Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 64

Psalm 64

Dead Sea MSS: No surviving manuscripts.

It is appropriate that Psalm 64 follows 63 in the canonical collection, since it effectively serves as an exposition of the final line (v. 12 [11]) of Ps 63 (cf. the previous study). The characteristic tone of lament, with an emphasis on a prayer for deliverance from the Psalmist’s enemies, is common to many of the Psalms we have studied. The imprecatory elements, calling for a curse/judgment upon the wicked, are also familiar, however uncomfortable they may make us, as Christian readers, today.

Thematically, this Psalm can be divided into two portions, in a manner that is typical of the Psalms we have been studying. The first portion (vv. 2-7a [1-6a]) begins with the lamenting plea, and includes a description of the behavior of the Psalmist’s adversaries (i.e., the wicked). In the second portion (vv. 7b-11 [6b-10]), the emphasis shifts to a call for judgment upon the wicked, with an expectation that YHWH will answer the Psalmist’s prayer.

 The superscription simply marks this as another musical composition (romz+m!) “belonging to David”.

VERSES 2-7a [1-6a]

Verse 2 [1]

“Hear, O Mightiest,
my voice in my complaint:
from dread of (the) hostile (ones),
may you guard my life.”

As noted above, this opening verse establishes the tone of lament for the Psalm, at least in its first portion. It can be read either as a 4-beat (4+4) couplet or a 2-beat (2+2+2+2) quatrain; for a cleaner poetic presentation, and because it seems to fit the syntax somewhat better, I have opted for the latter. The noun j^yc! is a bit difficult to translate with precision; the basic denotation is of a speech (or set of words/thoughts) that a person goes over (repeating/rehearsing). In the context of a prayer-setting, such as this, we should probably understand j^yc! in the sense of a petition, which would also fit the quasi-legal aspect of calling on YHWH (as Judge) to render judgment. For poetic concision, and to add to the dramatic moment, I have translated the word above as “complaint”.

The expression “dread [dj^P^] of (the one) being hostile”, presumably should be understood in terms of the enemy’s fearfulness, and of the danger that the wicked one presents. However, Dahood (I, p. 81f; II, p. 104), both here and in 14:5, would render dj^P^ instead as “pack” (e.g., of wolves), in light of cognate p—d in Ugaritic and Palmyrene paµda. It is an intriguing suggestion, mainly because it provides a far more vivid and specific image of the danger posed by the wicked, requiring protection (vb rx^n`, “guard”) from God.

Verse 3 [2]

“Hide me from (the) council of (those) causing evil,
from (the) conspiring of (those) making trouble”

This couplet establishes the theme of the protection that YHWH provides, and for which the Psalmist prays. The idea of protection is expressed here in terms being “hidden” (vb rt^s*), either in the sense of God covering him (like a shield), or of his being taken away to a safe and secluded location.

There is synonymous parallelism in this couplet, particularly in the two expressions:

    • “council of | (those) causing evil”
    • “conspiring of | (those) making | trouble”.

The nouns dos and hv*g+r! are roughly synonymous, both referring to a gathering of the wicked for an evil purpose. With dos, the emphasis is on plotting in secret, while the root vgr suggests a large or prominent (perhaps even violent) throng of conspirators.

Verse 4 [3]

“they who sharpen as a sword their tongue,
(and) tread (for) their arrows (of) bitter word(s)”

This couplet continues the thought of v. 3, and could have been included with it above.

Here the Psalmist cleverly blends together two aspects of the wicked that are found throughout the Psalms: (1) the threat of physical violence, utilizing military imagery, and (2) harsh and slanderous attacks by speech (with the “tongue”). The tongue, both in its physical shape and the pointedness of one’s speech, rather naturally resembles a sword which the wicked “sharpens” (/n~v*), giving it a pointed edge like a sharp tooth. The second image is a bit more complex, as it involves preparing the bow (by stepping/treading on it, vb Er^D*) for the arrows that one shoots—the ‘arrows’ obviously referring to harsh and wicked words. I have translated the adjective rm* literally as “bitter,” but there is no doubt that the allusion is the bitterness of poison (cf. Gen 49:23; Job 20:14; cp. Job 6:4)—i.e., the words of the wicked are poisoned arrows.

Metrically, after the 3-beat (3+3) couplet of v. 3, here there is essentially a return to the 4-beat meter of v. 2 (cf. above).

Verse 5 [4]

“to shoot in their secret (place) at (the) pure,
suddenly they shoot at him, and do not fear.”

The thought from vv. 3-4 continues here, with this slightly irregular couplet (loosely 3+4). Having prepared their poisoned arrows, the wicked shoot (vb hr*y`) them at the righteous; the adjective <T* literally means “complete” (as a characteristic of the righteous), but for poetic concision I have translated it above as “pure”, which also suggests the idea of “innocence”. There is likely a bit of word play assonance here, between <T* (t¹m) and <a)t=P! (pi¾°œm) in the next line. There is also some conceptual word play involving the root rts (“hide, be hidden”), which was also used in v. 2 (cf. above); in the earlier reference, God is asked to hide the Psalmist (meaning to protect him), but here the wicked are attacking the righteous from their hidden place (rT*s=m!) of ambush.

Verse 6-7a [5-6a]

“They seized for themselves an evil word,
and gave account to hide (deadly) snares,
(and) they say: ‘Who shall see them?’
They search out crooked (thing)s (to) complete.”

These lines are somewhat problematic, and it would be nice if there were surviving portions among the Dead Sea manuscripts to compare with the MT. I treat vv. 6-7a as a unit, a pair of 3-beat couplets. They complete the description of the wicked in the first half of the Psalms.

After the motif of shooting poisoned arrows at the righteous, the wicked here are depicted as laying deadly traps and snares (<yv!q=om). Again there is a play on the idea of something being hidden, only here a different verb (/m^f*) is used. In this instance, the words of the wicked do not represent the weapons they use, but rather it seems to reflect the process by which they work together to lay the traps. They grab firm hold (vb qz~j*) of an “evil word” (the expression ur* rb*D* being parallel with rm* rb*D*, “bitter [i.e. poisonous] word” in v. 4). Then they “count” (i.e., give an account of, or recount) how they have (or intend to) secretly lay these traps, so that no one, least of all the unsuspecting righteous victims, will see them.

In the final line, I read a pair of third person plural verb forms, indicating how the wicked complete (vb <m^T*) what they have planned. The verb <m^T* is related to the adjective <T* (“complete”) used as a characteristic of the righteous in v. 5, the same sort of antithetical (ironic) wordplay the Psalmist employed with the root rts (cf. above).

Verses 7b-11 [6b-10]

Verse 7bc [6bc]

“(The One) searching (all) searches
(the) inner(most part) of man,
and (the) heart (in its) depth.”

I generally follow Dahood (II, pp. 103, 105-6) in treating the remainder of verse 7 as a distinct unit, marking the beginning of the second half of the Psalm. It seems to me fitting, and typical of the conceptual wordplay and irony employed throughout by the Psalmist, that the “searching out” (vb vp^j*) by the wicked would be contrasted by the searching (same verb) of all humankind by YHWH. In this light, I am also inclined to follow Dahood in reading an active (piel) participle (referring to YHWH as the one who searches all things), rather than the passive (pual) participle of the Masoretic pointing.

Metrically, I treat this verse as a 2-beat (2+2+2) tricolon, which generally matches the 2-beat quatrain that opens the first half (v. 2).

Verse 8 [7]

“And (the) Mightiest shall shoot at them (His) arrow,
(and) suddenly they will be struck!”

The irony continues in this next couplet, as YHWH parallels the action of the wicked, shooting His deadly arrow at them, just as they sought to shoot the righteous with poisoned arrows. The parallelism extends to the use of the adverb <oat=P! (“suddenly”), as in v. 5.

It is possible to read the perfect form of the verb in the second line as a precative perfect, expressing the Psalmist’s wish: “may they be struck suddenly!” This certainly would fit the imprecatory character of vv. 7-11 (cf. below), and I have found numerous instances in previous Psalms where I have read a precative perfect.

Verse 9 [8]

“May He cause them to fall over their own tongue!
Every one seeing them shall fly away”

The MT of the first line would seem to be corrupt, or at least the text was misunderstood, particularly with regard to the initial verb form. One possible solution is offered by Dahood (II, p. 106), reading Wlyv!k=y~ as a third person singular form, with an archaic W– suffix retained, the following Wh– suffix being an example of dativus commodi. Also attractive is the proposal by Michael J. Barré (1996, cf. Hossfeld-Zenger, p. 130), that an instance of the Divine name (hwhy, YHWH), originally present, was partially lost, resulting in a corrupted text. The beginning of the line would have read hwhy lyvkyw, (“YHWH caused [them] to fall”). This is almost certainly the proper meaning.

Again, there is a parallelistic irony, as the wicked trip over their tongues, just as (with their speech) they sought to lay traps for the righteous. Their downfall will be so damaging and ignoble that every one seeing it will “fly (away)” (vb dd^n`). This should probably be understood in relation to the boast of the wicked that “no one shall see” the traps they lay.

Verse 10 [9]

“And all men shall be afraid,
and shall set forth (the) deed(s) of (the) Mightiest
and His work(s) they shall consider.”

As it stands, this is a metrically irregular 2+3+2 tricolon. The first line continues the thought from the last line of v. 9. In their fear (and reverence), they will make known the great things YHWH has done; the verb dg~n` properly denotes putting something “in front” (of someone). They will proceed then to consider the deeds/works of YHWH, paying attention to them (vb lk^c*), implying that human beings, for the most part, had not done this previously.

Verse 11 [10]

“And (the) righteous will be glad in YHWH,
and shall find protection in Him—
let all (the) straight of heart give a shout!”

The Psalm ends with a traditional wisdom-contrast between the (contrasting) fates of the wicked and the righteous. While the wicked will come to an ignoble end, falling to their death/destruction, the righteous will find blessing and security under the protection of YHWH. The verb hs*j*, which occurs frequently in the Psalms (26 times, out of 37 OT occurrences), carries the basic idea of taking refuge, of seeking (and finding) protection. Here, the Psalmist’s expectation is that YHWH will answer his prayer, and so the emphasis should be on the righteous finding protection.

In this light, we should take the prepositional expression hw`hyB^ (“in YHWH”) more or less at face value—that is, the righteous find their safety and protection in God Himself, He is their/our protective shelter and shield. Under God’s protection, the righteous are able to rejoice and give up a shout of praise.

The irregular meter of this verse—loosely, a 3+2+3 tricolon, provides a balance to the 2+3+2 rhythm of verse 10. In this case, however, we may also find a certain theological significance to the chiasm of the verse:

    • the righteous are able to rejoice (line 1)
      • having found protection in YHWH (line 2)
    • the upright of are can give a shout (line 3)

The centrality of the Divine protection, and the importance of placing our trust in God Himself, is clear enough.

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).
Those marked “Hossfeld-Zenger” are to Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51-100, translated from the German by Linda M. Maloney, Hermeneia Commentary series (Fortress Press: 2005).

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 63 (Part 2)

Psalm 63, continued

I am following a three-part division of this Psalm, working from the repeated mention of “my soul” (yv!p=n~) in vv. 2, 6, and 9. Based on this dividing principle, there would be three stanzas of unequal length (vv. 2-5, 6-8, 9-12), each of which begins with a reference to the Psalmist’s soul desiring/longing for YHWH. There are two main stanzas, juxtaposing the emphasis on prayer for blessing (vv. 2-5, discussed in the previous study) and the call for a curse on the wicked (vv. 9-12). The shorter central stanza (vv. 6-8) is transitional, developing the main theme of the Psalmist’s devotion to YHWH.

Stanza 2: VV. 6-8 [5-7]

Verse 6 [5]

“As with fat and richness (of the land)
may my soul be satisfied,
(and with) my lips ringing out
my mouth shall praise you.”

The meter and syntax of this verse is a bit difficult; taking the MT at face value, I render it as a 3+2+2+2 quatrain, with each building on the one prior. The “fat and richness” of the land is in stark contrast to the dry and waterless land of verse 2 [1] (cf. the previous study). The Psalmist hopes for (and expects) that YHWH will fulfill his longing and satisfy (ub^c*) his soul. The nouns bl#j# and /v#D# each fundamentally denote “fat(ness),” specifically the rich and fatty portion of an animal (covering the meat and intestines, etc). However, the latter, in particular, can be used more figuratively to indicate “richness, prosperity,” etc. Dahood (II, p. 99) would vocalize blj as bl*j* (“milk”); this is possible, but unnecessary for the sense of the verse.

Once the Psalmist’s prayer is answered, and he receives the richness of God’s blessing (and His presence), so as to satisfy his soul, then he announces that he will worship YHWH with a ringing cry (/nr) of praise (vb ll^h* II). The plural of the noun hn`n`r= is rare, occurring only here in the Old Testament; Dahood (II, p. 99) would vocalize it as a verbal noun (feminine plural participle, tn)n+r)) of the root /nr.

Verse 7 [6]

“When I remember you (while laying) on my bed,
in (my night) watches I shall murmur to you.”

The idea here is that even on his bed (lit. the place where he “spreads/lays out”, u^Wxy`) at night, the Psalmist will give praise to YHWH, murmuring (vb hg`h*) to Him. The concluding phrase could also be translated “I shall meditate on you,” (cf. Psalm 1:2; 143:5) but “murmur” is closer to the fundamental meaning of the verb, entailing the uttering of a sound with the mouth (cp. 35:28; 37:30; 71:24; 77:13[12]; 115:7).

Verse 8 [7]

“(Oh,) that you might be (the) help for me,
and in (the) shade of your wings I shall cry out!”

It is not entirely clear whether the perfect tense of the verb rz`u* (“[give] help”) should be understood as a normal past tense form (anticipating an action as something that will have occurred), as a gnomic perfect (reflecting what YHWH regularly/always does), or as a precative perfect (expressing the Psalmist’s wish/hope as something that has already occurred). I have opted for the latter. This gives to the entire stanza a poignant tension that is well expressed by the Psalmist’s fervent night-time praying in v. 7. On the one hand, he fully expects that YHWH will answer his prayer and will bless him (v. 6); but, at the same time, he still is in desperate need of God’s protection. He hopes for this Divine protection—a frequent motif in the Psalms—utilizing the popular image of the “shade/shadow” (lx@) of a bird’s protective wings (cf. Psalm 17:8; 36:8; 57:2; and on the protective shade of God more generally, 91:1; 121:5).

Stanza 3: vv. 9-12 [8-11]

Verse 9 [8]

“My soul sticks close (following) after you,
(while) on me your right hand grabs hold.”

After the fervent scene of prayer in vv. 6-8, the Psalmist responds with confidence in the final stanza, fully expecting the YHWH will answer his prayer. Here in the initial couplet, he expresses his devotion to God, in terms of following after (rja) Him, his soul “sticking (close)” (vb qb^D*). The Psalmist’s faithfulness to the covenant bond with YHWH means that God will respond to that loyalty, with help and blessing. The image of God “grabbing hold” (vb Em^T*) of the Psalmist with His strong right hand, expresses both the promise of protection and an affirmation of the covenant bond that is upheld.

Verse 10 [9]

“But those (who) for destruction seek my soul,
may they go (down) in(to the) depths of the earth!”

Verses 9 and 10, taken together, represent the traditional wisdom theme (so common in the Psalms) of the contrast between the righteous and wicked. The righteous will be protected and blessed by YHWH, but the wicked will be condemned to death. Here the Psalmist calls down a curse upon the wicked, those who are his hostile adversaries. Such imprecatory verses are relatively common in the Psalms, as we have seen, however uncomfortable we may be with such language as Christians today.

The devotion of the Psalmist’s soul to God (v. 9) is here contrasted with the idea of his wicked enemies seeking (vb vq^B*) his soul (for the purpose of destroying it). The expression of their evil purpose is ha*ovl=, “for destruction”. The noun ha*ov basically means something like “devastation, desolation, ruin,” but with a clear sense of violence implied (cf. Dahood, II, p. 100).

Given the imprecatory character of this verse, the imperfect verb form in the second line should be understood as having jussive (volitive/precative) force.

Verse 11 [10]

“May they be hurled down by (the) hand of (the) sword—
(as) a portion for (the) jackals they shall be!”

The verb form at the beginning of the first line is problematic. The vocalized MT, read as a jussive (continuing the imprecation/curse), would be “may they pour/hurl down him” (vb rg~n`). Almost certainly, this should be understood as a passive verb form, while the context suggests that the 3rd person singular suffix (Wh-) expresses a dative of agency; on both points, cf. Dahood, II, p. 100f (for a different explanation, see Hossfeld-Zenger, p. 120). Literally, then, the line would read: “May they be hurled down by him upon (the) hand [i.e., by the edge] of the sword.” For poetic concision, I have abridged this in my translation above. Presumably, YHWH would be the agent acting—it is He who will hurl the wicked down into Sheol (the realm of the dead in the “depths of the earth”).

Verse 12 [11]

“But the king shall rejoice in (the) Mightiest—
he shall shout, every one binding himself by Him,
(while the) mouth of (those) speaking lies shall be shut.”

Some commentators would read the initial line of verse 12 as a secondary addition to the original couplet. To be sure, lines 2 and 3, taking by themselves, would be sufficient for emphasizing again, at the close of the Psalm, the contrast between the righteous and the wicked. The one trusting in YHWH, being faithful and loyal to Him, will be able to shout boldly (vb ll^h*, the idea of a “boast” may be intended), while the mouth of the wicked (those “speaking a lie”) will be “shut up” (vb rv^s*).

The loyalty of the righteous is expressed here by the technical use of the verb ub^v* (which apparently denotes doing something “seven times” or “seven-fold”). This technical usage clearly refers to swearing an oath, and may carry the basic meaning of binding oneself [passive/reflexive] sevenfold by an oath. For poetic concision, I have rendered uB*v=N]h^-lK* above simply as “every one binding himself”. However, the contrastive parallel with “speaking lies” probably means that the idea of speaking the (truthful) words of an oath is specifically being emphasized; if so, then it might be better to translate as “every one swearing (an oath)”. The oath, of course, is made by YHWH (“by Him”)—that is, trusting in YHWH as God and Protector of the covenant.

The brings us back to the reference to “the king” in line 1. As I have mentioned repeatedly, many of the Psalms evince a royal background, retaining certain traditional elements—language, imagery, etc—that may reflect both historical traditions and ancient royal theology. This is quite valid, even if one does not accept the attribution of these Psalms to David, etc, in the headings. The Psalmist here may be said to represent both the righteous Israelite and the king (as representative of the people as a whole). The covenant bond is between YHWH and the king (as His vassal), just as it is between God and His people. The Divine blessing and protection has a special place in relation to the king; this is very much part of the Israelite/Judean royal theology, and it is reflected throughout the Psalms at a number of points.

For these reasons, I tend to regard the first line of verse 12 as an integral part of the original Psalm. For further discussion, see Dahood, II, pp. 96, 101 and Hossfeld-Zenger, pp. 120-2.

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).
Those marked “Hossfeld-Zenger” are to Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51-100, translated from the German by Linda M. Maloney, Hermeneia Commentary series (Fortress Press: 2005).

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 63 (Part 1)

Psalm 63

Dead Sea MSS: 4QPsa (vv. 2, 4 [1, 3])

We have here a prayer-Psalm with certain lament features, such are to be found in a number of the Psalms we have studied thus far. From the standpoint of the thematic structure, it is possible to divide the Psalm two ways. First, one many isolate a main section (vv. 4-9), in which the Psalmist affirms his devotion to YHWH. This is preceded by a plea for blessing, for an experience of the Divine Presence (vv. 2-3); and it is followed by an imprecatory petition, calling down a curse upon the wicked (vv. 10-12).

Another possibility is a three-part structure, working from the repeated mention of “my soul” (yv!p=n~) in vv. 2, 6, and 9. Based on this dividing principle, there would be three stanzas of unequal length (vv. 2-5, 6-8, 9-12), each of which begins with a reference to the Psalmist’s soul desiring/longing for YHWH. It may be possible to combine this division with the thematic structuring mentioned above. We may thus speak of two main stanzas, juxtaposing the emphasis on prayer for blessing (vv. 2-5) and the call for a curse on the wicked (vv. 9-12). The shorter central stanza (vv. 6-8) is transitional, developing the main theme of the Psalmist’s devotion to YHWH.

Metrically, the Psalm tends to follow a 3-beat (3+3) couplet pattern, though not consistently so; places where the poetic rhythm differs or is irregular will be noted.

The heading marks this as yet another musical composition (romz+m!) “belonging to David”. The additional contextual information, “in his [i.e. David’s] being in (the) outback [i.e. ‘wilderness’] of Yehudah,” alludes to the David tradition(s) narrated in 1 Samuel 22, 23.

Stanza 1: VV. 2-5 [1-4]

Verse 2 [1]

“Mightiest, you my Mighty (One), I seek you at dawn;
(indeed,) my soul thirsts for you,
my flesh faints (with longing) for you,
like a dry land exhausted by no water.”

The initial <yh!l)a$ marks this as another ‘Elohist’ Psalm, in which the plural title <yh!l)a$ (“Mightiest [One],” Elohim, i.e. ‘God’) has been substituted for the Divine name hwhy (YHWH).

In the MT as we have it, a long 4-beat couplet in the opening line is followed by a 3-beat triad (3+3+3). For a slightly different approach to the division of these lines, cf. Dahood (II, p. 96f). In the first line, the verb rj^v* is denominative (from rj^v^, “dawn”) and refers to doing something at dawn (or early in the morning). The sense of longing conveyed in the following lines makes it appropriate to fill in the act of seeking—i.e., “I seek you at dawn”. This establishes the setting for the first stanza.

The first two lines of the triad that follows form a synonymous couplet: “my soul thirsts for you / my flesh faints for you”, with the verbal parallel of am^x* (“thirst”) and Hm^K* (“[be] faint”); the latter verb occurs only here in the Old Testament, and its meaning must be determined from the context, and by possible cognates in other Semitic languages (Syriac, Arabic). The juxtaposition of soul and “flesh” (i.e., body) is comprehensive, indicating how the Psalmist’s entire person, his whole being, longs for YHWH’s presence.

I take the initial preposition (B=) in the fourth line to have comparative force (cf. Dahood, II, p. 97); in other words, the Psalmist is comparing his longing to that of a dry desert land longing for water. The association with the David tradition indicated in the heading (cf. above) may have been due to reading B= here in its common locative sense—i.e., “in a dry land”. I also tentatively follow Dahood in revocalizing MT [y@u* (a masculine adjective which does not agree with the feminine noun Jr#a#) as an infinitive ([y)u*), “(being) exhausted”. The land is exhausted because of its lack of water, indicated here by the privative adverbial particle yl!B=

Verses 3-5 [2-4]

“So in (the) holy (place) I (would) gaze on you,
to see your strength and your weight—
for good is your kindness (more) than (my) life,
(and the) lips (that) praise you—
so will I bless you in (all) my life,
in your name I will lift my palms.”

The complex poetic syntax of vv. 3-5 demands that they be treated as a unit. Again, my translation does not adequately capture the meter, which requires some explanation. Verses 3 and 5 are essentially parallel couplets, each with a 3-beat (3+3) meter, and each beginning with the emphatic particle /K@ (“thus, so”). These couplets frame an idealized scene of worship:

    • so [/K@] in the holy place I (would) gaze on you,
      to see your strength and your weight…
    • so [/K@] will I bless you in (all) my life,
      in your name I will lift (up) my palms

The Psalmist responds to a vision of YHWH in the (Temple) sanctuary, much like the prophet Isaiah in the famous visionary scene of Isa 6. I understand the perfect verb form ;yt!yz]j& (lit. “I have gazed [on] you”), as a precative perfect, reflecting the Psalmist’s wish for the future expressed as something that has already occurred.

The grandeur and glory of the Divine presence is described using the standard terms of zu) (“strength”) and dobK*—this latter word itself is often translated “glory,” but literally means “weight”, typically in the sense of “worth” (i.e., the value of something); the two terms together refer to the overwhelming greatness of YHWH.

