Saturday, December 21, 2013

Psalm 61

Lines Scansion

NASB (The superscription is verse 1 in the Hebrew text making the whole 9 verses instead of 8. The following discussion will utilize the English numbering for convenience. The bracketed portions represent alterations.)
      Hear my cry, O God; 
         Give heed to my prayer.
      From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart
            is faint;
         Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
      For You have been a refuge for me,
         A tower of strength against the enemy.
      [I am resolved to] dwell in Your tent forever;
         [I am resolved to] take refuge in the shelter of
            Your wings. Selah.
      [Because] You [ ,O God, You] have heard
            my vows;
         You have given me the inheritance of those who fear
            Your name.
      You will prolong the king’s life;
         His years will be as many generations.
      He will abide before God forever;
         Appoint lovingkindness and truth that they may preserve him.
      [Thus I am resolved to] sing praise to Your name forever,
         [And to] pay my vows day by day.
Effect of the Metric Center on the Psalm’s Development
Westermann (Praise and Lament, 80) classifies Psalm 61 as a Psalm of Petition whereas others see it as a psalm of Individual Lament, “Ps 61 is classified as an individual lament in most form-critical analyses. . . . However, the prayer for the king in vv 7-8 is somewhat strange, but not without parallels . . . . The vow in v 9 is appropriate for a lament. Nevertheless Weiser (The Psalms, 443) finds a tone of thanksgiving in the psalm from v 4 onward which ‘prevails . . . over the tone of lament and depression [and] the song is to be regarded as a thanksgiving.’” Actually, no arguments exist since the individual lament contains both petitions and thanksgivings. The difference is simply that Psalm 61 highlights petitions and thanksgivings leaving out the other elements of the individual lament (see Westermann, Ibid., 66-69).
The psalmist begins his short poem by petitioning God to “hear” and “give attention” to his prayers that he repeats while experiencing a sense of distance from God and “faintness of heart.” He remembers that God has been his guide, refuge and strong tower in the face of an enemy (verses 1-3). His past experiences encourages him as he expresses his resolves to dwell in God’s tent and take refuge in God’s protection (verse 4).  The verbs “dwell” and “take refuge” are cohortatives  expressing “the will or strong desire of the speaker. In cases where the speaker has the ability to carry out an inclination it takes on the coloring of resolve (Waltke and O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 573).
In lament or petition psalms there occurs an oracle, a divine response to the prayers of the psalmist. This oracle is either stated or implied as here indicated by the perfect aspect “You have heard” (שָׁמַ֣עְתָּ). This response becomes a transition from the lament aspect of the psalm to the thanksgiving or praise element. “The transition is the real theme” (Westermann, Ibid., 80) and may be paraphrased here:  “You, O God, have heard my prayers and accepted the accompanying vows that I have made to You.” Verse 5 begins dramatically, “Because You” (כּיִ־אַתָּה), and introduces the metric center turning the psalm from lament to thanksgiving.  The pronoun “You” appears twice for emphasis and focus (and should not be relegated to the end of the clause). The consequent divine blessings of an inheritance, long life, and guardianship by “lovingkindness and truth” (verses 5b-7) invoke the final resolutions from the psalmist to “sing praise to Your name forever” and continue to “pay my vows day by day” (verse 8).

Romans 12:1-2 Grammatical Diagrams