by Debbonnaire Kovacs

by Debbonnaire Kovacs
submitted February 13, 2014

You may know that Psalm 119, in the original Hebrew, is an acrostic poem—not only does each stanza begin with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, but each and every line within each stanza begins with that letter! I once tried to write an English paraphrase that would do the same. Since the Hebrew alphabet only contains 22 letters, I gave myself permission to delete Q and X without feeling like I was cheating. I’ve forgotten which other letters I took out, or whether I simply left off the last few. For that matter, I never finished…
I can’t find my original attempt, but I got interested in the whole thing again as I read this week’s Lectionary passages, which include the first (aleph) stanza of this psalm. “A” is easy, though, so here’s a new attempt (I did both lines of each English couplet, so I had to come up with 16 “A” words, as opposed to the 8 “aleph” words the author wrote originally):

All those whose way is blameless are happy;
All those who walk in the law of YHWH.
Ardent hearts that observe his decrees
And seek YHWH and his happiness,
Avoid all wrong-doing and
Always walk in his ways.
Any commandments you have laid down
Are for us to keep fully.
Answer my request that my ways will be so direct
As to enable me to keep your statutes!
Ashamed I will never be;
All your commandments I will keep before my eyes.
Accept my thanksgiving from a true heart
As I learn your righteous judgments.
Allow me to keep your statutes
And keep me by your side.

For an extremely interesting commentary on this psalm’s poetic attributes, visit this site: If you don’t read the whole thing, I recommend at least scrolling down to “Variety and Unity.”