Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sea monsters and leviathan

For Robert's Sunday Psalm Challenge, here is Psalm 74.  

 It is striking how much of and for our own troubled days this psalm sounds, especially if you go to The Message and read it in modern English. 

(But still, for my post I will stick with Rabbi Segal's translation.)

1. A maskil.  Of Asaph.

Why, O God, do You abandon us endlessly, do You fume in anger at the sheep of Your flock?
2. Remember Your congregation that You acquired in ancient times: You redeemed the tribe of Your inheritance; Mount Zion, there You made Your dwelling place.
3. Lift up Your feet because of  the endless devastation, all that the enemy destroyed in the sanctuary.

4. Your foes roared in the midst of Your Meeting-place; they took their signs for true signs.
5. Like one ascending through a tree thicket with axes he became known;
6. and behold – with hatchet and pikes they hacked away at all its carved work.
7. They burnt Your sanctuary in flames down to the land; they desecrated the dwelling-place of Your name.
8. They said in their hearts, “Let us destroy them altogether!’’ They set fire to all the Deity’s meeting places in the land.
9. We see no signs; there is no longer a prophet; and no one among us knows until what time.
10. Until when, O God, will the foe blaspheme, will the enemy endlessly revile Your name?
11. Why do You keep back Your hand?  Draw Your right hand from amidst Your waistcoat.

12. Yet God, my king, Who effects salvation in the midst of the land since ancient times,
13. it was You who shattered the sea with Your might and smashed the heads of the monsters on the waters.
14. It was You who crushed the heads of Leviathan and delivered him as food to the desert denizens.
15. It was You who split open springs and streams. It was You who dried up mighty rivers.
16. Yours is the day; so, too, Yours is the night. It was You who crafted moon and sun.
17. It was You who fixed all the boundaries of the land; summer and winter; it was You who made them.

18. Remember how the  enemy has blasphemed the LORD, how base people have reviled Your name.
19. Do not deliver the life of Your dove to the wild beast; do not endlessly forget the band of Your lowly ones.
20. Look to the covenant! For the dark places of the land are filled with haunts of violence.
21. May the downtrodden not come back disappointed; may the lowly and needy praise Your name.
22. Rise, O God, fight Your fight; remember that You are blasphemed by base men all day long.
23. Do not forget the sound of Your foes, the din of those who rise against You, that ascends on high all the time.
Although not a perfect fit for a Jewish psalm, the second photo (please enlarge it) is so strange that I could not resist showing it to you.
The frightening scene is painted on the wall of the Greek Orthodox church at Capernaum. 
The dragons and sea monsters in our psalm sound  like something out of Canaanite creation myths.
Rabbi Segal says 

The base metaphor of verses 12–17 is an international creation myth, not the one found in the first chapters Genesis. This myth, which is cited in several places in the Bible . . . , is based on the deity overpowering and physically destroying the god(s) and/or demons of the sea and taking control of water, of the seasons, of the earth, and of the heavens.



'Tsuki said...

As you pointed it, the translation is very important...

My Bible is what is the version called in France "bible de Jerusalem" ( Mine is illustrated with pictures (pous published by Editions de la Martinière).

I just love the painting you chose to explain the monter of the water : its symbolic is so strong.

Patsy said...

How very powerful or the word's of God.
Absorption of doctrine today, tomorrow, the next day and the next is very important!

Spiderdama said...

Great picture choice of this text, which I think is a bit difficult

He is the owner of the world!

Happy week to you Dina.-)

Anonymous said...

Verse 19 impressed me most. A moving connection with the painting indeed. And yes, surely a Psalm which seems to be nearly too connected to life.

Time and again, it made me think and wonder how relevant the Psalms still are, ages after they were written down.

Thank you very much for your kind participation. Please have a kind new week ahead.

crystal said...

The painting is really interesting. Is that a woman sitting on a clam shell, sort of like Venus? I wonder what story it tells.

Nice sheep too :)

I have a bible at home - the New American Bible - but it's easier to look up verses online at the Bible Gateway which lets you choose from a bunch of different translations.

Gerry Snape said...

wonderful psalm...and I too love the second painting. thankyou

VP said...

A very interesting painting,,,

Kay said...

By the way, Dina. Jon just told us over the weekend that one of the top five places on his list of places to see was Israel.