Psalm 145-150

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Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book V (Psalms 107-150) . The first series of psalms 111-118 are the “Hallelujah Psalms”. The “Egyptian Hallel (ps 113-118) was sung for the three great pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. The “Psalms of Ascent” (ps 120-134)  were used by pilgrims to or from Jerusalem. Psalm 136 is the “Great Hallel” for Sabbath services. Psalm 146-150 end the book with “Praise the Lord”.  Psalms 107 and 119 may be introductory psalms. 107 introduces the fifth book and 119 introduces the psalms of ascent.  Psalm 137 is untitled and unclassified. There are psalms of David in this book, 108-110 and 138-145.

You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.

Here is a prayer from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) who was 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 145: A hymn of praise. This is the last psalm of the Davidic collection (138-145) and is an acrostic. However the 14th letter “nun” is missing. The psalmist’s praise is part of the praise of generations. What does this psalm tell us about God?
Psalm 146: A hymn of praise.  Psalms 146-150 close the book of Psalms with hymns of praise. Each psalm begins and ends with “Praise the Lord”. Verses 1-2 are the psalmist’s call to praise. Verse 3 begins the psalmist’s address to the community. What attributes of God does this psalm focus on?
Psalm 147: A hymn of praise. Each of the three parts(v 1,7,11)  of the psalm begin with a call to praise God. This psalm focuses on God’s care for people and the earth.
Psalm 148: A hymn of praise. This psalm calls for all creation to praise God. The first verses, 1-6 focus on the heavens and verses 7-12 the earth.
Psalm 149: A hymn of praise. God’s goodness to Israel is the focus of this psalm. Commentators suggest that the military imagery may be a way of speaking metaphorically about God’s sovereignty over the nations.  In verse 6 the conjunction “and”  make a comparison between praise and swords; praising God is like having a sword in hand.
Psalm 150: A hymn of praise. All the verses except the final one begin with the same imperative- Praise.  Each of the previous four books of the Psalms ended with a one or two verse doxology. The end of the entire book has this entire psalm as doxology.

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.

Psalm 140-144

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Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book V (Psalms 107-150) . The first series of psalms 111-118 are the “Hallelujah Psalms”. The “Egyptian Hallel (ps 113-118) was sung for the three great pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. The “Psalms of Ascent” (ps 120-134)  were used by pilgrims to or from Jerusalem. Psalm 136 is the “Great Hallel” for Sabbath services. Psalm 146-150 end the book with “Praise the Lord”.  Psalms 107 and 119 may be introductory psalms. 107 introduces the fifth book and 119 introduces the psalms of ascent.  Psalm 137 is untitled and unclassified. There are psalms of David in this book, 108-110 and 138-145.

You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.

Here is a prayer from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) who was 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 140: An individual petition. Verses 1-3 and 4-5 are cries for help. Verses 6-8 are an expression of trust. Verses 9-11 are a plea for help against the wicked. Verses 12-13 are an expression of trust.
Psalm 141: An individual petition: In this psalm the psalmist asks God for protection from the psalmist’s own actions. Verses 1-2 ask God to hear the psalmist’s plea. Verses 3-7 are petitions for God to protect the psalmist from evil and associating with evil persons. The translation of verses 5-7 is difficult and uncertain because of difficulties with the condition of the Hebrew text. Verses 8-10 are again, a plea for help.
Psalm 142: An individual petition: A “maskil” is a technical term that we do not understand the significance of. “In the cave” may be a reference to the time David had to flee from Saul (1 Sam 24). There are two parts to this psalm. Verse 1-4 are a cry for help and a statement that there is no one else to turn to. Verses 5-7 are further cries for help but also contain an expression of trust.
Psalm 143: An individual petition:  This is one of the penitential psalms ( Pss 6,32,51,102,130,143). A psalm that states no one is righteous before God, it is God’s faithfulness and righteous that save us. Verses 1-2 are the cry for help. Verses 3-4 tell of the psalmist’s troubles. Verses 5-6 the psalmist recalls God’s past faithfulness. Verse 7-12 are a request for a prompt response and plea for help.
Psalm 144: A royal prayer for help. This is an individual psalm but the individual  appears to be the king. This psalm quotes other psalms, see Psalm 18. Also Psalm 8,90,103,146,18. Verses 1-2 the king thanks God for victory over others. Verses 3-4 , like several other psalms reflect on the brevity of human life.  Verses 5-8 ask for God’s help using the imagery of theophany ( smoke, lightening, etc.)  Verses 9-11 contain the promise of praise and another request for rescue. Verses 12-15 are a communal prayer for blessing.

