Psalm 130 – “Personal Prayer / Implicit Confession”

dawnHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
While Psalm 130 is a prayer directed to God, the speaker doesn’t really ask for anything. The speaker implicitly confesses his guilt, appeals to God’s attribute of forgiveness, and then encourages the community to turn to God as well.

II. Photo
v. 5 describes the speaker’s intense longing for God: “I am more eager for the Lord than watchmen for the morning [sun].”

III. Outline
1a. Superscription
1b-2. Invocation, initial plea
3-4. Implicit confession, persuasion
5-6. Affirmation of confidence
7a. Exhortation to community
7b-8. Confidence, implicit confession

IV. Comment
While Psalm 130 has most of the features of the petition genre, it lacks the genre’s essential components of “complaint” and “petition.” The burning question is, “Why doesn’t the speaker ask God for anything?” One possible answer is that the speaker is too ashamed to ask for anything: his only wish is to return to God (vv. 5-6).
Like most petition psalms, Psalm 130 begins with an invocation and an initial plea (for similar invocations see Ps 4:2; 55:2; 59:2, for similar initial pleas see Ps. 17:1; 28:2; 31:3; 54:4). The prayer is said to have come from the ma’amaqqim “the depths” (v. 1). The word “depths,” which occurs four other times in Tanach (Isa. 51:10; Ezek 27:34; Ps. 69:3, 15) and means deep and chaotic waters, is employed here as a metaphor for a stressful situation. The psalm’s other analogy is found in v. 6: “I am more eager for the Lord than watchmen for the morning.”
In terms of literary structure, Psalm 130 repeats many words, e.g. qol “voice” (2x in v.2), ki ‘im “for with you” (vv. 4,7), yachal “waiting” (vv. 5,7), and fadah “redemption” (vv. 7,8). God’s name or the appelation ‘adonay occurs 8 times in 8 verses. There might be a chiastic structure underlying vv. 5-7: “I put my hope / watchmen for the morning / / watchmen for the morning / put hope.” The same can be said for vv. 7-8: “Israel / redemption // redeem / Israel.”
Many scholars believe that the vocabulary of Psalm 130 indicates a late date of composition, i.e. the second temple period. Verse 2 contains the words ‘oznekha qashuvot “let your ears be attentive,” and the only parallel verses are 2 Chr. 6:40 and 7:1 (both of which which seem to be a later addition to the text of 1 Kings 8). Also, the fact that the noun selicha “forgiveness” only appears here (v. 4) and in Dan 9:9 and Neh 9:17, implies a later date.

V. Important Verses

v. 3: If You keep account of sins, O LORD, Lord, who will survive?
v. 6: I am more eager for the Lord than watchmen for the morning, watchmen for the morning.

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