Psalms: Readings in Biblical Poetry

BIB 8209

Bernard Revel Graduate School

Fall 2004: Mordechai Cohen

Syllabus (Original in PDF)

Bibliography, Final, Notes, Term Paper


In-depth analysis of selected psalms with special attention to genre, literary style, historical setting and expressions of religious sentiment. Major trends in modern scholarship: the historical approach; form-criticism; modern literary methods.


Preparation of sources and readings on the syllabus prior to each class, before which a short quiz will be given. Familiarity with studies and commentaries in the bibliography below, pp. 4-5. Final examination (class fifteen). Research paper (15-20 pages) on a topic chosen in consultation with the professor. Please bring a Tanach (without English) to each class.

Primary source notations:

* - Crucial source; to be reviewed for every subsequent class

[] - Already seen on a previous assignment

()- Study briefly, mainly for comparison with other sources.



Class 1: Introduction; Four Phases of Psalms Scholarship

Class 2: Historical Context; Form Criticism

Class 3: Lament and Thanksgiving

Class 4: The Lament-Thanksgiving Continuum

Class 5: Convention vs. Creativity

Class 6: Imagery

Class 7: Theory of New Criticism

Class 8: Parallelism

Class 9: Close Reading of Psalms 51, 130

Class 10: Communal Lament

Class 11: Mythical Elements in the Communal Lament

Class 12: Thanksgiving, Individual and Communal

Class 13: Hymns

Class 14: Cultic Setting

  1. Psalms 47, 93, (96, 97, 98, 99) 
  2. Psalms 46, 48, (76, 87) 
  3. Psalms 8*, 19A, 104; compare Ps 148 
  4. Psalms (78, [105],) 135-136 

For the Final (class 15)


Alonso-Schöckel, Luis. "The Poetic Structure of Psalm 42-43," JSOT 1 (1976) 4-21

Alonso-Schöckel, Luis. A Manual of Hebrew Poetics (Rome, 1988) (It's 17 Mbytes, so please right-click and select "Save Target as..."  Requires a password to open this file since it is copyrighted.)

Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Poetry (New York, 1985)

Alter, Robert. "Psalms," The Literary Guide to the Bible, ed., R. Alter and F. Kermode (Cambridge, MA, 1987), 244-262. Findings of recent Psalms scholarship; modern literary criticism.

Cohen, Mordechai Z. "'The Best of Poetry': Literary Approaches to the Bible in the Spanish Peshat Tradition," The Torah U-Madda Journal 6 (1995/6): 15-57. 

Gunkel, Hermann. The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction, trans., T. Homer (Philadelphia, 1967). Abridged version of Gunkel's seminal work. 5th floor library folder ("Gunkel") 

Kugel, James. The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History (New Haven, 1980)

Sarna, Nahum. On the Book of Psalms (New York, 1993). Essays on selected Psalms; emphasis on historical setting. Uses, but does not confine himself to, form criticism.

Simon, Uriel. Four Approaches to the Book of Psalms: From Sa'adia Gaon to Abraham Ibn Ezra (New York, 1991)

Watson, Wilfred G.E. Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to Its Techniques (Sheffield, 1986)

Weiss, Meir. The Bible from Within (Jerusalem, 1984). Applies modern literary theory to biblical literature; polemics against form-criticism.

Westermann, Claus. Praise and Lament in the Psalms, trans. KR. Crim and R.N. Soulen (Atlanta, 1981). Revises genres identified by Gunkel; outlines their literary structure.

Westermann, Claus. The Psalms: Structure, Content and Message, trans., RD. Gehrke (Minneapolis, 1980).


(Straus: Mikoma shel Hayitzira Bimtziut, Pirkei Tehillim)




Dahood, Mitchell. The Anchor Bible: Psalms (New York, 1965-70; 3 volumes). Focuses on (and at times overstates) Ugaritic parallels to Psalms.

Gerstenberger, Erhard. The Forms of the Old Testament Literature, Vol. XIV: Psalms, Part 1 (Grand Rapids, 1988); Vol. XV Psalms, Part 2 and Lamentations (Grand Rapids, 2001). Meticulous application of form criticism.

