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Hermeneutics of Psalm 1

[Note: The following article is an excerpt from a commentary on Psalm 1 that I am preparing. This began with preparations for a series I preached on Psalm 1 that extended 10 weeks. I originally planned to write what was supposed to be an article, but when the introduction expanded beyond 50 pages I decided it would have to be an ebook. This article is from the introduction of the book discussing the hermeneutic method of applying to interpretation of Psalm 1.]


To properly understand any form of literature, it is necessary to interpret it from the proper grid of its genre.  David Aune discussed the need to identify genre, or the generic paradigm of any certain text, suggested:

…the identification and analysis of groups of texts that appear related through a coherent and recurring pattern of literary qualities…. It has always been difficult, however, to arrive at satisfactory definitions and descriptions of individual genres, because so many different literary features can be involved…. We may perhaps formulate a general rule that the hermeneutical value of a generic paradigm increases in proportion to the complexity of the paradigm. …the perception of genre is a necessary prerequisite for understanding and valid interpretation, is perhaps overly general.1)David E. Aune, The Westminster Dictionary of New Testament and Early Christian Literature an Rhetoric, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY:2003), p. 196

Identifying our genre in the Psalms is easy enough—it is poetry. But this causes us to question, what distinctions does this have in our interpretive methods. Lee Roy Martin proposes, “I would argue that the function of poetry is to evoke the affections and provoke the passions. Therefore, poetry cannot be understood at a distance; it requires that the hearer enter its world of imagery and emotions.”2)Lee Roy Martin, “Delighting in the Torah: The Affective Dimension of Psalm 1,” Old Testament Essays, 23/3 (2010), p. 717 This is, indeed, wise council that drives us to adapting the text more personally in application than simply intellectually assessing the text through hermeneutical methodologies. However, understanding the methodologies and patterns of Hebrew poetry is needed without the loss of the personal emotive application.


One common practice of the Hebrew poets was the use of word-plays. John Brug introduces this practice in the Psalms, stating, “Hebrew poetry sometimes creates special effects by placing together words which begin with the same sound (alliteration) or by using puns and word-plays. These features are usually lost in translation, but they will be noted in the commentary if they are significant.”3)John F. Brug, Psalms Volume 1: The People’s Bible, Northwestern Publish House (Milwaukee, WI: 1989), p. 28-29 Alliteration which David Aune defined as “the repetition of an initial letter or sound in a closely connected series of words, was used with some frequency by ancient writers.”4)David Aune, The Westminster Dictionary of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and Rhetoric, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, Kentucky: 2003), p. 33 The Hebrew language generally carries a tri-consonantal root for most words with prefixes and suffixes. It is when we see these tri-consonantal root that bring resemblance that we find word-play.

Psalm 1 begins with a perfect example of a word-play:

אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי־הָאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר

Reading from the right to the left, notice how the first word אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי has each consonant that the following two words are made up of. All three words begin with א, the second letter ש is also in all three words. The ר is the very last letter of the phrase and the י is only in the second word. The vocalization brings out this word-play with clearness.

There are many other word-plays in this particular Psalm.

Hebrew Word Root word  Verse(s) Translation


v. 1 “Blessed”


v. 1 “the man”


v. 1, 3 (twice), 4 “that”


Another evident word-play bringing out esthetic interest in the text is the phrase in the first verse:  וּבְמוֹשַׁ֥ב לֵ֝צִ֗ים לֹ֣א יָשָֽׁב (“and in a seat of scorners not sitting”—this hyper literal translation is ignoring proper English syntax). Here the two words that obviously share a similar root בְמוֹשַׁ֥ב and יָשָֽׁב—“seat, sit”—sandwich two words beginning with ל. A possible inclusion to a word-play with יָשָֽׁב and בְמוֹשַׁ֥ב is בַּמִּשְׁפָּ֑ט (“in the judgment”).

Other word-pay are as follows:


Hebrew Word Root word Verse(s) Translation


v. 3 “he doeth”


vv. 1, 4, 5, 6 “ungodly”


This example could play in an extra parallel in the similarity of יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה with הָאִ֗ישׁ if the prefixed article is retained. Also, רְשָׁ֫עִ֥ים may find a word-play with אֲשֶׁ֤ר by reversing the ר and ש.


