Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Psalm 5

Lines Scansion

NASB (The Hebrew text adds the superscription as verse 1.)
1  Give ear to my words, O LORD,
Consider my groaning.
2  Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God,
For to You I pray.
3  In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.
4  For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness;
No evil dwells with You.
5  The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all who do iniquity.
6  You destroy those who speak falsehood;
The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.
7  But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house,
At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.
8  O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;
Make Your way straight before me.
9  There is nothing reliable in what they say;
Their inward part is destruction itself.
Their throat is an open grave;
They flatter with their tongue.
10  Hold them guilty, O God;
By their own devices let them fall!
In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out,
For they are rebellious against You.
11  But let all who take refuge in You be glad,
Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them,
That those who love Your name may exult in You.
12  For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD,
You surround him with favor as with a shield.

Effect of the Metric Center on the Psalm’s Development
Two items make this center significant:  (1) the centrally located וַאֲנִי (“But I”)  indicating a shift in thought, and (2) the double and only reference to the temple.  Craigie (Psalms, 87) notes, “The focus of worship was the ‘holy temple’ of God (presumably the Holy of Holies in the innermost part of the house of God), not as an object of worship, but as a symbol of God’s most intimate presence.” In this Psalm of protection and guidance during dangerous times, the presence of God and His temple become the centerpiece of one’s prayer life (Ross, BKC, 794-95).



Psalm 2

Lines Scansion


NASB (with separation of the “center”in bold font)

1  Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
2  The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
3  “Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”
4  He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
5  Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
6  “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
7  “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8  ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
9  ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’ ”
10  Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
11  Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
12  Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
Effect of the Metric Center on the Psalm’s Development
Verse 7 represents the metric center of this Royal and Messianic Psalm.  That this verse focuses the key element in the Sitz im Leben (life situation) of the Psalm is highlighted by Craigie (Psalms 1-50, 67):
The Davidic covenant was eternal, but all covenants were renewed from time to time; the principal form of renewal in the royal covenant took place in the coronation, when a new descendant of the Davidic dynasty ascended to the throne.  Thus, the divine words “you are my son” mark a renewal of the relationship between God and David’s house in the person of the newly crowned king.
Further support for center-focus may be found in the cohortative of resolve אסַפְּרָה (Waltke/O'Connor, Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 573, "I am determined to tell") setting the tone for what follows, the reference to the Davidic Covenant in, חֹק יהוה ("decree of the LORD"), and the preceding and following "envelope" references to divine wrath (verses 5 and 12). Finally, the NT authors recognized the Messianic significance of this verse: Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5.


A Central Tendency in the Psalms: Introduction

One ongoing debate regarding Hebrew poetry focuses on the question of meter. Longman writes:

It wouldn’t even have been necessary to mention meter in this book, except that many scholars and commentaries use meter as a criterion for adding or subtracting words or phrases from the individual psalms.  I believe it is best, accordingly, to ignore any interpretation based on meter.[1]

 On the positive side, Harrison notes that although “a certain degree of subjectivity [is] attached to . . . metrical determination, it is possible to recognize certain basic patterns in Old Testament poetry as a result of employing it.”[2] Also, “Again it should be emphasized that there has never been any rigid metrical system in existence to which ancient Hebrew poetry was required to conform.”[3] In general Harrison admits to an undefined concept of meter in Hebrew poetry.  Craigie concludes similarly,
“The very concept of the word meter, drawn as it is from classical and European languages, may be inapproporiate to Hebrew poetry if it is taken to imply any rigid regularity or system, but as a word designating approximate line length and the approximate balance of lines, it may serve as a useful tool.”[4]

 Does Hebrew Poetry use meter or not? If not no changes in Hebrew hymnic literature exegetical methodology need be considered; if so, methodology needs to be changed in some manner to account for a phenomenon that may affect the interpretation of the text.

 The point in the present discussion is not to prove or disprove the use of meter in Hebrew but to identify a phenomenon in the Psalms that comes to the forefront when a metric system is utilized—the phenomenon of a central tendency.[5] That is, about 20% of the Psalms contain a key, being perhaps the content or theological key element or elements in what I will call the “metric center.”[6] Perhaps this is coincidence, albeit of a rather marvelous sort, or perhaps some other explanation can be given for the phenomenon, or perhaps still there is something valid to the theory that Hebrew poetry uses a form of measurement some choose to call meter. For the purposes of this investigation, the “metric system” of Watson is used,[7] and the Masoretic text and vocalizations is the standard upon which the metrical analyses proceed.[8] Also, the following scansions speak of “beats” to denote measurement, for want of a better term. The discussion pattern for each Psalm includes: (1) scansion, (2) identification of the metric center, and (3) the effect of the center on the development of the Psalm.

[1] Tremper Longman, III, How To Read the Psalms (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 108.  In the present writing, however, meter is used not to eliminate words or phrases but to focus attention on the “central tendency.”
[2] Roland Kenneth Harrision, Introduction to the Old Testament  (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), 971.
[3] Ibid., 972.
[4] Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50 in the Word Biblical Commentary, #19 (Waco, Texas:  Word Books, Publisher, 1983), 38. See also the discussion in Robert Lowth, Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, (London: Tegg & Co. Dublin, 1839), 28-36.
[5] Luis Alonso Schokel, A Manual of Hebrew Poetics (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1988), 197. Perhaps the “semantic centre,” this “deep structure,” can relate to this phenomenon.  He concludes that “It is my opinion that the analysis of the composition of Hebrew poems is one of the most important, most difficult and least practised of tasks.”  Also, since Chiasmus oftentimes indicates the midpoint of the poem, finding a “center” may be supportive of the overall concept of a “metric center.”  See Wilfred G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 205.  In addition, Merismus has the effect of focusing attention on the “left out” center, thus representing a type of central tendency.  See Schokel, Manual, 83. Finally, the pivot pattern that “would appear to be the demarcation of poetic units” may also point to a “centralizing” tendency.  See Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, 218-19.
[6] There are 21 of these psalms with a Davidic superscription.  One wonders if the “central tendency” could be uniquely Davidic.
[7] Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, 100-103.
[8] H. Bardtke, Liber Psalmorum in K. Elliger and W. Rudolph, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Stuttgart: Wurttembergische Bibelanstalt Stuttgart, 1969).  See Craigie, Psalms, 37-38 for the positive and negative aspects of using the Masoretic vocalizations.  My scansion pattern is similar to that of Craigie.