We’ve been studying in John chapter eight for some fourteen weeks. I was recently challenged to answer two questions in the nineteenth Psalm. I thought it would be worth the diversion to consider this beautiful Psalm from King David. Although a worthy exercise, I will resist the temptation to provide an expositional study, and instead focus on answering the questions as they were presented. Unfortunately, we will only be able to answer one of those questions this time.
Let’s consider the first four verses.
Psalm 19:1-4 says,
“1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.” (NKJV)
The first question I was asked was, “In verse four, could the word “line” be talking about string theory?” The person who asked the question is convinced that David is indeed talking about string theory.
If we misinterpret God’s word, we miss the truth He’s trying to communicate. We will look at Bible study principles which will help us discover what the author intends to communicate to us.
So what’s the single greatest Bible study principle? Let’s call it the first principle of Bible interpretation. If you remember no other principle PLEASE remember “Context, Context, Context”. This principle will serve you well.
So what is context? Words are surrounded by other words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, etc. Most words have a range of possible definitions or meanings. Words do not always mean everything they could mean. The context in which a particular word is used, tells us which meaning in the range is the one intended by the author.
We will look at the range of meaning for the word line in a moment. Let’s discuss another important principle when doing Bible study. This is probably not the second most important principle, but it is applicable here. The principle is “identify figures of speech in the passage”.
This is incredibly important in Psalm 19, because it uses highly figurative language throughout.
We can illustrate this by examining the very first phrase in Psalm 19. It says, “The heavens declare the glory of God;”
If I were to say to you “David declares the glory of God.”, you would immediately understand me to say that David is using language in either written, or verbal form to proclaim God’s glory.
The heavens (whatever they are), do not and can not employ language, either written or verbal.
So when we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God;”, it is either untrue, or a figure of speech. Since nothing in the Bible is untrue, we know that this is a figure of speech.
The author continues to employ the literary device of figures of speech throughout the remainder of this Psalm.
The word line in the Hebrew is קַו (qaw), and according to Logo Bible software has the range of meaning: string; measuring line: measure, sound, voice. Remember how we determine which meaning in the range is appropriate? Context, context, context. In verses 1-3 we have the words declare, uttering, speech, language, voice, heard. Given the context, we can understand the word line to mean sound or voice. As an interesting side note, some translations choose to translate the word Qaw as sound.
The first four verses of Psalm 19 very clearly communicate the message that all of creation, day after day, and night after night, all over the earth, to every person of every language, demonstrate God’s glory in His creation.
So to answer the question “could the word line be referring to string theory?”, there is no demonstrable connection to string theory anywhere in this Psalm. As a matter of fact, to force a connection would distract from the meaning and focus of this beautiful Hebrew poem.
The word of God is rich with meaning. Careful observation, and sound methods of study will help us to discover the truth God has so beautifully authored in His word. There is no reason to read into the Bible what is not there.