Hebrew Word Root word Verse(s) Translation


v. 1 “walketh”


v. 2 “and night”


v. 3 “leaf”


Hebrew Word Root word Verse(s) Translation


v. 3 “as a tree”


v. 4 “as chaff”

This may also correlate with בַּעֲצַ֪ת which root עֵצָה translated in verse 1 as “council”.

Hebrew Word Root word Verse(s) Translation


v. 1 “standeth”


v. 5 “congregation”


v. 6 “knoweth”


Hebrew Word Root word Verse(s) Translation


vv. 2, 6 “LORD” or Jehovah


v. 2 “meditate”


v. 3 “and he shall be”


Hebrew Word Root word Verse(s) Translation


v. 3 “water(s)”


v. 2 “days”


v. 5 “shall not stand”


This may contain a potential link with צַדִּיקִ֑ים (“righteous”) when considering the form of יָקֻ֣מוּ, since the last three letters (קים) of “righteous” correlate so well with the first three of arise יָקֻ֣מ. Noting further that these two words are contained in verse five with “arise” being the first verb of the verse and “righteous” being the last word of the verse, it becomes more likely that the author intended this connection and the Hebrew readers would have been attentive to it.


Hebrew Word Root word Verse(s) Translation


v. 1 “in the council”


v. 3 “in his season”


v. 5 “in the congregation”


v. 6 “shall perish”


As should be obvious at this point, the translation of these poems loose much of the significant poetic value. There is no way to capture the word-plays in a translation when translating the words accurately. For this reason, the esthetic value of the Psalms is lost to every non-Hebrew reader. Longman accurately describes, “The Psalms are the hearth of the message of the Old Testament.”5)Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms, InterVarsity Press (Downer Grove, IL: 1988), p. 51 Since beauty pertains to the heart and emotions, much of the emotional effect is lost in translation. The majestic beauty of God’s word is all the more lost to those English readers that dabble with contemporary English version that do not compare to the esthetic glamor of the King James Version having been translated most literally and at the historical height of the English language.


To properly understand the Hebrew poetry, one must grasp the use of parallelisms. Robert Chisholm describes: “A Poem is a literary composition in parallelistic verse which conveys experiences, ideas, and emotions in a vivid and imaginative way and utilizes imagery more extensively than prose does.”6)Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., From Exegesis To Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew, Baker Book House (Grand Rapid, MI: 1998), p. 169 Longman expresses the method is to “interpret each verse as saying the same thing twice, simply using different words. The goal of interpretation, therefore, is to reduce the two poetic phrases into one prose sentence.”7)Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms, InterVarsity Press (Downer Grove, IL: 1988), p. 97 Parallelism has traditionally been divided into three classes: synonymous parallels, which is when the same thing is repeated with different words; antithetical parallels, when that opposite thing is expressed to define the contrast; and synthetic parallels, which has been used as a catchall phrase for everything that does not fit the former two definitions. Synthetic parallel is becoming discarded by most scholars as a useless category that reflects no real purpose.

Subcategories are suggested such as what Robert Alter identifies its use “described as the parallelism of intensification”8)Robert Alter, The World of Biblical Literature, Basic Books, (1992), p.  183 Other names have been offered, such as “repetitive parallelism” described as “a type of parallelism stepladder, staircase or climactic parallelism.”9)Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms, InterVarsity Press (Downer Grove, IL: 1988), p. 101 This is the overwhelming use of Hebrew poetry and the actual parallelism is rare and perhaps as a name is misleading. Emblematic parallelism is used with drawing comparisons identified by the common use of words such as “like” or “as.” These parallels give images that the reader would likely be personally aware of and involved with to evoke emotions by conjuring memories. “The two most common structures, then, of biblical poetry are a movement of intensification of images, concepts, and themes through a sequence of lines, and a narrative movement—which most often pertains to the development of metaphorical acts but can also refer to literal events, as in much prophetic poetry.”10)Robert Alter, The World of Biblical Literature, Basic Books, (1992), p.  186

Grammatical parallelisms can also be distinguished as with the use of word-plays noted above, or syntactical parallels from word order, parts of speech, and phrases. Psalm 2:5 is an example of this which is not found in the KJV translation. “Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.” The Hebrew word order would organize it as:

Then shall he speak unto them / in his wrath,

and in his sore displeasure / vex them.

This syntax places “his” emotional reason between what action he takes against “them.” Thus, “his wrath” and “his sore displeasure” are unified as parallels, while “speak unto them” and “vex them” are synonymous to one another.

