Friday, March 19, 2021

Psalms 78

Enough sequencing. I have heard recently (through my regular youtube attendance to Ely Evensongs this week) both the long psalms, 78 and 89. So let's look at Psalms 78, something more like a saga than the short poems we have dealt with so far. Questions of structure arise at the macro as well as the micro level. Why are some psalms so long? This is the longest of psalms in some ways. (Psalms 119 is really 22 short though related poems about learning to love.)

We read that this is a mwl - parable, and kidot - riddles. What does it make of the history of this people of Israel and their life? It is to be noted that the words that recur most often (more than 5 times in the poem) are three: people, Israel, and eat. (Excluding particles and the divine name.)

If we include Yhwh and God, Yhwh occurs twice only (this being part of the Elohistic Psalter), and God occurs 8 times. So God: 8, Israel: 7, people: 5 (one is the preposition ym), ate/devoured/food, 6. Also at a count of 5 are the words, ancestors, children, cross over / fury, choose/young men and give. The lists get longer as I reduce the count. 14 words (ph, dvr, pla, mrh, amn, ivm, cl, mdbr, nkl, wlk, wcn, wvb, xrr, ahl) occur 4 times. 29 words occur 3 times (including Jacob, a parallel for people), and 56 exactly twice. You can find all these in the concordance and construct the recurrences by searching for Psa 78. If you do this with ahl, tent, you will find it is really quite a bit easier than it sounds! Because of the consistency of my translation, you can often see the results in a post. Search for ' tent' here and see what happens. (Include the leading space).

Having excluded particles is a bit unfair. The negative ' not ' is frequent (24 times - 22 la, 1 bl, 1 interpreted) in this psalm. The particle at- occurs 7 times. Note the changes in voice (they vs he).
Word / Gloss 1 2 3 Vs Stem
עמי my people 1 עם
בישראל in Israel 5 ישראל
אכל food 18 אכל
לעמו for his people 20 עם
בישראל against Israel 21 ישראל
לאכל to eat 24 אכל
אכל ate 25 אכל
ויאכלו and they ate 29 אכל
אכלם their food 30 אכל
ישראל Israel 31 ישראל
עמו from him 37 עם
ישראל Israel 41 ישראל
ויאכלם and it ate them 45 אכל
עמו his people 52 עם
ישראל Israel 55 ישראל
בישראל in Israel 59 ישראל
עמו his people 62 עם
אכלה devoured 63 אכל
עמו his people 71 עם
ובישראל and in Israel 71 ישראל

thlim yk Psalms 78 Fn Min Max Syll
a mwcil lasf
hazinh ymi torti
h'tu aozncm lamri-pi
1 An insight of Asaph.
Listen my people to my instruction.
Bend your ears to the sayings of my mouth.
3e 4B 5
9
9
b aptkh bmwl pi
abiyh kidot mni-qdm
2 I will open my mouth in a parable.
I will ferment riddles from of old,
3e 4B 7
8
g awr wmynu vndym
vabotinu sipru-lnu
3 which we have heard and known,
and our ancestors recounted to us.
3e 4B 9
8
d la nckd mbnihm ldor akron msprim thilot ihvh
vyzuzo vnplaotiv awr ywh
4 We will not conceal from their children in the generation to follow, recounting the praises of Yahweh,
and his strength and his wonders which he did.
C 3e 4C 20
13
=88
h viqm ydut biyqob vtorh wm biwral
awr xivvh at-abotinu
lhodiym lbnihm
5 He raised a testimony in Jacob and he set up instruction in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors,
to make known to their children,
3e 4C 17
9
7
v lmyn iidyu dor akron bnim iivvldu
iqumu vispru lbnihm
6 so that the generation to follow will know. The children to be born,
will arise and recount to their children,
3e 4C 15
9
z viwimu balohim cslm
vla iwcku mylli-al
umxvotiv inxoru
7 so they might set up their folly in God,
and not forget the prodigality of God,
and observe his commandments,
3e 4B 9
9
7
k vla ihiu cabotm dor sorr umorh
dor la-hcin libo
vla-namnh at-al ruko
8 and not become like their ancestors, a rebellious and provocative generation,
a generation not preparing its heart,
and whose spirit did not believe God.

