Psalm 150, 149 II
As we continue with new words, first from Psalm 149 and then from Psalm 148, I want to establish continuity with the previous by talking about lachak (“lick”) for a minute. It only appears 4x outside of Numbers 22:4, and in all instances it appears with licking up either dust (aphar) or water (mayim). But the most comprehensive list of things that were “eaten” (akal) or “licked” (lachak) up are in I Ki. 18:38, when a fire will fall from heaven and consume and lick up all kinds of things. Let’s see what we know. In 17 words of that verse we learn that the “fire (esh) of Yahweh fell (naphal) and ate up (akal) the burnt offering (olah) and the wood (ets) and the stones (eben) and the dust (aphar), and the water (mayim) which (asher) was in a trench (תְּעָלָה, t’alah) it licked up (lachak).” T’alah is also translated “conduit” or “channel” and, in two instances, “healing/recovery” (Jer. 30:13; 46:11). The latter shows that you think you know Hebrew, until you don’t. .
Let’s flee to what we hope are the safe confines of Psalm 149. We still are in verse 1, luxuriating in the shir (“to sing”) and shiyr (“song”) and qahal (“assembly”), and then we note the final word: חָסִיד, chasid (“pious/saints”). So, the readers are urged to sing a new (chodesh) song in the assembly of these folk. No idea who they are, and if they had badges for membership, but that’s where the singing takes place. We learn in II Sam. 22:26 that “with the chasid God shows Himself חָסַד, chasad (“kind/merciful/gracious”). I love the parallelism of that verse: “And with the perfect/sound/blameless (תָּמִים, tamim—note that we have already seen tom previously to express the same idea) you show yourself complete/perfect” (תָּמַם, tamam).” Tamam has a broad range of meaning, however, from something that is "spent/exhausted/used up" (Gen. 47:15) or a period of time that was “ended” (Gen. 47:18). A chilling thought is captured in Lev. 26:20 using the word, “Your strength (koach) will be spent (tamam), useless/in vain” (רִיק, riyq). We can see how nearly all of these words would take us on interesting journeys, but we hasten to return to Psalm 149.
Verse 2 provides no new words (!), and in verse 3 we have the typical musical instruments and dance to praise God (machol, toph, kinnor). Here the verb for singing/singing praises is zamar, which we have seen, but we need to mention a few “song” words: זִמְרָה (zimrah) is a “song” (4x). Though zimrah appears infrequently, it appears memorably in Am. 5:23, where God says, “Take away (sur) your songs (shir), and the song/melody (zimrah) of your stringed instruments (nebel) I will not (lo) hear (shema).” Another word is זִמְרָת, zimrath, “song,” and it only appears 3x, invariably in the clause “my strength (oz) and my song (zimrath), and has become (hayah) my salvation (yeshuah; Ps 118:14).”
Psalm 149:4 yields some treasures: “For (kiy) Yahweh takes pleasure (רָצָה, ratsah) in his people (am); He will make beautiful (paar) the humble (עָנָו, anav) with salvation (yeshua).” Just tell people there will be salvation, and things are fine. The most familiar verse including “pleasure” in the Bible uses a different word but while on pleasure we might as well learn it. From Psalm 111:2, “Great (gadol) are the works (מַעֲשֶׂה, maaseh; we see immediately it is from asah) of Yahweh; studied/sought out (דָּרַשׁ, darash) by all (kol) their delights/pleasures (חֵפֶץ, chephets).” The last word is usually rendered “by those who have pleasure in them,” a circumlocutory way to translate a noun though, admittedly, my translation doesn’t make much sense!
Though I have only made it through 149:4, I feel like I should acknowledge some of the words from the previous paragraph. It is easy to see asah hiding behind maaseh, and the latter is a very frequently-appearing word. But its appearance in Gen. 5:29 gives us another gem or two: “He called (qara) his name (shem) Noah (נֹחַ, noach), saying , “This one (zeh) shall bring us comfort (נָחַם, nacham) concerning our work (maaseh) and the toil/labor (עִצָּבוֹן, itsabon) of our hands (yad). . .” Itsabon is derived from the verb עָצַב, atsab, 17x, which means “to pain or grieve.” With the words we know so far, we can easily translate one of the most memorable verses of Scripture. Is. 40:1 says “Comfort (nacham), comfort (nacham) my people (am), says (amar) your God (elohim).” Sixteen words.
Back to take pleasure (ratsah) and humble (anav). Ratsah actually has a broader scope of meaning, including something accepted (Lev. 1:4) or receiving someone favorably (Gen. 33:10). It is a typical word for a sacrifice’s being accepted by God. The concept of delight can also be expressed with the noun derived from ratsah, רָצוֹן (ratson, “goodwill, favor”).
Returning to that beautiful verse (149:4), that God will beautify (paar) the humble (anav) with salvation. Anav derives from anah (עָנָה, first vowel is an ayin, “to be bowed down or afflicted”). God uses the verb anah in Ex. 10:3 when he says, “How long will you refuse (מָאֵן, maen) to humble (anah) yourself before me. . . ?” Whereas the verb appears many, many times in the Bible, the noun (anav) only appears 20x, with the most memorable being Is. 61:1, “The Spirit (ruach) of the Lord God (adonai yahweh) is upon me (al) because (יַעַן, yaan) he has anointed (מָשַׁח, mashach) me to preach good things/bear tidings (בָּשַׂר, basar) to the poor (anav). He sent (shalach) to bind up (חָבַשׁ, chabash) the brokenhearted (from the verb shabar, to break/shatter, in the passive). . .”
One more word, because eI can’t let the concept of anointing go. The first appearance of mashach in the Bible is in when the Angel of God speaks to Jacob as he is fleeing East, and he talks about anointing (mashach) a pillar (מַצֵּבָה, matstsebah, derived from natsab, which we have seen).