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Source: (consider it) Thread: Kerygmania: The Psalm Thread
Nigel M
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Yes, it’s probably the canonical process that reflects the (then) current priorities. Of course I should have included in my last post the role of God in guiding that process of putting together a collection of books (sorry to have left you out of that one, God!); which – if taken as a relevant issue – could indicate an on-going importance for us today. I’ve not really thought this issue through before, but is the actual order of the books and texts relevant? Would it have made a difference, for example, if the last Psalm had been placed at the front, and our Psalm 1 at the back?

I know this opens up a host of other sub-topics – like how do we deal with the fact that the Jewish Bible is ordered differently to the Christian Old Testament, or that the Greek translations (LXX) number the Psalms differently. Nevertheless, in the broad thrust of the Christian Bible, there is historical / linear development from beginning to end. Is there a case, then, for saying that reflection on Torah (or perhaps better, living the lifestyle that God wants us to live) is the first consideration for a Christian (Psalm 1). This leads us through life experiences to the ‘end’, the ‘Hallelujahs’ of praise to God (Psalm 150)?

I guess on this scheme the Psalms assume that they address existing people of God – there is no up-front consideration of the need for ‘becoming’ a person of God; no conversion experience.

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TubaMirum
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
Still on Ps. 1: has anyone any idea why this particular Psalm was chosen to head up the entire Psalter? I'm assuming it wasn't accidental; the fact that the Israelites divvied up the Psalms into 5 separate sections or books suggests that there was a plan. The whole Psalter ends with a series of doxologies / Hallelujahs, which is interesting because quite a few English language hymnals put those sort of praise songs up front. Is Ps. 1 meant to be a scene-setter for what follows? A major theme? A summary of the rest?

Nigel, my EFM materials say that nobody has yet been able to come up with a good theory or interpretation of why the Psalms are divided the way they are. But it adds that it's likely that the 5 divisions were made in imitation of, and to pay homage to, the Torah!

BTW, I believe I remember that each section ends in a doxology, as well as there being the Big Super-Duper Doxology in 148-150.

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CuppaT
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Regarding why Psalm One is the first, I still say it is because Jesus is the Man who is set forth as the example and the one to whom we look in how to order our lives. And yes, it was written by King David before the incarnation. But truth also is that Scripture is the inspired word of God and that David also looked for the anointed one (131).

I also have heard the five divisions representing the Torah. Don't each of the divisions end with some sort of a doxology, or some sort of a specific ending? One person I heard said they may very well be small collections of hymnals that were used in various regions or times.

I think the overall order of the books is of utmost importance. You couldn't very well have Genesis at the end, or Revelation at the begining of the NT. But no one would likely get too bent out of shape if, for instance, Jude had gotten placed before 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John. I am sorry that the deuterocanonical books got dropped along the way. There are some real gems in there, and I know them only partially as well as the rest because I did not grow up with them.

I don't think the LXX Psalm numbering vs. the Masoretic (sp?) text makes any difference whatsoever. It's just what you get used to. I guess someone thought the alphabet Psalm 9 was too long so they split it into 9 & 10. Although, there are themes that might be passed over if one does not see the original starts to Psalms. Ps. 113 in the M text is divided at v. 10 in the LXX text, and the two psalms parallel each other. 114 (LXX) starts out I loved because the Lord hath heard..., and 115 (LXX) begins I believed.... Both end with a "therefore" kind of phrase, and then 115 ends with a praise. They are meant as a team, but not as one psalm, unless you can clearly see the dividing line.

What is this thing about the Jewish Bible being ordered differently from the Christian Bible, though? I have not heard of that.

CuppaT

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Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it any longer, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.
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the Ænglican
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Of course order matters!

Yes, there are doxologies that mark out the five books of the Psalter and Tuba is correct that the whole of Psalter seems to reflect that arrangement as well.

The numbering problem sometime happened because of the language issue. Some of the psalms that the LXX cuts in two are clearly two parts of the same in Hebrew--because they're acrostics; each new line starts with a successive letter of the alphabet...

The Jewish version of the Scriptures groups the books into three sections: the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nebi'im), and the Writings (Kethuvim). The Law is the usual five books. The prophets include the Samuel-Kings complex (as these are histories of the deeds of the prophets). The writings holds the wisdom lit.; non-prophetic histories like Ruth, Esther; Song of Songs, etc. If I recall correctly, Chronicles appears in the Writings, not the prophets...

In reading Ps 1 typologically, it is of essence too to mark the place of the tree imagery as these figure so heavily in our understandings of both fall and redemption.

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The subject of religious ceremonial is one which has a special faculty for stirring strong feeling. --W. H. Frere

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Nigel M
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Pulling back for a moment from the Psalms, the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) end with the book we call 2 Chronicles, instead of the Malachi we are used to in the Christian Old Testament, leaving aside the question of where some traditions might put the deutero-canonical books. From a Christian perspective, this letter ordering works quite well, given that the OT then finishes up with a powerful forward look:
quote:
"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6 NIV)
We then flip the page and, lo and behold, we are introduced to Jesus. The Tanakh, on the other hand, closes with:
quote:
"This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you—may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up' " (2 Chron. 36:23 NIV)
Another promise: this time for end of exile. Different endings – different perspective on behalf of those in the two traditions who formed their respective canons? Different outlook on religious life for those who come later?

Back to the Psalms - I think the doxologies at the close of the first 4 books in the Psalter were not originally part of the psalms located there. the tone is very different and they look to have been added later when the Psalter was collated. The divisions are (in the Hebrew numbering):-
Book one - Pss 1-41
Book two - Pss 42-72
Book three - Pss 73-89
Book four - Pss 90-106
Book five - Pss 107-150

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Nigel M
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Psalm 2 is in quite a different tone to that of Ps. 1, despite ending up with another "How Blessed..." line. This Psalm has caught the imagination of Christians more than any other, I think.
quote:
Why‍ do the nations rebel?
Why‍ are the countries‍‍ devising‍ plots that will fail?‍
The kings of the earth‍ form a united front;‍
the rulers collaborate‍ against the LORD and his anointed king.
They say,‍ ‍“Let’s tear off the shackles they’ve put on us!
Let’s free ourselves from‍‍ their ropes!”
The one enthroned‍‍ in heaven laughs in disgust;‍ ‍
the Lord taunts‍‍ them.
Then he angrily speaks to them
and terrifies them in his rage,‍ saying,‍ ‍
“I myself‍ have installed‍ my king
on Zion, my holy hill.”
The king says, ‍ “I will announce the LORD’S decree. He said to me:‍ ‍
‘You are my son! ‍ This very day I have become your father!
Ask me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,
the ends of the earth as your personal property.
You will break them with an iron sceptre;‍ ‍
you will smash them like a potter’s jar!’” ‍
So now, you kings, do what is wise;‍‍
you rulers of the earth, submit to correction! ‍
Serve‍ the LORD in fear!
Repent in terror!‍ ‍
Give sincere homage!‍ ‍
Otherwise he‍‍ will be angry,‍ and you will die because of your behaviour,‍ ‍
when his anger quickly ignites.‍‍
How blessed are all who take shelter in him! [NET Bible - I removed the verse divisions to keep the flow]

What do you make of this one?
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TubaMirum
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Well, I apologize, but I just must post the Coverdale/Messiah version:

quote:
1. WHY do the heathen so furiously rage together : and why do the people imagine a vain thing?
2. The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together : against the Lord, and against his Anointed.
3. Let us break their bonds asunder : and cast away their cords from us.
4. He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn : the Lord shall have them in derision.
5. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath : and vex them in his sore displeasure.
6. Yet I have set my King : upon my holy hill of Sion.
7. I will preach the law, whereof the Lord hath said unto me : Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
8. Desire of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance: and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9. Thou shalt bruise them with a rod of iron : and break them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
10. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings : be learned, ye that are judges of the earth.
11. Serve the Lord in fear : and rejoice unto him with reverence.
12. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and so ye perish from the right way : if his wrath be kindled, (yea, but a little,) blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Sorry, but I love Handel, and like to see these words. [Smile]

Anyway, sometimes it's good to have a couple of different translations to work from.

I'd say this one is about the "Golden Age of David the King," who ushered in an era of peace and prosperity, maybe? David is the favored Son and Anointed here? And it's a song that announces that God is with David, and that the kings should listen to David's admonitions about submitting to God.

What's interesting about Psalms is that the narrative point-of-view often changes in midstream. For instance, it looks like this happens between verse 5 and 6 here; first, the POV is David's - then all of a sudden it's God's - then back to David in verse 7, as far as I can tell. I wonder if this change is something that was acted out in liturgical worship, or sung antiphonally or something?

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TubaMirum
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BTW, I just read that Psalm 2 may have been used liturgically at the coronations of kings. Here's an article about that.

There is also, apparently, a strand of thought that there is indeed a Messianic theme here, and that numerous top-level Jewish scholars through the ages (including Maimonides) have thought so. Here's something about that at Jews for Jesus. There's a lot of wild stuff online about this Psalm and the Messianic message, actually. Here's another Jewish messianic website, for instance. This must be sort of a risque topic in Judaism, because it's only the Messainic sites that have these sorts of discussions.

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Travelling_Wheelbarrow
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quote:
Originally posted by pooka:
quote:
Originally posted by TubaMirum:

...This discussion came up because I wondered how we could justify the amount of work necessary to "decode" the Bible; it's obvious that we need the help of scholars to understand much of what's written in the Bible since we don't understand the original contexts at all in many cases. Not so with Psalms; they speak to us directly about the spiritual life. Not much is known, in fact, about their origins, in many cases - but this isn't important, it seems.

Throughout history, there have always been people who devote themselves to the study and interpretation of Scripture and who pass their findings down to the wider faith communities. Perhaps we forget just how much we owe them in terms of a clearer understanding of the scriptures, even the Psalms. I remember when I first became a Christian, most of the Bible was jarring and strange to me and mostly irrelevant. As far as I was concerned, the only bit I had to follow from the OT was the ten commandments. NT was a bit better because 'I am a Christian now, so I guess I had better do my four Christian rules' (read bible every day; go to church; pray daily; witness). The Psalms were all right because they're nice, but they were just as foreign to me as anything else. If I had stayed at a purely devotional level of my understanding, I would be tragedy truly personified because I would never have grown.

Psalms can be taken at many levels but in a sense it is no different from other parts of the scriptures, in that there are parts that we understand, there are parts that we think we understand, and there are parts that make no sense at all. It is more pleasing because it has rhythms and rhymes and it appeals to our sense of beauty, but that doesn't immune us from misunderstanding or having no understanding. If we only take those bits that we like and understand (or think we understand) there will be lots of gaps in our understanding of the greater scheme of things in both width and depth. The result of this could be that we stay at the drinking milk level all our lives.

Just to give an example of what I mean and a possible misunderstanding: 'As the deer pants for water...so my soul thirsts for you' (Ps 42:1). It's possible for me to imagine Bambi with his big cute dewy eyes skipping lightly around looking for a stream to have a drink. Because I have never seen deer in their natural habitat, I get my reference from a Disney film. I may not be wrong, in that ‘Bambi’ is thirsty and that's what the verse said, but I would never have appreciated the depths of desperation and ugliness that comes from drought and famine and the struggle for life that this panting is about, which the later verses imply re: despair (which were the verses that I couldn’t relate to because I am not David and they are not nice. Something about shattering bones. Yuk!) So I would have missed out on the depths of the longing for God that this verse is talking about if I were not taught and learned or had tried to dig deeper into what this verse is about.

I think a degree of studying and searching is needed even in devotions, it may be not at the scholarly level, because clearly not everyone has the ability or the facility to do so. But that’s why we have ministers/ teachers to help us learn (if they are doing their job properly. Sadly, many are not). Indeed, I don’t see why the act of studying and learning itself can not be seen as an devotional act.


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CuppaT
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In some of our services around the highest of feasts we pray the Royal Hours, which include Psalms 19 and 20 (20 & 21), as these two also have to do with kings. I’m not sure how or when it got started (maybe someone else knows), but I think it was because the Russian or whatever king and his family would attend the local cathedral with all the regular people for that service. Possibly they did other times, too, but at these times they were certainly expected to show up.

Psalm 2 has the phrase, This is my beloved Son; this day have I begotten thee, which is partially quoted at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration. Now, I can’t help but think David meant himself here, and was being thankful that God had set him up as king and was guiding him. But we see Christ. Be wise therefore. Don’t be foolish and get laughed at by God by setting yourself at odds with him, because his wrath is truly fearsome. Blessed rather are all they that put their trust in him.

CuppaT

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Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it any longer, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.
~Elder Sophrony

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Nigel M
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On that verse 7 - the Father/son theme was certainly popular in pre-Christian times as a way of describing the relationship between God and a king:
quote:
I will be his father, and he shall be my son... [2 Sam 7:14, NIV]

He will call out to me, 'You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Saviour.' I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth. [Ps. 89:26-27, NIV]

The quote in verse 7 (“My son are you! I, this day, have birthed you!”) rolls readily off the tongue in Hebrew with its iambic rhythms: beni attah, ani hayyom yelidtika, and it certainly resonated with the first Christians where it was seen as confirmation that God fulfils his promises – that is the essence of the good news / gospel:
quote:
We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' [Acts 13:32-33, NIV]

I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. [2 Cor. 6:18, NIV]

For to which of the angels did God ever say, You are my Son; today I have become your Father? Or again, I will be his Father, and he will be my Son? ...
So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, You are my Son; today I have become your Father. [Heb. 1:5; 5:5, NIV]

Many English translations use the word 'Father' in this phrase in verse 7, but there's little warrant for doing so. The word used there is more often associated with mothers giving birth. It's a bit of a tangent, but this raises a question; at what stage did the early Christians envisage this declaration to be effective with regard to Jesus? The implication from Psalm 2 is that there was a 'birth-day' for a King, possibly his coronation day, when the declaration in verses 7-9 was pronounced. We've grown accustomed to hearing 'pre-existence' and 'incarnation' when we read the likes of Acts 13:33 (eternally begotten?), but Paul seems to have in mind the resurrection as a point when Jesus became the vindicated son-king to the parent-God. This isn't to say that we cannot derive 'eternally begotten' from the bible, it's just that I'm not sure we take it as read from this passage.
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CuppaT
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quote:
We've grown accustomed to hearing 'pre-existence' and 'incarnation' when we read the likes of Acts 13:33 (eternally begotten?), but Paul seems to have in mind the resurrection as a point when Jesus became the vindicated son-king to the parent-God. This isn't to say that we cannot derive 'eternally begotten' from the bible, it's just that I'm not sure we take it as read from this passage.
Different circles, I guess. I have never heard of this, either in my college theology courses, or my teachings in church lately. I think even when I was very little I was taught that Jesus was God's Son from before all time, and that a thousand days is like yesterday when it is past, like a watch in the night.

CuppaT

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Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it any longer, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.
~Elder Sophrony

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J.S. Bach
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For this fall, our study group is considering embarking on a study of the psalms. We would not study all 150 but a selection. A few questions have arisen:

1) What is a good method for selecting which psalms to study? Would it work well to go through the five books (probably as we go) and select psalms from each book?

2) What are the most helpful translations to compare and study bibles to consult? Between our group members, we own the versions below, and it would be great to get your recommendations (we have too many to look at every week). Are we missing any superb translations?

Bibles
Authorized Version/King James Version
English Standard Version
Good News Bible/Today’s English Version
New American Standard Bible
New International Version (NIV)
New Jerusalem Bible
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Revised Standard Version

Study Bibles
NIV Study Bible
New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NRSV)

Liturgical Versions
Common Worship: Daily Prayer
U.S. Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Thanks very much for any advice you can give us!

Blessings,
J.S. Bach

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TubaMirum
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If you'd like, I'll get out my EFM materials and write up what Psalms are studied, and what reference materials they suggest. It will have to be another day, I'm afraid, though; I've got some work I've got to get done tonight....
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J.S. Bach
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That would be wonderful. Please, no rush on this, we won't start up until September.
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TubaMirum
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JSB, I'll post it in another couple of days. Just in the middle of gathering the stuff....
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mousethief

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JSB: if you can gather the information, my suggestion would be to pick psalms that are central to worship in various traditions. For instance, in Orthodoxy, every Matins service begins with a reading of "the six psalms" which are always the same six psalms. I'm sure other traditions (at least liturgical ones) must have psalms they use more frequently than others.

