Psalm 73: Pilgrimage from Doubt to Faith -- By: Leslie C. Allen

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 07:1 (NA 1997)
Article: Psalm 73: Pilgrimage from Doubt to Faith
Author: Leslie C. Allen

Psalm 73: Pilgrimage from
Doubt to Faith

Leslie C. Allen

Fuller Theological Seminary

A fresh translation of Psalm 73 with textual notes is provided. In form the psalm has elements of a thanksgiving song composed from a wisdom perspective. It celebrates the end of physical suffering and accompanying religious doubt. The poem is dominated by wordplays which describe first the psalmist’s earlier view of himself as a loser over against the wicked and then his conviction that eventually they would fail, as surely as the wicked generation in the wilderness. God’s moral providence would prevail.

Key Words: thanksgiving song, wisdom thinking, stylistic structuring, wordplay, intertextuality, theological contemporaization, divine providence

This article fulfills the intention of a paper presented on Psalm 73 as the 1981 Tyndale Old Testament Lecture, delivered at Tyndale House in Cambridge, England.1 The original intent was to give a comprehensive analysis that moved from genre and structure to an exegetical overview of the psalm. Unfortunately the first two topics turned out to be so complex that it proved impossible to reach the satisfying conclusion of the third. Here at long last is the missing exegetical portion, written a decade and a half later.


1 In spite of everything, God is good to Israel,
to the pure in heart and mind.
2 For my part, I came near to losing my footing,
my legs almost collapsed beneath me.

3 The reason was, I envied the braggarts,
seeing the shalom they enjoy, wicked though they are.
4 No worries do they have,
their bodies are sound and far from scrawny.

5 They lack the troubles of other mortals
and are free of human misfortunes.
6 So they can vaunt arrogance like a lei
and deck themselves with violence.
7 The wrongdoing they commit springs from within,2
their minds and hearts are full of evil fantasies.
8 They mock and talk maliciously,
from their position of power they talk menacingly.
9 They speak as if the sky was theirs,
as if the earth was under their control.
10 So they have their fill of bread3
and plenty of water to drink!
11 Yet they declare, “How does God know?”
Does the Most High have any knowledge?”
12 Here then are the wicked,
constantly content and possessing wealth galore.


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