Restoration Quarterly 17.3 (1974) 162-184.

Copyright ゥ 1974 by Restoration Quarterly, cited with permission.

 

 

 

A Crisis in Faith:

An Exegesis of Psalm 73

 

 

 

TERRY L. SMITH

Starkville, Mississippi

 

 

Introduction

 

Psalm 73 is a striking witness to the vitality of the individual life of

faith in Israel. It represents the struggles through which the Old

Testament faith had to pass. The psalm, a powerful testimony to a

battle that is fought within one's soul, reminds one of the book of

Job.1 Experiencing serious threat to his assurance of God in a desperate

struggle with the Jewish doctrine of retribution, the poet of Psalm 73

raised the question, "How is Yahweh's help to and blessing of those

who are loyal to him realized in face of the prosperity of the

godless?"2 His consolation is the fact that God holds fast to the

righteous one and "remains his God in every situation in life," and even

death cannot remove the communion between them.3 He finds a

"solution" not in a new or revised interpretation of the old retribution

doctrine, but in a "more profound vision of that in which human life is

truly grounded, and from which it derives its value."4 But Weiser

argues, and rightly so, that what is at stake here is more than a mere

theological or intellectual problem; it is a matter of life or death葉he

question of the survival of faith generally.5 The poem represents an

 

1. A. Weiser, The Psalms, Old Testament Library (Philadelphia: Westminster

Press, 1962), p. 507; cf. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, Vol. 2, Old

Testament Library (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967), p. 259.

2. Eichrodt, op. cit., p. 520; von Rad, Old Testament Theology Vol. 1

(Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1962), p. 406.

3. von Rad, op. cit., p. 406; but cf. Dahood, Psalms 51-100, Anchor Bible

(New York: Doubleday and Co., 1968), p. 187.

4. Eichrodt, op. cit., p. 521.

5. Weiser, op. cit., p. 507.

162



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 163

 

inquiry into the nature of man's communion with God, and the

problem of suffering is really only the occasion of departure for this.

The psalm is a confession revealing a man's struggle for a living

communion with his God, a struggle that presents a crisis for his faith.6

In order to properly interpret this psalm, several form-critical matters

must be considered.

1. Structure. Psalm 73 may be outlined as follows, on the basis of

content.7

1-2葉he problem

3-12葉he offence at the prosperity of the wicked

13-16葉he poet's own calamity and doubts

17-26容verything seen in a nevv light in regards to the wicked

(17-22) and God (23-26)

27-28幼onclusion

 

2. Classification, Setting in Life, Purpose. Scholarship is divided over

the type (Gattung) of Psalm 73. Gunkei spoke of 'wisdom poetry'

(Weisheitsgedichten) and placed Psalm 73 in this category.8 Bentzen

agrees with this, since he thinks the whole book may be regarded as a

wisdom book created "in order to have an authoritative expression of

Israel's religion."9 This would mean that it has been transferred to

another "place in life" than that of most of its single small units. It is a

book to be read for edification. The Sages have taken it over from the

cultic life; "from the temple it has been transferred to the school."10

Eissfeldt includes it among genuine wisdom poems but argues that,

while they were used in the cultus, they actually were derived from the

circles of the wise (hakhamim). They go beyond the form of the

 

6. Ibid.

7. Suggested by Weiser, op. cit., p. 508; cf. Donald Macleod, "Faith beyond

the Forms of Faith: An Exposition of Psalm 73," Interpretation, 12 (October,

1958), 418.

8. Along with Pss. 49, 1, 112, 128, 37. Roland E. Murphy, "A Consideration

of the Classification 'Wisdom Psalms,' " SVT, 9 (1963), 157.

9. A. Bentzen, Introduction to the Old Testament, Vol. 1 (Copenhagen: G. E.

C. Gad Co., 1952), pp. 170, 254. He argues that the introductory poem (Ps. 1)

seems to be a motto taken from the wisdom school and reveals the admonition of

the collectors to the readers: they are invited to choose the right path to glory,

study the law, and obey God's word. So the book is not only a ritual song book

but a book of wisdom showing the way to a righteous life.

10. Ibid., p. 254.



164 Restoration Quarterly

 

wisdom saying and make use of the song form for the expression of

their feelings, reflections, admonitions, etc.11

Oesterley, Leslie, and Dahood argue that Psalm 73 has a didactic

purpose and belongs among the "wisdom psalms."12 This is supported

by the wisdom trends that are prominent in this psalm, viz., contrast of

'wicked' and 'righteous,' preoccupation with the problem of

retribution, practical advice in regards to conduct (diligence,

responsibility, etc.).13

Murphy argues that Psalm 73 fails to qualify as a wisdom psalm on

the basis of style and characteristics. While its content is a wisdom

theme, its literary style resembles a thanksgiving song. It begins with a

proposition that explains the poet's grateful prayer.14

Mowinckel considers it a psalm of thanksgiving which has arisen out

of the author's visit to the sanctuary where he submitted himself to the

usual purification rites for sickness and where he was miraculously

healed and spiritually refreshed.15

Buttenweiser says the psalm is an epitome of the drama. It is a lyric,

not a didactic poem, and so presents the problem by the same indirect

method of description as the drama does.16

It must be admitted that there are some features of several psalm

classifications in Psalm 73. This would especially be true if the psalms

 

11. Along with 1, 37, 49, 78, 91, 112, 128, 133. He says 105, 106, 90, 139

contain "wisdom" thoughts, but since they also have hymnic features they are

reckoned as hymns. Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction

(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965), p. 124; cf. pp. 126, 127, 86.

12. W. O. E. Oesterley, The Psalms (London: S. P. C. K., 1955), p. 341; E. A.

Leslie, The Psalms (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1949), p. 411. He says they would

be rendered in the temple service of postexilic Judaism where instruction in the

good life was common. "The most appropriate setting for them would be in

connection with the great pilgrimage festivals, and more particularly the (Festival

of Tabernacles and the New Year," p. 412. Dahood, op. cit., p. 187, says the

Psalmist addresses the religious assembly.

13. Cf. Murphy's brief survey, op. cit., p. 160, as well as the works of scholars

cited there.

14. Murphy, op. cit., p. 164. He assigns 1, 32, 34, 49, 112, 128 to the

Weisheitsgedichten, p. 160.

15. Psalmstudien, I, pp. 127, 128; cited by W. Stewart McCullough, "The

Book of Psalms," The Interpreter's Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1955), p.

386.

16. Moses Buttenweiser, Psalms (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938),

p. 526.



