I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes (Psalm 119:48).
When I think about lifting up hands, it’s hard for me to not envision Horshack (played by Ron Palillo, who passed away in 2012) desperately trying to get Mr. Kotter’s attention in Welcome Back, Kotter, an ABC sitcom in the late 1970’s. (As you probably know, a young John Travolta played Vinnie Barbarino.) Horshack’s hand would shoot straight up and wave back and forth as he hope to be called upon.
While we lift our hands for a variety of reasons in addition to attempting to get the attention of a teacher–to wave, to celebrate, to catch falling projectiles–the psalmist here seems to be thinking of hand-lifting in the context of praise, as he declares his love toward God’s commandments.
And yet, there is something about Horshack’s zeal and his desire to engage with his teacher that fits right into Psalm 119, as the psalmist is eager to connect with God over his word. The hands lift up enthusiastically as the psalmist finds delight in God’s statutes, which leads him to meditate upon them.
The line, “which I love” is a bit unusual for this verse, as it makes the first half of verse 48 too long, and it’s appearance in this line is suspicious since the previous verse has the same line. Some scholars will assume it was just a scribal error, accidentally repeated from the previous verse. Perhaps…or maybe the psalmist just wanted to repeat his love for Scripture and said, “Who cares if this line is too long?
While most of the 176 verses of Psalm 119 mention one synonym for God’s word in each verse (e.g., promise, rules, law, precepts, testimonies, etc.), verse 48 is unusual as it gives two synonyms (your commandments, your statutes). Only two other verses in the entire psalm include two synonyms (16, 168). Interestingly, both of these other two verses come at the end of a 8-verse section just like verse 48, which is the final verse of the Vav section, where each verse in the Hebrew begins with the letter Vav. So, the repetition of the Torah-synonym may be a way to close out a stanza.
How does one lift up one’s hands toward God’s commandments?
I’ve taken a three-month break from blogging on the Psalms due to my health problems. As my health has improved, I’m going to start blogging on Psalm 119 again, but I doubt I’ll be able to blog on it weekly. We’ll see.