Archive for the ‘Mitchell J. Dahood’ Tag

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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Psalm 119:105-144   5 comments

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POST LI 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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This is the fourth of five posts on Psalm 119 in this series.  The first is here.  The second is here.  The third is here.  The fifth is here.

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My flesh creeps from fear of You;

I am in awe of Your rulings.

–Psalm 119:120, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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My body bristles out of awe of you,

and I fear your judgments.

–Psalm 119:120, Mitchell J. Dahood translation (1970)

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This verse follows closely on the heels of an affirmation that God is the psalmist’s shield, a prayer for deliverance by God from foes (the wicked, or those who do not obey the torah, or teaching of the wise), and statements that God rejects the wicked.  Here, in Psalm 119:120, the alternating use of “fear” and “awe” seems to be evident.  The Presence of God has quite an effect on one.  Mitchell J. Dahood refers readers of his commentary to Job 4:15:

A wind passed before my face,

a storm made by body bristle.

If one who seeks to keep the torah of God more and more as time passes and finds the divine commandments to be sweeter than honey has that kind of response to the Presence of God and to divine commandments, how much more will the wicked have to tremble before God?  In God exist both judgment and mercy.  I do not pretend to know when one ends and the other begins.  I do, however, affirm that mere respect, if not an overpowering sense of inadequacy before the Almighty, should lead one to a sense of awe before God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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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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Psalms 98-101   1 comment

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POST XXXVIII 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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Each morning I will destroy

all the wicked of the land,

to rid the city of the LORD

of all evildoers.

–Psalm 101:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Morning after morning I shall reduce

all the wicked to silence,

ridding the LORD’s city of all evildoers.

–Psalm 101:8, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Like cattle I destroyed

all the wicked in the land,

Cutting off from the city of Yahweh

the evildoers one and all.

–Psalm 101:8, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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This post covers four psalms united by the theme of kingship.  God is the ideal king, we read; hesed (faithfulness/love/steadfast love/kindness) and justice define His reign.  Justice for the oppressed often has detrimental effects on oppressors, predictably.  All of us depend completely on God, who has been kind enough to give us law and who has demonstrated judgment and mercy as well as discipline and forgiveness.  The ideal human king strives to govern justly and avoid corruption.  This is a high standard, one which is impossible to achieve fully.  Even the best and most well-intentioned rulers, for example, cannot help but effect some injustice.

The last verse of Psalm 101 interests me.  The consensus of the five commentaries I consulted is that the scene is a familiar one in the ancient Near East:  a prince sitting at the gate early in the morning and dispensing justice.  (See Jeremiah 21:12; Psalm 46:5 or 6, depending on versification; Isaiah 37:36; and Lamentations 3:23.)  Mitchell J. Dahood, however, departs from the standard translations (“each morning” and “morning after morning”), noting that they create

the impression that the king was singularly ineffectual; an oriental king who each morning had to rid his land of undesirable citizens was destined for a very short reign.

Psalms III:  101-150 (1970), page 6

Therefore his rendering of the opening of Psalm 101:8 calls back to Psalm 49:14 or 15 (depending on versification), for that art of the Hebrew text of 101:8 is similar to the Hebrew for “like a calf,” which is parallel to “sheeplike.”

Linguistic nuances are fascinating.

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

–From A Brief Statement of Belief (1962), Presbyterian Church in the United States

Living up to divine standards is an impossible task for we mere mortals because of the reality of sin, both individual and collective.  God knows that, however.  May we strive to come as close as possible to that standard, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PRESIDENT OF KING’S COLLEGE, “FATHER OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN CONNECTICUT,” AND “FATHER OF AMERICAN LIBRARY CLASSIFICATION;” TIMOTHY CUTLER, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, AND RECTOR OF YALE COLLEGE; DANIEL BROWNE, EDUCATOR, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST; AND JAMES WETMORE, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN FRIEDRICH BAHNMAIER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Psalms 90-92   1 comment

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POST XXXV 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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How great your works,

Yahweh the Grand,

How deep your thoughts!

–Psalm 92:6, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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Psalm 92, meant originally for recitation on the Sabbath, is a text of praise to God.  The author, citing examples of divine action, is purely thankful.  That mood contrasts with that of Psalm 90 and 91, being a royal psalm, is inherently national.  Psalm 90, attributed to Moses, is similar to Psalm 91 in that it demonstrates an understanding of the rewards of obeying God and the consequences of disobeying God.

The author of Psalm 90 knows that human beings are transient but that God is everlasting.  The reason for divine fury in the text is anyone’s guess.  The reference in Psalm 90 could be to any of a number of incidents after the Exodus from Egypt in which God smote rebellious Hebrews before the generation that left slavery died off.

In these three psalms, taken together, we have a balanced view of divine judgment and mercy.  Mercy for the oppressed is judgment for the oppressors.  Also, rampant and consistent ingratitude and rebelliousness are negative.  To be in a situation in which one cares more about the fact that one does not like manna and quail (That again!  I ate that yesterday!)  than one does about the reality that God, who has freed the people, is feeding them, is to occupy an unfortunate spiritual space.

