The Dialectical Interplay of Seeing and Hearing in Psalm 19 and Its Connection to Wisdom -- By: Sheri L. Klouda

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 10:2 (NA 2000)
Article: The Dialectical Interplay of Seeing and Hearing in Psalm 19 and Its Connection to Wisdom
Author: Sheri L. Klouda

The Dialectical Interplay of Seeing and Hearing in Psalm 19 and Its Connection to Wisdom

Sheri L. Klouda

Criswell College

The paper attempts to establish through exegetical analysis of the Hebrew text a plausible literary framework for Psalm 19. A careful study of the psalm suggests that the psalmist draws on the basic concepts of seeing and hearing in the construction of this poem. In a skillful reversal of roles, visual terminology conveys verbal ideas while verbal vocabulary describes visual phenomena. As a result, the visual and verbal revelation of Yahweh are at once contrasted and compared in the text. Together they sustain a complementary relationship, comprising one complete revelation of Yahweh.

Furthermore, the interplay of seeing and hearing may account for the wisdom features present in the psalm. The Ancient Near East traditionally viewed wisdom as derived from the observation of the natural world. The superior nature of genuine wisdom, appropriated by Israel however, comes from Yahweh’s verbal revelation. Wisdom acquired through visual testimony becomes assimilated under the auspices of wisdom as defined by Torah. Yahweh’s word provides the only source of wisdom for interpreting the witness of the external world properly. Ultimately, both Yahweh’s works and words testify to the glory of the Creator.

Key Words: Psalm 19, wisdom, seeing, hearing, Torah


Despite current trends addressing biblical texts from a literary perspective, the literary framework of Psalm 19 has been neglected. The thematic diversity of the psalm and the putative incongruity of its sections dominate contemporary literary contributions. The studies that attempt to apply the rubric of literary analysis to the passage tend to terminate the process at the level of the function of words and lines. Consequently, the extant text does not receive the synthetic reading which it deserves.

Psalm 19 exhibits a masterful play of contrasts and similarities, of implied paradox and resolution. At once, the psalmist juxtaposes wisdom acquired from creation and wisdom derived from Torah, then joins the two together as complementary constituents comprising Yahweh’s divine revelation. Furthermore, visual communication which transmits a silent yet comprehensible message is placed in opposition to verbal communication described in terms of visual language. When the two aspects are combined, seeing and hearing comprise the counterparts of holistic perception.

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