Thursday, April 29, 2021

Refuge and Support

 Words, words, words - actually they turn out to be important. Is there a reality to refuge? With the upcoming terror of climate disturbance, fires, floods, famine, and other fears and furies, after this (relatively harmless) warning from the plague, where is there refuge? 

This is a continuation of thinking about the psalms. At the beginning, we have the first word - O the happinesses of x (verse 1) to O the happinesses of y (verse 18 of 2,527 verses).

  • x is a pattern of three actions to be avoided

Happy the person who does not walk in the advice of the wicked,
and in the way of sinners does not stand,
and in the seat of the scornful does not sit.

and one to practice - muttering day and night in the instruction of Yahweh.

  • y is one (impossible?) action to be taken - to take refuge in this name, Yahweh. 

Can we even take action? How hard is it?

Yahweh is a mysterious personal name of God, roughly signifying one who was, who is, and who will be - this is the name by which this 'one' is to be remembered (as Moses teaches at the burning bush). So we need to remember (history) and to be (present to each other) and to anticipate (science). Hey - this doesn't sound that hard. It sounds a bit like local responsible living - with all senses engaged and concern for others. (That's hard enough, given our propensity to me-first-itis.)

What is this word 'refuge'? It is another three character root, /ksh/ from the past to us via the canon of Scripture. Like the earlier word I noted /ksd/, /ksh/ is heavily used in the poetry of the Psalms. 

There are several roots in the Hebrew language which begin with /ks/ - SimHebrew uses 'k' as an abbreviation for the heavier 'h' ח, (chet/ket) of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The letter s is ס (samech), one of two letters that make an s sound, this one is where the letter o occurs in our Latin alphabet. All the roots beginning with /ks/ and their usage patterns can be studied in the concordance here. Samech /smc/ is the Hebrew word for support.

(Aside: k is traditionally the letter כ (caf/kaf) which is itself clearly a mirror image of the Latin c - there's a historical reason for this. Nonetheless, SimHebrew uses c for kaf. My name for the concordance comes from a Hebrew-Latin qonqordnxih-ltnk. That's part of its URL name. The book was given to me by my first Hebrew teacher of blessed memory - Gidi Nashon of Victoria's Temple Emanuel. tnk is the traditional Law, Prophets, and Writings. I should have transcribed it as tnc but I didn't for tradition's sake.)

Look through the 450 roots for /ks/ and see if you can feel the sound - strong h (phonetic ḥ) - sibilant s - with each of the third letters that follow it, imagine ḥ s followed by d, kindness, then h, the lighter aspirate, for refuge, then id for ḥasid, the noun form of ḥsd (including the stork), then l (the caterpillar), then m, muzzle, and n, invincible, then p, an Aramaic word for clay, used in Daniel only for the feet of that statue, and then r, for a word out of Psalms 23. I you search for Psa, you will find a large portion, just under half, of these words are used in the Psalms (199 of the 450). That's one percent of the words in the Psalter, the highest of an equivalent measure in any other book. These are the sounds of care in the Psalms. Here is the graph.

A graph showing the percent of words in each book of the Bible in the word group ks (חס).

Where do these occur in the Psalms - Is there a pattern?

Where words beginning with ks occur by chapter in the Psalms

Psalms 135 stands out because it has a chorus that includes the word: ci lyolm ksdo, because forever is his kindness. The second most obvious is Psalms 89, because the poet emphasizes God's promises to David and asks why they have failed. This is the great lament before Book 4, a book framed by appeals to Moses in Psalms 90 to 106.

We could go further with happiness too. Did you know there are more beatitudes in the Psalms than in the New Testament? I think there are 25. Are there 25 in the NT?

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