One of the distinctive elements of Psalm 119 that fascinated me is that the writer structured the psalm as an acrostic using the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
There are other acrostic passages in the Bible such as Psalm 2, 10, 25, 34 and others.
The Ultimate Acrostic Psalm
Psalm 119 takes the acrostic element to an entirely new level. Here’s how.
The writer wrote the psalm in 22 sections. Each section contained 8 lines. The first word in each line of each section began with the specified letter from the alphabet.
If we wrote an acrostic psalm today using the English alphabet, it would contact 26 sections, one for each of the 26 letters in English alphabet.
- We would use the letter “A” to develop the first section. In it, each of the eight lines would begin with an “A” word.
- In the next section, we would use the letter “B” and the first word of the eight lines in this section would begin with “B” word.
- The process would continue using we ended with the 26th section with eight lines beginning with “Z” words.
Structure With A Purpose
So why would someone structure material in this way? A creative challenge? Possibly. More likely, though, the writer wrote in this way to help him and his readers remember.
When I read Psalm 119 with this insight, I know that this is not a psalm designed simply to pass along information. This is a psalm designed to be remembered and repeated for personal spiritual development.
The writer would have been shocked to discovered that William Wilburforce quoted this psalm while walking from Hyde Park to Parliament in 1820. Yet imagine how many other people have accepted the invitation to step into this psalm written to be remembered . . . including me and perhaps soon including you.