Friday, November 22, 2013

Psalms 90-95


And so we begin Book IV of the Psalms (Psalms 90-106).

Psalm 90 is the only psalm attributed to Moses. It is a communal prayer that contrasts God's eternal nature with human mortality. Verse 4 is a poetic statement:

For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past,
  or like a watch in the night.

Sometimes this verse has been misused as an interpretive principle either in defense of Old Earth Creationism (making the "days" of Genesis 1 into periods of 1000 years) or in schemes for setting the date of the end times.

Psalm 91 has no title and no attribution. It poetically promises God's protective care for the faithful. I find it hard to read this one without hearing music. Verses 1-2 are used in the popular modern hymn "Eagle's Wings." Personally I dislike that song. I find it treacly and overdone. My taste runs toward Sinead O'Connor's interpretation of this psalm "Whomsoever Dwells."

Verse 11 is quoted by the devil when tempting Jesus in Matthew 4:6.

Psalm 92, if its title is to be believed, is a "song for the Sabbath." Written in the wisdom tradition this psalm declares that it is good to praise God with musical instruments. It goes on to say that the righteous flourish while the wicked perish.

Psalm 93 is the second enthronement psalm (Psalm 47 was the first). It pictures YHWH enthroned over all the world. Verses 3-4 declare the Lord's power over the floods: the ancient, primordial forces of chaos.

Psalm 94 is another wisdom psalm, this time a lament. It calls on God to avenge the psalmist against wrongdoers.

Psalm 95 begins praising God as the almighty Creator. Then, invoking the story of the Exodus calls its hearers to faithfulness.

Psalms 93-95 have no titles.

Next: Psalms 96-102

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