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Creating the textual worlds of psalms

Susan Gillmayr-Bucher
p. 277-298

Résumés

La narratologie de M.-L. Ryan et sa théorie des mondes textuels possibles sont un outil pertinent pour analyser les psaumes. Les Ps 90‑92 se livrent alors comme l’entrecroisement et le dialogue de plusieurs mondes, du locuteur, parfois également narrateur, de Dieu lui-même – du lecteur enfin : la distance séparant l’homme de Dieu est ainsi mise en évidence (Ps 90), en même temps que des images protectrices et maternelles de Dieu (Ps 91) ; l’image d’un monde ordonné distinguant clairement bons et méchants n’est peut-être que celle des hommes, car les « mondes possibles » de Dieu restent cachés (Ps 92). La subjectivité du lecteur investit les psaumes mais ils le transforment aussi.

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Notes de la rédaction

Le lecteur trouvera p. 296-297 une présentation en français de l’article de S. Gillmayr.

Texte intégral

  • 1 The psalms enjoyed not only an enormous popularity in the liturgical tradition of Jewish and Christ (...)

1The book of Psalms is one of the most fascinating books of the Bible. Throughout the centuries people have read these texts, prayed with them and sung them. They have also drawn their inspiration for new prayers, songs and poems from these texts1. Part of this ongoing fascination of the psalms is their specific creation of individual worlds inviting recipients to join in. Like any other biblical text, psalms do not depict an exact image of their world. When the psalmists express their praise, lament or thanksgiving they do so by including different segments of their world from varying perspectives. Time and space of their depiction but also the protagonists and their intentions and hopes, their knowledge and obligations are arranged accordingly. Thus the textual world of a psalm always presents one specific construction of the experienced world.

  • 2 The “possible worlds theory” has its roots in philosophy (philosophical logic, philosophy of langua (...)
  • 3 M.-L. Ryan, “Fiction, Non-Factuals, and the Principle of Minimal Departure”, Poetics 9 (1980) p. 40 (...)
  • 4 M.-L. Ryan, “The Modal Structure of Narrative Universes”, Poetics Today 6 (1985), p. 717-755, p. 72 (...)

2This paper focuses on the different constructions of textual worlds in Ps 90-92. Despite similar motives and numerous connections between these three psalms, the portrayal of the textual worlds varies considerably. In order to analyze the world creating literary procedures I will adopt an approach mainly used in narratology, called “possible worlds theory2”. This theory assumes that the world of a text is not an accurate or comprehensive representation of the author’s own world but a parallel, alternative world. This alternative world is, of course, not independent of the actual world. Rather the textual world is based on the actual world of the authors and their experience of this world, and it may present various degrees of similarity with the real world3. The actual “world of a text” is the sphere regarded as real by the characters of the text and also the readers, who are willing to accept this alternative world while reading a text. Taking a closer look at the alternative world a text constructs it becomes obvious that such a world may again contain several models of reality. There is the world of the text, all figures share, and additionally there are possible worlds that are not shared by all but may be assigned to single figures. “The actual world of narrative systems is inhabited by individuals who build their own modal systems by engaging in such world-creating and/or world-representing acts as forming beliefs, wishing, dreaming, making forecasts, and inventing stories. Numerous relative worlds are thus nested in the absolute world4”. Ryan distinguishes between several “possible worlds”:

  • the knowledge-world represents the knowledge and the beliefs of a figure;

  • the intention-world describes its plans, goals and intentions;

  • the wish-world shows what a figure considers to be desirable;

  • the moral-world is formed by convictions and norms a figure considers essential for its own actions;

  • the obligation-world consists of directives, standards and laws all the figures of a text are bound to.

3Using this approach the text is not viewed as a structure but rather as a modal-system with different “possible worlds” existing side by side. The focus thus clearly lies on the dynamic of a text as it unfolds between the world of the text and the possible worlds of its characters in a series of changes

4Considering this theory for psalms a characteristic trait of these texts has to be considered. Compared to narrative texts psalms usually offer a more basic textual universe that is presented by a homodiegetic narrator most of the times. While a heterodiegetic narrator, who is not part of the text, is typical for most biblical texts, the psalms are presented by an “I”-persona resp. “We”-persona. In the case of a homodiegetic speaker the I-persona takes up two roles : the I-persona is a narrator presenting/remembering and thus constructing the textual world ; and the I-persona is also a figure in the text (like other figures). These two roles – the narrating and the experiencing persona – usually overlap, but they are not identical. Psalm thus often portray of the world of the lyric persona presenting what this person experienced and hopes for. Nevertheless, the lyrical persona of a psalm also constructs a text world including other figures and their possible worlds.

5Applying this approach to psalms helps to see the text dynamic unfolding as a discourse between the word of the text and the world of the figures, their knowledge, their wishes, hopes and fears, their obligations. Furthermore, it also encourages a reading that takes the construction of the text seriously, recognizing the individual textual world every psalm creates.

On how to cope with an unadorned view on life (Ps 90)

6Ps 90 takes human life and fate into account by combining elements of a sapiential reflection with traits of lament. The text world of Ps 90 is presented by a lyrical persona (“we”), who switches between a personal and a more distanced perspective. Quite typical for a homodiegetic presentation, this speaker combines common statements (v 2‑3, 6) and memories (v 7‑10) when describing the world of the text. Inside the world of this psalm two figures are explicitly mentioned, the lyrical persona and YHWH. From their possible worlds first only short glimpses into the knowledge-world and the obligation-world of the lyrical persona and YHWH’s intention-world and knowledge-world are presented. From v 12 onwards, however, the pleas of the lyrical persona (wish-world) dominate the text.

7Distribution of the text world and the possible worlds in Ps 90

Verses

text world

possible worlds

lyrical persona

YHWH

1

statement (personal)

2

statement (general)

3a

statement (general)

3b

intention

4

knowledge

5

statement

6

statement (general)

7

narration

8

narration

9

narration

10

statement

11

knowledge

12‑17

wish

A hard-edged outline: The world of the text

  • 5 The metaphor of God as māʿôn points out that God is a place of security and, furthermore, it implic (...)
  • 6 Cf. M. Köckert, Zeit und Ewigkeit in Ps 90, in : R. Kratz, H. Spieckermann (ed.), Zeit und Ewigkeit (...)
  • 7 Cf. Dtn 23, 2 ; Jes 57, 15 ; Ps 34, 19.

