Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Beginning and the End of the Psalter

The beginning of the Psalter is not one psalm but two with two unified but distinct themes, Torah and Messiah. The end is not the last psalm but Psalm 149. Psalm 150 is the doxology of Book 5 and of the whole Psalter. Each other Book has its own doxology also.

In the spirit of Hebrew poetic structures, one would expect an inclusio and one is not disappointed. Psalm 1 and 2 are, as I pointed out with thanks to Robert Cole in my last post, connected in language through 7 (or 8) connections. Psalm 1 and 2 are connected to Psalm 149 through 7 (or 8) connections. (You can see from the last post that I have updated the image to show both sets of connections.)
  1. Psalm 1 begins with Happy (אַשְׁרֵי asheri), Psalm 2 ends with it, Psalm 149 begins and ends with Hallelu Yah.
  2. Psalm 2 shows where the righteous of Psalm 1 sits (note also the last line of 149 re the honour of the saints in their role in judgment.)
  3. The righteous meditates (יֶהְגֶּה) in the law, the peoples mutter in vain (יֶהְגּוּ-רִיק - you can see it is the same root).
  4. The tree is planted, the king installed. The word is not the same, but the thought is parallel.
  5. The tree gives (יִתֵּן) fruit 'in its time' (בְּעִתּוֹ). The anointed is given (וְאֶתְּנָה) an inheritance and the other kings are warned with 'now' (וְעַתָּה). This counts as two.
  6. The wicked of Psalm 1 are more specifically described in Psalm 2 as the nations and their kings. The kings are warned as judges (שֹׁפְטֵי) - the wicked will not stand in the judgment (בַּמִּשְׁפָּט).
  7. Their way (וְדֶרֶךְ) will perish (תֹּאבֵד) - this counts as two: in Psalm 2 the kings are warned about perishing in (וְתֹאבְדוּ) a way (דֶרֶךְ).
  8. One of these connections - judgment (מִשְׁפָּט) - takes part in the set of connections to Psalm 149.
  9. The righteous (צַדִּיקִים) appears in Psalms 1 (twice) and the saints (חֲסִידִים) in psalm 149 (3 times) - not quite a match.
  10. The inheritance of the nations (גוֹיִם) are the same nations that suffer vengeance in Psalm 149.
  11. The rebellious kings (מַלְכֵי-אֶרֶץ) of Psalm 2 are 'their kings' of Psalm 149 (מַלְכֵיהֶם) that are
  12. bound (לֶאְסֹר) in Psalm 149 but wished to break their bonds (מוֹסְרוֹתֵימוֹ) in Psalm 2.
  13. They are not without invitation to rejoice (וְגִילוּ) in Psalm 2 with the children of Zion of Psalm 149 - remarkable isn't it? Were you expecting this?
  14. And finally the bonds of Psalm 149 are of iron (בַרְזֶל), the same material as the sceptre of Psalm 2.
Do you think such verbal connectivity is sufficient to establish that the Psalter was constructed with this inclusio in mind? How do you read vengeance along with an invitation to joy?
Psalm 110 and Psalm 119 are likewise significant milestones (on the same two themes) in the Psalter. Jinkyu Kim, at the recent SBL, suggested that the Royal Psalms have a 'strategic arrangement'. I hope to explore this in more detail in the future.

Addendum: these words are almost all very common throughout the psalter. The inclusio could have been happenstance. These few forays into the problems of search logic without a lexical form as anchor (in the database) are revealing. I don't think it can work - words like NTN for give appear in several forms and have little to catch the form since the N's are often dropped.

No comments: