Praying the Language of Enmity in the Psalter: A Study of Psalms 110, 119, 129, 137, 139, and 149

Praying the Language of Enmity in the Psalter: A Study of Psalms 110, 119, 129, 137, 139, and 149

by Aran J. E. Persaud

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Overview

How is it possible to hold a New Testament ethic to love one's enemies and pray for their physical infliction, shame, death, and suffering of family members? And yet, the Psalter, the prayer book of the Church, contains such prayers. In modern times, the Church has adopted a semi-Marcionite attitude towards these troubling texts, excluding whole psalms or parts from liturgies and private use. But as the age of ""terror"" dawns upon us, we are finding that these texts speak of unchanging realities that perhaps the ancients were abler to understand than moderns. Two great wars and a multitude of ideologies proved in the last century that the intellect cannot prevent these irrational impulses of destruction, and post-modern societies, of the present century, with their multitude of voices really offer no voice to counter moral evil. This study of six psalms with graphic language of enmity seeks to help the reader overcome shallow views of the mystery of evil, cultural blinkers of the use of language, and even personal prejudices. It attempts to recover the complete prayer book of the Church, as it once was, Israel's prayer book.


""This excellent study helpfully focuses our attention on a long-neglected theme in the book of Psalms, by way of careful examination of both well-known and less well-known texts. Pushing beyond standard form-critical categories, Persaud presents these psalms to the reader as important resources for the Church in its ongoing struggle in prayer with recalcitrant moral evil.""
--Iain Provan, Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies, Regent College

""It is often not easy for us to call someone an enemy, even to ourselves. Didn't Jesus ask us to 'love our enemies?' So how might we understand prayers which are meant to be useful to us and yet which speak about enemies? Dr. AranPersaud gives detailed attention to a careful selection of Psalms which use 'enemy' language, and provides some insightful conclusions. Well worth a read.""
--Kathleen Rochester, Senior Lecturer, Northwest University, RSA; Adjunct Faculty, SAIACS, India, STS Malaysia, LBC Latvia; Author of Prophetic Ministry in Jeremiah and EzekielandIsrael's Lament

""Aran Persaud studies the problematic topic of the enemies in the Psalms and the question of whether Christians can sing (or pray) these psalms.He investigates the psalms as canonical, normative prayer in order to move towards developing a theology of God's just dealing with people, and his people in particular. This is a very important contribution to the study of these problematic Psalms.""
--Herrie van Rooy, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Aran J. E. Persaud is professor of Old Testament at Ryle Theological College in Ottawa, Canada, and visiting professor at Anyang University, South Korea.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781498289610
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 07/22/2016
Pages: 266
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Aran J. E. Persaud is professor of Old Testament at Ryle Theological College in Ottawa, Canada, and visiting professor at Anyang University, South Korea.

Table of Contents

Foreword James M. Houston ix

Preface xi

Abbreviations xiii

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

The Problem of the Language of Enmity in the Psalms 1

Synecdoche as a Way to Understand Moral Evil 3

Some Preliminary Matters of Methodology 3

Determining the Nature of the Psalmists Perceived Suffering and the Meaning of the Response 4

Investigating Expressions of Enmity in the Light of Previous Commentators 8

Prayer as the Basis for the Inclusion of Non-lament Psalms 12

The Extent of Book V and Its Meaning for this Study 15

Selection of Psalms to be Studied 21

Chapter 2 An Exegetical and Historical Study of Psalms 110,119,129, 137, 139, and 149 25

Exegesis of Psalm 110-Yahweh's "lord" and Unrestrained Evil 25

Establishing the Nature of the Text and Clarifying the Difficult Verse Three 26

Structural Implications for Understanding Psalm 110 as a Messianic and Royal Prophecy 28

The-Perceived Suffering of the Psalmist 31

The Meaning of the "lords" Response 34

Conclusion of Exegesis 35

A Select Historical Survey of the Interpretation of Psalm 110 36

The early Post-exilic Restoration 36

The NT-Christ's Role as fudge and Priest 38

The Pre-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers-literal and Spiritual Tensions 40

