Sunday, June 10, 2012

Through fire and water

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This painting from 19th century Iran is quite amazing and deserves close scrutiny, so please click on the photo and then click once again.

Also amazing is what the Israel Museum writes on the wall next to this picture (it is part of the temporary exhibition "Divine Messengers: Angels in Art":

Pharaoh and His Army Drowning in the Red Sea
Isfahan, Iran, 19th century; Qajar style
Oil and lacquer on cardboard

In the center of the composition, the angel Gabriel holds out a "written decree" [shtar gzar hadin in Hebrew] to Pharaoh, who rides beside him.
Pharaoh knows that his end is near and therefore lifts up his hands in defeat and cries out to God:
"Yes, I have sinned. There is no God but Allah and Moses is his messenger . . . "
On the left, Moses and Aaron stand with the Israelites, who have safely crossed the Red Sea.
I wonder what the source of this interpretation is. It seems very strange to me.
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Be that as it may, the main reason I show you this painting is because it seems to illustrate many of the verses and ideas in Psalm 66, today's psalm for Robert's PsalmChallenge meme.

1. For the leader. A song. A psalm.

Shout with joy to God, all the earth;
2. sing out the glory of His name, make His praise glorious.
3. Say to God, ‘‘How awesome are Your deeds! Before Your great strength, Your enemies cower;
4. all the earth bows to You, they sing out to You; they sing out Your name.” Selah.

5. Come see the miracles of God, Awesome-of-feats, for humans.
6. He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the waters on foot.
There we rejoiced in Him.
7. Ruler forever by His might; His eyes survey the nations; let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah.

8. O peoples, bless our God; cause the sound of His praise to be heard,
9. He Who has animated our life, and has not let our foot slip.

10. Indeed, You have tested us, O God, refined us as silver is refined.
11. You caused us to enter a net, set fetters round our loins.
12. You have let men ride over our heads; we entered fire and water.
But You have brought us out to abundance.

13. I will enter Your house with burnt offerings, I will pay You my vows,
14. that my lips spoke, that my mouth uttered when I was in distress.
15. I will offer up fat offerings to You, with the burnt sacrifice of rams; doing (sacrifice of) bulls and goats. Selah.

16. Come hear as I tell, all you who fear God, what He did for my life.
17. To Him I called out with my mouth, exaltation on my tongue.
18. Had I seen iniquity in my heart, my Lord would not hear.
19. But God did hear; He listened to the sound of my prayer.
20. Blessed be God who did not turn away my prayer or His loving-kindness from me.
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Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal, whose translation I use today, titles his study of Psalm 66 "As a Nation's Salvation Becomes One's Own" and yet calls it inclusive, saying that it "radically avoids ethnocentricity."
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11 comments:

Reader Wil said...

Great psalm. You created a beautiful link with the exodus of Israel.

JM said...

What a fantastic painting, it's really beautiful!

luluberoo said...

Art IS in the eye of the beholder! Great post.

mark said...

Thanks for all that detail.

Reader Wil said...

Thank you Dina for your comment. All tests are useful if you know where to find the strength to deal with them. God gives us not more to bear than we can manage, if we pray for his help.

VP said...

The interpretation of the painting is really a bit strange...

Spiderdama said...

Wonderful and special painting. Gabrial is a popular name here in Norway at the moment.

Wish you all the best Dina:-)

DawnTreader said...

Google 'Gabriel Pharaoh Quran' and you will get some hits (at least I did). Interesting, thanks.

Sara said...

Great choice for Psalm 66, Dina. The painting is certainly interesting and does make one wonder how this story came to be interpreted in this way.

Dina said...

Dawn Treader, I read a lot before and now more with your search suggestion. Thanks. But I still didn't find a clear answer.
If you can explain it, please do.

Pietro said...

Dina, thanks for sharing this fine painting and great psalm.