Psalm 139

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Psalm 139
"O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me"
Hymn psalm
Interieur kapel, gebrandschilderde glas - "Psalm 139", middelste van de serie van 3 ramen, van beeldend kunstenaar Ted Felen, 1983 - Beek (Ubbergen) - 20359193 - RCE.jpg
A 1983 stained-glass window by Ted Felen titled Psalm 139
Other name
  • Psalm 138 (Vulgate)
  • "Domine probasti me et cognovisti me"
LanguageHebrew (original)

Psalm 139 is the 139th psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me." The Book of Psalms is the third section of the Hebrew Bible, and a book of the Christian Old Testament. In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in its Latin translation Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 138 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Domine probasti me et cognovisti me".[1] The psalm is a hymn psalm. Attributed to David, it is known for its affirmation of God's omnipresence.

The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant liturgies. It has been set to music often.


Hebrew Bible version[edit]

The Hebrew text and an English translation of Psalm 139 are as follows:[2]

Verse Hebrew English
1 לַמְנַצֵּחַ לְדָוִ֣ד מִזְמ֑וֹר יְ֜הֹוָ֗ה חֲקַרְתַּ֥נִי וַתֵּדָֽע For the conductor. Of David, a song. O Lord, You have searched me out and You know.
2 אַתָּ֣ה יָ֖דַעְתָּ שִׁבְתִּ֣י וְקוּמִ֑י בַּ֥נְתָּה לְ֜רֵעִֽ֗י מֵֽרָחֽוֹק You know my sitting and my rising; You understand how to attach me from afar.
3 אָרְחִ֣י וְרִבְעִ֣י זֵרִ֑יתָ וְכָל־דְּרָכַ֥י הִסְכַּֽנְתָּה My going about and my lying down You encompassed, and You are accustomed to all my ways.
4 כִּ֚י אֵ֣ין מִלָּ֣ה בִלְשׁוֹנִ֑י הֵ֥ן יְ֜הֹוָ֗ה יָדַ֥עְתָּ כֻלָּֽהּ For there is no word on my tongue; behold, O Lord, You know it all.
5 אָח֣וֹר וָקֶ֣דֶם צַרְתָּ֑נִי וַתָּ֖שֶׁת עָלַ֣י כַּפֶּֽכָה From the rear and the front You encompassed me, and You placed Your pressure upon me.
6 פְּלִ֣יאָה דַ֣עַת מִמֶּ֑נִּי נִ֜שְׂגְּבָ֗ה לֹֽא־אוּכַ֥ל לָֽהּ Knowledge is hidden from me; it is hard, I cannot attain it.
7 אָנָ֣ה אֵלֵךְ מֵֽרוּחֶ֑ךָ וְ֜אָ֗נָה מִפָּנֶ֥יךָ אֶבְרָֽח Where shall I go from Your spirit, and where shall I flee from Your presence?
8 אִם־אֶסַּ֣ק שָׁ֖מַיִם שָׁ֣ם אָ֑תָּה וְאַצִּ֖יעָה שְּׁא֣וֹל הִנֶּֽךָּ If I ascend to the heavens, there You are, and if I make my bed in the grave, behold, You are there.
9 אֶשָּׂ֥א כַנְפֵי־שָׁ֑חַר אֶ֜שְׁכְּנָ֗ה בְּאַֽחֲרִ֥ית יָֽם [If] I take up the wings of dawn, [if] I dwell at the end of the west,