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.

Psalm 135-139

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Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book V (Psalms 107-150) . The first series of psalms 111-118 are the “Hallelujah Psalms”. The “Egyptian Hallel (ps 113-118) was sung for the three great pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. The “Psalms of Ascent” (ps 120-134)  were used by pilgrims to or from Jerusalem. Psalm 136 is the “Great Hallel” for Sabbath services. Psalm 146-150 end the book with “Praise the Lord”.  Psalms 107 and 119 may be introductory psalms. 107 introduces the fifth book and 119 introduces the psalms of ascent.  Psalm 137 is untitled and unclassified. There are psalms of David in this book, 108-110 and 138-145.

You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.

Here is a prayer from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) who was 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 135: A hymn of praise. This psalm uses phrases from other biblical texts to create this psalm. Verses 1-3 are the call to praise. Verse 4 is the reason for praise.  Verses 5-7 praise God the creator.  Verses 8-12 praises God for God’s liberating actions for Israel. Verses 13-14 Praise God. Verses 15-18 contrasts God with idols ( see 115:4-8) Verses 19-21 are the concluding call to praise God.

 

Psalm 136: A hymn of praise. The second part of each verse is likely a response by the people. Notice the progression through the hymn. First God is praised for creation, then God’s actions in history.Notice also the change in change in syntax and person (from third to second).  Psalm 116 and 136 both open and close with the same language (give thanks to the Lord…) which suggests that psalms 113-118 and 135-136 were to frame the Songs of Ascent.

Psalm 137: A communal lament: A lament over the destruction of Jerusalem. Verses 7-9 are an imprecation. While it is difficult to read (and often omitted in modern readings of this psalm) it speaks to the deep sorrow and anger and pain of the exiles.

Psalm 138: A song of thanksgiving:This is the first of a collection of David psalms (138-145). It is an individual song of thanksgiving that also invites “All the kings of the earth” to praise God. The “gods” in verse 1 may be the heavenly court that surrounds God or the “gods” of other nations, perhaps the kings of verse 4. Verses 7-8 are an expression of confidence in God.

 

Psalm 139: A prayer for help, an individual petition. Verses 1-6 everything about the psalmist is known by God. Verses 7-12 there is no place one can hide from God. Is this reassuring or intimidating? Verses 13-18 describe God’s care and knowledge of the individual. Verses 19-24 asks for protection from enemies and declares commitment to follow God’s ways.

 

 

 

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.

Psalm 127-134

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Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book V (Psalms 107-150) . The first series of psalms 111-118 are the “Hallelujah Psalms”. The “Egyptian Hallel (ps 113-118) was sung for the three great pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. The “Psalms of Ascent” (ps 120-134)  were used by pilgrims to or from Jerusalem. Psalm 136 is the “Great Hallel” for Sabbath services. Psalm 146-150 end the book with “Praise the Lord”.  Psalms 107 and 119 may be introductory psalms. 107 introduces the fifth book and 119 introduces the psalms of ascent.  Psalm 137 is untitled and unclassified. There are psalms of David in this book, 108-110 and 138-145.

You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.