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 165

 

did derive from a wisdom source and were adapted to the cult, or vice

versa.

Westermann says Pslam 73 (along with 130,123) represents a

transition from an individual lament: to a psalm of confidence.17

McCullough admits a possible double classification for Psalm 73 and

argues that it is clearly a psalm of trust, but he says it also contains

some of the issues which exercised the minds of the more reflective, so

that it could be a didactic or wisdom psalm.18 Barth classifies the

psalm as an individual lament "characterized by the appearance of the

individual simply as the wise, pious, and righteous man," which at one

moment appears to contain words spoken by one man to another and

then in a moment becomes a prayer to God.19 Buss argues that Psalm

73 is a wisdom psalm with a strong personal note which might have

been composed for the singer's own presentation rather than for general

use by the laity.20 This personal note has also impressed Fohrer, who

regards the psalm as a personal statement (as Ps. 51). Psalm 73 might be

a thanksgiving song that is practically a didactic poem. Since the

worshipper seeks to express his thanksgiving by attempting to bring

others to the same experience, he has penetrated the psalm with forms

 

17. Claus Westermann, The Praise of God in the Psalms (Richmond: John

Knox Press, 1961), p. 80. Westermann argues that a change in speaker takes place

in many psalms. The moment of change may be indicated by a "now," "but

now," "nevertheless" (cf. Pss. 27:6; 12:5; 20:6), or the change may not be so

obvious. Usually at the place where the charge occurs, the psalm contains a 'waw'

adversative (cf. 55:16; 22:3; 102:12; 13:5; 31:14, 26, 27; 86:15; etc.), pp. 70,

71. These clauses indicate a transition from lamentation to another mode of

speech (either confession of trust or assurance of being heard), and the transition

occurs in a happening between God and man. These transitions are not

schematically bound to any particular place in the psalm itself, pp. 7-72; cf. table

on pp. 66-69. Praise of God and confession of trust are very intimately related to

each other in clauses with "but," p. 74.

18. McCullough, op. cit., p. 386.

19. C. Barth, Introduction to the Psalms (New York: Charles Scribners, 1966),

p. 18.

20. He suggests that it might reflect the tension between Zadokites and poorer

Levites and in any case has affinity with the complaints of Jeremiah and

Habakkuk. Martin J. Buss, "The Psalms of Asaph and Korah," JBL, 82

(December, 1963), 383, 386.



166 Restoration Quarterly

 

of wisdom instruction.21 But, Fohrer adds, wisdom poetry and didactic

poetry must be considered forms of wisdom instruction rather than a

psalm type.22

Of the 150 psalms, 140 were composed and used for cultic purposes.

A problem arises, then, when one finds some poems which do not seem

to have been composed for this reason.23

Mowinckel argues that this suggests a learned psalmography which

derived, not from temple singers, but from private men of wisdom with

no direct relation to the cult.24 These psalms have wisdom subjects, are

didactic, and have the form of a proverb or wise saying. They are most

prominent in psalms dealing with suffering and justice, and especially in

thanksgiving psalms. Psalm 73 belongs to this group.25

However, the psalm writer may use the form of wisdom poetry for

his personal expression of the praise of God, or thanksgiving of a

blessing received, without his psalm actually being a wisdom poem.26

Psalm 73 is a thanksgiving psalm but with so much personal

experience and departures from and variations with psalm patterns that

one wonders whether it was composed by and for the individual or for

use on cultic occasions.27 Mowinckel argues that it was common

among the righteous to compose, after their salvation, a thanksgiving

psalm which was to be recited at the sacrificial feast. It would be both a

natural expression of their feelings and evidence of piety to honor

Yahweh in such a way.28

 

21. Georg Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville: Abingdon

Press, 1968), p. 269. Cf. von Rad, op. cit., p. 406, where he says Ps. 73 (and 49) is

not just a psalm of lament or thanksgiving for it contains no description of actual

need, etc. Pss. 73 and 49 "are rather pervaded by a strong striving after a principle

which does not stop short at a single calamity, but presses forward to the basis of

the problem."

22. Ibid., p. 262:

23. Sigmund Mowinckel, "Psalms and Wisdon," SVT, 3 (1955), 205.

24. Ibid., p. 211.

25. Ibid.

26. Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, Vol. I (Oxford: Basil

Blackwell, 1967), p. 31.

27. "The psalms of protection and thanksgiving have at times moved so far

away from their particular style type that it has been suggested that we ought to

separate some of them into a special group of 'psalms of confidence.' To these

belong some of the highest ranking ones, regarded from both the religious and the

poetic aspect, in the whole collection; for instance Pss. 23; 73; 103," ibid., p. 132.

Cf. Mowinckel, "Psalms and Wisdom," p. 211.

28. Ibid., p. 110.



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 167

 

There is evidence for a custom of writing a thanksgiving psalm on

leather or a votive stela and placing it in the temple "before

Yahweh."29 So Psalm 73 (along with 34, 43, 37) may have been

deposited as a votive and memorial gift to Yahweh and on a later

occasion included by temple singers and poets in the treasury of psalms.

This might explain how some of them may have come to be used

ritually in the cult.30 Yet it must be pointed out, with Mowinckel, that

the personal element does not exclude the possibility that temple

personnel composed it. Like everyone else, they could experience

suffering and hardship.31

3. Date. Psalms dealing with human life in general go back to the

monarchical period, and retribution dogma could begin as early as

Jeremiah's time (cf. 12:1-3).32 The poem could very-well be placed in

the exilic period of Jeremiah's day, perhaps 598-587 B.C.33 Mowinckel

and Oesterley argue for a comparatively late date on the basis of

language and theological attitude.34

4. Superscription. Psalm 73 bears the ascription mizmor le'saph.

Mizmor (psalmos in the LXX) has something of the meaning "to

pluck." It has come to be used of the plucking of stringed instruments

(which is also the case with psalmos). A mizmor, then, is a song which

is sung to a stringed instrument.35

'Asaph' may be the father or ancestor of Joah, King Hezekiah's

recorder (2 Kings 18:18, 37; Isa. 36:3, 22) or the ancestor or founder

of one of the three chief families of guilds of Levite temple musicians

known as the "sons of Asaph" (1 Chron. 25:1, 2, 6, 9). According to

 

29. Found in Syrian and Egyptian practices; cited on p. 41, ibid.

30. Ibid., p. 114.

31. Ibid., p. 142; Mowinckel gives no explanation for the inclusion of Ps. 73 in

the Asaphite collection, unless that ascription indicates collectors.

