Could the Psalm 139:11-12 verses be interpreted to have multiple meanings, and possibly even overlapping meanings?

To elaborate, does the author of psalm 139 take on?

a) -the role of victim of darkness ( i.e. a person being attacked by evil forces like David being attacked by numerous enemies )

b) -the role of villian who indulges in darkness ( i.e a person indulging in adultery, murder like David intentionally engaging in an adulterous sexual affair with Bathsheba, and killing off her husband, Uriah)

c) -the role of both victim and villain in darkness ( i.e. a person who just somehow ended up in a life where she/he was addicted to illicit substances like illicit drugs and alcohol, and now is in bondage to such substances, and therefore has great difficulty ending said bondage )

Psalm 139:8-13 New American Standard Bible 1995

8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in [a]Sheol, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will [b]overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” 12 Even the darkness is not dark [c]to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

13 For You formed my [d]inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.

Psalm 139:8-13 New King James Version

8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in [a]hell, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall [b]fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; 12 Indeed, the darkness [c]shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

13 For You formed my inward parts; You [d]covered me in my mother’s womb.

139:8-13 The Westminster Leningrad Codex 8 אִם־אֶסַּ֣ק שָׁ֭מַיִם שָׁ֣ם אָ֑תָּה וְאַצִּ֖יעָה שְּׁא֣וֹל הִנֶּֽךָּ׃

9 אֶשָּׂ֥א כַנְפֵי־שָׁ֑חַר אֶ֝שְׁכְּנָ֗ה בְּאַחֲרִ֥ית יָֽם׃

10 גַּם־שָׁ֭ם יָדְךָ֣ תַנְחֵ֑נִי וְֽתֹאחֲזֵ֥נִי יְמִינֶֽךָ׃

11 וָ֭אֹמַר אַךְ־חֹ֣שֶׁךְ יְשׁוּפֵ֑נִי וְ֝לַ֗יְלָה א֣וֹר בַּעֲדֵֽנִי׃

12 גַּם־חֹשֶׁךְ֮ לֹֽא־יַחְשִׁ֪יךְ מִ֫מֶּ֥ךָ וְ֭לַיְלָה כַּיּ֣וֹם יָאִ֑יר כַּ֝חֲשֵׁיכָ֗ה כָּאוֹרָֽה׃

13 כִּֽי־אַ֭תָּה קָנִ֣יתָ כִלְיֹתָ֑י תְּ֝סֻכֵּ֗נִי בְּבֶ֣טֶן אִמִּֽי׃

3 Answers 3


In Psalm 139:11-12 verses be interpreted to have multiple meanings, and possibly even overlapping meanings

The writer of Psalm 139 is David. He is not taking on the role of victim or villain of/in darkness.

To better understand what David is saying we must look at the context of his words. The article "Jehovah Knows Us Well!" in the Watchtower January 15, 1990, issue focuses on these verses:

Neither distance nor darkness can put a person out of God’s reach. So David adds: “And were I to say: ‘Surely darkness itself will hastily seize me!’ then night would be light about me. Even the darkness itself would not prove too dark for you, but night itself would shine just as the day does; the darkness might just as well be the light.” (Psalm 139:11, 12) A person could be enshrouded in total darkness, as if seized by it. But to Jehovah he would be as visible as if standing in bright daylight. Nobody can hide from God any sins committed in darkness.​—Isaiah 29:15, 16.

The article continues to explain how "concealment does not block observation by our Creator" as mentioned in verses 13-16.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]


The darkness of Ps 139:11-12 is not the darkness of evil and wickedness. Such darkness is characterized by the absence of God’s presence and light.

For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil can dwell with You. – Ps 5:4

In fact the Psalmist asks God to destroy the wicked.

If only You would put the wicked to death, God; Leave me, you men of bloodshed. For they speak against You wickedly, And Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate You, Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? – vv. 19-21

Though verses 11-12 speak of darkness, the sentiment is anything but dark. They fit with the theme of Psalm 139, which conveys the sense of one who is secure in the knowledge that God is always with him and guiding him, wherever he may be, in whatever circumstance, and at every point in his life.

The darkness of Ps 139:11-12 recalls more the darkness of the valley in Psalm 23:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. – Ps 23:4

This darkness, I think, refers to the dark moments in the lives of every person, though the circumstances may vary for each. And though we may not be able to feel God’s presence during such times, as the word darkness itself implies, the Psalmist assures us that God is still with us. Furthermore, he says that God has ordained all of our days (v. 16), implying that it is God who gives us both the moments of light as well as those we deem to call darkness (cf Is 45:3).

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. – vv. 11-12

So that people may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no one else, The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating disaster; I am the Lord who does all these things. – Is 45:6-7


David's Ps 139 is one of the most sublime of his hymns of praise to the LORD. In it, David emphasizes the central aspects of the LORD's divinity:

  • V1-6 - the LORD's omniscience
  • V7-12 - the LORD's omnipresence
  • V13-16 - the LORD's creativity
  • V17, 18 - the LORD's guidance and personal interest in David (and by extension, all people)
  • V19-22 - the LORD's righteousness and justice
  • V23, 24 - a plea to the LORD to make David more righteousness

Thus, there is no suggestion here of David being a victim of anything except his enemy's schemes for which he asks the LORD's guidance and instruction.

Again, V11 & 12 are simply Hebrew idiom for David recording just how omniscient (all knowing) God is - He knows what is hidden by the darkness.

Now, there is a subtlety in the text that deserves further attention. Note the text of V11:

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me”

This may be subtle way of David recording his discouraging, depressing thoughts. Even in times of light, David occasionally struggled with dark thoughts and took comfort in the LORD his God. Ps 18:2, 6, 35:23, 77:2, 31:3; see also Isa 12:2, 50:4, 2 Sam 22:7, 14:17, etc.

  • If we interpret Psalm 139:11 as David referring to depressing &/or discouraging feelings & thoughts then we could associate David as being a victim of depressing &/or discouraging demonic spiritual attacks. Dec 10, 2021 at 19:44
  • @crazyTech - the fact that someone has depressing feelings does not make them demon possessed or under demon attack. However, I would not rule such out for David - I am sure that he was a special target of Satan's attacks as leader of God's people at the time.
    – Dottard
    Dec 10, 2021 at 20:00
  • 1
    Just FYI, in biblehub.com/commentaries/psalms/139-11.htm , some of the commentaries like "Barnes' Notes on the Bible" , "Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary" suggest that the author of Psalm 139 takes on the role of villain who indulges in sin in the darkness. Dec 10, 2021 at 20:15

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