The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 105

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 8, 2012

THIS psalm resembles closely Ps 78. It is partly a hymn, and partly a didactic poem. It is a review of the gracious dealings of God with Israel in the past which is intended to give hope and courage to the Israelites of the psalmist’s time. The gracious and mighty God who guided the early career of Israel cannot have forgotten His specially chosen people. He will help them again, even though they are now, as the Patriarchs once were, weak and politically unimportant. Let them, therefore, thank God for His mercies to His people in the past and beg the continuance of His favour towards Israel in the present.

Psalm 105:1-11~The psalm begins, like a hymn, with a summons to the praise of Yahweh. The great deeds of the Lord for ancient Israel are the ground of the praise. Israel should study closely the story of God’s dealings with His people, so as “to seek the face of Yahweh,” realise, that is. His presence and manifestations in the Israel of the past, whether remote or recent. Thus they will learn that Yahweh’s loyalty to the Covenant has never changed, that He has been ever true to the promise which He swore to the Patriarchs.

The psalmist then goes on to prove the unfailing fidelity of the Lord to His promises by a review of the history of Israel up to the moment’ at which it entered into Canaan.

In Ps 105:12-15 the wanderings of the Patriarchs in Canaan and Egypt are described, and God’s jealous care for His chosen ones is emphasised. Then follows (in Ps 105:16-25) the history of Joseph, as an introduction to the entrance of Jacob’s family into Egypt. In Ps 105:26-38 God’s care for Israel, as exemplified in the Plagues of Egypt, is the psalmist’s theme. In Ps 105:39-42 the wonders of the march through the desert are recalled, and in the concluding verses, Ps 105:43-45, the psalmist returns to the thoughts with which he had begun: all the great things that Yahweh has done for Israel He has done in fulfilment of the Covenant which He made with the Patriarchs. If Israel, on its part, is faithful even now to that Covenant the gracious mercies of the olden days will be renewed unto His people by the God of the Covenant.

The psalm contains no reference to authorship. Since it seems to imply a politically weak condition of Israel, the majority of modern commentators are inclined to ascribe it to the period shortly following the return from the Babylonian Exile, when disappointment and defeat had turned the hopes of the people almost into despair. Against this dating stands the fact that Ps 105:1-15 appears (together with portions of Ps 96 and Ps 106) in 1 Chron 16, as a song sung at the transference of the Ark to Sion in the time of King David. There is nothing in the text of Ps 105 which would exclude a Davidic origin or dating, and it is obvious that a poem celebrating the divine guidance of Israel up to the point at which Canaan was occupied would be appropriate for the occasion of the transference of the Ark to Sion. That transference was a symbol of the taking possession of His chosen Land by Yahweh; and a song of Israel’s glory in the Exodus and on the march to Canaan would fittingly be sung at the inauguration of Yahweh’s kingly rule in Palestine. Jerusalem had remained in heathen hands until the days of David, and the solemn coming of the Ark to Sion might, therefore, be regarded as the formal act by which Yahweh assumed possession of Canaan, and as the completion of the conquest of Palestine towards which Ps 105 points.

Looked at from a literary standpoint there can be no doubt that Ps 105 forms a perfectly complete poetic unity, and that it makes a much greater impression of originality than the mosaic-like poem in 1 Chron 16.

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3 Responses to “Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 105”

  1. […] Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Ps 105). […]

  2. […] Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Ps 105). […]

  3. […] Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 105. […]

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