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“Let’s make a deal” (Psalm 119:17)

Deal bountifully with your servant,
so that I may live and observe your word (Psalm 119:17 NRSV).

In this verse, Psalm 119 moves into the Gimel section, where each of the eight verses begins with the Hebrew letter Gimel.  The phrase here “Deal bountifully” comes from the Hebrew verb gamal, which in the original text that lacked vowels would look identical to the word Gimel, both basically gml.  (Hebrew words beginning with Gimel are less common than words beginning with Aleph or Bet.)

In Psalm 13, the psalmist declares that he will sing because YHWH has “dealt bountifully” with him (Psalm 13:6).  Here, the psalmist commands YHWH to deal bountifully with him.  While I like the clarity of the NIV here, “Do good to your servant” it’s not as powerful as the NRSV’s (and ESV’s, NAS’s) slightly archaic sounding “Deal bountifully…”

What motivation does the psalmist use to encourage YHWH to “do good”?  It sounds like a divine quid pro quo. “OK, God, let’s make a deal. If you are bountiful with me, then I’ll follow your word.”  That’s not usually how people talk in Scripture, but you gotta like the boldness of the psalmist.  Also, we know from the previous 16 verses, that living and observing God’s word is exactly what the psalmist wants to do.

“God, thanks for dealing bountifully with me, so that I can live and observe your word.”

Can you think of other divine quid pro quo’s in Scripture?  Do you make deals with God? 

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