Reading the Psalms

Shmoop is our shepherd.

HumanitiesReligion
LanguageEnglish Language
LiteratureWorld Literature
ThemesDeath

Transcript

00:29

But we won't make you lug that whole thing out of storage.

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Many of the psalms are associated with David, the future king of the Israelites...

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...but there were actually many authors.

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These 150 poems were intended to praise God...

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...and to express deep emotions felt by the Jews as a result of their experiences.

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So...what makes a psalm a psalm? Well, if it praises God... it might be a psalm.

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If it establishes a relationship between God and man... it might be a psalm.

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If it expresses deep emotion... it might be a psalm.

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If it is pastoral in nature... in other words, if there's more countryside than big city...

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it might be a psalm.

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If it uses simile, metaphor, repetition, personification and concrete language... then it just might

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be a psalm.

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If it is all of those things... well then, you've got a psalm on your hands, buddy.

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Let's take a gander at an example and see how well some of the verses in Psalm 111 align

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with our little checklist.

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I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.

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He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate.

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He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.

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The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.

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They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness.

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Okay, item numero uno. Does it praise God?

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"Praise the Lord. I will extol the Lord with all my heart,"

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"Great are the works of the Lord,"

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"...his righteousness endures forever."

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"the Lord is gracious and compassionate"

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This passage certainly seems to think quite highly of the big guy. We're gonna go with

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"yes." What about establishing a relationship between

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God and man?

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"He provides food for those who fear him."

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"He provided redemption for his people"

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Looks like this passage is telling us that God was a creator of, provider for, and savior

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of his people.

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Sounds like a pretty serious relationship to us.

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Deep emotion... is that in there?

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"I will extol the Lord with all my heart"

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"They are steadfast for ever and ever"

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"to him belongs eternal praise"

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The speaker seems to be more than just a little choked up over the subject... strong emotion...

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check!

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Is the passage pastoral in nature?

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righteousness, glorious, majestic, redemption...

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Okay, so no particular mention of cows or meadows...

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...but the poem tends to reflect a simple, calm and confident tone through the use of

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these words.

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And finally... does the poem use simile or metaphor, repetition, personification and

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concrete language?

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Metaphor: "He provides food for those who fear him"; probably the speaker is referring

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to spiritual sustenance rather than "food."

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Personification: "They are steadfast for ever and ever"; "they" refers to the commandments

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which are given the human quality of being able to remain steadfast.

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Repetition: The words "praise" and "Lord" are repeated, emphasizing the idea that we

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should.... Praise God.

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Concrete language: The following words appeal to one of our senses- covenant, food, nations....

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We can "see" all of these things.

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Check, check, check and check! Since we seem to be checking all the boxes...

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...we could be pretty sure that what we are reading is a psalm...

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...even if we hadn't been told as much from the beginning.

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We'll leave you with something to think about...

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... if you graduate from a Bible School...

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...is that your psalm-a mater?