Rhetorical Structure

Rhetoric is often overlooked or at least taken for granted by most readers and for many centuries was all but ignored by commentators. In the ancient world, most cultures were predominately illiterate and therefore oratory was highly valued as a means to communicate as well as a form of entertainment. Our modern world is functionally literate but highly visual which has reduced our interest in rhetoric styles and diminished our attention span to sit and listen to speeches for hours on end. In this way we have very little in common with our ancestors and their way of understanding the Scriptures. “The study of rhetoric was highly developed and discussed among ancient Greek. Rhetorical skills were certainly developed and cherished in Old Testament times even though we do not know how these were taught…. In exegeting a biblical text, we must be alert to the literary and rhetorical dimensions of a text. Emphasis on compositional techniques and rhetorical features aid in understanding how a writing has been developed, how its structure and style contribute to its presentation, and what objectives the writer may have had in mind.”11)John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holloday, Biblical Exegesis (Revised Edition), John Knox Press (Atlanta, Georgia: 1987), p. 74-75

There are a number of rhetorical methods that were widely understood by common people in the ancient world because oratory was their form of entertainment. Properly understanding rhetorical techniques was not limited to specially trained rhetoricians (though properly constructing rhetorical techniques was not as wide spread without the training).

Various techniques were used for structuring not only individual units but also entire documents. A frequently used structural device was known as “chiasmus,” a principle or arranging materials in a symmetrical pattern where certain components would correspond to other components. In a four-part arrangement, the chiastic structure might follow an a-b-b-a pattern, where the first and fourth items correspond to each other while the second and third items did so as well.12)John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holloday, Biblical Exegesis (Revised Edition), John Knox Press (Atlanta, Georgia: 1987), p. 79

            Rhetoric can span from chiastic structures, word usages (such as word-plays as discussed above), literary components, and oratory styles such as tones of voice and hand gestures. Those relevant to Psalm 1 will be noted in the Commentary proper.


Samuel Terrien focus on “strophic structures” as poetic divisions to interpret the Psalm. His implication has a major expression on interpretation of the original purpose and means of interpreting the Psalms. No specific division has been widely accepted as consensus to date but examining the premise behind these division will expand our ability to grasp sound understanding for Psalm 1. Terrien writes:13)Samuel Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 2003), p. 37-38

The majority of the psalms, like Hebraic poetry in general, is based on a group of two or three short sentences forming a parallelism of signification, sometimes with assonance or alliteration. Each of these elements is called a “colon” or a “stichors.” A verse is usually a bicolon (two cola), sometimes a tricolon (three cola), and, exceptionally, a quadricolon (four cola)…. Most of the hymns end many of the prayers of complaint are conceived in bicola with three tonic accents (3+3). Several prayers of lament adopt the rhythm of Quinh, which favors bicola of three plus two tonic accents (3+2). A rigorous regularity I not to be expected.  Style of emphasis or of restraint, due to the poet’s emotion or reflective pause, might explain rhythmic variation.

Here are examples of versification irregularities in Psalm 1…:

Ps 1                 I (vv.1-2)                                 II (v.3)                         III (vv.4-6)

                        3+2                                          3+2                              2+4

                        3+2                                          3+2+3                         4+3

                        3+2                                                                              3+2


Identifying these structures are difficult and remain debated whether that are important to the interpretation or if they even truly exist in Hebrew being the construct of the English man’s interpretative assumption that poetry must have rhythm. We can recognize that Josephus mentioned meters in the Psalms, but that quotation of his has been questioned for some centuries as to whether it was his attempt to make the Scriptures more palatable to his intended Greek audience. To note where parallels are indicated or emphasis may be stressed, effects both our cognitive interpretation and our emotional response to the Psalms. The Hebrew purpose for the Psalter in general was to speak to one’s emotions since it was originally music.

