PPS5_metaphors in psalms

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A survey of prevalent metaphors in the Book of Psalms that serve as a window into the Psalter's message and theology


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The Power of A Praying Imagination:

The Power of A Praying Imagination Metaphors in the Psalms

Interpreting Metaphors:

Interpreting Metaphors Iconophobia in the material realm vs. iconomania in the literary realm “Our minds are factories of idols.” – John Calvin Humanity as the legitimate image & therefore the legitimate maker of metaphors (cf. Jesus’ “I am” statements) Through the word/Word icon is made metaphor Metaphor = vehicle of revelation, material idol = barrier to communion Metaphor = that device by which we attempt to understand one less familiar thing in terms of another more familiar, though unrelated, thing. Difference (creates cognitive dissonance to short circuit preconceptions) Similarity (deeper relationship only perceived through prolonged meditation) Source domain and target domain – transference of meaning from on to the other. Mapping of aspects of the source domain onto the target domain to generate new, deeper understanding – broadening perspective

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Source domain Then the Lord a awoke as if from sleep, Like a b warrior 1 overcome by wine. (Psalm 78:65) Warrior w/ a hangover Target domain YHWH Mapping resulting in dissonance & deeper understanding Semantic s hock forcing meditation

Root Metaphors in the Psalms:

Root Metaphors in the Psalms God as a refuge (vb. shelter, protect, take refuge) Rock Wings Shield Stronghold/fortress Zion/temple as cosmic refuge Lifestyle as a road/path (vb. Walk) Righteous as a tree (1:3; 37:35; 52:8; 80:9; 92:12-14) Water Chaotic cosmic sea Refreshing water for the thirsty Animal imagery Enemies Self God


Refuge The blessing of 2:12 initiates the theme – righteousness defined as seeking refuge exclusively in YHWH in accordance with Torah instruction (cf. Pss . 34:8; 52:6-8) Chief manifestation of divine goodness and of human fear of God (Ps. 31:19-20; cf. 34:9). Rock imagery suggested by rugged terrain that afforded many natural shelters/hiding places ( Pss . 57:1; 142:1; cf. 1 Sam 22:1-2) Rocky caves were popular hiding places (1 Sam 13:4-6; 1 Kgs 18:4)

YHWH, my Shield:

YHWH, my Shield A shield like no other (Psalm 3:3) Metaphor occurs 22x in the Psalter usually in conjunction with other refuge metaphors. YHWH is a shield YHWH bears a shield (armor-bearer, Ps. 35:2) YHWH grants salvation as a shield ( Pss 5:12; 18:35) YHWH’s messiah is a shield (Ps. 84:9; 89:18) YHWH gathers the princes of the earth to serve as shields of global protection and peace (Ps. 47:1). Bronze Age shield from Urartu

In the Shadow of Your Wings:

In the Shadow of Your Wings Refuge in the form of the covering of wings Connection between YHWH’s wings and the sanctuary (Ps 61:4) This may suggest that the glory cloud spread like wings over the people to protect them from the desert sun (Ps 105:39; 121:5; Num 10:34) YHWH’s wing span extends to the nations (Ps. 36:8)

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Isis Osir is

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Heaven Veil = Sky Lamps = trees Laver = sea Altar = earth Psalm 78:69

Poles of the Psalter’s Universe:

Poles of the Psalter’s Universe + pole Temple/heaven complex - pole Sheol /grave complex Cosmic sea Cosmic sea Cosmic moutain (Zion) Psalm 18:4-6

Life as a Path:

Life as a Path Emphasizing faith as a daily journey rather than as a settled destination – constant movement, advancement. YHWH involvement in the details of life, the mundane activities of life are sacred (Brother Lawrence) An uphill climb to Zion and to communion with YHWH A journey from conflict to peace ( Pss . 120-122) A journey from humiliation/oppression to exaltation ( Pss . 123-125) A journey from sorrow to joy (Ps 126) A journey from isolation and poverty to community and prosperity ( Pss 127-128) A journey from eager expectation of Messiah’s coming to satisfaction in the refuge of the new Jerusalem ( Pss . 130-135).

The Righteous as a Tree:

The Righteous as a Tree An image of stability and productivity Tension between road metaphor and tree metaphor. Resolution may be found in the word “ translplanted ” (cf. Ezek. 17:5, 8) A royal image derived from royal gardens “ Shulgi , the king, the graceful lord, is a date palm planted by the water ditch. . . . Like a cedar rooted by abundant water, of pleasant shadow thou art.” – Sumerian Hymn to Shulgi Davidic dynasty as tree (Isa 11:1; Jer. 23:5-6) By extension tree represents the king’s domain & subjects ( Exod 15:17; Isa 37:31-32) Oddity of a tree in an Israelite cultic setting – Aaron’s rod? Davidic priest-king? (Ps 110:4)

Water: A Matter of Life and Death:

Water: A Matter of Life and Death The experience of drowning as icon of overwhelming trouble (Ps 18:16; 69:1-2; 107:23-30; 124:2-5). YHWH’s victory over the raging cosmic sea (Ps. 29:3; 74:13; 77:16-19; 93:4; 104:6-7; ) Sea vs. river (Ps 46:2-4) YHWH tames the water, turns it into an ally against enemy and offers it to his people for their sustenance (Ps. 23:2; 63:1-3; 105:41; 107:33-35)

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