Word Biblical Commentary (good overall commentary with extensive bibliography): 

NOTES (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14)

9/7/2004 Class 1: Introduction; Four Phases of Psalms Scholarship 

The lack of narrative in Psalms creates  an emphasis in the Man to God direction of communication.  Feelings are intensified by the use of language.

Four Phases of Psalms scholarship

  1. Chazal, Midrash.  See end of syllabus above for the three Midrashim on Psalms.  Some of these are designed to describe the historical setting of the Psalmist, and some use Psalms to describe the historic (meta-historic?) setting of the darshan, including references to Islam (which are useful in dating the Midrash!).
  2. Mesorat HaP'shat.  Commentators from the Ashkanazi school-- like Rashi (who should probably be seen as a bridge between the drash and pshat phase) and R' Yoseph Kara--and  the Spanish school--Ibn Ezra--and those combining the two schools--Radak, Meiri.  

    While the Spanish school and the Ashkenazi school (from Rashbam and his followers) recognized the poetic nature of Psalms, including the use of anaphora ("tardid" in Arabic), others see the repetitions as omni significant (Kugel's term). For instance, in Shirat Hayyam: ימינך יהוה נאדרי בכוח, ימינך יהוה תרעץ אויב.  .  Rashi sees the second "right hand of God" indicating a specific occurrence, that would not be known of the anaphora was absent.  (The change of the left hand to the right, and merciful, hand of God, what He destroys Israel's enemies.)  (In  modern times, the Malbim is the great champion of omni- significance.  See his commentary for Isaiah.)  Rashbam merely states "Harbei Mikraot Dugmato" (i.e., "many verses display repetition, and one shouldn't read too much into it," paraphrase mine!), and in fact manuscript evidence seems to point to Rashi's acceptance of Rashbam's point, and Rashi referred to these verses as "Shmuel's verses."  Modern scholarship calls this type of format "staircase parallelism."

    Another example of the poetic use is the more common use of the yktl form to indicate past tense  See for example 116:1-2.  "Yishma" is almost certainly past tense, in accordance with "Hitta" in the following verse.   This flexibility in tense was pointed out by Avraham Ibn Ezra (? I think) to exist in Arabic, where the yktl can be used for future and present, and only the addition of SVF or the prefix S will guarantee that the the tense is future.
  3. Form Critisism.  Stems from the desire to define the historical setting of the Hebrew religion, within the context of the ANET.  Form critics attempt to determine the Sitz im Leben of the Psalms, i.e. to determine its genre.  By doing so, one can supposedly reconstruct the religious environment in which it was penned.  E.G. Lament in Psalm #6.  This tactic also seems to be in use by medieval commentators.  Form instance, in Psalm 6 the Radak, while admitting that "pshatwise" "Al Hasheminit" means a instrument of some type, cites Midrashim that assert that Hasheminit is either the 8 conquerors of Israel or recovery from a circumcision  n the eighth day.  

    (Based on a question that I asked, Dr. Cohen pointed us to an article by Cassuto.  who points out that the literary style of Biblical Poetry was well used in Ugarit, and both are probably inherited from an even older Canaanite literary style.  However, while this show stylistic affinity, as far as I know,  no native- Ugaritic Psalm-like literature was found (with certainty) in Ugarit.  I'm interested to know of other ANET sources are used to supply the metric for genre determination, or if the mertic is intra bible.  For instance, do we "know" that Psalm 6 is a "just got better" psalm, because the same words are used by Hezekeiya after he "just got better" or is there external evidence that the word pairs of "Yordei Bor/Sheol" and "Mi Yode Lach" and others were commonly used post-illness.)
  4. Literary criticism. "New Criticism" argues that Form Criticism and (old) Literary Criticism have external motives that cloud the analysis of individual Psalms (i.e. historical analysis), and that each Psalm should be weighed on its own internal merits.  More on this next lesson.

Assignment: Try to classify the assigned psalms, and try to identify their structure.  Compare the life-setting with Hannah and Hezekiah.  Keep a look out for two prayers by Hannah in I Samuel. 