32. Fleming James, Thirty Psalmists (New York: Seabury Press, 1965), p. 189,

but he admits that Ps. 73 could be a late psalm coming from a period when faith

in a blessed hereafter was emerging in some Judaistic circles; cf. S. R. Driver, An

Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark,

1913), p. 385. 1

33. Cf. McCullough, op. cit., p. 386.

34. Oesterley, op. cit., p. 341; Mowinckel, op. cit., p. 95. The collectors of the

psalm could have been active at either suggested date, as well as the enemies

depicted in the psalm. Scholars seem evenly divided on the issue.

35. N. H. Snaith, The Psalms: A Short Introduction (London: Epworth Press,

1945), p. 31. Snaith adds that E. G. Hirsch says the meaning is 'paragraph' and

indicates a new beginning. But this explanation is not generally accepted.



168 Restoration Quarterly

 

the Chronicler, Asaph was a Gershonite Levite, who, along with Heman

and Jeduthan (Ethan), was given charge by David of the song service in

the tabernacle (1Chron. 6:39). While full information is lacking, most

likely he was a contemporary of David.36 The Chronicler's history has

the "sons of Asaph" participating in nearly every major temple

celebration before and after the Exile. They are occasionally

represented as cymbalists, but mostly as singers (1 Chron. 15:17, 19;

16:5, 7, 37; 2 Chron. 5:12; 29:13; 35:15; Ezra 3:10; Neh. 12:35).37

The Asaph superscriptions probably indicate a tradition of his

authorship of the psalms, a style peculiar to them which was originated

by him, or perhaps simply a reference to the Asaphite guild.38 The

name is always introduced with the particle / (lamedh) which may mean

"by," "for," or "concerning." Ugaritic literature uses/ before the name

of a hero in a poem (as Ba'al or Aqhat) rather than the author. This

could be the case in the psalms, but the view that it denotes the

compiler or performing guild cannot be abandoned, for this was chiefly

the way composition took place.39

Twelve psalms are attributed to Asaph (50, 73-83). These psalms

have certain characteristics:

1) Psalms 73-83 use 'Elohim' 36 times (compared to 13 times for

'Jehovah').40

2) God is Judge (50, 73, 78, 81).

3) God is frequently introduced as the speaker (50, 75, 81, 82).

4) God is shepherd to his flock (74:1, 77:20; 78:52, etc.).

 

36. B. T. Dahlberg, "Asaph," IDB, Vol. 1 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962),

p. 244.

37. I Esdras 1:15 calls them temple singers; ibid., p. 245. The guild is also

prominent in postexilic name lists (1 Chron. 9:15; Ezra 2:41; Neh. 7:44; 11:17,

22).

38. Ibid.; cf. Dahood, op. cit., p. 188.

39. Eissfeldt, op. cit., pp. 451-453; cf. S. R. Driver, op. cit., p. 381, and

Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 428, the latter adding that David's chief musician could

not have written all the psalms attributed to him since some of them are clearly

exilic or later. The New English Bible omits all of the psalm headings, regarding

them as "almost certainly not original." Cf. "Introduction to the Old Testament"

by G. R. Driver in the NEB (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. xviii.

40. But S. R. Driver, op. cit., pp. 371, 372, argues that this is not due to a

preference for that name by the authors. "It must be due to the fact that they

have passed through the hands of a compiler who changed 'Jehovah' of the

original authors into 'Elohim' . . . because . . . at the time when this compiler lived

there was a current preference for the latter name."



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 169

 

5) There is didactic use of history (74:12ff.; 77:10ff.; 80:8ff.;

etc.). 41

6) The singer uses personal expressions in relation to the sanctuary

(42/43; 73:84).

7) There are communal laments of personal expression.42

Most scholars agree that at one time all the Asaph psalms were

together. There seems to be much to favor the proposed original order

as 1-41; 51-72; 42-49; 50, 73-83; 84-150.43

 

5. Exegesis.

Truly God is good to the upright,

to those who are pure in heart. (RSV)

 

The particle 'ak combines an affirmative and restrictive, or even an

adversative, and has something of an element of contradiction in it. It is

used when the writer deliberately intends to deny some proposition and

expresses the idea "Nay, but after all."44 Here it means, "Nay, in spite

of all that people say, and in spite of all that I have seen, I still do

earnestly maintain that God is good to the upright man."45

leyisra'el presents some translation problems. le could be the vocative

participle. Israel is preceded by the vocative in 81:5 and 122:4b. The

vocative le in Ugaritic is particularly frequent with personal names, and

its presence here "enhances the likelihood that this is the particle

preceding personified Israel."46 This translation would reveal the Sitz

im Leben: The psalmist is addressing a religious assembly of

Israelites.47

 

41. A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms, The Cambridge Bible for Schools

and Colleges (Cambridge University Press, 1951), p. 429.

42. Buss, op. cit., p. 383.

43. Snaith, op. cit., p. 9; S. R. Driver, op. cit., p. 367; and Kirkpatrick, op. cit.,

p. 427. The latter says Ps. 50 probably is in its present position due to a similarity

of subject matter with 49 and 51, intentionally placed there for this reason by the

compiler.

44. Cf. Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, Vol. 2 (Grand

Rapids: William Eerdmans Company, 1949), p. 311; Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 432;

N. Snaith, Hymns of the Temple (London: SCM Press, 1951), p. 102.

45. Snaith, Hymns, p.102.

46. Dahood, op. cit., p. 188; Vocative lamedh occurs frequently in Ugaritic

myths with divine names: "0 Baal," "0 El," etc. Dahood argues for its

occurrence in Pss. 3:7; 16:1; 31:1; 92:1; 73:1; 81:5; 122:4; "Vocative 'Lamedh'

in the Psalter," Vetus Testamentum, 16 (July, 1966), 299-311.

47. Dahood, Psalms, p. 188. Delitzsch says "Israel" is to be understood (as in

Gal. 6:16) as those who have put away all impurity and uncleanness from their

lives and strive after sanctification, p. 311.



170 Restoration Quarterly

 

Scholars generally agree that it is better to divide leyis'rael into two

words, Layyaar and 'el, giving the translation "Truly God is good to

the upright."48 This enables the word elohim to be transferred to the

second line of the couplet, improving the rhythm and sense. It produces

a true, elegant couplet and the verse agrees with the rest of the psalm

where the psalmist discusses, not God's goodness to Israel, but God's

attitude to the upright man within Israel. So the verse should read:

 

Nay:

Good to the upright (is) El,

God (is good) to the pure of heart.49

 

lebhabhe lebhabh describes the man who loves good and despises

evil; it is the condition of admission to God's presence.50 The psalmist

is thus reassuring his audience of the unmistakable goodness of God

toward the righteous man. This is the conclusion to which the whole

struggle, depicted in verses 3-26, has brought him, and like in many of

the psalms, he begins with this comprehensive evaluation.51

 

vs. 2:

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,

my steps had well nigh slipped.

