For my weekly quiet time this week, I will blog about Psalm 75 and its interpreters. I have three items.
Psalm 75:2 says in the King James Version: "When I shall receive the
congregation I will judge uprightly." The Hebrew word that the KJV
translates as "congregation" is moed, which can also mean an appointed time or place. Consequently, there are different understandings of Psalm 75:2. One is that moed
here means God's appointed time to judge the wicked. In this
interpretation, God is affirming that he will seize the opportunity to
judge the wicked at the appointed time. God, in this scenario,
is comforting his people with the idea that God will intervene and set
things right, at a particular time. All they need to do is wait.
Another interpretation treats Psalm 75:2 (or at least 2a) as the words of the Psalmist, not God.
Rashi says that the verse means that, when we take a festival day (a meaning of moed), we
praise God with reference to that day. For some reason, Rashi
interprets "I will judge uprightly" in terms of praising God. Perhaps
Rashi is saying that praising God on the festival day is exercising good
judgment, as opposed to engaging in "obscenity and levity" on festivals
(to quote this translation of Rashi).
Midrash on the Psalms understands the verse to mean that, when the
Psalmist reaches the appointed time of God's redemption, he will declare
God's acts of equity. Theodore of Mopsuestia has a similar
I do not understand how the Midrash on the Psalms
gets the idea of declaring God's acts of equity from "I will judge
uprightly." Theodore of Mopsuestia's interpretation, however, makes
sense to me because he is using the Septuagint. The Hebrew Masoretic
Text of Psalm 75:1b says "your wonders declared." The LXX says
something different, though: "I will declare all your wonders." The
LXX and Theodore are understanding Psalm 75:1b-2a to be saying: "I will
declare your wonders, when I receive the appointed time." And what
does Theodore do with Psalm 75:2b, "I will judge uprightly"? He says
that the Psalmist is trusting that there will be a time when God will
save him on the basis of God's promise of "I will judge uprightly".
I think that interpreting moed as God's appointed time of redemption makes sense, but I am also open to seeing it as a festival. A
festival interpretation would coincide with Sigmund Mowinckel's view
that the festivals were about God's judgment and defeat of chaos.
Psalm 75:3 says (in the KJV): "The earth and all the inhabitants
thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah." There are
different interpretations of this verse: that justice keeps society
firm, as pillars support the earth; that the pillars are somehow related to justice (see I Samuel 2:8);
that the earth melts when God judges; and that we can trust that there
are moral absolutes even when the earth dissolves, in terms of lacking
I especially liked an interpretation that I found in the
Midrash on the Psalms, even though I don't think that it relates to the
verse's original meaning. The Midrash on the Psalms presents the view
that the earth was quaking during the Sinai revelation out of fear that
Israel would not accept the Torah, which would result in the earth
plunging into chaos. I'm intrigued by the notion that the Torah
somehow preserves the cosmos, in Jewish thought. So how did the world
survive before the revelation of the Torah, in this view? Perhaps the
answer would be that it barely did, or that God tolerated the earth in
its sinfulness before the Torah came and held people accountable, or at
least held Israel accountable to be a light of righteousness to the
3. The KJV translates Psalm 75:6: "For promotion
[cometh] neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south."
In the Hebrew, however, the word for "promotion" is not in this verse,
which reads: "for not from the east (lit. going forth) and from the west
and not from the south (lit. wilderness of mountains)." "Promotion"
may be implied in Psalm 75:6, for the idea of Psalm 75:5-7 appears to
be that the wicked should not be proud, for promotion and demotion come
from God (who, as E.W. Bullinger notes, lives in the north, the only
direction not mentioned in Psalm 75:6; Isaiah 14:12-14; see Job 26:7).
The Targum, however, does not include any idea of promotion in its
interpretation of Psalm 75:6, for it affirms that the idea in that verse
is that there is none like God anywhere. I suppose that this, too, is a
reason not to be proud!
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