Indeed, so overpowering is the experience of YHWH’s presence, that the Psalmist must give worship (vb Er^B*) with all of his being. The preposition B= in the expression “in my life” (yY`j^B=) could mean either “during my life” or “with (all) my life”. The fundamental meaning of the verb Er^B* suggests a gesture of worship (i.e., bowing, bending the knee), but can also refer to speech (i.e., “blessing” with the mouth). The parallel of lifting up of one’s palms would seem to confirm an act or gesture; in any case, we are dealing with a comprehensive state of worship that encompasses the whole person, and continues throughout his/her life. Such a thorough sense of devotion to YHWH is a characteristic of the righteous, and identifies the Psalmist as one of the righteous.

The middle couplet (v. 4) lies at the heart of this worship scene. It is distinct both in its irregular (3+2) rhythm and in its peculiar syntax. The first line establishes a comparison, between YHWH and the Psalmist. The comparison is made through the preposition /m! (“from”), used in a comparative sense; this usage is difficult to translate, requiring in English something like “(more) than”. The specific comparison is between the ds#j# (“kindness, goodness”) of YHWH and the entirety of the Psalmist’s person. Again the plural noun <yY]j^ (“life, living”) is used, referring to the Psalmist’s life (just as in v. 5). The noun ds#j# often is used in a covenantal context, connoting faithfulness and loyalty; it is typically used this way in the Psalms, as an attribute of YHWH—viz., His loyalty to the covenant.

Not only is God’s loyalty and goodness, etc, greater than the Psalmist’s own life, but it far surpasses his ability to find words fitting enough to express praise for it (vb jb^v*). As a minor grammatical note, even though the suffixed noun yt^p*c= (“my lips”) is feminine (a dual form), the corresponding verb is a masculine plural (WjB=v^y+, “they shall praise”); this, however, is by no means unusual (cf. Prov 5:2; 10:8, etc).

There is an interesting poetic symmetry in verse 5 that is worth commenting on (cf. also Dahood, II, p. 98); there is a certain chiastic structure to the lines:

    • I will bless you
      • in my life/living
      • in your name
    • I will lift my hands

The implication is that the Psalmist’s life (yj^) is to be realized in the presence of YHWH Himself. Here, God’s manifest presence, in relation to His people, his expressed through His name (<v@). This is typical of Old Testament and Israelite religious theology, and is tied to the ancient Near Eastern understanding of the significance of names and naming; for more on this, see my earlier discussion in the series “And You Shall Call His Name…”. It is quite possible that the idea of the blessed life in heaven is in view here, and that the vision in the “holy place” may refer, not so much to a ritual setting in the Temple, but to the heavenly dwelling of YHWH.

(The remainder of this Psalm [Stanzas 2 and 3]  will be discussed in next week’s study.)

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).

 

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 62 (Part 2)

Psalm 62, continued

The first two stanzas of Psalm 62 were discussed in the previous study. Those stanzas are roughly similar in structure, with opening lines that are very close. The third section, however, is quite different, and functions as a coda in relation to the first two sections. It is didactic, containing proverbial material; there had been wisdom-elements in the first stanza (verses 4-5, cp. vv. 8-9), but they are much more prominent in the final stanza. In our studies, we have seen how Wisdom-traditions shaped many of the Psalms, giving a new (communal) framework to the ancient royal/covenant themes. Often this wisdom-influence features notably in the closing section of a Psalm, and this is very much the case in Psalm 62.

The wisdom-elements in vv. 4-5 introduce the familiar theme of the contrast between the righteous and wicked. There is also an implied contrast established, in the first two stanzas, between the person who is without YHWH’s protection (vv. 4-5), who is thus vulnerable to attacks by the wicked, and the righteous/faithful one who is under God’s protection (vv. 8-9).

Stanza 3: VV. 10-13 [9-12]

Verse 10 [9]

“Indeed an empty (wind) (are the) sons of men,
(and) a deception, the sons of a (great) man;
(as) weight in the balances, they are to go up,
all together, (light)er than an empty (vapor).”

The Wisdom-theme of the final stanza is indicated here by the use of the noun lb#h# in the first two couplets. Denoting something that is empty (spec. a wind or breath), lb#h# is a keyword in Old Testament Wisdom literature, occurring 4 times in Job, 3 times in Proverbs, and 38 times in Ecclesiastes; the 9 occurrences in the Psalms (cf. earlier in 31:7; 39:6-7, 12) attest to the influence of Wisdom traditions on the Psalter. As a wisdom term, lb#h# signifies how insubstantial and fleeting human existence is, emphasizing, at the same time, the foolishness and vanity of many people in the world (esp. the wicked).

The expressions <d*a*-yn@B= and vya!-yn@B= are essentially equivalent, both meaning “sons of man” (i.e., human beings); however, if a distinction is intended, the singular vya! could imply a noteworthy person (i.e., great/prominent men), compared with the ‘ordinary’ human beings of the collective <d*a*.

The third line, as it reads in the MT, is a bit awkward. Dahood (II, p. 93) would explain twlul as a plural form of the noun hl#u* (“leaf,” i.e., “leaves”), with the prefixed preposition l used in a comparative sense (i.e., “[light]er than leaves”), comparable to comparative /m! in the next line; the couplet would then be:

“(a weight) in (the) balances (light)er than leaves,
all together (light)er than an empty (vapor).”

The first couplet has a synonymous parallelism, while in the second couplet the parallelism is synthetic. It is also possible to view the thematic structure of the verse as a chiasm:

    • Human beings are an empty wind [lb#h#]
      • They are a deception, characterized by deceit [bz`K*]
      • They are proven false when weighed in the scales (of God’s Judgment)
    • All human beings are an empty vapor [lb#h#]
Verse 11 [10]

“Do not trust in oppression and tearing away,
do not (rely) on the emptiness of strength—
that it should bear fruit, do not set your heart (on it)!”

The verb jf^B* in line 1 appeared earlier in v. 9, and occurs frequently in the Psalms, in the context of the protection YHWH provides. The righteous trust in that protection, seeking it from God. By contrast, the wicked trust in their own power and wealth—both of which are summarized by the noun ly]j^ (“strength”). It is implied here (in line 1) that the wealth of the wicked is obtained through oppression and robbery. The first of these (noun qv#u)) can also connote the use violence (or threats of it) and deceitful practices, and may be rendered “extortion”. The second (noun lz@G`) typically refers to tearing or stripping away, usually in the context of violent robbery or plunder. Even if such actions seem to lead to success and prosperity for the wicked, even if a person’s worldly power and wealth seems to prevail (vb bWn, lit. “bear fruit”), it is still only a deceptive vanity, and should not be relied upon (“do not set your heart [on it]”).

Verses 12-13 [11-12]

“Once (the) Mightiest has spoken,
(and) this twice I have heard:
that strength (belongs) to (the) Mightiest,
and to you, my Lord, goodness,
that you make complete (the judgment)
for a man, according to his deed(s).”

In contrast to the strength (ly]j^) of human beings (v. 11), the righteous trust in the strength (zu)) of YHWH. Unlike human beings, whose power is often obtained through wickedness, God’s power is joined to His attribute of goodness (ds#j#)—which, as I have noted often in these studies, is typically used in the Psalms in the context of the covenant-bond, connoting faithfulness and loyalty.

YHWH can also be trusted because He is the Sovereign and Judge over all the universe. The setting of the great Judgment was alluded to in verse 10 (cf. above), and is referenced again here, at the end of the Psalm, in the final couplet. The verb <l^v* (“complete, fulfill”) also tends to be used in the Psalms in relation to the covenant. God is faithful and will fulfill His part of the binding agreement (with His people); the only question is whether humankind will complete their side of the agreement. This is the crux of the Wisdom-contrast between the righteous and the wicked. The righteous are faithful to the covenant, while the wicked are not. And YHWH, as the supreme Ruler and Judge, will respond as is appropriate, completing the agreement by paying back what is due to each person—good or bad, reward or punishment—according to what they have done (verbal noun hc#u&m^).

The opening couplet makes use of the so-called ‘numeric ladder’ device, using a numerical sequence x / x+1, which is a poetic device that occurs frequently in both Canaanite and Hebrew poetry, and features in Wisdom literature (see esp. its use in the book of Proverbs). Here the sequence is “once / twice,” or “one thing / two things” (tj^a^ / dual <y]T^v=). Cf. Dahood, II, p. 94.

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).

 

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 62 (Part 1)

Psalm 62

Dead Sea MSS: 4QPsa (v. 13 [12])

This Psalm has a curious structure and thematic development. In this instance, the Selah (hl*s#) pause marker appears to be a structural indicator. The markers divide the Psalm into three stanzas. The first two stanzas have similar openings, especially in the first two couplets. In these lines, the familiar theme of divine protection is emphasized. We have seen how many of the Psalms feature the covenant-theme of the protection YHWH provides for the righteous, with the specific idea (often framed as a prayer-request) that God will deliver the Psalmist from his ‘enemies’ and from the danger of death.

The first stanza, however, has an expanded form, in verses 4-5 (cp. vv. 8-9), which are heavily influenced by Wisdom-traditions. These Wisdom-elements feature even more prominently in the final stanza, which functions as a coda—a didactic section containing proverbial material. We have seen how Wisdom-traditions shaped many of the Psalms, giving a new (communal) framework to the ancient royal/covenant themes. This is very much the case in this Psalm as well, though the structuring of the material overall is a bit peculiar.

The superscription marks this Psalm as another Davidic composition (“belonging to David”), and specifically identifies it as a musical composition (romz+m!). The term romz+m! last occurred in Psalm 51, not being used in Pss 52-61, though it is perhaps implied in Ps 61.

The precise meaning of the expression /WtWdy+-lu^ is uncertain. /WtWdy+ (Y®¼û¾ûn, Jeduthun) was the name of a Levitical musician who served in the Tent-shrine during the reign of David (1 Chron 16:41-42; 25:6). A musician with the same name served in Solomon’s Temple (2 Chron 5:2), and the name seems to refer to a family of Priestly musicians. In the heading of Psalm 39, Jeduthun may be identified as the musical director; however, here the use of the preposition lu^ (“upon”) suggests a particular musical style or mode (i.e., in the manner of Jeduthun); cf. also 77:1. Possibly it could refer to a specific melody (cf. 60:1, etc), or even (less likely) to a kind of instrument (cf. 61:1, etc).

Stanza 1: VV. 2-5 [1-4]

Verses 2-3 [1-2]

“To (the) Mightiest alone (I go, to my) strong tower,
(O) my soul, from Him (comes) my salvation!
He alone (is) my rock and my salvation—
my place up high, I will not at all be shaken!”

The first two couplets are essentially repeated at the beginning of the second stanza (vv. 6-7), with slight variation (discussed below).

I follow Dahood (II, p. 90-1) in viewing the noun hY`m!WD as essentially equivalent to hm*WD in v. 6, but deriving not from the root <Wd (= <md), “be silent,” but rather as being cognate to Akkadian dimtu, denoting a tower or other strong/fortified location. That would appear to be the meaning of hm*D% in Ezek 27:32, and it is much more suitable to the context here than the idea of “silence”. This is confirmed by the parallel of rWx (“rock”) in the first line of the second couplet. The basic motif is of a secure (fortified) location on a high rock, as a way of emphasizing the security and protection that YHWH provides for the righteous.

The parallel in verse 6 suggests that –la# here is equivalent in meaning to the prefixed preposition l= there. Dahood (II, p. 92) regards the latter as an emphatic element, and this would be consistent with the overall theme (of YHWH Himself as the Psalmist’s protection). It might also, however, be possible to read la#/l= as a true preposition, in which case the line would be something like: “To (the) Mightiest along (do I go)…,” emphasizing the idea of the Psalmist seeking protection (i.e., going to find refuge) in YHWH (cf. on v. 9 below). I have tentatively opted for this sense in my translation above.

Also with Dahood, I include yv!p=n~ (“my soul”) as part of the second line, thus producing a pair of 3-beat (3+3) couplets. As for the particle Ea^ that begins each couplet, it can be read in an asseverative (“indeed”) or restrictive (“only, alone”) sense; I have opted for the latter, but the former would work just as well.

