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Th. Booij, «Psalm 119,89-91», Vol. 79 (1998) 539-541
Verses 89-91 offer one of the few passages in Psalm 119, which show clear inner progress and coherence. The author here analyses some ideas and notions, which speak about the word whereby in heaven YHWH reigns over the world. He ends with a new translation of the passage.
.Mym#$b bcn Krbd hwhy Mlw(l 89
.dm(tw Cr) tnnwk Ktnwm) rdw rdl 90
.Kydb( lkh yk Mwyh wdm( Ky+p#$ml 91
In Psalm 119, vv. 89-91 offer one of the few passages with clear inner progress and coherence. By their content, too, these verses stand out in the text. While elsewhere the psalm speaks of the divine word as addressed, by way of commandments or promises or encouragements, to human beings, vv. 89-91 are about the word by which in heaven YHWH reigns over the world. Meanwhile, the verses in question are not without problems.
In v. 89 bcn niphal is generally understood as "stand fast" or "endure" (cf. Isa 40,8). A. Deissler 1, however, has rightly pointed out that bcn niphal has that sense nowhere else, but in most cases simply means "to stand". The correct translation would be then "Forever, O Lord, your word is standing in heaven". In Deisslers view 2, the text holds a personification: the word forever stays with YHWH, being at his disposal like a servant who stands before his king (cf. bcn in 1 Sam 22,6-7.17). This interpretation, however, is unsatisfactory. The idea of the word standing as a servant before YHWH is not really expressed by the text; moreover, if the text would indeed say that the word "stands forever", this would contrast conspicuously with the well-known notion of YHWH "sending" his word (Isa 9,7; 55,11; Ps 107,20; 147,15).
In my opinion, bc%fni of Ps 119,89 represents a special usage. The participle niphal of bcn, in connection with l(, sometimes means "(standing) in charge of" or, by way of a noun, "official over" (1 Sam 19,20; 1 Kgs 4,7; Ru 2,5-6) 3; in that meaning it is used without l( as well and may be rendered then by "overseer", "officer" (2 Chr 8,10), or "deputy" (1 Kgs 4,5; 5,7; 22,48) 4. "Stand over", used in that way, is equal to "claim authority", "be in command" which suits Ps 119,89 quite well. "Heaven" is the place where, through his word, YHWH rules over all things (Ps 2,4; 11,4; 103,19).
The idea of stability, which in v. 89 is expressed by Mlw(l, reappears in rdw rdl of v. 90 (cf., e.g., Ps 33,11; 79,13), this time in a form reminding