Archive for the ‘Vengeance’ 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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Psalms 139 and 140   1 comment

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POST LVII 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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Psalm 139 opens and concludes piously.  The author also asks God to examine him spiritually and writes of God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.  Unfortunately, the psalmist’s piety includes the understanding that solidarity with God entails hatred for God’s enemies.  The author of Psalm 139 seeks their destruction, not their repentance.  This is a perspective one also finds in Psalm 140, in which the author is under siege from evil, lawless men whose words are like weapons.

I do not defend evil, lawless people who engage in slander and/or violence.  Neither do I stand up for enemies of God.  I do not, however, seek their destruction and damnation.  No, I seek their repentance; I want them to amend their lives.

Hatred, after all, is a vice, not a virtue.

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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Psalms 136-138   1 comment

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POST LVI 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 full Jewish style, Psalm 136 praises God for what He does and has done; God is like what He does and has done, Hebrew theology tells us.

His steadfast love is eternal,

we keep reading in refrain in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985).  The Hebrew word translated as “steadfast love” is hesed; it also translates into English as kindness, mercy, and grace.  This hesed is everlasting.  The God of Psalm 136 is the same figure the author of Psalm 138 praises with all our heart, also while citing everlasting hesed.

The author of Psalm 137 does not seem to have God’s hesed on his mind.  The text is the lament of exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Not surprisingly, the psalmist is resentful–so much that he fantasizes about dashing Chaldean babies against rocks.

Though I walk among enemies,

You preserve me in the face of my foes;

You extend Your hand;

with Your right hand You deliver me.

The LORD will settle accounts for me.

O LORD, Your steadfast love is eternal;

do not forsake the work of Your hands.

–Psalm 138:7-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Psalm 138, even with its morally disturbing desire for divine retribution, does express confidence in God.  That confidence is absent from Psalm 137, although a vendetta is present.

The combination of the pious and the morally disturbing in Psalms 136-138, taken together, is human and honest.  Such honesty before God can be spiritually beneficial, if one is open to transformation by God.

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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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 79-81   1 comment

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POST XXXI 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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“Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so you will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out will be dealt to you.”

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The quest for revenge–in this case, for conquering the Kingdom of Judah (and possibly the Kingdom of Israel before that) and destroying the Temple at Jerusalem–recurs in the Book of Psalms.  Likewise, I keep repeating my condemnation of vengeance and the desire for it, just as I understand why the emotion is so powerful.  Matthew 7:1-2 is an appropriate rebuff to the authors of Psalms 79 and 80.  One should seek the repentance of enemies, national and individual.  It is better to have more friends and fellow travelers along the path of righteousness than foes.  Furthermore, repentance works to the spiritual benefit of the enemies, also bearers of the image of God.

We know that not all who need to repent will do, unfortunately.  Thus we may speak and write accurately of the judgment that will befall those who refuse to repent.  We ought never to gloat over the fate of the wicked not to seek that fate for anyone, though.  And, as Psalm 81 tells us, not just enemies of people like us need to repent; we might need to do so also.

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 69 and 70   1 comment

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POST XXVI 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 Psalm 70, nearly identical to the end of Psalm 40, the Psalmist asks God for deliverance from and revenge upon foes who threaten his life.

The theme of lament also exists in Psalm 69, apparently by a faithful Jew living in exile after the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem.  The exile has many enemies–strangers, relatives, and former friends.  He is figuratively drowning in their scorn.  He also seeks deliverance from and vengeance upon his enemies.

As I reread Psalm 69 again the first time in preparation for this post, I focused on the timeless sense of enduring rejection (for the sake of righteousness) from those one knows best.  I have read and heard many accounts of people over time who, upon leaving one religion, sect, or denomination for another, have had to cope with rejection by their relatives and former friends who have not converted.  Frequently the alienation from one’s former circle has been permanent.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

In his arms he’ll take and shield thee,

thou wilt find a solace there.

–Joseph M. Screven, circa 1855

My only disagreement with that fragment of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is that a friend does not despise and forsake another friend.  No, friends take care of and look out for each other; one does not reject and become an enemy of another while remaining a friend.  In Judaism God is like what God does.  Likewise, we are like what we do.

May we never forget that, when we experience trauma and cry out to God in that context, we might feel alone yet are not, if we walk with God.  May we also know that, although the desire for revenge is natural, it is unhealthy.  It is, actually, self-destructive and spiritually poisonous.  I do take comfort, however, that one can express even the most unpleasant feelings to God safely.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THADDEUS STEVENS, U.S. ABOLITIONIST, CONGRESSMAN, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Posted August 12, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 40, Psalm 69, Psalms I: 1-76

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Psalms 62-64   1 comment

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POST XXIII 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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Men of lowly birth are mere vapor,

those of high degree a delusion.

On scales they are lighter than leaves,

together lighter than vapor.

–Psalm 62:10, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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Men are mere breath;

mortals, illusion;

placed on a scale all together,

they weigh even less than a breath.

–Psalm 62:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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God, however, is substantial.

Psalms 62, 63, and 64 express confidence in God.  Psalm 63, set in the Israelite desert, brings that principle home in a concrete way.  There is a good reason that, for thousands of years, many holy men and women have tested their piety and trained themselves to rely on God in deserts.

Psalms 63 and 64 mention the fates of enemies.  Whereas Psalm 63 expresses a desire for divine vengeance–by experiencing gutting with a sword and becoming food for jackals, Psalm 64 simply acknowledges that people will reap what they sow.  Those who set down the path of righteousness are not secure from all suffering, but they do walk with God.  Those who trod a different trail–the one to destruction–will meet with the predictable fate.  This is a cause for mourning, not rejoicing.  One should desire that such people will repent and turn to God, for their benefit and that of others, and to the joy of God.  One cannot make those kinds of decisions for others, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THADDEUS STEVENS, U.S. ABOLITIONIST, CONGRESSMAN, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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