Psalm 65 – “Hymn for Sustenance”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist praises God for listening to man’s prayers, forgiving him, and providing him with grain and pasture.

II. Photo
God is praised: “He fixed the mountains firmly with his power, he is girded with might!” (v. 7)

III. Select Verses
2-4: Praise befits You in Zion, O God; vows are paid to You; all mankind comes to You, You who hear prayer. When all manner of sins overwhelm me, it is You who forgive our iniquities.
10-14: You take care of the earth and irrigate it; You enrich it greatly, with the channel of God full of water; You provide grain for men; for so do You prepare it.  Saturating its furrows, leveling its ridges, You soften it with showers, You bless its growth. You crown the year with Your bounty; fatness is distilled in Your paths; the pasturelands distill it; the hills are girded with joy. The meadows are clothed with flocks, the valleys mantled with grain; they raise a shout, they break into song.

IV. Outline

1. Superscription
2-5. Praise/adoration
    2-3. Praise: God listens to man
    4. Confession/praise: God forgives man
    5. Beatitude/religious request
6a. Petition
6b-14. Hymnic praise
    6b-8. God rules nature
    9. Anticipated praise from distant lands
    10-14. God blesses the land to support man and cattle

V. Comment
Psalm 65 contains two hymnic sections that surround a short petition in v. 6a. The first hymnic section praises God’s attentiveness and forgiving nature, and the second section praises God for providing grain and pastures for the cattle. While hymnic praises are abundant in the Psalter, the second section of our psalm has very few parallels, e.g., Ps. 104:10-18:

  • You make springs gush forth in torrents; they make their way between the hills, giving drink to all the wild beasts; the wild asses slake their thirst. The birds of the sky dwell beside them and sing among the foliage. You water the mountains from Your lofts; the earth is sated from the fruit of Your work. You make the grass grow for the cattle, and herbage for man’s labor that he may get food out of the earth — wine that cheers the hearts of men oil that makes the face shine, and bread that sustains man’s life. The trees of the LORD drink their fill, the cedars of Lebanon, His own planting, where birds make their nests; the stork has her home in the junipers. The high mountains are for wild goats; the crags are a refuge for rock-badgers.

While most psalms contain positive and negative aspects, Gerstenberger notes that “No animosity transpires in the poetic lines. All human beings seem to be in the same predicament: either they keep on wholesome terms with their deity and prosper, or they do not pay attention to the Lord of nature, in which case they wither. But this possibility is not considered in our psalm.”

Who would have recited this psalm? While one can never be sure, perhaps it was recited by/for farmers and shepherds in the temple. This is because (1) there is a reference to Zion in v. 2 and (2) vv. 10-14 mention grain and cattle. It is interesting to note that this hymn begins with the word shir, like other hymns such as Psalm 30, 45, 67, 68, and 149

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Photo taken from http://www.usernetsite.com/society/himalayas—home-of-the-snows/great-himalayas-.jpg

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