Psalms Chapter 73:1-5, 12, 13-20, 25-28 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday October 25, 2009 In the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.

Books referenced in these notes are:

2. Psalms: Revised Expositor’s Commentary by Willem Van Gemeren

3. NET Bible from Bible dot org, also available from CBD

Psalm 73
The first line’s affirmation of God’s goodness to His chosen sets the tone of the psalm. Subesequently the psalmist will state his doubts (v.3) based on his observation of the wicked’s apparently good life. (v.4-12) He sums up his dilemma (v.13), then speaks of the harsh life of the upright from personal experience, (v.14) then shows the resolution of his dilemma (v.18-20), and admits to his foolishness in ever being puzzled and tempted (v.21-22). He then states the wisdom that he has learned, that God is his ultimate hope (v.23-26) and the wicked’s final ruin (v.27), before finally concluding it is better to be near God.(v.28)

Ps. 73:1
This early verse encourages the pure in heart that God is ultimately good to them. “Pure” is not faultless but rather those who are loyal to God in word and deed. “Good” is defined as God’s covenantal faithfulness. (Van Gemeren)

Some translations say “good to the upright” instead of “good to Israel”. The difference is in reading the Hebrew yisrael “Israel” or yasar’el “upright to”. There is no evidence for this understanding in the ancient versions, and those who suggest “upright” seem to want a more concrete parallel to “pure in heart” in the second line than “Israel”, which can be read as a spiritual Israel, not necessarily the nation and her people.(Van Gemeren)

Ps 73:2-3
Life is not so easy for the godly, and negative emotions and depression strike them as much as anyone. The psalmist admits he nearly made a grave error in v.2, and tells us in v.3 that that error was to envy the arrogant, who seem to always prosper. “Prosperity” in v.3 is actually the Hebrew shalom “peace, wellness”. (Van Gemeren, NET)

Ps 73:4-5
Verses 4-9 describe the apparent power and freedom of the wicked. They seem not to struggle with making ends meet, hard work, or physical illness.

Verse 4’s “bands” in the KJV is Hebrew harsubbot “fetters”. The word word is presumably a metaphor for trouble, struggles, or pain.(Van Gemeren)

In their death (KJV) is from the Hebrew lemotam. Modern tranlsations divide the phrase between the two sections of v.4. Thus lamo “to them” no struggles and tam “perfect” their strength.(Van Gemeren)

Ps. 73:13
Verse 13 The Psalmist confesses his problem: he has stayed pure and innocent, but is mired in the struggles of life, while the wicked seem to prosper and have it easy. Thus he feels he might have chosen the wrong way to live.(Van Gemeren)

Ps 73:14
“Afflicted” and “punished” likely have double meanings here, including both the struggles of life and his doubts about living uprightly in face of the wicked’s success. (Van Gemeren)

Ps. 73: 15
The psalmist confesses he might have given up his religious ways for the lifestyle of the wicked, but for his concern fot God’s people, His children, the faithful of Israel. (Van Gemeren)

Ps 73:16
The psalmist says trying to understand why God ordered the world so the wicked seem to do better than the upright troubled him. Indeed it was so inexplicable as to be almost too much to bear.(Van Gemeren)

Ps 73:17
But then the psalmist went to the sanctuary, and there his experience of God changed his thinking, and made him realize that the truth is not exactly what it seems. (Van Gemeren)

The New Jerusalem Bible takes a solitary position on this verse by understanding the use of “sanctuary” (Hebrew miqdash) in the plural to reference not the grounds of the Jewish temple or tabernacle but rather the ruined temples of non-Jewish gods. Thus “Until I went into the sanctuaries of the gods” (NJB)

Ps 73:18
The psalmist explains his new realization: that God has indeed judged the wicked and set them up for a ruinous fall, but in His own time. (Van Gemeren)

Ps 73:19
Not only are the wicked headed for a fall, but they will be surprised and frightened by their fate, unaware that God has preordained the fall of the wicked all along. (Van Gemeren)

Ps 73:20
The wicked are like a dream to God when He turns His attention to them, their power, wealth, and untouchability as unreal and quickly forgotten as last night’s dreams’ images. (Van Gemeren)

The literal translation of this verse is “like a dream on waking, Lord, in the city their image you despise”. “In the city”, Hebrew bair, is usually amended by translators to beur “when one awakes”, which makes sense of the verse as “in the city” does not. (Van Gemeren)

Ps 73:25-28
The first part of verse 25 is apparently a rhetorical question. The psalmist is prepared to face his own mortality (v.26) because God is the rock (literally, usually translated “strength”) of his heart, his eternal reward. He understands now that those who do not live for God and in His ways face destruction. Thus for the psalmist being near God is truly good,and rather than speak of all the good things the wicked have, the psalmist will speak of God’s deeds, his goodness to His people.(Van Gemeren)

The Greek and Vulgate among other ancient versions add “at the gates of daughter Zion” to the end of verse 28, but the phrase is not found in any Hebrew manuscript, and is alternately included or excluded in Roman Catholic translations.

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