Psalm 131 – “Declaration of Innocence”

motherchildHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Psalm 130 is a short prayer in which the speaker vehemently denies being haughty and declares his trust in God. The psalm ends with an exhortation for the community to turn to God.

II. Photo

V. 2 describes the speaker’s trust: “but I have taught myself to be contented like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child am I in my mind. ”

III. Outline
1a. Superscription
1b-e. Invocation, Assertion of innocence
2. Affirmation of confidence
3. Exhortation to community

IV. Comment
Psalm 131 is similar to Psalm 130 in many ways: (a) it contains elements of the petition genre but is lacking an actual petition/complaint, (b) it begins with an individual speaker and ends with an exhortation to the community, (c) the speaker exhorts the community with the words “O Israel, wait for the LORD,” and (d) the relationship between God and the nefesh “person” is described with a metaphor.

The major point of Psalm 131 is for the speaker to declare his innocence: he is not one of the haughty. While the haughty seem to have been a group (cf. the zedim in Ps. 119:21,51 etc.), there is a theme in prophetic literature to denunciate all “high things.” See, for example, Isa. 2:12-17: “For the LORD of Hosts has ready a day Against all that is proud and arrogant, Against all that is lofty — so that it is brought low: Against all the cedars of Lebanon, Tall and stately, And all the oaks of Bashan; Against all the high mountains And all the lofty hills; Against every soaring tower And every mighty wall; Against all the ships of Tarshish And all the gallant barks. Then man’s haughtiness shall be humbled And the pride of man brought low. None but the LORD shall be Exalted in that day.”

The three negative affirmations in v. 1 have parallels elsewhere in Tanakh: see Prov. 16:5 for lo’ gavah libbi “my heart is not proud,” Prov. 6:16-17 for lo’ ramu ‘einay “my look is not haughty,” and Jer. 45:5 for gedolot “great things.” The metaphor “but I have taught myself to be contented like a weaned child with its mother” (v. 2) has no parallel, but is related in meaning to Isa. 66:13, “As a mother comforts her son So I will comfort you; You shall find comfort in Jerusalem.”

In regards to literary structure, there seems to be a short chiastic structure underlying v. 2: nefesh / weaned child / mother / weaned child / nefesh.

V. Important Verses
v.2: “but I have taught myself to be contented like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child am I in my mind.”

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