 

suppekah ('were nearly gone') reads literally "poured out,"52 or as

unstable as water." The slipping of the foot is a metaphor to denote

 

48. A. R. Huist, Old Testament Translation Problems (Leiden: E. J. 13rill,

1960), p. 108. So read RSV and NEB.

49. Snaith, Hymns, pp. 102, 103; Edward J. Kissane, The Book of Psalms, Vol.

2 (Dublin: Browne and Noland, 1954), p. 5, says it is more probable that the first

word for God ('el') is due to dittography and that the parallel to 'upright' has

been dropped. But this seems most unlikely, as is Briggs' suggestion that vs. 1 is

simply an introductory liturgical gloss which generalizes the psalm and makes iit

applicable to Israel as a people, ICC, Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1907), p.

142.

50. McCullough, op. cit., p. 387; Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 432; cf. Ps. 24:14fF.

and Matt. 5:8.

51. Cf. Dahood, op. cit., p. 188; Leslie, op. cit., p. 419; and Pss. 23, 121.

52. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English

Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907), p. 1049. Briggs

says wa'ani was added by a glossator, op. cit., p. 142.

53. Dahood, op. cit., p. 188. He says the pual vocalization 'suppekah' can

scarcely be correct since this frequent root nowhere exhibits a piel form. He

suggests that it be pointed as qal passive, a conjugation unknown to the

Massoretes. The ending represents the archaic 3rd pers. fem. dual ending.



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 171

 

calamity or even loss of faith.54 The psalmist confesses that he had

almost given up his faith. Verses 3-12 show how it was possible to arrive

at such a state of mind.55

 

vs. 3:

For I was envious of the arrogant,

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

 

Hilel as a participle indicates "boastful ones, boasters."56 Dahood

thinks this term refers to pagan Canaanites.57 The terms 'righteous' and

'wicked' (resha'im) have often been taken to indicate two "parties"

among the Jews, the righteous being obedient to the law, and the

wicked being the ungodly or worldly-minded. But as a rule, the terms

point to national antagonists (Gentiles). The resha'im in the psalms do

not signify any group of men, but all those who act as enemies of the

worshipper. They could be national enemies of the worshipper. They

could be national enemies or treacherous countrymen, but usually they

are national enemies of Israel or "the 'heathen' oppressors and their

helpers within Israel."58 In Psalm 73 they may refer to pagan overlords

or even fellow apostate Jews.59

So the psalmist's distress is made even more bitter because of the

resentment he has at seeing the ungodly prosper while the righteous are

plagued. He has come to doubt any sense of righteousness in God's

sovereignty of the world and even any use in trying to live a godly

life.60

 

54. A. R. Johnson, The Vitality of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient

Israel (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1964), p. 67n; cf. Deut. 32:35; Job

12:5; Pss. 38:16; 56:13; 66:9; 94:18; 116:8; 121:3; Jer. 13:16.

55. Weiser, op. cit., p. 308; Dahood, op. cit., p. 188.

56. Brown, Driver, Briggs, p. 238. Hereafter cited as BDB.

57. Dahood, op. cit., p. 188.,

58. Mowinckel, op. cit., pp. 207, 208. This is especially evident in Ps. 125. In

Ps. 58 the wicked are "estranged from the womb", i.e., they stand outside the

fellowship of the covenant. The evildoers are then Gentile enemies and oppressors

of Israel. Cf. also J. Pedersen, Israel: Its Life and Culture (London: Oxford

University Press, 1926), p. 446, who says they are not necessarily a homogeneous

party or certain order of society. In Pss. 35, 55, 109 they are former friends who

proved faithless. In different psalms, the enemies are different.

59. Mowinckel, Vol. 2, p. 36.

60. Mowinckel also regards the "I" of these and the following verses a case in

which the psalmist identifies with the worshipper in his sorrow and joy. " . . . he

reaches the height of his artistic ability when he feels that now it is the soul of

Israel and that of the typical Israelite that vibrates in his lamentation or his

praise," ibid., p. 140.



172 Restoration Quarterly

 

vs. 4:

For they have no pangs;

their bodies are sound and sleek.

 

The Masoretic text reads lemotam ('in their death'). But this does not

fit the context. The RSV and NEB have made two words out of

lemotam; lamo (parallel form of lahem), "to them," which is read

with the first half of the verse, and tam, "sound" or "whole," which is

taken with the second strophe. The RSV reads as above and the NEB

reads "No pain, no suffering is theirs; they are sleek and sound in

limb."61

 

vss. 5-7:

They are not in trouble as other men are;

they are not stricken like other men.

Therefore pride is their necklace;

violence covers them as a garment.

Their eyes swell out with fatness,

their hearts overflow with follies.

 

'im ("like") has a closely related meaning in the Ras Shamra texts.62

They are not smitten like some men, so they strut around in arrogance,

displaying their pride as if it were a necklace.63

According to the MT, the first line of verse 7 describes the insolent

look of the sleek-faced enernies. But the LXX and Syriac represent a

different reading which, according to Kirkpatrick, Snaith, and

Buttenweiser, suits the probable sense of the next line better and gets

rid of a grammatical anomaly. So Kirkpatrick reads: "Their iniquity

comes forth from the heart: the imaginations of their mind

overflow."64

 

61. Hulst, op. cit., p. 108. Cf. Snaith, Hymns, p. 104, and Dahood, op. cit., p.

189. Delitzsch proposes to omit lemotam and suggests the reading "they have no

pangs, vigorous and well-nourished is their body." (p. 312).

62. Dahood, op. cit., p. 180; BDB, p. 767.

63. BDB, p. 742; Chains were worn on the neck by men and women in Eastern

countries for ornament and badges of office (Gen. 41:42; Dan. 5:7). Kirkpatrick,

op. cit., p. 433. Dahood says 'anaq is a denominative verb form from 'anaq'

(neck) and the Ugaritic 'nq', op. cit., p. 189. Cf. Snaith, Hymns, p. 104; Weiser,

op. cit., p. 509.

64. Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 433; Cf. Snaith, Hymns; p. 104 and Buttenweiser,

op. cit., p. 532.