9/14/2004 Class 2: Historical Context; Form Criticism

Cassutto on "How did Hebrew writing start off so polished?"

1.      Can’t be borrowed from Akkadian / Egyptian (like medieval lit. borrowed from Islam) since:

a.       Language unknown to the masses

b.      Religion of A/E to foreign for religious works

c.       Too many aspects of the literary style just don’t translate

2.      Can be from an earlier Canaanite literature

4th phase: literary approach.  New critisism of the earlier 20th century.

Assignment for next time

Read Westerman carefully.  How does he break down the major genres?  Calls Thanksgiving “praise.”  Why?  How does he identify structure of a lament (Tefilla, bi’Et Tzara) in 80, 54, 3.

Read FOTL.  Try to apply Genre breakdown based on the readings.

In laments:

The motif of, if I am dead I can’t praise you, and the dead won’t recognize you.  Form critics looked for these common motifs.  See Uriel Simon for one interested in  Literary approach reacts against FC, accusing them of simplification into forms of tradition, rather than individual authorship.  LC says each critic is unique.  Weiss denies that connection .  Extreme.  Others recognize the connections and forms, but they see them as tools in the hands of the authors.  For instance, in 38, personal admission of guilt is much more dominant than in the other laments.  This confession of guilt can also be found in Isaiah 38 in Hezekiah’s famous letter.  116, has thanksgiving, following a description of lament. 

106 works well with FC since it describes the sitz in leben.  It gives the situations, and an instruction of what to say in each situation.  The thanksgiving (or praise) is intended for public use.  So too 100.  (Although one can’t say 100 is a thanks since there were no troubles, so FC’s call this a hymn.)   Note that Hana’s prayer doesn’t focus so much on her situation, its more a recognition of God’s greatness.    This indicates a non-rigidity of the Genre. 

Alter on Repetition in Psalm 13 in Biblical Poetry

Even FC’s recognize that there is crossover and overlap in between elements.  116 has “I am giving a thanksgiving.” See also Yir 33:11 where he mentions the cessation of the thanksgiving hymn  This hymn also shows up in 116.  


Cassuto understands this as a literary convention, specifically of Ugarit and the Cannanite predecessor.  

Note that Yad and Chetz are not common.  There seems to be escalation, rather than equivalence.    Metom vs. Shalom, is a movement from one to the other.  The parallels are often sort of non-parallel, breaking the mode in order to make a stronger .  And the ViAta H' Ad Matay breaks the parallel. 

Literary Criticism

Division between community and individual lament.

88    starts with an introductory petition, a description that there is a prayer coming up.

There are three forms of complaint I, Thee, They

88 never gets to petition.  It falls back into the same complaint that it had in the middle section.  Hirchakta Meyuda’a mimeni 

In Mizmor 3, the suffix form at the end works as a future sure event

1.      Invocation

2.      Complaint

3.      Petition

4.      Trust

5.      Vow

6.      Anticipated thanksgiving

Assignment for 9/28.  Focus on Westermann on the continuum of the lament and the thanksgiving.  What elements are shared.  New Mizmorim Yona 2 and 2 Chron 20.  Key question: how to understand the last verse of psalm 13.  Look up all the opinions and see how the last verse fits in to the psalm

10/12/2004 Class 4: The Lament-Thanksgiving Continuum

What happens when a prayer doesn’t match the siz im leben, such as when Chanah sings a hymn when we would expect a thanksgiving?  So too Yonah, giving thanks when he was still in the belly of the fish.  Another problem, related, is the hybrid psalm.  Psalm 22, for example has a turnaround at verse 23, but don’t be confused by verse 9 which is a statement of confidence.

Another example is Psalm 40, but here the praise comes before the lament, so why is he still complaining?  Amos Chacham says that he was saved from one despair, but still has another difficulty to overcome.  In Psalm 41 we also have an internal lament sandwiched by a thanksgiving.  See also 116:4 and 30:10.  In these cases, the lamentation serves as a reminder and a counterpart.  Psalm 40 is a bit more difficult since the Lament is disconnected from the thanksgiving.  Westermann speaks of a Lament Thanksgiving continuum where both elements are present in single psalms but some emphasis thanksgiving and others emphasize lament.
Focusing on Psalm 13’s final verse, one might say that it is super

1.      Confidence, as expected in the form

2.      A later interpolation, which served to change a lament into a thanksgiving

3.      The result of an Oracle

4.      The statement of the lament itself promotes confidence.

10/19/2004 Class 5: Convention vs. Creativity

Historical / form / cultic / interpretive schools all share in their attempt to discover/uncover the historical background framework. 

