Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The framed middle of Psalm 31 - shifting words and meanings

Psalm 31 (30 Greek version) has a framed middle shown in the table below. This is one of the regular psalms for Compline, and the origin of the words for Jesus on the cross, Into your hands I commend my spirit. The frame includes 4 mentions of hands as can be seen, two of God's hands, and two of the enemies' hands.

The Greek adds to the inscription a single word, ἐκστάσεως, a word repeated in the Greek in verse 23, an extra repetition which is not in the Hebrew, verses 23-25 (Hebrew 22-24) being an afterthought reflecting the central section which is a complete rejection of the individual in question by the social structure: The poet has 'become as a vessel that has perished'.
From all my troubles I became a reproach and especially to my neighbours, and a dread to those knowing me. Those seeing me outside fled from me.
The additional word is one from which we get our word ecstasy but this is not exactly ecstatic rather it is reflecting alarm according to the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) "But I said in my alarm, I have been cast from your sight."

Neither is this psalm theoretical, but very much concerned with hands and feet, shame, righteousness, and deliverance, trusting in a God that 'knows the insides of my being' and who is trustworthy. Yet I think of 'standing outside' - is that ecstasy? Hardly, it is isolation and solitude and here rejection and illness, or at least symptoms that could be metaphor of deep distress.

It's curious how words shift. Perhaps we really are in each others' hands - so how will we find trust that is not simply resignation?

Selected recurring words, verses 6 to 17 (Heb)
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
1
בידך into your hands
6
יד
ואני but I
7
אני
בטחתי I will trust
7
בטח
בחסדך in your loving-kindness
8
חסד
ראית you have seen
8
ראה
ידעת you know
8
ידע
בצרות the inside of the troubles of
8
צרר
נפשׁי my being
8
נפשׁ
ביד in the hand of
9
יד
אויב an enemy
9
איב
* עשׁשׁה swollen are
10
עשׁשׁ
נפשׁי my being
10
נפשׁ
* עשׁשׁו swollen
11
עשׁשׁ
צררי my troubles
12
צרר
הייתי I became
12
היה
למידעי to those knowing me
12
ידע
ראי those seeing me
12
ראה
הייתי I have become
13
היה
נפשׁי my being
14
נפשׁ
ואני but I
15
אני
בטחתי I have trusted
15
בטח
בידך in your hands
16
יד
מיד from the hand of
16
יד
אויבי my enemy
16
איב
בחסדך in your loving-kindness
17
חסד




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