Monday, July 15, 2013

The structure and position of Psalm 73 in the Psalter #ISBL2013

As a strategy for memorization, I suggested a game. Tell me in a comment your favorite verse for a psalm. The critical verse for each psalm is not, however, necessarily the famous verse, but rather the one that is surrounded by the words that are repeated in the poem.

The layout of the data in Seeing the Psalter allows one to explore these relationships and thereby 'see' the central verses. These must of course be subject to additional analysis, but for the most part, observing the recurring roots gives a very good objective first step in the identification process.

In the Psalms session at the beginning of the International SBL on July 8 - i.e. just last week, I listened to a presentation by Izak J.J. Spangenberg of the University of South Africa on Psalm 73. He selected an opening and closing pair of words (אני I, and כי for) as an envelope for the whole psalm. He could safely have added טוב (good) to this frame without losing the circular structure. One ought also to note the emphatic אך (surely) that begins verses 1 and 13.  He then highlighted the repeated pair (דבר speak) in verse 8 against the repeated pair (לבב heart)  in verse 26, each accompanied by an occurrence of שׁמים (heavens).

I questioned this selection of words and patterns since it is subjective to suppress selected words themselves once they have been identified as keywords.  Heart is much more significant in this psalm than the two occurrences in verse 26. It occurs 6 times in this spelling with the double-bet. And if it is a keyword once in the psalm, one must look at all its occurrences. The 6 divide 3 and 3 around the pivotal verse 15. This is therefore the central verse of Psalm 73. It is also an emotional pivot. I note as well that the recurring root heart, spelled with a double-bet, is used for the first time as a keyword in the Psalter in this psalm.

Psalm 73 begins Book 3 of the Psalter. With Book 2, Book 3 emphasizes the experience of the exile. Faithfulness at the level of the heart is the critical role of Psalm 73. It is a word spoken in the midst of great trouble, not different from our own times.

Here is the Psalm with the whole table of recurring roots. Note the three words - good, I and for and their usage in reverse order at the end of the psalm. As I wrote in the book, take note also of how many body parts are mentioned in the Psalm. It's a good exercise. Do it. I don't tell you the answers in the book, I just lay out the data so that the many patterns can be more easily explored.

73 - how is the heart touched so
מִזְמוֹר לְאָסָף
אַךְ טוֹב לְיִשְׂרָאֵל אֱלֹהִים
לְבָרֵי לֵבָב
1A psalm of Asaph
Surely God is good to Israel,
to the pure in heart
וַאֲנִי כִּמְעַט נָטָיוּ רַגְלָי
כְּאַיִן שֻׁפְּכוּ אֲשֻׁרָי
2but I myself, my feet bent as if a little
as if my steps were not to be poured out

כִּי קִנֵּאתִי בַּהוֹלְלִים
שְׁלוֹם רְשָׁעִים אֶרְאֶה
3For I was jealous of the boasters
peace for the wicked I was seeing
כִּי אֵין חַרְצֻבּוֹת לְמוֹתָם
וּבָרִיא אוּלָם
4For there are no stings in their death
and plenteous is their gut

בַּעֲמַל אֱנוֹשׁ אֵינֵמוֹ
וְעִם אָדָם לֹא יְנֻגָּעוּ
5In toil a mortal is nothing to them
and they are not touched as earthlings
לָכֵן עֲנָקַתְמוֹ גַאֲוָה
יַעֲטָף שִׁית חָמָס לָמוֹ
6so they are necklaced with pride
draped with their cloak of violence

יָצָא מֵחֵלֶב עֵינֵמוֹ
עָבְרוּ מַשְׂכִּיּוֹת לֵבָב
7Their eyes bulge out
They go beyond the heart's imagination
יָמִיקוּ וִידַבְּרוּ
בְרָע עֹשֶׁק
מִמָּרוֹם יְדַבֵּרוּ
8They mock and speak
in oppressive evil
from on high they speak
שַׁתּוּ בַשָּׁמַיִם פִּיהֶם
וּלְשׁוֹנָם תִּהֲלַךְ בָּאָרֶץ
9They thrust their mouth in the heavens
and their tongue struts in the earth
לָכֵן יָשׁוּב עַמּוֹ הֲלֹם
וּמֵי מָלֵא יִמָּצוּ לָמוֹ
10"So! his people will return here
where they can be fully milked."

וְאָמְרוּ אֵיכָה יָדַע אֵל
וְיֵשׁ דֵּעָה בְעֶלְיוֹן
11And they say - how will God know?
so is there knowledge in the Most High?
הִנֵּה אֵלֶּה רְשָׁעִים
וְשַׁלְוֵי עוֹלָם
הִשְׂגּוּ חָיִל
12Behold, these are wicked,
so at ease ever,
abounding in wealth

אַךְ רִיק זִכִּיתִי לְבָבִי
וָאֶרְחַץ בְּנִקָּיוֹן כַּפָּי
13Surely without cause I have cleared my heart
and I keep on washing my palms in innocence
וָאֱהִי נָגוּעַ כָּל הַיּוֹם
וְתוֹכַחְתִּי לַבְּקָרִים
14and I am touched all the day long
with my own correction in the morning
אִם אָמַרְתִּי אֲסַפְּרָה כְמוֹ
הִנֵּה דוֹר בָּנֶיךָ בָגָדְתִּי
15If I had said, This is how I will recount it
then, a generation of your children, I would have betrayed
וָאֲחַשְּׁבָה לָדַעַת זֹאת
עָמָל הוּא בְעֵינָי
16And I reckon that I know this
toil it is to my eyes