Psalms 13 (The problem us the shockingly sudden shift from despair and prayer to super-confidence that assumes that all problems of no more concern): Amos Chacham criticizes for criticism since (1) the genres mix and intermingle (2) the expected genre doesn’t always show up in the narrative sections (e.g. Hanna’s Hymn (! thanksgiving expected), Yona’s Thanksgiving (! Petition expected)

M. Weiss has a solution that the prayer itself resolves the despair, since the problems induced by the self-exclusion are resolved before the last verse in their very formulation, allowing the last verse to be stated.  (Of course, the enemies according to Weiss must be internal inventions, his own despair, since how could flesh-and-blood enemies be routed to an internal change by the singer.)

Hoffman suggests that the conventions exist, but they used by the author to exercise an independent statement.  Note that in Psalm 88, the psalm rolls back for a second lament where one expects petition, confidence, and/or vows.  From these we can deduce that conventions indeed existed, and that the author uses the formal element, much as he would use the words themselves, to create an individual and unique literary work.  The also demonstrates the lateness of the work, since the fewer formal element, especially used in this way indicate the existence of older, more entrenched forms.

In Psalms 61 and 62 there is mostly confidence (or Wisdom).  These leads Gunkel to assume that the simple forms are earlier in the history of Psalms development (actually, he would probably say religious and social Israelite development, as he doesn’t think much of the ancient Israelite religion, describing images such as petitioners rolling around in the dirt begging for mercy in a primitive, naïve, and unsophisticated matter suiting to the limited religious capabilities of the ancient soul.)  Hoffman feels that these are later since the newer authors are “playing with” the older, more cut-in-stone tripartite formula (Lament, Petition, Confidence), extracting just the element that they wanted for their personalized poem.

Psalm 23: Note the switch from 3rd person to second person in verse 4.  Is this a petition?  If so, does it call on lament forms? 

See the Malbim on Psalm 27. 

Psalm 27 cannot be a standard lament, since the speaker is speaking about God, and not to God.  Only in verse 7 does it turn towards God as in a standard lament.  However, note that within this unique 3rd person perspective we have an implied Lament of the Individual:

יְהוָה, אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי--מִמִּי אִירָא;
יְהוָה מָעוֹז-חַיַּי,    מִמִּי אֶפְחָד
Implied invocation

בִּקְרֹב עָלַי, מְרֵעִים--    לֶאֱכֹל אֶת-בְּשָׂרִי:
צָרַי וְאֹיְבַי לִי;    הֵמָּה כָשְׁלוּ וְנָפָלוּ
Implied lament

אִם-תַּחֲנֶה עָלַי, מַחֲנֶה--    לֹא-יִירָא לִבִּי:
אִם-תָּקוּם עָלַי, מִלְחָמָה--    בְּזֹאת, אֲנִי בוֹטֵחַ.
Implied lament

אַחַת, שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת-יְהוָה--    אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ:
שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-יְהוָה,    כָּל-יְמֵי חַיַּי;
לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם-יְהוָה,    וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ.
Implied petition

כִּי יִצְפְּנֵנִי, בְּסֻכֹּה--    בְּיוֹם רָעָה:
יַסְתִּרֵנִי, בְּסֵתֶר אָהֳלוֹ;    בְּצוּר, יְרוֹמְמֵנִי.
Implied confidence

 וְעַתָּה יָרוּם רֹאשִׁי, עַל אֹיְבַי סְבִיבוֹתַי,    וְאֶזְבְּחָה בְאָהֳלוֹ, זִבְחֵי תְרוּעָה;
אָשִׁירָה וַאֲזַמְּרָה,    לַיהוָה
Implied vow.