Here is a prayer from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) who was 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 127: A wisdom psalm. The reference to building a house may refer to a house, a family, the Temple, or a dynasty. Notice the stop parallelism with “unless”, “in vain”, and “sons”.
Psalm 128: A companion piece to psalm 127. The reward for faithfulness is that family life(v3), national life and religious life (v5-6) flourish. Verses 1-4 are a statement of trust and verses 5-6 build on that statement.
Psalm 129: A group lament. God is asked to punish those who persecute Israel. Notice the step parallelism. Verses 1-4 tell the history of suffering and verses 5-8 express confidence in God’s ability to end oppression. Verse  8 may be a standard blessing from the time after the exile or perhaps a blessing given to reapers.
Psalm 130: An individual lament. This is one of the seven Christian penitential psalms ( also 6;32;38;51;102;143). It is an individual petition for help. Verses 1-2 are a cry for help. Verses 3-6 are a statement of trust. Verses 7-8 extend the individual’s hope to the community.
Psalm 131: A song of trust and humility.  This psalm uses uncommon feminine imagery for God.
Psalm 132: A Royal psalm. This psalm recalls David’s desire to build a sanctuary for God, Gods’ choosing  of Zion. Verses 1-5 recall David’s vow to build a sanctuary for God. Verses 6-10 recall the finding of the Ark and its being taken to Jerusalem. (1 Sam 7:1-2; 2 Sam 2-15) The fields of Jaar were where David found the ark. Recall that the ark was the footstool of the divine throne.  Verses 11-12 tell of God’s promise of a Davidic dynasty. Verses 13-18 link God’s choosing of David with God’s choice of Zion as God’s resting place on earth. A horn symbolizes strength and a lamp, a person’s presence before God.
Psalm 133: A wisdom psalm celebrating the unity of the pilgrims at Jerusalem. Oil was used for washing and anointing.
Psalm 134: The final Psalm of Ascent is a blessing. It evidently is for a night service.  The reference to “servants of the Lord” may refer to priests but could also refer to the gathered people.

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.

Psalms 120-126

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Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book V (Psalms 107-150) . The first series of psalms 111-118 are the “Hallelujah Psalms”. The “Egyptian Hallel (ps 113-118) was sung for the three great pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. The “Psalms of Ascent” (ps 120-134)  were used by pilgrims to or from Jerusalem. Psalm 136 is the “Great Hallel” for Sabbath services. Psalm 146-150 end the book with “Praise the Lord”.  Psalms 107 and 119 may be introductory psalms. 107 introduces the fifth book and 119 introduces the psalms of ascent.  Psalm 137 is untitled and unclassified. There are psalms of David in this book, 108-110 and 138-145.

You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.

Here is a prayer from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) who was 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.
Psalms 120-134 are each titled “A Song of Ascent”. Most likely these psalms were sung by people on their way to and from Jerusalem. Alternately, it may refer to the steplike parallelism in many of these psalms
Psalm 120: A lament This psalm is an individual lament. Verses 2-3 are a complaint(slanderous attacks), verses 3-4 are a petition for the punishment of enemies, verses 5-7 are another complaint( exile far from Jerusalem.
Psalm 121: Confidence in God’s care.  Verse 1 is a question, verses 2-8 are the reply. Notice the steplike parallelism with repeated words,  “not/ neither slumber”, Keeps/keeper.  The “hills” may refer to the “high places” where other gods were worshiped. Jerusalem also is on a hill. Verse 1 can be read either as being worried about danger, false gods in the hills or as trust in God in Jerusalem. Notice in verse 6 there is a reference to the sun not striking the psalmist, but also 6b refers to the moon not striking the psalmist. Recall that in the ancient world, the sun and moon were deities. God is the protector from other gods.
Psalm 122: A song praising Zion. Verses 1-5 celebrate the city of Jerusalem and the pilgrims arrival. Verses 6-9 are prayers for peace. “The house of the Lord” is the Temple.
Psalm 123:  A group lament. Notice that God is compared to a mistress. Female imagery about God is unusual in the Psalms.
Psalm 124: A community thanksgiving. Notice the metaphors for the dangers the community has been delivered from.  Again notice the step parallelism “if it” and “then”.
Psalm 125: A group lament: Verses 1-3 are an expression of confidence. Verses 4-5 are a prayer for help.
Psalm 126: A community prayer for the return of exiles. Verses 1-3 are an opening statement and then verses 4-5 are a prayer. Notice the step parallelism

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.

