Literary analysis of Psalm 43 – God, my keenest joy

 justice  photo  A variation of Song 42 but with one essential change: the imagery of Song 42, of water and sound, is replaced in Song 43 by the metaphor of a court of law. Thus the song begins, “Grant me justice, O God, take up my case….” (v. 1). The singer’s advocates are, or so he asks of God, the personified qualities, light and truth: “Send forth Your light and Your truth. It is they that will guide me” (v. 2).
The opponent of the singer is “a faithless nation”; more specifically, “a man of deceit and wrong” (v. 4). The singer’s plea is that he will be “free” of his enemy’s hold (v. 1). Since his opponents are given no further identity, we can only assume the faithless nation refers to Korah and his followers, especially since Korah himself would fit the description of a man of deceit and wrong.
In exact correspondence, verse 3 of Song 43 answers the singer’s question in verse 3 of Song 42, “When shall I come and see the presence of God?” Song 43, verse 3, declares that light and truth will “bring” the singer to God’s “holy mountain”, to God’s “dwelling-place”. It seems, then, that the mountain will be both the place of the court, but, more essential, the place where the singer will receive his verdict, one of benediction: not only will he “come to God’s altar”, but he will join the procession he longingly recalls in Song 42; able now to accompany the “glad song” of the celebrants (v. 5, Song 42) with his lyre (v. 4, Song 43).
The taunt of his foes in Song 42, “Where is your God?” (v. 4), he once again answers, in implicit correspondence, by his affirmation, “O God, my God”, in verse 4 of song 43. His use of the pronoun “my” echoes his use in Song 42 –“the God of my life” (v. 9, Song 42) — and follows, in Song 43, upon his declaration, “God, my keenest joy” (v. 4): in both songs, the singer is emphasizing his claim upon a personal God, not an abstract concept, Who is, for him, the essence of his being.
Song 43 ends with the exact repetition of the closing verse, verse 12, of Song 42:
How bent, my being, how you moan for me!
                                                                                    Hope in God, for yet will I acclaim Him,
                                                                                                   His rescuing presence and my God. (v. 5)
Having put his petition –his plea– before God, the singer has become his own advocate. No matter the weariness of his being, it is the sound of his lyre, the melody of affirmation, that rings out in the final line as the singer acknowledges his judge, his advocate, his rescuer: “my God”.

Literary analysis of Psalm 42 – When shall I come and see the presence of God?

water sing photo  Central to Song 42 are the images of water and of sound. Through these images, the singer creates the means of bringing himself into the presence of God Whom he seeks.

Literary analysis of Psalm 41- Blessed is Adonai, the God of Israel from all time past and for all time to come. Amen and amen

 אשרי ashrai - psalm study - happinessAlthough the majority of verses of Song 41 recount the singer’s illness and his enemies’ gloating at his suffering, the imagery in the song is, nonetheless, powerful, physical, as though belying any weakness or infirmity in the singer while, at the same time, pointing out the enemies’ aggressiveness. Thus: “his enemies’ maw” (v. 3); “his heart spoke a lie” (v. 7); “[h]e gathered up mischief” (v. 7) –imagery all depicting the singer’s foes– is matched by “You…made me stand before You” (v. 13) — indicating the singer’s gratitude to God Who, he believes, will accord him the ultimate triumph. Even the English “devious”, describing his false friend, becomes, in the literal Hebrew, part of the implied contrast –“my confidant…has raised against me his heel” (v. 10). The raised heel, though used as a weapon, requires an arching of the body, in contrast to the upright posture of the singer as he stands erect at the song’s close.

Literary analysis of Psalm 39 – O Master, my hope is in You.

vanity photo  Intended to be played by the lead musician (v. 1), Song 39 is a melody of one note: five times does it sound the transitoriness of human life– “how fleeting I am”, v. 5

Literary analysis of Psalm 38 – Adonai, all my desire is before You

sun moon photo  A dirge. A lament. A description of physical suffering that the singer –the sufferer– believes to be the consequence of his moral offenses. Thus his bodily ills –depicted vividly in verses 6 through 9– act as metaphors for his unnamed but obviously vile moral offenses. Appropriately, then, it is the idea of an offense that forms a central repetition in the song: v. 4, “my offense”

Literary analysis of psalm 37 – So shall you delight in the Adonai, and He will give you what your heart desires.

world photo  Click here to read “Psalm Thirty-seven: Translation of the Song”

Song 37, a song of comfort; seemingly composed by a parent for his children, a grandparent for his grandchildren –certainly by an old man (one who identifies himself in verse 25 as “A youth I was, and have become old”) whose purpose is to instill hope in those who will follow him. Most likely, however, since the singer is David (v. 1), it is his, the old king’s, legacy to his people.

Literary analysis of Psalm 36 – For with You is the source of life; in Your light we will see light.

דוד המלך photo  The opening line of the song juxtaposes the master or conductor of the musicians and the servant of God. This implied contrast contains no rebuke, no moral judgement. It simply denotes that even the most eminent among those who sing God’s praises are but servants of  their divine ruler. However, the contrast that follows, that makes up the remainder of the song, is indeed a reprimand: the wicked man, choosing to be controlled by malevolency, is not only contrasted with but is defeated by God Whose governance extends throughout the earth.

Literary analysis of Psalm 35 – All my bones say, ‘Adonai, who is like You?’

magen david photo  Song 35 is a wail more than a song, one rising out of the singer’s hurt and frustration at having been not only betrayed but vilified by the very friends he had supported and believed in. The idea inspiring the song is not difficult –the singer calls on God for support and rescue and asks, in closing, for God’s blessing upon himself and his supporters. But the structure which puts forth –indeed, animates– the idea is intricate and complicated, made up of intertwining images. The song is composed of a thrice-repeated pattern, each of the three repetitions formed of two distinct parts: the singer’s depiction of his enemies’ attempts to destroy him; followed, somewhat abruptly, by his praise of God Whom he extols as his rescuer and protector. Thus: the despair and pleas of verses 1 to 3 are followed by the praises of verses 9 and 10; of verses 11 to 17, by verse 18; of verses 19 to 26, by verses 27 and 28. And, remarkably, though the mood of the song is bitter and certainly not one of joy –the singer, after all, is seeking redress– nonetheless, the word most often repeated throughout the song is “rejoice”  — the vengeance of his opponents ultimately transfigured into the exultation of the just.

Literary analysis of Psalm 34 – Who is the man who desires life, who loves days to see goodness?

rock shelter photoSong 34 is a praisesong that celebrates God Who offers shelter, not only to the holy ones but to the lowly and the broken-hearted. So that, while the song professes to be a means of teaching righteousness, it also emulates God by providing comfort. Though the 23 verses of the song divide easily into 2 parts, each part –especially the second– has within it several groupings, according to both tone and mood. The structure employs an alphabet form, but the 6th Hebrew letter, vav, is omitted. No explanation is given in the song for either the acrostic form or for the omission of vav, but, interestingly, it was on the 6th day, according to Genesis, that God created humankind. Could it be, then, that the entire poem –in its teachings about the relationship between God and humankind, and between one human and another– is, in effect, acting as the vav?