Saturday, February 15, 2014

Psalm 147

I have three items for my blog post today about Psalm 147.

1.  I liked John MacArthur’s comment in his MacArthur Study Bible: “This seems to be a post-Exilic psalm (cf. 147:2, 3) which might have been used to celebrate the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 147:2, 13; Neh. 12:27, 43).  The hard questions that God posed to Job (Job 38-41) and Israel (Is. 40), the psalmist here turns into declarations worthy of praise.”

I appreciate MacArthur’s statement that there is intertextual activity going on here: that Psalm 147 is using elements of God’s speeches to Job and to exilic Israel to praise God, to convey the message that the God who is powerful yet kind in relationship to nature has intervened for the benefit of Israel.  I’ve long found God’s speeches to Job to be like cold water splashed on Job while he was suffering: not particularly comforting, I thought!  But Psalm 147 may be using them for the purpose of praise, if what MacArthur says is correct.

2.  In my reading of Augustine’s comments on Psalm 147, I saw Augustine refer to a Scriptural passage that is not in our Bible.  The passage states (and I am using J.E. Tweed’s translation here), “Let alms sweat in your hand, till you find a righteous man to whom to give it.”  Augustine calls this Scripture.  Didache 1:23 also quotes it.  I could not find it in my Bible, and, when I checked scholarly notes to Augustine’s comments, I found that others could not, either.  I may have found a similar concept in Tobit 4:7—-the concept of giving alms to the righteous—-but there was nothing there about alms sweating in one’s hands, plus there may be ambiguity about the clause with which “and to all doing righteousness” goes.

3.  Psalm 147:10b states that God is not pleased with the legs of man, which probably means that God is not impressed by human power or skill in warfare.  The Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Masoretic Text all understand Psalm 147:10b to be about God not being pleased with men’s legs.  Augustine, however, thinks that the verse is saying something else: that God will not be pleased with the tabernacles of men, which Augustine interprets as the tabernacles of worship that heretics establish.  The Greek word for “legs” in the LXX of Psalm 147:10b is knemais, and the Greek word for “tent” is skene.  The two words have similar letters, even though the words are quite different.  Perhaps Augustine was working with a manuscript that had mixed the letters up.

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