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The Theme of the Remnant in the Book of the Psalms

A Brief Glimpse into the Ethiopian Traditional Exegesis


At the outset, let me highlight the significance of the theme both in
Jewish tradition and in Christianity. The role of the remnant in the Old
Testament context is best expressed in the words of Isaiah: “Except the
LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have
been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah (1:9)”. It
One may still ask, however: What is the significance of this theme
now, for us? I think Gerhard F. Hasel, who studied the origin,
development and theology of the remnant idea in the OT, provides a
good answer: “The intensely theological idea of the remnant as found
in the Biblical testimony aids man in the securing of his existence, for
the hope of modern man’s survival and future hinges upon his
response to the urgent call to return to God” (Hasel vii).
Especially, the theme of the remnant has always had a significant
bearing upon the Christian concept of the Church. This was more
explicitly felt during the controversy which raged in pre- and early
post-war Germany concerning the origin of the idea of ekklesia in
Jesus’ ministry; where, in order to defend a position that Jesus has
attempted to establish a new community, “a number of scholars
appealed to the Jewish notion of a remnant or a ‘true Israel’ in Jesus’
Considered in a broad context of the concern about human
flourishing and of the relationship between God and man (or better, of
the all-embracing covenant between God and creation), the very
situation of the remnant reminds us, on the one hand, of the
destruction of a large part of humanity due to their going away from
God, and on the other, of the survival of few ones because of their
return to Him. Furthermore, I believe the idea of the remnant can be
redeveloped in such a way that it may play a transformative role in the
art of building a society that keeps the covenantal relationship with
God. In this paper, I shall attempt to examine some points that I think
are worth considering in the direction such a course of redevelopment
may take.

1. The Remnant Motif in the Bible

The remnant motif could be looked at within a broad scope of the
history of mankind as a whole, stretching from Adam to eschaton.
Reference can be made in this regard to such narratives in the Bible as
that of the flood. The flood story told in Genesis 6-9 describes the
Elliot 59

The biblical narrative has it that only the righteous Noah and his family. one has but to survive. It is even recognized by many scholars—both Jewish and Christian—that “The bible apparently refashioned the ancient oriental material [regarding the flood] in the light of monotheistic and universalistic conception of history as moral issue” (Werblowsky & Wigoder 147-148). For Ethiopian scholars. however. the remnant would constitute the kernel of a new Israel faithful to Yahweh and his covenant requirements. Flood legends are indeed known from many parts of the world and that the biblical account shows many similarities with some of them. along with representatives of the animal kingdom was saved. while the principle of perfection demands that. because. I submit. even killing others and destroying anything else than oneself). 2 It does so in 2 I tend to take survival and perfection as.” In other words. whatever it takes (i. the principle of survival requires that. and that repentance of the people. I would not like to pursue on this. which is quite often referred to as “Israel after the Spirit. Or again. attention may be given to the peculiar Israelite history where. whenever a judgement falls upon Israel due to her apostasy. That is to say. it combines the need for survival as well as the call for perfection.e. God’s grace and His covenant with the fathers have each played indispensable role in the salvation of a remnant. taken in their logical extremes. attending to the transformation it has undergone from historical to faithful to eschatological remnant. may give impetus to emphasize the current significance of the theme in the way I try to depict it. 2. Namely. except to highlight in passing on the hint that the threat of total destruction comes as a result of sin. Ethiopian Scholars’ Conception of the “Remnant” The Gə’əz (Classical Ethiopic) word for ‘remnant’ is ‘təruf. it may even seem plausible to take up this motif in its last stage of transformation and study it in relation to the Church. The range of historical events within the context of which the remnant motif may be approached can also be delimited to the history of Israel in particular. and b) perfect—a rendering that. the concept of the remnant at once combines two seemingly mutually exclusive vocations in human existence.destruction of all creatures—save very few remnants—because of man’s wickedness. and that “the earliest explicit reference to the Hebrew remnant motif… is from the start securely anchored in salvation history” (Hasel 389). mutually exclusive.’ which is rendered to mean two things: a) left over (remained). the remnant motif may also be studied in such a way that it enables us to gain insight into how the meaning of God’s covenant people is transformed from national Israel to a faithful group which even includes other nations. due to apostasy in particular. come what may . in some way. to live.

