What does Psalm 139:5 mean?
ESV: You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
NIV: You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
NASB: You have encircled me behind and in front, And placed Your hand upon me.
CSB: You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me.
NLT: You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.
KJV: Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
NKJV: You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.
Verse Commentary:
David relates his confidence that God "hems him in." This idea comes from the Hebrew word tsuwr, which is often used of a military siege or fortification. A closely-related term is used in reference to ideas such as rocks or strength. In this context, it's meant to suggest guarding a valuable object. This statement attests to the Lord's protection of His people.

The fact that God's hand was on David adds further evidence of the Lord's protection of His people. Although His hand brings judgment to the wicked, it brings grace and comfort to the righteous. He guards us on all sides. We may feel weak at times, but the Lord is always with us to keep us and strengthen us. Isaiah 40:28–31 points out that He does not faint or grow weary, but gives power to the faint and increases strength to those who are exhausted. Whoever waits on the Lord shall receive renewed strength and energy. Jesus promised that He and His Father keep us safe in their hands (John 10:28–29).
Verse Context:
Psalm 139:1–6 extols God's infinite knowledge. David views God as knowing all about him: when he sits down and gets up, his thoughts and conduct, and even the words that are in his mind before he expresses them. He states that God's knowledge is far beyond his comprehension. This section of the psalm precedes the section that focuses on God's omnipresence—his presence everywhere.
Chapter Summary:
In this psalm David marvels at God's amazing characteristics. God knows everything about him: where he goes, all David's thoughts and everything about his conduct. The Lord knows what David will say even before David says it. There is no place David can go that God isn't already present. David marvels at God's creative work in the womb. He is thankful for God's innumerable thoughts for him and for God's presence day and night. Finally, David's thoughts turn to the wicked. He considers them God's enemies and his, and longs for God to slay them. David is disgusted by evil people because they rail against God and take His name in vain. He asks God to search his heart to see if any sin is there, and he asks God to lead him in the way everlasting.
Chapter Context:
This psalm of David lies in the fifth division of Psalms, Psalms 107—150. It discloses information about God's omniscience: He knows everything. It explains His omnipresence: that He is everywhere. It declares His omnipotence: He formed every part of human beings. It also describes His holiness: He judges the wicked and searches the heart. These attributes reflect common themes across both the Old and New Testaments.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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