Thursday, May 23, 2013

Memorizing the Psalms - 5 (42-49 Korah)

In this series, I am considering strategies for memorizing all the psalms of the Hebrew Psalter.

Book 2 begins with new language, new inscriptions, and a series of three laments which could be considered one poem.
כְּאַיָּל תַּעֲרֹג עַל אֲפִיקֵי מָיִם42:2As a hart yearns over a watercourse
שָׁפְטֵנִי אֱלֹהִים וְרִיבָה רִיבִי43:1Judge me O God and strive my strife
אֱלֹהִים בְּאָזְנֵינוּ שָׁמַעְנוּ44:2God with our ears we have heard
רָחַשׁ לִבִּי דָּבָר טוֹבר45:2My heart stirs about a good matter
אֱלֹהִים לָנוּ מַחֲסֶה וָעֹז46:2God is our refuge and strength
כָּל הָעַמִּים תִּקְעוּ כָף47:2All the peoples sound the slap of a palm
גָּדוֹל יְהוָה וּמְהֻלָּל מְאֹד48:2Great is יהוה and much to be praised
שִׁמְעוּ זֹאת כָּל הָעַמִּים49:2Hear this all peoples
These psalms present a contrast of lament and hope from the experience of exile to the marriage of the king leading up to the security and beauty of the holy city.
  • Psalms 42 and 43 are first person singular longing for the presence of God. They are often considered as one psalm. For most of the next two books (to Psalm 86), God is referenced as Elohim rather than the tetragrammeton. It is significant then that יהוה occurs once only in the central verse of the central strophe of the two psalms combined. 
  • Psalm 43 is a reminder of Psalm 35 (contend = strive, ריב).
  • Psalm 44 is first person plural, a note (נוּ -nu = our, us, or we) that sounds 40 times in the poem.
  • Psalm 45 introduces the bride. The poet intrudes in the first statement after the inscription.
  • Psalm 46 introduces the city and promises a full destruction of weapons of war. After the opening lament, we are reminded of the roots of the tradition, and the beauty of the hope that it promises. 
  • Psalm 47 sings psalms of ascension and invokes the sacrifice of Abraham through the language of ascending (the same root as burnt offering).
  • Psalm 48 reflects further on the City of God.
  • Psalm 49 is a parable or riddle on the preciousness of ransom. Psalm 49 marks the end of the first collection attributed to the children of Korah. Psalm 49 is a cliff-hanger preparing for the summons of Psalm 50 and the tragic reality behind Psalm 51.