And I shall walk in a wide place,
for I have sought your precepts (Psalm 119:45).
Walking in a wide place–what does that mean? And why is it a good thing?
Other translations have “liberty” (NAS, NRSV) or “freedom” (NIV), but the ESV’s “wide place” is literally what the word rahab means. (Yes, rahab is also the name of perhaps the most famous biblical prostitute. If you’re not familiar with her story, read Joshua chapters 2 and 6.)
I like that the ESV went with the literal translation, which may be a little harder to understand. But instead of the translators telling us their interpretation, we get to figure it out for ourselves.
It’s like the difference between baby food and adult food. Baby food is already mashed up to make it easier for young humans without teeth to consume. Most of us with teeth like to chew our food. The food ends up in the same place either way.
Translations that try to fix all the potentially confusing problems in the text are a little bit like baby food. The more literal ones, like adult food. It takes more work to understand, but like chewing adult food, the work is worth it.
Now, I’m going to chew your food for you (perhaps, it’s time to say goodbye to this image?). Walking in a wide place should remind Israel’s readers of God’s promise to Moses before he had even delivered them from Egyptian oppression.
To describe the Promised Land, God uses the same word, rahab, here in Psalm 119:45 and in Exodus: “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad (rahab) land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exo. 3:8). So, “wide places” in Psalm 119:45 is code for God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey.
The psalmist sees a connection between seeking God’s commands and the promises that God gives to his people for faithfulness.
God, let us live in “wide places” as we follow your commands.
Psalm 119:45 is the 5th verse in the 6th section (Vav).
This image is the first up on Google Images under “wide places” (http://www.osholeela.co.uk/index.php?content=fr_li).