And this. particularly to those Haiqian stars. Ethiopian Exegetical Tradition in a Nutshell Early practices of Christian3 exegesis in Ethiopia could at least be traced in the works of St. That is to say. who (i. 1922 6 Retu’a-Haymanot (literally meaning: the Orthodox one) is an anonymous theologian and writer who is believed to have lived in 14th Century. 8 One of the most successful Kings of Ethiopia (who reigned from 1434-1468).. 19th Century) f. My point here is that this book is a highly hermeneutical one that facilitates the national formation not merely through analogies but through identification with the biblical covenant. except occasional reference to this tradition. works of such authors as Rətu’a Haymanot. 3 Although most modern scholars hold that “it was from the Church [that] Ethiopia received the Bible. in a person inspired by the vocation of the “təruf. even in the face of one’s death and the total destruction of what one holds dear). books reached Ethiopia during. whom the author of the Life of Abba Giyorgis exalts.8 the emperor. he has written extensively on theological matters as well. 3.” the one is not/should not be required at the expense of the other.for the clergy of that island were the wisest ones and knew how to read and interpret the Scriptures.5r . when explaining why the Saint was schooled there: “. of exegesis.e. 9 EMML 1838. Wallis. and the Dəggwa itself. 7 Abba Giyorgis is a renowned scholar who flourished in late 14 th and early 15th C. nor is/should be perfection sought at the total expense of survival. 5 There are a number of translations of this important work which is aptly referred to Ethiopia’s national epic. 4 Such as in his Anqäsä-Bərhan (the Gate of Light).” Ethiopian tradition has it that O. E. What is implied here is that. one has but to be perfect. whose duty it was to maintain unity. ensures the covenantal relationship between God and humans. He is particularly know for his Sa’atat (Book of Hours) and Matshafe-Mestir (Book of Mystery).”9 Certainly. and subsequent to. Sir. I argue. while it pertains to perfection on the other. survival is not/should not be secured at the total expense of perfection. Budge. and that oral commentary on these books was brought to Ethiopia by Jewish teachers. I shall limit myself to the specifically Christian exegetical tradition.). are indeed indicative of a hermeneutical tradition that existed long before them. A. The Queen of Sheba and her only son Menyelek [Kəbrä Nägäst] London. Gädlä Giyorgis Zägasəְċa (Hayq Ǝsְtifanos.. the reign of Solomon in Israel and of his son Menelik I in Ethiopia. Mention should also be made to the Kahənatä Däbtära (clerical clique) of medieval Ethiopia. However. Yared (6 th C. at least in outlook.6 Abba Giyorgis7 and Zär’a Ya’əqob. one may gather a firm evidence for a significantly Ethiopian development of biblical interpretation from works of Abba Giyorgis (d.4 Along with the Aksumite exegetes who are said to have produced the Kəbrä Nägäst (The Glory of Kings)5.1425).T.that it refers to survival on the one hand.

. exegesis had been practiced in Gə’əz. 4.13 Culturally. renowned in Ethiopian Studies) were utterly misguided and even led many others astray when they look 10 YAQOB BEYENE. (Lovanii. Andəmta exegetes are at home in the Semitic idiom. he further contends. 12 by means of which. 1983) 23 12 . 516. als sie von ihnen empfängt.“. Ethiopian people were equipped with strong spiritual and intellectual power. John in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (Cambridge.“ ibid. “the traditional Ethiopian world-view has been moulded by the Bible. and that this was augmented from many sources and reached fairly definitive form in the time of the Gondar kingdom [16th -18th C]. Vol.”11 Some Advantages of Ethiopian Exegetes Linguistically. “Giyorgis di Sagla il Libro del Mistero (Mashafa Mestir)” = Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium (Schriptorum Aethiopici.Tomus 90).. that is. was able to provide corresponding expressions of concepts of any sort (Begriffe aller Art). whereby a Gə’əz text is commented on in Amharic (the current lingua franca of the country).considers the Old and New Testaments as the two Breasts of the Church. p. Grammatik der Äthiopischen Sprache (Leibzig 1899) VI.. The Traditional Interpretation of the Apocalypse of starker Geistes. 1990).” It is interesting to note in this connection how such renowned scholars like Perham (I mean. As Cowley noted it. “The traditional account of the formation of the AC [Andəmta Commentary] corpus is that an Ethiopian oral commentary tradition was transmitted from about the time that the text of the work commented on was translated into Gə’əz. Dillmann observed also. 11 ROGER COWLEY.. that Gəʾəz. As Dillmann brilliantly demonstrates. within the context of which we know the Bible is given. as Cowley observes it. 13 „Auch das Volk. But with the increasing significance of Amharic in the country.und Denkkraft ausgerüstet gewesen sein.die so lange vernachlässigte äthiopische Grammatik denen der anderen semitischen Sprachen ebensoviel Licht bringt.” AUGUST DILLMANN. and Ethiopian material culture is not unlike that of Biblical times. even of the most abstract ones (auch die abstractesten)! Ibid. biblical interpretation finally took the form of “Andəmta”.” for which reason Cowley rightly asserts that “the question of ‘horizon’ does not present itself to the Ethiopian commentator. in the same language in which the texts were written. 8 .10 In earlier times. Gə’əz grammar brings more light to other Semitic languages than vice versa. by virtue of the richness of its vocabulary and of its active word building capacity.

