … ‘you are only as good as your word’ !
    – Dave
    Dec 9, 2021 at 1:04
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Combining Young's Literal Translation with his Analytical Concordance seems to give clarity. It is true that various translations have given different renditions of the Hebrew, so that the only way to sort this out is to be as literal as possible. Robert Young is. Here is the verse in his translation:

"I bow myself toward thy holy temple. And I confess Thy name, for Thy kindness, and for Thy truth, for Thou hast made great Thy saying above all Thy name." (YLT)

The key words seem to be God's 'saying' and God's 'name'. In what sense do those words relate? That should give the meaning for this verse. For 'name' Young identifies the Hebrew word 'shem' (which means 'renown'), quoting the A.V. phrase, "...magnified thy word above all thy name". For 'saying' Young identifies the Hebrew word 'emrah' (which means 'a saying', 'speech'), quoting the A.V. phrase, '...thou hast magnified thy word above all...'

Putting that together, the verse seems to show that God has magnified his word above all his name, and the way David understands that comes out when David says that he confesses God's name, for what God says is above his name. Therefore, when David confesses God's name, he is magnifying God's word (or, sayings).

The two are utterly linked to the point of being united, and inseparable, for what God is, so is his name and his word. His name is his renown, and in this Psalm David is exhorting the nations to confess God's name in worship. Further, he shows that it's declaring God's renown that brings the nations to that point of confessing his name:

"O Jehovah, all kings of earth confess Thee, when they have heard the sayings of Thy mouth." (YLT)

Therefore, when God's people spread abroad the sayings of God's mouth, they are magnifying God's renown, which is his name, to the extent that the nations will come to acknowledge that Jehovah is the only God to bow in worshipful confession of: as David already does, because he is living out the high honour of the Almighty (vss. 5 & 6). It is necessary to magnify the sayings (the renown) of God before others will appreciate the magnificence of God's name.

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Elaborate on what Psalm 138:2 "For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name." means

The key is in the original Hebrew word imrah (H565) which is from the Hebrew emer (H561). The root word emer can have the meaning of "promise". Now we know that God's Word the Bible is full of promises; a great many in the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible.

So what does "For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name" mean?

Note what the website Bible Study Tools mentions on this:

for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name;
or "above every name of thine" F14; which Aben Ezra interprets of the glorious name Jehovah; the word God spake to Moses, the name in which he made himself known to him, and to the Israelites, he had not to their fathers, ( Exodus 3:14 ) ( 6:3 ) ; but rather it is to be understood of God's word of promise, and his faithfulness in fulfilling it; which, though not a greater attribute than any other, yet is made more known and more illustrious than the rest; and particularly may regard the promise of the coming of the Messiah, and of the blessings of grace by him; Jarchi interprets it particularly of the pardon of sin. It may with propriety be applied to Christ, the essential Word, that was made flesh, and dwelt among men; whom God has highly exalted, and not only given him a name above every name of men on earth, but also above any particular name or attribute of his: or however he has magnified him "according"

An additional explanation can be seen in the Watchtower November 1, 1971 issue. The article "- The People Who Respect God’s Name More Than Their Own" par. 5-6 addresses this:

5 What is this that David is saying? Is God’s spoken word or saying greater than his name? No! Well, how, then, does he magnify his saying above all his name? In this way: His meaningful name, because of being attached to his “saying” or word of promise and of prophecy, caused us to look for much in the way of fulfillment. But actually he carries out his “saying” in a magnified way, in a way that is grander than what the guarantee of his name leads us to expect. He did not need to do so much in order to prove to us that his name is reliable as a guarantee of fulfillment.

6 So he magnifies his “saying” by making the carrying out of it produce more than we anticipated. He does surpassingly! For example, in many vital cases his prophetic “saying” has proved to have, not just a primary literal fulfillment, but also a miniature spiritual fulfillment and even a major, complete spiritual fulfillment. Note, too, that he gave his “saying” or word of promise to bring forth the Messiah in King David’s line of descent. But actually he magnified that promissory “saying.” How? By giving more than a mere human Messiah in David’s royal family. Jehovah brought forth a spiritual Messiah, one begotten by Jehovah’s spirit, raised from the dead and exalted to immortal life and royal glory in heaven at God’s right hand. As Jehovah delivered David from his enemies, so he delivered Jesus Christ from his earthly enemies, who had put him to death, by resurrecting him from the dead to heavenly glory.​—Ps. 138:3-7.

In essence, David was extolling and praising Jehovah God for the way he has made the promises stated in the Bible come to fulfillment through the authority and power of his holy name.

[Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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  • 1
    Would Psalm 138:2 be somewhat analogous in terms of meaning when it comes to giving significance to words spoken by important persons like presidents/prime ministers/monarchs since said persons are important?
    – crazyTech
    Dec 9, 2021 at 0:19
  • 1
    @crazyTech David was a king and Jehovah God is the Creator. So yes, both are important Bible figures that can give us insight and wisdom.
    – agarza
    Dec 9, 2021 at 16:37

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