Psalm 118-119

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Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book V (Psalms 107-150) . The first series of psalms 111-118 are the “Hallelujah Psalms”. The “Egyptian Hallel (ps 113-118) was sung for the three great pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. The “Psalms of Ascent” (ps 120-134)  were used by pilgrims to or from Jerusalem. Psalm 136 is the “Great Hallel” for Sabbath services. Psalm 146-150 end the book with “Praise the Lord”.  Psalms 107 and 119 may be introductory psalms. 107 introduces the fifth book and 119 introduces the psalms of ascent.  Psalm 137 is untitled and unclassified. There are psalms of David in this book, 108-110 and 138-145.

You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.

Here is a prayer from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) who was 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 118: A Thanksgiving. This psalm  is the last of the “Egyptian Hallel” psalms (113-118) which were sung during the three pilgrimage feasts. At Passover meals this psalm accompanies the fourth cup of wine. It is in first person, perhaps the king speaking on behalf of the people. The psalm moves between individual and communal thanksgiving.
Verses 1-4 are  communal thanksgiving.
Verses 5-21 address a variety of individual events which are a reason for thanksgiving. Verse 19 may be when the procession leader asks for admittance to the Temple. Verse 20 are the qualifications to enter. What reasons or events for thanksgiving are present in verses 5-21?
Verses 22-25 Is a communal thanksgiving.  Verse 22 echoes Isaiah 28:16.
Verses 26-27 are a blessing. Originally “blessed is tho one who comes in the name of the Lord” referred to any devout Israelite. Over time it became a messianic title.
Psalm 119: An individual petition. This is the longest psalm and has a quiet meditative tone. It is an acrostic with each of the 22 stanzas beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza has 8 verses and usually 8 synonyms of “law”- authoritative teaching, law, word, promises, ordinances, statues, commandments, decrees, and precepts. Notice how each synonym has shades of meaning that refer to illumination, moral requirement, guidance and promise.  Notice how Torah is referred to  using words that usually refer to God.

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.

Psalm 113-117

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Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book V (Psalms 107-150) . The first series of psalms 111-118 are the “Hallelujah Psalms”. The “Egyptian Hallel (ps 113-118) was sung for the three great pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. The “Psalms of Ascent” (ps 120-134)  were used by pilgrims to or from Jerusalem. Psalm 136 is the “Great Hallel” for Sabbath services. Psalm 146-150 end the book with “Praise the Lord”.  Psalms 107 and 119 may be introductory psalms. 107 introduces the fifth book and 119 introduces the psalms of ascent.  Psalm 137 is untitled and unclassified. There are psalms of David in this book, 108-110 and 138-145.

You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.

Here is a prayer from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) who was 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 113: A hymnThis is the beginning of the “Egyptian Hallel”, which are psalms sung at major Jewish festivals. Some scholars believe Psalms 113-114 were sung before the Passover meal and Psalms 115-118 were sung after the meal.  This psalm is also the last of the Hallelujah psalms (111-113). The phrase, “the name of the Lord” is a way of speaking about God.
Psalm 114:  A hymn like psalm.   This psalm recalls and celebrates the Exodus and the conquest of the land by naming the crossing of the sea and the river Jordan. Verse 8 refers to Ex 17.6; Num 20:11 when God provides water from a rock in the wilderness. Notice the parallelism and internal repetition in this psalm.
Psalm 115: A community petition.  This psalm asks God to show God’s glory to the nations. Israel’s God is contrasted to the other gods in verses 3-8. Then there is a call to trust (v 9-11), a blessing (v12-15).  Notice that ones called to trust are the same ones a blessing is asked upon. The psalm ends with thanksgiving. In the ancient world, the dead went to Sheol, the underworld which was a quiet place, not a place of praise.
Psalm 116: A psalm of Thanksgiving from an individual.  Verses 1-2 are a confession of faith that God will hear. Verses 3-4 the expression of need. Verses 5-11 are praise and thanksgiving. Verses 12-19 describe the fulfillment of vows in the Temple.
Psalm 117: A Hymn of praise. This is the shortest psalm. The psalm calls all nations to give thanks to God for the way God has treated “us”. Some scholars believe the “us” refers to Israel. What does it mean to call all nations to thank God for the way God has kept covenant with Israel?

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.