The locative noun bG~v=m! in the second couplet, which literally means something like “place up high,” again emphasizes the motif of a secure location high on a rock; it occurs frequently in the Psalms, as part of the vocabulary of Divine protection (of the Psalms we have studied, cf. 9:10; 18:3; 46:8, 12; 48:4; 59:10, 17-18). The verb fom (“slip, [be] shake[n]”), in a negative sense (i.e., “will not be shaken”) also occurs frequently in the Psalms, in the context of the protection and deliverance God provides. The adjective hB*r^ (lit., “much, great”) would seem to be used here in a simple emphatic sense—i.e., “I will not be shaken at all”).

Verse 4 [3]

“Until when will you rush against a man,
(to) dash (him) to pieces, all of you—
like a wall bending (down),
(or) a fence th(at is) pushed down?”

The perspective of the stanza suddenly shifts, matched by a shift in meter. From the idea of YHWH as a place of protection for the Psalmist, we have the portrait of the wicked as attacking/assailing others (including the righteous)—thus emphasizing the need for God’s protection. This depiction continues the military imagery (of the fortress/stronghold). Without YHWH’s protection, a man is vulnerable to being attacked by enemies (i.e., the wicked)—they will rush on him (vb tWj, occurring only here) and dash him to pieces (vb jx^r*, “shatter,” spec. “slay, murder”). The dual motif of the bending wall and pushed-down fence is best understood as describing the man without protection. Instead of YHWH as a strong fortress, the person without God’s protection, has but flimsy walls and palisades that will easy be pulled down by wicked assailants.

The opening compound particle hn`a*-du^ (“until when,” i.e., for how long…?) seems to be addressed to the wicked, as a kind of condemning taunt, but it perhaps better applies to the victim—i.e., how long will you let yourself be attacked without going to YHWH for protection? Even so, the Wisdom-themed contrast between the righteous and the wicked occurs frequently in the Psalms, and is certainly present here.

Metrically, in this verse, we have a single 3-beat line, following by a triad of 2-beat lines (2+2+2).

Verse 5 [4]

“Only deceptions against him do they plan,
to drive (him) away, they take pleasure in lie(s)!
With their mouth they bless,
but with what is inside them they curse!”
Selah

The contrast between the righteous and wicked continues here, bringing the stanza to a close. From the imagery of a military assault (implying violence), the focus here in v. 5 is attack with the mouth—i.e., using the weapons of lying (bz`K*) and deception (ha*WVm^). The commentators are surely correct who read the consonantal text here (wta?m) as ota)V%m= (“deceptions against him”), rather than the MT ota@c=m! (“from his height/elevation” [?]).

The sense of treachery is brought out by the contrast between what the wicked seem to say (blessing), with what they actually intend in their heart (cursing).

Metrically, in this verse we have a 3-beat (3+3) couplet, followed by a 2-beat (2+2) couplet.

Stanza 2: vv. 6-9 [5-8]

Verses 6-7 [5-6]

“To (the) Mightiest alone (I go, to) my strong tower,
(O) my soul, from Him indeed (comes) my hope!
He alone (is) my rock and my salvation—
my place up high, (and) I will not be shaken!”

The opening couplets of the second stanza are largely identical with those of the first stanza (vv. 2-3, cf. above). The differences are relatively slight, and may be summarized:

    • In the first line: the prefixed preposition l= is used instead of -la#, but apparently with the same meaning (“to[ward]”); as noted above, Dahood would read the l here as emphatic.
    • Again in the first line, the noun hm*WD (with first person suffix) is used instead of hY`m!WD (suffix implied), but with identical meaning (“fortress, tower,” cp. Ezek 27:32)
    • In the second line, the noun hw`q=T! (“hope”) is used instead of hu*Wvy+ (“salvation”); possibly the latter in v. 2 could be a scribal error (influenced by the same word in the first line of v. 3).
    • The particle yK! could be a secondary addition; but, if original, it is used as a emphatic (“indeed”).
    • The final line is missing the adjective hB*r^ (“much, great”) in v. 3; possibly this is a scribal omission, which alters slightly the rhythm of the line.
Verse 8 [7]

“Upon (the) Mightiest (rests) my safety and my worth,
(the) rock of my strength, my shelter (is) in the Mightiest.”

The parallelism in this couplet is chiastic:

    • Upon the Mightiest
      • my salvation / my worth
      • my rock of strength / my place of shelter
    • in the Mightiest

The corresponding verses (vv. 4-5) in stanza 1 depict what happens to a person without God’s protection. Here, in the second stanza, the image is of YHWH’s protection being maintained for the righteous. YHWH Himself is the place of protection (hs#j=m^) for the Psalmist, again being described as a fortified location high on a rock—the specific expression is “rock of my strength” (i.e., my rock of strength, yZ]u%-rWx). The locative noun hs#j=m^ occurs frequently in the Psalms (14:6; 46:2; 61:4; 71:7; 73:28, etc).

The noun dobK* literally means “weight,” often in the sense of the value or worth of something. Here it is used parallel with uv^y# (“salvation, safety”). The idea seems to be two-fold: on the one hand, the person who trusts in YHWH for protection will come through safe and with his/her own worth intact; on the other hand, the salvation God provides, understood in terms of military victory, also leads to honor for the one who trusts in Him.

Verse 9 [8]

“Seek protection in Him at all time(s),
O people, pour out before Him your heart,
(for the) Mightiest (is the) place of shelter for us.”
Selah

Continuing the same theme, the stanza ends with an exhortation for God’s people (i.e., the righteous of Israel) to seek protection in YHWH, trusting in Him at all times (tu@-lk*B=). The verb jf^B* is a keyword in the Psalms (occurring 46 times), fundamentally referring to the act of trusting in YHWH for safety and protection. It is more or less synonymous with the verb hs*j*, also frequent in the Psalms (the derived locative noun hs#j&m^ occurs again here in v. 9, cf. above). The colorful act of “pouring out” one’s heart is used as an idiom for trust.

(The remainder of the Psalm [the third stanza] will be discussed in next week’s study.)

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 61

Psalm 61

Dead Sea MSS: No surviving manuscripts.

This short prayer-Psalm differs in many respects from those we have previously examined in the ‘Elohist’ Psalter. The strong lament emphasis of the earlier compositions is not present here. On the other hand, the royal background is more prominent—both in the use of the traditional military imagery, and in the specific reference to the king in vv. 7-8 (on which, cf. below).

Metrically, the Psalm generally follows a 3-beat (3+3) couplet format, though not consistently so. The Selah (hl*s#) pause-marker effectively serves to divide the short Psalm into two parts (vv. 2-5, 6-9). The division is typical of many Psalms: with the Psalmist’s prayer (his plea/petition) emphasized in the first part, and the expectation of an answer to his prayer in the second part.

The heading also shows that Psalm 61 marks the start of new sequence, moving away from the previous miktam (<T*k=m!) compositions, which appear to have been poems without music, set to existing melodies. This Psalm, on the other hand, is presumably a musical composition (the term romz+m! is not used, but perhaps implied), performed on a stringed instrument. In this regard, the singular hn`yg]n+ is used, rather than the more common plural (Ps 54:1, et al); many commentators would ‘correct’ this, vocalizing the construct tnygn as a plural form (tn)yg]n+). The superscription marks this as another Davidic composition (“belonging to David”).

VERSES 2-5 [1-4]

Verse 2 [1]

“Hear, O Mightiest, my ringing cry,
incline (your ear) to my prayer.”

The initial couplet has a shortened 3+2 meter, establishing the Psalmist’s prayer to YHWH. Two nouns are used for this, the first of which (hN`r!) refers to a ringing or piercing cry, like that of a bird; the second (hL`p!T=) is typically translated “prayer,” but should be understood within the legal/judicial context of a petition (i.e., made for a judge). God, as the Judge, is asked to listen (fairly and attentively) to the plea.

Verse 3a [2a]

“From the end of the earth,
to you do I call (out)
in (the) weakening of my heart.”

Both metrically and thematically, it is better to divide vv. 3-4 into two tricola—the first being a terse 2-beat (2+2+2) tricolon, and the second a ‘regular’ 3-beat (3+3+3) tricolon. The shorter meter of v. 3a reflects the Psalmist’s sense of desperation. The central line contains his plea (“to you I call out [vb ar^q*]”), while the surrounding first and third lines dramatically represent the condition in which he makes this plea. The first line sets a location for the plea—literally, “from the end [hx#q*] of the earth”. Often, in ancient Semitic poetry, the “earth” (Heb Jr#a#) specifically denotes (or connotes) the underworld, i.e., the region under the earth’s surface, being the region of Death (and the dead). It may well be that here the far extremity (end/edge/border) of the earth has a metaphysical meaning, indicating a threat to the Psalmist’s life. On this line of interpretation, cf. Dahood (II, p. 84) and Hossfeld-Zenger (pp. 104-6).

The third line emphasizes this threat to the Psalmist’s existence, by referencing a “weakening” (verbal noun [n)a&) of his heart. A bit of wordplay may be involved here, since the root [nu II means “cover over, envelop,” and so may allude to the danger that threatens to engulf and overwhelm the Psalmist.

Verse 3b-4 [2b-3]

“On a rock higher than I (could reach), lead me.
(O) that you would be a place of shelter for me,
a great place of strength from (the) hostile face.”

This tricolon provides a stark contrast with that of v. 3a, both in terms of meter and imagery. The sharp 2-beat staccato rhythm of v. 3a here gives way to a calmer ‘regular’ 3-beat meter. Similarly, the Psalmist’s distress and sense of despair is answered by the hope that YHWH will provide a place of protection for him. This is a frequent motif in the prayer-Psalms, in which the author/composer prays to God for deliverance. All the typical features of this imagery are present: an inaccessible location high up (line 1), YHWH Himself as a place of safety (line 2), and the idea of protection from hostile opponents (line 3).

In the first line, the motif is of a safe/secure location high upon a rock (rWx). The verb <Wr (“be [raised] high”) followed by the preposition /m! (“from”) is best understood as a comparative idiom (i.e., “higher than me”), in the sense of “higher than I (can reach)”. If the Psalmist himself could not reach such an inaccessibly high location, then neither can his enemies. For a different interpretation of the syntax, but following the same thematic explanation, cf. Dahood, II, p. 85.

In the next two lines (v. 4), this location is further described, using locative nouns (marked by a preformative –m). First, we have hs#j=m^, from the root hsj (“seek/find protection”), meaning “place of protection, place of shelter/refuge”; both the verb and noun occur frequently in the Psalms (cf. 14:6; 46:2, etc). The second noun is lD^g+m!, meaning “a great/tall place,” often referring specifically to a tower. It occurs here in the expression “great place of strength” (zu*-lD^g+m!), which, in context, should be understood as a fortified site with walls and towers. YHWH Himself is this place of protection for the Psalmist.

As I have discussed on previous occasions, this relates to the ancient covenant concept; in terms of the religious covenant between YHWH and His people (as also with the king as His vassal), as long as God’s servants remain faithful, He is obligated to provide protection (from all enemies and dangers, etc). These enemies are referenced at the end of the third line, where it is expected that God will protect the Psalmist “from the face of (the one) hostile (to me)”. Poetic concision would require a translation “from the face of the enemy” (proper syntax), or, as an alternative that perhaps better captures the meaning, “from the hostile face”.

Verse 5 [4]

“I would come to dwell in your Tent of distant (time)s,
I would seek shelter in (the) hiding (place) of your wings.”
Selah

The conclusion of the Psalmist’s prayer builds upon the triad of protective imagery in vv. 3b-4. He expresses his wish that he might come to dwell in that place of shelter and protection that YHWH Himself provides. Following Dahood (II, p. 86) and other commentators, I read the imperfect verb forms here as subjunctive (“I would…”), similar to the perfect form in v. 4a (following the emphatic particle –yK!, i.e., “O that you would…”). It is also possible to read these in a cohortative/jussive sense (“Let me…!”).