18 If certain Psalms are labeled by some scholars as “exilic” or “post-exilic. it has enabled Ethiopians even to embrace—that is. which some Western Christians seem to have hard time to face. But people who greatly influenced contemporary Psalm scholarship do not seem to know anything about this position. or the “life setting” (Sitz im Leben) of a significantly large part of the Book of the Psalms. all this has helped the Ethiopian exegete “to become a ‘resident alien’ in the faith of Israel. 17 Some medieval Jewish scholars have in fact indicated that “all of it [i. fast. teaching them how to repent—to weep. has led to a succession of priests and Psalm-singers with similar tradition of poetic practices. In my view. and to share in their realization of the divine presence in their life and history. and wear sackcloth. 15 16 Among other things.” it is simply because there is explicit reference in those Psalms to the Babylonian captivity. many Western scholars consider the Ethiopian Church as defiled in some way. Ethiopian Emperors used to identify themselves with Solomonic dynasty.e. I realized that there are detailed studies on the remnant motif as it appears in most parts of the Old Testament. 18 Some medieval Jewish scholars have in fact indicated that “all of it [i. was not the economy of Israel of biblical time mainly an agrarian one? Not only linguistic and cultural similarities but also participation in the very history of the remnants even before the commencement of the New Testament era and a conscious identification 14 with them. Their life experience gives them a way to see allusions to an agricultural life that others do not” (34). However. of the Book of Psalms] is instruction and guidance for the people of the Exile. of the Book of Psalms] is instruction and guidance for the people of the Exile.16 4. as Christians—the Jewishness of most Old Testament texts. this does not lead them to suspect that so many other Psalms might have belonged to the same category.e. I haven’t as yet come across a considerably wide recognition17 that the remnant situation could possibly be the social context. because Ethiopians still observe the Sabbath and practice circumcision. After all. let alone to follow and build upon it. Whence the charge by many Western scholars against the Ethiopian Church that she was excessively Judaist. The Theme of the Remnant in the Psalms: Let me now turn to state the reason why I chose the Book of Psalms as the basis of my interpretation and reflection on the remnant motif. “scholars from a farming background read much of the Bible and its agricultural culture differently from urban scholars. .” 15 Evidently. and beseech the Merciful One for salvation…” (Simon 63). most likely with the Assyrian and Egyptian golah in particular. From my rather brief survey of literature. as a matter of fact.down on traditional Ethiopian scholars as mere “farmers”… What Perham and some others did not however realize was that. Unfortunately. teaching them 14 Notice that until quite recently (1974).

