Psalm 147 (Concluded)
We took delight in 147:10, which actually makes “delight” (chaphets) the central concept. Chaphets appears 75x in the Bible, and almost always carries with it the notion of “being delighted in/taking pleasure in” but can also include the notion of “wishing.” I love the chorus from Handel’s Messiah where, quoting Ps. 18:19, we have God having “brought me out (yatsa) to a broad place (מֶרְחָב, merchab); He delivered (חָלַץ, chalats, to “draw out” or “tear out” or even “arm men” for battle) me because he delights (chaphets) in me.” Note the pleasant euphony of chalats/chaphets. But one more comment on Psalm 147:10—because we have God not delighting in something—in the “legs” (shoq) of men. But the word for “legs” can mean “hip” or “thigh” or “shoulder”—it just points to a vulnerable body part that helps one in battle or, alternatively, is offered to God in sacrifice.
Eight of the nineteen appearances of shoq are in sacrificial contexts in Leviticus and two more in Exodus 29. I hesitated at first to reveal all these beautiful terms, since they are so technical, but I thought it would be valuable to learn them. You have to do so sooner or later anyway! So let’s start with some hard stuff (we will get back to the Psalm, I promise!). Ex. 29:22 says, “You shall take (laqach) from the fat (חֶלֶב, cheleb) of the ram (אַיִל, ayil) and the fatty tail (אַלְיָה, alyah, 5x all in Leviticus, naturally) and the fat (cheleb) that covers (kasah) the insides/entrails (קֶרֶב, qereb—literally the “midst”) and the lobe/caul (יֹתֶרֶת, yotheret, 11x, all in sacrificial contexts; note this is derived from יָתַר, yathar, which means “to be a remainder; to be the rest") of the liver (כָּבֵד, kabed) and two of the kidneys (כִּלְיָה, kilyah) and the fat (cheleb) which is on (al) them and the right (yamin) thigh (shoq) as a ram (ayil) of consecration (מִלֻּא, millu).. . Phew. Eleven words so far, and back to Psalm 147.
Verse 12 tells Jerusalem and Zion to praise God, but one of the two words is new. We have the familiar halal, but then שָׁבַח, shabach appears. Ps. 63:3 says unforgettably, “For (kiy) better (tob) is your lovingkindness (chesed) than life (chay); my lips (saphah) will praise (shabach) you.” Then, verse 13 brings us another new word: “For he has made strong (chazak) the bars/latches (בְּרִיחַ, beriach) of your gates (shaar). He has blessed (barak) your children in your midst (qereb).” The word beriach implicates all kinds of other construction terms, but I will have mercy and just go with one: in the construction of the Tabernacle, we have (Ex. 26:26), “You shall make (asah) beriach of acacia (שִׁטָּה, shittah) wood (ets).” Verse 14 has difficult words, but we have seen all of them! “He makes/place (sum) borders (gebul) in peace (shalom); he fills (saba) you with the fat/finest (cheleb) wheat (chittim).”
Verse 15 has “He sends out (shalach) his words (אִמְרָה, imrah) to the earth (erets); his word (dabar) runs (ruts) with speed (מְ֝הֵרָ֗ה, meherah).” Even though imrah and meherah are new, they are rooted in words we have already studied: amar and mahar. Verse 16 continues: “he gives (nathan) snow (sheleg) as wool (tsemer), he scatters (pazar) the frost (כְּפוֹר, kephor) like ashes (epher).” Here comes another Hebrew word that means several contrary things! Kephor can be “frost” (as here—Ex. 16:14, we will return to this verse) but in temple architecture it can be a “basin/bowl” (I Chron 28:17). In fact, only 3/12 appearances of the word are best rendered “frost” (the third appearance is Job 38:29).
Exodus 16:14 is a fascinating presentation of a new reality in the midst of the people: manna. “And there was a layer/covering (שְׁכָבָה, shekabah) of the dew (טַל, tal), and there was upon the surface (panim) of the wilderness (midbar) a small (daq) round-like (chaspas, a hapax—in my hapax calendar) surface on the ground.”
Returning to Ps. 147:17, “He sends/throws out (shalak) his hail (קֶרַח, qerach) like morsels/fragments (path). Who can stand (amad) before his cold (qarah—with qerach/qarah almost identical in form)?” Verse 18: “He sends out (shalach this time!) his word (dabar) and it melts (מָסָה, masah) them; he makes the wind (ruach) blow (נָשַׁב, nashab) and the waters (mayim) flow (נָזַל, nazal).” Our translations are a bit rough in English, because one of the other two mentions of nashab is in Gen. 15:11, where Abram “drives away” the birds of prey/vultures (עַיִט, ayit) from the carcasses (פֶגֶר, peger; the verb standing behind this is פָגַר, pagar, which only appears in one passage (I Sam. 30) and means “to be exhausted or faint,” which, to be fair, is what carcasses are when pushed to the extreme). And nazal means “drip” more than it does “flow.”
Verse 19 has nothing but familiar terms, as does verse 20. Read them and luxuriate in what you know. You will be wanting to say the concluding words of the Psalm: "Praise the Lord.” And, with 25 new words. . .
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