3d 4C 14
5
8
=
105
't bni-apriim nowqi romi-qwt
hpcu biom qrb
9 The children of Ephraim, equipped and ready with bow,
changed in the day of close combat.
3e 4B 9
6
i la wmru brit alohim
ubtorto mianu llct
10 They did not keep the covenant of God,
and in his instruction they would not walk.
B 3e 4B 8
10
ia viwcku ylilotiv
vnplaotiv awr hram
11 And they forgot his prodigality,
and his wonders that he had showed them.
3e 4B 8
9
ib ngd abotm ywh pla
barx mxriim wdh-xoyn
12 In front of their ancestors he did a wonder,
in the land of Egypt, the field of Zoan.

B 3e 4B 9
9
=68
ig bqy im viybirm
vixb-mim cmo-nd
13 He split sea and made them cross over,
and he made waters stand firm in a heap.
B 3e 4B 8
7
id vinkm bynn iomm
vcl-hlilh baor aw
14 And he guided them in a cloud by day,
and all the night long in the light of fire.
3e 4B 8
8
'tv ibqy xurim bmdbr
viwq cthomot rbh
15 He split rocks in the wilderness,
and gave drink as abundant abysses.
3e 4B 8
8
'tz vioxia nozlim msly
viord cnhrot mim
16 And he brought forth flows from a cliff,
and made waters descend as rivers.

3e 4B 8
8
=63
iz viosipu yod lk'toa-lo
lmrot ylion bxiih
17 But they added still sin against him,
to provoke the Most High in the arid places.
3e 4B 8
7
ik vinsu-al blbbm
lwaol-aocl lnpwm
18 And they tempted God in their heart,
by asking food for themselves.
3e 4A 7
7
i't vidbru balohim
amru hiucl al
lyroç wulkn bmdbr
19 And they spoke against God.
They said, Is God able,
to arrange a table in the wilderness?
3e 4B 6
6
8
c hn hch-xur vizubu mim unklim iw'topu
hgm-lkm iucl tt
am-icin war lymo
20 Hey! he struck a rock and out gushed water and the torrents overflowed.
Is he even able to give bread?
Or will he prepare meat for his people?

C 3d 4C 15
7
8
=79
ca lcn wmy ihvh vitybr vaw niwqh biyqob
vgm-af ylh biwral
21 So Yahweh heard and he was furious, and fire was ignited in Jacob,
and even anger ascended against Israel.
3e 4C 18
9
cb ci la haminu balohim
vla b'tku biwuyto
22 For they did not believe in God,
and they did not trust in his salvation.
C 3e 4C 9
8
cg vixv wkqim mmyl
vdlti wmiim ptk
23 For he had commanded the skies from above,
and the gateways of heaven he opened.
3e 4B 8
7
cd vim'tr ylihm mn lacol
udgn-wmiim ntn lmo
24 And he rained on them manna to eat,
and the grain of heaven he gave to them.

3e 4B 10
8
=77
ch lkm abirim acl aiw
xidh wlk lhm lwoby
25 The bread of the mighty each ate.
Victuals he sent among them to satiation.
B 3e 4B 8
9
cv isy qdim bwmiim
vinhg byuzo timn
26 He sprung an east wind in the heavens,
and drove a south wind in his strength.
3e 4B 8
8
cz vim'tr ylihm cypr war
uckol imim yof cnf
27 And he rained meat on them as dust,
and winged fowl as the sand of the seas.
3e 4B 11
7
ck vipl bqrb mknhu
sbib lmwcnotiv
28 And he made it fall within their camp,
surrounding their dwellings.

g 3e 4B 10
7
=68
c't viaclu viwbyu maod
vtavvtm ibia lhm
29 And they ate and were sated utterly,
and he let their desires come to them.
3e 4B 9
9
l la-zru mtavvtm
yod aoclm bpihm
30 They were not a stranger to their desires.
While their food was in their mouths,
3e 4A 7
6
la vaf alohim ylh bhm vihrog bmwmnihm
ubkuri iwral hcriy
31 and the anger of God ascended in them, and slew among their stoutest,
and the chosen of Israel were bowed down.
3e 4C 18
10
lb bcl-zat k'tau-yod
vla-haminu bnplaotiv
32 In all this they sinned,
and still did not believe in his wonders.

