“A woman playing a psalterion,” an instrument used to accompany psalms…
Welcome to DORScribe, a blog on reading the Bible with an open mind.
In other words, this Bible-blog is different.
It says not only that the Bible should be read with an open mind, but also that it was designed to liberate the human spirit, not shackle it. That runs contrary to a prevailing perception these days, that way too many Christians are way too negative, close-minded, or both. For more on that, see About this Blog, which also talks about how we can live fuller, richer lives of great spiritual abundance, and do greater miracles than even Jesus did, if only we open our minds…
In the meantime:
This is the second installment of a new feature. The focus here is both on the psalm for the Sunday coming up, and also on highlights from the psalms in the Daily Office Readings (DORs) leading up to that upcoming Sunday. The plan here is to review upcoming Sunday-readings on the prior Wednesday, and to review the psalms from the Daily Office Readings for the week ending on the Tuesday just before that “prior Wednesday.”
For example, The Lectionary Page psalm for Sunday, September 14 is Psalm 114. In turn, the DOR psalms highlighted in this post will be from the readings for Wednesday, September 3, up to the readings for Tuesday, September 9. As an example, the DORs for Sunday, September 7 included Psalm 63, sometimes referred to as Patton’s psalm, that is, the psalm – both “humble and defiant” – that General Patton turned to for comfort when he was on the verge of being sent home in disgrace during World War II. (See On “Patton,” Sunday School teacher.)
The International Bible Commentary (IBC) said of Psalm 114 that it was the second of the so-called “Hallel psalms;” psalms, hymns and/or songs “sung regularly at all the great Israelite festivals.” See Hallel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted:
Hallel consists of six Psalms (113–118), which are recited as a unit, on joyous occasions… Hallel (Hebrew: הלל, “Praise”) is a Jewish prayer – a verbatim recitation from Psalms 113-118, which is used for praise and thanksgiving that is recited by observant Jews on Jewish holidays.
See also Hallel – Jewish Virtual Library, which added, “These psalms are essentially expressions of thanksgiving and joy for divine redemption.”
Note also that the English word “Hallelujah” derives from the Hebrew word “Hallel,” with the word added for God – “Yah” (or “Jah”). See Hallelujah – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, defining the term as an exhortation to praise God, deriving from “two Hebrew words, generally rendered as ‘Praise (ye)’ + ‘the LORD,’ [with] the second word is given as ‘Yah.'” See also Yahweh – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, describing “the national god of the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel and Judah,” but we digress… (Or do we?)
Indeed, Psalm 114 begins like this: “Hallelujah! When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech, Judah became God’s sanctuary and Israel his dominion.” Then too, the IBC describes the psalm as “Exodus set to music:”
Israel hought of herself as essentially a liberated, redeemed people. They recalled with gratitude the time when the burden of foreign oppression rolled away and they became free – not free in the anarchical sense, but free to enter God’s service. By the Exodus they became a holy people who worshipped Yahweh as their God and a vassal people who owned Him as their King.
On the other hand, the IBC noted that in Psalm 114, the writer handled this “sacred theme unusually, with a whimsical sense of humor.” (A reference I need to keep in mind for possible future defense of the “delightfully quirky” vision I’m pursuing in this blog…)
Among other events, the psalm celebrates the crossing of the Red Sea, but with a sense that You Are There; “By faith the years roll away and the worshippers feel themselves at the very scene as if it had all just happened.” (Which is also pretty much what this blog tries to do.)
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Turning to the psalms from the Daily Office readings; the DORs for Thursday, September 4 included Psalm 37:14, “The Lord laughs at the wicked, because he sees that their day will come.” Also 37:17, “The little that the righteous has is better than the great riches of the wicked.”
The Daily Office readings for Friday, September 5 included Psalm 31:5, “Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth.” (See also Acts 7:59.)
The Daily Office readings for Saturday, September 6, included Acts 13:26-43, where the Apostle Paul quoted extensively from the Book of Psalms. He was in the synagogue in Antioch during his first missionary journey, arguing that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah:
“Barnabas and I are here to bring you this Good News … that God brought Jesus back to life again. This is what the second Psalm is talking about when it says concerning Jesus, ‘Today I have honored you as my Son…’ In another Psalm [16:10] he explained more fully, saying, ‘God will not let his Holy One decay.’ 36 This was not a reference to David, for after David had served his generation according to the will of God, he died and was buried, and his body decayed. 37 No, it was a reference to another – someone God brought back to life, whose body was not touched at all by the ravages of death.”
The Daily Office readings for Sunday, September 7, included “Patton’s psalm,” discussed above, and Psalm 98:1, one of many exhortations to “Sing to the Lord a new song,” that is, a song unique to your personal pilgrimage. (And not to devote your life to “singing” a mere rehash of what other people have done in the past, as some seem to imply).
And finally, the DORs for Monday, September 8, included a reminder from Psalm 41:1, “Happy are they who consider the poor and needy; the Lord will deliver them in the time of trouble.”
– The Scribe
The upper image is courtesy of Psaltery – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption: “A woman playing a psalterion. Ancient Greek red-figured pelike from Anzi, Apulia, circa 320–310 BCE.”
As to David playing the harp, see David – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted the account of First Samuel, Chapter 16, which told of Saul, the first-ever king of Israel, being tormented by an evil spirit. In turn it was suggested that “he send for David, a young warrior famed for bravery and his lyre playing. Saul did so, and made David one of his armor-bearers. From then on, whenever ‘the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him,’” as illustrated above.
Another note: You Are There was an “American historical educational television and radio series broadcast over the CBS Radio and CBS Television networks.” The series began on radio on July 7, 1947, then made the transition to television on February 1, 1953, after a three-year hiatus and/or “retooling.” The final TV broadcast came on October 13, 1957. The series “blended history with modern technology, taking an entire network newsroom on a figurative time warp each week reporting the great events of the past.” See You Are There (series) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
As to Paul’s “missionary journeys,” see e.g. Chronology of Apostle Paul’s Journeys and Epistles.
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As to Book of Psalms generally, it is “commonly referred to simply as Psalms or ‘the Psalms’ … the first book of the Ketuvim (‘Writings’), the third section of the Hebrew Bible. The English title is from the Greek [word] meaning ‘instrumental music’ and, by extension, ‘the words accompanying the music.’ There are 150 psalms in the Jewish and Western Christian tradition.” Psalms – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia… The book is “divided into five sections, each closing with a doxology (i.e., a benediction) … probably introduced by the final editors to imitate the five-fold division of the Torah.”
Wikipedia added that the “version of the Psalter in the American Book of Common Prayer prior to the 1979 edition is a sixteenth-century Coverdale Psalter. The Psalter in the American Book of Common Prayer of 1979 is a new translation, with some attempt to keep the rhythms of the Coverdale Psalter.”
For another take on the psalms in general, type “Thomas Merton” in the Search Box above right.