Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 31 to Psalms 40
This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.
Well, I didn't manage to get this entry done for my Friday deadline, so today is Saturday Night Bible Blogging. At least I'm less than 24 hours late in getting this post up.
Chapters 31 to 40 continues on in the same manner as the previous psalms, combining praise, thanksgiving, and petitions for help. These chapters didn't contain any of the instantly recognizable psalms like the previous chapters I discussed last week.
Psalm 31 is a fairly typical one - a combination of praise, thanksgiving, and petition. There was one section that struck me as similar to Job.
I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbours,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
But then, like so many of the Psalms attributed to David, it went into criticizing his enemies and their plans against him, and asking the Lord to punish them.
The superscription associated with this psalm identifies it as "A Maskil". According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), this is probably a musical term, though its exact meaning is unclear.
In the Christian tradition, this is considered one of the Penitential Psalms, a collection of seven psalms dealing with expressing regret for sins (the others being Psalsms 6, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143).
Psalm 33 is another typical psalm of praise, with the focus of this one being the creation of the world. There was one verse that caught my eye.
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
I know it's meant to show just how much greater God is than us mere mortals, but it shows God deliberately sabotaging human affairs.
According to the NOAB, this is another acrostic psalm (where the first letter of each line follows some pattern, such as the alphabet). However, with the translation to English, this pattern gets lost. However, there is a slight discrepancy in the version of the psalm that we have, where verses 16 and 17 should probably be reversed to follow alphabetical order. The psalm also reads a bit better that way.
The NOAB also notes that the subscript to this psalm, "Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away," probably was added some time after this psalm was written, and this psalm probably had nothing to do with that episode.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the broken-hearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.
He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken. 21 Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Like so many of the psalms attributed to David, this one is asking for divine justice against David's enemies. And of course, the justice is violent. In fact, I'm going to include a longer excerpt than I normally do, just to illustrate this violence.
Draw the spear and javelin
&bnsp;&bnsp;&bnsp;against my pursuers;
say to my soul,
&bnsp;&bnsp;&bnsp;'I am your salvation.'
Let them be put to shame and dishonour
&bnsp;&bnsp;&bnsp;who seek after my life.
Let them be turned back and confounded
&bnsp;&bnsp;&bnsp;who devise evil against me.
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
&bnsp;&bnsp;&bnsp;with the angel of the Lord driving them on.
Let their way be dark and slippery,
&bnsp;&bnsp;&bnsp;with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
There was another noteworthy verse.
Wake up! Bestir yourself for my defence,
for my cause, my God and my Lord!
According to the NOAB, this was consistent with the belief from that region that gods would rest after performing taxing deeds.
Another typical psalm - the wicked are bad, they'll be punished by God, while the faithful will be rewarded.
This is another psalm that originally followed an acrostic form. There were a few verses that caught my eye. First was this one.
But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight in abundant prosperity.
This is very similar to a saying attributed to Jesus in the Beatitudes. Similar to what I wrote last week, seeing phrases like this make you wonder about how and why they were incorporated into the New Testament. I'm sure Christians think Jesus was deliberately referencing the scriptures, but if Jesus is more legendary than real, this type of speach makes sense.
The writer of this psalm also seemed to have an unrealistically optimistic view of the world, or possibly even a naive view. Consider this section.
I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are ever giving liberally and lending,
and their children become a blessing.
Has this writer honestly never seen "children begging bread"? This very scenario is all too common in this world. Due to the Depression, my grandmother had to drop out of school to get a job to help support her family. I personally know people close to my own age who had to do the same thing, in the modern day U.S. On trips to Guatemala, I've actually seen children on the streets begging for money. The righteous and innocent are forsaken far too often.
And further, consider this.
I have seen the wicked oppressing, and towering like a cedar of Lebanon.* 36 Again I* passed by, and they were no more; though I sought them, they could not be found.
This is another extremely naive view. Just look to North Korea - three generations of extremely oppressive dictators. And it's not as if North Korea is the only oppressive regime in the world.
There was another passage in this chapter that caught my eye.
For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his faithful ones.
The righteous shall be kept safe for ever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land,
and live in it for ever.
I've pointed this out several times in the past, but this is another example of God punishing children for the sins of their parents.
This is another psalm that is considered one of the Penitential Psalms in the Christian tradition. The writer expresses great sorrow and anguish over his sins.
This psalm is almost a bit bitter towards God. Consider the following passage.
'Lord, let me know my end,
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
It seems that the writer is complaining that life is too short as it is, and that God's punishments are too long. (Of course, this type of complaint only makes sense with a drab view of the afterlife, which is the most common view in Psalms.)
Or consider the last verse from this chapter.
Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more.'
Similar to Job, this is the writer wishing that God wouldn't pay so much attention to people because of the suffering he causes with his punishments.
This was another typical psalm of thanksgiving, praise, and petition. There was one portion that caught my attention.
Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
you have not required.
With as big of a deal as animal sacrifice has been throughout the Old Testament, it's interesting to see a passage like this.
My summary this week is about the same as for each of my past entries on Psalms. While there are some decent sections, the book of Psalms very repetitious, and not my favorite of the books of the Bible.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.