Posted by: religionthink | March 28, 2007

Psalm 25: Do Not Remember the Sins of My Youth.

Psalm 25: Do Not Remember the Sins of My Youth.

Psalms 25 written as a lament, and using another letter from the Hebrew alphabet at the start of each verse, is a beautiful read of on calling to Yahweh for intervention. It is also interesting to note that the layout of these texts in their form show the issues copyist had in reproducing the texts. At times some of the format out of place or inserted in the wrong spot. Such issues resulted when scribes tried to keep the flow of thought or made copy errors. Another text with this format is Psalms 35. For this essay, we will look at the verse seven of this text and see one other place it was used in the Old Testament and its application. Also we will examine two other laments from the ancient near east and see how they compare to the Psalm of our discussion.

In the text of Psalms 25:7, the writer maybe talking about the issue of idolatry. It seems that even Job was worried about such issues for we read “For you write bitter things against me, and make me reap the iniquities of my youth.” ( Job 13:26 NRSV) It might be of interest to point out the reply Jacob gives to Pharaoh when asked how old he was. The reply is most poetic and describes the hardship of the wanderings and might apply to the statement we are discussing and also the Psalm its self. “The years of my earthly sojourn are one hundred thirty; few and hard have been the years of my life. They do not compare with the years of the life of my ancestors during their long sojourn.”(Gen 47:9 NRSV)

The laments we will compare as we have seen in the past in the “Prayer of Lamentation to Ishtar”, and another “An Elergy on the Death of Nawretum”. In both of these we will observe that the writer is concerned about the pardon and forgiveness of sins. Looking first to the

Prayer of Lamentation to Ishtar” we read the following:

To thee have I prayed; forgive my debt.
Forgive my sin, my iniquity, my shameful deeds, and my offence.
Overlook my shameful deeds; accept my prayer;
Loosen my fetters; secure my deliverance;
Guide my steps aright; radiantly like a hero let me enter the streets with the living.
Speak so that at thy command the angry god may be favorable;
(And) the goddess who has been angry with me may turn again.
(Now) dark and smoky, may my brazier glow;
(Now) extinguished, may my torch be lighted.
Let my scattered family be assembled;
May my fold be wide; may my stable be enlarged.
Accept the abasement of my countenance; hear my prayers.
Faithfully look upon me and accept my supplication.
How long, O my Lady, wilt thou be angered so that thy face is turned away?
How long, O my Lady, wilt thou be infuriated so that thy spirit is enraged?
Turn thy neck which thou hast set against me; set thy face [toward] good favor.
Like the water of the opening up of a canal let thy emotions be released.
My foes like the ground let me trample;
Subdue my haters and cause them to crouch down under me.

This text, and the emotion within it takes our memory to the texts of Job and his sufferings. Here also the writer seems to question the goddess about the hardships and asks the ever familiar question “How Long?” In the next text we find like language being used in a prayer for the dead. “An Elergy on the Death of Nawretum” some of the text is broken but the main idea can still be comprehended.

He wears their……, he weeps for her: “O where is ……?
I would call upon you! Where are Meme and the alluring protective spirits?
I would call upon you! Where is the ……, the ……, the gracious mouth?
I would call upon you! Where are my …… weapon and gloriously fashioned quiver?
I would call upon you! Where is that which brightens the …… face, my noble counsel?
I would call upon you! Where is my ……, my precious brilliance?
I would call upon you! Where are my sweet songs which make the heart rejoice?
I would call upon you! Where are my …… weapon and golden quiver which brightens the spirit?
I would call upon you! Where are my dancing, hand-waving, and frolicking (?)?
I would call upon you! “May your way of life not be forgotten, may your name be called on.
May the guilt of your house be erased, may your sin be released.
May your husband stay well, may he achieve valor and seniority.
May the fate of your children be propitious, may well-being be in store for them. May your household progress, may its future be ample.
May Utu bring forth for you bright light from the netherworld, …… clear water.
May Ninkura stand by you, may she raise you high.
Concerning the bitter storm that has been turned against you, may it return to the horizon.

Turning now back to the biblical texts we look to the life of David. The writer of this essay is in no way saying that the texts of this Psalm, or any of them were actually written by David, for many scholars are still divided on the issue. Many times texts were ascribed to biblical heros to gain credibility among readers. In modern day thinking, however, it is the opinion of the author that such attributions, all to many times serve as a distraction in putting the text in proper context.

Stepping out on a limb, however, the account of David’s affair with Bathsheba and his punishment is worth noting. His punishment for his transgression against Yahweh and, in the cover up, against the people would have prompted a psalm like the one above. However David was much older when this supposedly happened and it was no longer safe for him to go into battle. So it is thought that in order to feel adequate and to “Conquer” he coveted Bathsheba. His supposed psychological issues at this time were no excuse. Below we read of his reaction to the punishment dealt out by Yahweh, as relayed to him through the prophet Nathan.

Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. (2Sa 12:10-13)

As seen above in the last example concerning David, many times misery was thought to be brought on by sinful acts or displeased gods. In other cases texts deal with suffering of the just for no reason at all. The text deal with suffering many different ways and it is important to ask questions, as many do. Why do the just suffer? Why would a just God allow so much suffering in the world? The texts try to deal with such questions and there is no single answer. Many accounts in the bible answer the questions of suffering in many different ways. In closing we will look at one of the many answers by recalling Yahweh’s reply to suffering from the whirlwind found in the text of Job.

And the Lord said to Job: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Anyone who argues with God must respond.” Then Job answered the Lord: “See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but will proceed no further.” Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Gird up your loins like a man; I will question you, and you declare to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be justified? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? “Deck yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on all who are proud, and abase them. Look on all who are proud, and bring them low; tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. Then I will also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can give you victory. (Job 40:1-14)

Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zolyomi, G., “An elegy on the death of Nawirtum (Elegy 2): translation” The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford 1998

Dahood, Mitchell. The Anchor Bible: Psalms 1-50. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York 1968.

McCarter, P.Kyle. The Anchor Bible. II Samuel. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, NY 1984

Pritchard, James. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New York 1950.

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