Monday, April 20, 2015

Psalm 52, a poem of relative obscurity

This poem excoriates Doeg the Edomite at first, but then morphs into a metaphor about the tongue in its tent. The poem is unique in its recurrence pattern in Hebrew. Even including the most common words, each word that repeats is used exactly twice. There are no words that recur more than twice. I have not noted this pattern in any other poem. It may be there, but I have not noted it. (And it is there in that shortest of Psalms, 117. The Greek is explored here).

Psalm 52's (51 in the Greek) Greek translation of course does not preserve this pattern and eliminates one of the more interesting major word recurrences, the 'loving kindness', translated as reproof. It is important to remember, if one has a conscience, that reproof is also an act of kindness. Reproof that brings shame shows us that we care about others even if it is suppressed in us. Reproof delivered by the Most High (as Nathan does for David in the prior psalm) then brings the one reproved into an offering to God, one whose example has become an offering for sin.

So it is doubly curious that Psalms 51 and 52 are so juxtaposed. These two psalms together share 15 significant words including making things clear, loving-kindness, and righteousness (altogether about 30% of their total words). Righteousness is the central message of the penitential psalm 51. It's usually considered to be about sin, but that is a human overemphasis that results from Doeg's sin of self-importance.

לַמְנַצֵּ֗חַ מַשְׂכִּ֥יל לְדָוִֽד1For the leader. An insight of David.914
בְּב֤וֹא ׀ דּוֹאֵ֣ג הָאֲדֹמִי֮ וַיַּגֵּ֪ד לְשָׁ֫א֥וּל
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר ל֑וֹ
בָּ֥א דָ֝וִ֗ד אֶל־בֵּ֥ית אֲחִימֶֽלֶךְ
2In comes Doeg the Edomite and he makes it clear to Saul saying to him,
David goes to the house of Ahimelech.
14
4
9
22
7
16
מַה־תִּתְהַלֵּ֣ל בְּ֭רָעָה הַגִּבּ֑וֹר
חֶ֥סֶד אֵ֝֗ל כָּל־הַיּֽוֹם
3Why do you boast in evil, O valiant one?
The reproof of God is all the day long.
10
6
16
11
הַ֭וּוֹת תַּחְשֹׁ֣ב לְשׁוֹנֶ֑ךָ
כְּתַ֥עַר מְ֝לֻטָּ֗שׁ עֹשֵׂ֥ה רְמִיָּֽה
4Calamities your tongue devises
like a honed razor that acts with deceit.
8
11
13
15
אָהַ֣בְתָּ רָּ֣ע מִטּ֑וֹב
שֶׁ֓קֶר ׀ מִדַּבֵּ֖ר צֶ֣דֶק סֶֽלָה
5You love evil over good,
falsehood over a matter of righteousness. Selah.
6
9
10
13
אָהַ֥בְתָּ כָֽל־דִּבְרֵי־בָ֗לַע לְשׁ֣וֹן מִרְמָֽה6You love to swallow up all sorts of things, tongue of deceit.1121
גַּם־אֵל֮ יִתָּצְךָ֪ לָ֫נֶ֥צַח
יַחְתְּךָ֣ וְיִסָּחֲךָ֣ מֵאֹ֑הֶל
וְשֵֽׁרֶשְׁךָ֨ מֵאֶ֖רֶץ חַיִּ֣ים סֶֽלָה
7But God will overcome even you in perpetuity.
He will take hold of you and pluck you from your tent,
and root you out of the land of the living. Selah.
8
11
11
12
13
16
וְיִרְא֖וּ צַדִּיקִ֥ים וְיִירָ֗אוּ וְעָלָ֥יו יִשְׂחָֽקוּ8And the-many righteous will see and fear, and they will laugh at him.1627
הִנֵּ֤ה הַגֶּ֗בֶר לֹ֤א יָשִׂ֥ים אֱלֹהִ֗ים מָֽע֫וּזּ֥וֹ
וַ֭יִּבְטַח בְּרֹ֣ב עָשְׁר֑וֹ
יָ֝עֹ֗ז בְּהַוָּתֽוֹ
9So this is the valiant one who did not set up God as his strength,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and strengthened himself in his own calamity.
14
7
6
23
12
8
וַאֲנִ֤י ׀ כְּזַ֣יִת רַ֭עֲנָן בְּבֵ֣ית אֱלֹהִ֑ים
בָּטַ֥חְתִּי בְחֶֽסֶד־אֱ֝לֹהִ֗ים עוֹלָ֥ם וָעֶֽד
10But I am like an olive tree, green in the house of God.
I trust in God's reproof now and for ever.
14
13
21
21
אוֹדְךָ֣ לְ֭עוֹלָם כִּ֣י עָשִׂ֑יתָ
וַאֲקַוֶּ֖ה שִׁמְךָ֥ כִֽי־ט֝֗וֹב נֶ֣גֶד חֲסִידֶֽיךָ
11I will thank you forever for you have acted
and I await your name for it is good, made clear to those under your mercy.
9
14
15
22

Selected recurring words excluding על,יהוה,אלוה,כי,אל,את

למנצח for the leader
1נצח
לדוד of David
1דוד
בבוא enter
2בוא
ויגד and he makes it clear
2נגד
בא goes
2בוא
דוד David
2דוד
בית the house of
2בית
ברעה in evil
3רע
הגבור O valiant one
3גבר
חסד the reproof of
3חסד
כל is all
3כל
לשׁונך your tongue
4לשׁון
עשׂה that acts with
4עשׂה
* רמיה deceit
4רמה
אהבת you love
5אהב
רע evil
5רע
מטוב over good
5טוב
מדבר over a matter of
5דבר
סלה selah
5סלה
אהבת you love
6אהב
כל all sorts of things
6כל
דברי sorts of things
6דבר
לשׁון tongue of
6לשׁון
* מרמה deceit
6רמה
לנצח in perpetuity
7נצח
סלה selah
7סלה
הגבר the valiant one
9גבר
מעוזו his strength
9עזז
ויבטח but trusted
9בטח
יעז and strengthened himself
9עזז
בבית in the house of
10בית
בטחתי I trust
10בטח
בחסד in reproof
10חסד
עולם now
10עלם
לעולם forever
11עלם
עשׂית you have acted
11עשׂה
טוב it is good
11טוב
נגד made clear to
11נגד

Words in verses 1 to 11 that are shared by both poems, particularly in 51:2-11 and 52:2-6 - showing a parallel in the thought process between the two psalms.
בבוא when came
51:2בוא
בא he had come
51:2בוא
כחסדך according to your loving-kindness
51:3חסד
כרב in the multitude of
51:3רב
אני I
51:5אני
נגדי in front of me
51:5נגד
והרע and this evil
51:6רע
עשׂיתי I have done
51:6עשׂה
תצדק you are right
51:6צדק
בדברך to speak
51:6דבר
וכל and all
51:11כל
בבוא enter
52:2בוא
ויגד and he makes it clear
52:2נגד
בא goes
52:2בוא
ברעה in evil
52:3רע
חסד the reproof of
52:3חסד
כל is all
52:3כל
עשׂה that acts with
52:4עשׂה
רע evil
52:5רע
מדבר over a matter of
52:5דבר
צדק righteousness
52:5צדק
כל all sorts of things
52:6כל
דברי sorts of things
52:6דבר
ברב in the abundance of
52:9רב
ואני but I am
52:10אני
בחסד in reproof
52:10חסד
עשׂית you have acted
52:11עשׂה
נגד made clear to
52:11נגד


No comments:

Post a Comment