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Psalms 118:5: “I called upon the Lord in my distress; the Lord answered me and set me in a large place.”


So there you have it.  Whenever you are in distress just call upon the Lord and He will set you in a large place.  Just between you and me whenever I am in distress, a large place is the last place I want to be.  I usually seek out a nice small space where no one can find me, like under a rock.   The word for large place is rachav which means a large space or large place. 


How is it that David found comfort in being in a large place.  Commentators and Bible teachers have argued this one for centuries.   Some translations render this as a safe place.  I do not see the word safety anywhere in rachav except for the fact it fits this passage and you can, of course, really stretch words in the Hebrew.   Others have pointed out that the word has a Mem in front of it and there appears to be no reason for that Mem except to distinguish the word from its triliteral root to show that it is to be used as a metaphor.  Tradition says this metaphor represents freedom.  From this Bible commentators conclude that this is a metaphor of God giving David freedom from his enemies who were causing him stress.  


Still others will say that this large place represents David position as a king.  Before he became a king he was pursued by Saul and there was an occasion when his own followers were about to stone him.  Such things can cause great distress and becoming a king relieved him of that stress.  Nice idea but being a king of one of the most powerful nations on earth is not a place to find a stress free environment.  As a king he always had that “Sword of Damocles” hanging over his head.


The “Sword of Damocles” is a story from ancient Greek legend of a court courtier who envied  the great luxury and perks that the king enjoyed.  The king offered to change places with the courtier for one day.  The courtier eagerly accept.  The next he approached the throne ready to eat any meal he desired and to watch the most beautiful dancing women in the kingdom.  He anticipated exercising his power to order servants around.  However, as he approached the throne he noticed hanging over the throne was a sword held from the ceiling by a single horse’s hair.  The king explained that Damocles could enjoy all the privileges of being a king but he had to sit on the throne for the entire day.   Damocles spent the entire day in such misery fearing the sword would fall that he could not enjoy one meal, give one order to the servants or even watch the dancing women.  When his day ended he wasted no time jumping off the throne.  The king then explained that as a king, he lived every day with a sword hanging over his head.   Such distress is not worth all the luxuries in the world.


No, God advancing David to the status of a king was not delivering him from his stress.


Since no one seems to have a very good explanation on what this large place  was nor on why the word rachav is preceded by a Mem I would like to weigh in and offer my suggestion on the topic.   For one thing that word “rachav” is not only preceded by a Mem, there is a Beth and Pathah that precedes the Mem.  The Beth is the preposition in or on and the Pathah is a definite article (the).   So could render this as “In the large place.”  Thus, David is referring to a very definite place.


Now, I will give my reason for the Mem.  Sure Hebrew teachers will point to grammatical reasons for the Mem, however; I do not believe there was a grammatical reason for it.  I believe it was put there to tell us very specifically what this large place that brought so much comfort to David in time of stress really was.  The Mem in Jewish tradition  represents the revealed Word of God.  The word rachav does mean a large place.  It could also mean a place of fullness or completeness.   In other words in his time of distress, God took David to a place where he had a complete or full understanding of God’s Word. 


I hear preachers always talking about everyone having a Word from God and how important it is to know and affirm this Word that God has given to them.  I agree, to an extent, that we all do have a Word from God, just as David had a Word from God.  When he went into a time of distress God brought that Word to a fullness or completeness in understanding which brought him comfort. Rabbi Samson Hirsch sees rachav as bringing to a place of control.  If you think about it, most of our fears and anxieties are the result of a feeling of not having control of a situation.  So God for David this large place was a place where he felt everything was under control. Rabbi Hirsch also noted that there is a play on the word ra’av which means to embolden and empower. Once you feel that everything is under control, you become emboldened and empowered to move forward.


I believe the lesson of Psalms 118:5 is very important to us.  When we go through a time of distress, it is very important that, like David, we call upon the Lord.  When we do we look to the Word that he has given or will give us and allow that word to enter a large place in our life or to bring order and control back into our lives.