8The description of the text world dominates the first part of this text. The psalm starts with general statements on the spatial construction of the world. In the first statement God is presented as a living en­vironment for his people and this spatial experience of God is also tightly connected to the psalmists’ memory. From generation to generation people did experience God as a space, were life can unfold5. However, the verb hājîtā refers to the past but not (explicitly) the present6. Thus, if God is still expe­rienceable as refuge remains to be seen. Nevertheless, this image is more than just a starting point, it remains a central image for the following descriptions. Once this image for God is established, the description widens its view to the earth and human beings. The birth metaphor in v 2 shows God as the mother of the earth. God thus is the one who cares, who is responsible for the earth but who also is the reference point (cf. Deut 32:18), the one who determines the future of the offspring (cf. Isa 51:2 ; Prov 25:23). This aspect is unfolded with the metaphorical concept of “life is a journey” (v 3). Human life is presented as journey lead by God. However, it is not like Gen 3:19 a return to the origins, rather the Hebrew word used here for dust (dakkāʾ) points to something pulverized or crushed, thus alluding to destruction7.

  • 8 Cf. M. Grohmann. Metaphors of God, Nature and Birth in Psalm 90, 2 and Psalm 110, 3, in : P. van He (...)
  • 9 Köckert points out that ʿôlām is an attribute of God referring to his extramundane magnitude. Köcke (...)

9Parallel to the spatial construction of the psalm’s world a time scale is introduced presenting God as the only stable point in the universe. The metaphorical image of God giving birth to the earth also adds to the time scale, pointing out that the beginning of God’s time lies before the mountains were born and he gave birth to the earth8. Thus God is everlasting and not subjected to the change of times9. In contrast to God’s “everlasting time-span”, human time is characterized by circulation, where generation follows upon generation (v 1). While God exists, people constantly come and go. Their life time is clearly limited (v 3), whereby a special emphasis lies on the end. Returning and thus vanishing is the fate and goal of human life. Both, the metaphor of God as the “mother of earth” and the metaphor of “life as a guided journey” point to God’s dominance over space and time as people experience it.

  • 10 Cf. TBooij, “Psalm 90, 5‑6 : Junction of two traditional motifs”, Bib 68 (1987) p. 393-396, p. 39 (...)
  • 11 Cf. Ps 76:4: “At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay asleep”. Tsevat also points (...)
  • 12 Cf. J. Schnocks, Vergänglichkeit und Gottesherrschaft. Studien zu Psalm 90 und dem vierten Psalmenb (...)
  • 13 Tsevat interprets the occurrences of ḥlp in v 5 and 6 as wordplay. Whereby the first ḥlp means “to (...)

10The following verses continue to unfold the relation between God and human beings on a time scale, pointing out the differences between a divine and a human perspective. While the psalm presents God’s perspective as an insight into his knowledge-world (v 4), the human perspective is not shown from the perspective of a figure, but it is presented as a statement, a given fact in the text world of the psalm. In order to describe the human experience of time several images are strung together. The first metaphorical image focuses on human beings washed away by sleep (v 4). The verb zrm, which is used here, refers to a devastating downpour sweeping everything away10. The image of being swept away by sleep could signalize that people are overpowered by a stage of inactivity11. Such a passivity is not necessarily only negative, sleep is also regenerating12. However, the active stage that follows (5b) shows, that whatever regeneration sleep might offer, the effect is only a fleeting one. The image of the quickly passing (ḥlp)13, sprouting and withering grass (v 5-6), emphasizes the fleetingness of human life and its lack of permanence (cf. Ps 103:5).

11The perspective changes in v 7 form a common depiction to the experiences of the lyrical persona (lyrical-“we”). But still, these verses (v 7-10) are part of the description of the text world and present the world of the text as it is experienced and explained by the “lyrical we”. With regard to the subject matter the theme of transience continues in the next verses; and additionally, a new aspect, namely the correlation of divine and human actions, is added. In retrospect the short human life is entirely shaped by divine wrath (v 7-9). Using spatial images v 8 presents God as a central authority who puts everything, even hidden human iniquities, into his field of vision. The combination of divine wrath and God’s omnipresence further implies a punishment and thus refers to a common obligation-world of this text. Although there seems to be a conflict, no possible dynamic or change is indicated. This further adds to the rather somber portrait of human life. The metaphorical images in v 9-10 further highlight the fleetingness of life time, yet they also point out that there is hardly an opportunity to give this life a specific shape or to make an impression. Like a sigh or a bird flying away they leave no trace. This deficiency is maybe the most important aspect in the comparison of the divine and human time-scale. It is only God, who is able to make use of the time, to control it, while humans are more or less passively subjected to its fleetingness.

  • 14 The verb mnh entails not “the simple act of counting, but rather an ordering – and thus an under­st (...)
  • 15 Cf. K. Liess, Sättigung mit langem Leben. Vergänglichkeit, Lebenszeit und Alter in den Psalmen 90‑9 (...)
  • 16 Clifford proposes another interpretation of v 11-12. He suggests that the wish to count our days “r (...)
  • 17 Cf. Köckert, Zeit und Ewigkeit, p. 177.

12The request the lyrical speaker makes in v 12 is a reaction to this shortcoming. Thus the lyrical persona does not ask for a longer life but for the possibility to count the days14, and thus to make active use of time15. Despite the knowledgeable description of the regularities of the world of the text, and the correlation between God’s perspective and human life, the question in v 11 expresses a lack of insight that is followed by a wish to gain knowledge (v 12). From these verses onwards the possible worlds of the lyric persona is unfolded. Though the general outline of the world and the relation between God and humans seem to be obvious (v 3-10), the ability to deal with these circumstances of life is not. The question and the request in v 11-12 thus aim at a new perspective and, as the following verses show, the possibility to shape one’s life16. Nevertheless, this is not an ability the “lyrical we” hopes to achieve by itself, a heart of wisdom rather holds on to God17.

13The way Ps 90 presents the text world, with its lack of insight into possible worlds of the figures strengthens the image of a clearly defined textual world. Thus this kind of presentation further increases the distance between the divine and the human world. This changes in the second part of the psalm, when the perspective of the “lyrical we” gains priority.

Hoping for a new quality of life: The possible worlds of the lyrical persona

  • 18 The pleas correspond to the descriptions in v 3-10. E. g. v 13 continues the motive of divine wrath (...)

14The perspective of the psalmist as a figure in the text world dominates the second part of Ps 90. The presentation of the psalmist’s wish-world in v 13-17 unfolds several aspects the actual text-world is seemingly missing18. The lyrical persona thus sketches a vivid wish-world that does accept the world, as it is known and the general framework for human life, but hopes for a new quality. Accordingly, the transience of life is not questioned, however, the quality of life and its sustainability is. What the lyrical persona hopes for is a world on a human scale, where joy and jubilance compensate the hard times and people might recognize and rejoice in God’s deeds. Contrasting to the rather distanced image of God at the beginning of the psalm, the lyrical speaker hopes for a God who turns towards his people, cares for them and shows compassion. With such a helpful divine intervention people could even can find stability in or in front of God (e. g. v 17). The difference between the distanced presentation of the text world and the wish world of the lyrical speaker emphasizes the incapability of the lyrical speaker to shape a fulfilled life under the recognized conditions without God’s help.