Psalm 107-112

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Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book V (Psalms 107-150) . The first series of psalms 111-118 are the “Hallelujah Psalms”. The “Egyptian Hallel (ps 113-118) was sung for the three great pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. The “Psalms of Ascent” (ps 120-134)  were used by pilgrims to or from Jerusalem. Psalm 136 is the “Great Hallel” for Sabbath services. Psalm 146-150 end the book with “Praise the Lord”.  Psalms 107 and 119 may be introductory psalms. 107 introduces the fifth book and 119 introduces the psalms of ascent.  Psalm 137 is untitled and unclassified. There are psalms of David in this book, 108-110 and 138-145.

You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.

Here is a prayer from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) who was 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 107: A psalm of Thanksgiving for return from exile. There are four examples of deliverance, vv 4-9,10-16,17-22 and 23-32.  In each example there is a danger, a cry to God, a rescue by God, and a response of thanksgiving.  Verse 33 is the start of a new section.  Verses 1-3 invite the returned people to praise. Verses 4-32 tell of the four rescued groups. Each group is a metaphor for the exile in Babylon. Verses 33-43 tell of God’s rescue and governance of Israel.
Psalm 108: A prayer for victory. This psalm is made up of parts of other psalms. Verses 1-5 are from Ps 57:7-11 and verses 6-13 are from Ps 60:5-12.  Verses 1-6 praise God’s love and faithfulness. Verses 7-9 cite an ancient oracle. Verses 10-13 are a complaint that God has not helped and a prayer for help.
Psalm 109: A prayer for vindication. Usually in these prayers, the authors tell of their plight. In this psalm the enemies curses are quoted. There are 12 curses in verses 6-19. Verse 20 is a prayer that these curses actually fall upon the accusers/enemies. The psalmist states that he is actually the weak and needy, not at all a persecutor and so has a claim to God’s protection.
Psalm 110: A royal psalm. A court official makes promises of victory (v1,4) and then expands on them (v 2-3,5-7). Christians have interpreted this psalm as about Christ’s resurrection.  In ancient times to sit at the right hand was an honor and winning kings were often represented with their feet on the defeated enemies necks. Melchizedek was a priest/king who greeted Abraham in Genesis 14:17-20.
Psalm 111:  psalm about God’s great acts. This psalm is an acrostic the celebrates God’s actions.
Psalm 112: Notice how the beginning of this psalm links to psalm 111. This is also an acrostic psalm. What does it say about a faithful person? They think on God’s great works, and puts God’s precepts into action, specifically giving to the poor.

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.

Lamentations 1-5

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You will find an introduction to Lamentations, here.

Here is a prayer to use before reading,  by Origen (c. 185 – c. 254) an early church father from Alexandria.
Lord, inspire us to read your Scriptures and meditate upon them day and night. We beg you to give us real understanding of what we need, that we in turn may put its precepts into practice. Yet we know that understanding and good intentions are worthless, unless rooted in your graceful love. So we ask that the words of Scriptures may also be not just signs on a page, but channels of grace into our hearts. Amen.

1:1-22 First Lament over Jerusalem.  Verses 1-11 are the lament of the narrator and verses 12-23 are the lament of the city. In the first section, Jerusalem is portrayed as a widowed and abandoned woman. Zion is another name for Jerusalem.  In verse 12, the phrase “was brought” is in Hebrew a stronger word and conveys violence.  In verse 17 “Jacob” is a way of referring to Judah.  Notice the repetition of the phrase, “no one to comfort her/me”. The references to “lovers” is an allusion to Jerusalem being unfaithful to God.

2:1-22 Second Lament, The Lord had become like an Enemy. Notice the change in tone and focus, from lament to anger and from the victim to God.  In verses 1-10 God, in anger, destroys Jerusalem and the nation of Judah. The “footstool” is a reference to either the ark of the covenant or the Temple. The “right hand” is a symbol of God’s power. Verses 11-19 are the narrator’s reaction. Verses 20-22 are Jerusalem’s response to God.  A terrible description of famine, death, and suffering.

