Continuing translation with comment of Psalms 107-150
An Alphabetical Psalm
Alleluia! With my whole heart I will praise Yahweh
Before the assembled congregation of honest people.
Consider the greatness of Yahweh’s actions
Desired by those who delight in them;
Everything is done in majesty and splendour;
Firm forever his justice stands.
Good reminders of his marvels he left in his Torah.
He, Yahweh, is grace and tenderness,
Intervening to feed those who fear him
Judging it good to keep his covenant with them.
Kingly he showed his people the power of his deeds
Lavishing on them the lands of the heathen.
Mention the truth and justice of his handiwork;
Not one of his precepts is impractical;
Over all time they are trustworthy
Performed in faithfulness and equity.
Quickly he liberated his people
Ruling through his eternal covenant.
Sacred and terrible is his name;
The fear of Yahweh is the start of common sense;
Understanding grows in those who feel it.
Very long-lived is the praise of the Lord.
Alphabetical acrostics like this may have been composed as aids to memorising, or a images of completeness. One cannot avoid the suspicion that they advertised the skill of the author as well as the greatness of God. The form imposes a certain formality in the order of words, and a tendency to produce finished phrases rather than any flow of meaning. Doubtless this is even more evident in this translation than in the original. I confess to having added some words to follow the alphabet which I’ve used in its English rather than its Hebrew version, which has only 22 letters.
The author focuses on the exodus from Egypt, the wandering in the desert and the giving of the commandments and the covenant, but these lie behind his phrases rather than receiving specific mention. Really the psalm is just a quick summary of the character of Israel’s God.