Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Memorizing the Psalms - 12 (113-119)

In this series, I am considering strategies for memorizing all the psalms of the Hebrew Psalter. Ask yourself also - what is(are) the central verse(s) of each psalm? This section picks up after the first acrostic of Book 5 and leads to the second, the great adoration of Psalm 119.
הַלְלוּ יָהּ הַלְלוּ עַבְדֵי יְהוָה113:1Hallelu Yah Praise servants of יהוה 
בְּצֵאת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם114:1When Israel exited from Egypt
לֹא לָנוּ יְהוָה לֹא לָנוּ115:1Not to us יהוה not to us
אָהַבְתִּי116:1I love
הַלְלוּ אֶת יְהוָה כָּל גּוֹיִם117:1Praise יהוה all nations
הוֹדוּ לַיהוָה כִּי טוֹב118:1Give thanks to יהוה for it is good
אַשְׁרֵי תְמִימֵי דָרֶךְ119:1All joy for those who are the complete of the way

Psalm 118 raises the question of psalms connected by a first line. This is the third of four psalms to begin הוֹדוּ לַיהוָה כִּי טוֹב. Note the phrase in Psalms 106:1, 107:1, 118:1,29, and 136:1. Another group that comes to mind are those beginning with In you I take refuge or some very similar phrase, Psalms 7, 11, 16, 31, 71. Refuge is a major theme in the Psalms, one often obscured in translation by the careless use of synonyms, e.g. the Coverdale Psalm 46, Deus noster refugium et virtus which glosses refuge as hope: God is our hope and strength. (I don't admire or advocate rigidity in translation, but concordance on major themes is important.)
  • In Psalm 113, the weak are raised from the dust to live with the princes.
  • In Psalm 114, Israel exits from Egypt, sea withdraws and lambkin like hillocks skip.
  • Psalm 115 is a psalm of universal trust and blessing.
  • Psalm 116 is the completion of the vows. The elect calls in the name of יהוה who rescues from death.
  • Psalm 117 is the shortest psalm, of universal praise and commendation of יהוה.
  • Psalm 118 includes the circumcision, the stone that the builders rejected, and is the origin of the Benedictus. In the story of the Psalter, this poem might be seen as the birth of the adoration that will be so evident in the psalm to follow. Psalms 118 and 136 frame the great acrostic and the 15 Psalms of Ascent including the arrival at the courts in Psalm 135. Psalms 137 to 149 then successively close the frames for the whole Psalter.
  • Psalm 119 feels like the high point of the Psalter. Frames used for the first time occur even this late in the book. The verb for longing (יאב) is used only in Psalm 119:131. One might understand this as representing the primal human need.