The second half is more negative

10/26/2004  Class 6: Imagery

39:2-4 rebels from the form by describing a preface to the psalm.  The structure sees to be:

a1)  Silence (2-4)

b1)  Complaint (5-7)

c1)  Prayer (8-9)

a2)  Silence (10)

b2)  Prayer (with a bit o’ complaint) (11-

c2)  Prayer/complaint, or better, and anti-prayer: “leave me alone…”

This end piece is unique in it’s sharpness, although similar despair can be seen in Psalm 88.  See Ibn Ezra on 88 about the gadol who would hear or say that psalm.

For next time, Alter vs. Strauss, Shokel, compare 42:7-9 Rashi vs. Ibn Ezra.  Look for Rambam do separate the aesthetic from meaning

Look for נפשי in M”B 1:6 (?), and see commentators.  A bit more in Psalm 23.

11/2/2004 Class 7: Theory of New Criticism

In Pslam 131 Gemul means a comfort level.  The Psalmist is saying that just like a child is satisfied in the comfort of his/her mother’s embrace, so to is his inner self (nefesh: emotional soul? Religious soul?) satisfied with its sense of self ( they “ay” part of “alay”).  This matches the rest of the Psalm, which was struggling with the need not to go beyond oneself.  (Tzimtum in the words of Strauss.)

Psalm 42-43: Read Shockel’s “Manual of Poetics” or Watson’s “Classical Hebrew Poetry”  The psalm is unique in that it begins with a simile (which breaks from the form critical categories.)  In verse 2, the passive “I will be seen” matches Exodus 34:33, which clearly creates refers to pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Note the shift from 2nd person to 3rd person.  Add this shift to the change from the weaker Ta’arog to the stronger Tzimaon, creates a sense of increasing distancing from God.  Gikatilla on Psalms (read Uriel Simon, 4 approaches to the book of Psalms) is very historical, which in in these psalm is easier to place.

Note the Alay/Nafshi dichotomy that we leaned in Psalm 131.  The “ay” is complaining to the nefesh: what are you doing “tishtochah”ing, get it together and pray to God!

Verse 7 moves into lament.  Ibn Ezra says that this is actually the pleasurable memory of pilgrimage past, with children splashing, etc. described in v. 8a.  A real joy of life scene, thus the lament turns to happiness.

Extending into Psalm 53 (the continuation of Psalm 52) contrast “bring” me in v. 3 with the “I will come” in v. 4.  Confidence is definitely at play.  But in v. 5 reality sets in.  Dr. Cohen feel that the movement from water, which are images of a youth past, to light/darkness which indicate self actualization of the present.  I think, based on the connection between “keidar” as darkness, but also as water imagery in Job 6:15, and the idea of אַחַי בָּגְדוּ כְמוֹ נָחַל;    כַּאֲפִיק נְחָלִים יַעֲבֹרוּ , one could posit the questionable reliability of water as an anchor for memory.  Or as princess Leah says: “the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip though your fingers.”

11/9/2004 Class 8: Parallelism

Read Pierre Ofre article: The structure of Psalm 51

Manuel of Poetics

In 23 there is a shift in imagery, from a sheep being guided to (and one needs to ask if this is still drawing on metaphor, or whether it’s a standard expression for something that is no longer a metaphor [a dead metaphor]) but either way, the following verses continue with the pastoral imagery, so even if the metaphor was dead, it is reanimated by the companion images.  However, the human starts to show up in v. 4.,  The Comfort “nachum” seems to tend towards a human.  The Radak mentions that we are moving from metaphorical to realistic speech.  Why?  Note that change from Yinahaleini to Yanchuni (poetic) to yenachameini (less poetic and more real).  The Malbim points out that Yirdefuni is a negative sense (shelo bitovati) since it’s only due to his promotion from being a shepherd to king that all the troubles of being a King are setting in.  

New scholarship wants to know what the images speak locally.  How does these images help us understand THIS text.  (Extremely, they would argue to avoid history, since it obscures the text.) (Of course, the whole promotion idea assumed a Dividic history.) 


