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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ps. 68: Part 5 The barren woman

Update: I have just looked at Bob's image and noticed how he outlines the verse with the name of God in it. He also uses the very evocative phrase "bound in chains" instead of "captives" which I used. The shading really emphasizes the high density of the names of God in this psalm.

Lingamish has pointed out that Psalm 68 is the most difficult of all psalms. So I understand. Adam Clarke quotes Simon de Muis 1587-1644 saying,

    "In this Psalm there are as many precipices and labyrinths as there are verses or words. It may not be improperly termed, the torture of critics, and the reproach of commentators.
I am going to go back and revisit one of these labyrinths by examining some verses recommended by John with reference to settling the singles in households.

John suggests I look at
Ps 113:9, Hosea 11:11; Ps 107:36; Jer 32:37, and Ezek 36:11.

אֱלֹהִים מוֹשִׁיב יְחִידִים בַּיְתָה

מוֹשִׁיבִי עֲקֶרֶת הַבַּיִת-- אֵם-הַבָּנִים שְׂמֵחָה

    elohim moshiv yechidim baytah Psalm 68:7

    moshivi akeret habbayit-- em-habbanim semechah Ps. 113:9
These two lines are very similar. They are respectively,
    God settles the singles in houses

    Who settles the barren woman in her house, as a mother of children, joyful.
This supports my proposal that "settling the singles in houses" means "giving children to the childless." The other verses suggested by John refer in general to resettling people after a war.
    They shall come trembling as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria; and I will make them to dwell in their houses, saith the LORD. Hosea 11:11

    And there He maketh the hungry to dwell, and they establish a city of habitation; Psalm 107:36

    Behold, I will gather them out of all the countries, whither I have driven them in Mine anger, and in My fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them back unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely; Jer. 32:37

    and I will multiply upon you man and beast, and they shall increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited after your former estate, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. Ezekial 36:11
I think this last one points back to children. The thing is, does "to dwell in a house" mean to have a spouse and children. It does if the "house" stands for a family.

In mentioning the different classes of people, the psalmist is saying that children need a father, a widow needs representation, and single adults need marriage and children. There is a certain reciprocity here - parents are for their children and children for the parents. Then she continues, captives are lead out into rich land and those who are rebellious against God get the non-productive land.

While John was drawn to think first of the war time conditions that would be the background of this psalm, I thought of the very cohesive relationship between adults and children, as families, and the relationship of the people to the land.

Recognition of these needs is a justice issue. Women in the Hebrew scriptures had a certain right to bear children, men had a right to a wife and to beget children. The right to dwell in safety with a spouse and children was a vital concern. Hierarchy was not. What are the narratives all about - that Naomi and Tamar have children, that Isaac gets a wife and begets children. While finding land is also central, I am inclined to believe that when it says a "house", this refers to getting married and having children and not finding a place to live. That is important and is reflected in the repeated use of the word "land". Logical, eh?

John mentions that the psalmist seems to have a female voice in this psalm. Later in the psalm a similar point will be made by the composer of these lyrics.

John continues to translate and Lingamish is keeping track of comments. Let me just point out that if we write about a gender issue, people weigh in with lots of heated comments, myself foremost. However, when we attack a serious task of translation, readers just doze right off. So, Lingamish, good luck trying to get comments on a "real" post.

Lots more to go in this psalm. We have barely begun. No doubt we will fall over a precipice yet.

Update: I have just checked with the Buber Rosenzweig translation on "settling singles in houses" and they lean in the same direction as John. I am waiting with baited breath for Iyov's edition of Alter's Psalms to arrive.



At Wed Sep 05, 08:56:00 PM, Blogger lingamish said...

It's so true! The web is worse than a Roman coliseum: readers only delight in spectacle of one kind or another (what I call "peepshow or sideshow") But sometimes you just have to keep posting this stuff because you know it's the right thing to do.

Keep using your skills for God's glory. Maybe someone will appreciate our sacrifice a thousand years from now.


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