עַד אָבוֹא אֶל מִקְדְּשֵׁי אֵל
אָבִינָה לְאַחֲרִיתָם
17When I come to God's sanctuaries
I understand their result
אַךְ בַּחֲלָקוֹת תָּשִׁית לָמוֹ
הִפַּלְתָּם לְמַשּׁוּאוֹת
18Surely in slippery parts you will put them
You will make them fall into ruins

אֵיךְ הָיוּ לְשַׁמָּה כְרָגַע
סָפוּ תַמּוּ מִן בַּלָּהוֹת
19How in a moment they are desolated
floundering, filled full from frights
כַּחֲלוֹם מֵהָקִיץ
אֲדֹנָי בָּעִיר
צַלְמָם תִּבְזֶה
20like waking from a dream
My Lord, when you are roused
you will despise their semblance

כִּי יִתְחַמֵּץ לְבָבִי
וְכִלְיוֹתַי אֶשְׁתּוֹנָן
21For my heart was embittered
and I was sharply taught in my insides
וַאֲנִי בַעַר וְלֹא אֵדָע
בְּהֵמוֹת הָיִיתִי עִמָּךְ
22I myself was a brute without knowledge
behemoth I was with you

וַאֲנִי תָמִיד עִמָּךְ
אָחַזְתָּ בְּיַד יְמִינִי
23Even so I myself am continually with you
You hold fast my right hand
בַּעֲצָתְךָ תַנְחֵנִי
וְאַחַר כָּבוֹד תִּקָּחֵנִי
24In your counsel you will guide me
and after you will take me into glory

מִי לִי בַשָּׁמָיִם
וְעִמְּךָ לֹא חָפַצְתִּי בָאָרֶץ
25Who is for me in the heavens?
and with you have I no delight on earth?
כָּלָה שְׁאֵרִי וּלְבָבִי
צוּר לְבָבִי וְחֶלְקִי אֱלֹהִים לְעוֹלָם
26My physical power and my heart find their end
God is the strength of my heart and my share forever

כִּי הִנֵּה רְחֵקֶיךָ יֹאבֵדוּ
הִצְמַתָּה כָּל זוֹנֶה מִמֶּךָּ
27For these who are distant from you will perish
You will annihilate all who prostitute themselves from you
וַאֲנִי קִרְבַת אֱלֹהִים לִי טוֹב
שַׁתִּי בַּאדֹנָי יְהוִה מַחְסִי
לְסַפֵּר כָּל מַלְאֲכוֹתֶיךָ
28But I myself approach God - to me, good
I have set my Lord יְהוָה as my refuge
so I will be able to recount all your affairs

Hebrew words: 193. Percentage of Hebrew words that recur in this psalm: 45%. Average keywords per verse: 3.1.
Selected recurring words
Word and gloss * first usage123456789101234567892012345678930VsRoot
אך surely
1אך
טוב is good
1טוב
* לבב heart
1לבב
ואני but I myself
2אני
כאין as if were not
2אין
כי for
3כי
רשׁעים the wicked
3רשׁע
כי for
4כי
אין there are no
4אין
בעמל in toil
5עמל
אינמו is nothing to them
5אין
ועם and as
5עם
לא not
5לא
* ינגעו they are touched
5נגע
* לכן so
6לכן
שׁית cloak of
6שׁית
למו their
6למו
עינמו their eyes
7עין
* לבב the heart's
7לבב
וידברו and speak
8דבר
ידברו they speak
8דבר
בשׁמים in the heavens
9שׁמים
בארץ in the earth
9ארץ
* לכן So!
10לכן
עמו his people
10עם
למו they
10למו
ואמרו and they say
11אמר
* איכה how
11איך
ידע will know
11ידע
דעה knowledge
11ידע
הנה Behold
12הנה
רשׁעים wicked
12רשׁע
עולם ever
12עלם
אך surely
13אך
* לבבי my heart
13לבב
ואהי and I am
14היה
* נגוע touched
14נגע
כל all
14כל
אמרתי I had said
15אמר
אספרה I will recount it
15ספר
הנה then
15הנה
לדעת that I know
16ידע
עמל toil
16עמל
בעיני to my eyes
16עין
לאחריתם their result
17אחר
אך surely
18אך
בחלקות in slippery parts
18חלק
תשׁית you will put
18שׁית
למו them
18למו
* איך how
19איך
היו they are
19היה
אדני My Lord
20אדון
כי for
21כי
* לבבי my heart
21לבב
ואני I myself
22אני
ולא without
22לא
אדע knowledge
22ידע
הייתי I was
22היה
עמך with you
22עם
ואני Even so I myself am
23אני
עמך with you
23עם
ואחר and after
24אחר
לי for me
25לי
בשׁמים in the heavens
25שׁמים
ועמך and with you
25עם
לא no
25לא
בארץ on earth
25ארץ
* ולבבי and my heart
26לבב
* לבבי my heart
26לבב
וחלקי and my share
26חלק
לעולם forever
26עלם
כי for
27כי
הנה these
27הנה
כל all
27כל
ואני but ... myself
28אני
לי to me
28לי
טוב good
28טוב
שׁתי I have set as
28שׁית
באדני my Lord
28אדון
לספר so I will be able to recount
28ספר
כל all
28כל
PSALMS 73
Last printed on 2013.07.15-09:09