Bible Blog 2349

Continuing my translation of Psalms 97- 150 with comment


No, Yahweh, do not give glory to us

But to your renown and reputation

For lovingkindness and for loyalty!

Why let the Gentiles say,

“Where is their God now?”

Our God is in the heavens;

All that he desires, he does.

Their gods are of silver and gold

The handiwork of humanity:

Mouths they have but cannot speak,

Eyes they have but cannot see,

Ears they have but cannot hear,

Noses they have but cannot smell,

Hands they have but cannot handle,

Feet but fail to walk,

Vocal chords but have no voice.

Those who make them will mirror them

As will all those who trust them.

But you Israel, trust in Yahweh!

He is their help and their shield.

And you, household of Aaron, trust in Yahweh!

He is their help and their shield.

And You, God- fearers, trust in Yahweh!

He is their help and their shield.

Yahweh brings us to mind and will bless:

He will bless the household of Israel

He will bless the household of Aaron

He will bless the God – fearers

Both small and great.

May Yahweh increase you

You and your offspring!

May you be blessed by Yahweh

Maker of heaven and earth!

The heavens are Yahweh’s heavens

But the earth he gave to humanity.

The dead sing no songs to Yahweh,

All who sink down into silence.

But we will bless Yahweh

From this time now and for ever:

Praise Yah!

This psalm uses the prophetic tradition of mocking the Gods of other nations. It’s easy to forget that the invisible God of Israel aroused mockery in the ancient world, which believed that the powers it worshipped needed physical representation. Also as Israel was a small nation it was always being defeated and being asked the question, Where is your God now?

The psalm reverses this mockery: foreign Gods have all their physical attributes but are impotent; while Yahweh is invisible and does as he desires. Israel interpreted its history as the action of Yahweh, either blessing or cursing his people. It is difficult to imagine living seriously in that faith, and there are sceptical voices even in the Hebrew Bible, but it is precisely this faith that allows them to say that Yahweh acts.

The liturgical nature of the psalm is evident in its summons to faithfulness, and in its repetitions. The “three-decker universe” of the ancient imagination is set out: heaven, which is the realm of God; earth which is the realm of humanity and animals; and Sheol, the under- earth to which the dead go down. The dead are finished, caput! They cannot sing to God; which is why it is so important for mortals to live well and praise God, who gives life.

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