10 גַּם־שָׁ֖ם יָֽדְךָ֣ תַנְחֵ֑נִי וְֽתֹ֖אחֲזֵ֣נִי יְמִינֶֽךָ There too, Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will grasp me.
11 וָאֹֽמַ֗ר אַךְ־חֹ֥שֶׁךְ יְשׁוּפֵ֑נִי וְ֜לַ֗יְלָה א֣וֹר בַּֽעֲדֵֽנִי I said, "Darkness will darken me, and the night will be as light about me."
12 גַּם־חֹשֶׁךְ֘ לֹֽא־יַחְשִׁ֪יךְ מִ֫מֶּ֥ךָּ וְלַיְלָה כַּיּ֣וֹם יָאִ֑יר כַּֽ֜חֲשֵׁיכָ֗ה כָּֽאוֹרָֽה Even darkness will not obscure [anything] from You, and the night will light up like day; as darkness so is the light.
13 כִּֽי־אַ֖תָּה קָנִ֣יתָ כִלְיֹתָ֑י תְּ֜סֻכֵּ֗נִי בְּבֶ֣טֶן אִמִּֽי For You created my reins, You covered me in my mother's womb.
14 אֽוֹדְךָ֗ עַ֚ל כִּ֥י נֽוֹרָא֗וֹת נִ֫פְלֵ֥יתִי נִפְלָאִ֥ים מַֽעֲשֶׂ֑יךָ וְ֜נַפְשִׁ֗י יֹדַ֥עַת מְאֹֽד I shall thank You for in an awesome, wondrous way I was fashioned; Your works are wondrous, and my soul knows it very well.
15 לֹֽא־נִכְחַ֥ד עָצְמִ֗י מִ֫מֶּ֥ךָּ אֲשֶׁר־עֻשֵּׂ֥יתִי בַסֵּ֑תֶר רֻ֜קַּ֗מְתִּי בְּתַחְתִּיּ֥וֹת אָֽרֶץ My essence was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, I was formed in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 גָּלְמִ֚י | רָ֘א֚וּ עֵינֶ֗יךָ וְעַל־סִפְרְךָ֘ כֻּלָּ֪ם יִכָּ֫תֵ֥בוּ יָמִ֥ים יֻצָּ֑רוּ וְל֖וֹ אֶחָ֣ד בָּהֶֽם Your eyes saw my unformed body, and on Your book they were all written; days have been formed and one of them is His.
17 וְלִ֗י מַה־יָּֽקְר֣וּ רֵעֶ֣יךָ אֵ֑ל מֶ֥ה עָֽ֜צְמ֗וּ רָֽאשֵׁיהֶֽם And to me, how dear are Your friends, O Lord! How great is their sum!
18 אֶסְפְּרֵם מֵח֣וֹל יִרְבּ֑וּן הֱ֜קִיצֹ֗תִי וְעוֹדִ֥י עִמָּֽךְ I shall count them; they are more numerous than sand; I have come to the end, and I am still with You.
19 אִם־תִּקְטֹ֖ל אֱל֥וֹהַּ | רָשָׁ֑ע וְאַנְשֵׁ֥י דָ֜מִ֗ים ס֣וּרוּ מֶֽנִּי If only You would slay the wicked, O God, and men of blood, "Turn away from me."
20 אֲשֶׁ֣ר יֹֽ֖מְרוּךָ לִמְזִמָּ֑ה נָשׂ֖וּא לַשָּׁ֣וְא עָרֶֽיךָ Who mention You with wicked thought; Your enemies took it up in vain.
21 הֲלוֹא־מְשַׂנְאֶ֖יךָ יְהֹוָ֥ה | אֶשְׂנָ֑א וּ֜בִתְקֽוֹמְמֶ֗יךָ אֶתְקוֹטָֽט Did I not hate Your enemies, O Lord? With those who rise up against You, I quarrel.
22 תַּכְלִ֣ית שִׂנְאָ֣ה שְׂנֵאתִ֑ים לְ֜אֹֽיְבִ֗ים הָ֣יוּ לִֽי I hate them with utmost hatred; they have become my enemies.
23 חָקְרֵ֣נִי אֵ֖ל וְדַ֣ע לְבָבִ֑י בְּ֜חָנֵ֗נִי וְדַ֣ע שַׂרְעַפָּֽי Search me out, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.
24 וּרְאֵ֗ה אִם־דֶּֽרֶךְ־עֹ֥צֶב בִּ֑י וּ֜נְחֵ֗נִי בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ עוֹלָֽם And see whether there is any vexatious way about me, and lead me in the way of the world.

