Monday, July 8, 2013

Psalm 23

Lines Scansion
1 The LORD is my shepherd,
 I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
 He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
 He guides me in the paths of righteousness
 For His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
 I fear no evil,  
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
 You have anointed my head with oil;  My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
 And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Effect of the Metric Center on the Psalm’s Development

The use of grammatical persons is one key to this popular Psalm.  Verses 2-3 speak in the 3rd person; verses 4-5, the 2nd person; verse 6, the 1st person.  The conjunction “for” (כּי, “because”) at verse 4b and the metric center that begins to focus on the 2nd person explains “why” the psalmist has no fear—Yahweh’s presence with him and provisions for him. This movement from the 3rd person, what Yahweh does for the psalmist, to the 1st person, how the psalmist responds to Yahweh’s graciousness, centers ultimately on the 2nd person, the continual presence of Yahweh in a relationship characterized by dialogue and intimacy wherein each participant is concerned for the other. In Psalm 23 Yahweh identifies with the needs of the psalmist as seen in verses 1-3 and 5 while the psalmist shows concern for the “name of Yahweh” (verse 3) and His temple, the place of His abiding presence (verse 6).  At the center of these relationships is the statement, “for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Without an intimate relationship with God, the psalmist would fail to appreciate or acknowledge God as the source of his blessings and his motivation for worship would lose its vibrancy and ultimately fade.
Ellsworth (Opening Up Psalms,  49) focuses on the change to the 2nd person.
It is important to notice the change in personal pronoun as David reflects on his shepherd. In verses 2 and 3, David speaks about his shepherd (notice the fourfold use of ‘he’). But when he comes to the valley of death, David drops the ‘he’ in favour of ‘you’ and ‘your’. He was able to look upon the prospect of death with peace and tranquility because he knew that it would mean meeting his glorious shepherd face to face. 
Tesh and Zorn, Psalms, 212, likewise points to the movement to the 2nd person (italics mine),
Notice that the psalmist now speaks directly with God—for you are with me (not, “he is”). It is the experience of fellowship with the Lord as companion and guide, one who is fully equipped with whatever is necessary to insure his safety, whether it be rod or staff. The former was a short, thick stick used as a weapon for protection and the latter a long stick used for help and comfort when climbing in hilly country. Whatever the circumstance and however trying, the presence of this divine guide would be adequate to dispel all fear—I will fear no evil.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Psalm 21

Lines Scansion


NASB (Verse 1 in Hebrew is the superscription)
1 O Lord, in Your strength the king will be glad,
And in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice!
2 You have given him his heart’s desire,
And You have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah.
3 For You meet him with the blessings of good things;
You set a crown of fine gold on his head.
4 He asked life of You,
You gave it to him,
Length of days forever and ever.
5 His glory is great through Your salvation,
Splendor and majesty You place upon him.
6 For You make him most blessed forever;
You make him joyful with gladness in Your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the Lord,

 And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be shaken.
8 Your hand will find out all your enemies;
Your right hand will find out those who hate you.
9 You will make them as a fiery oven in the time of your anger;
The Lord will swallow them up in His wrath,
And fire will devour them.
10 Their offspring You will destroy from the earth,
And their descendants from among the sons of men.
11 Though they intended evil against You
And devised a plot,
They will not succeed.
12 For You will make them turn their back;
You will aim with Your bowstrings at their faces.
13 Be exalted, O Lord, in Your strength;
We will sing and praise Your power.

Effect of the Metric Center on the Psalm’s Development
Closely tied thematically to Psalm 20 (Ross, BKC, 808), this Royal Psalm praises Yahweh for his deliverance in verses 1-6 (English) leading up to his reason for praise in 7a, “Because the king trusts in Yahweh.”  The remainder of the Psalm praises Yahweh who fights on behalf of his people.  Again, the metric center appears to signal a turning point in the Psalm. Craigie (Psalms 1-50, 191, 193 Italics mine) states:
Whereas the first part of the psalm [English vv. 1-6], presumably spoken by the congregation, referred primarily to God’s past actions on behalf of the king, which were a source of thanksgiving, this single verse—the mid-point of the entire psalm—serves to bring the focus to the present, the actual moment of proclamation in the liturgy.  Just as the king had trusted in the past, so now in the present moment the solemn declaration is made (presumably by a priest): “the king is trusting in the Lord”. . . . But always, past and future remained contingent upon the present moment, and it was the present moment which formed the central point of the liturgy [English  v. 7a].  

Thus the metric center, located temporally in the present (בֹּטֵחַ, Qal Active Participle, “is trusting”) serves as the theological center of the Psalm transitioning from Yahweh’s past actions to the psalmist’s confidence in Yahweh’s help in the future.