Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Exploring the outer circle

There are psalms of David at the beginning and at the end of the Psalter. I sense that there are more than accidental relationships between these psalms so I have decided to explore a thing or two among them. This first post is on the word גמר, a word glossed in the KJV as cease, fail, come to an end, perfect, and perform, Considering that this word occurs only 5 times in the Bible and all of them are in the Psalter, this is quite a feat - five different glosses for the same word.  Apart from the use of this word in related languages, this is all the evidence we have of its use in Biblical Hebrew.

What if we showed in this and subsequent posts that the juxtaposition of these psalms was deliberate and that certain connections between them need to be seen. Perhaps not but let's see. (You can quickly see some connections among these psalms in this post like the false tongue and the net.) For fun I wanted to see if all these uses could be glossed concordantly.  So here they are in their parallel contexts:
Psalm 7
קוּמָה יְהוָה בְּאַפֶּךָ
הִנָּשֵׂא בְּעַבְרוֹת צוֹרְרָי
וְעוּרָה אֵלַי
מִשְׁפָּט צִוִּיתָ
7
qvumah yy b)àpeka
hinasé) b`àbrvot cvorray
v`vurah )élày
mishpa+ civuyta
Arise יְהוָה in your anger,
be lifted up in the outbursts of my foe
and awake my God
judgment you command
וַעֲדַת לְאֻמִּים תְּסוֹבְבֶךָּ
וְעָלֶיהָ לַמָּרוֹם שׁוּבָה 
8
và`adàt l)umym tsvobbeka
v`aleyah làmarvom shvubah 
So a congregation of people encircle you
and for her to the heights return
 יְהוָה יָדִין עַמִּים
שָׁפְטֵנִי יְהוָה כְּצִדְקִי
 וּכְתֻמִּי עָלָי
9
yy yadyn `àmym
shap+ény yy kcidqy
 vuktumy `alay
יְהוָה shall judge the peoples
Judge me יְהוָה for my righteousness and my completeness in me
יִגְמָר נָא רַע רְשָׁעִים
וּתְכוֹנֵן צַדִּיק
וּבֹחֵן לִבּוֹת וּכְלָיוֹת
אֱלֹהִים צַדִּיק
10
yigmar na) rà` rsha`ym
vutkvonén càdyq
vuboxén libvot vuklayvot
)elohym càdyq
O let the evil of the wicked end
and steady the righteous
and test hearts and vital centres
O God of righteousness
This section of Psalm 7 comes out of a protestation of innocence in respect to a defrauding accusation and what follows is a confidence that there is a judgment - but it is not clear who takes on the burden of judgment. The antecedent of the pronouns is ambiguous. This fits a God who steps into the net that the wicked have prepared and by his self-giving destroys both wicked and net.

Psalm 12 laments the worthlessness of the children of dust (the frame for that psalm).  יְהוָה promises to arise - answering the request of Psalm 7.

הוֹשִׁיעָה יְהוָה
כִּי גָמַר חָסִיד
כִּי פַסּוּ אֱמוּנִים
מִבְּנֵי אָדָם
2
hvoshy`ah yy
ky gamàr xasyd
ky pàsvu )emvunym
mibnéy )adam
Save יְהוָה
for ended are the merciful
for vanished are the faithful
among the children of dust
שָׁוְא יְדַבְּרוּ
אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ
שְׂפַת חֲלָקוֹת בְּלֵב וָלֵב
יְדַבֵּרוּ
3
shav) ydàbrvu
)ysh )et ré`éhvu
spàt xalaqvot bléb valéb
ydàbérvu
Emptiness they speak,
each to his friend
lip divided and heart from heart
they speak
יַכְרֵת יְהוָה
כָּל שִׂפְתֵי חֲלָקוֹת לָשׁוֹן
מְדַבֶּרֶת גְּדֹלוֹת
4
yàkrét yy
kal siptéy xalaqvot lashvon
mdàberet gdolvot
יְהוָה shall cut off
all lips divided from the tongue
speaking boasts


