Monday, April 14, 2014

Psalm 67

Lines Scansion

NASB with alterations (The Hebrew Bible includes a one verse superscription that is not part of the Psalm proper. Therefore, the numbering in the Hebrew Bible is one verse ahead of the English Bibles.  For convenience, the following discussion will follow the English verse numbers. The brackets [] represents the author’s translation changes.)
      God be gracious to us and bless us,
         And cause His face to shine upon us—Selah.
      That Your way[s] may be known on the earth,
         Your salvation among all nations.
      Let the peoples praise You, O God;
         Let the peoples praise You, [all of them].
      Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
         For You will judge the peoples with [fairness]
         And guide the nations on the earth. Selah.
      The peoples [will] praise You, O God;
         The peoples [will] praise You, [all of them].
      The earth [will yield] its produce;
         God, our God, [will bless] us.
      God [will bless] us,
         That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.
Effect of the Metric Center on the Psalm’s Development
The superscription of Psalm 67 provides no indications of historical background or authorship. The contents of the psalm, however, best looks to a time when all peoples of the earth will praise God for his salvation and equitable rule. This situation will be in evidence in Christ’s kingdom reign in the millennium. Arno Gaebelein (The Book of Psalms, 263 and 65) writes that the psalm pictures “prophetically the condition of the earth and the nations during the coming age of the Kingdom. . . .  When the King has come, when He occupies the throne of His glory and rules over the nations, . . .” Tate (Psalms 51-100, 159) declares, “Thus the psalm invites a messianic perspective which looks forward to an age when the relationship between Yahweh’s saving-work in Israel and his blessing-work in all creation will no longer be obscure but will lead the peoples of the world to rejoice and sing of his judgments and guidance.” This forward-looking time frame means that the verb in the metric center (verse 4b, תִשְׁפֹּט) should be translated as an English future tense as seen in the NASB, KJV, and NKJV. Psalm 67 looks beyond the present to the future, a future for which Christians worldwide eagerly await!
The psalm develops in seven stanzas, the centerpiece of which is verse 4 (Tate, 155). Verses 3 and 5 “bookend” this central verse with identical words but not necessarily identical syntax (word function).  The verb for “praise” (ידה) uses the same form for both the precative/jussive (strong desire or wish) and the imperfect aspect (future). Therefore, based on the future-oriented context beginning at verse 4b, verses 5-7 coordinate with that perspective.
Additionally, the metric center (verse 4b) focuses on the 2nd person (“You”) whereas the surrounding clauses (verses 4a and c) are focused on the 3rd person (“they”), effectively isolating the central clause. This centerpiece, the metric center, has two principal points: it states the cause (“for”) of the peoples’ rejoicing by describing the equitable nature of the divine Judge (“You will judge the peoples with [fairness]”). Verse 4c defines that fairness (“And guide the nations on the earth”). Some further clarifications are necessary, however, to explain and tie the last clause (4c) to the metric center (4b).
Verse 1 is a prayer of Israel with the clear allusion to the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 as noted by most commentators. Verse 2 broadens the focus to “all nations” who can, like Israel, come to know God’s ways and salvation. The term “ways” (דּרכי, reading the plural with several Hebrew manuscripts) refers to the “required conduct” by God (Koehler, Baumgartner, Richardson, and Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 232) as expressed in “the progressive realization of His counsel” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, V, 440), in other words, in his revealed word. And this revelation of God is the standard whereby he will “judge” and “guide” not only Israel but all people (“guide,” נחה, is a correlative of “way,” דרך, in verse 2; see Koehler, Baumgartner, Richardson, and Stamm, 231 and 685 respectively). Tesh and Zorn (Psalms, 449, italics mine) tie the two words together, “It signifies conducting one in the right way.” In short, God will evaluate everyone on the same standards of conduct found in his revealed word, “with [fairness] without national bias. Verses 6 and 7 again refer to Israel (verses 6b and 7a) and to the entire world (verse 7b). But the entire world also includes earth itself as seen in verse 6a, “The earth [will yield] its produce.” This also will occur in the future when the earth will experience the longed-for redemption of the sons of God (Romans 8:19-21).
The verb of verse 6a translated “[will yield]” (נָתְנָה) has been a source of difficulty for numerous scholars. Bratcher and Reyburn (A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, 576) state, “In verse 6a most translations take the perfect tense of the verb (literally “has given”) to refer to past action: “The land has produced” . . . . Some, however, contend that this is an example of what is called the precative perfect”—a perfect aspect verb used for a strong desire or wish and translated “May the earth yield . . . .” However, if the millennial future fits the context better the verb could more clearly be labeled a “prophetic perfect” or a “perfect of certitude” (Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 2nd ed., 30; Tesh and Zorn, 449-50) and translated as a future.
In conclusion, Psalm 67 moves from the present to the future and ends where it began—a focus on God’s blessings on Israel as a catalyst for the entire world to know His ways, find salvation, praise Him, and fear Him.