Thoughts for Thursday 23rd July 2020

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Genesis 29:1-8; 1 Corinthians 4:14-20

Thursday 23 July

There are some passages in the Bible which we can find in two, and sometimes more, places, and Psalm 105:1-11 is one of them. Psalm 105, all the way from verse 1 up to verse 15, can also be found at 1 Chronicles 16:8-22. And this is a great example of something that has been written for liturgical use then being used in the context of worship. For, in 1 Chronicles it then becomes the beginning of a Song of Praise, which also comprises the whole of Psalm 96 and part of 106, used to mark the safe removal by David of the Covenant Box from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem.

It's interesting, I think, though, for us to notice two small changes that have been made. The redaction of hymns can be controversial, and I remember that being the case when CH4 was first published. Its editors had sought to make the words less archaic and more inclusive, and yet there were still plenty of worshippers, for example, who continued to want to sing, ‘There is a green hill far away, without (rather than outside) a city wall.’

The two instances here are 1) the substitution of Israel for Abraham at verses 5-6 and 2) instead of, ‘He will keep his covenant forever’ at verse 8, 1 Chronicles has, ‘Never forget God’s covenant.’ Those responsible for CH4 would definitely have approved of this latter change, for its use of less sexist language, but they may also have commended it for serving to make the passage, in the mouths of those who’d have been present in Jerusalem at that time, considerably more insistent in its demand of a response.

One of the things these sorts of changes do, I think (and there are lots of examples throughout the Bible), is to also give us license to amend words of worship songs ourselves, in order to make them more relevant.

That 1 Chronicles 16 inserts 'Israel' into the text is interesting, I think, in that it may indicate a similar need then as now for Jewish people to bolster their claim to the land. This, in fact, may be evidence of an ancient Zionist Movement. It’s thought that 1 Chronicles was written at a time when, after a period of dispersal (known as the Exile), Jewish people had come back to Jerusalem in order to repopulate the city and its surrounding area; when the land itself may very well have been just as hotly contested  by those who had been living there all along as it has been now in our own day.

There’s one other redaction I think that is interesting in this respect, and that’s: while both 1 Chronicles and the much older 2 Samuel both have the Covenant Box brought from the home of Obed Edom who they agree is a native of the Philistine city of Gath, in 1 Chronicles he then becomes a Temple Guard (15:17-21) in charge of guarding Jerusalem’s gates (16:38). While the implication in 2 Samuel is that he was a Philistine (i.e. Palestinian), 1 Chronicles is keen to turn him into an Israelite instead (who just happened to have been born in Gath).

Let us pray (and this is a prayer from Tolstoy’s short story, The Three Hermits. One is a small man and his back is bent. He is very old; he must be more than a hundred, but he is always smiling. The second is taller. He is a strong man. He too is kindly and cheerful. The third is tall, and has a beard reaching his knees. He is stern, with over-hanging eyebrows. Unable to remember the Lord’s Prayer off by heart, they use these words instead):

Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us,

Amen.

 


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