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 173

 

The RSV and NEB seem to preserve the parallelism best with their

adherence to the MT. Dahood repoints mehalab ("fat") to compare

with Genesis 48:12 and reads "than milk."65 But this is not necessary,

for fat or the midriff of the human body is used of the grossness of the

wicked in Job 15:27 and is figurative of an unreceptive heart (17:10;

119:70).66 lebab requires no possessive suffix because it is a part of the

body or because it balances the suffixed 'enemo.'67 The idea, then, is

that their gaze is greedy, and vain thoughts pass through their minds.

 

vs. 8:

They scoff and speak with malice;

loftily they threaten oppression.

 

yedabberu ("speak against") occurs again in 75:5.68 Dahood

suggests that bera be read as "Evil One" and, in parallel to 75:5, be

interpreted as a reference to God, who in the minds of the unbelievers

is the cause of evil upon the earth and hence the evil one. Then

mimmarom is taken as parallel to bera and rendered "Exalted," being

a divine appellation. Since oppression comes from on high, the scoffers

protest against heaven.69 This is possible, but the psalmist's protest

seemingly indicates that the people suffer from this talk as well.70

 

vs. 9.

They have set their mouths against the heavens,

and their tongues strut through the earth.

 

"Heaven" could mean God, and "earth" could refer to man and

institutions, if these phrases were to be separated. But the words seem

to form a single idea (as they do in Gen. 1:1; Job 20:27).71

In several prophetic and poetic lines, "heaven" and "earth" indicate

the world as a whole, the universe, all the inhabitants of the earth,

 

65. Dahood, op. cit., p. 189.

66. BDB, p. 316; cf. Ezra 24:16; 20:7.

67. Dahood, op. cit., p. 189.

68. Ibid. Gunkel thinks the repetition of daber offends the Hebrew style but

does not emend the text. Dahood says the Ugaritic exhibits a number of texts

employing identical words in parallel cola.

69. Ibid.

70. As vs. 9 indicates.

71. D. A. H. deBoer, "The Meaning of Psalm 73:9," VT, 18 (1968), 261.



174 Restoration Quarterly

 

everything on earth or in the sky.72 Psalm 73:9 is not at variance with

the meaning of these texts. The same figure of speech is in mind.

"Mouth" and "tongue" can have a metaphorical meaning of "word" or

"command."73 The poet, then, is not speaking of blasphemy, but of

mighty words coming from speakers who know how to enforce

obedience far and wide. He points not to their behavior toward God,

but toward men: they are arrogant, proud, violent, oppressing,

dictating. The poet doubts because they prosper in spite of this.74

Tihalak frequently means "to go," "proceed," "move" (in a

territory). So the phrase would read "the commanding tongue of the

wicked is proceeding over the earth," with the idea that nowhere does

there seem to be a limit to their strength; the power of the wicked

appears to be established.75

 

vs. 10.

Therefore the people turn and praise them;

and find no fault in them.

 

This is a difficult verse, almost unintelligible, and emendations are

mostly conjectural.76 The RSV margin reads "abundant waters are

drained by them." This reading understands yimmasu as a form of the

verb masas ("sip") and translates lamo "by them." The rendering

"and abundant waters are found for them" takes yimmasu as a form of

masa ("to find"). But in neither case does the verse take on meaning.

The RSV translation "and find no fault in them" rests upon a modified

Hebrew text in which consonants are rearranged to form other

words.77 The Ugaritic 'mss' ("to suck") may be a kindred word. So if

 

72. Cf. Isa. 13:13; 51:6; Jer. 4:28; Joel 2:10; Pss. 57:6; 108:6; deBoer, op.

cit., p. 262. Dahood, op. cit., p. 190, notes a connection between 'eres: and

Ugaritic 'ars' which denotes a region beneath the sea, and between samayim and

Ugaritic 'smm' (heaven).

73. Ibid.

74. Even vs. 11 does not speak of blasphemy, ibid., p. 264.

75. Ibid.; cf. BDB, p. 229; Helmer Ringgren, The Faith of the Psalmists

(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), pp. 44, 45, feels vss. 4-9 describe God's

enemies as beasts. He says vs. 9 has an almost literal parallel in a Ras Shamra text

which states that some mythological beings, who obviously have some connection

with chaos and death, put one lip to the sky and the other to the earth and

drained the water in abundance.

76. Cf. Snaith, Hymns, p.104.

77. Hulst, op. cit., p. 108; BDB, p. 534.



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 175

 

yamossu were read for the MT yimmasu, then the text could be saying

that, like the mythical monsters, the rich swallow the ocean (speaking

metaphorically of greed), leaving nothing for others.'' Kirkpatrick

suggests that the LXX and Syriac may preserve the true reading "my

people," so that the psalmist is speaking with sorrow of his deluded

countrymen. "Waters of fulness are drained by them" may be a

metaphor for the enjoyment of pleasure; or possibly for "imbibing

pernicious principles" (cf. Job 15:16).79

 

vs. 11:

And they say, "How can God know?

Is there knowledge in the Most High?"

The brief quotation "How can God know? Is there knowledge in the

Most High?" is from the lips of the wicked.80 They are not denying the

omniscience of God but his practical knowledge or interest in the

conduct and welfare of the individual. This reveals the dissolution of

man's personal relationship with God.81

 

vs. 12:

Behold, these are the wicked;

always at ease, they increase in riches.

 

These words are the psalmist's, not those of the wicked or their

followers, as in verse 11. The form of the sentence, hineh ("behold"),

indicates a summation.82 The description is one the psalmist would use

for the wicked rather than vice versa (cf. vss. 3-9) The LXX inserts

"And I said" at the beginning of the verse, indicating that the Greek

 

78. Dahood, op. cit., p. 190.

79. Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 434; Leslie, op. cit., p. 419. Another problem is

the meaning of halom ("hither"). Is it an infinitive of the verb halam ("to strike")

and thus related to the action of Num. 20:7? If so, it is difficult to see how the

verse has any relation to the psalm as a whole, Hulst, op. cit., p. 108. Oesterley,

op. cit., p. 341, argues that vs. 10 interrupts the connection between vss. 9 and 11

and would follow well after vs. 5. Briggs says the entire verse was probably

originally a note of consolation which eventually crept into the text, op. cit., p.

144. It is from Maccabean times and looks to the restoration of God's people to

their own land, ibid., p. 142.

80. But one cannot lightly dismiss Kirkpatrick's suggestion that the wicked are

not the speakers, but rather they are the deluded mass of their followers of vs. 10,

op. cit., p. 434.

