Psalms 141-143   1 comment

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POST LVIII 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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In your kindness annihilate my foes,

and destroy all who harass me,

For I am your servant.

–Psalm 143:12, Mitchell J. Dahood translation (1970)

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I disapprove of that sentiment on moral grounds.  This should be old news to anyone who has been following this series.

As the several translations I have consulted state, the meaning of Psalm 141:5-7 is uncertain and the text is difficult.  The author of that psalm affirms his loyalty to God, whom he asks to help him avoid committing evil deeds and to evade the traps of the wicked.  That much is plain.  So far, so good.

Psalm 142, written in the name of David and recalling 1 Samuel 24, is in that regard similar to Psalm 57.  The author also affirms his loyalty to God and seeks help evading lethal traps.  I detect recurring themes.

An understanding of the concept of Sheol is crucial to grasping Psalm 143.  Sheol is an old idea about the afterlife.  Sheol is “the Pit,” or the underworld.  It is a slimy, muddy, and slippery place where the dead have no obligations to God, whom they cannot praise.  The psalmist, on his deathbed, does not want to go there.  He does, however, want his enemies to go there.  The psalmist understands divine annihilation of his foes as evidence of God’s hesed (kindness/mercy/faithfulness/steadfast love) toward him.

Psalms such as #143 are mixed bags, so to speak.  So are we human beings.  To seek divine rescue is understandable and morally defensible.  Sometimes we find ourselves at the ends of our proverbial ropes; our spirits can endure no more.  Yet may we consider the possibility that someone might be asking God to annihilate us, just as we want God to smite him.  As we hope in God, may we trust in divine mercy more vast than we can imagine or might approve.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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One response to “Psalms 141-143

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

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