4 Mar 2011

Updates: Psalms 70 and 80

Psalms 70 and 80 have now been posted. Psalm 70 is an unrhymed metrical versification set to a tune in the phrygian mode. Since ancient times the first two lines of this psalm have been used to open the prayers in the liturgy of the hours, especially at vespers. Here the psalmist cries out to God for help in distress brought on by his enemies. The Hebrew superscript ascribes it to David, while the Septuagint indicates merely that it is for him or pertains to him.

Psalm 80 is striking in that it obviously originates in the northern kingdom of Israel after its division from Judah following the death of Solomon. It relies, somewhat curiously, on a mixed metaphor. As in the beloved Psalm 23, God is likened to a shepherd, yet his people are likened, not to sheep, but to a vine which he took from Egypt and planted so that its tendrils would spread from the river (the Jordan or perhaps even the Euphrates) to the sea. The reference in verse 17 to the "son of man" could perhaps be understood as an anticipation of the coming Messiah, the True Vine. This is a rhymed versification and the tune is in the dorian mode.

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