Saturday, February 09, 2008

Psalm 95

The other day in the very early morning when sleeping was denied, I arose and put on my cloak and went to my office to read Psalm 95. Why would you do that? I don't know, but it happens. This is one of the psalms in Hebrews (chapter 3) and is discussed in a recently posted article by Peter Enns.

This psalm (diagrammed here) is in two parts. I had some difficulty seeing if the parts are parallel or if there are the usual concentric structures. Enns suggests a parallel for the first 7 verses: the invitation to rejoice, for the LORD is the creator, the invitation to worship, for the LORD is our God.

Enns also offers an integrated reading more or less in three parts. The psalm is starkly in two pieces - one invitational and the second, with a sudden shift to God as speaker, as warning. (Anglicans sing Psalm 95 as the Venite at Mattins - but they often omit the warning part.) I have no problem with the sudden shift of pronoun - a common characteristic in psalms. The poet in the intimacy of relationship with God becomes an oracle for the warning of God. There is a recurring word, come, (בֹּאוּ) circling from verse 6 to 11 and effectively joining the second reason for worship to the warning. There are also other words connecting the halves of the psalm. So poetically speaking, I don't see a problem with the psalm's unity.

There are some claims in his essay that I don't find convincing on the surface: He writes that psalm 81 resembles Psalm 95 more closely than any other. This claim doesn't follow from word usage. Psalm 81's highest scores are against psalm 42. Psalm 95's highest score is against psalm 58. I owe the essay a better read some day - especially when I get back to the study of the letter to the Hebrews.

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