The verb in the second line is hs*j* (“seek/find protection”), on which, cf. above regarding the related noun hs#j=m^. The first line uses the verb rWG, “turn aside,” usually in the specific context of coming to dwell (as a stranger) in a particular place. Like such a traveler, the Psalmist wishes to dwell in the “tent” of YHWH. This could refer to the Temple, but here it should be understood, more generally, in reference to the very presence of YHWH Himself (whether a heavenly or earthly location is in view). The expressions in the two lines have a formal parallelism:

    • “in your tent of distant (time)s” |
      “in (the) hiding (place) of your wings”

However, viewed thematically or conceptually, the lines form a chiasm:

    • “your tent”
      • “distant (times/places)”
      • “hiding (place)”
    • “your wings”

Clearly, the “tent” and “wings” of YHWH are conceptually parallel, both referring to the protection YHWH provides. The root <lu (from which the noun <l*ou derives) has the fundamental meaning of being distant; the noun is often used in a temporal sense—i.e., of a time either in the distant past or distant future. Both temporal aspects are applied, in a religious/theological sense, to YHWH, whose life and existence extends beyond the most distant time past, and into the most distant future; the English “eternal/eternity” provides a rough equivalent. There is a separate/cognate root <lu which denotes being hidden, which corresponds here with rts (noun rt#s#, “hiding [place]”).

Verses 6-9 [5-8]

Verse 6 [5]

“(O) that you, Mightiest, would listen to my vows,
(you who) give a possession (to those) fearing your name.”

The 3-beat meter of the first part shifts (in vv. 6 and 9) to a 4-beat (4+4) couplet format. This reflects a shift in emphasis, from the Psalmist’s prayer to an expectation that his prayer will be answered. This leads to a certain ambiguity regarding the perfect verb forms here in v. 6: are they ordinary (past-tense) perfects, or should they be read as precative perfects reflecting what the Psalmist wishes (and expects) will happen in the future? I follow Dahood (II, p. 86, cf. also I, pp. 20, 241) and other commentators in reading them as having precative force.

However, I also feel that the second line here is epexegetical, functioning almost as a relative clause, and that the verb /t^n` is meant to describe the conduct of YHWH, i.e., “(you who) give…”. In other words, since YHWH is the One who gives covenant-rewards to His faithful servants (those “fearing His name”), He surely will grant to the Psalmist blessing in response to what he has (faithfully) vowed. The hV`Wry+ (“possession”), in such a covenant-context, often refers to a piece of land given to someone as a hereditary property.

The “vows” (<yr!d*n+) here should be understood in a comprehensive sense, covering the Psalmist’s prayer in vv. 2-5 (cf. above), but also to his faithfulness in praising the name of YHWH on a regular basis (v. 9). That the Psalmist fulfills what He vows to YHWH, serves to demonstrate his faithfulness, and that, as a result, YHWH has a covenant-obligation to provide protection and blessing, etc.

Verses 7-8 [6-7]

“Days upon (the) days of (the) king may you add,
(and) his years for a cycle and (another) cycle;
may he sit (for) the distant (future) before (the) Mightiest,
goodness and firmness, measured (out), may they guard him!”

The 3-beat couplets of vv. 7-8 interrupt the 4-beat couplets of vv. 6 and 9; moreover, the introduction of a prayer-wish (to God) for the king seems abrupt and jarring to the overall context. Thus, many commentators would regard these lines as a secondary addition (interpolation) to the original composition; cf. the discussion by Hossfeld-Zenger, pp. 106-7. Dahood (II, pp. 83-4) is among those who argue for the originality of the lines, on the theory that the king is the speaker throughout the Psalm. He cites the example of a 5th century B.C. Phoenician inscription by Yeµawmilk of Byblos, which contain a similar shift from 1st-person to 3rd-person voice. I have previously noted how many of the Psalms envince a royal background, reflecting important themes and motifs (and language) from the kingdom-period, which often were preserved even as the compositions were further shaped by other forces (e.g., Wisdom traditions, an emphasis on communal worship, etc).

Verse 7 is a prayer for long life to the king. In line 1, extra “days” are to be added (vb [s^y`) to the days that would otherwise be alloted to his life-span. The same idea is expressed in the second line, of an extension of his “years” beyond that of a single generation (roD, “age, cycle, circle [of life]”). The expression rodw` roD occurs frequently in the Psalms (at least 16 times, 10:6; 33:11; 45:18; 49:12, etc), as an idiom for long life, sometimes being paired with the noun <l*ou (cf. below). The expression is often translated “(from) generation to generation,” but the sense of perpetual progression is perhaps better captured by the more literal idea of “(this) age and (the next) age”.

In verse 8, the wish is for a long and prosperous reign for the king, in which he will sit (vb bv^y`) on the throne, being safeguarded (vb rx^n`) by YHWH. As noted above, the noun <l*ou is parallel to the expression rodw` roD, with a similar connotation of long life. The specific denotation of <l*ou is for a period of time extending into the distant future. The protection YHWH provides, to the king as His faithful vassal, is here defined through the terms ds#j# (“goodness, kindness”) and tm#a# (“firmness”)—both are covenant-terms, connoting faithfulness and loyalty.

Verse 9 [8]

“So (then) will I sing your name until (the end),
for my completing of my vows day (by) day.”

The basic idea here, as we find often in the Psalms, is that once YHWH has answered the Psalmist’s prayer, he, in turn, will give praise to YHWH. A public worship setting is often assumed for this act of praise, and the very musical inspiration of the Psalmist (as a poet-composer) is tied to such praise. There is a presumed context, whereby the Psalmist’s petition to YHWH is connected with a religious vow (rd#n#). If God answers the Psalmist’s prayer, then he is obligated to fulfill the vow. Here, the verb <l^v* (“complete, fulfill”), often used in a covenant-context, relates to this obligation.

The expressions du^l* (“until [the end]”) and <oy <oy (“day [by] day”) are conceptually parallel (as time indicators) with <l*ou and rodw` roD in vv. 7-8 (cf. above). <oy <oy represents a microcosm of rodw` roD, but capturing the same sense of perpetuity, while du^l* has much the same meaning as <l*ou, as an indicator of a period of time lasting into the distant future.

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).
Those marked “Hossfeld-Zenger” are to Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51-100, translated from the German by Linda M. Maloney, Hermeneia Commentary series (Fortress Press: 2005).

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 60

Psalm 60

Dead Sea MSS: No surviving manuscripts.

This is yet another prayer-Psalm with lament characteristics. The characteristic shift, from a plea for deliverance to an expectation that YHWH will answer the Psalmist’s prayer, has occurred in a number of the ‘Elohist’ Psalms we have recently studied. The structure of the composition, in this instance, is peculiar, due primarily to the divine oracle present in vv. 8-10 [6-8]. Within both Judaism and early Christianity, the Psalms came to be regarded as prophetic (to be counted among the Prophets); however, this is one of the few Psalms which actually contains a prophetic oracle.

The meter follows a 3-beat (3+3) couplet format, with a notable shift to a 3-beat tricolon (3+3+3) format in vv. 8-10. This shift marks off the divine speech of vv. 8-10 in poetic terms.

For the structure of the Psalm, I feel it is best to divide it into parallel sections, separated by the oracle in vv. 8-10:

    • Part 1: Lament over the suffering experienced as a result of YHWH’s anger (vv. 3-5 [1-3])
    • [Oracle regarding the Kingdom] (vv. 8-11 [6-9])
    • Part 2: A second lament (v. 12 [10]) and prayer for deliverance (vv. 13-14 [11-12])

The heading designates this Psalm as another  <T*k=m! (miktam, on this term, cf. the study on Psalm 16). The previous miktams were apparently poems without music, to be sung to an existing melody. This also seems to be the case here, with the melody being /v*Wv (“lily,” or possibly “lotus”), resembling the name in Pss 45 and 69 (pl. <yN]v^ov, “lilies”). The poem is also designated as an tWdu@, usually translated “testimony,” but properly referring to words that are to be repeated. There is thus a didactic purpose to the poem, which is “to be taught” (dM@l^l=), much like the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32.

The superscription marks the poem as yet another Davidic composition (“belonging to David”), attributing it (in verse 2) in relation to the historical David-tradition recorded in 2 Samuel 8:1-14 (par 1 Chron 18:1-13). This tradition relates to the nations mentioned in vv. 8-11, in the context of the establishment of the kingdom of David and Solomon—which represented the territory of the Israelite kingdom at its greatest extent.

In this regard, there have been a good many theories regarding the specific dating of the poem, along with the critical question of how the oracle in vv. 8-10 fits within the overall composition. It is generally thought that the oracle represents a significantly older piece of traditional material, around which the remainder of the Psalm was composed. A common view is that the Psalm proper dates from the late kingdom-period, around the time of the Babylonian conquest, thus creating a stark juxtaposition with the territorial promises in the oracle. For a good survey of the question of dating, cf. Hossfeld-Zenger, pp. 95-8.

PART 1: VERSES 3-7 [1-5]

Verse 3 [1]

“O Mightiest, you rejected us, you scattered us;
you were angry—(but) may you turn back to us!”

Two points of interpretation are important for determining the thrust of this opening couplet. First, does the verb jn~z` mean “reject,” or “be angry” (corr. to Akkadian zenû, cf. Dahood, II, p. 77). Second, does the imperfect verb form bb@ovT= reflect an indicative or jussive? If a jussive (with imperatival force) is intended, the the verb bWv here would have the positive meaning “turn back, return”; but, if it is a past tense indicative, then it has a negative sense of “turn away, withdraw”. Dahood opts for the latter, along with reading jnz in the sense of “be angry”; this creates a parallel couplet of pure lament:

“O Mightiest, you were angry with us, you scattered us;
you snorted with anger, (and) you turned away from us!”

The force of the couplet might even be clearer if jnz has the typical meaning “reject”, creating a chiasm:

    • “you rejected us”
      • “you scattered us”
      • “you were angry” (i.e. snorting like an enraged bull)
    • “you turned away from us”

My translation above reads bb@ovT= as a jussive, adding a hopeful prayer-note to the lament.

Verse 4 [2]

“You made (the) earth shake, you split it (open);
may you heal its broken (piece)s, for it is slipping!”

The force of this couplet also hinges on a point of interpretation—regarding the word hpr. The MT vocalizes it hp*r=, usually understood as an alternate spelling of the imperative ap*r= (“heal!”). But the actual verb hp^r* means “(let) sink, drop,” which would fit the image here of a handful of broken pieces, potentially giving to the couplet a sense of unmitigated disaster, i.e., “(you) let drop its broken pieces”. Dahood (II, p. 78) would vocalize as the adjective hp*r* (“slack, drooping,” i.e. “weak”), which leads to a quite vivid couplet, that I would translate as:

“You made (the) earth shake, you split it (open),
(and) weak (from) its broken (part)s, how it is slipping!”

Verse 5 [3]

“You made your people see hardship,
you made us drink (the) wine of reeling.”

Instead of the rather bland Hiphil “you made see” (vb ha*r*), Dahood (II, p. 78) vocalizes htyarh as ht*ar@h), deriving it from the root ary II (“pour”), and also understands hv*q* in connection with the Ugaritic noun q¹š (“cup,” cp. Heb. hw`c=q^, “jug, jar”). This line of interpretation admittedly keeps the imagery more consistent, and also gives to the couplet a striking synthetic parallelism:

“You poured out (for) your people a cup,
you made us drink (the) wine of reeling!”

Verse 6-7 [4-5]

“(May) you give to (those) fearing you a (flag) to raise,
to be raised from (before the) face of the bow(men)!
Selah
To (the end) that your beloved should be pulled out,
keep (us) safe (with) your right hand, and answer us!”

The imperatives in vv. 3-4 (cf. above), if correct, would seem to require that the perfect form hT*t^n` (lit. “you gave”) be understood as a precative perfect—i.e., a wish (for the future) expressed in terms of something that has already happened. In English, this is almost impossible to translate in a way that works in poetry; we might say “(that) you (would have) given,” but it it is easier simply to render it like an imperative or jussive (“may you give…!”). The prayer thus takes the form of a clear petition, a plea to God for deliverance.

The noun sn@ in the first line is related to the verb ss^n` (II) in the second. Both are difficult to translate; the fundamental denotation seems to refer to something raised up high so that everyone can see it—e.g., in a military-political context, a flag or banner, around which people can rally. The reference to archers/bowmen (sing. “bow”, tv#q# in place of MT fv#q) [so most commentators]) certainly indicates a military context, with God’s deliverance (from enemies) in terms of a military victory.

Indeed, a military rescue is described in verse 7, using the verb Jl^j* (I), “pull out, withdraw”, in the sense of YHWH pulling His people (and their king) out of danger. The noun dyd!y`, related to dod (in the Song of Songs, etc), means “(my) love, loved one, beloved”; it could be used here of the people Israel (collectively), or of the king as their leader and representative. The Hiphil imperative of the verb uv^y` in the second line literally means “save (us)…!,” but here it is better understood in the sense of the protection YHWH provides (i.e., “keep [us] safe!”). Following the rescue in line 1, God’s protection (in a military sense) will ultimately lead to victory for His people, a victory which is the answer (vb hn`u*) to the Psalmist’s prayer.

The placement of a Selah (hl*s#) pause-marker between verses 6 and 7 is curious. It does not seem to relate to the structure of the Psalm, but may simply be used to alleviate the syntactical transition between the two verses.

Oracle:  Verses 8-11 [6-9]

There is a sudden shift in verse 8, both structurally and rhythmically. Verses 8-10 [6-8] constitute a prophetic oracle in which YHWH Himself speaks. In place of the 3-beat bicolon (couplet) format in vv. 3-7 (cf. above), there is a tricolon (triplet) format in vv. 8-10.

Verse 8 [6]

“(The) Mightiest has spoken in His Holy (Place):
‘I will exult (and) will make Šekem (my) portion,
and the valley of Sukkot I will measure out.'”

The 3-beat (3+3+3) tricolon format of the oracle is established here. As in verse 3 [1], the title <yh!l)a$ (“Mightiest [One],” Elohim, i.e., ‘God’) is used, presumably in place of, originally, the Divine Name hwhy (YHWH)—a substitution that occurs consistently throughout the ‘Elohist’ Psalms. YHWH speaks in His “Holy (Place),” —that is, the sanctuary of His Dwelling (Temple)—though the noun vd#q) could also mean “holiness” (i.e., “in His holiness”).

The geographical association between the city of Shechem and the “valley of Sukkot” here probably alludes to the tradition in Genesis 33:17-18. It may refer generally to the northern territory (and kingdom) of Israel; the northern extent of the kingdom is referenced by David’s conquests over Syria (Aram-Zobah and Aram-Damascus) in 2 Sam 8:3-8. The verb dd^m* means “stretch a line,” i.e., to measure something, and thus refers to measuring the extent of territory belonging to the king/kingdom. Here, the territory belongs specifically to YHWH Himself, as King, but by extension it also belongs to the kingdom of His people (Israel/Judah).

Verse 9 [7]

“To me (belongs) Gil’ad, and to me Menaššeh,
and Ephrayim (is) a protected place (for) my head,
(while) Yehudah (is) my engraved (staff).”

In this verse, the Davidic kingdom of Israel—the united kingdom—is summarized. As noted in the introduction above, if the Psalm proper is dated near the time of the Babylonian exile, then the lamentable situation of the kingdom at that time would be set in stark contrast to the original divine promises regarding the extent of territory (realized, albeit briefly, in the reigns of David and Solomon). The northern territories are represented by the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (along with the region of the Gilead), depicted in terms of the king’s head—that is, a helmet (lit. “place of protection,” or “protected place,” zoum*). Judah represents the southern territory, and, with its capital of Jerusalem, is the locus of the ruling power and authority of the king (his engraved [vb qq^j*] staff). Again, YHWH is the ultimate King, with the king of Israel/Judah ruling over the people as His representative or vassal.

Verse 10 [8]

“Mo’ab (is the) pot for my washing;
upon Edom I will throw down my sandal;
over Pelešet I will cry out (in triumph).”

Here the territories of Moab, Edom and the coastal cities of the Philistines are included as Israelite territory (belonging ultimately, of course, to YHWH as King). Moab and Edom, in particular, are belittled, described as a mere washpot for the king, or as a place to thrown down (or set down) his sandals. David’s victories over Moab and Edom are referenced in 2 Sam 8:2, 12-14, while his victories over the Philistines headline that passage (v. 1). Here YHWH simply declares that He will “cry out” (vb u^Wr) over Philistia—that is, a cry/shout of triumph over them. The text of the third line should be read in light of the doublet in Ps 108:10 [9].

Verse 11 [9]

“Who will carry me (to the) city (with) strong walls?
Who will guide me (to come) unto Edom?”

The meter now shifts back to the 3-beat couplet (bicolon) format of the Psalm; and, indeed, verse 11 is not part of the oracle, and it is no longer YHWH who is speaking. The verse is transitional, leading the way from the oracle into the concluding verses (a second lament-prayer).

The first line could be understood either as coming to the walled city for protection, or for conquest. In the context of the oracle, the latter seems more likely. The Psalmist envisions a situation when Israel will once again realize the promises of YHWH regarding the kingdom and its territory, and where the conquests by David may, in some sense, be repeated. The specific mention of Edom in the second line may reflect the heightened tensions (and hostility) between Judah and Edom in the late kingdom period (early-6th century, and thereafter). The envisioned conquests will begin with the near adversary Edom (along with Moab, we may assume, to follow).

Part 2: Verses 12-14 [10-12]

Verse 12 [10]

“Is it not you, (O) Mightiest, you (who) rejected us,
and did not go out, Mightiest, with our armies?”

This couplet answers the question (“Who…?”) in v. 11. Even though YHWH had rejected His people (for the verb jn~z`, cf. on v. 3 above), and, for a time, allowed Israel to be defeated and conquered, the hope (and prayer) is that now God will once again return to fight on His people’s behalf. The couplet here thus blends together lament with a hope (prayer) for deliverance, echoing the themes of the longer Part 1. For a different way of reading these lines, cf. Dahood (II, pp. 76, 82).

Verse 13 [11]

“Give to us help from [i.e. against] (our) adversary,
(for) indeed empty is (the) saving (help) of man!”

Only the power and strength of YHWH will allow His people to prevail against their enemies. The noun rx^ can be derived from three different roots, meaning (respectively): (1) “narrowness” (i.e., a “tight spot”), (2) “distress, oppression”, or (3) “adversary, enemy”. All three would be applicable, but the military context here suggests the third meaning is most likely in view. The very acknowledgement of YHWH’s saving power, contrasted with the “emptiness” (aw+v*) of human strength, can be taken as an implicit indication of the people’s current faithfulness (as represented by the Psalmist), and give them reason to believe that YHWH will, indeed, hear and answer their prayer.

Verse 14 [12]

“With the Mightiest, we shall act with strength,
and He (indeed) shall trample down our adversaries!”

The people will act together with (-B=) YHWH to defeat their enemies, just as Israel did (under David’s leadership) in times of old. They will act with strength (ly]j*), since the power of God Himself will be on their side. Indeed, it is YHWH who does the real fighting, trampling down the enemies of Israel (note the emphatic position of the pronoun aWh [“He”]).

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).
Those marked “Hossfeld-Zenger” are to Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51-100, translated from the German by Linda M. Maloney, Hermeneia Commentary series (Fortress Press: 2005).

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 59 (Part 2)

Psalm 59, continued

As noted in the previous study, there are two stanzas to the poem (miktam) of Psalm 59, each of which contains a common refrain (vv. 7-11a, 15-18). The poetic and thematic structure is as follows:

    • Stanza 1 (vv. 2-6 [1-5])—A prayer to YHWH for protection and deliverance from the Psalmist’s enemies, with a contrast established between the wicked and the righteous
      • Refrain (vv. 7-11a [6-10a])
    • Stanza 2 (vv. 11b-14 [10b-13])—Imprecation-prayer to God, calling for judgment on the wicked
      • Refrain (vv. 15-18 [14-17])

Stanza 2: VV. 11-14 [10-13]

Verse 11bc [10bc]

“(The) Mightiest shall go before me,
He shall let me look on (those) watching me.”

The opening verses of the second stanza follow a different meter—a 2-beat (2+2) rather than 3-beat (3+3) couplet. As discussed in the previous study, the traditional verse division here is incorrect, and the first line of verse 11 [10] (a) belongs with v. 10 [9].

The theme of the second stanza—God’s judgment on the wicked (i.e., the Psalmist’s adversaries)—is established here in the initial couplet. The Psalmist expects (and anticipates) that YHWH will answer his prayer (stanza 1), acting to protect and deliver him from his enemies. The first line expresses this clearly and concisely: “the Mightiest shall go before me,” using the verb <d^q* in the sense of “go first, go ahead,” so as to meet the Psalmist’s enemies and strike them.

The verb in the second line is ha*r* (“see”); the nuance of this common verb in the hiphil stem (“make/let me see”), in this context, is tied to the idea of the judgment/punishment of the wicked. I have translated it here as “let me look on (them)” —that is, look on their punishment (indeed, with some satisfaction). The enemies are described as “watchers” (from the root rWv [II]), that is, they watch his every move, with wicked intent, waiting for a chance to strike. There is thus a bit of semantic wordplay here, with the Psalmist looking on those who have been watching him.

Verse 12 [11]

“Mighty (One), slay them, lest my people wither;
stagger them with your strength,
and bring them down!
(You are) our protection, (O) my Lord.”

I tentatively follow Dahood (II, p. 71) in vocalizing the initial word as la@ (“Mighty [One],” El, i.e., ‘God’), rather than the negative particle la^. Asking God not to slay his enemies makes little sense in context. Also reading the divine title la@ here provides a fitting parallel for the related <yh!l)a$ in the first line of the prior couplet (cf. above).

Quite possibly, the reference to “my people,” which otherwise seems somewhat out of place here, is a vestige of the royal background we see in many such Psalms. The king represents the people and serves as their protector; an attack on the king ultimately affects the people as well. The verb jk^v* is best understood in the specific sense of “wither” (rather than “forget”); this particular meaning may derive from a separate root jkv (II).

Military imagery is utilized in the second line, indicating that YHWH will defeat the Psalmist’s enemies. The two verbs (in the hiphil imperative) are u^Wn (“shake, waver, stagger”) and dr^y` (“go down,” hiphil “make go down, bring down”). To “go down” here carries the specific added meaning of going down to the realm of the dead (Sheol), i.e., being killed. The imperfect verb form in the first line is to be read with jussive force, matching the imperatives in the second line.

The specific motif is of YHWH (“my Lord”) as the Psalmist’s protection, drawing upon a covenantal theme that occurs frequently in the Psalms; the noun used is /g@m*, literally “place of protection”.

The rhythm of this expanded couplet is 3+3+2.

Verse 13 [12]

“(By the) sin of their mouth and pestilence of their lips,
may they be captured!
In their rising (up) and cursing and lying,
may they be counted!”

The meter of this verse also is irregular (loosely, a 4-beat couplet). One might be inclined to emend the text (along with that of v. 12) and reorder (or redivide) these lines to achieve metrical consistency (i.e., 3-beat couplets); cf. Kraus, p. 539. Indeed, the only way both stanzas of the Psalm could (originally) have been sung to the same melody, is if they had the same meter. Unfortunately, such consistitency is practically impossible to recover now (if it ever truly existed). It must be said that the poetic structure of v. 13, as we have it, seems to demand a 4-beat couplet format.

Each line ends with a niphal imperfect with jussive force:

    • Wdk=L*y] (“may they be captured”)
    • WrP@S*y] (“may they be counted”)

I follow Dahood (II, p. 73) in reading wrpsy as a niphal form, rather than the piel of the Masoretic vocalization (WrP@s^y+). The idea of being “counted” should be understood as being judged (by God) as wicked. The root rps can relate to the act of recording—i.e., of a person being written down. Quite plausibly the intended image here is of the wicked being recorded as destined for death (and Sheol); cp. Jeremiah 17:13. This is parallel to the image of the names of the righteous being recorded in God’s book [rp#s@] ‘of life’ (Exod 32:32-33, etc). To be “captured” (vb dk^l*) in this context means to be captured by death and the grave.

The behavior of the wicked that results in their punishment (and death) is defined in terms of the evil that they speak. In the first line are the twin expressions “sin of their mouth” and “pestilence [rbd] of their lips”; in the second line, these are matched by the collective (verbal) nouns hl*a* (“cursing”) and vj^K^ (“lying”). There is a bit of wordplay in the first line with the word rbd, since rb*D* generally means “word,” while rb#D# means “pestilence” —i.e., the pestilence of the wicked is in their evil/sinful speaking.

