Psalm 70 – “Imprecation/Petition”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist asks God to punish his enemies and wishes happiness upon the righteous.

II. Photo
The psalmist is in trouble: “I am poor and needy; O God, hasten to me! You are my help and my rescuer; O Lord, do not delay!” (v. 6)

III. Select Verses    
2: Hasten, O God, to save me; O LORD, to aid me!
3-4: Let those who seek my life be frustrated and disgraced; let those who wish me harm, fall back in shame.  Let those who say, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their frustration.
5: But let all who seek You be glad and rejoice in You; let those who are eager for Your deliverance always say, “Extolled be God!”
6: But I am poor and needy; O God, hasten to me! You are my help and my rescuer; O LORD, do not delay.

IV. Outline
1. Superscription
2. Invocation, initial petition
3-4. Imprecation
5. Wish/blessing
6. Complaint, affirmation of confidence, closing petition

V. Comment
Aside from minor text critical differences, Psalm 70 is identical to Psalm 40:14-18. As was noted at Psalm 40, there are many ways to understand this reduplication. Craigie summarizes the argument as follows: “Psalm 40 is commonly identified as a composite psalm containing two originally independent units which have been linked into the present unified whole: A, vv 2–11 and B, vv 12–18 (though there is disagreement among holders of this view concerning where the precise point of transition might be; v 12 and/or v 13 could be viewed as a redactional link). The evidence giving rise to the two-psalm hypothesis is essentially twofold. (1) In formcritical terms, A is an individual thanksgiving psalm and B is an individual lament. (2) Verses 14–18 of this psalm are duplicated (with only minor changes) in Ps 70. If the latter is an independent composition, then Ps 40 might either be a composite work in which two psalms are joined by an editor, or a new composition in which the poet takes an older psalm (Ps 70) and develops it by additions into a new work. The two-psalm hypothesis, whatever its faults, is based on a particular interpretation of the evidence and has many adherents.” (318-319)

However, like Gerstenberger, Craigie disagrees with this position: “Yet, for a number of reasons, the two-psalm hypothesis must be rejected. The problem and evidence are directly parallel to those encountered in the study of Ps 27; the argument for unity and the overall interpretation follow essentially along similar lines. First, it should be noted that the language in the two supposed “parts” of the psalm is intimately interrelated. Forms of the following roots are found in both “parts” of the psalm (the list omits duplicate forms in one or other part). (1) bvj (vv 6, 18); (2) Mxo (vv 6, 13); (3) rpsm (vv 6, 13); (4) rma (vv 8, 11, 16, 17); (5) har (vv 4, 13); (6) Xph (vv 7, 9, 15); (7) hxr (vv 9, 14);  howvt (vv 11, 17). The overlap in language and repetitive style strongly suggest a single, unified composition.

“But more persuasive than the argument of language, is that based on form and setting. As was the case in Ps 27, the apparent diversity of form is in reality not diversity at all; the two-psalm hypothesis, in fact, rises in part from too rigid a view of form-critical categories. The essence of Ps 40 is that it is a part of a liturgy, and the formal and substantial changes within the psalm are to be understood against the background of progression within the liturgy. The liturgy begins with thanksgiving, thereby establishing precedent and laying a foundation for what is to follow. It then moves on to lament and prayer; it is only in the prayer that the overall purpose of the liturgy emerges, and the preparatory role of the thanksgiving is clarified.” (319)

It must be noted, however, that this author believes Psalm 70 to be the original and Psalm 40 to be a later work. Yet, the reasons for this opinion are no more valid than those that work against it. Needless to say, more research into this topic is necessary.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Tate, Marvin. “Psalms 51-100” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 20 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1990).
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