Patterns in the Psalter
August 26, 2016

On his web site, CJ Labuschagne analyzes the five books of the Psalter and each of the first 41 Psalms (Book 1). His analyses require a knowledge of Hebrew and get complicated and technical. The payoff is worth the effort.

Where else can you find anything like the following analysis of Psalm 1? “Since the 15-word inner core falls within the middle strophe (v. 3), it cannot be excluded that the author intended the entire v. 3 to be the meaningful centre. The fact that v. 3 is made up of exactly 17 words underscores this supposition. It is not simply a matter of coincidence that the 15-word core is surrounded by 52 words (26 + 15 + 26). The author used this pattern deliberately, because 52 represents the numerical value of the key-word ‘ashre, ‘happy,' the very first word of the psalm (1 + 21 + 20 + 10 = 52). That we have to do with a key-word of paramount importance is shown by the fact that it occurs 26 times in the Psalter as a unifying thread throughout the whole corpus.” Psalm 32 is organized the same way, 52 + 1 + 52 words, and also begins with ‘ashre.

Or this on Psalm 22: The two middle colae of the Psalm are the phrases “a band of evildoers encircle me // piercing my hands and my feet.” Labuschagne comments: “The meaningful centre is an eloquent description of the godforsaken situation in which the speaker finds himself – compare v. 2a! The evangelists Mark and Matthew may have been familiar with the fact that this is the meaningful centre of Psalm 22. That explains why Psalm 22 played such a crucial role in the depiction of the godforsaken situation in which Jesus found himself on the cross (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). Note, apart from the cry attributed to him and the idea of the piercing of the hands and feet, also the dividing of the garments (v. 19; cf. Matthew 27:35 and Mark 15:24).”

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