Monday, October 5, 2009

Blessed is the man who...

In the Psalms, Torah is so highly valued because adherence to it leads to blessedness, for the King and for the individual Israelite. Psalm 1 introduces the theme of the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous that dominates the entire Psalter, especially Ps 3-41. The one who is blessed is the one who delights in YHWH's Torah(1:1-2). This blessing is expounded in no uncertain terms. He has the security and fruitfulness of a well planted tree “Whatever he does prospers”(1:3). The wicked, however, have no such security, will not stand in the judgement and will perish (1:4-6).
The inclusio of 'blessed' statements of 1:1 and 2:12 bind the Torah psalm and the kingship psalm together, and are widely considered a dual opening to the Psalms. The equation of the nations with the wicked leads also to the equation of God's anointed king as the Torah-person of Ps 1. As Tate notes, this equation cuts both ways; “ the editors of the Psalter have modified the high ideology/theology of the Davidic covenant in terms of Deuteronomic theology...In a like manner, Ps 1 moves the role of the king as a torah- person into that of all individual Israelites”1 “Like his brothers (Deut 17:20) the king may be blessed for obedience to the Torah (Ps 18:20-24), or chastised severely for disobedience (Ps 89:30-33). It is only as the King shares in the fpvm and qdx of YHWH himself that the king's rule is extended in time and space, as in Ps 2 and he is considered blessed and a blessing for those who take refuge in him. (Ps 72:1-2,17).
Given the historical failure of Israel's kingship to achieve these ideals it is certainly not co-incidental that Book IV of the Psalter begins with a Psalm of Moses “who presided over the people before they had a land, monarch or temple”2. The reign presented in this 'theological heart of the Psalter'3 however , after chastising the king in Ps 89, is not Moses, but the “Reign of YHWH”, extending the statement of Moses song in Exodus 15:18. If this is the theological centre of the book, the transfer of torah responsibility and blessing of the king to the individual in Ps 1-2 is not surprising. “The Torah of the Lord replaces wisdom and it's human teachers. The responsibility that once was primarily that of Israel's leaders is laid squarely on the shoulders of the pious”4 Goldingay, reading Psalms in light of Isaiah 55, thinks the kingship Psalms are “open to appropriation by the people as a whole in the present instead of having their fulfilment for an individual king postponed until the future” 5 Whether this is the case, the Psalms certainly present obedience to the Torah of YHWH as the path to blessedness for the individual. The Psalms continue the theology of retributive justice found in Deuteronomy. Both Ps 1 and 119 open with yér`Vv¶Aa, 'blessed', the concept of a blameless walk and observance of Torah. This blessing is expanded in Ps 112, children, wealth, security and honour and the inheritance of land in Ps 33, abundance and fruitfulness in Ps 1. YHWH's dsj remains with all those who keep covenant and obey his precepts. (103:17) Psalm 19:11 sums up the attractiveness of the Torah, 'there are great results from keeping them'.

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