Ps 68: Pt. 4: A house full of children
A few notes in response to various emails, comments, etc.
- I usually choose boring titles because I detest the unwieldy URL
- I do not support affirmative action. I would now appreciate a female pastor for once because I have had an almost clear streak of male pastors for 50 years.
- I wish to thank David Reimer who sent me an electronic book, Grammatical Analysis of the Hebrew Psalter by Joana Julia Greswell, 1873. I am always very appreciative of anyone who sends me books, paper or electronic, and I am especially delighted when it is a scholarly book by a woman author.
- Thanks to J. K. for his comment on this post. It is worth coming back to in the future.
אֱלֹהִים בִּמְעוֹן קָדְשׁוֹ.
מוֹצִיא אֲסִירִים בַּכּוֹשָׁרוֹתאַךְ
סוֹרְרִים שָׁכְנוּ צְחִיחָה.
- avi yetomim
elohim bim'on kadesho.
motzi asirim bakkosharot'ach
sorerim shachenu tzechichah.
Father of orphans,
And defender of widows,
God in his holy habitation
The singles in households
God, who gives
To the childless children
But the rebellious inhabit scorched land.
Who leads captives out to rich land
While rebels inhabit scorched earth.
Next, I have once again chosen the literal "household" because I think it is understood that a "household" is the family inside the house. But, most important, rather than seeing the "singles" as a reprieve of the "orphans" and "widows", referring to the same group of people, I consider that it refers to a different group altogether, the never-married, or the childless. Since children are the chief blessing, the most important prosperity, in a tribal culture, I understand that this says that God gives to single people a family. That is, God gives the single man a wife and children, i.e. a household.
I still have to consider carefully whether the "singles" are only men, or single men and women. In an inflected language, all nouns are either feminine or masculine. Nouns referring to people break down into three groups pragmatically. Those with a feminine marking are all feminine. Those with a masculine marking can be either all masculine, or both masculine and feminine. If we are talking about taxation and civic affairs, it may be that the men represent the women, they represent their household. However, it may simply be a mixed crowd of men and women, and there is no representative function of the males whatsoever. I won't worry about that.
The question is whether we should see three groups of people, 1. orphans, 2. widows and 3. single/widowed men; or whether there are three groups of people, 1. orphans, 2. widows, and 3. single men and women.
The reference to the "house" seemed at first to bring to mind the many mentions of "the house of" in the genealogies. This is usually in conjunction with the name of the father - Abraham, Israel, David, etc. I was looking for a reference that would be true to this culture, not necessarily gender neutral. Does only a man have "a house", that is a wife and children and the women belong to "the house" of a man? My concern is not hierarchy but social configuration.
In looking back on the Genesis narratives, I thought of the importance of children to Abraham, and the story of his servant going to chose Rebekah for Isaac. It is one of the loveliest stories in that book. We know Rebekah will feel loved.
While this chapter is about fulfilling God's promise to Abraham that he will beget many children, it contains two mentions of the family of women. First, Rebekah in Gen. 24:28, runs off to tell the news "to her mother's house". So, I infer that a woman may also have "a house." Next, we read in verse 60
- And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her: 'Our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of ten thousands, and let thy seed possess the gate of those that hate them.'
And now, having struggled throughout this post knowing I have a slight disagreement with John over verse 7a, I finally sneak a peak at Luther, bless him, he sides with me. Luther translates, der den Einsamen das Haus voll Kinder gibt - "who gives to the single a house full of children." I think somehow Luther loved children.
Further Notes: From the New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible,
- God setteth the solitary in families…
Which the Jewish writers generally understand of an increase of families, with children in lawful marriage; see (Psalms 113:9) ; an instance of which we have in Abraham and Sarah; from which single or solitary ones, when joined in marriage, sprung a numerous offspring, (Isaiah 51:2) (Hebrews 11:12) . And to this sense the Targum paraphrases the words;
``God is he that joins, couples single ones into a couple, as one:''some copies add,
``to build an house out of them;''that is, a family
Labels: Psalm 68