When I came to Immanuel in March of 2012, the first series I preached was Psalm 119. I chose this Psalm because I wanted to impress on people the foundational nature of the Bible. As Christians, we never get beyond the fact that the word of God is absolutely necessary for everything related to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Psalm 119 makes that point in every single verse.
Yesterday I catalogued the themes of each stanza. Today I want to pass along the most helpful Psalm 119 resources. All four of these interact with every single verse of the stanza (whereas most commentaries have sections on Psalm 119 shorter than the actual psalm!)
These four were the most helpful to me in my preaching, and three of them are free on-line:
Psalm 119, The Diary of a Captive, by Gene Cunningham, was my favorite resource. Cunningham has spent 30 years as a missionary training pastors in India and Papua New Guinea. He has taught through the book multiple times, and has put his material in the form of this concise book.
This is a unique book because Cunningham takes each Hebrew letter, illustrates it, then shows how that letter has a meaning by itself (aleph is an ox, bet a house, and so on). Then he ties the meaning of that letter to the content of each stanza. This is an eye-opening approach, and one that is extremely helpful to the preacher. Cunningham comments on each verse in light of the overarching letter, ends each stanza with a prayer, and begins each stanza with a statement about Yahweh (e.g. “The Lord is my wealth,” “The Lord is my home,” etc.).
He believes the author to be an unknown prisoner, taken in the Babylonian captivity, and writing the psalm on a forced march to his new home. Much of his interpretation is in light of that authorship. You can buy the book used on Amazon, or download an updated version for free here.
Charles Bridges, an Anglican pastor in the early 1800’s, wrote what is easily the most monumental book on the psalm: Exposition of Psalm 119 (free online here, or hardback from Amazon; I recommend the Kindle version for .99 so you can underline and take notes). This book is massive, but that’s ok because Spurgeon said it was “worth its weight in gold.”
Bridges takes the psalm to be Davidic, and he frequently has pages of commentary on a single verse. He interprets the psalm as given by God to be one of the most critical passages motivating a pure heart. If you have not read anything by Bridges before, this is a great place to start. You can jump in at any part, and when you come back, go again to any section. The book is huge, but there are no wasted words.
Charles Spurgeon loved Bridges’ book, but that didn’t stop him from writing his own. The Golden Alphabet is Spurgeon’s tribute to Bridges, as well as to the Psalmist himself (like Bridges, Spurgeon argues for Davidic authorship). Spurgeon translates most of the psalm himself, and he reworks a few of the stanzas to get them to start with the same letter throughout (as they did in Hebrew). He argues for the unity of the psalm and the progressive nature between the stanzas.
I’m familiar with Spurgeon’s Treasury of David, and it is obvious that Psalm 119 held a special place in Spurgeon’s devotional life. All his sermons are good, but his exegetical work in Psalm 119 is near the top.
You can get The Golden Alphabet for free in any number of places. This one here is hyperlinked by stanza. I recommend the Kindle version. The .99 cost is worth the pagination and ability to underline that the on-line versions don’t have.
Finally, if you can read Hebrew words then George Zemek’s The Word of God in the Child of God is an essential tool. Zemek, who teaches Hebrew at The Expositor’s Seminary, gives his own translation of the whole psalm. But what sets Zemek’s work apart is that it is the only one I know of that outlines each stanza (he actually does this 2xs—once in English and then in the back of the book in Hebrew).
After the translation and outline, each stanza has technical notes, followed by a synopsis and finally a commentary. He persuasively argues that the psalm was likely written by Daniel, and the entire commentary is written with the preacher in mind.
You can get a hard copy at Amazon ($40), or electronically in Logos as part of a Zemek collection ($70). If you know what an aleph and a jussive are, then shell out the cash, because this book is worth it.
Does anyone know any other resources on this psalm that should be on the list? Have you read any that are here? What do you think?