We resume our reading of the Psalms. You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.
A prayer for your used before reading from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) an early Church father.
Lord, as I read the psalms let me hear you singing. As I read your words, let me hear you speaking. As I reflect on each page, let me see your image. And as I seek to put your precepts into practice, let my heart be filled with joy. Amen.
Psalm 42-43: Although presented as two psalms, these psalms were originally one psalm. There are three stanzas with a refrain, (42:5,11;43:5) There is a superscription, “To the leader. A Maskil of the Korahites” We do not know what a “maskil” was. The Korahites are the sons of Korah who was a Levite priest (Num 16) and his descendants were Temple singers. This psalm is an individual petition, a lament. The psalmist is away from the Temple. Look for images about worship in the Temple. It appears that illness has prevented the psalmist for making pilgrimage to the Temple and he has been taunted by adversaries. Verse 7 “deep calls to deep” is a reference to the subterranean waters of chaos and death. Beginning at 43:1 the tone changes and the psalmist calls upon God for vindication and guidance.
Psalm 44: A communal lament for deliverance after a military defeat. Verses 1-8 recall God’s mighty deeds. Is the community reminding God of what God has done? Verses 9-16 are the complaint, God has abandoned them. Verses 17-22 even though they have been defeated, they have not forgotten God. They have not been unfaithful. Verses 23-26 are a cry for help.
Psalm 45: A psalm for a royal wedding. Verse 1 is the introduction. Verses 2-9 are addressed to the king. In verse 6 the king is apparently addressed as God. This is the only place in the Hebrew Bible this occurs, but was a common way of speaking in the surrounding nations. Verse 10-13a are about the bride. Verses 13b-15 describe the wedding procession. Verses 16-17 are addressed to the king.
Later interpreters read this psalm as a messianic psalm. This metaphor of the relationship between God and Israel as like the relationship between husband and wife is found in many places in scripture. (see Hosea 2:21-22, Isa 54; Matt 9:15; John 3:29; Eph 5:22-33; Rev 21:1-2)
Psalm 46: A song about God’s ultimate victory. This is the first of three psalms about God’s reign in Jerusalem. There are three refrains in this psalm verses 1,7,and 11. An Alamoth is probably a melody. This psalm was the inspiration for Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”.
Verses 4-7, Jerusalem is God’s dwelling place on earth. Notice how the image of water in these verses is different than water in the previous verses. Verses 9-11, God’s kingdom will bring peace to the earth. “Be still and know”.
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of the Psalms
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Clifford, Richard, “Psalms” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Stuhlmueller, Carroll, “Psalms” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
McCann,Jr, J. Clifton “Psalms”,in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 3, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1996.