The ultimate Other: YHWH’s possible worlds

15The psalm allows two short glimpses inside the possible worlds of YHWH. These insights into God’s perspective accentuate this difference with reference to God’s intention-world and his knowledge-world. In v 3 the quoted speech allows a direct glimpse into God’s intention-world pointing out that the limitation of human life is according to God’s plans. When the psalm depicts the time frame of God’s existence it also becomes obvious, that YHWH’s perspective differs radically from the perspective of humans.

16In correspondence to the divine perspective of shaping and caring for the whole world the divine perspective of time also exceeds human imagination. From God’s point of view 1000 years are like a bygone day in human experience, or the shift of a night watch. This comparison describes God’s experience of time on a human time-scale and from a human point of view juxtaposing an almost unimaginable number of years and an everyday experience.

The short glimpses into the possible worlds of the figure of God underline the difference between human and divine existence.

Summary

17The “textual actual world” of the text provides a detailed outline of this world: especially of human and divine time, and it also presents metaphorical descriptions of human life. The references to YHWH’s possible worlds add credibility to the description of the text world and, furthermore, it presents the actual state of life and the world as God’s plan. In this way the construction of the world of the text highlights the differences between human and divine existence and thus forms the basis for the pleadings. The differences emphasize the human inability to act and thus the necessity of God’s intervening. Only with God’s allowance joy and jubilation may become possible.

18Furthermore, the lyrical persona presents itself self-critically in relation to his/her own insights. Despite the available knowledge – as it is presented in the description of the text world – a successful or fulfilled life seems beyond reach. Hence from this discrepancy comes a wish-world that hopes for a possibility to experience life differently. Simultaneously this also expresses a hope that the current experience might not be the only way to perceive (knowledge-world) the world and human life.

A song of trust and confidence (Ps 91)

  • 19 Similar to māʿôn in Ps 90:1 maḥsæh (refuge) and meṣôdāh (fortress) implicitly also refer to the dan (...)
  • 20 Wagner assumes that the speaker is a proselyte in the act of converting. In v 2 he/she declares his (...)
  • 21 Zenger calls v 3‑13 “(autoritative) Heilszusage . Hossfeld/Zenger, Psalmen 51‑100, p. 618.
  • 22 For a detailed summary of this discussion cf. Tate, Psalms 51-100 (WBC 20), Waco, Tex., Thomas Nels (...)
  • 23 Many interpretations prefer this reading (e. g. H.-J. Kraus, Psalmen II. Psalmen 60-150 (BKAT 15), (...)

19Ps 91 constructs a text word that is quite different from the previous psalm. Instead of an unadorned observation, this psalm describes the world from a confident and trusting point of view. The text world presented here is exclusively created by the possible worlds of the figures of the text. The psalm starts with a statement that shows the lyrical speaker as someone who lives under God’s protection. From this perspective he/she declares his/her intention to address and acknowledge God not only as his/her shelter19 but also his/her personal deity20. This intention is realized in v 9a when the “lyrical I” explicitly declares YHWH to be his/her refuge (maḥsæh). The verses following the introduction (v 3-8) and the confession (v 9b-13) sketch a daring image of a sheltered future and express a strong conviction, that the imagined future will come true. Presented as a direct address these verses are a promise of YHWH’s protection from different forms of threat and peril21. With regard to the speaker(s) and the addressee of these words, however, the psalm offers no suggestion. It is not obvious if there is more than one speaker, or who is the speaker, resp. who is the addressee. Assuming there is only one speaker, this psalm could be read as a dialogue between the “lyrical I” and God. Consequently, the alternation of first and second person in v 1‑13 could be understood as an interior monolog, wherein the “lyrical I” quotes an encouragement he/she has received or is imagining22. Taking an actual communication of two people as a starting point, either the “lyrical I” is alternately addressing YHWH (v 2, 9a) and an anonymous addressee (v 3-8, 9b-13) with whom he/she shares his/her confidence in YHWH in a comforting or instructing tone; or the “lyrical I” is encouraged by an anonymous speaker. Reconstructing the process of communication, where the “lyrical I” announces a confession to YHWH (v 1) and later makes this confession (v 9a) it seems to be (slightly) more plausible to assume that v 3-8 and v 9b-13 belong to a second voice – regardless whether it is a second person or an interior monologue – encouraging the “lyrical I” and substantiating his/her confidence in YHWH23. One more obvious change in the discourse of this psalm occurs in v 14 when God starts to speak. In the last verses (v 14-16) of this psalm God confirms his intention to protect someone trusting in him.

20According to this communicative setting the distribution of the figures’ possible worlds presented in this psalm generally follows the direct speech of the figures, although the second voice also provides insight into YHWH’s intention-world (v 3-4, 11-12) and the knowledge-world of the “lyrical I” (v 8).

Distribution of the text world and the possible worlds in Ps 91

Verses

possible worlds

lyrical persona (“I’’)

second voice

YHWH

1

knowledge (statement)

2a

intention

2b

knowledge (statement)

3‑4

knowledge (future)

intention

5‑7

knowledge (future)

8

knowledge (perception)

knowledge (future)

9a

knowledge (statement)

9b

knowledge (statement)

10

knowledge (future)

11‑12

knowledge (future)

intention

13

knowledge (future)

14‑16

intention

Steadfast confidence: The possible worlds of the “lyrical I”

  • 24 V 1 uses expressions ʿæljȏn and šaddaj and only v 2 mentions the proper name YHWH. Whether these th (...)
  • 25 The verbform ʾomar can be translated as “ I shall speak” (intention) or “ I want to speak” (wish). (...)

21In this psalm the “lyrical I” is characterized by his/her confidence in God as a secure refuge. This knowledge forms the starting point that is elaborated and strengthened throughout the psalm. Ps 91 starts with a short description of the location of the “lyrical I” which is explicitly marked as a very special situation. Two spatial images present God24 as a protective shelter where the psalmist can dwell in security. The lyrical speaker thus presents a subjective estimation of his/her situation but not a description of the common textual world. The short statements of the “lyrical I” (v 2, 9a) express a meta­phorical image of YHWH and his protection. These spatial images are continued when the lyrical speaker mentions his/her intention or wish25 to address YHWH (v 2) as his/her refuge (maḥsæh) and stronghold (meṣôdāh). Both statements present a metaphorical image of YHWH and his protection in v 2 as the knowledge-world of the lyrical speaker as a figure in the text. They bear witness to his/her steadfast confidence (bṭḥ) in YHWH.

22Emphasizing such positive images encourages the idea that outside God’s space there are hostile surroundings and only God is a safe place, where people might find security and shelter from all imminent perils. With the explicit declaration on v 9 the “lyrical I” not only holds on to this image but also bears witness to his/her confidence.

A display of knowledge: The possible worlds of the second voice

  • 26 Accordingly, the second voice does hardly imagine any actions of the “lyrical I”, who remains mostl (...)

23The most elaborately portrayed possible world in this psalm is the knowledge-world of the second voice (v 3‑8, 9b-13). It is a highly specialized knowledge focusing exclusively on how God will rescue the psalmist26. By doing so this voice presents insights into the divine intention-world, claiming to know what God’s plans are. In a series of images this speaker unfolds God’s seemingly unlimited possibilities to save from all threats. The metaphors use the image spheres of animals, disease, warfare and travel to describe God’s rescuing and protective intervention. While v 3 focuses on the aspect of rescue, from the trap of the fowler or devastating pestilence, v 4 underlines the aspect of protection. Here God is imagined as a bird, who protects his offspring under its wings, or as shield and buckler. These contrasting metaphors, nevertheless, are constructed similarly sharing the image of being in somebody’s space and thus being at somebody’s mercy. The metaphor of God as a protective bird mother assures that whoever finds shelter under her wings is in a secure space. He/she is at the mercy of the bird mother, however, it is a desirable dependency. A contrasting metaphor is the trap of the fowler in v 3. Similar to images of a hiding place the enclosed space of a trap points out, that whoever is in this space, is under the fowler’s control facing immediate danger. These contrasting images thus offer an invitation to choose YHWH’s space and to accept the divine offer of protection. After presenting this insight into God’s intentions to safeguard the psalmist as an assured knowledge, the second voice outlines the consequence for the “lyrical I”, assuring that he/she has nothing fear (v 5-6). Although the lyrical persona will witness destruction, he/she will not be affected by the surrounding violence (v 7-8) but rather watch from a secure point of view. V 9b picks up the image of YHWH as dwelling place and re-confirms that no harm will come to the “lyrical I” (v 10). Similar to v 3-4 the next verses reassure God’s rescuing intervention. This line of thought is unfolded with the metaphor “life is a journey”, imagining how God will safeguard the psalmist on his/her way. God is shown as the one who (re)arranges the spatial order in favour of the psalmist. Like all previous images in this psalm the threatening aspects of life are not ignored nor are they wiped out. Rather, the speaker is convinced that God guides those trusting in him through all threats their journey might pose (v 11-12). Although the experienced space is full of dangerous aspects, the speaker relies on God and is confident, that all obstacles can be safely overcome with divine help.

  • 27 This knowledge characterizes this speaker, Hunziker-Rodewald thus suggests that the speaker is pres (...)

24The second voice claims great knowledge and competence regarding YHWH, his power and also his intentions to intervene in favour of the addressee (v 3-4 ; 11a)27. Its insights are presented with great confidence as part of its knowledge-world. However, the possible worlds of second voice are reduced to the knowledge-world. With this clear and solemn focus the supportive role of this voice becomes apparent. Without any prerequisites or demands it emphasizes God’s help for the lyrical persona and thus justifies and confirms the confidence it proclaimed.

Answering the psalmist’s trust: YHWH’s possible worlds

25The last verses of this psalm (v 14-16) portray God’s perspective by quoting his direct speech. The life the “lyrical I” may expect under divine protection is repeated and extended from YHWH’s point of view. Not only may he/she rely on God’s aid and rescue, furthermore, he/she can expect a life in abundance. Being endowed with honour, satisfied with days and seeing God’s salvation are the blessings awaiting him/her. Hereby God’s speech confirms the knowledge of the second voice.

26Compared to the previous references to the divine plans for interaction these verses further expand YHWH’s intention-world by pointing out that his prospective reactions aim at someone, who is attached to him (v 14). This description of YHWH’s intention-world thus adds a further aspect by naming the condition for God’s intervention. In this way the divine speech combines the trust in God the lyrical persona expressed in his/her confession and the hopeful prospect the second voice portrayed: God’s intention is presented as a beneficial answer to the psalmist’s trust.

Summary

27The textual world of Ps 91 is only presented in the possible worlds of the figures and unfolds as an in­teraction of the possible worlds of the psalmist, a second voice and God. One of the most noticeable features is the separation of the accentuated aspects “trust in God” and “protection by God” in the voices of the lyrical persona and the second voice. Thus confession in God and its explanation are pre­sented side by side as a double act which is finally combined and confirmed by God. The references to the textual world, however, are not equally distributed. The “lyrical I” focuses only on God as an al­ter­native space. Although in the used expressions (shelter, refuge, dwelling-place) a hostile world is al­luded, it is not mentioned explicitly. Similarly, God’s words emphasize that he will rescue the psal­mist the dangers are only adumbrated. The only elaborate description of the hazards of the textual world are presented by the second voice, and even then, they are shown as manageable threats. As a result, confidence and fear – including the process of coping with anxiety and finding reassurance – can be se­pa­rated. The knowledge of the lyrical persona can concentrate on his/her trust in God, while the second voice takes over the wrestle with anxiety. In this setting the presentation of God’s intention-world in his own words, confirms both voices. From this divine perspective at the end of the psalm the combination of honouring the psalmist’s trust and promised protection offer a confident and auspicious prospect.

Praise for a well-ordered world (Ps 92)

28The construction of the world in Ps 92 presents a divided world, that is separated into the world of the righteous and the world of the fools. The textual world of Ps 92 is displayed by a lyrical persona as a mixture of general statements, short narrating passages and confident prospects. Although the “lyrical I” remains the only speaker in this psalm, its presentation reveals insights into the possible worlds of the lyrical persona as a figure in the world of the text, YHWH, the fool and the righteous. These possible worlds comply with the textual world and further emphasize the confidence in God as the one who upholds justice and provides stability and shelter.

Distribution of the text world and the possible worlds in Ps 92

Verses

text world

possible worlds

lyrical persona

YHWH

fool

righteous

2‑4

statement

5a

narration (experience)

5b

intention

6

statement

knowledge

7

statement

knowledge

8

statement

9

statement (YHWH)

10

knowledge

11

narration (experience)

12

narration

knowledge (experience)

13‑15

statement (righteous)

16a-b

knowledge

Creating structure by separation: The world of the text

29The text world of Ps 92 is based on the experience of the lyrical persona which he/she combines with general thoughts on the different fate of righteous and wicked people. The world of the text is presented as a well-ordered system were the righteous experience God’s support and are able to rejoice while the wicked will perish. Nevertheless, this order is not easily recognizable and thus is accessible only to the wise. The lyrical persona as narrator presents this insight from different angles.

30The psalm starts with a positive evaluation of giving praise to JHWH. This statement expresses the basic attitude and forms a prelude to the whole psalm. This statement is confirmed at the end of the psalm in v 13‑16 with a general prospect of the righteous’ blissful fate and their praise. Thus confidence and praise provide a framework for this psalm. In between these two statements the lyrical persona makes further considerations, pointing out his/her own experience but also thinking about the fate of the evildoers. Both the experience and the sapiential reflection are used to constitute the world of the text.

  • 28 Only in the narrating statements of the psalmist’s rescue (v 5 and v 11) by God’s active interventi (...)
  • 29 The metaphor “to raise my horn” refers to a supreme or victorious subject (cf. P. Riede, “Doch du e (...)

31When the lyrical persona speaks about his/her own experience he/she does so in retrospect. In two short narrative passages (v 5a, 11-12) the “lyrical I” tells about his/her experience of God’s support and the joy he/she felt28. Both narrative statements are complemented with insight into the possible worlds of the “lyrical I”. The first narration (v 5a) remembers the emotional impact of God’s deeds and is continued by the expression of an intention to express the experienced joy. The second narrative retrospect (v 11-12) again focuses on God’s acts and also highlights the joyful experience, however, in a metaphorical way29. This experience is complemented by a perception of the adversaries (know­ledge-world) revealing the hazard they proved and still prove to be in the eyes of the lyrical persona.

  • 30 The final clause at the end of v 8 also points out explicitly that the prosperity of the wicked thi (...)

32Who these dangerous others are, is unfolded in v 6-10 presenting them from different points of view. The first approach (v 6-8) is rather distanced while the second approach (v 10) offers an insight into the confident and hopeful knowledge of the lyrical persona. The first considerations focus explicitly on God’s thoughts and the possibility for humans to understand the divine ideas (v 6-8). This reflection is opened by a rhetoric question (v 6a) underlining the (ongoing) challenge of this undertaking. Fittingly, the divine thoughts are only mentioned but not unfolded (v 6b). YHWH’s knowledge-world thus remains concealed. Nevertheless, only the ignorants and fools are denied any insight (v 7), whether the lyrical persona is able to gain insight is not explicitly stated but insinuated by way of contrast. Subsequent to these quite general considerations v 8 mentions one example where the divine plans are especially hard to recognize, namely the special case of the prosperity of the wicked. This case is described using images of the plant world. The metaphors of the sprouting grass and the trees emphasize a chronological aspect but they bear a local component as well. On a chronological level the image of the enemies as fast growing, blooming grass evokes images of a rapidly vanishing vegetation (cf. e. g. Ps 37, 2; 90, 6; 103, 15‑16). On a spatial level the image of an area-covering expansion is provoked (v 8). The allusions to a blooming field have positive connotations and point to the attractiveness of this phenomenon (cf. e. g. Ps 72:16; Is 27:6; 35:1‑2). Taken together, the chronological and spatial aspects lead to an ambivalent image of the wicked. Although their way of life might seem appealing, such an impression is fleeting and their success will not last30. Thus their ostensible success is put into perspective if their end is also taken into consideration. The description of the wicked is concluded by a statement (v 9) proclaiming that YHWH represents an opposite way of existence, far from the spatial and chronological constraints of the wicked.

  • 31 The righteous are characterized by “loftiness, eternity, strength and unity”. These are also the qu (...)
  • 32 For the first time in these three psalms the experienced space of God is linked to a physical space (...)
  • 33 Cf. C. Sticher, “Die Gottlosen gedeihen wie Gras. Zu einigen Pflanzen­metaphern in den Psalmen. Ein (...)

33The following retrospection (v 11-12) contrasts the fate of the “lyrical I” with the hoped for fate of the enemies (v 10) and thus leads over to the concluding verses, which unfold the fate of the righteous in general31. Like the metaphorical description of the wicked the image used to depict the righteous is taken from the realm of botany. Here, the undefined wide space of the evildoers (v 8) is contrasted with the confined but secure space of the temple’s courtyards were the righteous might prosper (v 14). The images of the trees (v 13) also focus on the magnitude of the single trees. Unlike the grass that is only viewed as a mass-phenomenon, the trees are pointed out as single entities. Furthermore, these trees, planted in the vicinity of the temple, constitute God’s tree garden and in this way they even merge with God’s space (v 14)32. Another central aspect of this image is the chronological element. Twice it is mentioned that the righteous are sprouting (prḥ). However, in contrast to the rapid sprouting of the wicked (v 8), trees grow much slower. Their sprouting is not a quick process but rather a slow and steady growth leading to long lasting trees33. Such a development is only possible in the protected environment of the temple garden. Thus spatial and chronological aspects form a coherent metaphorical image of the righteous’ fate.

To make the right choice: The possible worlds of the lyrical persona

34In this psalm the possible worlds of the “lyrical I” are almost inextricable entangled with the more distanced description of the textual world. The intention and knowledge of the lyrical persona are presented as direct consequences, complementary insights or short commentaries. The “lyrical I” recognises God’s sovereignty (v 6), and from this perspective he/she is able to put the fools and even the enemies into perspective (v 10, 12).

  • 34 The repeated kî hinnēh indicates that this statement offers the perspective of the “lyrical I” and (...)

35The first mentioning (v 5b) points out the intention-world. After the short look back on his/her experience with YHWH’s deeds (v 5a), the lyrical persona shows his/her intention to join the praise of God. In this way the lyrical persona also confirms, that he/she will act according to the basic attitude of this psalm (v 2-4). The next dip into the possible world of the “lyrical I” takes place in v 10. Following the statement on YHWH’s lasting presence and superiority the lyrical persona unfolds his/her knowledge with regard to God’s enemies, who will all be destroyed. Compared to the preceding reflection on the wicked these enemies are viewed from a more personal, engaged perspective34. In this way the “lyrical I” confirms the previous considerations from his/her point of view, stressing once more the transitory nature of God’s enemies. Another insight into the knowledge-world of the lyrical persona occurs in v 12. From the perspective of strength (cf. v 11) the confrontation with his/her personal enemies is depicted as perception, revealing what the “lyrical I” knows.

Confirming the psalmist’s perspective: The possible worlds of the other figures

36The possible worlds of other figures in this psalm are only pointed out. Presenting the world of the text the psalmist includes short insights into the knowledge-world of YHWH, the fools as well as the righteous.

37With reference to YHWH’s knowledge-world it is only pointed out, that divine thoughts are (almost) too broad for human comprehension. For an ignorant or fool, however, God’s thoughts are absolutely inaccessible. Presenting such an evaluation the psalmist takes up a distanced and superior point of view. Especially revealing is also the last verse where not only the knowledge but also intentions of the righteous, namely to proclaim God as their rock, are explained (v 16). Thus the end of the psalm looks forward to the righteous joining the praise of God and thus following the conviction outlined at the beginning of the psalm (v 2-4). With this insight into the possible worlds of the righteous the psalmist also reveals its own point of view as the perspective of the wise and righteous.

Summary

  • 35 Zenger interprets this connection as report of an experience of deliverance that leads to a sapient (...)

