Psalm 73:25 #VOTD [+ Memorization Tutorial Video]

Verse of the Day 11.20.17: Psalm 73:25

  1. Text
  2. Translation
    1. Parallelism
    2. Heaven and Earth
    3. Desire
  3. Context
    1. Psalms of Asaph
    2. The Exile
    3. Psalm of Lament
  4. Commentary
  5. Memorization

Text

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you1

25 מִי־לִ֥י בַשָּׁמָ֑יִם וְ֝עִמְּךָ֗ לֹא־חָפַ֥צְתִּי בָאָֽרֶץ׃2





Translation

For me, who is in heaven?

Beside you, I desire nothing on earth

Parallelism

As much as possible, I aim to stay true to the word order found in the Hebrew text. For parallelism3 — the corresponding nature of particular elements in lines of poetry — is “a defining, if not the definitive, characteristic of biblical poetry.”4 Notice how it appears that the pronouns “me” and “you,” in addition to “in heaven” and “on earth” are in parallel. When elements of poetry are in parallel, often the author is purposely drawing the attention to the elements for the sake of comparison or contrast.

That being said, most translations seem to insert the word “have” and “but you?” (e.g., Ps 73:25, NIV). There only appears to be one “but you” or “besides you” in the Hebrew. However, inserting “have” clarifies the meaning since the preposition that is often translated “for” or “to” (לְ־ (l)) can also mean “belonging to.”5

In my translation, it seems that I am favoring poetry over clarity.

Heaven and Earth

By apparently placing “heaven” and “earth” in parallel, the psalmist is plausibly claiming that he desires nothing besides God (Ps 73:26) anywhere in between these two extremes (cf. Ps 73:9). This literary device, which is probably found in the very first verse of the Bible (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”6 is called a merism.7

Desire (חָפֵץ | ḥāpēṣ)

The word translated “desire”, ḥāpēṣ, means “take delight in, be pleased with…”8 In Psalms, writers delight in the path of the LORD’s commands (Ps 119:35). They also delight in the LORD Himself (Ps 22:8, 37:23). In Psalm 40, the psalmists sings that he desires to do the will of God (Ps 40:8).

Context

For more information about the context of the Book(s) of Psalms, please see the previous post on Psalm 130:1-2.

Psalm 73 is the first song of the third Book of Psalms — marking a midway point through the Psalter. Renowned Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, says that, at this crux, “the Psalter moves ‘From Obedience to Praise, from Duty to Delight’”9 One scholar notes:

Where Psalm 1 says that if we walk in God’s way God will be good to us, the psalms that follow in Books I and II repeatedly complain that such an idea is far too simple. Life is not like that. Yet as we go on through the Psalter we find, equally often, a sense that, in spite of all, God will be good to his people; till the final psalms come to a climax of unalloyed praise.10

Psalm 73 arguably reflects this same pattern — a pattern arguably reflected through the entire grand, biblical narrative.11

Psalms of Asaph

Asaph was the patriarch of the “Asaphites” or “sons of Asaph,” a renowned family or group of musicians and singers of the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Chr 25:1, 2; 2 Chr 5:12). Out of the 150 Psalms, 12 are “psalms of Asaph” (Psalm 50, 73-83). These Psalms were possibly part of  an Asaphic collection, or featured a particular Asaphic style.12

Asaph, a Levite, was “put in charge of the music of the house of the LORD” (1 Chr 6:31 ff.) after the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem. The Ark, which contained the stone tablets of the Law that were given to Moses at Mt. Sinai (Ex 25:16), was a “a constant reminder of the holy presence of [the Israelites’] God”13 as they traveled from Sinai to Canaan — the Promised Land. Eventually, the Ark (not the same Hebrew word for Noah’s “Ark”) was taken by the Philistines in battle (1 Sam 4:11),14 though they returned it to the Israelites after with it they had some deathly trouble (1 Chronicles 6). After Saul, the first king of Israel, committed suicide (1 Chronicles 10), David was anointed as the King of the United Monarchy (ca. 1010-1000 BC) (1 Chr 11:1-3). Subsequently, King David conquered the city of Jerusalem (1 Chr 11:4-7) – his new capital. Understandably, he desired to bring the Ark to the new City of David. This is what caused David to “[dance] before the LORD with all his might” (2 Sam 6:14, NIV).

After this joyous occasion, Asaph and his associates were left “before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister there regularly” (1 Chr 16:37). He and his guild of musicians also ministered when the Ark was ultimately brought to the Temple (2 Chr 5:12), and the Asaphites continued in such ministry throughout “the reigns of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 20:14), Hezekiah (2 Chron 29:13) and Josiah (2 Chron 35:15).”15 It is plausible to infer that a collection of Asaphite Psalms was present as early as the time of Hezekiah (cf. 2 Chr 29:30), who reigned from around 715-686 BC.16 Apparently, Asaphites also ministered in music at the dedication of the Second Temple following the exile (Ezra 3:10).17

The Exile

The exile — the period of Babylonian captivity beginning during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar (604 BC – 562 BC)18— lasted until the Babylonians were defeated by King Cyrus of Persia in 539 BC.19 Cyrus allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild (Ezra 1-6). The Second Temple was completed during the reign of King Darius I (c. 520 BC – 515 BC)20 — about 70 years from the first temple’s destruction (c. 586/7 BC).