Robert Alter expresses:

The general fondness of ancient Hebrew writers in all genres for so-called envelope structures (in which the conclusion somehow echoes terms or whole phrases from the beginning) leads in some poems to balanced, symmetrically enclosed forms, occasionally even to a division into parallel strophes…

Symmetrical structures, because they tend to imply a confident sense of the possibility of encapsulating perception, are favored in particular by poets in the main line of Hebrew Wisdom literature…14)Robert Alter, The World of Biblical Literature, Basic Books, (1992), p.186-187

The way this impact one’s emotions is identified, “Such instances, however, are no more than exceptions that prove the rule, for the structure that predominates in all genres of biblical poetry is one in which a kind of semantic pressure is built from verset to verset and line to line finally reaching a climax or a climax and reversal.”15)Robert Alter, The World of Biblical Literature, Basic Books, (1992), p. 188 So, like Terrien, Alter mentions that there is symmetry, both not always consistently held because the braking of symmetry draws tension to build up the climax. Others reject it altogether.16)See Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms, InterVarsity Press (Downer Grove, IL: 1988), p. 108 and Tremper Longman III, “A Critique of Two Recent Metrical Systems.” Biblica Vol. 64, Issue 2 (1982), pp. 230-254

Suggested Outlines

            There have been many different outlines for Psalm 1, which will obviously produce different interpretations when understood by symmetrical parallels provided in the literary structure. Lee Roy Martin expressed, “The structure of the psalm is debated, and each proposed structure will yield its own nuances of meaning…”17)Lee Roy Martin, “Delighting in the Torah: The Affective Dimension of Psalm 1,” Old Testament Essays, 23/3 (2010), p. 711 Phil J. Botha provided the following outline:18)Phil J.Botha, Intertextuality and the Interpretation of Psalm 1, Old Testament Essays, 18/3 (2005), pp. 505-506


I A 1 אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי־הָאִ֗ישׁ 1a Blessed is the man
      אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹ֥א הָלַךְ֮ בַּעֲצַ֪ת רְשָׁ֫עִ֥ים b Who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
    2 וּבְדֶ֣רֶךְ חַ֭טָּאִים לֹ֥א עָמָ֑ד c And on the way of sinners he does not stand
      וּבְמוֹשַׁ֥ב לֵ֝צִ֗ים לֹ֣א יָשָֽׁב׃ d And in the seat of scoffers he does not sit;
  B 3 כִּ֤י אִ֥ם בְּתוֹרַ֥ת יְהוָ֗ה חֶ֫פְצ֥וֹ 2a but in the Torah of Yahweh is his delight
      וּֽבְתוֹרָת֥וֹ יֶהְגֶּ֗ה b and in his Torah he meditates
      יוֹמָ֥ם וָלָֽיְלָה׃   day and night.
  C 4 וְֽהָיָ֗ה כְּעֵץ֮ 3a And he will be like a tree,
      שָׁת֪וּל עַֽל־פַּלְגֵ֫י מָ֥יִם b anted along streams of water,
    5 אֲשֶׁ֤ר פִּרְי֨וֹ ׀ יִתֵּ֬ן בְּעִתּ֗וֹ c which gives its fruit on time
      וְעָלֵ֥הוּ לֹֽא־יִבּ֑וֹל d and the leaves of which do not wither.
      וְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה יַצְלִֽיחַ׃ e And with everything he does, he succeeds.
II D 6 לֹא־כֵ֥ן הָרְשָׁעִ֑ים 4a Not so the wicked –
      כִּ֥י אִם־כַּ֝מֹּ֗ץ אֲֽשֶׁר־תִּדְּפֶ֥נּוּ רֽוּחַ׃ b but like chaff in contrast, which the wind scatters.
  E 7 עַל־כֵּ֤ן

לֹא־יָקֻ֣מוּ רְ֭שָׁעִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּ֑ט

5a Therefore the wicked will not rise in the judgement
      וְ֝חַטָּאִ֗ים בַּעֲדַ֥ת צַדִּיקִֽים׃ b and sinners in the gathering of righteous.
III F 8 כִּֽי־יוֹדֵ֣עַ יְ֭הוָה דֶּ֣רֶךְ צַדִּיקִ֑ים 6a Certainly, God knows the way of the righteous;
      וְדֶ֖רֶךְ רְשָׁעִ֣ים תֹּאבֵֽד׃ b but the way of the wicked will perish.


Here Botha identifies strophe I with verses 1-3, strophe II with verses 4-5, and strophe III with verse 6. Samuel Terrien indicates an entirely different division of strophes. Terrien’s strophic division places verses 1-2 in strophe I, verse 3 as strophe II, and verses 4-6 as strophe III.19)Samuel Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 2003), p. 38, 69

Tremper Longman presents “Examples of chiastic lines in Old Testament poetry ae found in Psalm 1” noting the parallel in verses 1 and 6.20)Tremper Longman III, Ho to Read the Psalms, InterVarsity Press (Downers Grove, IL: 1988), p. 102 Lee Roy Martin proposed outline differs from both Botha and Terrien but draws closer to my own.

I suggest that Psalm 1 may be chiastic in the broad sense of the term: A-blessed state of the righteous contra “the way” of the wicked, B—success of the righteous, B’—failure of the wicked, A’—Yahweh’s care of the righteous contra the end of “the way” of the wicked.21)Lee Roy Martin, “Delighting in the Torah: The Affective Dimension of Psalm 1,” Old Testament Essays, 23/3 (2010), p. 711, fn 13

My assessment differs from both these outlines and marks a much more complex outline within an antithetical chiastic structure.

I v. 1a. Pronouncement of blessings (which carries an eschatological relevance cf. Ps 2:12).

II v. 1b-2. Emphasis by negative expression “not…nor…nor”; position and action of ungodly “walk… stand… sit”; with conjunction marking contrast: “But” (Heb. כִּ֤י).

III. v. 3. Analogy of plant: “tree”.

IV. v.4a. Identifying comparison: “the ungodly are not so”.

III. v. 4b. Analogy of plant: “chaff”.

II v. 5-6a. Emphasis by negative expression “not…nor”; position and action of ungodly in reverse implied—sit…stand…walk—with conjunction marking contrast: “But” (Heb. כִּ֤י).

I v. 6b. Pronouncement of curse (which carries an eschatological relevance cf. Ps 2:12).

            As noted above, there is a complexity to this outline. First, the eschatological relevance in verses 1 and 6 is noted by the use of “blessed” (אָשַׁר) and “perish” (אבַד) in the messianic fulfillment of Psalm 2:12. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” This first Psalter marks between the eschatological comments the temporal means of accomplishing the eternal outcomes. Of course, the Jewish exegete would not perceive a strictly temporal blessing of the inheritance of the Promise Land. This would not exclude, but rather make it inclusive of the eternal state the way Hebrew 4:8 expressed “another day” of rest. The antithetical structure presents the contrast of the eternal state and destination of the godly and ungodly.

Secondly, this chiastic structure places the central emphasis on the comparison of the ungodly not being as the godly in being “blessed.” This leads the second half of the Psalm into the position to focus on the outcome of the ungodly leading to the complexity of the forceful climax. It is conceivable that the ancient translators of the LXX understood this central thought from a chiastic form as they laid a stress in translating verse 4a. οὐχ οὕτως οἱ ἀσεβεῖς οὐχ οὕτως (“not so the ungodly;—not so”22)Translation of the Greek Septuagint by Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton (1851); https://ebible.org/eng-Brenton/PSA001.htm ). This deviation from the Hebrew seems to provide evidence that the LXX translator saw a reason to identify an emphasis in this spot of the text which makes sense if he understood it as the center of the chiasm

Thirdly, the temporal means and actions of the godly and ungodly expresses the separation of the two, both in this life through their activities and thoughts, as well as the culmination including their eternal destination. Verse 1 mentions by negation that the godly are not influenced by the ungodly in this life while verse 5-6 shows the ungodly are not associated with the godly in judgement. This reference of judgement merges the thoughts of the reader to the eschatological meaning and force of this Psalm. Furthermore, the “walk…stand… sit” action of the ungodly in verse 1 is presented in reverse order in verse 5-6. It is noticed that verses 5-6 do not follow a strict symmetry or usage of the same words; rather synonyms are used with other words being neglected and thus only understood as implied. Instead of “walk…stand…sit” of verse 1; the reversal implied is “sit…stand…walk” is suggestive. Note that the “sit” being implied in verse 5 is stated as “shall not stand”, by which the position of the ungodly not standing is emphasized through the negation and implied as not in an erected position, hence sitting (if not laying prostrate). The specific Hebrew states he “shall not rise” as the synonymous parallelism. The point of standing is not even expressed in the reversal of verse 5b but would be viewed naturally as sinners also not standing in the congregation. It is proposed here that the symmetry is purposely broken to make an emphasis and the use of the word “sinner” here in verse 5b parallels the concept of verse 1c of the godly man not standing with sinners. The final point of “walking” which begins the proposition in the first verse concludes the thought in verse 6b braking the symmetry even further. “For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Here, the synonym for “walk” is “way” but one would expect the ungodly man’s “way” to be mentioned first in a strict parallel but by attempting that, the climax would not conclude with reference to the ungodly which is necessary for the antithetical structure of the entire Psalm. Thus, the conflict of the expected symmetry draws us to view an emphasis in the climactic conclusion of the Psalm’s antithetical structure of warning to the ungodly man’s condemnation.

One may question if this complexity is suitably justified or simply over complicated to force an unnatural outline to the Psalm. I find grammatical justification suggestive within the Psalm to further support this outline including the negligence of supporting synonyms. Notice that the hypothetical particle כִּ֤י אִ֥ם translated “but”, is used twice (vv. 2a, 4b), but the third usage is simply כִּֽי (v. 6a). In verse 6a, the obvious meaning presents the same emphatic contrast as the other two usages; therefore, the negligence of using the term כִּ֤י אִ֥ם is suggestive that other points in this Psalm would make similar usage of implied terms though neglecting the specific use of the words. This premise of the כִּ֤י אִ֥ם and neglecting the אִ֥ם on occasions is not uncommon in other Scriptures particularly in the era of David’s life. 1 Samuel 8:19 uses כִּ֤י אִ֥ם while 1 Samuel 10:19; 12:12 use כִּ֤י alone. Gesenius expresses in his Hebrew Grammar,

After negative sentences (especially after prohibitions) the antithesis (but) is introduced by כִּי אִם, e.g. 1 S 819 and they said, Nay, but we will have a king over us; ψ 12, &c.; frequently also by כִּי alone, e.g. Gn 185, 192, or even simply connected with וְ, Gn 175, וְהָיָה as perfect consecutive; 42:10; cf. Ex 518. (§ 163a)23)F.W. Gesenius, (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew grammar (E. Kautzsch & S. A. E. Cowley, Ed.) (2d English ed.) (Claredon Press, Oxford:1910, 1956), p. 500

So when כִּי אִם is following a negative it presents a contradiction. But note in 1 Samuel 10:19 the negative is not present in the Hebrew, so the lack of certain terms is not uncommon in such phrases. The numerical symmetry of the number three is remarkable in confirming this reasoning of identifying the third usage of כִּי  to mean כִּי אִם as noted J. Hampton Keathiley.

(1) There are three degrees of habit or conduct: walk / stand / sit.

(2) There are three degrees of openness, fellowship, or involvement in evil: counsel / path / seat.

(3) There are three degrees of evil that result: wicked / sinners / scoffers.24)J. Hampton Keathiley, III, Psalm 1: Two Ways of Life—A Psalm of Wisdom; July 1, 2004; https://bible.org/article/psalm-1-two-ways-life-psalm-wisdom

Here we see the number three as a common symmetrical expression throughout this Psalm. Also the strophic division of Psalm 1 is consistently presenting three strophes as a consensus. Herein is further relevance for expecting the three expressions of “walk…stand…sit…sit…stand …walk” implied in this Psalm. Notice also that the conceptual asymmetry suggested here is closely resembling the irregular rhythmic expression suggested by Terrien above.25)Samuel Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 2003), p. 37-38 Where he suggest rhythmic irregularities is within reasonably close proximity to the conceptual asymmetry I am identifying here.

The asymmetry in the climax brakes this expectation leaving tension which adds to the Psalmists purpose to influence an emotional response of the reader to desire to avoid the ungodly both in this life and their eternal destination. It could be compared to an English song when the lyricist purposely chooses a word that does not rhyme simply to cause an emphasis because the listener to the song would expect the word to rhyme and is left unresolved with why the lyricist would use such a word when many rhyming words could have been used. This is a rhetorical method to draw attention to the purposed emphasis. As Terrien stated: “The Psalms were composed by artists of language and music. Their style is primarily one of adoration. It effects both an aesthetic form and an intellectual reflection, as well as a kind of invasion into the divine realm.”26)Samuel Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (Grand Rapids, MI: 2003), p. 60



Heath Henning
Heath Henning
Heath heads the Set Free addictions ministry on Friday nights at Mukwonago Baptist Church and is involved in evangelism on the University of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, offering his expertise in apologetics at the weekly Set Free Bible Study every Tuesday evening. He currently lives in East Troy, Wisconsin with his wife and nine children. Read Heath Henning's Testimony

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