38Ps 92 constructs a text world that clearly distinguishes between the wicked people and the righteous ones. The presentation of this psalm unfolds as a close interaction of a general and distanced presentation of the world of the text and the insight and knowledge of the “lyrical I”35. The possible worlds of the lyrical persona are mostly used as a positive reinforcement of the text world providing a personal example that the text world, as it is presented in this psalm, matches the experience. The threat – as the lyrical speaker perceives it – is not directed at the lyrical persona but at YHWH and the divine world-order. The enemies of God thus threaten the (stable and predictable) world the lyrical persona constructs and hopes for. Although the “lyrical I” experienced the threats of enemies and is aware of the challenge they present, he/she confides in God and thus confirms, that his/her attitude is congruent to the construction of the text world. Together, the text word and the possible worlds of the figures, emphasize the reliability of their construction of a well-ordered world.

*
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The readers’ journey: The textual worlds of Ps 90-92

  • 36 Cf. e. g. Hossfeld/Zenger, Psalmen 51‑100, p. 613-614, 624, 638-639 ; Schnocks, Vergänglichkeit, p. (...)
  • 37 When Zenger, for example, reads Ps 90-92 as a sequence, he is inclined to presuppose a common textu (...)

39In the context of the book of psalms Ps 90-92 present the readers adjacent text worlds. It has been frequently pointed out that several motives and keywords connect these psalms and thus suggest that these texts are carefully arranged as a sequence36. The concatenation of these texts also invites the readers to enter the textual worlds of the three psalms in a sequel. A continuous reading of these psalms confronts the readers with contrasting possibilities of world creating processes. Thereby similar motives, repeated words or phrases function as reminders encouraging the readers to observe and compare the different textual worlds. However, these connections are not an invitation to merge the textual worlds and to create one common textual world for all three psalms37. A continuous reading rather highlights the different ways to construct textual worlds. It sets different perspectives side by side, allowing the readers to see beyond an individual perspective and thus to consider more than one way of world construction.

40Ps 90 presents the textual world from a seemingly objective perspective and contrasts it with a subjective evaluation and wish-world of the lyrical persona. In this depiction the destiny of all humans appears to be equal. However, those who consider themselves servants (ʿābad) of God (v 13) still hope, that God might change their individual fate. In this way the psalm first forces its readers to agree with its sombre outline of the cycle of life before it offers them an alternative. Under the condition that the readers consider themselves servants of God they may join the wish-world of the lyrical persona and share their hopes. The following Ps 91 refrains from a universal portrayal and focuses totally on individual impressions and considerations thus offering a contrasting vantage point. In line with this the textual world and its experience are solely presented as the figures’ possible worlds. All threats the psalmist experiences are only presented as already overcome or manageable hazards. In this way Ps 91 clearly offers a different perspective on the world of the psalmist. It does not aim for a realistic estimation of human possibilities but only focuses on the confidence in God’s protection. Subsequently, Ps 92 again displays yet another different view. Similar to Ps 90 it presents a construction of the world of the text, however, not as a distanced but rather an emphatic description. It is a predictable construction of the world which is clearly divided into good and evil. Accordingly, this psalm shows a clear distinction between the righteous and the evildoers promising them a different fate. While the wicked and the fools will vanish quickly, the righteous, who trust in God, will prosper. This view is further strengthened by the presentation of the possible worlds of the “lyrical I”, who already has experienced God’s help and thus is able to utter praise.

41Following the textual worlds of these three psalms the construction of the world(s) is revealed as a dialogic imagination. Thereby these texts offer the readers different levels to join in. The homodiegetic perspective invites the readers to join the lyrical persona in its construction of the textual world. The readers may take part in this world-creating process and thus actively join the textual word. The metaphoric images further facilitate this process as the figurative language engages the readers in the construction of the textual worlds. Joining the texts of the psalms thus encourages the readers to compare their own world view with the textual worlds. In this process the readers are not restricted but they are offered manœuvring room, as they are allowed to fill the psalms with their own experience. In this way the worlds of these psalms are quite unspecific with regard to actual experiences but, at the same time, also highly interpretive and evaluative as they are able to transform and to re-construct the readers’ experience of the world.

S. Gillmayr-Bucher : Création d’univers textuels dans les psaumes 90‑92

42L’article présente les différentes constructions d’univers textuels dans ces psaumes, des univers très variés malgré les liens thématiques entre ces trois psaumes. L’auteur suit un des modes de lecture utilisé en narratologie, la théorie des mondes possibles, développée par M.-L. Ryan. Plusieurs univers possibles coexistent dans chaque psaume (Ryan distingue des univers de savoir, d’intentions, de souhaits, de moralité, de devoir). Mais à la différence des textes narratifs, les psaumes développent des expressions « personnelles » de ces univers (Nous/Je, qui peuvent être à la fois personnage et narrateur, et d’autres personnages – Dieu lui-même. Chaque psaume crée ainsi plusieurs univers textuels.

43Le Ps 90 combine lamentation et réflexion sapientielle. On entre dans l’univers d’un « je » lyrique, avec ses affirmations et ses souvenirs (l’autre figure étant Yahweh). L’image de Dieu comme refuge apparaît dès les premiers versets et la vie humaine apparaît comme un voyage conduit par Dieu (v. 3), quelques versets suggérant le savoir de Dieu. Puis face aux désordres et à l’apathie des hommes, se construit l’univers textuel de l’obéissance due à un Dieu omniprésent. À partir du v. 12, « Je » domine et s’exprime son souhait d’une vie meilleure (v. 13‑17), accompagné de la demande d’un Dieu plus proche, qui contraste avec l’image de Dieu dans la première partie du psaume. Mais au long du psaume se construisent aussi les univers textuels possibles de Dieu lui-même : un univers d’intentions dans un rapport au temps très différent de celui de l’homme – une manière d’accentuer la différence entre homme et Dieu.

44Le Ps 91 est un chant de confiance, avec un univers textuel très différent de celui du Ps 90. Il est difficile de déterminer le(s) locuteur(s) et son/ses destinataire(s). Peut-on interpréter les v. 1-13 comme un dialogue intérieur ? Si l’on cherche à définir les univers possibles du Je lyrique : confiance en Dieu refuge, d’un Dieu connu comme protecteur à qui on exprime ses souhaits. Se perçoit aussi l’univers d’intention salvatrice et protectrice de Dieu, suggérée par des images maternelles. Les v. 14-16 sont des paroles attribuées à Dieu lui-même et expriment ses intentions, qui confirment les représentations que « je » se fait du Dieu protecteur.

45Le Ps 92 pourrait se définit comme une action de grâce pour le bon ordre du monde. Il s’organise par la combinaison de l’expérience du locuteur et d’affirmations générales sur le sort des bons et des méchants. Plusieurs points de vue sont exprimés par « Je » : louange des hommes bons, confiance en Dieu appuyée sur le récit de souvenirs personnels (v. 5 ; 11-12) ; s’ajoute le point de vue du Je sur les méchants, la connaissance qu’il prétend en avoir – tandis que l’univers de connaissance de Dieu reste caché. Les images des derniers versets, particulièrement celle des arbres distincts les uns des autres (à l’opposé de l’univers sauvage des méchants) renvoient au jardin de Dieu tel que se le figure le Je. Mais les représentations prêtées aux « autres », à Dieu, aux fous et aux hommes droits, sur lesquelles Je adopte un point de vue dominant, parviennent à renforcer la crédibilité d’un monde bien ordonné possible.