Is gratitude to God really so difficult?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PRESIDENT OF KING’S COLLEGE, “FATHER OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN CONNECTICUT,” AND “FATHER OF AMERICAN LIBRARY CLASSIFICATION;” TIMOTHY CUTLER, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, AND RECTOR OF YALE COLLEGE; DANIEL BROWNE, EDUCATOR, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST; AND JAMES WETMORE, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN FRIEDRICH BAHNMAIER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Posted August 17, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 90, Psalm 91, Psalm 92

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Psalms 86-88   1 comment

Above:  An Old World Map, Showing Jerusalem as the Center of the World

Image in the Public Domain

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POST XXXIII 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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Mitchell J. Dahood, while agreeing with the scholarly consensus that Psalm 86 is an individual lament, emphasizes the point that the author is the King of Israel.  Thus, as Dahood points out, the monarch’s woes have more far-reaching consequences than those of an anonymous subject and a favorable divine answer carries national significance.

Psalm 88 is also a lament.  The author, seriously ill and therefore ostracized, simultaneously blames God for his circumstances and requests divine deliverance.  Can a dead man praise God in Sheol, the psalmist asks.  According to the orthodoxy of the time, no.

Sandwiched between the two laments we read Psalm 87, which predicts that neighboring Gentile kingdoms and empires, from Babylon to Ethiopia, will eventually come to God and recognize Jerusalem as the center of the worship of God.  The Hebrews will remain the Chosen People, of course, but divine mercies extend to the Gentiles.  This is a wonderfully inclusive text.

Psalms 86 and 87 are explicitly national in theme.  Psalm 88, although outwardly individual, might be symbolic of the Babylonian Exile, with Sheol representing exile.  If this is true, reading it with Psalm 87 becomes interesting; enemies will become co-religionists and allies one day, via the power of God.  That is part of the promise of Psalm 87.

As with so many predictions of life after the Babylonian Exile, reality did not live up to high expectations.  The dream did not die, however; people kept deferring it.  The dream has not died.  Visions of lions and lambs lying down together in God’s kingdom on Earth have remained appealing.  Such visions have continued to expose the moral bankruptcy of states, kingdoms, empires, societies, and cultures founded on violence, exploitation, and artificial scarcity.  These visions have also continued to expose prominent figures, including heads of government and of state from antiquity to the present day.  None of them have been able to measure up compared to the standards of the Kingdom of God.  These dreams have never ceased to be relevant and contemporary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Psalms 82-85   1 comment

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POST XXXII 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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Show us, O LORD, Your faithfulness;

grant us your deliverance.

–Psalm 85:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Show us, O Yahweh, your kindness,

and give us your prosperity.

–Psalm 85:8, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

–Psalm 85:7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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LORD, show us your love

and grant us your deliverance.

–Psalm 85:7, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The act of comparing translations can yield much.  For example, the Hebrew word hesed can mean “faithfulness,” “kindness,” “love,” and “steadfast love.”  Likewise, another Hebrew word can mean “deliverance,” “salvation,” and “prosperity.”  In the context of Psalm 85 it is deliverance from the Babylonian Exile and prosperity that only God can provide.  Related to these matters is the fact that “righteousness” and “justice” are the same in the Bible.  I bring up this point because of Psalm 82, which tells us that God’s justice is universal.

The author of Psalm 83 assumes that enemies of ancient Israel are automatically enemies of God also.  Thus he has no hesitation to ask God to smite them.  Yet, as we read in Psalm 81, God has enemies in ancient Israel also.  Furthermore, a recurring theme in the Hebrew Bible is the faithfulness of certain Gentiles, including the prostitute Rahab and her family (Joshua 2 and 6) and the Aramean general Naaman (2 Kings 5), both from national enemies.  In the Book of Jonah, a work of satirical fiction from the post-Babylonian Exilic period, God recognizes the possibility that enemies of ancient Israel will repent and desires that they do so.   Reality is more complicated than the author of Psalm 83, in his understandable grief and anger, perceives it to be.

A faithful response to God includes both gratitude and obedience.  This segue brings me to Psalm 84, my favorite psalm, one which Johannes Brahms set to music gloriously in A German Requiem.  The psalmist writes as a pilgrim to the Temple at Jerusalem.  He approaches the Presence of God humbly and filled with awe.  The author delights to be in the Presence of God, which he understands to exist physically (via the Ark of the Covenant) at the Temple.

If Rahab and her family could become part of Israel, surely divine judgment and mercy crossed national barriers in antiquity.  If the Gentile Ruth could become the grandmother of David, YHWH was never just a national deity.  If the alien Naaman could recognize the power of YHWH, there was an opening to Gentiles at the time of the divided monarchy.

If divine justice is universal, as I affirm, we will do well to cease imagining that God is on our side and strive instead to be on God’s side.  We can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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