Lowth takes a step farther by saying that parallelism is a necessary part of poetry.  Radak and Ibn Ezra want to minimize it since extra words cause friction in a holy text.  Empty space is undesirable. Moshe ibn Ezra is unhappy with empty repetition since its not as advanced as Arabic poetry.  Lowth says that repetitions is the defining factor of poetry.  Unfortunately, wherever it doesn’t exist, he has to chuck into synthetic parallelisms anything that doesn’t fit. 

Kugel disagrees and says that all forms are an ________ / _________//. (A + B, or seconding).  And even synonymous parallelism is a mere byproduct of the A+B form.  In 142 v.2 and 3 there is a move not only to increase, but demetaphorization.   In v. 4 the A B1 B2 C move used B1 and B2 just to move the forward “narrative.” (See Idel Berlin) 

(See Malbim on 27:1 and 92:??)  But Malbim is stuck with differentiating every word, whereas K&A don’t have to stick to 100 significance.  But in addition, Malbim allows for no literary method, whereas K&A allow for a literary method/convention in addition to the significance.  Alter notes that the artist uses the conventions to create an individual statement.  See p. 24 “Let me spell out...converts the formal limitations …into an occasion for artistic expression.” 

Ballast Variant

Moshe Ibn ezra notes the use of ballasting “Washu B’th Leakkma Wzn” (Fill the house to create balance.)

11/16/2004 Class 11: Mythical Elements in the Communal Lament

Next Week:  Thanksgiving Genre.  Foxus on text.  USe commentary to draw a map of components.  Individual and Communal.

Cassuto feels that the genre of the epic influences biblical literature.  He believes the BL rebels against the existing literature, as oposed to Eurpean scholars who liked to see it as the same old, same old.

Psalm 89 for 106 (?) note the communal lament is really an admission of guilt.  Compare Nahemia 9 for the sitz im leben as part of the cultic service.  See also Yoel and Yona.  See Nehemia 9:18 for compassion: a) God's acts of kindness, b) confession, and c) petition.

Psalm 105: see I Chronicles 16 for the sitz im leben.  The introduction of the ark. See also Ps 96.  There is a Higher Critisism question: Did David take it from an existing Psalm, and adapt it, or did David (re?)write it for his own use.  See Ps 51 for a reworked psalm (last two verses). See the Ibn Ezra on 89:1.  Note also that Ps 131 is changed from individual to communal by the last verse.  Also Ps 13.  Compare  51:13 to 36:26.  Reinterpretation of 51 for communal needs (?).  

History used as an example on which t base one's hopes.  See Amos Hakham on Ps 79.  Chasmonaim borrowed this psalm.  

Compare 14 to 57 (vow to praise) and 60.  How are the Genres put together for a new cmposition.  Compare 126 and 40.  See A. Hakham on 126.

11/23/2004 Class 10: Communal Lament

Next Week: More CL.  See Cassuto, and check what issues Meir Weiss has with Westermann.   See Ibn Ezra on 89:1 and last two verses of 51.

Amos Hakham is always trying to fins a historical setting for the psalm, whereas Westermann and Gerstenberger are always looking for a sitz im leben. Note that Joel  (1-2)  is more dramatic that Chronicles (II Chronicles 20) since Joel is involved in the matter, rather then just being an historical account.  

Psalm 79 has Invocation->complaint->petition (with justification)->vow to praise.   

The reflection of past salvation can be either a confidence (83, see also 54[?]; note the move from singular to plural; v. 2-9 is all good) or complaint (80, 74).

See 74:11, and compare to 60's Hohia yemincha va'aneini.

Gerstenberger: protector of Deity.  Compare oath in 44 to the oath in 7.  

Notice that in the narratives we see the vow to priase.

The oracle appears (maybe in 85) (See Saadya Geon?)

Note that in Yirmiyahu (Ch 14) he calls for an oracle, but God says "No."

12/21/2004 Class 12: Thanksgiving, Individual and Communal

Next week: Hymns.  Read Amos Hakham’s response to form criticism, and review Alter’s as well.  How would Westermann respond to these?  Read Westermann on Hymns and Praises.  Why does he object to the term “Hymn?”  What term does he use instead?  What is the difference or connection between Community Thanksgivings and Hymns.

