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Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 101 to Psalms 110

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.

BibleWell look at that - two weeks in a row that I've managed to post an entry in this series. I guess I really am getting back into the swing of things.

This week's entry covers Psalms 101 through 110. Psalm 106 is the last of Book IV, which means Psalm 107 is the start of Book V. Book V happens to be the last of the 5 books in Psalms.

The psalms themselves weren't any more exciting than what I've been reading, but I do have a bit more to say about them this week.

Psalms, Chapter 101

So even though I'll have a bit more to say this week, it's not with this chapter. Psalm 101 is pretty run of the mill, with a little bit of praising God, but mostly the person speaking (most likely being recited by the king) promising to be faithful and to do good.

Psalms, Chapter 102

The superscription to this psalm is "A prayer of one afflicted, when faint and pleading before the Lord," which summarizes it pretty well. It's a plea for help from the Lord, blending the psalmists personal complaints with Israel's larger complaints.

Psalms, Chapter 103

This was a psalm of praise, focusing mostly on God's forgiveness and compassion. Like the last psalm, it combined personal and national elements.

Psalms, Chapter 104

If you follow creationism at all, this psalm, or at least the language in it, will be familiar. For example, in one of the first verses, it mentions:

You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
   you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,

Stretching out the heavens is actually a pretty common theme in the Bible. A literal interpretation in line with the cosmology of the time would put it as God actually spreading out something like a tent over the firmament, but modern creationists have more entertaining interpretations. An article on Answers in Genesis, which actually refers to a similar passage in Isaiah, states that "This would suggest that the universe has actually increased in size since its creation. God has stretched it out. He has expanded it (and is perhaps still expanding it)." They're using verses like this to try to say that the Bible supports cosmic inflation.

This whole psalm is even at the center of some debates between different creationists. Here's another article from AiG, Psalm 104:6-9--the Flood or Day 3 of Creation Week?, where they try to refute the old earth creationist, Hugh Ross, who thought this psalm referred to the creation week, when clearly it refers partially to Noah's flood, and partially to the world at the time the psalm was written.

The footnotes in the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) had a different take.

God, luminous and triumphant (vv. 1-4), organizes the primordial waters (vv. 5-18, 24-26) and darkness (vv. 19-23) into a harmonious whole that supports life (vv. 27-35). The depiction owes much to the mythology of neighboring cultures: the storm god who vanquishes Sea (vv. 1-18), and the Egyptian sun-disk Aten whose rays illuminate the world (vv. 19-30)...

Given which source was written by actual scholars, I know which interpretation I'd pick as most likely.

Psalms, Chapter 105

This is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving, giving a short summary of the history of Israel and God's deeds in helping the people, going all the way back to Abraham.

The NOAB noted many differences between the stories presented here and in other parts of the Bible. For example, there were only seven plagues of Egypt here, compared to the ten in Exodus, and they were in a different order.

The psalm did reference one of my favorite stories from the Bible, from when the Hebrews were wandering the desert.

They asked, and he brought quails,
   and gave them food from heaven in abundance.

Now, I'm assuming the psalm is referring to a slightly different version of the story than what was recorded in Numbers 11, because that version of the story is not something the Israelites would have given praise for. Delivering quails 'in abundance' is a bit of an understatement, "a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quails from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, all around the camp, about two cubits deep on the ground," keeping in mind that 2 cubits is about 3 feet. And then, when the people actually started eating the quails, "while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague."

Psalms, Chapter 106

This was a rather long psalm, again looking at the history of the Israelites, but in a slightly different manner. This psalm focused on cycles of sin and forgiveness (of course, going through seven cycles, because so much of the Bible focuses on seven).

The NOAB notes that the final verse, 48, was an addition from whenever Psalms was divided into five separate books.

Psalms, Chapter 107

Psalm 107 marks the beginning of the fifth and final book of Psalms. It's a psalm of thanksgiving, for, according to the NOAB, "bringing back the people from exile". It used four examples of divine deliverance. Again according to the NOAB, "these are all metaphorical for the tribulations of the Babylonian exile of the sixth century BCE, and the difficulties of returning by foot from Babylon."

Psalms, Chapter 108

This psalm is a prayer for victory, which as the NOAB notes, is largely composed by recycling content from other psalms (57 & 60).

Psalms, Chapter 109

This is a somewhat long psalm, supposedly by David seeking vengeance on his enemies. It seems a bit odd from a continuity perspective, however. Verses 6 & 7 start off his request by saying:

They say,* 'Appoint a wicked man against him;
   let an accuser stand on his right.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty;
   let his prayer be counted as sin.

The language makes it seem like what his enemies are asking for. But then verse 20 turns it around to make it seem like it's coming from David.

May that be the reward of my accusers from the Lord,
   of those who speak evil against my life.

The request for vengeance isn't as bloodthirsty as some sections of the Bible, but it does ask God to punish the children of his enemies.

Psalms, Chapter 110

This is a short psalm for the king, promising him victory over his enemies and faithfulness from his subjects.


One more week down. Only four more weeks of Psalms to go. I guess this week was a bit more entertaining than last week, at least.

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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