81. Weiser, op. cit., p. 510; Briggs, op. cit., p. 144.

82. Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 435; cf. Job 5:27; 18:21.



176 Restoration Quarterly

 

translator thought the psalmist was speaking.83 The verse continues the

description of the good fortune of the wicked.

 

vss. 13, 14:

All in vain have I kept my heart clean

and washed my hands in innocence.

For all the day long I have been stricken,

and chastened every morning.

 

zikithi lebhabhi and va'e rehas benigayon kappay ("pure in heart"

and "washed my hands") may be a reference to a ritualistic act: (cf.

26:6; Deut. 21:6,7) but is probably used figuratively here to indicate

the psalmist did not sin in thought or deed. Cleanness of hands is a

means of denoting one's innocence or positive righteousness.84 He has

kept his palms clean from bribery and violence which the wicked have

employed to gain their wealth.85 If the wicked prosper, then his efforts

after holiness have been wasted.86

 

vs. 15:

If I had said, "I will speak thus,"

I would have been untrue to the generation of thy children.

 

bhaghadheti ("I would have betrayed") indicates that the psalmist

was on the point of renouncing his personal relationship with God. He

had considered speaking up and endorsing the thoughts of the wicked,

but he refrains lest he should make faith more difficult for God's

children.87 So his loyalty to the community has kept him from going

this far. Though at the moment he is no longer able to see God, at least

he perceives the fellowship of the believers.88

 

83. Ibid., cf. Dahood, op. cit., p. 191, where he suggests that salwe 'olam

("always") may be a divine title. In the Targumic Aramaic s/ is used of neglecting

God. If this is true, the wicked neglect God in their pursuit of riches, and vss. 11,

12 have three names for God: 'el, "elyon, 'olam.

84. Cf. Job 17:9; 22:30; Pss. 18:24; 24:24; 26:6. Johnson, op. cit., p. 63.

BDB, p. 934; Kissane, op. cit., p. 7; McCullough, op. cit., p. 389. Johnson, op.

cit., p. 77, says "heart" is used with a force which approximates what we call

"mind" or "intellect" (cf. Job 8:10; 12:3; Pss. 77:6; 78:18; 83:5, etc.).

85. Briggs, op. cit., p. 145, but cf. Loren R. Fisher, "An Amarna Age Prodigal"

JJS, 3 (1958), 116, who compares this phrase with the symbolic act of "clearing"

oneself. Through this action he becomes free and clear of his previous

relationship. Cf. Matt. 27:24 and Pilate's action.

86. Cf. Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 435.

87. Weiser, op. cit., p. 511; Dahood, op. cit., p. 191.

88. Weiser, op. cit., p.511.



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 177

 

dor baneka ("generation of thy sons")89 is a direct address to God

rather than the congregation that is present.90 Baneka ("your sons")

refers to the Israelites. "Children" is used in the OT to express Israel's

intimate relationship with God.91

 

vs. 16:

But when I thought how to understand this,

it seemed to me a wearisome task,

hu ("this") refers to the question of why the wicked prosper and

the just suffer. Be'enay means, literally, "for my eyes" and is similar in

thought to Ecclesiastes 8:17.92 The existence of the cult community has

been a signpost pointing him to God and keeping him from betrayal.93

 

vs. 17:

until I went into the sanctuary of God;

then I perceived their end.

 

migdese 'el (God's sanctuary) probably refers to the temple.

Maybe during one of the annual festivals," memories of God's great

 

89. BDB, op. cit., p. 190; Frank J. Neuberg, "An Unrecognized Meaning of

Hebrew DOR," JNES, 9 (1950) 215-217, admits that the OT usually translates

dbr as "generation," but he argues that in three Ugaritic passages it means

"assembly." He thinks "generation of thy sons" is unlikely since the combination

of dbr baneka is exactly the same as Ugaritic dr. bn. Neuberg feels the meaning of

dbr as "assembly" must have fallen into disuse at a rather early date. The LXX

translators are ignorant of it.

90. Dahood, op. cit., p.191.

91. Cf. Ex. 4:22, 23; Deut. 14:1; Isa. 1:2; McCullough, op. cit., p. 390.

92. Dahood, op. cit., p.192.

93. Weiser, op. cit., p.511.

94. The reference may be to the symbolic representation of God's triumph

over the powers of chaos in creation as characterized in the New Year's festival.

But it could refer to the dramatizations of the deliverance from Egypt. The

psalmist experiences the reality of these redemptive events through the cult and

there receives the solution to his problem, Ringgren, op. cit., p. 72. Eichrodt, op.

cit., p. 489, says " . . . it is by direct illumination that the poet's eyes are opened

to the miracle of true fellowship with God." Weiser, op. cit., p. 511, says this

probably refers to an experience in the temple, to an encounter with his God that

was brought about by the theophany which took place in the cult of the

Covenant Festival.



178 Restoration Quarterly

 

acts in the past are revived and the psalmist regains his spiritual

balance.95

le'aharit ("final lot")96 refers to the end of the wicked. He begins

to see life and destiny within the context of God's wisdom rather than

his own.97 Life looks different when viewed against the background of

judgment and death.98 He begins to see life more under the aspect of

eternity. Appearance is not reality.99

 

vs. 18:

Truly thou dost set them in slippery places;

thou dost make them fall to ruin.

 

wehalaqat ("slippery places") is in the plural to denote intensity. It

is sure to come about. The term itself is figurative and refers to the

situation of the wicked.100

lemassu'ot (from nasa, "lift up") probably should read mesho弛th.

 

95. McCullough, op. cit., p. 390. Harris Birkelancl, "The Chief Problem of

Psalm 73:17ff.," ZAW, 67 (1955), 100f., argues that the sanctuary mentioned is

an illegitimate one, the remnant of a pagan sanctuary. He insists that mo'ade 'el

(Ps. 74:8) expresses a legitimate sanctuary, while midqesel 'el signifies the

illegitimate one. When the psalmist came to the remnants of these pagan places

that had been destroyed, they demonstrated to him the fate of paganism and

pagans: they flourish for a time, but then are demolished by Yahweh. Thus vss.

18, 19 also refer to these sanctuaries rather than to wicked human beings. The

devastated sanctuaries have made him realize the uselessness of idols and the

eternal value of communion with God. The temple at Jerusalem has not perished,

for God protects his people.

BDB, op. cit., p. 874, think miqdash refers to "many sacred places in and about

the temple." Eichrodt, op. cit., p. 532n, says they are clearly holy places where

the profane cannot enter. They are areas of God's dealing with men who seek

refuge in him.

