Sunday, June 29, 2008

Psalm 115 Outline

This is the Psalm outline from Sunday School, 6/29/2008. This follows the basic pattern outlined here.


One of the Hallel Psalms (113-117), called so because of the Hallelujah in the last line. These are read on the Jewish holidays, especially the Passover.

Note for further study: There are (at least) two ways to organize this section of Psalms. First, some Hebrew manuscripts and the Septuagint combine Psalm 114 and 115. If this is the case, each of the Psalms from 113 through 117 end with the Hallelujah line. If Psalm 114 is kept separate, Psalms 111-113 start with the Hallelujah, and 115-117 end with it, forming a chiastic structure with 114 at the middle.

Structural Outline 1 - Section A

Not to us, O LORD, not to us,
But to your name give glory,
For the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

  • Introduction to the poem. This is the only part of the psalm directed to Yahweh.

Section B

Why should the nations say 
"Where is their God?"
Our God is in the heavens,
He does all that he pleases.

Section C

Their idols are silver and gold, 
The work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak,
Eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
Noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
Feet, but do not walk;
And they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
So do all who trust in them.

  • Structure: seven parallel lines to describe the vanity of idols. Notice that the silence of the idol is first and last on the list.

Section D

O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.

  • Chiastic center (meaningful center) of the psalm. The point of this psalm is to encourage Yahweh's people to trust in Him.
  • Three-part structure directs each of the three separate groups present in temple worship. 1) Israelite- covenant people of God 2) House of Aaron- priesthood serving in the temple 3) "You that fear the LORD" - Gentile God-fearers.

Section C'

The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us;
He will bless the house of Israel;
He will bless the house of Aaron;
He will bless those who fear the LORD,
Both the small and the great.
May the LORD give you increase,
You and your children!
May you be blessed by the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth!

  • Repeats the three groups from section D in reference to something new- Yahweh blessing us.
  • Structure: possibly seven blessings from Yahweh to balance seven traits of idols in section C (tenuous): 1) Remembered us, 2) bless us, 3) bless house of Israel, 4) bless house of Aaron, 5) bless those that fear Yahweh, 6) bless the small, 7) bless the great.

Section B'

The heavens are the LORD's heavens,
But the earth he has given to the children of man.

Section A'

The dead do not praise the LORD, 
Nor do any who go down into silence.
But we will bless the LORD
From this time forth and forevermore.
Praise the LORD!

Chiastic Pattern

  • A & A' - The worship of Yahweh. Yahweh is faithful and good, and will preserve His worshippers forever.
  • B & B' - Yahweh is in heaven. Temple worship occurs in heaven in Yahweh's presence. No other god is in heaven.
  • C & C' - Idols do nothing, but Yahweh blesses.
  • D - Because of these three things, Yahweh's people should trust in Him. Everyone can trust in Yahweh and fear Him and be blessed.

Structural Outline 2

  • Section 1: vv 1-8 (sections A-C above). This is about the futility of idols and how those who worship them become like them (silent). This section contains 9x7 words.
  • Section 2:vv 9-16 (sections D-B' above). This is a contrast, teaching us how Yahweh will bless and multiply His people. This section contains 7x7 words.
  • Section 3: vv 17-18 (section A'). Coda/summary of the two sections above. Idols are dead and so their worshippers live. Yahweh lives, so will His people forever. This section contains 3x7 words.

Occurrences of the Number 7

  • Seven sections in the chiastic structure.
  • Seven Hebrew words in the meaningful center - "Their help and their shield is He".
  • Seven features of the idols.
  • Number of words in each section according to structure 2.
  • Seven blessings of Yahweh.


  • Yahweh's people have eternal life, so that He may be worshipped.
  • Trust in Yahweh, because He will glorify Himself.
  • Trust in Yahweh, because He lives.
  • Trust in Yahweh because He is in heaven.

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