46Ainsi, le lecteur est invité à un voyage dans les univers textuels des Ps 90-92 : plusieurs thématiques et mots clés relient entre eux ces trois psaumes. Mais chacun présente sa propre construction : le Ps 90 amène ses lecteurs à adhérer à sa vision sombre de la vie, ce voyage, et leur présente comme alternative un univers de souhaits et d’espoir ; le Ps 91, faisant large place à l’expérience personnelle du psalmiste, un point de vue subjectif donc, se concentre sur la confiance dans la protection de Dieu. Enfin le Ps 92 apporte un autre point de vue encore en insistant sur l’opposition entre bons et méchants et leurs sorts respectifs.

47À travers ces trois psaumes, est mise en œuvre une imagination dialogique – le lecteur peut s’approprier le psaume à différents niveaux, et il y est aidé par les images. Sa propre expérience peut alors nourrir sa lecture des psaumes et en même temps les univers possibles construits dans les psaumes sont capables de transformer et de remodeler l’expérience du lecteur.

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Notes

1 The psalms enjoyed not only an enormous popularity in the liturgical tradition of Jewish and Christian communities of faith, their widespread renownedness is also visible throughout the arts, especially literature and music.

2 The “possible worlds theory” has its roots in philosophy (philosophical logic, philosophy of language and aesthetics). The metaphor of “a possible world” is taken from Leibniz and his thesis of “the best of all possible worlds”. The philosophical theory of “possible worlds” has been imported to literary studies in the 1970s-80s. Like any other theory of literature the “possible world theory” first is a theory and not a methodological approach. But, like other theories, it has been quite successfully adapted to the study of literary texts. Cf. A. Gutenberg, Mögliche Welten. Plot und Sinnstiftung im englischen Frauenroman. Heidelberg, Universitätsverlag C. Winter, 2000, p. 43. For an application to poetry cf. E. Semino, “Possible Worlds in Poetry”, Journal of Literary Semantics 25, 3 (1996), p. 189‑224.

3 M.-L. Ryan, “Fiction, Non-Factuals, and the Principle of Minimal Departure”, Poetics 9 (1980) p. 403‑422, p. 413. Cf. also M.-L. Ryan, Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence and Narrative Theory. Bloomington, Ind., Indiana Univ. Press, 1991, p. 113f.

4 M.-L. Ryan, “The Modal Structure of Narrative Universes”, Poetics Today 6 (1985), p. 717-755, p. 722.

5 The metaphor of God as māʿôn points out that God is a place of security and, furthermore, it implicitly refers to the dangers people experience (cf. Ps 71:3, 91:9). Cf. F.-L. Hossfeld ; E. Zenger, Psalmen 51-100 (HThK. AT) Freiburg, Herder, 2000, p. 610.

6 Cf. M. Köckert, Zeit und Ewigkeit in Ps 90, in : R. Kratz, H. Spieckermann (ed.), Zeit und Ewigkeit als Raum göttlichen Handelns. Religionsgeschichtliche, theologische und philosophische Perspektiven (BZAW 390). Berlin, De Gruyter, 2009, p. 155 -185, p. 168.

7 Cf. Dtn 23, 2 ; Jes 57, 15 ; Ps 34, 19.

8 Cf. M. Grohmann. Metaphors of God, Nature and Birth in Psalm 90, 2 and Psalm 110, 3, in : P. van Hecke, A. Labahn (ed.), Metaphors in the Psalms (BEThL 231). Leuven, Peeters, 2010, p. 23‑33.

9 Köckert points out that ʿôlām is an attribute of God referring to his extramundane magnitude. Köckert, Zeit und Ewigkeit, p. 169.

10 Cf. TBooij, “Psalm 90, 5‑6 : Junction of two traditional motifs”, Bib 68 (1987) p. 393-396, p. 394-395.

11 Cf. Ps 76:4: “At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay asleep”. Tsevat also points out an Akkadian expression šitta reḫû that also means to flood with sleep. M. Tsevat, “Psalm xc 5‑6”, VT 35 (1985), p. 115-117, p. 115.

12 Cf. J. Schnocks, Vergänglichkeit und Gottesherrschaft. Studien zu Psalm 90 und dem vierten Psalmenbuch (BBB 140). Berlin, Philo, 2002, p. 74‑77.

13 Tsevat interprets the occurrences of ḥlp in v 5 and 6 as wordplay. Whereby the first ḥlp means “to pass by/to pass away” and the second “to sprout/to grow”. Tsevat, “Psalm xc 5‑6”, p. 115.

14 The verb mnh entails not “the simple act of counting, but rather an ordering – and thus an under­standing – of the nature of things that only Yhwh may rightfully engage in, and that only he is fully capable of performing”. J. Kartje, Wisdom epistemology in the Psalter. A study of Psalms 1, 73, 90, and 107 (BZAW 472). Berlin, De Gruyter, 2014, p. 137.

15 Cf. K. Liess, Sättigung mit langem Leben. Vergänglichkeit, Lebenszeit und Alter in den Psalmen 90‑92, In : M. Bauks, K. Liess (ed.), Was ist der Mensch, dass du seiner gedenkst ? (Psalm 8,5). Aspekte einer theologischen Anthropologie. Neukirchen-Vluyn, Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft, 2008, p. 329-342, p. 331 ; C. Forster, Begrenztes Leben als Herausforderung. Das Vergänglichkeitsmotiv in weisheitlichen Psalmen, Zürich, Pano Verlag, 2000, p. 191.

16 Clifford proposes another interpretation of v 11-12. He suggests that the wish to count our days “refers to an accurate knowledge of the time period of the divine wrath behind the distress”. With such knowledge the community can respond appropriately. R. Clifford, “What does the Psalmist ask for in Psalms 39:5 and 90:12 ?”, in: JBL 119 (2000) p. 59-66, p. 65‑66).

17 Cf. Köckert, Zeit und Ewigkeit, p. 177.

18 The pleas correspond to the descriptions in v 3-10. E. g. v 13 continues the motive of divine wrath from v 7,9,11 and asks for compassion; v 14 takes up the motive of the morning (v 3) asking for saturation and benevolence (v 3); contrasting to the days of evil (v 9), v 15 asks for days full of vitality. Liess, Sättigung, p. 332.

19 Similar to māʿôn in Ps 90:1 maḥsæh (refuge) and meṣôdāh (fortress) implicitly also refer to the dangerous world the psalmist lives in. This is more explicitly expressed in v 9-10.

