Aleph to Tau Notes

Available for download here are page layouts for the 22 eight-verse sections of Psalm 119. You may want to tape each page to a wall in your home for a month as you work on memorizing it. The pictures, margins, and various notations on each section should help you remember them better; they give each section a distinctive shape. The page layouts are accompanied by some devotional thoughts and memorization tips.

The translation I’ve used is the New King James Version. I’m not looking for a fight here–if you prefer another translation, you have my blessing. If you think that the NIV is easier to understand and apply or that the ESV would have been a better choice, I won’t argue. I had my reasons for choosing the NKJV, though, including:

1. I thought it a good compromise between those who prefer the King James Version and those who use a more modern translation;
2. The NKJV version is a literal and literary translation, faithful to the original text;
3. More abitrarily, my son Nick has a NKJV, as do I (in my Spanish/English side-by-side Bible). Since we were memorizing together, this made the NKJV an easy choice.

If you are memorizing Psalm 119 using a version other than the NKJV, you will probably not find the page layouts very helpful (unless you want to use them as a guide to create your own page layouts with the version you’re memorizing). You will also find that while some of the comments I’ve made on the passages are true for any translations, others are NKJV-specific. I note, for example, that in the NKJV verse 88 contains the only appearance in the psalm of “testimony” (in all other instances it’s “testimonies”), and also the only occurrence of “so that” (as opposed to simply “that”). There are undoubtedly similar peculiarities in every other translations; perhaps in the future those of you who are using those translations can offer your observations here.

I advise memorizing at least one verse per day for the first eight days of the month, and then reviewing all of them several times during the day for the rest of the month. Try to repeat them so often that they’re in your head like a song, that as you speak the end of one verse the beginning of the next one immediately comes to mind. Review them as you walk, or work, or exercise.

Even if each section becomes like a song for you, though, how will you be able to connect all twenty-two songs and keep them straight? There are two things built into the page layouts that I hope will help. The first is that I’ve included in each section, in lighter print, the verses that come immediately before and after the section. If you make a practice of reciting these verses with the section, it should help you move smoothly from one section to the next. The pictures, as well, should help with this. The second picture on each page becomes the first picture for the following section, creating a link that again helps connect the sections. The picture relates to each section; this is possible because an idea or theme of one of the last verses is fairly consistently repeated in the following section.

You can view the notes below and download notes and page layouts on the right of this page.

He: Psalm 119:33-40


The He passage has at least two noteworthy characteristics. The first is that here we have a list of virtually every term that the psalmist uses for God’s word: Your statutes Your law Your commandments Your testimonies Your way Your … Continue reading

Waw: Psalm 119:41-48


You may notice a tighter connection between verses here than what you’ve come to expect from Psalm 119–there’s more of a natural flow from one verse to the next. That’s because in the original Hebrew, each of these verses begins … Continue reading

Heth: Psalm 119:57-64


As noted earlier, there is a tight connection between the Zayin and Heth sections. Verses 56 and 57 each address the themes of both inheritance and obedience. “God is mine!” exults the psalmist; and the man who has God as … Continue reading

Teth: Psalm 119:65-72


There are two familiar themes in the Teth section: affliction, and the goodness of God. Every verse in the section addresses one or the other, or both. Five verses in the section begin with the Hebrew word for “good.” (In … Continue reading

Yod: Psalm 119:73-80


The opening of this passage is identical to a line from the book of Job: “Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity; yet you would destroy me.” (Job 10:8) This is not necessarily a direct quote; … Continue reading

Lamed: Psalm 119:89-96


  “The stability of nature witnesses to the steadfastness of the Word which sustains it.” So begins Alexander Maclaren’s commentary on the Lamed section of Psalm 119. Stability; steadfastness. The word is settled; the earth is established. In times of … Continue reading