And of course even in non-liturgical traditions, certain psalms -- such as the 23rd -- are well-beloved favourites.

Also if you can find out, you may want to see if there are any psalms that are repeated more often than others in Jewish worship, whether in the synagogue or in the home.

It would seem that the well-worn psalms (to coin a phrase) were selected because they said something that sparked people's interest or spoke to their hearts, in a way that the other psalms did less.

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Nigel M
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The idea of comparing various English translations is a good one, too; it helps to get a feel for the likely meaning. A useful question to ask for whatever Psalm you choose is, "Why is that in the Bible?" It can spark off a study into the background, what it might have meant for the Jewish audience / readers at the time, as well as digging deeper into what significance God would want us to draw from it for today.

And if MouseThief could provide a pithy summary of Psalm 119 (118 LXX), I'd be grateful.

Nigel

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TubaMirum
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I think I've posted this before, but I've really grown to like Young's Literal Translation, which is explained this way at the site:

quote:
The Bible text designated YLT is from the 1898 Young's Literal Translation by Robert Young who also compiled Young's Analytical Concordance. This is an extremely literal translation that attempts to preserve the tense and word usage as found in the original Greek and Hebrew writings. The text was scanned from a reprint of the 1898 edition as published by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids Michigan. The book is still in print and may be ordered from Baker Book House. Obvious errors in spelling or inconsistent spellings of the same word were corrected in the computer edition of the text.

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TubaMirum
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OK, J.S. Bach (and Happy Feast Day, BTW!), here is post #1 of EFM stuff.

The Bibliography (and recommended reading) for the Psalms chapter is this group of four books, taken from the materials verbatim:

quote:
  • Bernhard W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 4th ed. (Prentice Hall, Inc. 1986), pp 540-567.
  • Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship, 2 vols. (Abington, 1962)
  • J.W. Rogerson and J.W. McKay, Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible, 3 vols., (Cambridge University Press, 1977). For most readers this is the best commentary on the Psalms. It exists in paperback at a reasonable price.
  • Arthur Weiser, The Psalms, The Old Testament Library Series. (Westminster Press, 1962).




At least part of the 2nd book on the list, Mowinckel's The Psalms in Israel’s Worship, can be found at Google Books. That one seems to be quoted frequently throughout the chapter, too.

More later.

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CuppaT
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If you would like something a little lighter, though very though provoking, J.S. Bach, you could read Christ in the Psalms by Patrick Henry Reardon and use its meditations as a springboard for discussions.

You hit my favorite Psalm, Nigel -- 118 (LXX).

--------------------
Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it any longer, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.
~Elder Sophrony

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by CuppaT:
If you would like something a little lighter, though very though provoking, J.S. Bach, you could read Christ in the Psalms by Patrick Henry Reardon and use its meditations as a springboard for discussions.

You hit my favorite Psalm, Nigel -- 118 (LXX).

There's a similarity in theme between 1 and 118/119, isn't there?
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CuppaT
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
There's a similarity in theme between 1 and 118/119, isn't there?

How so? I don't see it yet, but we can all think on it while you are replying.

CuppaT

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Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it any longer, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.
~Elder Sophrony

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J.S. Bach
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Many thanks, everyone, for the psalm study suggestions. I've bookmarked this page and will share your suggestions with the group once we start up again.

Blessings,
JSB

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by CuppaT:
quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
There's a similarity in theme between 1 and 118/119, isn't there?

How so? I don't see it yet, but we can all think on it while you are replying.
What struck me was that Psalm 1 could be said to be a summary of Psalm 119 (118): Blessed is the one who follows God’s laws.

Both Psalms use the same terminology and when it was fashionable to categorise biblical literature into genres, these two had the label “Wisdom” plopped onto them. Obviously 119 has more room to expand on the ‘Blessed-is-the-one-who-follows-God’s-laws’ theme because the author decided at the outset that he would apply the acrostic technique – start each section with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (so, 24 sections) and allow 8 lines in each section, each of which would also begin with the section’s letter. 176 carefully crafted lines: quite a tour de force. I don’t know of any English translation that attempts to carry this scheme over; I rather think it would be taxing the translator’s skills to come up with eight lines that begin with the letter ‘Q’ or ‘Z’, never mind trying to make sense of it, too. (Now there's a challenge for Shipmates with more time on their hands!).

In addition to the repetition of the word ‘Blessed’, 119 repeats the idea of walking the way – following the law. I felt a bit for the author when I saw how many synonyms he tried to find for the word ‘law.’ He seems to have flung a dragnet out to catch as many as possible so as to avoid boring his audience too much (English translations vary):
torah (תורה = ‘law’);
mishpatim (משׁפטים = ‘rulings/regulations’);
dabar (דבר = ‘word’);
hoqim (חקים = ‘decrees/ordinances/statutes’);
mitzvah (םצוה = ‘commands’);
eduth (עדות = ‘statutes/testimony’);
amrah (אמרה = ‘sayings’); and
piqudim (פּקדים = ‘precepts’)

Eight words to sum up the main idea. It may be that the number eight decided his choice of the number of lines in each section.

