Bible Blog 2171

This continues my translation with commentary of Psalms 42-72. As Psalm 70 is a doublet of Psalm 40, which I have already translated, I will omit it here.

PSALM 71

In you, Yahweh, I am putting my trust;

may I never be put to shame!

In your justice deliver me and help me escape;

Listen to me and save me!

Be my rock of refuge

to which I may come at all times;

you have decreed my rescue,

for you are my rock and my fastness.

Snatch me, my God, from the hand of the criminal

from the grasp of the cruel wrongdoer!

For you my Lord have been my hope,

my confidence, Yahweh, since I was young.

Upon you I have leaned since birth;

you cut me from my mother’s womb;

About you I will always sing praise.

Many people have been astonished at me,

but you are my firm shelter.

My mouth is full with your praise

and with your beauty all the day.

Don’t throw me aside when I’m old;

when my power fails, don’t abandon me.

For my enemies are speaking about me;

as they lie in wait for my soul, they plot together,

saying, “ God has abandoned him;

chase him and seize him,

for there is no one to save him!”

Don’t distance yourself from me, God!

My God, hurry to help me!

Disgrace and ruin on my accusers!

Let those who want to damage me

be wrapped in ridicule and shame!

But I will always wait on you,

and I will praise you again and again.

My mouth will declare your justice

and your deliverance all the day,

for I don’t know how to count them.

I will enter into your mighty deeds, Lord Yahweh;

I will call to mind your justice, yours alone.

You have taught me since my youth

and to this day I declare your marvels;

so now when I am old and greyheaded

do not abandon me, my God,

until I declare your powerful arm

to all the generations yet to come;

your valour and your justice, God,

to the heights of heaven.

God, you have done great things-

Who is like you?

Although you have made me see

many sore troubles

you will lift me to life;

from the dark waters under the earth,

you will raise me again.

You will multiply my years of strength

and comfort me once more.

Yes, I will praise you on the clarsach

for your steadfastness, my God.

I will make melody on the lute

for you, the Holy One of Israel.

My lips will sing for joy when I praise you;

so will my soul which you have rescued;

my tongue  will talk of your justice all the day.

Defeat and dishonour to those who tried to harm me!

 

Maybe it’s because I’m old and greyheaded that I respond more positively to this psalm of complaint than to others. Of course I know that the notion of Israel itself as no longer young is also present in this psalm, but it retains its personal emotion nevertheless.

It anounces its theme immediately: “In you, Yahweh I am putting my trust/ may I never be put to shame!” The rest of the psalm just fills out these lines.

Mnay of the details, asking God to listen, God as rock, the wickedness of enemies, etc.   are clichés of this kind of psalm, but the references to youth and age are special, giving the psalmist’s plea a degree of pathos. The Lord is described as a midwife, cutting the umbilical cord and taking the child from the womb. This provides an intimate image of God as a creator who is not distant from the creatures.

It’s not clear whether the psalmist’s life has caused astonishment at the bad things that have happened in it, or the good. I have translated the Hebrew “tipharah” as beauty, rather than the more usual glory, because I think it better represents the intimacy the psalmist’s relationship with Yahweh. “ Do not throw me aside, when I am old,” would have reminded its original users of the “wife of a man’s youth” who was sometimes divorced in later years when the man took a new and younger wife. It’s a bold comparison with God.

The enemies see no visible support for their victim, and indeed neither does the victim himself who can only hold on to his trust in God and the stories of God’s goodness. The very celebration of God’s mighty deeds is what sustains trust in bad times. For this reason the psalmist wants God’s help so that he may be able to communicate the stories of God to new generations. The phrase, “many sore troubles” is no cliché, nor the plea to be raised from the “tehomoth” the primeval waters under the earth, which are the persistent symbol of chaos and resistance to the creator.

The ending, with its naming of musical instruments and the melodies of praise, expresses the use of psalms like this in the worship of the Temple.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: