Sunday, January 27, 2008

Psalm 19 Outline

Another Psalm outline using my basic method. This one is much more sparse than 121, and there is much more to say about the poem.


  • Type of Psalm: Teaching/Torah Psalm, teaching us about the goodness of Yahweh's Torah (Law/Revelation).

  • Superscript: To the Choirmaster. A Psalm of David. Also a lyrical song, meant to be sung by the congregation.

Section 1

The heavens declare the glory of God,
And the sky above proclaims His handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech,
Nor are there words
Whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

In them He has set tent for the sun,
Which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
And, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the end of them,
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

  • Structure - Both sections 1 and 2 have the same internal structure (with one crucial difference). 1) Six parallel lines describing a kind of speech (the speech of the creation vs. God's revelation). 2) Two images describing the speaker/speech. 3) Concluding lines about the effect of the speech.

  • Part 1 - Six parallel lines about the speech of the creation. They talk about the glory of God. Lines 5-7 unbalance this from Section 2, teaching us that the creation only speaks metaphorically. The stars speak to everyone on earth.

  • Part 2 - Two images to describe the sun, the chief speaker of the sky. Images describe both the greatness of the sun and his action of sweeping over the earth.

  • Part 3 - The effect of the sun is to cover over all the earth.

Section 2

The law of Yahweh is perfect, reviving the soul;
The testimony of Yahweh is sure, making wise the simple;
The precepts of Yahweh are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of Yahweh is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever;
The rules of Yahweh are true, and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.

  • Part 1 - Six tightly parallel lines describing God's revelation. First names revelation by a different word, second part gives and adjective to describe it, third part describes its effect. Different names for revelation teach us that the Psalm is talking about all of God's spoken/written revelation to man. Effects remind us of the effects of the sun (enlightening, reviving, rejoicing).

  • Part 2 - Two images to describe the greatness of the law.

  • Part 3 - The effect of the law is to teach us, and provide us the way of reward.

Section 3

Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
And innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in your sight,
O YHWH, my rock and my redeemer.

  • The structure of this sections is loose, not related to the first two sections. This is a lyrical prayer. The speaker now speaks to God in the first person.

  • This prayer is prompted by considering the effect of the sun and the Law. If the Law searches like the sun, a sinner needs help, and so he cries to God for it.

  • Image: Yahweh is our rock, which pictures a fortress. Even when Yahweh's law is searching us, God is still our protection.


  • The parallel structure of the first two sections show us that the sky (specifically the sun) is a poetic image itself showing us what God's revelation is like. It is good, it is warm and comforting, and it covers everything.

  • The primary way that the sky speaks is by being a poetic image. Most poets work by thinking of the thing that they want to describe and then looking at the material in the world to find an image. God works by thinking of thing He wants to describe and then making something to serve as an image.

  • This poem describes all of God's revelation. David does not know the difference between "Law" and "Gospel". All of God's revelation is good, providing salvation.

Psalm 121 Outline

This is a brief outline of Psalm 121 that the Sunday School class of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Dubois came up with as we studied. The study follows the basic method outlined in my Reading Bible Poems handout. This is just a basic outline, and omits very many things that we talked about in class.

Introductory Notes

  • Type of Psalm: Three-Part Lyric.

  • Superscript: A Song of Ascents - a lyrical psalm used by pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem for one of the three annual feasts (Unleavened Bread/Passover, Weeks/Pentecost, and Tabernacles/Harvest)

Section 1 - Controlling Lyric Theme

A  I lift up my eyes to the hills
B From where does my
C Help come?
C' My help comes
B' From Yahweh,
A' Who made heaven and earth

  • Chiasm points out the main point of the Psalm- help. We know that Yahweh is our help, so we are forced to ask "What kind of help?"

  • Images: The hills, from whence my help cometh - Since Jerusalem is situated at the top of a giant ridge running the length of the Holy Land parallel to the Mediterranean, a pilgrim traveler is usually going up into the mountains. The setting of this poem is a desert/mountain journey to Jerusalem.

Section 2 - 1st Developmental Image

He will not let your foot be moved
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber
nor sleep

  • This is the first of three "verses" that answer the question introduced in the controlling theme- "What sort of help?". Each of the three verses has a similar structure: two parallel lines describing a help that Yahweh gives, and a third line containing an amplification showing how extensive that help is using a double image ("slumber nor sleep", "sun by day, moon by night", "going out and coming in").

  • Images: Let your foot be moved - Another mountain journey image picturing stumbling and falling on a steep mountain pass.

  • God's help preserves us from our own mistakes and sins.

Section 3 - 2nd Developmental Image

Yahweh is your keeper;
Yahweh is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night

  • Images: Sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night - Dangerous environment of a desert/mountain journey.

  • Yahweh protects us from the harshness of the world.

Section 4 - 3rd Developmental Image and Concluding General Application

Yahweh will keep you from all evil;
He will keep your life.
Yahweh will keep your going out
And your coming in
From this time forth and forevermore.

  • Images: Going out and coming in - All the journeys to and from Jerusalem for the rest of our lives.

  • God protects us from evil, hostile forces who hate us.

  • This also serves as the generalizing and concluding theme. God preserves our whole lives, all our journeys forevermore.


  • Three types of helps (mistakes/sins, circumstances, evil) touch every area of life. "What kind of help?" Every kind of help we need.

  • All the imagery is from a desert journey, an image that an Israelite would take as a metaphor for all our lives under the sun.

  • God is always ready to help, and will be forevermore.