Friday, 25 December 2020

Psalm for Christmas Day

Psalm 96 is the psalm for Christmas Day for all years (in the Revised Common Lectionary). Marvin Tate treats the psalm as part of a larger unit, 96-99. He then outlines many who have disagreed with such a collection: e.g. Buttenweiser on the psalms (available here). 

The first thing I checked was the quotation of Psalm 29 in Psalm 96. I wondered if I had noted this, there being so many things to note, and I had on page 325 of my own work in 2013. It is very clear that the phrase Ascribe to Yahweh, hbu lihvh, is uniquely used in these two psalms and the citation in 1 Chronicles 16. Both the verb and the object in this phrase begin with the letters /ih/ so they are in the same part of the concordance pages.

I am surprised to see that CJB uses the gloss give for this verb. So it too has the habit of simplifying the English and removing distinctions between differing Hebrew roots. I am always disappointed that translators do this. Give (ntn) is a pervasive and complex multifaceted word in the Scripture, and ascribe to Yahweh (ihb) is more than giving as is noted by its uniqueness. 

Anyway, it's Christmas day. Why is Psalm 96 the psalm for Christmas day, pace the scholars and their form criticism? Psalm 96 is a beautiful strophic structure perfectly outlined by its music. There is a robust performance here. I created this PDF for English singers here (the structure is marked with rehearsal letters A, B, C). In his prosodic and structural analysis, Tate does not follow the structure implied by the masoretic accents when they are clearly heard as music. He separates verses 1-2 as a kind of heading. But the music of those 2 verses is shaped exactly as it is in verses 7-8 and 11-12. Verses 4, 5, 10, and 15 have high recitations to complete each strophe.

Psalms 96
שִׁ֣ירוּ לַ֭יהוָה שִׁ֣יר חָדָ֑שׁ
שִׁ֥ירוּ לַ֝יהוָ֗ה כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ
a wiru lihvh wir kdw
wiru lihvh cl-harx
(A) 1 Sing to Yahweh a new song.
Sing to Yahweh all the earth.
שִׁ֣ירוּ לַ֭יהוָה בָּרֲכ֣וּ שְׁמ֑וֹ
בַּשְּׂר֥וּ מִיּֽוֹם־לְ֝י֗וֹם יְשׁוּעָתֽוֹ
b wiru lihvh brcu wmo
bwru miom-liom iwuyto
2 Sing to Yahweh. Bless his name.
Publish from day to day his salvation.
סַפְּר֣וּ בַגּוֹיִ֣ם כְּבוֹד֑וֹ
בְּכָל־הָֽ֝עַמִּ֗ים נִפְלְאוֹתָֽיו
g spru bgoiim cbodo
bcl-hymim nplaotiv
3 Recount in the nations his glory,
to all the peoples his wonders.

כִּ֥י גָ֘ד֤וֹל יְהוָ֣ה וּמְהֻלָּ֣ל מְאֹ֑ד
נוֹרָ֥א ה֝֗וּא עַל־כָּל־אֱלֹהִֽים
d ci gdol ihvh umhull maod
nora hua yl-cl-alohim
4 For great is Yahweh and much to be praised.
He is to be feared above all gods.
כִּ֤י ׀ כָּל־אֱלֹהֵ֣י הָעַמִּ֣ים אֱלִילִ֑ים
וַֽ֝יהוָ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם עָשָֽׂה
h ci cl-alohi hymim alilim
vihvh wmiim ywh
5 For all the gods of the peoples are good for nothing,
but Yahweh made the heavens.
הוֹד־וְהָדָ֥ר לְפָנָ֑יו
עֹ֥ז וְ֝תִפְאֶ֗רֶת בְּמִקְדָּשֽׁוֹ
v hod-vhdr lpniv
yoz vtpart bmqdwo
6 Splendour and honour are in his presence,
strength and adornment in his sanctuary.

הָב֣וּ לַ֭יהוָה מִשְׁפְּח֣וֹת עַמִּ֑ים
הָב֥וּ לַ֝יהוָ֗ה כָּב֥וֹד וָעֹֽז
z hbu lihvh mwpkot ymim
hbu lihvh cbod vyoz
(B) 7 Ascribe to Yahweh, families of the peoples.
Ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength.
הָב֣וּ לַ֭יהוָה כְּב֣וֹד שְׁמ֑וֹ
שְׂאֽוּ־מִ֝נְחָ֗ה וּבֹ֥אוּ לְחַצְרוֹתָֽיו
k hbu lihvh cbod wmo
wau-mnkh uboau lkxrotiv
8 Ascribe to Yahweh the glory of his name.
Bear a gift and come into his courts.
הִשְׁתַּחֲו֣וּ לַ֭יהוָה בְּהַדְרַת־קֹ֑דֶשׁ
חִ֥ילוּ מִ֝פָּנָ֗יו כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ
't hwtkvu lihvh bhdrt-qodw
kilu mpniv cl-harx
9 Worship Yahweh in the honour of holiness.
Let all the earth be brought to birth from his presence.

אִמְר֤וּ בַגּוֹיִ֨ם ׀ יְה֘וָ֤ה מָלָ֗ךְ אַף־תִּכּ֣וֹן תֵּ֭בֵל בַּל־תִּמּ֑וֹט
יָדִ֥ין עַ֝מִּ֗ים בְּמֵישָׁרִֽים
i amru bgoiim ihvh mlç af-ticon tbl bl-timo't
idin ymim bmiwrim
10 Say to the nations, Yahweh reigns. Indeed the world is established so it will not move.
He will make the case for the peoples with uprightness.

יִשְׂמְח֣וּ הַ֭שָּׁמַיִם וְתָגֵ֣ל הָאָ֑רֶץ
יִֽרְעַ֥ם הַ֝יָּ֗ם וּמְלֹאֽוֹ
ia iwmku hwmiim vtgl harx
irym him umloao
(C) 11 Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice.
Let the sea thunder and its fullness.
יַעֲלֹ֣ז שָׂ֭דַי וְכָל־אֲשֶׁר־בּ֑וֹ
אָ֥ז יְ֝רַנְּנ֗וּ כָּל־עֲצֵי־יָֽעַר
ib iyloz wdii vcl-awr-bo
az irnnu cl-yxi-iyr
12 Let the field exult and all that are in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will shout for joy,
לִפְנֵ֤י יְהוָ֨ה ׀ כִּ֬י בָ֗א כִּ֥י בָא֮ לִשְׁפֹּ֪ט הָ֫אָ֥רֶץ
יִשְׁפֹּֽט־תֵּבֵ֥ל בְּצֶ֑דֶק
וְ֝עַמִּ֗ים בֶּאֱמוּנָתֽוֹ
ig lpni ihvh ci ba ci ba lwpo't harx
iwpo't-tbl bxdq
vymim bamunto
13 in the presence of Yahweh, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Now, its content - is it theological? Just look at the last two sentences as they apply to the trees of the forest: they, the trees, will shout for joy, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness. 

Have we not been judged this year (if not before)? Is such judgment good for us? What would cause the poet to utter such a statement?

But, one might say, this is old Testament not the new. How is Jesus related to such judgment? It's in the character of his (Jesus') faithfulness. His faithfulness in the newer testament mirrors the faithfulness of Yahweh in the first testament. He takes responsibility for the created order and invites all to do the same, to give as he gives, to follow that easy yoke, that narrow and difficult way.

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