Verse 14 [13]

“Finish (them) in your hot (anger), finish (them),
and may they no longer (be)!
Then they shall know that (the) Mightiest is ruling in Ya’aqob,
(even) to (the) ends of the earth.”
Selah

This is another long 4-beat (4+4) couplet, followed by an extra 2-beat line; the last line fits uneasily, and may be a secondary addition to the stanza.

The Psalmist’s call for judgment on his enemies reaches a high pitch in this final couplet, repeating the imperative hL@K^ (“finish [them off]!”). It is almost as though the protagonist is attempting to stoke the flames of YHWH’s hot anger (“heat,” hm*j@) himself. The extreme nature of this imprecation is indicated by the concluding word “may they no longer (be)”. This act of judgment, however, also has a higher purpose, beyond simply punishing (and putting to death) the wicked—it will demonstrate, in the most dramatic terms, that YHWH (the Mightiest, <yh!l)a$) is indeed the King and Judge over all the earth.

Refrain: vv. 15-18 [14-17]

This refrain matches that of the first stanza (vv. 7-10a [6-9a]); however, the wording is not identical. Only the points of difference will be noted below; for the remainder of the refrain, cf. the previous study.

Verse 15 [14]

“They sit until evening,
they howl like a dog
and go around (the) city.”

Essentially identical with v. 7 [6] (discussed in the previous study).

Verse 16 [15]

“Howling, they wander (about for something) to eat,
(and) if not satisfied, they do (not) stop for the night.”

This couplet holds the same place as v. 8 [7] in the first refrain, but differs entirely in wording (and emphasis) from that earlier couplet. Here the action of the wicked fits much better, contextually, with the image of a pack of hungry dogs roaming the city at night. Indeed, v. 16 continues the imagery of v. 15. I follow Dahood (II, p. 73f) in reading the initial word hmh as a verbal element (from the root hmh, “cry [out], howl, growl,” same as in v. 15), rather than the pronoun hM*h@ (“they”). Also (with him) I recognize an implied (second) negative particle in the second line.

Verse 17 [16]

“But I, I will sing of your strength,
and will ring out your goodness in the morning;
for you have been (the) place high up for me,
and a place to flee in (the) day of distress for me.”

This pair of couplets corresponds to the couplet in v. 9 [8], but they are altogether different, both in form and content. The lines here are more fitting for the conclusion of the Psalm as a whole, emphasizing the aspect of public praise and worship that we find frequently at the close of Psalms. The first couplet expresses this theme of praise, in traditional/conventional terms. The strength (zu)) of YHWH is praised in tandem with His goodness (ds#j#); the latter noun often connotes faithfulness and loyalty (in the context of the covenant-bond), and frequently so in the Psalms.

The second couplet returns to the central theme of YHWH as the Psalmist’s protection. Two locative nouns are used, in parallel, to express this: (1) bG`c=m! (“place high up”), and (2) sonm* (“place [to which] to flee”, i.e., place of refuge).

Verse 18 [17]

“My Mighty (One is) my strength—
thus shall I be guarded;
for (the) Mightiest (is) my (refuge) up high,
my Mighty (One is) my loyal (guard).”

These lines are essentially identical with those of vv. 10-11a [9-10a] which close the refrain of the first stanza (cf. the previous study). In the second line of v. 10, the verb is rm^v*, while here it is rm^z`, but the meaning is certainly the same (“guard”). If rmz is correct here, then it would seem to be a stylistic variant, with no difference in meaning. It may reflect an older/archaic meaning of the root rmz (zmr), attested, it would seem, by the Ugaritic cognate root (¼mr).

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).
Those marked “Kraus” are to Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalmen, 1. Teilband, Psalmen 1-59, 5th ed., Biblischer Kommentar series (Neukirchener Verlag: 1978); English translation in Psalms 1-59, A Continental Commentary (Fortress Press: 1993).

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 59 (Part 1)

Psalm 59

Dead Sea MSS: 11QPsd (vv. 5-6, 8 [4-5, 7]) 

This Psalm is another prayer-Psalm with lament characteristics, similar in many respects to those in the ‘Elohist Psalter’ that we have recently studied. The focus on the punishment of the wicked is especially strong.

There are two stanzas to the poem, each of which contains a common refrain (vv. 7-11a, 15-18) following the Selah pause-indicator. The meter is irregular, with a 3-beat (3+3) couplet format dominating the first stanza; one is perhaps inclined to modify the second stanza to match the rhythmic pattern, but any attempt would be questionable at best. Unfortunately, the second stanza does not survive in the only Qumran manuscript of this Psalm (11QPsad), which otherwise might have provided help in confirming the Hebrew text.

On the heading, cf. the previous studies on Psalm 57 and 58. On the term <T*k=m! (miktam), cf. the earlier study on Psalm 16. The David tradition alluded to in the superscription is that of 1 Samuel 19:8ff.

The two stanzas of the Psalm are clearly delineated:

    • Stanza 1 (vv. 2-6 [1-5])—A prayer to YHWH for protection and deliverance from the Psalmist’s enemies, with a contrast established between the wicked and the righteous
      • Refrain (vv. 7-11a [6-10a])
    • Stanza 2 (vv. 11b-14 [10b-13])—Imprecation-prayer to God, calling for judgment on the wicked
      • Refrain (vv. 15-18 [14-17])

Stanza 1: VV. 2-6 [1-5]

Verse 2 [1]

“Snatch me away from (those) hostile to me, O Mightiest;
from (the one)s standing up against me, set me up high!”

This opening couplet has a loose 3-beat rhythm which establishes both the meter and the tone of the Psalm. The prayer in the first stanza takes the form of a lament. The Psalmist calls out for help against his enemies. The parallelism of the couplet is conceptually precise, though formally presented as a chiasm:

    • “snatch me away” (vb lx^n`)
      • “from those hostile to me” (verbal noun, vb by~a*)
      • “from those standing against me” (verbal noun, vb <Wq)
    • “set me up high” (vb bg~c*)

In terms of the theme of deliverance, the aspect in the first line is rescue, while in the second line it is protection. YHWH protects the Psalmist by bringing him up to a high and inaccessible (and thus secure) place.

Verse 3 [2]

“Snatch me away from (the one)s making trouble,
and from men of blood, make me safe!”

This second couplet matches the form and focus of the first almost precisely. The Psalmist’s enemies here are generalized as the wicked who corrupt society and would persecute the righteous (and harm the innocent). They are characterized verbally in the first line as “(one)s making [i.e. who make] trouble [/w#a*]”. In the second line, they are described as “men of blood [<ym!d*]”. The plural <ym!d* (lit. “bloods”) almost always means “acts of bloodshed,” often understood generally as acts of violence (even when no blood is actually shed). Dahood (II, p. 67) would understand <ym!D* here as “images” (that is, idols), from the root hm*D* (I), “be like, resemble”, as also in Ps 26:9; 55:24 [23] (I, p. 163; II, p. 39). Both interpretations would be valid, since, from the standpoint of the Psalms, violence and idolatry (i.e., worship of other deities) are equally characteristic of the wicked.

The suffixed hiphil imperative of the verb uv^y` could be translated “save me”; however, given the parallel with verse 2 [1], it is better to bring out the aspect of protection (“make me safe”), parallel with the verb bg~c* (cf. above).

Verse 4 [3]

“For, see!—they lie in wait for my soul,
(the) strong (one)s gather against me;
(with) no breaking (of the bond) by me,
and no sin by me, O YHWH.”

The 3-beat (3+3) couplet has been expanded with the addition of another 3-beat line, which here in translation is better represented as a short (irregular) couplet. The added line introduces the important theme of the contrast between the righteous and the wicked. The Psalmist wishes to make clear that he his innocent—he has neither broken the bond with YHWH (and his fellow Israelites), nor has he sinned. The verb uv^P* is typically used in the context of the covenant—i.e., breaking the bond or trust between two people (or parties). To say that one has upheld the covenant and has not sinned, means that a person is righteous (and right/just before God). There is thus no reason or cause for attacks against the Psalmist; the attacks come only because of the wickedness of his adversaries.

Here the wicked are called “strong (one)s” (<yz]u*), indicating that they possess worldly power and influence. In terms of the royal background of such Psalms, the Psalmist’s opponents would be princes, nobles, or other vassal kings, people who actually could muster a military force. However, in the Psalms, this aspect has been generalized, often under the influence of Wisdom tradition, so that the motif of strength/power more properly characterizes the oppressive (and violent) might of the wicked.

Verse 5 [4]

“(I am) without crookedness, (yet) they run and stand (against me)—
rouse (yourself) to meet me, and see (for yourself)!”

The first line repeats the sense of verse 4 [3]: the Psalmist’s righteousness/innocence is again expressed in negative (or privative) terms—he is without (yl!B=) any “crookedness” (/ou*). Yet the wicked run to attack him, taking up a position against him (vb /WK, “be fixed/firm,” in something of a military sense).

In the second line, the Psalmist again calls on YHWH to rescue/deliver him. In particular, he asks God to come meet him (vb ar^q*); because of the urgency of the situation, the Psalmist would dare seek to stir God to action (vb rWu [I], “rouse [oneself], awaken”). Once YHWH comes and sees the situation, He cannot but act to rescue and protect His faithful servant.

Verse 6 [5]

“You, YHWH, (commander) of (the heavenly) armies,
(you the) Mighty (One) of Yisrael,
awaken to reckon (judgment on) all (the) nations!
May you not show favor to (those) traitors making trouble!”
Selah

The final two lines of v. 6 form a couplet that builds upon the second line of v. 5 (cf. above). The verb JWq (“wake [up]”) here is generally synonymous with the earlier rWu (I) (“awaken, rouse oneself [from sleep]”), and the basic idea is the same: God is to rouse Himself and come to rescue/deliver the Psalmist. In so doing, YHWH will effectively bring judgment against the wicked. Here the wicked are identified (in traditional religious-cultural terms) with the “nations”; but, more specifically, they are traitors to the covenant with YHWH. The verb dg~B* generally denotes deceptive or treacherous behavior. By making “trouble” (/w#a*, cf. also in v. 3 [2]) for the righteous, the wicked show that they have rejected and betrayed the covenant bond between YHWH and His people.

The root dqp is notoriously difficult to render into English; here, it is probably best understood in the sense of meting out judgment (punishment) on the wicked. Two of the fundamental meanings could apply: (1) “appoint” (i.e., an appointed moment of judgment), or (2) “reckon” (i.e., call to account); I have opted for the latter.

In this Psalm, the hl*s# (Selah) pause-marker serves to indicate the structure of the composition; this is not always the case, but here, in each stanza, the refrain follows directly after the pause.

Refrain: vv. 7-11a [6-10a]
Verse 7 [6]

“They sit until evening,
they howl like a dog
and go around (the) city.”

The refrain begins with a distinct shift in rhythm (aided by the preceding Selah-pause), with verse 7 (= v. 15) taking the form of a 2-beat tricolon (2+2+2). These terse, staccato-like lines express the habitual conduct of the wicked in simplistic terms, using the animal-motif of a pack of dogs. The initial verb bWv means “turn, return,” and the line would then be translated “they return at evening”. However, I am inclined to follow Dahood (II, p. 69) in reading bwv here as a byform of bvy (“sit”). This seems to make better sense in context—i.e., the wicked (like dogs) sit and wait until evening; it is only at night that they howl and then come out to wander around the city. This behavior is also appropriate to the treacherous character of the wicked (cf. verse 6 above).

Verse 8 [7]

“See—
they gush out by their mouth,
swords (come out) by their lips:
‘For who is hearing (us)?'”

Verse 8 is essentially another 2-beat tricolon (like v. 7); only the initial interjection hN@h! (“see!”) distorts the rhythmic pattern slightly. Again, the behavior of the wicked is crude and repellent. The verb ub^n` in the first line means “pour/gush out”, but often in the decidedly negative sense of something uncontrolled or foul. Some translations render it here as “belch”, which would be quite appropriate for the context. What comes out of the mouth of the wicked is foul-smelling and extreme, but it also indicates a violent purpose—i.e., the image of “swords” coming from the lips in the second line. The third line, it seems, summarizes the thinking of the wicked. There is no need to curb or restrain their crude and evil speech, for “Who is there hearing it?”

Verse 9 [8]

“But you, YHWH, will laugh at them,
you will mock at all (the) nations!”

