Tuesday, March 22, 2005

psalm 29

This morning I read Psalm 29. I’ve read it many times, but today it hit me in a new way – as a poem. (That’s one thing my last few years’ enthusiasm for poetry has done–given me an appreciation for the poetry of the Bible.)

Today, as I’m reading this, I’m thinking - ‘Why is this so effective? Why is it working so well?’

And then it hits me. It’s all the repetitions. David picks up words or phrases from one line, repeating them in the next. It’s like a Bach fugue or invention, where motifs keep recurring. It’s like the pantoum form of poetry, where lines repeat and you feel in some subconscious way mesmerized or drawn in, though you aren’t sure why,

So I’m going to do something fun (for me anyway). I’m going to expose the cleverness of David’s psalm by doing a little slice and dice. The psalm (NIV version – and I’m thinking if it’s this effective in translation, what must it be like in the Hebrew!), below, has the repetitions highlighted in different colors. (Hope this doesn’t have the opposite effect, and spoil it for you forever).

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Psalm 29 - A Psalm of David

Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones.
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people
the Lord blesses his people with peace.

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Surprising ending too. After all that frightful thunder, wind and shaking – peace.

(Have I missed any? I intentionally left out some of the obvious repeaters - 'like' 'his' etc.)

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