3e 4A 6
10
=75
lg vicl-bhbl imihm
uwnotm bbhlh
33 And he finished their days in futility,
and their years in vexation.
3e 4A 8
7
ld am-hrgm udrwuhu
vwbu vwikru-al
34 When he slew them then they searched him out,
and they turned and sought early for God.
3e 4A 8
8
lh vizcru ci-alohim xurm
val ylion goalm
35 And they remembered for God is their rock,
and God the Most High their redeemer.
g 3e 4B 9
6
lv viptuhu bpihm
ublwonm iczbu-lo
36 But they seduced him with their mouth,
and with their tongue they lied to him.

3e 4A 7
7
=70
lz vlibm la-ncon yimo
vla namnu bbrito
37 And their heart was not prepared from him,
and they did not believe in his covenant.
g 3e 4B 7
8
lk vhua rkum icpr yvon vla-iwkit
vhrbh lhwib apo
vla-iyir cl-kmto
38 But he compassionate, he covered over iniquity and did not destroy,
but many times his anger turned,
and did not arouse all his heat,
3e 4C 13
8
7
l't vizcor ci-bwr hmh
ruk holç vla iwub
39 for he remembered that they are flesh,
a walking wind which does not return.
g 3e 4B 7
8
m cmh imruhu bmdbr
iyxibuhu biwimon
40 How much they provoked him in the wilderness,
and caused him pain in the wasteland.

g 3e 4B 8
8
=74
ma viwubu vinsu al
uqdow iwral htvu
41 And they turned back and tempted God,
and constrained the Holy One of Israel.
3e 4B 8
7
mb la-zcru at-ido
iom awr-pdm mni-xr
42 They did not remember even his hand,
the day he ransomed them from trouble.
3e 4A 6
7
mg awr-wm bmxriim aototiv
umoptiv bwdh-xoyn
43 That he had set up in Egypt his signs,
and his portents in the field of Zoan.
3e 4B 9
7
md vihpoç ldm iaorihm
vnozlihm bl-iwtiun
44 That he changed their canals to blood,
so their flows they could not imbibe.

3e 4B 10
8
=62
mh iwlk bhm yrob viaclm
uxprdy vtwkitm
45 He sent a swarm of flies at them and it ate them,
and frogs and he destroyed them.
3e 4B 10
8
mv viitn lksil ibulm
vigiym larbh
46 And he gave to the caterpillar their produce,
and their labour to a swarm.
3e 4B 9
6
mz ihrog bbrd gpnm
vwqmotm bknml
47 He slew their vines with hail,
and their sycamore with sleet.
3e 4B 8
8
mk visgr lbrd byirm
umqnihm lrwpim
48 And he imprisoned their kine to the hail,
and their acquisitions to the fire-brands.

3e 4B 9
7
=65
m't iwlk-bm kron apo ybrh vzym vxrh
mwlkt mlaci ryim
49 He sent them his fierce anger, fury and indignation and trouble,
by sending messengers of evil.
3e 4B 16
8
n ipls ntib lapo
la-kwç mmvvt npwm
vkitm ldbr hsgir
50 He leveled a pathway for his anger.
He did not keep back their being from death,
and he imprisoned their lives to the pestilence.
3e 4B 8
7
9
na viç cl-bcor bmxriim
rawit aonim baohli-km
51 And he struck all the firstborn in Egypt,
head of the vigour in the tents of Ham.
3e 4B 9
9
nb visy cxan ymo
vinhgm cydr bmdbr
52 And he sprung his people like sheep,
and drove them like a troop in the wilderness.

3e 4B 7
10
=83
ng vinkm lb'tk vla pkdu
vat-aoibihm cish him
53 And he guided them in trust and they were not in dread,
and their enemies the sea covered.
3e 4B 11
9
nd vibiam al-gbul qodwo
hr-zh qnth imino
54 And he conducted them to the border of his holiness,
whose right hand acquired this hill.
g 3e 4B 8
7
nh vigrw mpnihm goiim vipilm bkbl nklh
viwcn baohlihm wb'ti iwral
55 And he expelled the nations before their faces, and let fall in pledge an inheritance,
and made the sceptres of Israel dwell in their tents.
3e 4C 18
13
nv vinsu vimru at-alohim ylion
vydotiv la wmru
56 But they tempted and they provoked God Most High,
and his testimonies they did not keep.