20 Wagner assumes that the speaker is a proselyte in the act of converting. In v 2 he/she declares his/her intention and in v 9 the act of conversion takes place. A. Wagner, Ps 91 – Bekenntnis zu Jahwe , in : Id. Beten und Bekennen. Über Psalmen. Neukirchen-Vluyn, Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft, 2008, p. 97-122, p. 105-106.

21 Zenger calls v 3‑13 “(autoritative) Heilszusage . Hossfeld/Zenger, Psalmen 51‑100, p. 618.

22 For a detailed summary of this discussion cf. Tate, Psalms 51-100 (WBC 20), Waco, Tex., Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990, p. 450-451.

23 Many interpretations prefer this reading (e. g. H.-J. Kraus, Psalmen II. Psalmen 60-150 (BKAT 15), Neukirchen-Vluyn, Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft, 21961, p. 636 ; Hossfeld/Zenger, Psalmen 51‑100, p. 618-619 ; K. Koenen. Jahwe wird kommen, zu herrschen über die Erde. Ps 90-110 als Kom­po­sition (BBB 101), Weinheim, Beltz Athenäum Verlag, 1995, p. 52‑53 ; E. Bons, “L’exégèse scien­ti­fique et la lecture spirituelle du Psautier – Deux approches incompatibles d’un livre biblique ? Réflexions sur l’interprétation du Psaume 91”, in : C. Aulenbacher (ed.), Spiritualités et théologie. Questions, enjeux, devis. Münster, Lit Verlag, 22013, p. 127‑133, p. 130 ; R. Hunziker-Rodewald, “Bild und Wort im Gespräch mit Gott. Gedanken zur Kommunikationspragmatik in Psalm 91”, in : W. Graeb (ed.), Ima­gi­nationen der inneren Welt, Frankfurt a. M., Peter Lang Verlag, 2012, p. 123‑140), thinking of another pious devotee of YHWH who instructs the “lyrical I” and encourages him/her based on his/her own experience. If a cultic setting or a liturgy is the postulated context of this psalm, it is often assumed that the speaker is a priest at the sanctuary addressing the “lyrical I” who seeks comfort at the sanctuary or arrives as a pilgrim. Cf. e. g. A. Weiser, Die Psalmen 61‑150 (ATD 15). Göttingen, Vandehoeck & Ruprecht, 1950, p. 398 ; cf. also the survey in Hossfeld/Zenger, Psalmen 51‑100, p. 619.

24 V 1 uses expressions ʿæljȏn and šaddaj and only v 2 mentions the proper name YHWH. Whether these three expressions refer to the same deity is not explicitly mentioned. Wagner deduces from this that the lyrical speaker in v 1 is not yet a worshipper of YHWH but rather a proselyte who wants to convert (cf. Wagner, Bekenntnis, p. 106-108). However, as the context of the communication presented in Ps 91 is not unfolded in the text, Wagner’s deduction is possible, but it is hardly more plausible than the common assumption that ʿæljȏn and šaddaj are used for YHWH.

25 The verbform ʾomar can be translated as “ I shall speak” (intention) or “ I want to speak” (wish). Unlike Zenger, Wagner points out, that PK is not used to form a declarative illocutionary speech act. Thus ʾomar cannot be translated as : “ I hereby say to YHWH”. Nevertheless, v 2 prepares the declara­tive speech act in v 9. Wagner, Bekenntnis, p. 102 ; cf. Hossfeld/Zenger, Psalmen 51‑100, p. 621.

26 Accordingly, the second voice does hardly imagine any actions of the “lyrical I”, who remains mostly passive in the middle of all threats – cf. Bons, L’exégèse scientifique, p. 131.

27 This knowledge characterizes this speaker, Hunziker-Rodewald thus suggests that the speaker is presented in the role of God’s messenger. Cf. Hunziker-Rodewald, Bild und Wort, p. 133.

28 Only in the narrating statements of the psalmist’s rescue (v 5 and v 11) by God’s active intervention is presented. Cf. N. Cohen, “Psalm 92: Structure and Meaning”, in : ZAW 125 (2013), p. 593-606, p. 598.

29 The metaphor “to raise my horn” refers to a supreme or victorious subject (cf. P. Riede, “Doch du erhöhtest wie einem Wildstier mein Horn” Zur Metaphorik in Ps 92,11, in: J. P. van Hecke, A. Labahn (ed.), Metaphors in the Psalms (BEThL 231), Leuven, Peeters, 2010, p. 209-216, p. 210-212). When God “raises the horn” of the psalmist he accredits him with strength and dignity (cf. Hossfeld/Zenger, Psalmen 51‑100, p. 636). Furthermore, the verb rwm also refers to the image of God as elevated (marôm) in v 9. Thus the psalmist takes part in God’s elevated space.

30 The final clause at the end of v 8 also points out explicitly that the prosperity of the wicked this is just a fleeting stage.

31 The righteous are characterized by “loftiness, eternity, strength and unity”. These are also the qualities of God, thus the righteous and the psalmist are depicted in the divine realm. Cohen, Psalm 92, p. 605.

32 For the first time in these three psalms the experienced space of God is linked to a physical space, namely the temple and its courtyards. The references to the temple further emphasize the aspect of well-being and salvation. Cf. Liess, Sättigung, p. 340.

33 Cf. C. Sticher, “Die Gottlosen gedeihen wie Gras. Zu einigen Pflanzen­metaphern in den Psalmen. Eine kanonische Lektüre”, in : J. P. van Hecke, A. Labahn (ed.), Metaphors in the Psalms (BEThL 231). Leuven, Peeters, 2010, p. 251-268, p. 256.

34 The repeated kî hinnēh indicates that this statement offers the perspective of the “lyrical I” and puts a special emphasis on the enemies.

35 Zenger interprets this connection as report of an experience of deliverance that leads to a sapiential reflection on righteousness. E. Zenger, Kanonische Psalmenexegese und christlich-jüdischer Dialog. Beobachtungen zum Sabbatpsalm 92. In: E. Blum Erhard (ed.), Mincha. Festgabe für Rolf Rendtorff zum 75. Geburtstag. Neukirchen-Vluyn, Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft, 2000, p. 243-260, p. 252.

36 Cf. e. g. Hossfeld/Zenger, Psalmen 51‑100, p. 613-614, 624, 638-639 ; Schnocks, Vergänglichkeit, p. 191‑196 ; E. Ballhorn, Zum Telos des Psalters. Der Textzusammenhang des Vierten und Fünften Psalmenbuches (Ps 90‑150) (BBB 138), Berlin, Philo, 2004, p. 81‑85.

37 When Zenger, for example, reads Ps 90-92 as a sequence, he is inclined to presuppose a common textual world for all three psalms. Cf. Zenger, Kanonische Psalmexegese, p. 252-255.

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Auteur

Susan Gillmayr-Bucher

Université de Linz

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Droits d'auteur

© RSR

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