The Psalms and Their Meaning for Today

By Samuel Terrien | Go to book overview
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IT IS A NOTEWORTHY and somewhat startling fact that the highest expressions of fellowship with God in the Psalter emanate from men influenced by the schools of wisdom.

For centuries before the dawn of Hebrew religion the wise men or sages of Babylonia, Edom, and Egypt meditated on the meaning of human life. Most of them concluded that virtue or crime always finds its proper retribution. Hebrew sages, likewise, whose teachings are preserved mainly in the book of Proverbs ( chs. 1-29), equated righteousness or "the fear of Yahweh" with prosperity, and ill-behavior or "folly" with misfortune and sudden death. A number of psalms which have been composed in the didactic style of the wisdom literature set forth this dogma of moralistic optimism: they hold that morality always reaps its reward (see particularly, in full or in part, Pss. 1, 14[53], 34, 94, 111, 112, 119, 127, 128, 144). Indeed, this note now dominates the Psalter as a whole, since the present edition of the anthology begins with a beatitude of the "wisdom" type:

"Blessed is the man
That walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor standeth in the way of sinners,
Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful!

But his delight is in the law of Yahweh,
And in his law doth he meditate day and night" ( Ps. 1:1-2).

James Moffatt, the well-known translator of the Bible, once said, "I like the 'wisdom-psalms.' Some people think that they are not


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