Where 119 expands over 1, it allows for prayerful reflection and entreaty by those who recite it. It follows a general pattern of statement plus personal response; e.g., “Blessed are those whose ways are blameless....Oh, that my ways were steadfast...”(verses 1 & 5). Useful. I don't know how this Psalm is used in liturgy (if it is), but I can see that it could be used both corporately and privately.

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TubaMirum
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Psalm 119, interestingly, is used during the "Little Hours" of the Divine Office: Terce, Prime, Sext, None.

I guess it's not so unusual, though. Lauds/Matins and Vespers are the two major Hours, and (almost always) have five full Psalms assigned to them; 119 you obviously have to break into pieces, so it's normal that it got put with the other Hours. And actually, that makes sense in another way, too: reminders to "keep the statutes" would be most helpful during mid-day, when work and interaction with others is happening. Morning Prayer is "opening the day with praise, and Evening Prayer is "winding up with reflection."

Have we posted the Benedictine Psalm schedule on this thread yet? I'll go find it and post a link, because it's interesting to see how the liturgy goes in terms of Psalms, too....

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CuppaT
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Yes, that's what I was thinking over when I was folding laundry, how that Psalm One has the line "but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night." That is indeed like Psalm 118/119 with its constant refrain of loving the law, the word, the commands, and seeking to understand and keep his precepts.

In the Orthodox tradition, this psalm is chanted in part at funeral services. It is also chanted during the Lamentations of Holy Friday when we lament with the women and the disciples over Jesus' death, each verse interspersed with a lament. It also has its place in a regular daily or weekly or bi-weekly cycle of the psalms.

This is one of those spots where I break with good St. Benedict's suggestions. I prefer to keep the whole psalm together intact. To me it has a beauty and a flow that escalates toward the end, crashing into the final verse with humility. I loved discovering another seven(David is so full of lists of seven) -- seven times he exclaims Blessed art thou, O Lord, teach me thy statutes. There are plenty of shorter psalms that I do not know as well, but this one I have so nearly memorized that it is one of my car psalms. I need merely glance at it if I loose my place while I am praying it as I drive. There was a time in my life a few years ago when everything around me fell apart. It literally hurt to breathe. Having the habit prayer already in place, and praying the psalms in particular forced a regularity that I could not have mustered otherwise. Psalm 118 with its constant begging to understand and its emphasis on doing what is right was especially my prayer of that time. Eventually, I choose v. 111 as my favorite verse. I did not get to choose my upbringing, which was not all one would desire if one could choose such things, but I have made a decision long ago and taken as a new heritage all of God's testimonies, and they are the rejoicing of my heart.

CuppaT

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Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it any longer, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.
~Elder Sophrony

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by CuppaT:
In the Orthodox tradition, this psalm is chanted in part at funeral services. It is also chanted during the Lamentations of Holy Friday when we lament with the women and the disciples over Jesus' death, each verse interspersed with a lament.

That's a connection that would never have occurred to me to make: Psalm 118/119 and lament/funerals. Any idea why it is used that way? Is there a particular message that is being proclaimed in association with death and that ties in with this Psalm, do you know?
quote:
Originally posted by CuppaT:
Having the habit prayer already in place, and praying the psalms in particular forced a regularity that I could not have mustered otherwise.

It's true, isn't it? Having Scripture embedded, as it were, definitely scores over merely having access to it in a book.

quote:
Originally posted by TubaMirum:
Have we posted the Benedictine Psalm schedule on this thread yet?

I don't think we have, TM. If you can access a copy on-line it would be very interesting to see it. It would be especially interesting to see whether the association made by the Orthodox Church (funerals/laments) has also been made in the West.
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TubaMirum
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JSBach, here is the 2nd installment of my EFM Psalms recap. Below are listed the particular Psalms covered by the materials; they were grouped according to the themes mentioned:

quote:

  • Psalm 1 we already covered above.
  • Psalms 8, 104, and 19: These are “hymns of praise”
  • Psalms 14 and 53: These two are almost identical, except in the use of “Elohim” vs. YHWH, respectively, in the Hebrew (which normally indicates that they come from different sources). These are laments over the wickedness of humankind and they look forward to the day that God will bring deliverance.
  • Psalms 15, 24, 42, 43, and 122: Psalm 122 is one of the “Songs of Ascents” (more about that later); the others are thought to be for use in preparation for Temple worship.
  • Psalm 22: Was included in particular to note its use among Christians during Holy Week, and for the fact that it contains Jesus’ words from the Cross.
  • Psalm 34: This is a hymn of Thanksgiving, and an acrostic (other acrostics are Psalms 9-10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145).
  • Psalm 119: This is the Longest Psalm; it is a long meditation on the Law and the joy that comes from keeping the statutes of the Law.
  • Psalm 58: This is a cursing Psalm, calling for God’s judgement on the Psalmist’s enemies, who are declared to be breakers of the Law.
  • Psalms 78, 105, 106: These are recitals of God’s saving deeds in Israel’s history. Psalms 105 and 106 are different in tone, though; one praises Israel, one accuses Israel.
  • Psalm 137: The really bad Psalm, which contains a “blind hate and rage that the Psalmist is no longer able to master.” Much-discussed in several threads here.
  • Psalms 146-150: “Hallelujah” Psalms. “Hallelujah” means “Praise YHWH.” These are songs of praise for and of all creation.

Some Psalms seem to have a liturgical use:

  • Psalm 92 is labeled “A Song for the Sabbath.”
  • Psalm 100 is labeled “A Psalm for the Thank Offering.”
  • Psalm 38 (and others) are “designated for use at ‘memorial offerings’.”
  • A few Psalms have tune names associated with them, and some have instructions to the "Choirmaster."