23 Notice that some of the Psalms have been accorded double—at times even triple— significance.22 Indeed. 38. 9 . 61. The last gift in the list they provide is that of prophecy. let alone to follow and build upon it. 51. not only because I do not totally buy into such a method. 22 There are in fact some other alternatives of categorization in the Ethiopian exegetical tradition and I am aware of at least two of them. 21 Aus dem AT werden Psalter. Whereas the Ethiopian tradition identifies about 74 Psalms as “tənbit bä’əntä tərufan” (which literally means: prophecy about the remnants). certain Psalms are considered to deal with current situations while very few others recount past historical facts. but mainly in order to be able to reflect the traditional view from which I come from. Title Psalms Admonition for All 1. 132 Prophecy about [David] himself 3.13. and wear sackcloth.21 They hold King David to be the author of all the 150 Psalms. In the introduction to the commentary of the Book of the Psalms. to repent—to weep. 110. christologisch interpretiertes Hohes Lied und Jesaja – in Äthiopien als fünftes Evangelium bezeichnet – vorgezogen (Heyer ). 49. 36. or on behalf of. in what follows. according to the Ethiopian traditional exegesis. 64. along with the Prophecy of Isaiah and the christologically interpreted Song of Songs of Solomon. the remnant. But most of the Psalms are regarded as future-oriented prophecies.19 However surprising it may sound. 19 Mani24 19 I have provided the Ethiopic Psalm Titles in the Appendix 20 For anyone who operates with historical critical method. The Psalms . 37. in almost half of the Book. 7. but this is the prevailing one to be regarded as authoritative. and which they interpret guided by the ten titles received from the tradition. but of course in such a way that it can somehow be shared with a modern reader. 2223. Ethiopian scholars consider the Psalms. which they believe King David has told in the poetic language of the Psalms.20 For which reason I find it interesting to attempt a kind of interpretation informed by this tradition. the Psalmist is thus considered to have spoken to. 51. I will continue to hold fast to the ascription of the whole Psalms to King David. as the Fifth Gospel. 78 Prophecy about Christ 2. 16 .18. But many scholars who greatly influenced contemporary Psalm scholarship do not seem to know anything about this position. fast. 8. 24 The commentary says that there was a certain Mani (during the reign of David or after) who denied the creation and sustenance of the world by God. 6. and beseech the Merciful One for salvation…” (Simon 63). 140 Prophecy about the followers of 4. 22. 45. 70. this might be translated to mean that these Psalms were composed after the exile and hence by remnant- Psalmists. 39. they state that King David was endowed with seven gifts from God. However.

that is. 116 Prophecy about Jeremiah 35 Prophecy about the Maccabees 44. one cannot assigned with this title are thus considered to be intended against “atheists. 75. for Gunkel’s primary task was in fact to attack the historical atomistic approach to Psalms and to introduce a method of classifying types. 87. 79. 76. 117. 42. the references in Psalm 137 to “Babylon” and in Psalm 126 to “the captivity of Zion” plainly indicate that these Psalms are dealing with issues related to exile. 74.” while Psalm 126 attends to the favorable circumstances surrounding their return. 87 – 90. as his very method of classification was based not only on form and function but also on social context. 85. I picked out these two Psalms first because they project the contrasting images of the lives of the exiles at the beginning and end of the Babylonian captivity. 31. 93-99. 23-26. Psalm 137 speaks of the gloomy situation of the remnants as they were taken captives. 84. 27 – 30. 73. Prophecy about the Remnants 47. 115. 112. 13. 77. 5. 52 – 54. allowing thus for assuming the situation of the remnants to be their Sitz im Leben.1. their mouth “filled with laughter” and their tongue “with singing!” One of the most renowned Old Testament scholars noted for his contribution to form criticism and for coining such a very useful technical phrase as “Sitz im Leben” (life-setting/sociological setting). 63. 20. 40. 121 – 139. 15. 8083. 101 -104. 69. 106. 91. Commentary on Some of the Psalms about the Remnants The Beginning and End of Exile: Psalms 137 and 126 These are among the very few Psalms which contain within themselves explicit historical references that would help identify what might have been their sociological setting or Sitz im Leben. 81. 32 . 118.150 Prophecy about Hezekiah 14.” . 65 – 68. hanging their harps “upon the willows in the midst thereof” as they refused to sing “the LORD’S song in a strange land. 114. 21. 51. when they were just crossing the rivers of Babylon. 71. Namely.34. 109 Prophecy about Priests 50. 108. Yet. that is. 86. 43. 92. 62. 41. 141 . 55 – 60. Herman Gunkel considers this Psalm as a mere poetic saying of blessing and curse (234). when the captivity of Zion have just been brought back home. 111. 46. Such a consideration may not come as a complete surprise. 113. 48. 107. 82 Prophecy about his son Solomon 72 Table 1: Ethiopic Psalm Titles 4.