Dahood, op. cit., p. 192, says the plural conforms to the frequent Canaanite

practice of employing plural forms for names of dwellings. He argues that

"sanctuary" refers to heaven and that the psalmist is stating his belief in a blessed

existence after death where the glaring inconsistencies of this life will become

intelligible.

Pedersen, op. cit., p. 448, says the poet's action is like that of the Babylonian,

who after being stricken with evil turns to God in his temple.

Briggs regards 17-20 as the addition of a later editor who was not content with

the solution given in vss. 21-26, op. cit., pp. 145, 146.

96. BDB, op. cit., p. 31; cf. Deut. 32:20, 29; Jer. 12:4; 31:17.

97. Macleod, op. cit., p. 420.

98. Weiser, op. cit., pp. 511, 512.

99. Leslie, op. cit., p. 420.

100. Snaith, Hymns, p. 105; BDB, op. cit., p. 325. Dahood, op. cit., p. 192,

prefers "transplant them," reading tistelemo as from satal; cf. Ps. 1:3.



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 179

 

This would make its root sho ("ruins").101

The outward appearance of the life of the wicked is not final. Their

security in life is not based on a firm foundation. God has set them in a

position in which they are continually exposed to ruin.102

 

vs. 19:

How they are destroyed in a moment,

swept away utterly by terrors'!

 

kheragha' ("suddenly," "in a moment")103 actually does not mean

that the wicked have fallen down suddenly. They are still strutting

about in pride. The use of the perfect tense is idiomatic, describing an

action which has so nearly come about that it can practically be

regarded as already having taken place. Thus, despite appearances, the

fate of the wicked is disastrous.104

While Snaith says sapu ("come to an end") is in the plural to indicate

the fulness and completeness of the disaster,105 the RSV seems to

repoint the MT sapu to read supu, the qal passive of sapah ("sweep or

snatch away"). The idea is that the wicked will leave no trace upon the

earth.

 

vs. 20:

They are like a dream when one awakes,

on awaking you despise their phantoms.

 

alam ("image," "dream") is well documented in the Ugaritic 'hlm'

("dream"), but it occurs only here in the Psalter.106

tibzeh ("despise") denotes here "to slight, treat as of slight

importance," as one regards a dream when awaking.107 The wicked,

who now seem so secure in prosperity, are as unsubstantial as a dream.

 

101. BDB, op. cit., p. 996; cf. Snaith, op. cit., p. 105. Dahood thinks this is a

poetic name for the underworld, op. cit., p. 192.

102. Weiser, op. cit., p.512.

103. BDB, p. 921; cf. Job 21 :13.

104. Snaith, Hymns, p. 105.

105. Ibid., p. 106; cf. BDOB, op. cit., p. 692. Dahood, op. cit., p. 193, thinks

the devastation is intended to be a metaphor for Sheol with "terrors" as its

parallel.

106. Cf. Dahood, op. cit., p. 193, who says "terrors" is another poetic

designation for the abode of the dead (cf. Job 18:14).

107. Ibid.; cf. Gen. 25:34.



180 Restoration Quarterly

 

When God intervenes and judges them, he will regard them as a

phantom, illusions, or a dream.108 This

 

... signifies a radical change in man's attitude of mind when he

abandons the ground of visible data as the starting-point of his

thinking and relies on the invisible reality of God to such a

degree that it becomes by faith the unshakable foundation of his

seeing and thinking.109

 

vs. 21:

When my soul was embittered,

when I was pricked in heart,

 

yithammes ("soured, embittered") indicates; that the sight of the

wicked's prosperity and the righteous' adversity soured the

psalmist.110 Kilyotay ("kidneys") are considered the seat of emotion

and affection.111 'Estonan means he was pierced through and through

with envy.112

 

vs. 22:

I was stupid and ignorant,

I was like a beast toward thee.

 

behemot ("beast, animal") may have behemoth in mind.113 The

Hebrew phrase here reads "a beast I was toward thee," which implies

the fundamental difference between human and divine ways of

thinking. He sees all things, and above all himself, in a dimension which

had previously escaped his perception.114

 

vs. 23:

Nevertheless I am continually with thee;

thou dost hold my right hand.

 

108. Kissane, op. cit., p. 7.

109. Weiser, op. cit., p. 512.

110. Dahood, op. cit., p. 194.

111. BDB, op. cit., p. 480; cf. Job 19:27.

112. Ibid., p. 1042; Snaith, op. cit., p. 106. Dahood reads "had dried up" and

adds that just as milk, when it begins to sour, hardens, so the psalmist has

hardened through his soured mind, op. cit., p. 194. Oesterley, with Kittel, feels vs.

21 should be placed between vss. 16 and 17, op. cit., p. 341.

113. Ibid., p. 97; cf. Job 40:15. Terrien says this might refer to the

hippopotamus, the colossus of flesh and the symbol of stupidity, The Psalms and

Their Meaning for Today (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1952), p. 258.

114. Weiser, op. cit., p. 513.



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 181

 

wa'ani ("but I") opens the final strophe with this certainty of God's

final victory, giving the psalmist the courage to remain with his God in

spite of everything. The pious man cannot help seeing God as his only

refuge, even if his plight leads him to doubt God's goodness and

power.115

"To be at someone's right hand" (beyadh yemini) is to be in the

place of honor (cf.1 Kgs. 2:19; Pss. 45:9; 80:17) and "to have someone

at one's right hand" is normally to enjoy his protection or support (Pss.

16:8; 109:31; 110:5; 121:5).116

 

In his view, to believe means to hold on to a permanent

relationship of his life with God in the assurance that God will

sustain him when man is no longer able to walk in his own

strength.117

 

vs. 24:

Thou dost guide me with thy counsel

and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.

 

ve'ahar ("after these things"), an adverb, normally signifies "at a

later time," but its precise meaning is debated.118 kabhodh tiqqaheni

("take me to honor") could be a reference to something like the

'translation' of Enoch (Gen. 5:24). But one cannot be certain if the

phrase refers to life beyond death. A great number of scholars do not

think so. Mowinckel says the belief in the resurrection came as a result

of Persian ideas119 and that expressions like this point out the

assurance that Yahweh will never fail his pious ones in times of mortal

peril but will deliver them from evil and sudden death till they die "old

and full of days." This faith deepened in later Judaism. "Psalm 73

shows how near even ancient Israel might approach to it: the bliss of

communion with God becomes the highest value, going on beyond life

and death."120 He adds,121

 

115. Ringgren, op. cit., pp. 72, 29; see note 19.

116. Johnson, op. cit., p. 52, 52n; but in the law courts, apparently, it was

customary for the accuser to stand at the right hand of the defendant (Ps. 109:6;

Zech. 3:1).

