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Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 71 to Psalms 80

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.

BibleAt 150 chapters long, I'm now halfway through the book of Psalms. I'm not sure if I want to look at that as a glass half full or half empty sort of thing. Like I wrote last week, I'm starting to get burnt out on this book. So, halfway there's a big milestone, but it means I still have to get through the same amount that I've already read. Oh well, I'll never finish if I don't just keep on plodding ahead.


Psalms, Chapter 71

As noted in the New Oxford Annotated Bible, much of the material in this chapter is recycled from Psalms 22 and 31. The most blatant example comes from the first three verses of this psalm.

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
   do not let me ever be put to shame;
   in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me;
   rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
   a strong fortress to save me.

Compare that to the first two verses from Psalm 31.

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
   do not let me ever be put to shame;
   in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me;
   rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
   a strong fortress to save me.


Psalms, Chapter 72

This psalm asks God to provide guidance and support to the king. According to the NOAB, it's possible that this psalm was read at coronation ceremonies.

This chapter closes with the verse, "The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended," bringing to a close Book II of Psalms. However, there are additional psalms coming later in the book attributed to David, so this note must have been made before this book had developed into what we have now.


Psalms, Chapter 73

Psalm 73 kicks of Book III with a psalm attributed to Asaph. While a previous psalm was also attributed to him (Psalm 50), this is the start of the major collection of his psalms, going on through Psalm 83.

This psalm began by wondering why the wicked seem to go unpunished, but finished with the psalmist's realization that they will be punished in the end.


Psalms, Chapter 74

This psalm must have come during the exile, wondering when God would remember his covenant and restore the Temple and the Israelites.

I noticed a theme that I've noticed many times now in Psalms, the idea of God's primordial battle to tame the world.

Yet God my King is from of old,
   working salvation in the earth.
You divided the sea by your might;
   you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
   you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
You cut openings for springs and torrents;
   you dried up ever-flowing streams.
Yours is the day, yours also the night;
   you established the luminaries and the sun.
You have fixed all the bounds of the earth;
   you made summer and winter.


Psalms, Chapter 75

This was a fairly typical psalm, praising god and acknowledging his justice. One particular verse caught my eye.

For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup
   with foaming wine, well mixed;

What is foaming wine? I have this image in my mind of a bubbling potion with steam coming off of it, but I'm pretty sure that's not what the psalmist meant.


Psalms, Chapter 76

This was another psalm praising god, this time using battle imagery, e.g. "There he broke the flashing arrows, / the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war."

The NOAB had an interesting footnote in this chapter:

7-10: This psalm presumes that the cosmic battle was fought at the base of Mount Zion; comparable religious texts also tell how the storm god defeated his enemies at the base of his holy mountain. After the battle, God established the rules or justice to which the universe must conform...

Now I'm curious as to what those other religious texts might be, and just how similar they are to the Bible.


Psalms, Chapter 77

This psalm began with wondering if God had abandoned the psalmist. It's one of the more direct accusations I've yet read, though phrased as questions to avoid being too confrontational.

Will the Lord spurn for ever,
   and never again be favourable?
Has his steadfast love ceased for ever?
   Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
   Has he in anger shut up his compassion?'

The end of the chapter finished up with more battle imagery similar to the previous psalm. This imagery is very much in line with Yahweh being a storm god.

When the waters saw you, O God,
   when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
   the very deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
   the skies thundered;
   your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
   your lightnings lit up the world;
   the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
   your path, through the mighty waters;
   yet your footprints were unseen.


Psalms, Chapter 78

This is actually one of my favorite psalms so far. It's a condensed version of select stories from the Pentateuch, mentioning Jacob, the Exodus, wandering the desert, and choosing David as king, among others. It even included one of the stories that stands out most in my mind from Numbers 11 - the one where some of the Israelites complained about having to eat manna all the time, so "a wind went out from the Lord" and brought back quails to dump on the Israelite camp, enough to bury them in three feet of dead birds. But even that wasn't enough punishment, apparently, so God struck the people with a plague to kill a large number of them.

Verses 43 through 51 list the plagues of Egypt from the Exodus story. The plagues are presented in a slightly different order here, and perhaps more interestingly, include two additional plagues, caterpillars and thunderbolts.

In fact, there are numerous little discrepancies between this condensed history and the Pentateuch, indicating a slightly different tradition behind it.

There was another hint in this chapter of Yahweh having battled with other gods:

And he brought them to his holy hill,
   to the mountain that his right hand had won.

As one last comment on this chapter, the NOAB has a note that "the psalmist's attempt to persuade the northern kingdom of Israel ("the Ephraimite," v. 9) to accept the Davidic king suggests a time of composition in the eighth or seventh century BCE when the northern and Southern kingdoms were separated."

Psalms, Chapter 79

Like many of the psalms attributed to Asaph, this one wondered when God would restore the Israelites. One verse caught my attention.

Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors;
   let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
   for we are brought very low.

This seems to fit with a theme common from earlier Biblical books, where God would punish people collectively, even if it meant punishing descendants who hadn't been born when their ancestors had committed the sins they were being punished for (though the NOAB indicates a better translation of that first line is "our past iniquities", in which case in might be referring to the people's own past sins, not just those of their forefathers).

Another verse caught my eye, but for its pop culture implications.

Return sevenfold into the bosom of our neighbours
   the taunts with which they taunted you, O Lord!

It made me think of the band, Avenged Sevenfold, who my daughter and some of her friends really like (to be honest, I'm not even sure what they sing - I just recognize the name). However, the band has said the inspiration for the name came from Genesis 4:24.

Psalms, Chapter 80

This is yet another psalm asking God to restore Israel.

---

Chapter 78 was pretty good, I think mainly because it was a narrative, and not just the supplications and platitudes that are so typical of other psalms. But, like I've implied already, I'm looking forward to when this book is behind me.


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.

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