If it was asked why would they say or how could it be said on their behalf: “turn again our captivity. O LORD. that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. For another. Happy shall he be. rather than a past-oriented imagination. They might even have been given false promises of leading normal life in Babylon. certainly not to entertain themselves! Hence they just wept remembering Zion and hanged their harps upon the but wonder how the remnant situation did not cross his mind as a possible sociological setting for certain Psalms including this one. taking whatever they could carry with them. they might have just started to experience the actual enslavement. Mowinckel believes that the poet created a “fancied situation” in his imagination: seeing himself as a wanderer harp-player. considers Psalm 137 to have been a congregational Psalm composed much later than the return from exile and to have sprung “out of a genuine ability to identify oneself with former time of enslavement” (). when they had been given over to individual slave owners and would thenceforth have to be separated from one another. Let me move on to Psalm 126. nor for their beloved Land (Jerusalem/Zion). in groups. Consider the last two verses: O daughter of Babylon. they must have come to realize that their songs could be offered only for (the pleasure of) their (wicked) owners. and why the harps had to hang on the willows. as the streams in the south” (v. Even if they would have had time to do so. including their harps. the simple answer is that not all of them had . who accepts Gunkel’s method but prefers to label it “type-critical” or “type-historical” and to reduce the categories to only four main types (from about ten). Only then might they have undoubtedly realized that they would engage in the duties of a slave and thus would not have time to use their harps any more. who art to be destroyed. the situation might have looked like this: as they were taken captive. the Psalm in question sounds more like future-oriented prophecy.” for “when they did not wish to use them. sing the songs of the Lord!” My response would indeed be otherwise. and who might have imagined being asked by one of the tyrants to sing and would have known well what he would have had rejoined: “How could we on a strange soil. He entertains the question as to “why they had to sit on the river banks. This Psalm clearly shows that its life setting is the remnant situation as they return home. that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.4) when they were already returned. not for their Almighty God (YHWH). who used to sit down to rest nowhere but by springs and river banks. But once they reached and sat by the rivers of Babylon. For one thing. Sigmund Mowinckel. happy shall he be. they might as well have left them hanging on the walls at home” (). every household had a chance to go together.

His opening phrase. which implies Yahweh’s “mercy” for the sake of His Holy Name and His Covenant was met with the “true worship” of the (perfect) remnants. as the streams in the south. and they that dwell therein”—is interpreted as denoting. The LORD hath done great things for them. The same is true of Psalm 85 that speaks of the meeting together of “mercy and truth” (v. shall doubtless come again with rejoicing. In between the two events. Even Babylon and Babylonians belong to Him. and the fullness thereof. to refer literally to Yahweh’s comprehensive ownership of the whole world of creation. 2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter. whereof we are glad. It sounds like they were thinking that Yahweh’s presence could be experienced only in Jerusalem and that He could heed their prayers only if they were conducted in the Temple. bearing precious seed. which they consider to be the only place where a proper worship of Yahweh can be conducted. on the grounds that Jerusalem. has already been destructed. 4 Turn again our captivity.10). where even after he clearly speaks in (the prophetic) past tense “thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob” (v. bringing his sheaves with him. 23 for instance. 126:1 {A Song of degrees. he then The Psalm reflects thus … prophetic past There are a number of other Psalms that are considered to be expressions of the attendant circumstances of the beginning and end of the captivity Pss …. of the universe.} When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion. 3 The LORD hath done great things for us. to “Babylon” and its residents in particular. So the Psalm refers to the situation at the beginning of the return. “The earth is the LORD'S. 6 He that goeth forth and weepeth. however.1). making thus their salvation possible. Thus. the Psalmist exhorts them to pray (if not to conduct cultic worship of a higher order) even . there is a long 70 years of life in exile that provide the setting for numerous other Psalms. whereas the phrase that follows—“the world. 5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Against such a disposition. we were like them that dream.returned at one time. and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen.” can in fact be taken almost as it is. which they know to be the City of God. O LORD. metaphorically though. has already perished. and that the Temple. The Question of Worship in the Midst of Babylon: Psalm 24 [Smaller Genres and Mixed Types: Psalm Liturgies] The particular attitude that is thought to have motivated the composition of this Psalm is the remnants’ hesitation to pray to God while they were in Babylon. the Psalmist instructs them that not only Jerusalem but the whole world is owned by Yahweh. that is.

