PSALM 22: A CHRISTIAN, AN ANOREXIC, AND A YOUNG WOMAN IN CONVERSATION [*]

Davina Casperina Lopéz

 

Text

Introduction

Divided by Strophe

Exposition

The Passion

An Individual's Struggle With Anorexia

A Different, Younger Voice

Works Cited

 

TEXT [1]
 
A Psalm of the Individual's Struggle with True Faith in G-d,
in which the Psalmist Finds Solace upon G-d's Action
 
1For the leader; on ayyeleth ha-shahar . A psalm of David. [JPS]
1To the leader: according to the Deer of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. [NRSV]
1To the choirmaster: according to the Hind of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. [Knight, Psalms]
1Unto the end, for the morning protection, a psalm for David. [Herder's Commentary on the Psalms ]
 
2My God, My God,
why have You abandoned me;
why so far from delivering me
and from my anguished roaring?
3My God,
I cry by day -- You do NOT answer!
by night, and I have no respite!
 
4Yet You are the Holy One,
enthroned,
the Praise of Israel.
5In You my people trusted;
they trusted, and You rescued them.
6To You they cried out
and they escaped;
in You they trusted
and were not disappointed.
 
7But I am a worm, less than human;
scorned by others, despised by all people near me.
8All who see me mock me;
they make faces at me,
they shake their heads and say:
9"Let her commit herself to the LORD, Whom she trusts;
let G-d rescue her --
let G-d save her
if G-d truly delights in her!"
 
10It is You who drew me from the womb, G-d!
You made me secure at my mother's breast.
11I became Your charge at birth;
from my mother's womb You alone have been my God!
12Do NOT abandon me now --
for trouble is near;
truly, there is no one else to help me!
 
13Powerful bulls surround me,
mighty ones of Bashan encircle me.
14They open their mouths wide at me
like tearing, roaring lions.
 
15I am poured out like water --
all my bones are dismembered;
my heart is like wax,
melting into my bowels.
16my health dries up like a shard;
my tongue cleaves to my palate;
For You have made me into the dust of skeletons!
 
17Wild dogs surround me;
a pack of evil ones closes in on me,
like lions ... my hands and feet.
18I must count each of my bones
while they look on and gloat.
19They divide my clothes among themselves,
casting lots for my garments.
 
20But You, O LORD, be not far off!
O my strength, hasten to my aid!
21Save my life from the sword,
my very life-force from the clutches of a dog.
22Deliver me from a lion's mouth;
from the horns of wild bulls rescue me!
 
23Then I will proclaim Your fame to my brethren,
praise You in the congregation.
24You who fear the LORD, praise G-d!
All you offspring of Jacob, honor G-d!
Be in dread of G-d, all you offspring of Israel!
25For G-d did not scorn, G-d did not spurn
the plea of the lowly;
G-d did not hide G-d's face from her;
when she cried out to G-d, G-d listened.
 
26Because of You I offer praise in the great congregation;
I pay my vows in the presence of G-d's worshipers.
27Let the lowly eat and be satisfied;
let all who seek the LORD praise G-d.
May your hearts live forever!
 
28Let all the ends of the earth remember and turn to the LORD,
and peoples of all nations prostrate themselves before
You;
29for You, G-d, are our saviour
and You shall deliver all nations.
 
30All those in full vigor shall eat and prostrate themselves;
all those at death's door, whose spirits flag,
shall bend the knee before G-d.
31Offspring shall serve G-d;
the LORD's fame shall be proclaimed to the generation
32to come;
they shall tell of G-d's beneficence
to people yet to be born,
for G-d has acted!
INTRODUCTION

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Psalm 22 is a song of lamentation. It is comprised of two main parts, a lament [vv. 2-22] and a praise for G-d [vv. 23-31]. I have divided the psalm, however, into three strophes; each corresponds to a change in mood and voice in the psalm. Verses 2-12 depict the conflictual nature of the psalmist's lament to G-d and her faith/trust in G-d; the content of these verses alternate between a cry for help to a G-d that is far away from helping the psalmist and trust and faith that G-d will help. Verses 13-22, however, describe the suffering the psalmist endures in much greater detail and paints a vivid picture of the possible consequences of G-d's failure to act on her behalf. The speaker envisions her own violent, painful death to ensue from abusers who mock the trust the psalmist has in G-d, who does not answer her pleas immediately. The second strophe of the psalm concludes with an appeal to G-d for assistance in verses 20-22.

Verses 23-31, however, are constructed a bit differently; they indicate that G-d has acted in favor of the psalmist and that a community-oriented celebration is imminent, where the psalmist declares the grace of the very same G-d whom was previously ignoring her. The exaltation of G-d's actions escalates verse by verse; the final few verses call all generations of the people on earth, and all nations, to bear witness to the prospect that G-d would indiscriminately answer desperate calls for assistance.

Before I begin my discussion of this psalm by means of the expository and interpretive voices, I feel as though it is necessary to explain from where it is I am writing. I am a white, technically heterosexual, upper-middle class young woman of European descent (Spain and Sicily, to be precise), I am a first-generation "American", and I have a strong Roman Catholic background. Although I am a Religion major, my knowledge of Hebrew is minimal at best; therefore, when researching this psalm I located several English translations, beginning with the JPS [Jewish Publication Society] version. I synthesized the differences I encountered to make my final translation of the psalm as powerful as possible.

The language I have chosen to use concerning G-d is gender-neutral; my translation of Psalm 22 uses no pronouns when speaking of G-d. Likewise, I use inclusive language throughout the duration of my paper in accordance with my personal beliefs on gender-neutral language as well as Emory University's general opposition to overt discrimination of any sort. I use the pronoun "she" in the text of the psalm to explore the possibility that the speaker may very well be a woman. Additionally, my discussion of Psalm 22 refers to the psalmist as a woman. This psalm speaks to me in a voice from underneath. It is a psalm of the oppressed and tormented, and that speaker may very well be female. I believe it is most appropriate and closest to my personal experience to interpret this psalm from a woman's perspective; my personal conviction is that women -- of any size, shape or colour -- have plenty of experience as the oppressed and forsaken among human beings.

Numerous perspectives are available to further an understanding of various aspects of Psalm 22. I have chosen several for both my expository and interpretive voices. The first of the expository voices is called "The Struggle", and it outlines the psalm in a context where the speaker is an individual who is debating over her faith in G-d. The speaker in "The Covenant" is also an individual, but she is lamenting to G-d as the spokesperson for an entire nation, namely Israel. Psalm 22 also serves, in a Christian context, as the prophetic cornerstone of the Christological argument; an interpretive reading of this psalm using the story of Jesus' crucifixion is evident in "The Passion." Another interpretive discussion of Psalm 22 follows "The Passion". This voice is that of a young woman struggling with anorexia nervosa. It is called, "An Individual's Struggle with Anorexia." Finally, I present the voice of a young woman wrestling with her mother through the Psalm. It is entitled, "A Different, Younger Voice."

Before an in-depth discussion of this psalm, I have included an outline of the manner in which I divided it.

DIVIDED BY STROPHE

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1For the leader; on ayyeleth ha-shahar . A psalm of David. [JPS]
1To the leader: according to the Deer of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. [NRSV]
1To the choirmaster: according to the Hind of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. [Knight, Psalms]
1Unto the end, for the morning protection, a psalm for David. [Herder's Commentary on the Psalms ]
Strophe 1: Conflict

Complaint

The psalmist, apparently alone, speaks with G-d out of frustration, anxiety, disappointment and increasing anger:

2My God, My God,
why have You abandoned me;
why so far from delivering me
and from my anguished roaring?
3My God,
I cry by day -- You do NOT answer!
by night, and I have no respite!

Faith and Trust

The confused psalmist continues her direct address to G-d with a contrasting statement, proclaiming that G-d is trustworthy by virtue of G-d's past actions:

4Yet You are the Holy One,
enthroned,
the Praise of Israel.
5In You my people trusted;
they trusted, and You rescued them.
6To You they cried out
and they escaped;
in You they trusted
and were not disappointed.

Complaint, on a Personal Level

The speaker returns to the lament, and does so in a more personal manner. The speaker is obviously not alone now, and describes her pain in terms of those around her.

7But I am a worm, less than human;
scorned by others, despised by all people near me.
8All who see me mock me;
they make faces at me,
they shake their heads and say:
9"Let her commit herself to the LORD, whom she trusts;
let G-d rescue her --
let G-d save her
if G-d truly delights in her!".

Reiteration of Trust /Faith; Plea

The psalmist insists that she deserves the immediate attention from G-d that is presently lacking; she declares the ongoing relationship she has with G-d, therefore G-d has a responsibility to heat her and act.

10It is You who drew me from the womb, G-d!
You made me secure at my mother's breast.
11I became Your charge at birth;
from my mother's womb You alone have been my God!
12Do NOT abandon me now --
for trouble is near;
truly, there is no one else to help me!
Strophe 2: Threat and Suffering

Physical Threat

The psalmist illustrates the severity of her suffering by using metaphors involving ferocious animals.

