A study in the Psalms

psalms-11q5The Psalms are a beautiful and majestic testimony of the heart and soul of the ancient people of Israel and God’s never ending love for them but, in order to truly understand that testimony, we need to remember that these ancient people looked at life and understood language very differently than we do today. When we begin to understand the ways in which we see life differently, it allows us to begin to see these wonderful works of poetry through the eyes of the people who wrote them. One of the biggest differences we need to overcome is the tendency to focus on the details of each word. Our modern western languages have very robust vocabularies and there is often as much said by the words we have not used as there is in the words we have chosen to use. In order to really understand the works of modern writers, it is sometimes necessary to grasp minute differences in the meanings of the words they chose to use; however, the Ancient Hebrew writers were far less focused on the minute details in meaning of each word they used and if we he hear their words with our modern ear, we will likely “miss the forest for the trees.” For example, when a modern reader looks at Psalms 1:1 there is a tendency to see three different groups of people (or three different kinds of sin) described by the three different words used in this verse i.e. the wicked, the sinners, and the scoffers but the Ancient Hebrew author did not choose these different words to distinguish between different groups (or different sins), he used this repetition to describe one group of wicked people.The ancient Hebrews were focused on communicating the beauty of the whole forest while we too often focus on each individual tree. When we study the Psalms, we need to remember to take a few steps back and not get so lost in the details that we fail to see the beauty and majesty of the whole picture these ancient authors have painted for us.

 

Index to the Psalms

 

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