even Babylon. I think.” . amongst Babylonians. Ezekiel 11:16. And. and although I have scattered them among the countries. And yet these very people are the 25 Cf. as exiles. For the whole world. I have not refrained my lips. belongs to Him. when they would return home and when the Temple would be reconstructed. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart. after all. and although I have scattered them among the countries. thy law is within my heart. this and similar exhortations by other prophets have definitely helped a lot to hit upon the idea of synagogue. “Therefore say. The logic is clear: if they want to return home and enjoy the Temple worship. where it says. or wherever they find themselves to be. He seems to ask them: “[even if there is a hope to return home and to enjoy the Temple worship]. thou knowest. is to conduct some sort of common prayer involving scriptural instruction that would lead to repentance. Yahweh knows better than anyone that His people lost their “big sanctuary” as a result of their apostasy. Thus saith the Lord GOD. Although I have cast them far off among the heathen. their hearts pure… and to seek him in prayers now while in exile. I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation” (6-10). In verse 3. Although I have cast them far off among the heathen. 25 Indeed. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo. What the Psalmist summons to is not the highest form of worship with sacrifices and offerings of the type that can only be conducted in the Temple. they are supposed to keep their hands clean. yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary [=Synagogue] in the countries where they shall come. O LORD.when they live in the foreign land of Babylon. that is. the Psalmist poses a question for the remnants who might have taken it for granted that they would of course be able to pray just one day. the prophet (and priest) Ezekiel was also instructed to say: “Thus saith the Lord GOD. yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary [=Synagogue] in the countries where they shall come” (11:16). What is needed then. a deadly sin which they committed due to their lack of heed to Torah instruction and prophetic reproof. Psalm 4o speaks thus: “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire. mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required… yea. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD [Jerusalem]? Or who shall stand in his holy place [the Temple]?” The answer he provides in the following verses unambiguously makes it plain that not all of them but only few remnants who strive for perfection—those with “clean hands” and “pure hearts”… those “that seek him”—are destined to return home. synagogue worship could not become a complete substitute for Temple worship.

he concluded that the godless must finally fall. It provides the young man with sound teaching in awareness of the elder’s superior knowledge.” scholars have come to think that it must have been … Applying the Ethiopic Psalm title as key for the interpretation of this particular Psalm. who is angered over the good fortune of the wicked… 297 By contrast.ones who still carry His Holy Name and who are heirs to the covenant He entered with their fathers---His Holy Name and His Covenant. Based on the reference to “a dry and thirsty land.” and to those who would become “scribes. is not more than a hypothesis informed by none other than the content of the Psalm itself. He realized that the nearness of God is the most costly possession of the pious. the beginning of all theology. the wise one. warns the young man. has also fallen upon the soul of the poet.” in other words the young officials… One who is knowledgeable of the world speaks to the one who is growing up. Finally. It angered him so that it almost led him into error concerning the rule of God. and he found inner peace. for the sake of which He would want to save a remnant. the life setting was originally very exclusive. How else than in a prayerful re-instruction of the Torah and a heedful prophetic exhortation could they be led to repentance and perfection? And. But the remnants should not be mere survivors—and here is my point based on the connotation of the Ethiopic word təruf—they need to be perfected. where else than in any part of the face of the earth including Babylon where they found themselves to be could they do this? 63 [Individual Compliant Psalms: Individual Lament in General] This Psalm is commonly considered as one that King David had sung when he was in the wilderness of Judah. He explains how the same experience presupposed by the young man from Ps 37 incited him to wrath. Gremann. He experiences an inner wrestling which . who is pious and experienced. This assumption. Wise teaching was given to the “vizier. 294 The God who is revealed in wisdom is the “teacher of the nations. however. In Ps 37.” Ps 94:10 296 The difficult question of theodicy. those phrases will be understood as metaphors for expressing… Learning the Hard Way (Theodicy): Psalm 73 [Wisdom Psalms] Gunkel: 293 Wisdom’s subject is human life… According to H. in Ps 73 the inner life of the poet breaks out horrifically in a magnificently unified stream.

