Too wonderful for me, #4

It’s been a while since I have added a new entry to this series!  Today, it will be two verses which I tend to consider together…

The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men.
From the place of His dwelling He looks On all the inhabitants of the earth;
He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

Psalm 33:13-15

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Psalm 138:8

Concerning the first passage, I must say that it is the phrase, “He fashions their hearts individually” that grabs me.  I am well aware that translations other than the KJV and NKJV render this differently, but I agree with the sentiments expressed in the Keil & Delitzsch commentary on the word here translated “individually” as well as the Septuagint’s choice of the Greek katamonas, which does communicate that same idea of individual, distinct creation.

The idea that the heart of a man has been formed indivdually by God — that He Who Crafted All Things would deign to shape my own heart, and to give the crafting of it His personal attention — is too wonderful for me.  It reminds me that God is not just about saving “man” in His plan, but He is about saving men.  Individual people, men and women, whom He has crafted — individually — to be vessels of His glory and His children for eternity.  It is that idea of personal attention from the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE that awes me upon every reflection (and which has been a part of my Passover reflections this year).

The second passage I gave is related in that way.  That David could say, “The LORD will perfect that which concerns me,” is amazing, and gives us reason to believe him when he says in v.1 that, “I will praise you with my whole heart!”

I strive to have the kind of faith that David here expresses, his confidence that the Eternal One — the God of ALL Creation, who created the universal laws of physics, and who crafted the wondrous expanse above our heads and the very earth beneath our feet — will personally attend to the matter of perfecting that which concerns him.  As other translations render it, “The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me…”  How could we dare to think that Almighty God would have a plan with me specifically & individually in mind and that He would dedicate Himself to seeing that plan fulfilled.  Yet, that is the promise of Scripture.  This, also, is too wonderful for me.

4 thoughts on “Too wonderful for me, #4

  1. Pingback: Finding Rest, and Finding New Bloggers « ANDREA’S WORLD

  2. william henry wilson

    Bratcher & Reyburn in the UBS Handbook on Psalms is provoking in this regard:

    Nothing escapes Yahweh’s notice; he even fashions the hearts of them all. The verb is the one used of a potter fashioning a bowl, and the statement that Yahweh fashions their hearts means that Yahweh not only forms the human body (see the verb in Gen 2.7–8) but also the mind. This does not imply that Yahweh controls a person’s thinking, as “He forms all their thoughts” (TEV) may appear to say. It simply means that he creates the human mind and therefore knows how it works. The Hebrew word usually translated “all together” (RSV of them all) is here somewhat difficult to understand; Briggs and K-B “thoroughly”; NEB “alike”; TOB “the same heart (for them all)”; BJ “only he (forms their hearts).” In some languages it will be necessary to extend the idea of thoughts to include both thinking and willing; for example, “he has given them ability to think and to want,” or FRCL, “intelligence and will.”

    The last line of verse 15, observes all their deeds, can be translated “he sees everything they do”; but in parallel with the preceding line, the thought is rather “knows” (TEV), “understands” (NJB), or “discerns” (NJV, NEB).

    Further use of H1584 is interesting in Psa 57:2. It is used in no other Book of the Hebrew Scriptures:
    I will cry 7121 8799 unto God 430 most high; 5945 unto God 410 that performeth 1584 8802 all things for me.

    Small wonder Yahweh is spoken of as the Rock of Israel… Someone we can depend on for our fashioning and ultimate Salvation.

  3. Dear Mr. Smith (and All),

    The Hebrew phrase is *ha-Yotser yachad libbam* (היצר יחד לבם), “the-One-who-fashions together-as-one their-hearts”. There is indeed some difficulty with this passage.

    Keil & Delitzsch note, “The lxx correctly renders it καταμόνας, *singillatim*.” The Greek καταμόνας means adverbially “alone, apart” (Abridged Liddel & Scott Lexicon), and I can guess that the Latin means the same. Evidentally the K&D takes a stand similar to that of BJ (mentioned by Mr. Wilson), that it is the Eternal who alone fashions the hearts of men. I can’t see any place where they say or imply that each heart is formed individually by the LORD.

    What’s more important is that *yachad* normally doesn’t have the meaning of “individually” in its other contexts! Rather, it means “a unit, unitedly” in various ways (cf. Strong’s Dictionary, which has here as good a summary as any) — it refers to a unity of parts. Psalms 133:1, for example, has *yachad* as “unity” (in which brethren dwelling together should share). Rarely indeed does even the KJV translate it in a way contrary to this essential idea, and even those two cases are disputable. *Yachid* is the word used to convey the idea of “alone, apart”.

    What K&D do not explain, the marginal notes of the BHS Edition of the Hebrew Bible do. The LXX translators read *y-ch-d* (יחד) as if it were pronounced *yachid* but had the “defective” spelling of *y-ch-d* (יחד) instead of the usual and *full* spelling of *y-ch-y-d* (יחיד). In the “full” spelling the second *y* marks the presence of a long vowel, but in ancient Hebrew such letters were not required and were not always used — and so issues like this could arise in those days, when vowel-points were not written out (unless it be in texts kept in secret by the priests in Jerusalem — as tradition and testimony maintain — and not accessible to the LXX translators).

    My guess is that the NKJV takes the same stand as to the meaning of the word in question as does K&D, BJ and BHS, but attaches it to “their hearts” rather than to “the One who forms”. That is a dual mistake, semantically and “melopoetically” speaking. The melodic-poetic structure links *yachad* to what precedes it and not to what follows it. Yet the Masoretic Text has *yachad*, not *yachid*. What then? The best explanation seems to me to be that the Eternal forms the hearts of men “together-as-one” — He works with them collectively as well as individually, however the Psalmist means He does that in this context. And is that not how His government over men in its broadest sense works anyway?

    Such is life in the circles of biblical Hebrew study! 🙂

  4. Howdy, Mr. Wheeler!

    I will take your learned comments into consideration — though I know you will forgive me if I don’t hastily overrule the analysis of K&D, BJ, BHS, and the translators of the KJV & NKJV in favor of yours. 😉 And I will have to hold out, as well, on passing my judgment on the Masoretic Text’s *yachad*.

    The K&D observation that I had in mind but did not quote was this: “…for the hearts of men were not from the very first created all at one time, but the primeval impartation of spirit-life is continued at every birth in some mysterious way.”

    Thanks for yout insights!

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

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