117. Weiser, op. cit., p.513.

118. McCullough, op. cit., p. 1391.

119. Mowinckel, op. cit., p. 241.

120. Ibid.

121. Ibid.



182 Restoration Quarterly

 

But if the word ('translation') were to have this sense in Psalms

49 and 73, then 73:24, at any rate it would imply the doctrine

that the pious person--or just the suppliant himself?謡as carried

away directly when dying, or without dying, and that would be

something quite different from the Jewish faith in resurrection.

Snaith denies any resurrection faith here and argues that ve'ahar

means "after these temporary distresses" and that kabod means glory

or honor in the things of this, life.122

Gunkel and Schmidt emend the text so that it refers to the present

life only. Gunkel would read "and in the path thou dost make me

strong in heart," while Schmidt regroups certain consonants so as to

read "thou drawest me by the hand after thee." Their emendations rest

simply on their belief that the idea of the future life was incompatible

with the thought world of the psalmists.123

It may be that the LXX, followed by the Vulgate, sees no reference

to a future life, for it renders "in thy counsel didst thou guide me, and

with glory didst thou receive me."124

Dahood thinks the psalmist does refer to his belief in eternal union

with God in a future life.125 Rowley admits that if 23ff. refer only to

this life, then the poet has an odd way of expressing it, for he speaks of

God receiving him, rather than giving him some material blessing. He

first declares he enjoys fellowship with God now, and then he says God

will receive him; so it must be of future fellowship that he speaks. This

may be an incipient faith that God will continue to be a source of

well-being after death. But this future life is a hope, not a doctrine.126

Eternal life does not seem to be the real issue of the verse but is rather a

description of the psalmist's joy at God's nearness. Regardless of how

one interprets the verse, the psalmist has received the faith to overcome

his present difficulties.

 

vs. 25:

Whom have I in heaven but thee?

And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.

 

122. Norman H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament (London:

Epworth Press, 1950), p. 89n; cf. Eichrodt, op. cit., p. 522.

123. James, op. cit., p. 210.

124. Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 439.

125. Dahood, op. cit., p. 194.

126. H. H. Rowley, The Faith of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press,

1956), p. 173.



Smith: A Crisis in Faith 183

 

His joy is in his communion with God now. God is the prize

possession. When one has God, he has all he needs.127

 

vs. 26:

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for

ever.

 

she'eri ulbhabhi ("my flesh and nay heart") describe the whole man

(body and soul) in his earthy corporeity.128 Flesh is often associated

with psychical functions (Pss. 84:11f.; 16:9; 99:120; .lob 4:15).129

Though his body and mind fail, God remains his certain possession.130

vs. 27:

For lo, those who are far from thee shall perish;

thou dost put an end to those who are false to thee.

 

zoneh ("commit whoredom, play the harlot") refers to all Israelites

who are faithless to the covenant. The figure of marriage is used to

express the closeness of God and his people (cf. Hos. 2:2ff.; Isa.

54:5, 6), and apostasy is regarded as infidelity to the marriage vow.

(cf. Hos. 4:15; Isa. 57:3; Ps. 106:39).131

 

vs. 28:

But for me it is good to be near God;

I made the Lord God my refuge,

that I may tell of all thy works.

 

qirbat elohim ("nearness of God") is a final declaration by the

 

127. Cf. Sheldon H. Blank, "The Nearness of God and Psalm Seventy-Three,"

To Do and to Teach: Essays in Honor of Charles Lynn Pyatt. (Lexington: College

of the Bible, 1953), pp. 9-13, where he points out that the nearness of God may

be regarded as a threat (Gen. 11:5-9; Judg. 5:4; Isa. 8:9-10) or as a boon (Isa.

50:8; Job 31:35; Ps. 23). There are three categories of people who enjoy God's

presence as a boon: God's people, Israel collectively; elect of God, individuals like

Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah; and the "crushed," "lowly," or "broken-hearted," like

Job and the author of Ps. 73.

128. Eichrodt, op. cit., p. 522; cf. Dahood, op. cit., p. 196, for the idea of a

new heart and body.

129. Johnson, op. cit., p. 38. von Rad, op. cit., p. 404, says 23ff. is a spiritual

exegesis of the ancient phrase "I am thy portion."

130. McCullough, op. cit., p. 391.

131. Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 439; Briggs, op. cit., p. 147. The latter thinks 27

& 28 are Maccabean glosses.



184 Restoration Quarterly

 

psalmist that he has great confidence in God and is relieved of his

doubts as to his goodness.

mal'akhotheykha unexpectedly shifts from the third person in the

preceding colon to the second person. A similar phenomenon occurs

in Pss. 22:26, 28; 102:16. These may be examples of Hofstil (court

style) which in a Phoenician inscription shifts from a first-person

reference to the king to a third-person reference.132

The LXX reads "that I may declare all thy praises in the gates of

the daughter of Zion," as in 9:14. Kirkpatrick says though this may

preserve the original sense, the present text sounds incomplete.133

 

Conclusions

 

Psalm 73 is a deeply personal psalm of thanksgiving that contains

some aspects of wisdom poetry perhaps due to some adoption from

the cult in wisdom circles. It appears to be post-exilic in origin,

though this is debatable. The psalm is a forceful testimony to a man

who has learned to commit himself to God despite terrific struggles

and doubts as to God's goodness.

He begins the psalm with the conclusion he has reached in his

struggle. God is indeed upright and just to his pious ones. But the

psalmist admits that he had come to a crisis in his faith when he saw

the wicked prospering while God's righteous ones suffered. The

wicked live polluted lives, yet feel no pain. God's people live pure

lives and are stricken with oppression. The psalmist was at the point

of voicing his remorse publicly but remained silent out of consideration

of his people's faith. After the psalmist's vision has been

illumined in God's sanctuary, he comes to see that appearances do

not tell the whole story. The wicked have no real security. God has

exposed them to ruin. Their fate is disastrous. The psalmist realizes

that he enjoys-the blessed presence of God in his life. This is of more

value than any earthly possession. When a man has God, he has

everything he needs. This is the gospel he can share with others.

 

132. Dahood, op. cit., pp. 196, 84.

133. Op. cit., p. 439.

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Restoration Quarterly Corporation

P. O. Box 28227

Abilene, TX 79699-8227

www.restorationquarterly.org

 

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: thildebrandt@gordon.edu