Form critics say that the second half of Ps 22 can’t be a standalone CP since there’s no narrative inside, relying instead on the previous part of the psalm.    Westermann says this is a lament that is converted to a praise, like Ps 13.  See also 67 which ends with praise, but the praise is not complete.  Look at 116 for the completion of this praise started in 67.  A CP/IP picks up where the lament (with a positive ending) ends off. 

In 108, the psalm is made up of 57 (1st half) and 60 (2nd half).  108 opens up with praise, a sign of thanksgiving.  This is how 57, an IL ends off.  Where the latter ends off with confidence and a vow to praise.  This vow of praise is  picked up by 108, and the conclusion of despair taken from 60 merely recalls a past history, even though we never hear a  resolution.

A Classic expression of confidence is sacrifice  

CT Structure
A:  Announcement
B:  Salvation summary
C:  Salvation narrative.
D: 2nd proclamation or announcement.  Now I’m bringing a sacrifice.

But in Ps 40 there is a rejection of sacrifice.  He comes instead with “something written down.”  This may be referring to the lament which will be introduced in the 2nd half of the psalm.  In Psalm 30, the singer doesn’t even have to mention the sacrifice.  What’s unique in Ps 30 is an admission of guilt: "I never appreciated it when things were going well"

More on the Thanksgiving structure

Ps 116:  1) Subdued call to praise 2) Salvation narrative 

Difference between thanksgiving and praise is that thanksgiving is for something done for me, but I can praise God for anything, including things that he has done for anybody, or at any time.

In Deut 26 we have 1) a call for thanksgiving, 2) a salvation narrative, 3) another call of thanksgiving.

Scholars on Psalm 66 A) Hymn  B) Community thanks  C) Individual Thanks.

For CP see Shirat Hayam

Psalm 124 is not fully bright.  We still sense the danger.  Even the last verse means that we still have problems.

Where did all the Communal Thanksgivings go?  Amos Hacham reads 118 as a community Thanksgiving, perhaps to find a communal thanksgiving, but it may be a stretch.

 Psalm 123 and 125.

Not fully developed.  One is a CT and the other is confidence.  The generic conventions seems to have fallen apart.  Simpler.  Are they Second Temple psalms?

12/28/2004 Class 13: Hymns

Next time: Give titles to the four groups of hymns, focus on Sarna's reaction to Mowinkle.
Form Criticism:
Hymn (e.g. Ps 117)
1. Call to praise
2. Praise
    a. God of History
    b. God of creation

Ps 150 is all a call to praise

Ps 148
1. Section A (Heaven) God of Creation
    a. Call, Call, Call, Call
    b. Why we need to call, i.e. praise
2. Section B (Earth) God of Creation
    a. Why we need to call, Why, Why, Why
    b. Call to praise
3. Section C (God of History)
    a. Call to praise
    b. God of History

Note that Ps 33 ends with a lament/prayer.  A Hckam says don’t over define forms, since they can be reinterpreted at the time that they are read.  Westermann argues that L->T->L->…is all one continuum.

Westermann on Hymns: Can be defined as
(a)    Literary units (so Buber [find article] on Ps 1, read and learn Tehillim like a torah; hence the 5 books.  Message of PS 1 at the beginning of the final canonized Psalter) 
(b)   A cultig/liturgical purpose (which later becomes spiritualized, moving away from the cult.  So Gunkle.  Note also Ps 40: az amarti, hinei bati, bimgilat keter katuv alai.
(c)    Prayer, so Westermann.  Spontaneous prayer formalizes LATER into liturgy and cultic use

Where is the CT?  It is in the H, i.e. Ps 136!  CL don’t have an immediate vow to praise since the horizon is longer on the national level, and the solutions don’t come as quickly.  Hence the recollection of History.
(E: It seems that the perfect Form critical categories is that there they all one.)

1/3/2005 Class 14: Cultic Setting

For the Final

When reading Gunkel, pay attention between cultic vs. spiritualized psalm, which is related to the conventional vs. the creative/free psalms. Look at critiques of Gunkel.  Look at imagery, diction and parallelism.  Shift in imagery in 42/43, 23.  Note when the form is broken, e.g. in 74 when we’re looking for an oracle, but it doesn’t appear.  Or where we’re looking for a sacrifice, but it just won’t do. 

