Friday Bible Blogging Archive

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Hiatus Extension

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.

BibleSo, my last post in this series was announcing a brief hiatus, but promising to get back on track last week. Well, that didn't happen. What did happen is that as soon as I finished up the project at work that's been eating into my lunch breaks, another project popped up that's keeping me just as busy, and it won't be over until the end of May. I'm going to do my best to work in the Friday Bible Blogging entries since waiting till June would be a pretty long blank stretch, but with the book of Psalms being what it is, my motivation isn't terribly high. Anyway, stay tuned, and I promise that I will get back into this series before too long. It hasn't been abandoned.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Hiatus

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 missed last week's entry, and now I'm going to miss posting something again this week. And to be honest, I suspect I won't post anything next week, either. I've just been really busy at work, keeping my lunchbreaks short, and really busy at home, breaking up my routine of what had been a normal schedule reading the Bible. So, I'm going to take a brief hiatus on this series. I should be back to posting again on April 11th, or maybe the 18th.

Friday, March 14, 2014

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.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 61 to Psalms 70

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.

BibleThis week's entry covers Psalms 61 through 70. There were a few interesting passages, but none of the particularly well known psalms like I've covered in weeks past.

Psalms, Chapter 61

Psalm 61 was fairly typical - praising God and asking for fairly generic blessings.

Psalms, Chapter 62

This was another psalm of praise, but there were a few parts that caught my attention. First was this passage from verse 9.

Those of low estate are but a breath,
   those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
   they are together lighter than a breath.

I know I haven't gotten to Ecclesiastes, yet, in this series, but I have read it some, and this passage reminds me of something you'd read in that book. Whether you're weak or powerful, rich or poor, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter - we're all inconsequential. However, reading the footnotes in the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), it appears there's a different interpretation of this verse. To quote that note, "The good deeds of the evildoers are so unsubstantial, they are weightless." Hmm. I just don't get that from the passage.

I haven't really focused on the poetry itself much, but the NOAB did point out an interesting structure in this chapter.

Once God has spoken;
   twice have I heard this:

This illustrates a very strong parallelism between the introduction and the follow up line.

Psalms, Chapter 63

This psalm started off with an interesting line that I wouldn't have gotten without the NOAB footnotes.

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
   my soul thirsts for you;

Apparently, in Hebrew, the same word can mean 'soul' and 'throat', so this was a pun. Otherwise, this was a typical psalm - praise of God, thanksgiving for his blessings, and curses on the psalmist's enemies.

Psalms, Chapter 64

Yet another typical psalm, asking for God's protection against enemies, and that God will punish those enemies.

Psalms, Chapter 65

There was an interesting footnote in the NOAB concerning verses 6 and 7. To me, it seems like it could be a bit of a stretch, but considering it's a theme that's appeared before, it could be legitimate. So, I'll quote both and let the reader decide. The NOAB described the verses as, "The divine victory associated with creation: the mountains are placed in their bases (see Pss 89.12; 90.2) and the chaotic primeval waters are defeated (see Ps 89.9-13)." And here are the verses.

By your strength you established the mountains;
   you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
   the roaring of their waves,
   the tumult of the peoples.

Psalms, Chapter 66

I've mentioned numerous times throughout Psalms that there appears to be a shift away from animal sacrifice and towards actual changes of heart. But, lest you thought the Bible was abandoning animal sacrifice, this psalm made sure to discuss it.

I will come into your house with burnt-offerings;
   I will pay you my vows,
those that my lips uttered
   and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
I will offer to you burnt-offerings of fatlings,
   with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats.

Psalms, Chapter 67

Psalm 67 is a short hymn of praise. The opening was familiar, being similar to Numbers 6:24.

May God be gracious to us and bless us
   and make his face to shine upon us...

Psalms, Chapter 68

This psalm is rather interesting. According to the NOAB, "Psalm 68 is the most difficult psalm in the book, and scholars do not agree on what kind of poem Psalm 68 is, as well as what many of its words and phrases mean. It is perhaps best taken as a communal thanksgiving for defending the people against infertility and attack."

