Many of the psalms have no author attributed to them, so we have a large group of ‘unallocated’ psalms that have no identified author.
Psalm 119 is the longest psalm of all, with 176 verses organised into groups of eight under each of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It celebrates the faithfulness of God through his word (or law), in good times and bad. It doesn’t have an identified author—there’s no no byline in today’s newspaper language—and we’ll never really know who wrote it, but there seems to be a consensus that it was probably one of these three:
- King David: based on his life and according to rabbinic tradition
- Ezra: based on his literacy (a scribe) and circumstances (needing to teach the Law to returned exiles)
- Daniel: based on his circumstances as an exile where some were openly hostile to him and his faith.
Amy Grant set verse 105 to music:
If you enjoy baroque choral music from centuries ago, you might appreciate Heinrich Schütz’s 70-minute interpretation of the entire psalm (in German). No one else seems to have looked at the whole.
Psalm 119: the first and last stanzas
א (Alef) [The first stanza]
1-8 Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.
Happy are those who keep his decrees,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways.
You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
O that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous ordinances.
I will observe your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.
ש (Shin) [The last stanza]
169-176 Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to your word.
Let my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
My lips will pour forth praise,
because you teach me your statutes.
My tongue will sing of your promise,
for all your commandments are right.
Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.
Let me live that I may praise you,
and let your ordinances help me.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.