As one can imagine, the exile and the destruction of the Temple must have been devastating to the Israelites. And this is, plausibly, the horrific historical backdrop for the psalms of Asaph.21

Psalm of Lament

This psalm, which is placed at the beginning of this Asaphite collection (Psalm 73-83), appears to be a feature some elements of a psalm of lament. Out of the 150 Psalms, over 60 are individual or communal laments,22 which often consist of an address to or mention of the LORD (e.g. Ps 73:1), personal lament (e.g., Ps 73:2-3, 13-17)23, lament over the actions of others (e.g., Ps 73:4-12), petition (more like a proclamation in this instance — Ps 73:18-20, 27), and a confession of trust (Ps 73:21-26, 28).24

Commentary

At first, the psalmist envied the prosperity of the wicked (Ps 73:3) — perhaps his Babylonian captors — who were healthy and strong (Ps 73:4), free from burden (Ps 73:5), prideful, violent, malicious, arrogant, and oppressive (Ps 73:5-12). Who wouldn’t? They were “always free of care, they go on amassing wealth” (Ps 73:13, NIV). But, after entering the sanctuary of God, he knows better (Ps 73:17). The destiny of the wicked, who are far from the LORD, is destruction (Ps 73:17-20, 27 cf. Php 3:19). But, the LORD is a refuge to those who are near to Him (Ps 73:28).

Over against taking delight in anything or anyone else — in heaven, on earth and everything in between — the psalmist desires the LORD. For he is always with God, who holds him by his right hand (Ps 73:23). The LORD guides him in counsel (Ps 73:24), and, when all is said and done, The LORD will guide him into glory (Ps 73:24).25

Although this is an individual lament, one could say that it is programmatic for the following Psalms of Asaph (Psalms 74-83) — the lens through which the collection should be interpreted. Also, Psalm 73 is often seen as paradigmatic — a model for the collective experience of the entire exiled nation.26 How encouraging singing this psalm must have been for people in such dire circumstances!

Though we do not live under the yoke of slavery at the hands of the wicked oppressors who ransacked our homeland, we can still make the same choice as the psalmist. For, besides God, nothing in all the heavens and the earth comes close to warranting our ultimate desire. And, while many who are far from the LORD seem to prosper at present, we can trust that, through Christ, we will enjoy prosperity in eternity — in the presence of God (Jn 10:10; 3:16; 1 Thess 4:16-18).

“For now the wicked may seem at ease and all-powerful, but life lived without God guarantees another end.”27

Memorization

Memorize Psalm 73:25 after watching a brief video tutorial demonstrating the How to Memorize Any Bible Verse in Less Than Five Minutes method below:

Sources

  1. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ps 73:25.
  2. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Ps 73:25.
  3. “Parallelism is the pairing of a line (or part of a line) with one or more lines that are in some way linguistically equivalent. The equivalence is often grammatical … both parts of the parallelism may have the same syntactic structure.… Another form of equivalence is semantic … the meaning of the lines is somehow related.… [But] equivalence does not imply identity. The second line of parallelism rarely repeats exactly the same words or exactly the same thought as the first; it is more likely to echo, expand, or intensify the idea of the first line in any one of a number of ways.” A. Berlin quoted in J. M. LeMon and B. A. Strawn, “Parallelism,” ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 503.
  4. J. M. LeMon and B. A. Strawn, “Parallelism,” ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 502.
  5. Bruce K. Waltke and Michael Patrick O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 206.
  6. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ge 1:1, emphasis added
  7. “Merism is a literary device that uses an abbreviated list to suggest the whole. The most common type of merism cites the poles of a list to suggest everything in between…”T. Longman III, “Merism,” ed. Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 464.
  8. Leon J. Wood, “712 חָפֵץ,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 310.
  9. Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms: Songs for the People of God, ed. J. A. Motyer, vol. 2, The Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001), 10.
  10. Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms: Songs for the People of God, ed. J. A. Motyer, vol. 2, The Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001), 10.
  11. Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms: Songs for the People of God, ed. J. A. Motyer, vol. 2, The Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001), 10-11.
  12. J. S. Rogers, “Asaph (Person),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 471.
  13. Marten H. Woudstra, “Ark of the Covenant,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 170.
  14. Marten H. Woudstra, “Ark of the Covenant,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 170.
  15. D. G. Firth, “Asaph and Sons of Korah,” ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 25.
  16. B. T. Arnold, “Hezekiah,” ed. H. G. M. Williamson, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 407.
  17. “Ezra 2:41 (cf. Neh 7:44) notes that members of the guild returned from the exile, while Ezra 3:10 indicates that they were involved in the dedication of the second temple.” D. G. Firth, “Asaph and Sons of Korah,” ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 25.
  18. “Judah was deported in two batches c. 597 and c. 586 BC respectively (2 Kgs. 24:14–16; 25:11).” F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 142.
  19. F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 142.
  20. P. R. Bedford, “Postexilic Temple,” ed. Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 802.
  21. “Not all of the psalms necessarily originated with the exile, but the main collection (Pss 73–83) appears to be shaped by concerns generated by the fall of Jerusalem” D. G. Firth, “Asaph and Sons of Korah,” ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 25.
  22. Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from Psalms: Foundations for Expository Sermons in the Christian Year, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 10
  23. “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure | and have washed my hands in innocence. | All day long I have been afflicted, | and every morning brings new punishments” The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ps 73:13–14.
  24. Not all scholars would agree with this, however. Many would classify it as a “wisdom” psalm. The elements of an individual Psalm of Lament from C. C. Broyles, “Lament, Psalms Of,” ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 387.
  25. Note: “The word “glory” is never used in Hebrew as a synonym for heaven and here refers to an “honorable” resolution to the psalmist’s crisis.” Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Ps 73:24.
  26. “…the placement of Psalm 73 at the head of the collection suggests that this individual’s experience is also a paradigm for the nation.” D. G. Firth, “Asaph and Sons of Korah,” ed. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 25.
  27. Beth Tanner, “Book Three of the Psalter: Psalms 73–89,” in The Book of Psalms, ed. E. J. Young, R. K. Harrison, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr., The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 592.
About @DannyScottonJr 168 Articles
Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student