Some Thoughts on Psalm 33

Lest my fellow contributors think me dead, here are some thoughts I’ve been having…

I have been enjoying reading through some psalms in the study here the past couple weeks. Psalm 33, which we recently used in worship at the church I attend, has been on my mind. I thought I would give some minor observations that might help us think well about this text. This is not intended as a detailed discussion of the content of the psalm, but a few points that help guide our reading thereof.

First, Psalm 33 should be read closely with the psalm(s) that precedes. Several lines of evidence support this supposition. Unlike the surrounding chapters, Psalm 33 does not have a title in the Hebrew text. In fact, a few Hebrew manuscripts connect this psalm with Psalm 32. Moreover, connections between 33:1 and 32:11 cannot be missed. Consider the following:

32:11 Rejoice in Yhwh and be glad, righteous ones! And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
33:1 Shout for joy in Yhwh, righteous ones! Praise is becoming to the upright.

Furthermore, it seems that 32:10 forms the basis for the response in 33:21–22:

32:10 There are many sorrows for the wicked one, but the one who trusts in Yhwh, loyal love surrounds him.
33:21–22 For in him our heart will rejoice, for in his holy name we have trusted. Yhwh, may your loyal love be upon us, according to how we have waited for you.

Therefore, the connections with Psalm 32 appear at both the beginning and ending of Psalm 33, which is an appropriate place for such relationships to be made so that the reader does not fail to observe them.

Second, recognition of these connections guides the reading of the psalm; that is, I don’t believe we should simply consider this mere coincidence. The primary answer to the significance of this connection seems to be that Psalm 33 is given as an appropriate response to the exhortation of Psalm 32. The righteous ones—i.e. those who (within the context of the Psalter) meditate upon Torah (Ps 1) and find refuge in the Son (Ps 2)—are called upon to shout for joy in the Lord.

Third, the psalm is corporate in its nature. As such, it guides the response of the readers/worshipers, informing theologically their response to Yahweh. The corporate response is most specifically seen in the change from third person (vv. 1–19) to first person plural (vv. 20–22). So, what began with a call to worship in vv. 1–3, continued with the author’s reasoning of why such praise and reverence for Yahweh is fitting, ends with the response of the forgiven (see Ps 32). Their response is one of waiting, hoping, and trusting in God’s commitment to His promises. I like what Goldingay says about this in his commentary (p. 474):

The frame of the psalms suggests an equivalent comprehensiveness about our human response to God. Worship involves looking away from ourselves to an object. It involves the making of music and noise. But when we have seen who Yhwh is, it involves an expression of reverence, hope, joy, and trust.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by rakkav on February 21, 2009 at 3:22 am

    Greetings, Mr. McKinion! Your blog was automatically linked to mine:

    http://rakkav.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/psalm-96-played-by-king-davids-harp-dc-1991/

    I’d like to address some things you say here — not in a spirit of harsh criticism but out of a deep passion for a whole world of biblical study that isn’t being used by pastors nearly as much as it should be. So much of what has been written by so many about the Psalms is now obsolete — not surprising since until recently, we’ve been in much the same situation someone would be while trying to infer the melodic-verbal relationship of Mozart’s operas from the verbal librettos alone.

    Superficial links between Psalms based on similar words and circumstantial positioning (which can have more than one possible explanation a priori) can’t defeat the “facts on the ground” as we now have them. We owe those facts to the still-underrated work of the late Suzanne Haik-Vantoura with the Masoretic Text and its musical notation:

    http://www.rakkav.com/biblemusic/

    Psalms 32 and 33 are quite different and ultimately unrelated melopoetic (musical-verbal) compositions. They indeed are very likely by the same author — David — but David didn’t always put his name at the head of his work. But since they come from the same author (as his poet-composer’s “style” is idiosyncratic whether his name is on the Psalm or not), it’s not surprising that they share some common melopoetic ground, or that he (or someone like Ezra with a very keen ear) edited them together more or less unconsciously due to that common ground.

    The performance of Psalm 96 given on my blog isn’t perfect, and it adds to the deliberately simple arrangement that Mme. Haik-Vantoura created — so I think it’s rather “over-orchestrated” and (at least at the beginning) over-“classicist”. But I can’t begin to describe the joy I had in hearing it; the Psalm itself transcends the difficulties of its performance, especially as the group gains confidence while performing. I hope the video will speak to your heart and spirit just as deeply as it did to mine.

    Here’s the original recorded version:

    http://www.rakkav.com/biblemusic/mp3s/shv_pss096-001.mp3

    Pss. 32 and 33 have never been recorded, but all the Psalms have been published as scores. Quite a few videos of this music (by me) are on YouTube, as listed on the “rakkav” and especially on the “teamim” channel.

    Respectfully submitted,
    John Wheeler (“Johanan Rakkav”)

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