It is theorized that Israel ritually renewed its covenant with YHWH fairly often, perhaps even annually.

  • “Psalm 81 suggests that the covenant is remembered on a regularly appointed feast day.”
  • “Psalm 105...may also be a covenant renewal Psalm.”

“Royal theology”: These are Psalms that glorify Zion and which speak in kingly terms of God and God’s anointed (or Son).

  • Psalms 93 and 95-100 are called “coronation Psalms”
  • Psalms 46, 48, 76, 84, 87, 112 are “Songs of Zion.”
  • Psalms 2, 20, 21, 45, 72, 110 glorify the Davidic king as God’s anointed.

Psalm 110 contains imagery used by early Christians to speak of Jesus.


I have one more post on this, on the very interesting topic of "Songs of Ascents."
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TubaMirum
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And here's the stuff on the "Songs of Ascents":

quote:
The “Songs of Ascents” are Psalms 120-134. There are many theories about this designation. Possibly these were “sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple.”

Isn't that an amazing and wonderful picture?

The materials further say that a theory developed among Jewish scholars during the early years of the Christian church was that “the Levites sang one of the 15 Songs of Ascents on each of the fifteen steps leading up to the place in the Temple where the worshipers stood.”

Which makes an even more amazing picture!

Another theory is that the word “ascents” refers “to a literary practice: the last word of one verse would be used as the first word of the following verse, thereby forming a ‘staircase’ of words running through the Psalm.” (See Psalm 121 for an example of this.)

Most scholars believe these Psalms had something to do with the approach of worshipers to the Temple, at any rate.

So that's what I have, JSBach. I love this last stuff best, but it's all quite interesting. I'd like to get one of the books they recommend, too, to look at all this in more detail.

(Nigel, FYI: I haven't found the Benedictine Psalm table I was thinking of, but I'm still looking.)

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CuppaT
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Oh, well, here's my old sheet if you want it. I wrote it by looking at St. Benedict's Rule chapter 8, IIRC. The format did not come out too well, so I had to clean it up a bit. I really had not looked at it in years. And I do things slightly differently according to what we pray in church regularly.

Basically, every morning includes Psalms 3, 50, and 94 (all numbers being LXX). Every evening includes Psalms 4 and 90, and then the following.

PSALMS

Sunday
Morning 117, 62, 20-31
Noon 118
Night 109-112

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Monday
Morning 5, 35, 32-44
Noon 1, 2, 6
Night 113-116
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tuesday
Morning 43, 56, 45-58
Noon 7, 8, 9
Night 119-133
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Wednesday
Morning 63, 64, 59-72
Noon 10, 11, 12
Night 134-136
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thursday
Morning 87, Deut. 15, 73-84
Noon 13, 14, 15
Night 137-139

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Friday
Morning 75, 91, 85-99
Noon 16, 17
Night 140-144
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Saturday
Morning 142, Deut. 32, 100-107
Noon 18, 19
Night 145-147, 148-150

--------------------
Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it any longer, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.
~Elder Sophrony

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CuppaT
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I remembered in the night that I forgot the psalms of assent of which TubaMirum wrote so beautifully above. I guess they are best put on Sunday noon, though I pray them any time I am on my way to church alone in the car. Remember, St. Benedict ends his chapter by saying that this is a rule to guide; it can be revised slightly as needed.

Revised:

Sunday
Morning 117, 62, 20-31
Noon 118, 119-133
Night 109-112

--------------------
Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it any longer, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.
~Elder Sophrony

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J.S. Bach
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quote:
Originally posted by TubaMirum:
So that's what I have, JSBach. I love this last stuff best, but it's all quite interesting. I'd like to get one of the books they recommend, too, to look at all this in more detail.

TubaMirum, special thanks to you for sharing some outstanding material! A previous group I was in studied the Psalms of Ascent, and I could see spending a few weeks on them again. The other EFM groupings seem to hit the major categories while providing a manageable selection to study.

The EFM course must be quite rewarding. Our church used to offer seminary courses (for graduate credit or audit), but they went by the wayside a few years ago. Thank you again!

Blessings,
JSB

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TubaMirum
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FYI, I just saw this posted in Ecclesiantics: "Psalter Schemas (the ways the Psalms are arranged in various breviary texts)."

There are literally hundreds of 'em! But the first on the list is a link to a table containing Benedict's ordering: The Monastic Psalter. It's Vulgate Numbering, which is always confusing to me, and it includes Matins, the night service, which isn't done very often anymore. But there it is, and there are others to choose from, too.

And here's a page comparing four different schemes at once, which is also interesting.

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TubaMirum
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(Yours is a lot simpler, though, CuppaT. Thanks for posting it.

And I hope the info will be helpful, JSB - and that your study group will be great. I'm looking forward to Year 2 of EFM: New Testament. And thank God about a tenth of the reading! [Biased] )

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J.S. Bach
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Our group study of psalms is going well. Thanks again for all your suggestions.

This week, I learned of Robert Alter's new The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary.

It has only been out less than 2 weeks, so there haven't been that many reviews yet. A Boston Globe article states, "Alter aims to reproduce the rhythmic energy of the Hebrew texts in an English that adheres as closely as possible to the meaning and style of the original."

It sounds like it is worth investigating. A trip to the bookstore is in order.

Blessings,
JSB

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TubaMirum
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quote:
Originally posted by J.S. Bach:
Our group study of psalms is going well. Thanks again for all your suggestions.