Read in terms of the remnant motif. I may come up with a pattern that amounts to a configuration of the life span of the remnants. and treats the battle over the doctrine of retribution and the shock over the fate of the godless. One can note the details in the comparison between unfaithful and irrational animals [Ps 73:22]. . it may be assumed that this person might have been born in Israel and lived his first 20 years there. Hence. then went through a really tempting period of disorientation. the Psalmist speaks here as if he had had a certain time of orientation (or at least a good memory of such one). Undoubtedly. The connection of personal experience with the originally objective doctrine is not uncommon in the latter wisdom literature. the last words even surpass Job. if not of the experience thereof. To speculate on a concrete example. He basically treats it as one of the Psalms of disorientation. cherishing the old order in Jerusalem. even to such as are of a clean heart who lived until very recently. even to such as are of a clean heart. and in the consideration of “the end” that is characteristic of “wisdom. But it may also imply an actual experience by the remnants themselves. if one was 90 years old by the time the exiles returned. Brueggemann rightly considers this Psalm as “the most remarkable and satisfying of all the Psalms” (115). Like Job. then they went through the difficulties and disorientations of exiled life in Babylon.” And this is interpreted to mean that truly God was good to the old generation. and has finally come to a new orientation wrought by none other than God. this means that the remnants had had good time of order and orientation at home.” I want to add that the Psalm even begins with words of vivid memory of orientation. I find in this Psalm the complete triadic scheme of orientation- disorientation-new orientation as played out in the life span of the remnants.”[73:17] It may sound overambitious to attempt here to configure the life of the remnant in a way that fits into Brueggemann’s triadic scheme of “orientation-disorientation-new orientation. He takes it to be “the last word of disorientation” but he also recognizes that “it utters the first word of new orientation. the first verse is read as if it was past tense: “Truly God was good to Israel. Ps 73. This implies a memory as well as contemporaneous observation of orientation that their fathers enjoyed. Then he passed through the 70 years of exile in In the case of Ps 73. however brief 26 In order to show how “the Psalms of negativity” may be understood. One can deduce that Ps 73 also belongs to wisdom poetry from its mood. Brueggemann has taken up this principle of organization for his theological commentary of the Psalms (Preface). and finally they have found order and orientation anew on their return comparable to that of Job. Indeed.”26 But if I just combine some crucial insights of traditional Ethiopian exegesis of Ps 73 and that of Brueggemann’s interpretation of the same.

Appeal to Yahweh’s Holy Name and His Covenant: Pss 51. saith the LORD. Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me. The disorientation passage extends from verse 2 to verse It gives an indication of the extent to which the perplexity in exile has led some Israelites to lose their thrust in the tradition. due to their apostasy. and have walked after vanity. pre-anguish” order and orientation. 130. 1:4-9 Ah sinful nation. as captives and slaves. they are gone away backward… Jer. I may just bring the key that “they” refers to “Babylonians” And this makes the jealousy all the more intense by the fact that it not merely works for the Babylonians… but also the remnants. that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God. children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD. and are become vain? 6 Neither said they. broken cisterns. What iniquity have your fathers found in me. pre-doubt. are forced to work for them. a seed of evildoers. Isa. and that my fear is not in thee. and be horribly afraid. they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters. and the prophets prophesied by Baal. more precisely. saith the Lord GOD of hosts. Disoriented as they are 51 [Individual Complaint Psalms: Psalms of Confession] 90 [Smaller Genres and Mixed Types: Mixed Psalms] Repentance. that can hold no water… 19 Thine own wickedness shall correct thee. and hewed them out cisterns. indicating with such rhetorical force that… “it works!” To complement his reflection. the priests From God. be ye very desolate.13 For my people have committed two evils. an experience of a “pre-hurt. Sin of the people. O ye heavens. they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger. 89 The prophets Isaiah. by the Gentiles . the prophets. Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Where is the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt… 8 The priests said not. Brueggemann interpreted those verses as statements of the problem by the Psalmist. at may be. tell that exile had befallen Israel due primarily to their sins. a people laden with iniquity. and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter. that they are gone far from me. among others. and walked after things that do not profit… 12 Be astonished. 2:5-19 Thus saith the LORD. the kings.