4 Types of Hymns

The attempt to categorize os to discover the sitz im leben.

1.      Ps. [47, 93, (96, 97, 98, 99).] Enthronement hymns.  Cassutto would argue a literary connection to the enthronement mythology, but not a literal one.   Amos Hacham comments on enthronement psalms.  Another possibility for another possibility for defining this genre.  Word suggests on Ps. 47 that this is a victory psalm (v. 4).  This makes it a communal thanksgiving, and not just a hymn.

2.      Psalms (78, [105],) 135-136 .  Liturgical use.  (Hackam says Hag Hassukot)  David took 105A (history hymn) and 96 (enthronement psalm) to finish off the liturgy used for the introduction of the Aron.  Note 105-106 become a community lament in the last verse.  All a continuum.  These history psalms are used on other psalms, and may have been used as a thanksgiving psalm to link the current salvation with previous victories.  This creates a broader horizon for national salvation.

3.      Psalms 46, 48, (76, 87).  Zion Psalms.   In 48, H likes liturgical over thanksgiving after war.  Sarna says war, but not right after but on an anniversary that recalls the lifting of the siege on city. Look at 137.  After saying that they wong a song of Zion, they do, but its an reverse from the usual format.

4.      Psalms 8*, 19A, 104; compare Ps 148   Nature hymns.  Ps. 104: praise God from the inside.  How does nature affect me (So, Weiss.)  In 8 the psalmist is so impressed by the stars that prompts the psalm.  These seem more spontaneity.  In 19A a psalm of nature, introducing the Torah Psalm (19B).  (See also 119.)  (19C) Followed by an individual lament.  Compare perfect nature to perfect Torah to imperfect man.  Juxtaposition creates this tension.


Ibn Ezra on Yona 2:1

ויתפלל - המפרשים רצו לפרש חדוש והוציאו הכתוב מפשוטו כי יונה לא התפלל רק אחרי          
צאתו אל היבשה בעבור שמצאו ממעי ולא אמר במעי והלא ראו שם כתוב מבטן שועתי וככה        
ממעמקים קראתיך ה' ועוד כי מלת שועתי לאות כי התפלל ושוע אל השם טרם שיקיאנו הדג וככה
ותבא אליך תפילתי והנה למה לא היה כתוב ויתפלל יונה אחרי צאתו ממעי הדגה ועוד כי אחר      
תפלתו כתוב ויאמר יי' לדג והביאם בצרה הזאת בעבור ותעל משחת ותבוא אליך תפלתי, ועתה    
שים לבך וראה כל תפילת נביא וברכתו היא ברוח נבואה ויעקב אמר לקחתי מיד האמורי כי דבר  
שנגזר להיות ידבר לשון עבר וככה ויט שכמו לסבול דרך כוכב מיעקב וישמן ישורון ויבעט וירא יי'
וינאץ וישכן ישראל בטח בדד ובתפילת דוד בברחו ויענני מהר קדשו סלה כי הכתו' אמר בברחו    
ולא אמר ברחו ובתפילתו אך אוסיף להביט אל היכל קדשך שהוא השמים וה' בהיכל קדשו ורבי'   
ככה ושם כתוב ישועתה ליי' שהיה מקוה כמו ישועתה ליי' לבקש ויש מי שאומר כי דגה בלעה הדג 
ואין צורך כי דגה ודג שם המין כמו צדק וצדקה:               


The final exam will cover class discussions of assigned psalms and other biblical sources, as well as secondary readings. Review especially readings listed below and the psalms for the pasuq fill-in.

List of Readings

List of psalms for pasuq fill-in Section:  8, 12, 13, 22, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 51, 54, 56, 60, 66, 74, 79, 85, 88, 108, 123, 124, 125, 131


Read Gunkel critically; some of his views have been rejected by subsequent scholars. Still, this classic expression of form-criticism contains many crucial insights and (more importantly) raises the questions, if not always the answers, that stimulated much of modern Psalms research.

Term Paper