Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The middle of Book 3 - a brief retrospect

We are almost to the middle of book 3 - perhaps past it since psalm 78 is so big. I have been concentrating on the frames in each psalm - repeated words that outline the theme or surround the core of each poem. In particular I have been identifying the frames that are first used in each psalm. It seems we are then in the middle of a substantial art gallery.  So far in the last 5 or 6 weeks, we have seen in sequence:
  • the entrance: psalms 1 and 2 - 
  • a set of psalms of David - from 3 to 41 (only psalm 10 has no attribution but it is a continuation of the acrostic of psalm 9). Attributed to David are two psalms of special names: maskil  - of insight, and miktam - inscribed (roughly).
  • at the beginning of Book 2, we found a change in attribution (Korah) and a change in the divine name which will last to psalm 86 just before the end of Book 3.
  • In the middle of Book 2 after a series by Korah (really including psalm 43 also) we pass the first of Asaph, a foretaste of what is to come in Book 3.
  • But first there is a second set of psalms attributed to David. Five of these are miktamim, three of these and a fourth are headed with 'Do not destroy'. They are essential - not to be thrown out.
  • These in turn surround a section of three unattributed harvest psalms 65, 66, 67. These, besides psalms 1 and 2, are the first group of unattributed psalms. There will be several more in books 4 and 5.
  • Following the David group, Book 3 begins with Asaph and ends with Korah. Books 2 and 3 have a familiar sandwich pattern  Korah - Asaph - David - harvest - David - Asaph - Korah.
  • Book 3 will end with two maskilim one of Hayman and one of Ethan
  • Book 4 begins with Moses - but we get ahead of ourselves
  • Book 5 ends with David
  • and all books end with praise. Psalm 149 closes what psalms 1 and 2 began. See also this image. Easier to see than to describe.
As we read, I am concentrating on the repeated roots that are new in each psalm. These I count as frames though they may frame the whole psalm or only a part of it. Click on psalm summary for the other summaries.

So far in book 3, we have summarized each psalm using words that are new keywords in that psalm
73 - how is the heart touched
74 - foolish, the burning of the assemblies
75 - the horn
76 - wearing the residue of human heat
77 - remembering the wonderful deeds - introduces psalm 78
78 - signs commanded, guiding a provocative people - anticipates psalms 105 and 106

I won't anticipate more of where we are going, because, though I have been there, I am seeing new things in every psalm because of this concentration on which recurring words are new. There's a monster diagram of these linked from the page defining the frames - under WIP above. This process is scheduled to be completed before the middle of September. It is I admit, a bit of a marathon.

The study of the psalms is very rewarding. I have found myself confronted by many if not most. Now it is joy to read them for a third time in Hebrew - it is still slow work even after 4 years of study, so don't be discouraged. Look up every word - who cares if it takes time. This is the dialogue between Father and Son - we eavesdrop and learn. The anointing drips from these words onto us - a precious oil. (Psalm 133). Soon I will see the dew of Herman and the mountains of Zion. (September in Oxford for a conference on the Psalms - then to Israel for 3 weeks.)