3e 4B 12
8
=86
nz viisogu vibgdu cabotm
nhpcu cqwt rmiih
57 And they were spineless and acted treacherously like their ancestors.
They were changed like an unready bow.
3e 4B 12
9
nk vicyisuhu bbmotm
ubpsilihm iqniauhu
58 And they grieved him with their high places,
and with their graven images moved him to jealousy.
3e 4A 9
9
n't wmy alohim vitybr
vimas maod biwral
59 God heard and was furious,
and he refused utterly in Israel.
3e 4B 9
9
s vii'tow mwcn wilh
aohl wicn badm
60 So he abandoned the dwelling in Shiloh,
the tent where he dwelt among humanity.

g 3e 4B 7
7
=71
sa viitn lwbi yuzo
vtparto bid-xr
61 And he gave his strength into captivity,
and his adornment into the hand of trouble.
3e 4B 7
7
sb visgr lkrb ymo
ubnklto htybr
62 And he imprisoned with the sword his people,
and with his inheritance he was furious.
3e 4B 8
8
sg bkuriv aclh-aw
ubtulotiv la hullu
63 His young men fire devoured,
and his maidens were not praiseworthy.
3e 4B 6
8
sd cohniv bkrb nplu
valmnotiv la tbcinh
64 His priests fell by the sword,
and his widows did not weep.

g 3e 4B 9
9
=62
sh viiqx ciwn adonii
cgibor mtronn miin
65 And my Lord awoke as from sleep,
as valour shouting from wine.
3e 4A 9
9
sv viç-xriv akor
krpt yolm ntn lmo
66 And he struck his foes back,
a reproach ever he gave them.
3e 4B 6
8
sz vimas baohl iosf
ubwb't apriim la bkr
67 And he refused the tent of Joseph,
and the sceptre of Ephraim he did not choose.
g 3e 4B 8
8
sk vibkr at-wb't ihudh
at-hr xion awr ahb
68 But he chose the sceptre of Judah,
the hill of Zion which he loved.

g 3e 4B 9
8
=65
s't viibn cmo-rmim mqdwo
carx isdh lyolm
69 And he built as exalted, his sanctuary,
as the earth he founded forever.
3e 4B 9
9
y vibkr bdvid ybdo
viiqkhu mmclaot xan
70 And he chose in David his servant,
and took him from the sheepfolds.
g 3e 4B 8
10
ya makr ylot hbiao
lryot biyqob ymo
ubiwral nklto
71 From behind those giving suck he conducted him,
to shepherd in Jacob his people,
and in Israel his inheritance.
3e 4B 8
8
8
yb virym ctom lbbo
ubtbunot cpiv inkm
72 And he shepherded them as the completeness of his heart,
and in the discernments of his open palms he guided them.
g 3e 4B 8
8
=76
So having read this, what about the music, and where are the strophic boundaries, if we can be so bold? It is very clear that some cola are short and tightly packed in a distribution around 8 syllables in length. Others are more like prose than poetry. (Automated syllable counts are subject to variance of +/- 1. The groups of 4 verses have been summed in my head. So take with a grain of salt.

Terrien (Terrien, Samuel. (2003). The Psalms, Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary) has verses 1 and 2 as prologue, then a division into seven parts: Part 1, 3 to 8, Part 2, 9 to 17, Part 3, 18 to 28, Part 4, 29 to 40, Part 5, 41 to 51, Part 6, 52 to 63, Part 7, 64 to 72. He gives no justification except what seems to me to be a subjective content analysis. I can see no reason to separate verses 1 and 2 from verse 3. And verse 4 joins itself to verse 3 through the first note. Splitting at verse 12 puts all three repetitions of instruction together. Is it possible that groups of 4 verses, perhaps combined in larger groups would provide some guidance? Compare the music with the image of 6 recurrence tables encompassing 12 verses each. (Below the music).


I hope you can expand this image to read it. I think a regular strophic pattern of 12x6 (4x3x6) helps read and absorb this long poem. Treat the strophes that begin on a note other than the tonic (verses 13, 25, 37) as continuing the prior one. Tate (Word Biblical Commentary) cites the divisions of several other authors. Enough of the similar yet conflicting analyses have section boundaries ending in a verse number divisible by 4.
Selected recurrence patterns in 6 groups of 12 verses for Psalms 78




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