Augustine-Christ's Session 42

Psalm 110 in the Reformers 44

Comparison with the Exegetical Findings of Psalm 110 48

Exegesis of Psalm 119: Overcoming Injustice through the Pursuit of the Law 49

Verses One to Eight as the Psalmist's Orientation and Verse Seventy-eight 50

Artistic Unity 51

The Psalmist-A Member of the Early Post-exilic Community 53

Identifying the Enemies-A Weakness of the Form-Critical Approach 54

The Perceived Suffering of the Psalmist-Diverse and Intense 55

Dedication to Torah as a Response to Suffering 56

Conclusion of the Exegesis 60

A Select Historical Survey of the Interpretation of Psalm 119 61

Psalm 119 and an Early Post-Exilic Ethos 61

Psalm 119 in the New Testament-The Law as a Window into the Inseparability of Yahweh's Character and Judgement 63

Psalm 139 in the Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 65

Psalm 119 in Augustine 67

Psalm 119 in the Reformers 72

Comparison with the Exegetical Findings of Psalm 119 78

Exegesis of Psalm 129: The Severity of Agricultural Curses 81

An Agrarian MT or the War Text of the LXX? 82

Maintaining the MPs Agrarian Images 84

The Enemies and the Translation of the Verbs in Verses 4-7 85

A History of Suffering 88

Withering Grass-A Symbol of Utter Destruction 90

Conclusion of the Exegesis 93

A Select Historical Survey of the Interpretation of Psalm 129 93

Post-Exilic Interpretation-A Mitigation of the Curses? 94

The NT-Agriculture as an Image of Severe Judgment 94

The Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 97

Augustine 98

Calvin 99

Comparison with the Exegetical findings of Psalm 129 100

Exegesis of Psalm 137: The Problem of Dashing Little Ones Against the Rock 102

Establishing the Text: When was Babylon Destroyed? 102

Structure, Unity and Setting as Bases for Interpretation 104

What the Text Says about Suffering 107

A Metaphorical-Historical Meaning of the Response 108

Conclusion of the Exegesis 113

A Select Historical Survey of Psalm 137 113

A Post-Exilic Perspective 113

The NT-Historical Judgment and Fixed Memory 115

The Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 116

Augustine 121

Calvin 123

Comparison with the Exegetical Findings of Psalm 137 125

Enemies, Obligation, and Sin: Keys for Understanding the imprecations in Psalm 139 127

A Unified Text 128

Structure and Form-A Unified Literary Petition 131

Identification of the Enemies as a Clue to the Set Ling 133

Perceived Suffering 136

Meaning of the Response 138

Conclusion of the Exegesis 139

A Select Historical Survey of the Interpretation of Psalm 139 140

Psalm 139 in the Post-Exilic Restoration 140

The NT-Spirit of God and the King of the Nations 141

The Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 143

Augustine 147

John Calvin 149

Comparison with the Exegetical findings of Psalm 139 151

Exegesis of Psalm 149: Praising with Violent: Images of War 154

The MT-A Praising Tone 155

Structure, Form, and Setting 156

Perceived Suffering 159

Meaning of the Response 161

Conclusion of the Exegesis 164

A Select Historical Survey of the Interpretation of Psalm 149 165

Post exilic Restoration-Another Perspective 165

The NT-Psalm 149 and the Book of Revelation 166

The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 167

Psalm 149 in Augustine 169

John Calvin 171

Comparison with Exegetical Findings of Psalm 149 173

Chapter 3 Towards Developing an Understanding of the Language of Enmity as Prayer and God's Just Dealings with His People 176

Analysis of Findings 176

Suggesting an Appropriate Way to Understand the Images of Enmily 176

A Comparison of the Different Responses to Adversity in Pss 110,119,129,137,139 and 149 177

Images of Judgment 183

Understanding the Language of Enmity as Normative Prayer 186

Prayers as Normative Scripture 186

Towards a Spiritual Understanding of the Images of Enmity 188

The Language of Enmity 193

Psalm 137 as an Example 194

The Canonical Context and God's Just Dealings with His People 195

Psalmist, Enemy, and God and the Developing of a Theology of Gods just Dealings with his People 195

Psalm 110: Unrestrained evil and Yahweh's "lord" 198

Psalm 119: Torah as Yahweh's Presence and Judgment 199

Psalm 129: Yahweh's Righteousness, Agency, and Agricultural Imagery 202

Psalm 137: Memory, Violence and the Extent of judgment 205

Psalm 139: Creator and Sustainer of all People and Avenger of Blood 206

Psalm 149: Praise, Violent Judgment and Universal Reign 207

How God Engages Moral Evil and its Nature 209

Chapter 4 Conclusion 212

Summary of Investigation and Findings 212

Implications of this Study 214

Bibliography 219

Subject Index 233

Ancient Authors and Personalities Index 243

Scripture Index 245

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