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Exegesis of Psalm 19

Exegesis of Psalm 19

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Published by Lyle Brecht
In Psalm 19 we find that we have gifts from YHWH of creation and of torah as covenantal gifts of grace. These gifts are for us to know for certain that we exist in a network of interdependence with other humans in community “and with the rest of God’s
creation.” I am human because I belong to YHWH.
In Psalm 19 we find that we have gifts from YHWH of creation and of torah as covenantal gifts of grace. These gifts are for us to know for certain that we exist in a network of interdependence with other humans in community “and with the rest of God’s
creation.” I am human because I belong to YHWH.

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Published by: Lyle Brecht on Feb 18, 2009
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11/07/2012

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Lyle Brecht 17-Jan-06Psalm 19 Exegesis 6.1 Page 1 of 21
Psalm 19: Song of Torah: The Gifts of Creation and Torah
[For the Leader. A Psalm [for] David. (NJPS)]
1
 STROPHE I
1
All scripture references are to New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), unless otherwise noted. NJPS = New Jewish Publication Society translation. NAB = New American Bible. NIV = NewInternational Version. Strophe layout above from Samuel Terrien,
The Psalms: Strophic Structure& Theological Commentary
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 205-7; I developed the outline(“Plan of Ps. 19”) on my own prior to consulting any commentary.
1
The heavens are telling the glory of God;and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2
Day to day pours forth speech,and night to night declares knowledge.
3
There is no speech, nor are there words;their voice is not heard;
4
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,and their words to the end of the world.In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5
which comes out like a bridegroom from hiswedding canopy,and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,and its circuit to the end of them;and nothing is hid from its heat.STROPHE II
7
The law of the LORD is perfect,reviving the soul;the decrees of the LORD are sure,making wise the simple;
8
the precepts of the LORD are right,rejoicing the heart;the commandment of the LORD is clear,enlightening the eyes;
9
the fear of the LORD is pure,enduring forever;the ordinances of the LORD are trueand righteous altogether.STROPHE III
10
More to be desired are they than gold,even much fine gold;sweeter also than honey,and drippings of the honeycomb.
11
Moreover by them is your servant warned;in keeping them there is great reward.
12
But who can detect their errors?Clear me from hidden faults.
13
Keep back your servant also from the insolent;do not let them have dominion over me.Then I shall be blameless,and innocent of great transgression.ENVOI
14
Let the words of my mouthand the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD,my rock and my redeemer.
 
Lyle Brecht 17-Jan-06Psalm 19 Exegesis 6.1 Page 2 of 21
Thesis
2
 
In Psalm 19 we find that we have gifts from YHWH of creation and of 
torah
ascovenantal gifts of grace. These gifts are for us to know for certain that we exist in anetwork of interdependence with other humans in community “and with the rest of God’screation.” I am human because I belong to YHWH.
3
 
Historical and Literary Contexts
The Psalms (
mizmorei tehillim,“songs of praise”
) were compiled in the post-exilic(Second Temple) period as “a language of doubt, near-despair, repentance and lonelysuffering, as well as praise and thanksgiving.”
4
The psalms may have been used in private prayer; communal activities such as the coronation of a king; family worship; and publicliturgies.
5
The final form of the Psalter was completed prior to the completion of the
2
Exegetical process and structure are from Michael J. Gorman,
 Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers
(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002). I alsowish to thank Dr. Gorman for his comments and helpful suggestions on this exegesis during hiscourse on Biblical Studies at the Ecumenical Institute, St. Mary’s Seminary and University,Baltimore, MD during the winter of 2004.
3
“I am human because I belong to YHWH,” is used here as in describing
ubuntu
, an Africantheology of community. See Desmond Tutu,
God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Future
 (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 25. For the Hebrew people, personhood was defined through the belonging established in a covenantal relationship. There was no “personhood” outside of thiscovenantal relationship. See Neil Pembroke,
The Art of Listening: Dialogue, Shame, and Pastoral Care.
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2002), 52.
4
Rowan Williams, “Augustine and the Psalms,”
 Interpretation
, Vol. 28 No. 1 (January 2004), 21.
5
As in Isaiah 38:19: “The living, the living, they thank you, as I do this day.” “Praise of YHWH by the people of Israel is the penultimate and representative fulfillment of God’s purpose for allhumanity.” See James L. Mays,
The Lord Reigns: A Theological Handbook of the Psalms
 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), 64.
 
Lyle Brecht 17-Jan-06Psalm 19 Exegesis 6.1 Page 3 of 21Septuagint (LXX) in the second century B.C.E. Psalm 19 is part of the oldest group of extant Psalms (Ps 3-41).
6
 In the collection of Psalms there are four primary types of poetic songs, each with adifferent rhetorical purpose:
7
 
CELEBRATION PROTEST & PETITIONCommunal:
Hymn Lament
Personal:
Thanksgiving LamentPsalm 19 is a communal hymn, celebrating the affirmation that the same God, YHWH,who created the sun is the one who also gives the Israelites the
torah
.
8
This “
torah
  psalm” acknowledges that the created and social order experienced by Israel is solelydependent on God’s
hesed 
(steadfast love) and covenant faithfulness and that
torah
represents YHWH’s “will and purpose, ordained in the very structure of life.”
9
 
6
Robert Alter and Frank Kermode, eds.,
The Literary Guide to the Bible
(Cambridge, MA:Belknap Press, 1987), 245.
7
Walter Brueggemann,
 An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination
(Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 285.
8
Rebecca Abts Wright, ed.,
The Old Testament 
(3
rd
ed., Education for Ministry (EFM), Year One; Sewanee, TN: The University of the South, 1999), 620. The
torah
psalms “are psalms inwhich the instruction of the Lord is the central organizing topic and is viewed as the primaryreality in the relation of mortals to God.” See James Luther Mays, “The Place of the Torah-Psalms in the Psalter,” in
 JBL
106/1 (1987) 3-12.
9
The
torah
of YHWH is the “revelation by which [YHWH renews], enhances, and guides humanlife; it is the divine medium of righteousness for human beings.” See James Luther Mays,
 Psalms
(Interpretation, Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994), 98. “
Torah
is how God shapes the humansoul toward its destination,” the kingdom of God. Torah includes both haggadah (the stories of God’s actions in history to guide his chosen people) and halakha (the laws, precepts, and

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