Verse 4 talks about "him who rides upon the clouds", hinting at Yahweh's past as a storm god.

Bearing in mind the note in the NOAB about the difficulty in translating this chapter, this is still some particularly violent imagery.

But God will shatter the heads of his enemies,
   the hairy crown of those who walk in their guilty ways.
The Lord said,
   'I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
so that you may bathe your feet in blood,
   so that the tongues of your dogs may have their share from the foe.'

Psalms, Chapter 69

Verses 19 to 21 should certainly seem familiar to Christians. It's not quoted directly in the New Testament, but it's certainly reminiscent of Jesus, including the episode from the crucifixion where he was given vinegar to drink.

You know the insults I receive,
   and my shame and dishonour;
   my foes are all known to you.
Insults have broken my heart,
   so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
   and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
   and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Actually, after googling "psalm 69 jesus", I found an interesting page, Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible - Psalms 69. It discusses just how many times verses from this psalm are quoted in the New Testament. I know Christians take that as a sign of continuity, but I think it can also been seen as a rather earthly source for New Testament material, especially when you read this psalm in full - the context of the passages here don't seem to square with their uses in the New Testament.

In seeking out vengeance against his enemies, the psalmist has asked that they "be blotted out of the book of the living". According to the NOAB, this 'book of the living' was apparently a "scroll containing the fates of individuals".

Psalms, Chapter 70

Psalm 70 was nearly a verbatim copy of verses 13 to 17 of Psalm 40, again illustrating the manner in which the Bible was put together as a collection of collections. Otherwise, I didn't have much to say about this passage back in chapter 40, and I don't have anything new to add now.


To be honest, it was a little hard getting through this week's reading. It's just getting so repetitious. I wonder if the psalms would seem better read in isolation, rather than reading them straight through and getting burnt out on the poetry.

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.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 51 to Psalms 60

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.

BibleIf you've been following this series, I apologize for missing my post last week. I just fell behind a little bit, and decided to take a break for a week rather than rush to try to catch up. And as long as I'm commenting on the administrative side, let me add another note. When I first started on Psalms, I'd mentioned that I might increase my reading rate to 20 chapters per week instead of 10, to try to get through the book faster since the chapters were a little on the short side. Well, my biggest bottleneck is writing these posts, not the actual reading, and I seem to find enough from Psalms to keep me busy as is, so I'm going to stick with the original schedule of 10 chapters per week.

Psalms, Chapter 51

Verse two from this psalm jumped right out at me.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
   and cleanse me from my sin.

That may not mean much to everybody, but I was an altar boy when I was younger, and I heard a version of this every mass. In fact, I'm not even sure if most Catholics are as familiar with it, because the priest says it very softly, not addressed to the entire congregation. It's part of the Lavabo (more info: Saint Edward Catholic Church), where the priest ceremonially washes his hands before preparing the Eucharist.

Unfortunately, right after this bit of nostalgia, I read a couple verses I didn't like.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
   and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
   and blameless when you pass judgement.
Indeed, I was born guilty,    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

This is one of the aspects of the Bible that I don't like, particularly as it is interpreted by Christianity. When you wrong somebody, you have 'sinned' against them, and it is their forgiveness that you should seek. Even if a god were to forgive you, it's not the same as getting forgiveness from the person you wronged in the first place. And the last two lines are particularly cynical, implying that even before a person is born that they're a sinner.

Later on in the chapter, it does continue a theme I've seen before in Psalms, shifting away from animal sacrifice towards people actually feeling remorse.

For you have no delight in sacrifice;
   if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God* is a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalms, Chapter 52

Psalm 52 is a "Judgement on the Deceitful", and contains the type of punishments you'd expect. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) pointed out a possible translation issue. Where the NRSV had "he will uproot you from the land of the living" in verse 5, the NOAB footnotes stated that a better translation would have been " 'the land of life,' i.e. the Temple..."

