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Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 81 to Psalms 90

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.

BibleI hadn't realized just how long of a break I'd taken on this series. The last real entry was on March 14 - just about two and a half months ago. I was just slammed at work, and I suppose I was getting a little bit burnt out on the book of Psalms, but now I'm back to it.

As one more quick announcement before getting into the meat of the review, I just learned of a year and a half old development. When I first started this series, the NRSV translation was only available a handful of places online, and was notably absent from one of the most useful Bible sites, BibleGateway.com. Well, apparently 1 month after I started, they announced that the NRSV was now available on their site. So, if you want a handy resource where you can read the NRSV, and immediately jump to different translations for comparison, then go check out NRSV on BibleGateway.com.

This week's entry covers Psalms 81 through 90. They're fairly typical psalms, none of which really jump out as particularly well known or frequently used. To me, the most interesting was Psalm 82, for the relationship between Yahweh and other gods.

Psalms, Chapter 81

Psalm 81 is 'God's Appeal to Stubborn Israel'. After an introduction praising God, the psalmist claims to be relaying "a voice I had not known", admonishing Israel for not remaining faithful to the Lord, and saying God would "subdue their enemies" and "feed you with the finest of the wheat, / and with honey from the rock" if they would just submit to him.

Psalms, Chapter 82

Psalm 82, 'A Plea for Justice', starts off with another of Psalms indications of polytheism:

God has taken his place in the divine council;
   in the midst of the gods he holds judgment

In this psalm, God admonishes the other gods:

How long will you judge unjustly
   and show partiality to the wicked?

He goes on to tell them to set things right, but also telling them that they will die like mortals. It's a bit strange, almost like an attempt to solve the Problem of Evil by passing the buck to other gods, but at the same contradicting a monotheistic stance.

Psalms, Chapter 83

This psalm is a 'Prayer for Judgment on Israel's Foes'. It's about like you'd expect, claiming that Israel's enemies conspire against Israel and God, and asking God to wipe them out. It actually wasn't as violent as some other psalms have been. It did have a scatalogical reference, however.

Do to them as you did to Midian,
   as to Sisera and Jabin at the Wadi Kishon,
who were destroyed at En-dor,
   who became dung for the ground.

Psalms, Chapter 84

The next psalm was 'The Joy of Worship in the Temple'. It's a typical psalm of praise to God.

Psalms, Chapter 85

Next came a 'Prayer for the Restoration of God's Favor'. It's just what the title implies, asking God to favor Israel once again and restore them to their former glory.

Psalms, Chapter 86

Psalm 86 was a 'Supplication for Help against Enemies', attributed to David. After spending two thirds of the psalm praising God, 'David' finally asked God to save him (David) from his enemies, and to put his enemies to shame. It was, in fact, not particularly violent compared to other psalms I've read.

There was another hint at polytheism, "There is none like you among the gods".

There was also a passage that caught my eye for its familiarity. It's actually a pretty common theme.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Psalms, Chapter 87

Similar to Psalm 84, this one is titled 'The Joy of Living in Zion'. It's a very short psalm that basically just says how good it was to be from Zion.

Psalms, Chapter 88

Psalm 88 is a 'Prayer for Help in Despondency'. It's a rather bleak prayer for help from someone in a bad place, but without the typical praise of God - just wondering why everything's going so badly for him.

There were two passages that really highlighted the different concept of the afterlife that the ancient Hebrews had compared to modern Christians. This first one really struck me for saying that there are "those whom you [God] remember no more".

I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
   I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
   like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
   for they are cut off from your hand.

This second one is similar to passages I've quoted before, indicating that Sheol was a pretty dreary place without much going on.

Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
   or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
   or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

Psalms, Chapter 89

This psalm is 'God's Covenant with David'. This starts off with typical praise - God is good, and strong and mighty, and crushes his enemies, and the people exult in his name, etc. Next came the passage explaining God's covenant with David and his line ("It shall be established forever like the moon"), followed by a passage where the psalmist accused God of forsaking David's line. It was actually pretty explicit in calling God out.

But now you have spurned and rejected him;
   you are full of wrath against your anointed.
You have renounced the covenant with your servant;
   you have defiled his crown in the dust.

The psalm closed by asking God when he would remember his covenant and return favor to David's line.

Psalms, Chapter 90

The last psalm for this week's review is 'God's Eternity and Human Frailty', supposedly written by "Moses, the man of God". After praising God and highlighting human weakness, the psalmist returned to a theme that's been common in this section.

Turn, O Lord! How long?
   Have compassion on your servants!

It certainly makes it seem like this psalm came from the same time period as the other psalms asking for God to return his favor to Israel, and not from the days of Moses.


I know I'm just getting back into this after a two and a half month break, but it's easy to remember why I was getting burnt out on this book. While there were a few interesting aspects in these chapters, so much of Psalms is just the same thing week after week.

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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