King James Version[edit]

  1. O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
  2. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
  3. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
  4. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
  5. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
  6. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
  7. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
  8. If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
  9. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
  10. Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
  11. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
  12. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
  13. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
  14. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
  15. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
  16. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
  17. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
  18. If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
  19. Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.
  20. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.
  21. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
  22. I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
  23. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
  24. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Background and themes[edit]

According to the Midrash Shocher Tov, Psalm 139 was written by Adam. Verses 5 and 16, for example, allude to the formation of the First Man.[3] Abramowitz explains that the themes of the psalm relate to Adam, while David wrote the actual words.[4] Psalm 139 is part of the final Davidic collection of psalms, comprising Psalms 138 through 145, which are attributed to David in the first verse.[5][6]

Verse 16 is the only place in the Tanakh where the word גָּלְמִ֚י, galmi, from the same root as golem, appears.[7][8] In describing the creation of Adam hour by hour, the Talmud states that in the second hour the dust from the earth was gathered into a golem (unformed mass) (Sanhedrin 38b).[9] A Midrash on Genesis 5:1 also describes Adam's creation as a golem of immense size, stretching from one end of the earth to the other. This is reflected in verse 16, in which Adam says to God, "Your eyes saw my golem".[10]

The psalm addresses God, or, in Jewish tradition, YHWH, and the speaker calls out and establishes a salutation and an understanding of what he knows God to be. He goes on to marvel at the omnipresence of God even in the most secret of places, and praise God for His vast knowledge of the future. Finally, the psalmist concludes by asking God to “slay the wicked” and stands against them, assuring God of his fervor, asking to be tested and led in the correct path. The psalmist praises God; terms of supreme authority, and being able to witness everything on heaven, earth and in the underworld.[11] Through this psalm, the psalmist insists on God being the only true God and challenges anyone to question his faith.




Since the Middle Ages, this psalm was recited or sung during the Vespers office on Thursday, according to the Rule of St. Benedict, fixed worm[clarification needed] 530. Because of its length, it was divided into two, and from "dixi: Tenebrae Forsitan conculcabunt me" was executed as a division. The Vespers on Thursday thus had only three psalms instead of four.[16][17]

In the current Liturgy of the Hours, Psalm 139 is recited at Vespers, but also on Wednesdays of the fourth week.[18] In the liturgy of the Mass, it is played or sung for the Feast of St. John the Baptist.


Psalm 139:14 has been used by both the pro-life and LGBT movements as a blessing and a source of support for their activities.[19] The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsors the Psalm 139 Project, which aims to place ultrasound machines in crisis pregnancy centers as a means of convincing pregnant women not to abort their unborn child.[20]

Psalm 139 in music[edit]



  • "139. Psalm for Mezzo-soprano, Trumpet, Trombone and Tuba" by Franz Koglmann

Contemporary Christian music[edit]


  1. ^ Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 138 (139) Archived 2017-05-07 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "Tehillim - Psalms - Chapter 139". 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  3. ^ Katz, Shlomo (June 7, 2002). "Do Torah! Parashas Bereishis". Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  4. ^ Abramowitz, Rabbi Jack. "Adam Says". Orthodox Union. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  5. ^ Lama, A. K. (2013). Reading Psalm 145 with the Sages: A Compositional Analysis. Langham Monographs. p. 3. ISBN 9781907713354.
  6. ^ Schaefer, Konrad (2016). Berit Olam: Psalms. Liturgical Press. p. 19. ISBN 9780814682173.
  7. ^ Strauss, Walter A. (1995). "The Golem on the Operatic Stage: Nature's Warning". Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. 7 (2) – via Jstor. (Subscription required (help)).
  8. ^ Strom-Mackey, Robin M. (2017). Anatomy of a Ghost. Cosmic Pantheon Press. p. 114. ISBN 9781387225729.
  9. ^ Sherwin, Byron L. (2000). Jewish Ethics for the Twenty-First Century: Living in the Image of God. Syracuse University Press. p. 62. ISBN 9780815606246.
  10. ^ Pérez-Gómez, Alberto; Parcell, Stephen, eds. (1996), "Legend of the Golem", Chora 2: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture, McGill-Queen's Press, p. 229, ISBN 9780773566019
  11. ^ Holman, Jan (1971). "The Structure of Psalm CXXXIX". Vetus Testamentum. 21 (3): 298–310 – via Jstor. (Subscription required (help)).
  12. ^ The Artscroll Tehillim page 329
  13. ^ Brauner, Reuven (2013). "Shimush Pesukim" (PDF). p. 50. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  14. ^ "The Traveler's Prayer (with a Supplement for Airplane Travel)". Open Siddur Project. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  15. ^ "T'filat Haderech – The Traveler's Prayer" (PDF). The Jewish Parent Page. Union for Reform Judaism.
  16. ^ Prosper Guéranger, Règle de saint Benoît, (traduction de Prosper Guéranger, réimpression 2007).
  17. ^ Psautier latin-français du bréviaire monastique, 1938/2003,p 519.
  18. ^ Le cycle principal des prières liturgiques se déroule sur quatre semaines.
  19. ^ Van Biema, David (March 28, 2012). "One psalm, two causes, two meanings". USA Today. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  20. ^ "Psalm 139 Project". Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. 2018. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  21. ^ "REVIEW: Leeland – Invisible". The Worship Community. August 12, 2016. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  22. ^ From the albums: Traces of Rain and The Worship Sessions
  23. ^, There is no moment of my life

External links[edit]