Psalm 57, one of the miktamim and sharing a section with Psalm 108, also later contains the net image similar to Psalm 7
חָנֵּנִי אֱלֹהִים
חָנֵּנִי כִּי בְךָ חָסָיָה נַפְשִׁי
וּבְצֵל כְּנָפֶיךָ אֶחְסֶה
עַד יַעֲבֹר הַוּוֹת
2
xanény )elohym
xanény ky bka xasayah nàpshy
vubcél knapeyka )exseh
`àd yà`abor hàvuvot
Have mercy on me O God
Have mercy on me for in you is refuge for my life
and in the shadow of your wings I make my refuge
until calamities are passed by
אֶקְרָא לֵאלֹהִים עֶלְיוֹן
לָאֵל גֹּמֵר עָלָי
3
)eqra) lé)lohym `lyvon
la)él gomér `alay
I will call to God Most High
to God who ends all for me
יִשְׁלַח מִשָּׁמַיִם וְיוֹשִׁיעֵנִי
חֵרֵף שֹׁאֲפִי
סֶלָה
יִשְׁלַח אֱלֹהִים חַסְדּוֹ וַאֲמִתּוֹ
4
yishlàx mishamàyim vyvoshy`ény
xéréph sho)apy
selah
yishlàx )elohym xàsdvo và)amitvo
He will send from heaven and will save me
he reproached the one crushing me
Selah
God will send his mercy and his truth
נַפְשִׁי בְּתוֹךְ לְבָאִם
אֶשְׁכְּבָה לֹהֲטִים
בְּנֵי אָדָם
שִׁנֵּיהֶם חֲנִית וְחִצִּים
וּלְשׁוֹנָם חֶרֶב חַדָּה
5
nàpshy btvok lba)im
)eshkbah loha+ym
bnéy )adam
shinéyhem xanyt vxicym
vulshvonam xreb xàdah
my life is among lions
I lie with those on fire
the children of dust
their teeth like spears and arrows
and their tongue a sharp sword
Psalm 77 is the only one of these not inscribed 'of David'. This preparation for Psalm 78 concludes that יְהוָה has not forgotten mercy.
אֶזְכְּרָה נְגִינָתִי בַּלָּיְלָה
עִם לְבָבִי אָשִׂיחָה
וַיְחַפֵּשׂ רוּחִי
7
)ezkrah ngynaty bàlaylah
`im lbaby )asyxah
vàyxàpés rvuxy
I remember my song in the night
with my heart I ponder
and I am diligent in my spirit
הַלְעוֹלָמִים יִזְנַח אֲדֹנָי
וְלֹא יֹסִיף לִרְצוֹת עוֹד
8
hàl`volamym yiznàx )adonay
vlo) yosyph lircvot `vod
in the ages to come will the Lord reject?
will he never again be favorable?
הֶאָפֵס לָנֶצַח חַסְדּוֹ
גָּמַר אֹמֶר לְדֹר וָדֹר
9
he)apés lanecàx xàsdvo
gamàr )omer ldor vador
has his mercy ceased in perpetuity?
a word from generation to generation ended?
הֲשָׁכַח חַנּוֹת אֵל
אִם קָפַץ בְּאַף רַחֲמָיו
סֶלָה
10
hashakàx xànvot )él
)im qapàc b)àph ràxamayv
selah
has God forgotten grace?
as if his tender mercies were shut up in anger?
Selah
Psalm 138 is the first of the closing bracket of Davidic psalms.
אִם-אֵלֵךְ בְּקֶרֶב צָרָה תְּחַיֵּנִי
עַל אַף אֹיְבַי תִּשְׁלַח יָדֶךָ
וְתוֹשִׁיעֵנִי יְמִינֶךָ
7
)im-)élék bqreb carah txàyény
`àl )àph )oybày tishlàx yadeka
vtvoshy`ény ymyneka
though I walk in midst of trouble you make me live
against the wrath of my enemies you spread your hand
and you save me by your right hand
יְהוָה יִגְמֹר בַּעֲדִי
יְהוָה חַסְדְּךָ לְעוֹלָם
מַעֲשֵׂי יָדֶיךָ אַל-תֶּרֶף
8
yy yigmor bà`ady
yy xàsdka l`volam
mà`aséy yadeyka )àl-tereph
יְהוָה will end his work for my sake
יְהוָה your mercy is forever
do not let go the work of your hands
There - they all share the sound 'end'. How then do I interpret this series of five psalm snippets all containing this word which I have glossed as the English verb 'to end'?  

The last usage seems to me to fulfill, complete, and perfect this word - to bring it to its end, which is to assure us that all this work is for our sakes and is brought to its end in the death of Jesus. There is a jump there from the I of the psalms to my 'I' inclusive and becoming 'we', but this - strangely enough, is how I read these promises. It is I suspect, the way Israel read them and therefore collected them. Also I think it is the way Jesus read them and the way the Anointing Spirit of this Anointed reads them today.