Literary Analysis of Psalm 10

That Song 10 is a continuation of, rather than separate from, Song 9 is clear from its first verse. It mentions neither the composer nor the instrument, setting it apart from Songs 3 to 9.*

Literary Analysis of Psalm 9 – G-d’s name is sanctified by the defeated wicked and the up-rise of the righteous

The address of the chapter as appears in Psalm 9:1, talks about the death / defeat of the wicked.
gods name is sanctified

Literary Analysis of Psalm 8 – Oppositeness of God and “mortal man”

Psalm 8 describes the contrast between or oppositeness of God and humankind. An oppositeness that is immediately established in verse 2, with the juxtaposition of human frailty  — “infants and sucklings” — and God’s “strength”. And yet it is out of the vulnerability and helplessness of the infant that God’s strength emerges: “From the mouths of infants and sucklings, You have founded strength….”
eternal god limited humankind

Literary Analysis of Psalm 7

The Sages identified the ‘address’ / opening verse of Psalm 7, as King David who talks about King Saul: “A shiggayon of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush the Benjamite.” (Psalm 7:1). King Saul’s line goes all the way to Jakob’s youngest son, Banjamin. The description ‘Cush’ mentioned only in this verse, nowhere else in the Bible. The Midrash Sifree explains that the meaning is Unique – King Saul who was a unique individual in character and deeds. (An opposite explanation given, is that ‘Cush’ means ‘different’ or ‘strange’. Unique in a negative sense. If that is so, ‘Shigayon’, the name of the instrument used for this Psalm describes the mischiefshigayon of King Saul rather than of King David)

Literary Analysis of Psalm 6

begging photo Click here to read “Psalm Six – Translation of the Song”

Literary Analysis of Psalm 5

rejoice photoThe opening verse of Song 5 declares that it is “for the leader; for the nechilot. The English translation is straight-forward: the song has been composed to be sung by the leader of the Temple musicians (the exact meaning of nechilot has been lost; flutes is a common editorial suggestion). The Hebrew, however, hints at another interpretation: the leader is God, Who is the conductor, afterall, of the entire orchestra of being.
                 The song is built upon a series of synonyms. Thus:
              — v. 2: my words
              — v. 3: my cry
              — v. 4: my voice
              — v. 7: speak lies
              — v. 10: mouth, throat, tongue
              — v. 12: sing
The references, as listed, clearly all pertain to speech; their culmination is song. Appropriately enough, since the singer begins his song with a plea to God, “Give heed to my words” (v. 2).
The references in verses 7 and 10, however, are harsh interruptions to the words of praise sung by the singer and by the troupe of the righteous.
                  Accordingly, another series of synonyms is strung throughout the song, which identify the characteristics of the wicked:
              — v. 5: wickedness, evil
              — v. 6: wanton men, evil doers
              — v. 7: those who speak lies; bloodthirsty or deceitful
              — v. 10: “For there is no sincerity in his mouth;
                             their innards — destruction; their throat
                             is an open grave; they make their tongue
             — v. 11: plentiful crimes
The song ends with yet another group of synonyms, as the singer proclaims his belief that God will give refuge to the righteous. Clustered into verse 12: rejoice; sing in jubilation; exult. Thus:
               “But let all who take refuge in You rejoice;
                 may they ever sing in jubilation
                 as You shelter them; and let those who
                 love Your name exult in You.”
The song, then, in its entirety, is composed of a careful building up of images of speech (the singer as he pleads for himself and for the righteous) and of hearing (God as the listener and judge).
              The first line of verse 11 brings out clearly both the idea of speech and of judgement and of the connection between the two: “Hold them guilty, O God; let them fall by their own counsels”. The verse transforms the song dramatically: the song consequently becomes a court of law in which the singer asks God to pronounce a sentence of “guilty” upon the wicked. “Give ear to my words” — the opening of the song — thereby gains an added dimension. The singer is cousel; the wicked, the accused; God, the judge. (There is no defender of the wicked.)
               The singer-counsel asks of God for no judgement but that of “guilty”. He, counsellor for both himself and the righteous, advocates only absolute judgements: the wicked must be condemned without mercy:
The reason for the jarring interruption of verses 7 and 10, to the singer’s string of synonyms for speech, is thereby explained: the wicked use their words, their voice — that which connects the
 righteous to God — for purposes of destruction alone. Thus they sever all connection of themselves to God. Rebelling against God, their crime is that of treason (v. 11). Their allegiance is solely to death. The imagery is physical and graphic: their lies and false counsel slip on their tongues to reach deep within their innards so that their throats open into “an open grave” (v. 10). In the grave there is no song, no joy, no praise.
                  The singer thereby pleads his case: the wicked are to be cast out; the righteous to be sheltered and blessed. The image of the singer, asleep, ended Song 4.  Song 5 begins “in the morning” (v. 4)- a symbol of renewal and hope, and ends with [, and ends with his certainty that his voice has been heard. He “waits” (v. 4) for God to hear his cry, but with the surety of favour (v. 13).
 rejoice photo

Literary Analysis of Psalm 4

shine photoOn first reading, Song 4 seems disjointed, as though several melodies were being sung, one after the other. The one common chord throughout, however, is the constancy of the singer’s faith in God.

Literary Analysis of Psalm 3

Structure and meaning are striking complements in song 3; where and when words occur in the verses sound the singer’s intent as david abshalom - psalm studysurely and harmoniously as the strings of his lyre voice their notes together. Thus: Psalm 3 verses 2 and 3 contain three repetitions of the word “many” (the Hebrew words for “many” differ from each other slightly but share a common root:’רַבּוּ’ , ‘רַבִּים’ ) — the singer is lamenting the number of his foes. He feels threatened both physically and spiritually, as he declares how his enemies afflict his “soul” with their taunt,”There is no deliverance for him through God!” (verse 3)   Certainly “deliverance” (Hebrew: ‘יְשׁוּעָה’) is deliberately chosen by his foes to show their derision. But, as the singer claims the verb “deliver”, in verses 8 and 9, as he calls upon God to aid him, he proves his victory over his enemies. His two repetitions of “deliver”, building as they do upon his foes’ use of “deliverance”, sound a three-word chord that easily overpowers that of “many”. That his victory is a moral one, his own faith in God makes clear; that it is a physical one as well, he suggests in verse 8: “You have slapped all my enemies on the cheek; the teeth of the wicked You have broken” — God’s reprimand has deprived them of clarity of speech and the ability to chew. Thus they are deprived of communication and nourishment, just as they tried to deny the singer his sustenance — God’s response to and deliverance of him.

Literary Analysis of Psalm 2

אשרי ashrai - psalm study

Click here to read “Psalm Two – Translation of the Song”

The second song is both a completion of and contrast to the first. The first song is stately, composed of elegant generalities; the tone,  overall calm. The second is passionate; direct quotations break the flow, and the overall effect –but for the final line– is unsettling.

Literary Analysis of Psalm 1

אשרי ashrai - psalm study

Click here to read “Psalm One: Translation of the Song”