Psalms, Chapter 53

This is a very familiar psalm, with all but a few verses nearly identical to Psalm 14. The NOAB notes one important distinction, "A major difference is that this psalm is part of the "Elohistic Psalter" (Pss 42-83), which prefers the divine name "Elohim," translated "God" rather than "The Lord," and thus replaces many of the "Lord"s of Ps 14 with "God."

Psalms, Chapter 54

This is a "Prayer for Vindication", supposedly by David. It's a fairly typical combination of praise and petition.

Psalms, Chapter 55

Psalm 55 is a "Complaint about a Friend's Treachery". It's interesting in that it deals with a bit different topic than most psalms I've read so far. As the psalmist puts it:

It is not enemies who taunt me--
   I could bear that;
it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me--
   I could hide from them.
But it is you, my equal,
   my companion, my familiar friend,
with whom I kept pleasant company;
   we walked in the house of God with the throng.

Of course, like other psalmists, the revenge this one seeks is death for the person who betrayed him. It's never just that their opponent will see the error of their ways and repent, is it?

There was a phrase that caught my eye, where I'd originally thought it was an interesting figure of speech from that era. But then when I read the footnotes in the NOAB, I learned that it might have been referring to praying three times a day. The phrase was, "Evening and morning and at noon / I utter my complaint and moan, / and he will hear my voice. "

Psalms, Chapter 56

This psalm was titled, "Trust in God under Persecution". I don't really have much commentary for it. It's about what you'd expect with a title like 'trust in God'.

Psalms, Chapter 57

This psalm is "Praise and Assurance under Persecution". The superscription sounds fairly interesting, "To the leader: Do Not Destroy," as if it was some note to protect the text. However, the more down to Earth explanation noted in the NOAB is that it was probably the name of another song intended as the melody for this one (there's actually quite a lot of that in the superscriptions to psalms). The psalm itself is more typical praise of God.

Psalms, Chapter 58

This one is a "Prayer for Vengeance", and if there's one thing the psalmists were good at, it was asking for vengeance.

O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
   tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!
Let them vanish like water that runs away;
   like grass let them be trodden down and wither.
Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime;
   like the untimely birth that never sees the sun.

That second to last line makes me imagine a bunch of old scribes in their robes and finery, sitting around pouring salt onto snails.

The last line made me think a bit of the anti-abortion rights crowd. The particular way this is presented doesn't make it seem like a stillbirth is a tragedy that must be mourned. It's compared to water drying up or grass withering, as if the psalmist didn't think too highly of the unborn child. Of course, it is a tragedy when it happens, but that doesn't seem to be the perspective of this psalm.

Continuing on with the violent wish for vengeance, consider the penultimate verse of the chapter.

The righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance done;
   they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.

Psalms, Chapter 59

Psalm 59 is a "Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies". It's more of the type of language that I've become accustomed to from the Bible. There was one verse in line with a theme I've noted before, "Rouse yourself, come to my help and see!" expressing the idea that gods would sometimes rest and need to be awakened.

Another passage caught my eye for its cruelty.

Do not kill them, or my people may forget;
   make them totter by your power, and bring them down,
   O Lord, our shield.

The psalmist wasn't just asking for vengeance. He wanted his enemies to be made examples of, prolonging their suffering.

Psalms, Chapter 60

This was an interesting psalm, "Prayer for National Victory after Defeat". It wasn't bitter like Psalm 44 that I discussed last time. This one was just a petition for God to help them again.

Verses 6 through 8 begin with "God has promised in his sanctuary:" and then go on to describe the promise (one of victory and conquering). According to the NOAB, this was likely the psalmist quoting some ancient oracle.

Verse 8 contained an interesting phrase, "Moab is my wash-basin; / on Edom I hurl my shoe;". Apparently, throwing a shoe at somebody was a big insult. And it's not the first time shoes have had an important role in the Bible. Consider Deuteronomy 25, which had the line, ""Throughout Israel his family shall be known as 'the house of him whose sandal was pulled off,' " or Ruth 4, which talked abut exchanging sandals as a way of doing business.


Well, there were some interesting parts again this week, but like I've been saying all along, it gets pretty repetitious from week to week reading this book.

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.


Selling Out