This week, I learned of Robert Alter's new The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary.

It has only been out less than 2 weeks, so there haven't been that many reviews yet. A Boston Globe article states, "Alter aims to reproduce the rhythmic energy of the Hebrew texts in an English that adheres as closely as possible to the meaning and style of the original."

It sounds like it is worth investigating. A trip to the bookstore is in order.

Blessings,
JSB

Thanks for posting, JS Bach. I'll be interested to hear more about your study group as it goes along, and what you guys are discovering. Thanks also for the link; Alter translated, and wrote a commentary on, the Pentateuch awhile back, an effort well-regarded by many.

I haven't read that book, but a friend of mine likes it very much, so now I'll have to get both!

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J.S. Bach
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A detailed review of Alter's "The Book of Psalms" is now on The New Yorker website. I've only skimmed it, so I don't know the reviewer's conclusion yet.

After perusing the book, I couldn't resist buying it. The psalms I sampled speak with a fresh power. Alter's translations seem compact but strongly poetic at the same time. It will be a nice addition to our study group's set of translations. Over time, it will be interesting to see how much we like/don't like his choices (for example, he doesn't use "soul" or "sin").

Blessings,
JSB

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Nigel M
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Thanks to J. S. Bach for drawing our attention to Alter's book on the Psalms. I don't have it either, but given Alter's background of work on Hebrew poetry it certainly sounds a worthwhile investment. Not sure how he translates Psalm 3, but here's a stab to move things on (English versification - the Hebrew takes the heading as verse 1):-
quote:
Psalm 3 - A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1 Lord!
How numerous are my enemies!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
"There's no saving for him from God!"
Selah
3 But you, Lord, are a shield protecting me;
my glory and and lifter of my head.
4 To the Lord I cry out,
and he answers me from his holy hill.
Selah
5 Me? I lie down, I sleep,
I wake up - for the Lord supports me!
6 I'm not going to be afraid of the masses
coming at me on all sides.
7 Rise up, Lord!
Save me, my God!
You strike all my enemies on the jaw;
and break the teeth of the wicked.
8 The Lord saves!
On your people be your blessings!
Selah

I like the movement on the 'save (or deliver / victory)' theme: the enemies scoff that God won't save (v2); the author calls on God to save (v7); the Psalm ends with the affirmation that God, indeed, saves.

On a day in England when a survey suggests that many National Health Service dental patients are being forced to go private or go without treatment, there's a timely picture here of the teeth of God's enemies being scattered all over the countryside.

I see from CuppaT's list that this Psalm has been allocated for use in the mornings. A motivational psalm, indeed.

Nigel

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Pooks
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
On a day in England when a survey suggests that many National Health Service dental patients are being forced to go private or go without treatment, there's a timely picture here of the teeth of God's enemies being scattered all over the countryside.

Oh, God! [Killing me]

(Where did my false teeth go?) [Paranoid]

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by pooka:
quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
On a day in England when a survey suggests that many National Health Service dental patients are being forced to go private or go without treatment, there's a timely picture here of the teeth of God's enemies being scattered all over the countryside.

Oh, God! [Killing me]

(Where did my false teeth go?) [Paranoid]

Taking thing forward a bit - the greater the sinner, the less teeth he has? Let the one with the perfect teeth cast the first stone?

[ 18. October 2007, 11:22: Message edited by: Nigel M ]

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Nigel M
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...and a bit further forward, though in a 'back to the path' sort of direction...

This business of God smiting the wicked. We've had discussions about this before on other threads (e.g. the Cursing Psalms thread), but it is a theme that persists throughout the Psalms. Psalm 1 blows away the wicked; Ps 2 destroys them in anger; and here God delivers a fiver. It's there - it's theology, even allowing for pictorial language.

How do we pray this?

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
...Not sure how [Alter] translates Psalm 3, but here's a stab to move things on (English versification - the Hebrew takes the heading as verse 1):-
Psalm 3 - A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

...
3 But you, Lord, are a shield protecting me;
my glory and and lifter of my head.
...

Just a tangential question -- the image in 3:3 of God as "lifter of my head" is an odd one to my ears. It certainly calls to mind the Genesis story of Joseph and the interpretation of dreams for Pharoah's attendants , but I can't quite get a handle on what the image is intended to convey. Is the use with the baker intended as a joke, or can the phrase cover both positive and negative recognition by higher-ups?

--Tom Clune

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by tclune:
...the image in 3:3 of God as "lifter of my head" is an odd one to my ears. It certainly calls to mind the Genesis story of Joseph and the interpretation of dreams for Pharoah's attendants, but I can't quite get a handle on what the image is intended to convey. Is the use with the baker intended as a joke, or can the phrase cover both positive and negative recognition by higher-ups?

Tom, this phrase stuck out at me, too, when looking at the Psalm. It occurs at various points throughout the OT. Some other examples include:-
quote:
Judges 8:28 -
Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again.

Job 10:15 -
If I am guilty—woe to me!
Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head,
for I am full of shame
and drowned in my affliction.

Psalm 24:7 -
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in!

Psalm 83:2 -
See how your enemies are astir,
how your foes raise their heads.

Psalm 110:7 -
He will drink from a brook beside the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

Zech. 1:20 -
"These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise his head..."

Also -
quote:
Job 11:15 'face', rather than 'head' -
then you will lift up your face without shame;
you will stand firm and without fear.

