Psalms 108 and 109   1 comment

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POST XLIV OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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NOTE:

Versification in the Book of Psalms is not universal.  One style of versification is that which one finds in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles.  Another is the versification in Protestant Bibles.  When I prepare these posts, I consult a range of Bibles and commentaries.  At any given time, the totality of these sources cover both styles of versification.

The versification in this post is that of The New Revised Standard Version (1989).

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Psalm 108 consists of two parts:  verses 1-5 (nearly identical to Psalm 57:7-11) and verses 6-13 (almost the same as Psalm 60:5-12).  [I know, for I laid opened three copies of The New Revised Standard Version, placed them next to each other on my desk, and read slowly.  I did not rely exclusively on the notes in commentaries.  I noticed an extra “and” as well as the changing of “us” into “me” in Psalm 108.]  Tradition attributes Psalm 108 to David.  I am not so sure, however, given the ancient custom of attributing authorship of a famous dead person.  Unlike some other psalms, in which the distinct parts have little to do with each other, the first section flows organically into the second.  The text is, anyway, a prayer for victory.

The author (allegedly David) of Psalm 109 also seeks victory; that is straight-forward.  The ambiguous element of the text is the question of the identity of the speaker of the curse (which God has the power to subvert into blessing, by the way) in verses 6-19.  The New English Bible (1970), The New Revised Standard Version (1989), The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993), and The Revised English Bible (1989) preface the prolonged curse with

They say.

The 1991 revision of the Book of Psalms for the New American Bible prefaces the long curse with

My enemies say of me.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966) and The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) start the section with quotation marks.

However, the Revised Standard Version (1952 and 1971), the Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition (1965), the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002), Mitchell J. Dahood (1970), TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), and the 1970 and 2011 editions of the New American Bible do not set the prolonged curse apart as to indicate that another party is speaking.

If the speaker of the prolonged curse is the aggrieved party, i.e., the psalmist, “David,” Psalm 109 is consistent with other angry psalms up to this point.  The emotion is certainly predictable.  It is, as C. S. Lewis explained,

the natural result of injuring a human being.

–Quoted in J. Clinton McCann, Jr., Volume IV (1996), The New Interpreter’s Bible

Psalm 109 concludes with an affirmation that God stands with the needy.  In a real sense, however, whenever one victimizes another, there are only victims.  After all, whatever we do to each other, we do to ourselves.  If we, for example, seek to keep others “in their place,” or to restrict their opportunities, we harm the progress not only of them but of society as a whole, and thereby restrict our own opportunities.  Are we not, therefore, also among the needy because of our nefarious actions?  Yet, as I have written many times, when oppressors refuse to cease oppressing, divine deliverance of the oppressed is catastrophic for the oppressors.

Analysis of Psalm 109 in The New Interpreter’s Bible includes an affirmation of the importance of expressing anger when one is a wronged party.  That analysis also emphasizes the importance of submitting that anger to God.  The word “anger” comes from the Old Norse angr, which means grief, affliction, and sorrow.  These underlie anger, which is a burden too great to carry for long.  We should, therefore, surrender it to God.

I have carried much anger to God.  I have also spoken some of it in the presence of a priest and left it under the seal of confidentiality.  Uttering my strong, negative, and understandable feelings was a process that contributed to my spiritual recovery.  I have learned the wisdom of abandoning grudges and not picking new ones.

That is the spiritual journey of the author of Psalm 109.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ERDMANN NEUMEISTER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PORCHER DUBOSE, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

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One response to “Psalms 108 and 109

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  1. Pingback: Guide Post to the Septuagint Psalter Project | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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