3:1-66 Individual lament. This is the longest and most complex of the laments. It is a triple acrostic, each stanza had three verses each using a successive letter of the alphabet. The obvious subdivisions based on content do not match the alphabetic acrostic pattern. How does that affect the reading of the lament? We do not know who the speaker is. Jeremiah, Zedekiah or Jehoiachin have been suggested but the speaker may also be a literary persona. Notice there are similarities in language between this chapter and the book of Job. In verses 1-20 how is God described? What does the author say God does? In verses 21-24 the earlier despair turns to hope. Verses 25-39 resemble wisdom literature as the author works to find hope within the suffering. Verses 25-27 each begin with the word “good”. Verses 40-47 are a communal lament, with the use of “we” rather than “I”. In verses 48-66 the lament returns to an individual lament. Verses 64-66 are a call for retribution.

4:1-22 Third Lament of the community under siege. This lament, like chapters 1 and 2, is divided between two speakers. The effects of starvation are described graphically. Verses 1-10 describe the suffering of the siege.  Earthen pots (v 2) were cheap and easily broken. Gold, of course, is a costly and durable material. Jackals were thought to be despised scavengers. Ostriches were believed to be cruel and neglectful parent.  Verses 11-16 describe God’s punishment. People had believed that God would not allow his city to be destroyed. Verses 17-22 are the speech of the community. Judah relied on the help of other nations, (v17) contrary to the advise of prophets like Jeremiah. “The Lord’s anointed” is likely a reference to the last king of Judah, Zedekiah. Edom, associated with Esau (Gen 36) was a traditional enemy of Judah. Edom is, in postexhilic writing, often the recipient of negative comments.

5:1-22 A communal lament from the survivors, after the destruction. This is a call to God to remember and restore God’s people.  Assyria and Egypt (v 6) were superpowers and traditional enemies of Israel. “Iniquities” in verse 7 can also mean punishment. Verses 11-14 describe the collapse of the social order. Hanging people by their hands is thought to be a form of torture and humiliation. Grinding (v 13) was “woman’s work” and thus demeaning for a man to do.  Verse 19 is a strong statement about God. The book ends with a plea and with despair.

 

Here are several good sources to aid your reading of Lamentations

Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.

Berlin, Adele, “Lamentations” 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.

Gottwald, Norman K. “Lamentations” in  HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.

O’Connor, Kathleen M. “Lamentations”,in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary Vol 6 Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1996

An Introduction to Lamentations

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Lamentations is the translation of the title from the Greek Septuagint, Threnoi. In the Hebrew Bible, books are named by their first words and so this book is titled ‘Ekah, “How”. In Christian Bibles Lamentations follows the Book of Jeremiah. Lamentations has historically be attributed to the prophet Jeremiah. However it is unlikely that Jeremiah was actually the author. In Hebrew Bibles, Lamentations is part of the Writings. It is read on the ninth day of Ab as part of a day of mourning remembering the destruction of the Temple. In Christian communities, Lamentations is read during Holy Week.

The destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE by the Babylonians was the end Judah as an independent nation. The book was written after the destruction of the Temple but before it was rebuilt at the end of the sixth century BCE. We do not know the exact date or location where the book was written.

You will notice how these poems resemble Psalms 74 and 79 which were also written after the destruction of the Temple.

The first four poems (chapters 1,2,3,4) are acrostics using the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet. (See psalm 111, 112,145; Prov 31:10-31 for other examples). Each verse or stanza begins with a letter of the alphabet in alphabetical order. Chapter 3 is a triple acrostic in that all three verses of each stanza begin with the same letter. Chapter 5, while not an acrostic, has 22 verses. Perhaps the acrostic form was used to indicate total destruction ( i.e. from A to Z).  Acrostic poems tend to break into fragments rather than read as one entity.

In the first four poems there is a unequal length between the two parts that form each line or sentence. The second line is usually shorter than the first. This produces a “limping” 3:2 meter.

This is a book of public mourning and the language and images are striking and hard to read because of the pain and suffering that is described. Lamentations assumes the theology of Deuteronomy- sin leads to divine punishment. Babylon was merely an agent used by God. God is responsible for the disaster and God will be the one to end the exile.

Here are several good sources to aid your reading of Lamentations

Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.

Berlin, Adele, “Lamentations” 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.

Gottwald, Norman K. “Lamentations” in  HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.

O’Connor, Kathleen M. “Lamentations”,in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary Vol 6 Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1996