The exile is to be understood as punishment of sin. the false prophets. the Gentiles are mere instruments. Concluding Remarks: What Came out of the Remnants? Relinquishment and receiving: but what remains intact? Two main elements of the theme: human flourishing/survival and perfection/holiness of life While fulfilling the former abundantly. Sin committed by the kings. Exile is such a period. there seems to be a tendency to forget the later. uncompromising worship of YHWH.Life in Babylon: Consciousness of Strangeness It is not all the same Hence: Repentance Holiness of God Homecoming 5. kwonani beret’. because He is just (fetahi betsidiq. and the people. atonement… perfection restored (at least temporarily) … God is faithful to his covenant… restoration (however thwarted)… A remark on the Lost Ten Tribes . Which forgetfulness in turns puts the survival in question. the priests (of idols). The Return… repentance of the exiles. It is God Himself and none other that punishes them.

132 Prophecy about [David] himself 3. 74. 82 Prophecy about his son Solomon 72 27 Notice that some of the Psalms have been accorded double—at times even triple— significance. 76. 116 Prophecy about Jeremiah 35 Prophecy about the Maccabees 44. 109 Prophecy about Priests 50. 16 . 81. 8083. 114. 71. 23-26. 22. 6. 7. 140 Prophecy about Mani and his 4.150 Prophecy about Hezekiah 14. 28 A group identified as “atheists” . 42. Appendix Ethiopic Psalm Titles Title Psalms Admonition for All 1. 64. 141 . 117. 2227. 55 – 60. 61. 101 -104. 39. 43. 108. 112. 31. 93-99. 77. 49. 75. 87. 21. Prophecy about the Remnants 47. 20. 110.13. 51. 87 – 90. 19 followers28 5. 51. 115. 13. 73. 63. 113. 40. 48. 51. 92. 8. 84. 91. 45. 38. 15. 36. 37. 120. 41.34. 121 – 139. 79. 118. 78 Prophecy about Christ 2. 106. 62. 70. 46. 69. 86. 52 – 54. 111. 107. 27 – 30.18. 65 – 68. 9 . 32 . 85.

Roger W. The Remnant: the History and Theology of the Remnant Idea from Genesis to Isaiah (2nd ed. Four Approaches To the Book of Psalms: From Saadiah Gaon to Abraham Ibn Ezra. Addis Ababa. New York: State University of New York Press. Cambridge 198 Elliott. Development and Significance of the Concept of the Remnant in the Old Testament.” In: Approaching Yehud: New Approaches to the Study of the Persian Period. 2007 Cowley. Schramm. Werner. Wiesbaden.. A Dissertation Submitted to the University of Aberdeedn for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy 1993 Gerhard F. Uriel. Jon L. Kristen Stoffregen. Postcolonialism and the Construction of the Self. Friedrich. überarbeitet. Andrews University Monographs. The Origin. University of Edinburgh in conformity with the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy . Oded. Ethiopian Biblical Interpretation. A Study in Exegetical Tradition and Hermeneutics. II. Die Vorstellung vom Rest im Alten Testament (Fur die Neuauflage durchgesehen. A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Divinity. Winona Lake. volume 5). Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Works Cited Berquist. Ed. mit Ergänzungen und einem Nachtrag versehen von Horst Dietrich Preuss). The Teaching of Tergum in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church = Proceedings of III ICES. 1974 Heyer. Neukirchner Verlag. 1973 Pederson.. Trans. The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem: Judah under Babylonian Rule. The Survivors of Israel: Attitudes Toward the National Salvation among Late Second Temple Jewish Protest Groups. 1991 Warne. and Implications for the Literature and Beliefs. Donald M. Studies in Religion. Berquist. 1995 Simon. and for the Definition of Pre-Christian Judaism. E. Traditional Ethiopian Exegesis of the Book of Psalms = Äthiopische Forschungen 36. Hasel. Mark Adam. Michigan: Andrews University Press. “Psalms. 1966 Lipschits. Jon L. Indiana 2005 Müller. Lenn J..