Like the stanza itself, the refrain shifts in tone, from describing the behavior of the wicked to an anticipation of the judgment YHWH will bring upon them. Their own mocking taunts will be turned back on them. God will laugh at them and mock them, using the parallel verbs qj^v* (“laugh”) and gu^l* (“mock, deride”). The wicked are identified here with the “nations” (cf. v. 6 [5] above); but this is merely a traditional way of speaking, even when the wicked within Israel are in view.

A shift in rhythm matches the shift in tone, as we have here a 3+2 couplet.

Verses 10-11a [9-10a]

“My Mighty (One is) my strength—
thus shall I be guarded;
for (the) Mightiest (is) my (refuge) up high,
my Mighty (One is) my loyal (guard).”

The final lines of the refrain are problematic. The parallel in v. 18 [17] rather clearly shows that the verse division here is in error–the first two words of v. 11 belong with v. 10. Again, one very much wishes that these verses were preserved in the Qumran manuscript (11QPsad), and could thus assist us in establishing a secure text, but that is not the case. I tentatively follow Dahood (II, p. 70f) in emending iyla, dividing it into two words yK! yl!a@, and also parsing hrmva as a passive (niphal) form, hr*m@V*a# (“I shall be guarded”). Also the opening word oZu% (“his strength”) should be modified to yZu% (“my strength”), based on the parallel in the second stanza. The first part of verse 10 would then read:

hr*m@V*a# yK! yl!a@ yZ]u%
“My Mighty (One is) my strength,
thus I shall be guarded [i.e. protected]”

Much the same is expressed in the final two lines, in a simple parallel couplet:

“for (the) Mightiest (is) my place up high,
my Mighty (One is) my loyal (guard).”

In each line the plural title <yh!l)a$ (“Mightiest [One],” Elohim, i.e. ‘God’), possibly substituted for the Divine name (hwhy, YHWH) originally (as is typical in the ‘Elohist’ Psalms). The suffixed nouns yB!G~v=m! and yD!s=j^ are parallel (synonymous) terms. The first noun, bG~v=m!, means “place up high”, referring to high and inaccessible location that serves as a safe, protected place; the related verb bg~c* was used in a similar sense in v. 2 (cf. above). The noun ds#j# fundamentally means “goodness, kindness,” but also frequently denotes faithfulness and loyalty, especially in relation to the covenant bond; and, indeed, ds#j# typically carries this sense in the Psalms. The suffixed noun here would seem to mean something like “my loyal (protector)”.

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 58

Psalm 58

Dead Sea MSS: No surviving manuscripts.

This Psalm is another prayer-Psalm with lament characteristics, similar in many respects to those in the ‘Elohist Psalter’ that we have recently studied (cf. the previous study on Ps 57). Indeed, Psalm 58 has the same musical direction as Ps 57, designating it as a  <T*k=m! (miktam, cf. the study on Psalm 16) sung to the melody “Do not destroy” (or “May you not destroy”), tj@v=T^-la^, apparently the name of a well-known lament (the phrase itself probably is an allusion to Deuteronomy 9:26).

However, if both Psalms were to be sung to a common lament-melody, it is worth nothing that the meter of each poem is different; Psalm 58 contains longer verses, predominantly 4-beat (4+4, or 4+3) couplets.

The thematic structure of the Psalm may be outlined as follows:

    • Verses 2-6 [1-5]: Descriptive lament regarding the wicked
    • Verses 7-10 [6-9]: Imprecation-prayer to God, calling for judgment on the wicked
    • Verses 11-12 [10-11]: The reward of the righteous (contrasted with the fate of the wicked)

VERSES 2-6 [1-5]

Verse 2 [1]

“Are you firm, mighty (one)s, (in) justice (when) you speak?
You should judge (with) straightness (the) sons of men.”

These opening line is probably best read as a rhetorical (and accusatory) question. The MT <l#a@ should be parsed as a defective form of <yl!a@, “mighty ones;” alternatively, it could be a plural of ly]a^ (“leader, ‘ram’ [figurative for a human noble or ruler]), with defective spelling (<yl!ya@ > <yl!a@). Clearly, the Psalmist is referring to those powerful men who are supposed to be leading and ruling the people; when they are corrupted by wickedness, society becomes oppressive, characterized by lawlessness and perversion of justice. The emphasis here is thus on speaking (vb rb^D*) with justice (qd#x#), and on rendering judgment (vb fp^v*). The concept of being firm (root /ma) in justice (line 1) is parallel with the idea of judging in a straight (rvy, i.e., fair and right) way (line 2).

Verse 3 [2]

“Yet, in (your) heart you act (with all) crookedness,
in (the) land your hands balance (the scales with) violence!”

The wickedness of the situation here is contrasted with what it should have been (v. 2). The first line strikes a formal (contrastive) parallel with the first line of v. 2:

    • “…(with) justice | you (should) speak” (v. 2)
    • “…(with) crookedness | you act” (v. 3)

The plural form tl)ou (lit. “crooked/perverse [thing]s”) may perhaps be intended as an intensive or comprehensive plural. On the other hand, the plural could be understood in the judicial sense of “crooked judgments”. Dahood (II, p. 58) suggests that this spelling represents a Phoenician dialectal form of the Hebrew singular hl*w+u^. The noun lw#u* (“crookedness, perversion”) is often used in the specific socio-legal sense of injustice, and, given the context of v. 2, the idea of a perversion of justice is certainly in view.

The verb in line 2 is sl^P*, which specifically refers to weighing something out on the balance-scales; here it can be understood in the sense of the ‘scales of justice’. Injustice and corruption among the rulers in society inevitably leads to lawlessness, oppression, and violence (sm*j*).

Verse 4 [3]

“Perverse (are the) wicked (one)s, from (the) womb they stray,
(and) from (the) belly (they are) speakers of lie(s)”

This couplet has something of an awkward structure with an off-beat (4+3) rhythm, which may well be intentional, as if expressing poetically how the wicked stagger and stray (vb hu*T*). They are said to be perverse and deceitful (“speakers of lie[s]”) from birth. Again, the primary idea is of the perversion of justice brought about by the wicked leaders, and the corrupting effect this has on the whole of society.

Verses 5-6 [4-5]

“The hot poison of them (is) like that of a (venomous) snake,
like that of a deaf adder (which) closes its ear,
which does not listen to (the) voice of (those) whispering,
(the) binding of (those) binding (who) are (so) wise.”

These two verses should be taken together as a pair of 4+3 couplets that form a quatrain. The syntax of each couplet is a bit uneven. It would seem that the second occurrence of construct noun tm^j& in the first line ought to be omitted, in order to preserve the meter (cf. Kraus, p. 534). The image itself is straightforward: the deceit, perversion, and violent impulse of the wicked is like the venom of a poisonous snake. In particular, the figure of an adder is used,one which is “deaf,” a motif clarified (in v. 6) as referring to a snake that cannot be rendered harmless by the sounds of a snake-charmer. This person who “whispers” (vb vj^l*, resembling the ‘hissing’ of a snake) the charms represents the vain and futile wisdom of the world, which is unable to curb the wickedness in society.

Verses 7-10 [6-9]

Verse 7 [6]

“O Mightiest, break down their teeth in their mouth!
(The) fangs of (the) young lions, pull down, YHWH!”

The tone of the Psalm shifts here from a lament, describing the wicked, to a call for YHWH to bring down judgment on them. There is thus an imprecatory character to the Psalmist’s prayer here.

These lines have a chiastic syntax spread over the eight (4+4) beats:

    • O Mightiest [Elohim]
      • break down
        • their teeth
          • in their mouth
          • (the) fangs
        • of the young lions
      • pull down
    • [O] YHWH

The image is of the wicked as a group of ravenous lion-whelps, with their deadly and oppressive teeth/fangs. The plural noun touT=l=m^ is apparently the same (by metathesis) as touL=t^m=, referring to the devouring teeth/bite of an animal.

Verse 8 [7]

“Let them flow (away) like waters (that) go to their (place);
like (the) <grass> (on which) one treads, may they wither!”

The second line of the MT as we have it makes little sense. Here we are very much in need of a reliable Dead Sea manuscript to offer clarity, but, alas, nothing of Psalm 58 survives. A reasonably sound line can be achieved by a small emendation of the text (cf. Kraus, p. 534), reading ryx!j* (“grass”) instead of wyX*j! (Qere, “his arrows”). The motif of the grass that is worn down on the path (ird) is a suitable parallel with the flowing waters in line 1, preserving the nature-imagery of the couplet. This also fits the verb in the second line, which I take to be ll^m* (III), “wither, languish, fade”; also possible is ll^m* (IV), “cut off”. My translation above of the second line requires a reordered text (with the one emended word) that reads:

Wll*m)t=y] Er)d=y] ryx!j* omK=

Verse 9 [8]

“Like a <miscarriage> dissolving, may they go (away);
(like the) failed birth of a woman, may they fail to see (the) sun!”

Instead of the MT lWlB=v^, I am inclined to read lWKv* (or loKv*), which is a less significant emendation than it might at first appear, since some manuscripts read lwlkv instead of lwlbv. The image of a miscarriage provides a suitable parallel for the motif of a failed birth (lp#n#, i.e., stillbirth or abortion) in line 2 (cf. Hossfeld-Zenger, p. 77f).

Verse 10 [9]

“Before thorn-bush(es) can <produce> their thorns,
(the) Living (One in His) burning anger, shall sweep them away!”

The MT of this verse makes very little sense, and is doubtless corrupt. Again, one wishes a reliable Dead Sea manuscript of the Psalm had survived, as it likely would have clarified the situation; but unfortunately that is not the case. Any reading or reconstruction of these lines will have to remain hypothetical and speculative. I have adopted the following changes, so as to produce a relatively clean 4+3 couplet that makes decent sense:

    • Following at least one Hebrew MS, I read <h#yt@r)ys! with the third-person suffix (“their thorns”)
    • I follow Kraus (p. 534) in reading WbWny` (“they bear [fruit],” “they produce”) in place of MT Wnyb!y`.
    • I omit the two occurrences of the suffixed preposition omK= in the second line; these probably crept into the text at this point due to their presence in the prior lines.

Here we have an announcement of YHWH’s coming judgment on the wicked, with the Psalmist anticipating God’s answer to his imprecatory prayer.

Verses 11-12 [10-11]

Verse 11 [10]

“The righteous shall be glad when he sees (the) vengeance;
(with) his footsteps, he shall wash in (the) blood of (the) wicked.”

The contrasting fates of the wicked and the righteous are presented in these closing verses. The scene, in spite of the promise of rejoicing, will doubtless strike modern readers as unduly harsh and gruesome. Very few Christians, I think, would find any enjoyment in the idea of washing our feet in the blood of the wicked who have been slaughtered. However, there can be no denying that the terrible death and destruction of the wicked is an integral part of the tradition of the (end-time) Divine judgment inherited by early Christians. It is depicted vividly enough in the book of Revelation (6:10ff; 14:14-20; 16:3-6; 19:2, 13).

Verse 12 [11]

“And man will say, ‘Surely (there is) fruit for the righteous!
Surely there is a Mightiest (One) making judgment on the earth!'”

The eschatological dimension of the Judgment is expressed here rather clearly, as humankind (collectively) is forced to admit that God exists, and that YHWH is the true God (Elohim, “Mightiest [One]”). He has the power and authority to act as Judge over the entire world (“making judgment on the earth”). By contrast to the imagery in verse 10 [9] (cf. above), where the wicked are depicted as thorn-bushes that are swept away in the wind, the righteous are presented as plants that produce a rich and succulent fruit. This is part of a well-established Wisdom tradition that was inherited by the Psalms, and which exerted a significant influence on many of the compositions. The same basic contrast is featured in the famous Psalm 1 (vv. 3-4) at the beginning of the collection.

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).
Those marked “Kraus” are to Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalmen, 1. Teilband, Psalmen 1-59, 5th ed., Biblischer Kommentar series (Neukirchener Verlag: 1978); English translation in Psalms 1-59, A Continental Commentary (Fortress Press: 1993).
Those marked “Hossfeld-Zenger” are to Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51-100, translated from the German by Linda M. Maloney, Hermeneia Commentary series (Fortress Press: 2005).