13Powerful bulls surround me,
mighty ones of Bashan encircle me.
14They open their mouths wide at me
like tearing, roaring lions.

Suffering

She even envisions her own death, all at the hands of those who mock. G-d, however, is ultimately responsible.

15I am poured out like water --
all my bones are dismembered;
my heart is like wax,
melting within my bowels.
16my vigor dries up like a shard;
my tongue cleaves to my palate;
For You commit me to the dust of skeletons!

Extensive Threat and Burial

This is the final plea of the psalmist for help from G-d:

17Wild dogs surround me;
a pack of evil ones closes in on me,
like lions ... my hands and feet.
18I take count of all my bones
while they look on and gloat.
19They divide my clothes among themselves,
casting lots for my garments.

Plea to G-d for Help

The psalmist issues a petition to G-d:

20But You, O LORD, be not far off!
O my strength, hasten to my aid!
21Save my life from the sword,
my precious life from the clutches of a dog.
22Deliver me from a lion's mouth;
from the horns of wild bulls rescue me.
Strophe 3: Reconciliation and Celebration

Call to Praise G-d

Something amazingly positive, facilitated by G-d, happens in between these two verses. Suddenly the psalmist is surrounded by an entire congregation, which is eager to hear her next words:

23Then I will proclaim Your fame to my brethren,
praise You in the congregation.

A multitude of voices from the worshippers echoes:

24"You who fear the LORD, praise G-d!
All you offspring of Jacob, honor G-d!
Be in dread of G-d, all you offspring of Israel!
25For G-d did not scorn, G-d did not spurn
the plea of the lowly;
G-d did not hide G-d's face from her;
when she cried out to G-d, G-d listened."

Cultic Celebration

The psalmist continues when the congregation ceases, while offering a sacrifice to
G-d:
 
26Because of You I offer praise in the great congregation;
I pay my vows in the presence of G-d's worshipers.
27Let the lowly eat and be satisfied;
let all who seek the LORD praise G-d.
May your hearts live forever!

National and Worldly Praise to G-d

The speaker now turns her praise for G-d, which was largely for personal reasons, into a call for all people to praise G-d:

28Let all the ends of the earth remember and turn to the LORD,
and peoples of all nations prostrate themselves before
You;
29for You, G-d, are our saviour
and You shall deliver all nations.

Praise to G-d from all Generations Inhabiting the Earth

The psalmist's sermon continues, with a proclamation that all people, and all generations of the earth, shall worship and revere G-d for G-d's actions.

30All those in full vigor shall eat and prostrate themselves;
all those at death's door, whose spirits flag,
shall bend the knee before G-d.
31Offspring shall serve G-d;
the LORD's fame shall be proclaimed to the generation
32to come;
they shall tell of G-d's beneficence
to people yet to be born,
for G-d has acted!
EXPOSITION

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1For the leader; on ayyeleth ha-shahar . A psalm of David. [JPS]
1To the leader: according to the Deer of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. [NRSV]
1To the choirmaster: according to the Hind of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. [Knight, Psalms]
1Unto the end, for the morning protection, a psalm for David. [Herder's Commentary onthe Psalms ]

Comment

There are several ways in which to interpret this attribution. The dedication of this psalm to a leader suggests that the "leader" is a military leader or the leader of a congregation. The use of the word "choirmaster" places this psalm in a liturgical context where the verses serve as the lyrics to a song. The usage of the phrase "unto the end" implies that this psalm is for use at the conclusion of perhaps a battle, a war or a personal struggle.

The phrase ayyeleth ha-shahar is not easy to decipher and the JPS translation leaves the phrase intact in the attribution; nevertheless, it is thought to mean "strength of the dawn" or "hind of the dawn". Strength is commonly associated with a deer or buck, hence the ascription "according to the Deer of the Dawn" found in the NRSV. A similar connotation is evident in Herder's employment of "unto the morning protection".

All translations I encountered concur with the attribution of Psalm 22 to David.

 

2My God, My God,
why have You abandoned me;
why so far from delivering me
and from my anguished roaring?
3My God,
I cry by day -- You do NOT answer!
by night, and I have no respite!

The Struggle

Verses 2 and 3 constitute a lament offered by the individual speaker directly to G-d. It has three distinct parts. The speaker is first identifying her separation from G-d (with G-d as the one who has abandoned), then stating how far G-d is from hearing her plea for help. The psalmist finally proclaims that G-d does not hear or acknowledge her lament immediately. [2]

I have complemented the punctuation in v. 3 by placing exclamation points at the ends of both statements of the verse. This serves two purposes: to accentuate the lines and to place an emotional emphasis on them when read aloud. I envision the psalmist saying vv. 2-3 with increasing intensity and the greatest emphasis on the last two lines. She begins the lament almost as a soft, tired cry, with her head down: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"; then the speaker lifts her head to speak, and does so more audibly: " Why so far from delivering me, and from my anguished roaring?" Finally, the psalmist is truly hurt and upset, and tells G-d so by exclaiming "My God -- I CRY by day, and You do not answer! By night, and I have no respite! "1

The Covenant

Verses 2-3 are indicative of a personal lament, a calling to G-d for assistance and support. The psalmist cries from the depths of her soul and charges that G-d has forsaken her. However, the speaker never proclaims that "there is no G-d" as in Ps. 10.4, Ps. 14.1 and other songs of lament; this person does not think that G-d has truly abandoned her. On the contrary, she exclaims " my God, my God".

G-d has a responsibility to hear and listen to this personal song of lamentation; although G-d may not provide an immediate remedy to the suffering of the psalmist, she asserts that " my God" must be faithful and listen. The psalmist knows the G-d with Whom she has a covenant too well to doubt such loyalty. The opening of this psalm is exemplary of the mutual relationship shared between people and G-d (Knight 107).

 

4Yet You are the Holy One,
enthroned,
the Praise of Israel.
5In You my people trusted;
they trusted, and You rescued them.
6To You they cried out
and they escaped;
in You they trusted
and were not disappointed.

The Struggle

Here the psalmist presents a contrast to the lament exhibited in vv. 2-3. This section of the psalm is exemplary of the trust that an individual has in G-d; again, its meaning is manifest in three affirmations. The first, that "You are holy", is offered in a direct contrast to the G-d that does not answer in v. 3. The speaker also states that G-d is "enthroned", but does not specify where; an indication of where G-d dwells is that G-d will reside wherever Israel offers praise (Gettier vi). A description of what G-d has done for the ancestors of the psalmist provides adequate reasoning for her to praise and trust G-d in the present.

The Covenant

This portion of the psalm is indicative of G-d's loyalty to the individual person (the psalmist) as well as the collective nation (Israel). The speaker now turns to a prayer to G-d in which she remembers the past deeds of the LORD. G-d is holy -- G-d is loving, good, sanctified, righteous. It should therefore follow that G-d is loyal and will not break the covenant that G-d has made with the speaker as well as her ancestors, which G-d has followed throughout time from Egypt to David's time. G-d must be present in "any of the hells that human beings can create on earth" (Knight 108). Not only is G-d a witness to the suffering of humans; G-d is present, on the inside, existing with the pain and sorrow of life (Fackenheim 5).

A G-d that is present throughout life is definitely praised, and such praise is shouted aloud in gratitude. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua and David trusted in this G-d, and they definitely were not disappointed (Knight 108). The psalmist asks G-d, in light of G-d's past deeds, is this not enough for faith now? I remember everything You, G-d, have done for those who came before me. They were not disappointed -- nor shall I be!

 

7But I am a worm, less than human;
scorned by others, despised by all people near me.
8All who see me mock me;
they make faces at me,
they shake their heads and say:
9"Let her commit herself to the LORD, Whom she trusts;
let G-d rescue her --
let G-d save her
if G-d truly delights in her!".

The Struggle

This third section of Psalm 22 returns the speaker to her present situation. It is further descriptive of the psalmist's suffering and affliction in relationship to other people. She finds herself a focus of others' ridicule and degradation, and that makes her feel as if she is "a worm...less than human" [v. 7]. Although the perpetrators of this abuse are not identified, they mock the speaker's faith with biting sarcasm -- the very faith that she expresses in vv. 4-6 (Gettier vii). Furthermore, the verbal abuse inflicted upon the speaker is accompanied by rude gestures on behalf of the taunters; she describes in v. 8 how "they make faces at me,/they shake their heads". I picture these actions to be derogatory in nature. They could be similar to the body language we may direct toward a person of whom we are not very fond. [3]

The Covenant

Now the speaker concerns herself with the human awareness of the "reality of sin and suffering" (Knight 108). Two contrasting ideas are presented here: the universal insignificance of humankind [v. 7] and the magnitude of G-d's love and compassion directed toward human beings [v. 9] (Knight 108).

The psalmist considers herself to be "a worm, less than human" in verse 7. This indicates the reality of the human side of suffering as well as determines some sort of difference between the speaker and G-d. Verse 9 is a quote from the enemies of the psalmist, and it verifies the notion that the speaker already has some sort of covenant with G-d.

The passage in which G-d declares a covenant with Israel is found in Isaiah 41:8-13, where G-d fulfills Gd's promise to Abraham by announcing Israel as the chosen servant; G-d calls G-d's children far from Babylon, saying "From the ends of the earth, saying to you, 'You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off. Fear not, I am with you'" [Isa. 41:8-9]. G-d is with G-d's children, even throughout a life of exile. Isaiah continues in v. 14: "Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men (maggots?) of Israel! I will help you, said the LORD; your redeemer is the holy one of Israel".

 

10It is You who drew me from the womb, G-d!
You made me secure at my mother's breast.
11I became Your charge at birth;
from my mother's womb You alone have been my G-d!
12Do NOT abandon me now --
for trouble is near,
and there is no one else to help me!

The Struggle

The psalmist now returns to the notion that she has reason to trust in and believe in G-d; in this section of the psalm, however, the reiteration of faith is on a more personal level with G-d. The psalmist asserts that it is G-d who brought her forth into the world from the womb, caused her to be secure at her mother's breasts (Gettier viii) and became total support throughout life. The psalmist believes that G-d has been watching over her since birth, and there is not one reason why G-d would abandon her now.

Verse 12 is a command that the speaker places upon G-d; the very idea expressed in v. 2-3, that G-d is far from hearing the pleas of the individual, is now turned into an instruction.

The Covenant

The psalmist now declares that she had been chosen to serve G-d before conception. Even as a child, the speaker knew and accepted the fact that G-d had been present in her life. Now she lives in complete confidence that G-d will come to provide support in her adverse spiritual experience. Even though it seems as if G-d is not entirely present and is not helping the speaker, she knows that there is not a need for feelings of anxiety. Since G-d has been with the psalmist all of her life, it would be untrue of G-d's nature to betray G-d's loyalty.

Young Jeremiah discovered something similar about himself from G-d as described in Jer. 1:5:

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you;

Before you were born, I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations.

 

13Powerful bulls surround me,
mighty ones of Bashan [4] encircle me.
14They open their mouths wide at me
like tearing, roaring lions.

The Struggle

Here begins a more detailed account of the psalmist's suffering from which she seeks deliverance. The speaker wishes to put into words the enormity and depth of her/his suffering, and metaphors involving powerful beasts are excellent choices. Of course, the "bulls" in v. 13 are not really bulls, but are described as such because a bull is an animal of great formidability. The metaphor of a "tearing, roaring lion" [v. 14] is employed because of a lion's ferocity and fearlessness; a lion also possesses the propensity to literally tear a person to shreds. These allusions adequately detail the seriousness of the psalmist's torment. [5]

The Covenant

The poignant images present in these verses are also characteristic of more than just the suffering of an individual (Gettier 305). The metaphorical language used here is consistent throughout the Bible when referring to a military conflict or defeat by an enemy nation. The imagery of the bull in v. 13 is found elsewhere in Scripture and is understood to be an enemy of Israel and of G-d [Isa. 10:13, 34:7; also Jer. 46:15, Ps. 68:31].

A lion's roar signifies a sign of attack [Isa. 31:4; Ez. 19:6], while the beast itself is used numerous times to depict the militaristic maneuvers of one nation against the other [Isa. 15:9, Jer. 4:7, 5:6, 12:8].

 

15I am poured out like water
all my bones are dismembered;
my heart is like wax,
melting within my bowels.
16my vigor dries up like a shard;
my tongue cleaves to my palate;
For You commit me to the dust of skeletons!

The Struggle

These two verses are particular to the actual physicality of the suffering which the psalmist is enduring. There is an essence of absence, of un-whole-ness and un-holy-ness. Slowly, the speaker is involved in a depletion of her life as enacted by her enemies. The speaker even envisions her own death (Gettier ix).

The speaker does recognize that her death is ultimately caused by G-d, or at least G-d lets the death happen because G-d ignores the speaker's cry for help.

The Covenant

These two verses infer that the military defeat of a nation can happen as a direct result of G-d's ignoring the assistance for which the nation is asking. The defeat of a nation is cause for communal lament; these verses paint a picture of national tragedy as related by a spokesperson.

 

17Wild dogs surround me;
a pack of evil ones closes in on me,
like lions ... my hands and feet.
18I take count of all my bones
while they look on and gloat.
19They divide my clothes among themselves,
casting lots for my garments.

The Struggle

While vv. 15-16 concerned the psalmist with her dying process, this section is indicative of the poet's plight continuing even after her death. Her body is left for scavengers, and "evil" dogs surround her. They remove her dignity even further by indiscriminately tearing the corpse to shreds, until the she can "take count of all my [her] bones" [v. 18]. While the body is being torn apart, the same taunters that were mentioned before strip the speaker of her clothes and divide the items among themselves -- this action indicates the final passing and burial of the individual.

The Covenant

The dogs in verse 17 are scavengers, and as in Ps. 68:24 they are scavengers scouring the scene of a finished (but recent) battle. The death or defeat of the nation because G-d was not attentive to its cry for help culminates in these verses. Verse 19 exemplifies the finality of the defeat. The process of the victors "casting lots" is significant, much as "a marauding army would revel up and claim its spoils" (Gettier ix).

 

20But You, O LORD, be not far off!
O my strength, hasten to my aid!
21Save my life from the sword,
my precious life from the clutches of a dog.
22Deliver me from a lion's mouth;
from the horns of wild bulls rescue me.

The Struggle

Verses 20-22 comprise an extended plea, a petition and appeal to G-d which will surely lead to her liberation from the predicament in which she is involved. The speaker is asking G-d to take definite action and to save her from certain death and personal destruction, and especially the type of destruction as explicated previously in the psalm.

There is a repetitive element here, as the psalmist matches each request (three of them) with a previous verse. The speaker asks G-d to "be not far off" and to "hasten to my aid" [v. 20]; these are actions contrary to the original complaint in v. 2, where G-d is far from the deliverance of the individual and does not appear to answer her pleas. Verse 20 also identifies a reference to the ascription of the psalm. The calling to G-d as "my strength" occurs in the attribution, which is readable as "the strength of the dawn" Additionally, it is evident in the JPS version of this psalm that the Hebrew word here, ayyeleth, makes its only other appearance in the Bible -- aside from the attribution -- in v. 20.

In v. 21, the psalmist asks G-d to "[save] my precious life from the clutches of a dog". This is a response to the vision that she has in v. 17, when the pack of dogs is ripping her flesh from her bones following "death". The speaker further requests G-d to "deliver me from a lion's mouth" and to rescue her "from the horns of wild bulls" [v. 22]. The lion imagery is present in v. 14, and the reference to wild bulls (or some other type of ferocious beast) is in v. 17. [6]

The Covenant

Verse 19 returns to the original theme: where is G-d in the struggle of all of this? Whereas G-d proclaimed a covenant with Israel, why must the children of Israel now demand that G-d not be far off (Knight 111)?

 

23Then I will proclaim Your fame to my brethren,
praise You in the congregation.
24You who fear the LORD, praise G-d!
All you offspring of Jacob, honor G-d!
Be in dread of G-d, all you offspring of Israel!
25For G-d did not scorn, G-d did not spurn
the plea of the lowly;
G-d did not hide G-d's face from her;
when she cried out to G-d, G-d listened.

The Struggle

At this point in Psalm 22, there is an abrupt change of mood. The speaker changes her communication path from one of lament and depression to praise and exaltation. Verse 23 features the psalmist, perhaps in front of a congregation, praising the merits of G-d since G-d answers the plea of the tormented individual. The congregation chimes in beginning in verse 24, and issues a call for all people to worship and praise G-d that widens in intensity with every verse (Gettier xi). Verses 23-25 are a call to worship and to collectively validate G-d's greatness because G-d has acted. [7] Verse 25 serves as the motivational clause (Gettier xi), where the congregation declares that G-d has not forsaken or abandoned the psalmist ("the lowly" [v. 25]) -- but G-d has actually acted. This is a sharp contrast to the tone of the first half of the psalm, where the speaker appears to be convinced that G-d has completely abandoned her and that she is left open to the ridicule and abuse of others.

The Covenant

Something happens between verses 22 and 23 that is not apparent through the text itself, but is implied that G-d has acted in a favorable manner. The psalmist now comes back with a renewed faith that G-d has not betrayed the covenant with G-d's people, and she announces her supreme faith and confidence in the divine goodness of G-d. In fact, the psalmist and congregation assert that the prerogative of all people is to believe in the goodness of G-d.

The children of Israel are not meant to hold an argument against the nature of G-d, but to praise G-d for Gd's actions (Knight 112); G-d's very name is "Saviour" [Isa. 43:11] and G-d's saving actions are the "revelation of G-d's nature" (Knight 112).

 

26Because of You I offer praise in the great congregation;
I pay my vows in the presence of G-d's worshipers.
27Let the lowly eat and be satisfied;
let all who seek the LORD praise G-d.
May your hearts live forever!

The Struggle

This section is a celebration of G-d; it opens up the praise for G-d to all people, especially the afflicted. The psalmist proclaims, in front of a congregation, that she shall pay her vow of praise [8] to G-d (Gettier xii). All those people who suffer and seek G-d's assistance -- much like the speaker herself does -- will share in G-d's presence and be content at a great gathering. [9] At this gathering, the psalmist offers a toast that all may have long lives and that their souls may live on forever.

 

28Let all the ends of the earth remember and turn to the LORD,
and peoples of all nations prostrate themselves before
You;
29for You, G-d, are our saviour
and You shall deliver all nations.

The Struggle

These two verses are indicative of the nation's praise to G-d. By asking all people to remember what G-d has done for human beings, they can possibly turn away from their own deities to G-d. The speaker also declares the totality and universality of G-d's good doing -- that the entire world should naturally turn to G-d.

The Covenant

The congregation that the psalmist is speaking to invites all people present to recall that G-d is the Lord of the entire earth. Their response to the praise the psalmist offers to G-d is to state that all people on earth should revere G-d. We should not forget that we are G-d's chosen people, and we should not forget the mutual relationship we have with G-d (Knight 114).

 

30All those in full vigor shall eat and prostrate themselves;
all those at death's door, whose spirits flag,
shall bend the knee before G-d.
31Offspring shall serve G-d;
the LORD's fame shall be proclaimed to the generation
32to come;
they shall tell of G-d's beneficence
to people yet to be born,
for G-d has acted!

The Struggle

These final verses serve as the culmination of praise for and faith in G-d. This is a call for all generations to pay homage to G-d, whether they be past, present or future generations. Verse 30 concerns those who are from the past or are "dead"; the dead in this case may not mean those who are literally dead. Death in this sense is figurative -- while life comes from belief in and praise for G-d, death follows those who turn away from G-d's presence (Gettier 249).

Verse 31 brings closure to the psalm and exemplifies the permanence and continuity of G-d's presence. The speaker indirectly declares that she has found reconciliation with her faith in G-d, and because G-d has acted faith in G-d is a result. Lamentation is unnecessary, because G-d demonstrates G-d's presence to the individual.

The Covenant

These last verses reiterate the notion that everyone will bow to G-d because of the action G-d has taken in favor of the afflicted -- whether it be the afflicted individual or the suffering nation. Even the affluent will revere G-d.

The Bible is concerned with the ongoing movement of G-d's presence in history (Fackenheim 5). Since all people are somehow linked in the stream of life, each generation carries the responsibility of communicating the deeds of G-d in the past. There is a command and a responsibility to tell. The Bible is "the story of what G-d has done as G-d pursues G-d's loving purpose of salvation, not only of all people, but of heaven and earth as well (Knight 114).

THE PASSION [10]

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1For the leader; on ayyeleth ha-shahar . A psalm of David. [JPS]
1To the leader: according to the Deer of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. [NRSV]
1To the choirmaster: according to the Hind of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. [Knight, Psalms]
1Unto the end, for the morning protection, a psalm for David. [Herder's Commentary on the Psalms ]
 
2My God, My God,
why have You abandoned me;
why so far from delivering me
and from my anguished roaring?
3My God,
I cry by day -- You do NOT answer!
by night, and I have no respite!

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o'clock Jesus cried with a loud voice "Eloi, Eloi, lema Sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "This man is calling for Elijah". At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, [11] and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see if Elijah will come and save him." Then Jesus cried again with a loud whisper and breathed his last. [Matt. 27:45-50, Mark 15:34-37].

Psalm 22 is a "prayer for help". The lament of the suffering of Christ corresponds to that of the psalmist (Herder 71). The best known connection between Psalm 22 and the passion narrative is Jesus' great cry, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani", a quotation of the [Aramaic translation of] the psalm's first sentence (Mays 105). Jesus probably recited Psalm 22 in its entirety while suffering on the cross. The correspondence of Jesus' death with his utterance of this psalm is exemplary of a moment in time when G-d's loyalty to the suffering of human beings is put to the test. G-d's faithfulness proves to be true and steadfast; G-d was with Jesus while he was on the cross, "sharing his tragedy as only a father can do with a son." (Knight 106)

 

4Yet You are the Holy One,
enthroned,
the Praise of Israel.
5In You my people trusted;
they trusted, and You rescued them.
6To You they cried out
and they escaped;
in You they trusted
and were not disappointed.
 
7But I am a worm, less than human;
scorned by others, despised by all people near me.
8All who see me mock me;
they make faces at me,
they shake their heads and say:
9"Let him commit himself to the LORD, Whom he trusts;
let G-d rescue him --
let G-d save him
if G-d truly delights in him!".

Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the son of G-d, come down from the cross." In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying "He saved others, he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we shall believe in him. He trusts in G-d, let G-d deliver him now, if G-d wants to; for he said 'I am G-d's son'." [Matt. 27:39-43]

The persistent mockery of Jesus by his persecutors constitutes a generous portion of the events preceding his death. The extension of G-d's love and kindness from within human suffering, and not from the outside, is enlightening with respect to the baptism of Jesus by John. Jesus asked John to baptize him so that he could completely identify with the suffering of the people that were considered -- in G-d's eyes -- to be worms, lower than human; these very same people were, ironically enough, those who were initially chosen by G-d.

 

10It is You who drew me from the womb, G-d!
You made me secure at my mother's breast.
11I became Your charge at birth;
from my mother's womb You alone have been my God!
12Do NOT abandon me now --
for trouble is near;
truly, there is no one else to help me!

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as Your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." [Matt. 1:18-22]

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." [Matt. 3:13-17, paraphrasing Ps. 2:7 and Is. 42:1]

Christian people believe that Jesus is truly the son of G-d. Although Jesus realizes the authority of John and allows himself to be baptized, his true authority is G-d. Jesus, while dying on the cross, pleads with G-d to reveal G-d's self to Jesus one last time. Jesus names G-d as being his only hope, as all of those who surround him are enemies.

 

13Powerful bulls surround me,
mighty ones of Bashan encircle me.
14They open their mouths wide at me
like tearing, roaring lions.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe around him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" [Matt. 27:27-29]

Here is a depiction of the first of three passion pictures: Jesus is taken captive by his cruel enemies, who have been told to put him to death. The comparison of such savagery and cruelty is only possible through a metaphor involving untamed beasts (Herder 73). Jesus hears no sympathy as he is attacked, but he hears instead "a wild tumult, the 'crucifige' of a hateful and mad rabble, a roaring like that of a ravenous lion" (Herder 73).

 
 
15I am poured out like water --
all my bones are dismembered;
my heart is like wax,
melting into my bowels.
16my health dries up like a shard;
my tongue cleaves to my palate;
For You have made me into the dust of skeletons!

They spat on him, and took the reed and flogged him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. [Matt. 27:30-32]

Here is the second passion picture: the torture of Jesus continues until he is physically exhausted and approaching death. Because of the severe beatings and blows administered to Jesus' body, his blood is pouring away much like water. His limbs are out of joint from being dismembered, and his thirst produces a dryness which causes his tongue to cleave to his palate.

Jesus approaches death, and not even G-d makes a move to save him. G-d has humbled Jesus to the point that he is no longer recognizable as a live human being -- he is a corpse (Herder 73). He is then led away to be crucified.

 

17Wild dogs surround me;
a pack of evil ones closes in on me,
like lions ... my hands and feet.
18I must count each of my bones
while they look on and gloat.
19They divide my clothes among themselves,
casting lots for my garments.

So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews', but 'This man said, I am King of the Jews'." Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took is clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says, "They divided my clothes among themselves, casting lots for my garments." [John 9:17-24, citing this verse of Ps. 22]

The third and final passion picture is depicted in these verses. Jesus is nailed to the cross and stripped of his garments. Jesus' enemies rush upon him, much like dogs, and they crucify him. Then, while Jesus is suffering and dying, the soldiers stand aside and mock him. First they do so by placing an inscription above his cross and then they argue about the validity of Jesus' supposed words -- 'I am the King of the Jews' -- which were the cause for his crucifixion.

The usage of this particular section of Psalm 22 in the Gospels depicts the crucifixion of Jesus as a fulfillment of the passion prophecy laid out by this psalm. The RSV follows the Septuagint [12] by deciphering the second line of v. 17 as "they have pierced my hands and feet". Early Christian interpreters connected this with the crucifixion of Jesus. Interestingly enough, this reading of v. 17 is not reflected in the Gospels (Mays 111).

 

20But You, O LORD, be not far off!
O my strength, hasten to my aid!
21Save my life from the sword,
my very life-force from the clutches of a dog.
22Deliver me from a lion's mouth;
from the horns of wild bulls rescue me!

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, fro top to bottom. The earth shook. and the rocks were split. The tombs were also opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said "Truly this man was God's Son!" [Matt. 27:50-54]

The Passion of Jesus is about to end, as the hour of departure from this life has arrived. Jesus begins the last agony to which all human assistance is denied, the battle in which life and death contend with each other. In this struggle, only the help of G-d can save Jesus, and only G-d can provide his strength. Jesus pleads for the last time that the LORD be near him and deliver him from this suffering quickly (Herder 74).

The catastrophic events surrounding the death of Jesus indicate that G-d has heard Jesus' plea for help; Gd is apparently about to act in a profound way.

 

23Then I will proclaim Your fame to my brethren,
praise You in the congregation.
24You who fear the LORD, praise G-d!
All you offspring of Jacob, honor G-d!
Be in dread of G-d, all you offspring of Israel!
25For G-d did not scorn, G-d did not spurn
the plea of the lowly;
G-d did not hide G-d's face from him;
when he cried out to G-d, G-d listened.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look in the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" [13] Jesus said to her, "Do not hold onto me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'." Mary Magdelene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her. [John 20:11-18]

Jesus' resurrection is the only proof necessary for the validation of G-d's unconditional love, faithfulness and devotion to the afflicted. Jesus cried to G-d while on the cross; G-d may not have offered immediate release from the tortures that Jesus endured, but G-d presents a far greater act to Jesus.

The love of G-d for human beings through Jesus is also exemplified here. Jesus' death presents him as having the lowest status available, finally uniting him with the poor and oppressed in an unquestionable manner. Jesus is always concerned that the afflicted and poor should always be considered -- they should always have enough to eat. [14] The love of G-d is so great that it is indiscriminate; throughout this entire psalm G-d's deeds for the suffering, even the lowest of the low, depict a G-d that truly listens to the requests of the lowly.

 

26Because of You I offer praise in the great congregation;
I pay my vows in the presence of G-d's worshipers.
27Let the lowly eat and be satisfied;
let all who seek the LORD praise G-d.
May your hearts live forever!

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. [Luke 24:28-35]

Here Jesus spreads the news of his redemption by G-d. He follows his disciples home one evening and waits until he breaks bread with them to reveal himself to them. Spreading the news of the Resurrection is a result of the Passion. All who have awaited redemption should rejoice; they should praise and glorify the LORD. Jesus is still poor, as he was during his human life; he was despised, derided and mocked -- yet G-d still did not ignore him. G-d remained near Jesus in his night of abandonment and heard his pleas. This phenomenon should strengthen all people in their confidence that G-d will also command the metaphorical morning of deliverance that follows the nightfall of suffering (Herder 75).

 

28Let all the ends of the earth remember and turn to the LORD,
and peoples of all nations prostrate themselves before You;
29for You, G-d, are our saviour
and You shall deliver all nations.
 
30All those in full vigor shall eat and prostrate themselves;
all those at death's door, whose spirits flag,
shall bend the knee before G-d.
31Offspring shall serve G-d;
the LORD's fame shall be proclaimed to the generation
32to come;
they shall tell of G-d's beneficence
to people yet to be born,
for G-d has acted!

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you -- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scripture, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God. [Luke 24:44-53]

All people should rejoice in the glory of G-d, for G-d has delivered Jesus from the greatest of all suffering in order to redeem all people of the earth. Now that the prophecy evident in Psalm 22 has been fulfilled, a New Covenant shall arise! (Herder 76)

AN INDIVIDUAL'S STRUGGLE WITH ANOREXIA

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1For my lament. A psalm to be said in front of the full length mirror, daily.
 
2My God, My God,
why have You abandoned me;
why so far from delivering me
and from my anguished roaring?
3My God,
I cry by day -- You do NOT answer!
by night, and I have NO respite!

Why, God? Why have You put me into this body that never seems to look beautiful enough? Why is it that I do everything that I can to make myself thin and gorgeous and it does NOT work? I buy the magazines, I buy the clothes, I buy the cosmetics. Still I am not thin. Still I am not as thin as I want to be. As is necessary for me to look good. My clothes do not look right, my hair has too many split ends and I can't wear the color red on my lips because they will look too big.

I can't buy a size seven. All of my friends wear a size seven. And they are so beautiful and so perfect. Then there's me, this fat person who does everything right but never sees any results. I am so ugly and fat, God. Look, I can pull the fat on my arms, sides and thighs. It shakes when I move. I have a double chin. I skipped my workout this past Wednesday, and look at me. Everyone else is so much better looking than me! God, this is unfair -- I want to know why I am stuck with this horrible excuse for a body.

And I am pleading with You!

Every day when I get up I make the pilgrimage to this mirror and I stand, naked, scrutinizing my body while a look of frustration and disgust slowly envelops my face. Every day I look like I have gained weight. It takes me about an hour to find an outfit that will adequately hide my bloated figure and make me look as if I am thin. My roommate gets so angry with me for staying in the bathroom for such a long time -- I am the one that should be angry, though, and I am. I am angry because I am not thin, I am not pretty, I am not perfect. Why not, God? I ask You, day in and day out, for a better body or a world full of blind people from whom I can hide myself.

Every night, before I get into bed, I do sit-ups and pray for a nicer figure.

 

4Yet You are the Holy One,
enthroned,
the Praise of Israel.
5In You my people trusted;
they trusted, and You rescued them.
6To You they cried out
and they escaped;
in You they trusted
and were not disappointed.

My mother comes to visit me in October, and she does not really recognize me when she sees me. She asks me why I have lost all the weight, and then she asks me if I am feeling okay. I always say that I am fine, and I do not think that I have lost that much weight. After all, the more weight I lose the better off I am. We go out to eat while she is here, and she tells me not to worry about how much I eat. She starts to bother me after a while, and I tell her that I do not have a problem, but I wonder if I do.

I am so tired of the standards by which I am mysteriously expected to construct my material life. The women in the media always look wonderful -- so skinny and beautiful. They can always wear the clothes that I envy, and when I try on those same clothes I do not look the same as they do. Instead, I look huge -- I look like an anomaly. Why does it have to be this way? Why do I have to confine myself in this body that has to be small to be acceptable? Men don't whistle at me or call me 'hot,' 'cute,' 'sexy' -- or any of those other terms, for that matter. This is confusing to explain -- a part of me wants to dismember any person that would even dare talk to me that way. Another part of me wants somebody to say something to me that would validate the sufficiency of my physical body. I don't trust that this will happen anytime soon, nor has it happened before. Not to me.

I find myself a hypocrite at times. Why should what women are be defined in terms of what men want? This is so silly, misogynist and degrading. It leads women to self-destruction and ambivalence toward their very existence as human beings and especially as women. So if I don't have a man near me I must be one of several things; I think I can narrow it down to possibly two -- 'lesbian' and 'unattractive'. I would imagine that to be a lesbian is liberating, but it doesn't necessarily mean that lesbians are free of men in their lives nor do they desire to be. To be considered unattractive is a personal issue, and this is outrageous. Who decides what is attractive, God? Is it You? I certainly hope not. All it takes is one comment, one word, and a woman can have her self-esteem shattered. It is advantageous to one's emotional self not to buy into this system. It is too bad that a lot of women do. I know that at times I trust it unconditionally.

 

7But I am a worm, less than human;
scorned by others, despised by all people near me.
8All who see me mock me;
they make faces at me,
they shake their heads and say:
9Let her commit herself to the LORD, whom she trusts;
let G-d rescue her --
let G-d save her
if G-d truly delights in her!".

I hate sitting down while wearing shorts when other people are around. I am always afraid that they will notice the small foothills of fat that congregate on my thighs and spread out when I sit. I feel guilty for eating any food past six in the evening, because if I just sit around and do my homework then the food will be stored as fat. I would rather go hungry than have to choose from the awful selection that the food line in the cafeteria has to offer -- cheese, butter and oil dominate the entrees -- and I do. For what? What do I get in return? I am hungry all of the time. All I can think about is food. It keeps me from thinking about anything else. Is this what is intended for me? For me to become part of this 'hunger cult', where all I do is worry about what is going into my body and fail to focus on anything else in my life?

Some days I stay in my room when I don't feel as though I look adequate for the outside world; later, I feel guilty for not going out and making something of myself. Could I not have done my homework, studied for a test, walked around campus or at least have gone to class ? I am not up to it. I feel like a slug, like a lazy fat woman whose cellulite accumulates exponentially for each moment she lies in bed and cries because it just is not fair. It is not fair on several levels. It is not fair that I work so hard on my physical appearance and get no results, and it is also not fair that I allow me to continue to do this to myself.

Whom do I blame? Do I blame the people around me who unknowingly raise the standard of beauty I set for myself? Or do I blame 'society', that big green cloud that sets all the rules and patterns which we are supposed to follow? Do I blame myself for being vulnerable to the influence of my environment? Or do I blame You, God, because You are not hearing me?

 

10It is You who drew me from the womb, G-d!
You made me secure at my mother's breast!
11I became Your charge at birth;
from my mother's womb You alone have been my God!
12Do NOT abandon me now --
for trouble is near,
and there is no one else to help me!

God, are You watching this? I doubt it -- if You truly made us in Your image, could You not have made us all the same? At least, could You not have made these shells we call our bodies to look the same? What accounts for the difference? What have I done that I have to pay for this by starving myself thin? Why could I not have been born with the same metabolism, the same bone structure, as some of these other women? Instead, I have to make up for my faults by doing things to myself of which I sometimes am not fully aware. Why am I not a person, a live human being, before I am a slab of meat that gets dressed up for her fans? What do I gain by damaging myself? Why do I make myself suffer so I can get the approval I need from others in order to feel good about myself? Is it okay to be scared that I actually am dependent on others' opinions -- and that I find it logically unsound?

Do all men like their women to be thin and perfectly proportionate? Are You a man, God? Almost every book I have read about You assigns You a male gender. So, do You -- in Your white beard and flowing robes -- like Your women to be skinny and flawless? This is unsettling to me, and I find it hard to believe that You would be so discriminating. I have begun to think that it is men who use You as an excuse for their feelings toward women. Men believe that they have the license to treat women however they please, and usually in a derogatory manner -- and then they hide behind You when asked to justify themselves. How can You allow that, God? Your silence indicates to me that You may agree with them.

 

13Powerful bulls surround me,
mighty ones of Bashan encircle me.
14They open their mouths wide at me
like tearing, roaring lions.

Everything around me screams at me to be feminine, which is a term that I think is circular and ambiguous in its very nature. To be feminine is to act like a woman, and to be a woman is to exhibit feminine qualities. To be feminine and to be a woman is to mold one's self to the demands of the day. Most often, those demands are not made by women for women's sake, but by men and the women who think they know what men want. A woman's environment tells her to be strong and hold a powerful position in the job marketplace, but to also stay home and raise her children. To participate in a monogamous heterosexual relationship with a man sensitive to her desire to be formidable yet submissive, hard yet supple, rational yet emotional. To do all of the things that men do, but to do them in high heels and skirts. To eat less, exercise more and take care of her body.

Her body. And what standards are set for that! I would dare say that a strong woman is not too thin. Why are all women depicted as thin in the media? Why is thin desirable? Why are there conflicting images? How can a woman who is weak and fragile by virtue of her starving body and soul be as strong as she really desires? What causes people to think that this skinniness is good, and that every woman should strive for this certain eroticized physical state?

It is hard to keep up, God. I question these issues, but my awareness does not prevent me from starving myself or from staying awake at night until I think all of my food has been digested. I want that ideal, too. I want to be the image that is shoved down my throat on a regular basis. I need it, and it does not come fast enough. What are You going to do about it?

 

15I am poured out like water --
all my bones are dismembered;
my heart is like wax,
melting within my bowels.
16my vigor dries up like a shard;
my tongue cleaves to my palate;
For You commit me to the dust of skeletons!

Is it me? I work so hard to keep myself in some sort of shape. I sweat, lose sleep and even starve. I watch what I eat. And here I stand, in front of my mirror, and I look horrible. I go to a store at the mall to try on a dress, and it looks terrible, and I sit on the floor of the dressing room and cry. I cry for about an hour. I waited all season to try this outfit on, and I tried to lose weight so that it might fit, and I am right back where I started -- I am as fat as I was before. I do not want to leave the dressing room, and I certainly do not want anyone to see me in this misfitting creation of a dress -- why does this happen to me? I sit on the floor and wipe my tears away until I am recognizable again. Why am I not thin? The mirror is not that different than the mirror at home, except that it exemplifies my thighs. I cannot eat lunch that day, even though I had not eaten breakfast. I am hungry, but the hunger drifts away with the assurance that deprivation will rid me of more fat.

I am hungry for more than food. I am hungry for more than I can give to myself. I am hungry for something that is not me. I am hungry for a new me, and an ideal me with a rail-thin figure. All I want is to be happy and at peace with myself, and sometimes I cannot believe that finding solace means obtaining perfection in something as superficial as a body. I know that I should not abuse myself, and I find that especially repulsive about my persona -- how can I be so weak that I succumb to the pressures that tell me how important it is to be thin? How can I allow myself to care about that so much? I do not know.

 

17Wild dogs surround me;
a pack of evil ones closes in on me,
like lions ... my hands and feet.
18I take count of all my bones
while they look on and gloat.
19They divide my clothes among themselves,
casting lots for my garments.

I feel that every woman around me is hungry. Ever since I have been to college, I have noticed that the discussion among women is not centered upon their studies, aspirations or even real thought -- everyone talks about food and exercise. What kinds of food to eat, when the best time to eat is, how to lose weight using some foods as diuretics and smoking as a appetite suppressant, how to lose ten pounds fast. The women I encounter are more concerned with what they are putting into their bodies (or the lack thereof) than what they put into their minds. I find it difficult not to accept and internalize this type of thought pattern and behavior. I have never thought very highly of my physical self, and until now I have gotten along just fine without placing too much emphasis upon the shape of my body. A woman is not just a shell of a person with a different anatomical structure than a man -- there is so much more to human life than worrying incessantly about how one looks. Unfortunately, we are raised to think that appearances are virtually all that matters when interacting with others. I think that this is especially true for women.

I have never been in a place where women worry so much about the way that they look and, perhaps more importantly, how they look to men. This is twisted in a common sense sort of way, God, and I am certain of that because on some level I participate in this behavior. I was never able to see my ribcage until this year, and somehow I feel a sense of accomplishment...why is that? I still feel uncertain about the way I look -- and I know that I should not. I know that my self-confidence and poise comes from within myself, but I cannot help but submit myself to the assault on my body that comes from all angles. How can I be comfortable with myself in a culture that is constantly telling women that they are imperfect and, therefore, inferior? I am only one person with one body type -- one of many. It makes no sense to ask women to go out of their way in order to be perfect, to look the same, to work so hard that they abuse themselves. Why does it work?

The most pressing concern for the majority of the women I talk to, and often myself, is how to prepare for a public appearance -- whether it is on campus, in class or in a nearby restaurant. If a man does not notice our thin, meticulously primped bodies, then we are not adequate women. We lose all confidence in not only our appearances, but ourselves. I think that this is an appropriate response, given that a woman can throw her entire soul into her physical orchestration and fine-tuning for her next exhibition. Where does it end? Why do we have to mold ourselves according to what we think someone else's expectations are? Does that make us happy, or does it only serve to please others?

I know that I am not pleased with myself.

I feel like a hollow, empty being in a fat body.

 

20But You, O LORD, be not far off!
O my strength, hasten to my aid!
21Save my life from the sword,
my very being from the clutches of a dog.
22Deliver me from a lion's mouth;
from the horns of wild bulls rescue me!

God, You have NOT rescued me, nor do I expect You to at this point. I am trying to grow a thicker skin. I am attempting to ignore the pressure around me that transforms my self-image into an obsession and a sickness. I need to realize that I should not rely so heavily upon others to make me feel good about myself.

Look what I have become, though! I wake up every day and weigh myself in order to see if the little bit of food I ate during the previous day made a difference in my weight or size. I pull at myself to measure the fat that I have on my body. I cry and tell myself that I just have to work harder, that I just have to refrain from eating a little bit more so that I can fit into the pants I bought last week, knowing full well that they were a size too small. It is the numbers that matter -- the numbers sewn into a piece of clothing, the number that shows up on a scale, the caloric numbers assigned to the food that I eat (or do not eat). I wish that I would lose my appetite completely and permanently so that I would not have to worry about it anymore...

But this is not a healthy attitude, and I wrestle with this every day. I like to say that I am strong, but am I? What is a strong woman, God? Many people would argue -- in Your name, no less -- that there is no such thing. Is to be a strong woman the same as acting like a man -- aggressive and relentless? Does to be a strong woman mean to exhibit some self-control by starving? I get conflicting images about what I am supposed to be. Am I liberated if I continue to confine myself, limit my intake and manipulate my appearance with expectations that someone else will approve? I have to change that myself.

Does prayer help, God? I am not sure what to ask for: should I begin with a better body or the willpower to stop being so vulnerable?

 

23Then I will proclaim Your fame to my brethren,
praise You in the congregation.
24You who fear the LORD, praise G-d!
All you offspring of Jacob, honor G-d!
Be in dread of G-d, all you offspring of Israel!
25For G-d did not scorn, G-d did not spurn
the plea of the lowly;
G-d did not hide G-d's face from her;
when she cried out to G-d, G-d listened.

Mine is a partly superficial predicament. God, am I genuinely confused? How can I praise You when I am not too sure of what You have done for me? On one hand, I am almost compulsively concerned with my physical image. I do not want to eat for fear of gaining weight. I look in my mirror and see an obese person staring back at me, someone that no one in their right mind would ever find attractive. Conversely, I know that they way I feel about myself is, in some respects, a social construction that I have internalized. Am I the only one, though? I have been surrounded by this obsession for as long as I have been in school. For as long as I have been considered a 'young adult'.

I find the entire process of maturation into adulthood sort of odd. I have always been told by adults that I can be whatever I set my mind to be, and not to let anyone in the way of that. I really believed that, until I came to college and began my journey into the fabled egalitarian land of adulthood. When I got here, I witnessed more ways in which women were treated negatively than I ever had before. I had never been called a 'bitch' before I came to college. Never before had I heard women scorned so randomly and frequently, just by virtue of our identities as females. I had not heard of a woman being chastised for asserting herself prior to just a few years ago. It seems that the only thing that women have to hold onto, to call our own, is our bodies. Actually, God, we do not even have that -- people try to pass laws every day that would prohibit us from governing ourselves. They cite You as the source for their argument. They say that You are the one who wants us to be inferior, to be submissive.

I have listened to the plea and commandment of the privileged for too long, and look at where I am. It is Your turn, God, to listen to me. It is Your turn to listen to the multitude of women who are slowly and persistently destroying themselves everyday -- listen to my hunger, my suffering as a person living on the underside.

I am tired of hearing that You do NOT speak for me!

 

26Because of You I offer praise in the great congregation;
I pay my vows in the presence of G-d's worshipers.
27Let the lowly eat and be satisfied;
let all who seek the LORD praise G-d.
May your hearts live forever!

There is no praise in front of this mirror, God. There is no food, either.

 

28Let all the ends of the earth remember and turn to the LORD,
and peoples of all nations prostrate themselves before
You;
29for You, G-d, are our saviour
and You shall deliver all nations.
 
30All those in full vigor shall eat and prostrate themselves;
all those at death's door, whose spirits flag,
shall bend the knee before G-d.
31Offspring shall serve G-d;
the LORD's fame shall be proclaimed to the generation
32to come;
they shall tell of G-d's beneficence
to people yet to be born,
for G-d has acted!

Hallowed be thy name, God.

Hollowed be my soul encased in 'full vigor'.

A DIFFERENT, YOUNGER VOICE[15]

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1For my confusion, which I confront daily. A psalm for my mother.

Megan Dagny Widmeyer is my best and oldest friend. She came to visit me early in November from the College of William and Mary, where she has just finished her schooling. When I showed her the work I was doing in this class, she was fascinated. She asked me if I would write about her for this psalm.

This portion of my interpretation of Psalm 22 is actually a systhesis of Megan's experiences with her family and my own. Megan lived down the street from me for eleven years; the first time we did not see each other for more than a day was when we both left home for our respective colleges. Our families are similar, and I think we are such good friends because we can relate to each other well on that level.

 

2My God, My God,
why have You abandoned me;
why so far from delivering me
and from my anguished roaring?
3My God,
I cry by day -- You do NOT answer!
by night, and I have no respite!

A daughter's wish for love

Have you ever felt abandoned by someone? Someone who lives in the same house as you? Someone whom you see every day? Someone who would rather point out the horrible, inadequate things about you to your face, but who would also brag -- incessantly -- about you to her friends, employees and esteemed guests?

Have you ever met my mother?

If you knew her like I know her, you would do as I do and stay at school long enough during the day, busy with several useless extracurricular activities, so that you could feel like you actually mattered to someone.....so you could get some sort of praise for your accomplishments. You would also wait until she went to bed at night so that you could sneak out of your window and exit through the patio door, the door to your freedom in a darkness noisy with insects and the sound of your friends' cars, waiting for you in the driveway....

 

4Yet You are the Holy One,
enthroned,
the Praise of Israel.
5In You my people trusted;
they trusted, and You rescued them.
6To You they cried out
and they escaped;
in You they trusted
and were not disappointed.

Our house. Her house. Lighted very adequately for the holidays. Me, standing at the bottom of the stairs, wearing an exceptionally UNcomfortable dress. Waiting. Waiting for the people who trust my mother completely -- her colleagues, her friends, my friends' parents -- waiting for them to come into her house and stand and talk and eat and drink and listen. Listen to her the Perfect Hostess, the Successful Woman, the Brilliant Mother. She smiles at me when they come in. I smile politely and itch my back.

"Isn't my daughter LOVELY? She is going to EMORY next year...oh how I shall MISS her sooooo much! What an intelligent girl! Here, have some brie..." It goes on into the evening, and she publicly adores (humiliates) me for three hours.

Dr. Nash from down the street says "Wonderful holiday gathering, as usual!". He leaves, with his wife and daughter, whistling a jovial tune. She goes to bed without saying "goodnight".

My mother's guests are NEVER disappointed.

I am ALWAYS disappointed.

 

7But I am a worm, less than human;
scorned by others, despised by all people near me.
8All who see me mock me;
they make faces at me,
they shake their heads and say:
9"Let her commit herself to the LORD, whom she trusts;
let G-d rescue her --
let G-d save her
if G-d truly delights in her!".

Tell me, God, is it wrong to feel something other than unconditional love and trust for a parent? I cannot participate when my schoolmates talk about how wonderful their parents are, and it hurts me.

I know she is a cold woman sometimes, but that does not give her the right to ignore her daughter. When I come finally come home from school and I see the back of her head at her desk in the den, I pray that she does not turn around and face me with a scowl and something to rant and rave about. I tiptoe past her den and up the stairs to my room, my haven which SHE so painstakingly decorated without even the slightest thought of me -- the person who lives there. Not as if she really knows what my favorite colour is or what kind of wood I like.

My mother's face is the only thing I think of when I walk home from school everyday. I just hope that her face is not all screwed up with something that is bothering her -- something that she can take out on me. Just to be sure that this does not happen to me, I create homework and other varied activities in which I can participate so I can see her only minimally.

What I would really like to do is go to church and scream at You, God, for allowing this to happen to me. My friends brag about their mothers and how groovy they are -- i do not have the same luxury.

 

10It is You who drew me from the womb, G-d!
You made me secure at my mother's breast.
11I became Your charge at birth;
from my mother's womb You alone have been my God!
12Do NOT abandon me now --
for trouble is near,
and there is no one else to help me!

"I gave you life -- what more do you possibly need?" is a question she asks when we argue about things. Life is what I wonder about, and what I end up arguing with myself about. God, I cannot fool myself into thinking that my life is so horrible -- I am not starving, I have a huge house, my mother provides me with everything that I need, materialistically -- but life is not all about what money can buy us for what we like to call "sustenance". My mother's way of showing love and support is to leave gifts on the bed for me so when I get home I can unwrap them. What, then, is life all about? I don't want all of this junk if there is no thought or consideration shown to me later. She asks me what I want. I tell her I want her to be around me. I want to do things with her that most people, I guess, would call "quality time".

She has never been to one -- ONE -- orchestra concert, where I sit first chair bassoon. I invite her to every one of them. I buy the tickets. She is busy, and since she bought the bassoon she has made her contribution. The horn is not what is important to me, I could have borrowed one from my band director.

God, why would anyone not want to reap the fruits of what they plant.....or whatever that saying is. My friends can only do so much.

I ask for a crucifix for Christmas my sophomore year in high school. Maybe I will find faith in that.

 

13Powerful bulls surround me,
mighty ones of Bashan encircle me.
14They open their mouths wide at me
like tearing, roaring lions.

First grade. I have crooked teeth. The kids laugh. She tells me to shrug it off.

I try, but I still cry in the woods at the back of the playground. I tell the teacher that I sneeze from the leaves. She calls my mom and asks why I play there everyday if I have such bad allergies. My mother yells at me for not telling her that I have allergies. I sit at my bedside and pray for straight teeth.

Sixth grade. I have leg surgery, and I go back to school on crutches. Crooked teeth and crutches. They still laugh for twice as many reasons. She asks me why I am so sensitive. I just dream about getting braces. I give up prayer, and begin the secular task of begging her for braces.

Eighth grade. I get braces, and I can't eat. It hurts. I laugh really hard and a rubber band shoots out of my mouth and flies five feet, only to hit the head of the young man for whom I have a certain affinity. My mother thinks I am anorexic because I do not like to eat a lot after I get my braces tightened.

Ninth grade. Confirmation class. My family is not from America, and I think I have to wear black clothes to church. They laugh because I wear black clothes and I ask what this will really mean for all of us later on in life. Father Nick says it's who I am. Huh? Later, my mom yells at me across the dinner table for questioning the priest.

Senior year in high school. My braces are off. I get a retainer that is not only too bulky for my mouth, but it also glows in the dark. My mother asks me if I am happy that she has spent five thousand dollars on my mouth. I had better be happy, she says.

 

15I am poured out like water
all my bones are dismembered;
my heart is like wax,
melting within my bowels.
16my vigor dries up like a shard;
my tongue cleaves to my palate;
For You commit me to the dust of skeletons!

One night I drop an expensive bowl on my foot, and it breaks, and she is so angry that she says she wishes that she had never had children. It also happens to be the night of one of her infamous parties. So I am safe. When my toe starts to swell from the impact of the bowl, and I tell her about it, she says that it is my fault for being in such a rush anyway, and it is also my fault for not telling her the minute it started to swell.

I run to my room after that episode and wrap my hand around the tiny gold cross around my neck. I close my eyes, just like my grandmother, only I don't know Italian very well so I cannot pray like her. I do not feel anything. What do I do? The tears pour out, and I just lie on the bed, melting. I don't go downstairs. I am not missed.

 

17Wild dogs surround me;
a pack of evil ones closes in on me,
like lions ... my hands and feet.
18I take count of all my bones
while they look on and gloat.
19They divide my clothes among themselves,
casting lots for my garments.

We go shopping. Shopping for stuff I may need in college. I am so smart and independent, but according to her I cannot even choose what colour towels to buy for college. So here we go, and I would rather be out. Out somewhere else.

I am a reflective person. I bring up the fact that I will probably miss her when I move out, which is in less than a month. I say that it is unfortunate that we do not get to spend more time together and I regret that. She says that I have spent all of my life with her, what more do I want, is green a good colour and do I want washcloths. She calls me demanding. I say that I am not too demanding. She is not listening.

I pack all of my things for school. Everything that I own is emptied out into these boxes. My mother decides what I take with me. She divides it up for me. She tells me that I only need functional things. Things that I will use. Since I collect junk, and nothing but junk, junk that no one will use, we will pack the junk and put it away and keep it for when we move. When SHE moves. I will no longer be around. I will be away at school learning how to be a good person. I am scared. She has a Ph.D.. Does that mean that she is automatically a good person?

 

20But You, O LORD, be not far off!
O my strength, hasten to my aid!
21Save my life from the sword,
my precious life from the clutches of a dog.
22Deliver me from a lion's mouth;
from the horns of wild bulls rescue me.

I buy a new personal stereo the day before I leave for college so that I do not have to talk to her on the trip north, to Georgia. I do not care what it really is, I know that I will make Georgia my new home.

The night before we leave, I do not talk to her that much at all. I go to a restaurant with an old friend. We spend lots of time there. We will miss each other but never vocalize this.

While I pack the car with my divided up things, she tells me that she will miss me around the house. I fake a smile. Georgia, I pray , save me. Perhaps distance will fix this mess that we call a mother-daughter relationship. I can meet new people, try new things and she won't be there to tell me when I should come home at night. I almost kiss the ground when we stop on the outskirts of Atlanta.

 

23Then I will proclaim Your fame to my brethren,
praise You in the congregation.
24You who fear the LORD, praise G-d!
All you offspring of Jacob, honor G-d!
Be in dread of G-d, all you offspring of Israel!
25For G-d did not scorn, G-d did not spurn
the plea of the lowly;
G-d did not hide G-d's face from her;
when she cried out to G-d, G-d listened.

Strange. I find myself talking about her more and more since I have been away. I remember the good things. I remember more things about when I was younger, very young.

I cry often, or at least I have cried often. It is healthy. It is cleansing. Years of tears, waiting.

 

26Because of You I offer praise in the great congregation;
I pay my vows in the presence of G-d's worshipers.
27Let the lowly eat and be satisfied;
let all who seek the LORD praise G-d.
May your hearts live forever!

I have kept this inside of me for a long time. We have been working on it. God, I worked so hard for the approval of someone else. What I really was looking for was love, and I do not know if that is what I had, have or will have. It is good that I do not see her very often.

I don't belong to any one church. I do not necessarily think that I have to. I want to know more about life and people before I actually participate in ritual. I want my ritual action to mean something. Similarly, I want my relationship with my mother to mean something. I hope that it does.

Time is fleeting. I won't live forever, and I need to find reconciliation.

 

28Let all the ends of the earth remember and turn to the LORD,
and peoples of all nations prostrate themselves before
You;
29for You, G-d, are our saviour
and You shall deliver all nations.
 
30All those in full vigor shall eat and prostrate themselves;
all those at death's door, whose spirits flag,
shall bend the knee before G-d.
31Offspring shall serve G-d;
the LORD's fame shall be proclaimed to the generation
32to come;
they shall tell of G-d's beneficience
to people yet to be born,
for G-d has acted!

I stare at the computer screen. I just put these thoughts into words. Words on paper, words that my diary does not contain. I cannot believe that this has happened to me, or that I could allow myself to think that way about my FAMILY. My mother, the only family that I really have. Now I lament because I miss her. God, is that not strange to You?

Senior in college, getting ready to move on and pursue graduate study. She did not know that I am majoring in English until a year ago. She thought I was adamant about Chemistry, and I do like Chemistry. I just don't want to be a scientist. I want to explore more humanitarian causes. I could just sit around all day and think. I want to understand people. I want to understand my mother.

She comes to visit me for the first time in two years. She tells me, for the first time, that she is proud. I burst into tears and she does not know why.

I find solace. She has acted.

WORKS CITED

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Fackenheim, Emil. God's Presence in History: Jewish Affirmations and Philosophical Reflections . NY: Harper and Row, 1970.

Gettier, John Andrew. A Study of Psalm 22 . Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, Th.D.,1972.

Gunkel, Hermann. The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction . Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967.

Herder, V. (trans. Bernard Fritz, O.S.B.) Herder's Commentary on the Psalms . Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1961.

Knight, G.A.F. The Psalms, Volume 1 . Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1982.

Mays, James Luther. Psalms: Interpretation -- A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1989.

Rienstra, Marchiene Vroon. Swallows Nest: A Feminine Reading of the Psalms . NY: Friendship Press, 1992.

Westermann, Claus. The Psalms: Structure, Content and Message . Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1980.

Bibles used:

The Bible, RSV.

The Bible, King James Version.

Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures . Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society.

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[*] This appeared in The Cincinnati Judaica Review 5 (Spring 1995) 71-85.

[1] The whole, integral text did not appear in the print version.

[2 ]Notice that the speaker of this psalm is afflicted and is angry with G-d in some respect. The cause of the profound suffering, aside from sickness, is not noted. This psalm speaks a great deal concerning the sickness of an individual; however, it is hard to imagine that affliction is the only reason for lament (Westermann 61). Sickness, especially that of a serious nature, was, according to the beliefs of ancient Israel, definitely something "sent from G-d", a divine punishment (Gunkel 20).

[3] In the psalms of individual lament, there are a wealth of complaints about the speaker's enemies. Whereas the psalms of community lament obviously deal with political adversaries, such as enemy nations, in the songs of individual lament it is unclear exactly who these enemies are -- despite the magnitude of the numerous complaints against them (Westermann 63).

[4] Bashan is a country east of the Sea of Genesareth. This location was revered for its farmland, and the most fierce, untamed and feared bulls were thought to come from Bashan.

[5] The peculiar and recurring situation in the songs of individual lament is that of the psalmist who, in the midst of some illness which is a matter of life and death, must simultaneously lament about her numerous enemies who spend their time persecuting and slandering her" (Gunkel 20).

[6] While an appeal to G-d is evident in many lament psalms, an uncommon feature of Psalm 22 is the absence of a petition to G-d to enact a retribution upon the enemies of the psalmist. It is almost as if the psalmist is not entirely concerned with the fate of her enemies; instead, she focuses upon her own deliverance.

[7] A review of the past is a regular feature of the community lament psalms, but occurs only rarely in the psalms of individual affliction. Psalm 22 is an exception; in this psalm the identification with the past assists enormously in the reversal of the individual's suffering. The emphasis in the individual lament psalms is the confession of trust, "with the frequent addition of words expressing certainty of having been heard. In their concluding parts a great number of individual lament psalms turn their words into praise to G-d" (Westermann 60).

This lament psalm, however, is a bit different. Although there is an element of praise in many of the lament psalms, in no other lament psalm is there such an extended section of praise for G-d. Similarly, the call to all nations is a bit unusual for a psalm of lament; even more atypical is the declaration of G-d as "saviour (king)" at the psalm's conclusion. The focus of the final section of the psalm is directly and totally upon G-d -- the psalmist is not even concerned with the fate of her/his enemies, as in other lament psalms (the most explicit being Ps. 109).

[8] "The vow to praise is a regular feature of the individual lament genre -- whenever it is missing, a reason for its omission can usually be found" (Westermann 60).

[9] The "vow to praise" [v. 26] is commonly interpreted as a sacrifice. The psalmist offers the sacrifice to G-d through a performance in a cultic gathering, then the congregation takes part in the culinary festivities [v. 27].

[10] This part did not appear in the print version.

[11] Ps. 69.21: "They give me poison for my food,/and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."

[12] The Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures; the Old Latin translation of Hebrew Scripture was originally informed by the Septuagint. The Septuagint takes the liberty of assigning a prophetic voice to much of Hebrew Scripture; the text reads as if it were incomplete without the Christian scripture to 'fulfill' its message.

[13] Teacher.

[14] Isaiah 55:1: "Ho, all who are thirsty,/Come for water,/Even if you have no money;/Come, buy food and eat:/Buy food without money,/Wine and milk without cost."

[15] This part did not appear in the print version.

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