There is a mix here, it seems. Sometimes it has a literal feel, e.g. where shame or physical weakness causes the head literally to hang down. Then there is the sense associated with confrontation: people attack others (or rebel against masters?) - metaphorically raising their heads. The Ps 24 reference is metaphorical (gates raising heads), but is it in the sense of casting off shame, or getting bigger to allow the King to pass under? the rest of that Psalm doesn't refer to shame, so maybe size matters here.

In the light of these, those Genesis references in chapter 40 to the cup-bearer could be about removing shame (absolving of guilt, perhaps?). the writer then seems to play on the idiom in respect of the baker: "Pharaoh will lift your head - from you!" I can't think of any other place in the OT where decapitation is described in this way, which makes me think it is intended as a joke here.

I'm sure the baker laughed his head off.

Nigel

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J.S. Bach
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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
Thanks to J. S. Bach for drawing our attention to Alter's book on the Psalms. I don't have it either, but given Alter's background of work on Hebrew poetry it certainly sounds a worthwhile investment. Not sure how he translates Psalm 3, but here's a stab to move things on (English versification - the Hebrew takes the heading as verse 1):-

I'm impressed with your translation, Nigel M.

Here is the first part of Alter's translation of Psalm 3 (the book uses Hebrew versification; unfortunately, I can't preserve Alter's indentations, but I will preserve the line breaks):

1 A David psalm, when he fled from Absalom his son.

2 Lord, how many are my foes,
many, who rise up against me.

3 Many, who say of my life:
"No rescue for him through God." selah

4 And you, Lord, a shield are for me,
my glory, Who lifts up my head.

5 With my voice I cry out to the Lord,
and He answers me from His holy mountain. selah

Blessings,
JSB

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Nigel M
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I gather that in some traditions the night prayer (Compline) for 30 November includes a reading of Psalm 4.
quote:
Psalm 4 [NIV]
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.
1 Answer me when I call to you,
O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame ?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods ?
Selah

3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD will hear when I call to him.

4 In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
Selah

5 Offer right sacrifices
and trust in the LORD.

6 Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?"
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.

7 You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.

8 I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.


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CuppaT
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Ah, I see that you have moved on. I never did figure out how to say what I was going to on Psalm 3. Just as well. I knew what, just not how. Best to keep silent sometimes. So many of these Psalms that we pray every day are simply a heart's cry. I take the words for what they are and pray them. It is just me. I am simple-minded.

But I checked this thread because I came upon one of my favorite phrases this morning and wanted to ask you all if you knew of any others like it anywhere. It is not the sort of thing one can look up. It is a double word use, done twice in the Psalms that I can think of, once on Wednesdays on Psalm 67/68 and once at the vesperal 141/142. 67:18 says Thou hast led captivity captive. I love the kind of picture that it draws up -- captivity itself being personified and led away as a prisoner forever. Beautiful imagery. And 141:4 says (in the KJV) refuge failed me, but I have heard a very long time ago that in the original (whether LXX or Hebrew I do not know) it is more like "fleeing fled". Again, difficult to wrap your mind around, but it is interesting imagery. Are there more of these in the Scriptures that anyone can pull out of their minds? You all are more studied than I. It really is not the sort of thing one can find by looking up, I don't suppose. It is just one of the little treasures you come across sometimes.
CuppaT

--------------------
Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it any longer, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.
~Elder Sophrony

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by CuppaT:
Ah, I see that you have moved on. I never did figure out how to say what I was going to on Psalm 3.

I'm sure TubaMirum wouldn't mind if you wanted to go back over anything later. We don't have to proceed through in psalm order; I just wanted to ensure the thread stayed live, so posted again!
quote:
Originally posted by CuppaT:
...I came upon one of my favorite phrases this morning and wanted to ask you all if you knew of any others like it anywhere. It is not the sort of thing one can look up. It is a double word use...

The Hebrew language has a technique for emphasising something: a verb can be repeated in two different forms, next to each other (sometimes called the intensifying infinitive absolute). We don't have this technique in English (or, I believe, in Greek) grammar, so translators have to signal it differently to get the meaning across, or else they adopt a less than natural literal translation. Examples in the OT include:
Gen. 2:17 - "But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die" ('die you shall die').
Gen 3:4 - "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman (similar to above, but with the negative).
Gen 18:10 - Then the LORD said, "I will most certainly return to you..." ('return I will return').
Deut. 8:19 - "...I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed" ('destroy you will be destroyed').
2 Sam. 9:7 - "...David said to him, "for I will surely show you kindness..." ('show I will show').

...and so on...

This type of emphasis doesn't actually appear in the Psalm 141/142 passage, but then poetic texts tend to show emphasis in other ways, e.g. by reducing the line to the bare minimum of words.

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CuppaT
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hmmm. Thanks, Nigel. I like languages.
CuppaT

--------------------
Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it any longer, draw back a little and have a cup of tea.
~Elder Sophrony

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Nigel M
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Psalm 5 [NIV]
quote:
1 Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing.
2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.

3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.
5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.
6 You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.

7 But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down towards your holy temple.

8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make straight your way before me.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.
10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.

Can be taken to be a useful morning Psalm to pray and kick off the day. It does, however, have the usual blast to the wicked that causes many a Christian to flinch! The standard approach is to blame it on the devil; but once again the question must arise: is there a way that a Christian can honestly pray this Psalm while remaining true to its roots and to that of the New Testament? Is there a middle way between ignoring the unpleasant bits and spiritualising them away? Are we forever stuck between Marcion and Origen?
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