Why did God hem David in (Psalm 139:5)?

Psalm 139:5 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.

Psalms 139:1 - 24

NLT - 1 O  Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. 2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

Clarify Share Report Asked October 19 2021 My picture Jack Gutknecht

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
The idea of being "hemmed in" could have a negative or restrictive connotation, as the question appears to be interpreting it. However, in my opinion, David is referring in the cited passage not to God limiting or confining him, but, rather, to God protecting him to a very high degree, as well as knowing David's every action and even thought, which David took comfort from, rather than viewing it as a restraint or burden.

October 19 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
Yes, being hemmed or fenced in could have a negative context. Just remember Roy Rogers' "Don't Fence Me In":

Oh give me land, lots of land, and the starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in

But here it has a positive context. He [God] hems us in behind and before and puts His hand on us to steady us and direct us. See this verse in the CEV:

"and with your powerful arm you protect me from every side."

Psalm 139:5 says in the King James Version, 

"Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me."

The word translated “beset” (KJV) or “enclosed” (nasb) or "hemmed" (CJB, TLV) means “to guard a valuable object,” so God’s knowledge and guidance are for our protection. What should be our response to this? We should be overwhelmed by the height and depth of God’s knowledge and be thankful that He knows us perfectly. “I am not equal to it!” David exclaimed. 


When we love the Lord, we want to be surrounded by Him at all times. We want Him to change our thinking to His. So we are not afraid to ask Him to search us and know us and change us. We are not bothered by His hand “confining” us. On the contrary, having the Lord cup his hand over us is a good thing – comforting and reassuring.

Yes, hem me in, Lord. I am comforted by this. --Alyson.

October 19 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining