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The Religious Experience in the Book of Psalms


Shamai Gelander

This book deals with the world of the psalms, in order to reveal the elements of faith as expressed in the various prayers. It includes an encompassing study of the variety of experiences: How can an individual in distress experience a situation which contrasts his actual reality altogether? What causes an individual to believe that God wants him to live and does not want him to die? What are the individual’s sources of confidence in justice as ruling over the universe, and his confidence that the harmony of the universe leaves no room for evil? Virtually all books of the Old Testament express the world view and opinions of their authors, with a didactic purpose on mind. Not so the Book of Psalms: Here we can find an expression of the pious individual’s world and his beliefs. The psalms are what the authors sought to place in the mouth of the worshippers, thinking that they would aptly express what was on their mind. Anybody who seeks to understand how faith and thoughtfulness join together with the individual’s emotions through a wonderful creative shaping, is invited to read this book.
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6. The Promised Life Experience


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6.  The Promised Life Experience

(27) What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? (Ps 30: 9)

From this reading, which ends with a dual rhetorical question, it appears that not only does the speaker know for certain that the dead cannot give thanks to God, but also that the profit – i.e., the benefit that God Himself derives – are the thanksgiving and testimonial of His truth.1 These words – although ostensibly of a pleading nature – also have a ring of defiance about them: noting the illogicality in his death, the speaker is declaring that saving him from death is not necessarily merely a one-sided act of compassion by God. This interpretation is supported by the fact that these words are uttered not as a desperate plea or within a supplication prayer, but within the context of praise and thanksgiving: “I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me / O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me” (30: 1–2). In other words, they appear to be said after he has been saved, and the argument “What profit is there in my blood” is not an entreaty, but as part of praise for God – God Himself, as it were, must recognize that there is no profit in the supplicant’s...

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