Posted by: religionthink | September 10, 2009

Psalm 14: There They Shall Be In Great Terror

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord? There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the company of the righteous. You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge. O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad. (Psalms 14:1-7 NRSV)


The above Psalm could be possibly classified in two categories, both Lament and Wisdom literature. There are also striking similarities to Psalms 53. Some would like to say that possibly one borrowed from the other but it may be that possibly there are two view points, one (Psalms 53) from Northern Israel, and the other, (above) from the South. The Psalm above is to the person who fails to recognize the sovereignty of Yahweh. The author tells of the moral break down and Yahweh brings the people back. Some scholars believe that this text may refer to the exile and could be a later addition.

Below we will discuss a text in the ancient Near East where the author advises the remembrance of the god. It comes from the Akkadian, The Creation Epic. This particular text comes from Babylon around 1901 B.C. The dates are disputed but the author of this essay would like to give some reference of a possible time period. In this account the god Marduk defeats Tiamat, the large serpent, and throws her to the underworld. In the epilogue of this beautiful creation story we may read this as if it were a piece of wisdom literature:

Let them be kept in mind and let the leader explain them.
Let the wise and the knowing discuss them together.
Let the father recite them and impart to his son.
Let the ears of shepherd and herdsmen be opened.
Let him rejoice in Marduk, the Enlil of the gods,
That his land may be fertile and that he may prosper.
Firm in his order, his command unalterable,
The utterance of his mouth no god shall change.
When he looks he does not turn away his neck;
When he is angry no god can withstand his wrath.
Vast is his mind, broad is his sympathy;
Sinner and transgressor will be confounded before him.
The teaching which the leader has voiced in his presence…( Pritchard p.72)

Just as the Psalm above, this text from Babylon tell that the knowledge of the god should be passed on and his sovereignty and works should not be forgotten. And the themes of the two texts run almost side by side. In the end the works of the evil doers and transgressors and unwise will be foiled and confounded. The god will come as a refuge; and through compassion and wisdom will restore fortune and the land will be glad.

Brown, E. Raymond., Fitzmyer, Joseph. And Murphy, Ronalde. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice-Hall, Inc, New Jersey, 1990.

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

Dally, Stephanie. Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford University Press Inc., Oxford, New York 1989.

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

Quoted biblical texts are taken from the New Revised Standard Version.

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