Chiastic Psalms (II): A Study In The Mechanics Of Semitic Poetry In Psalms 51-100 -- By: Robert L. Alden
JETS 19:3 (Summer 1976) p. 191
Chiastic Psalms (II): A Study In The Mechanics
Of Semitic Poetry In Psalms 51-100
Several years ago I wrote a similarly titled article dealing with Psalms 1–50.1 Here is the second installment. For an introduction to the whole matter, simply refer to that former article. There is no Psalm in this group as rigidly structured or with a chiasmus as extensive as those of Psalms 25 and 37. So if the thesis was suspect in the former article, it will be even more so in this one where the patterns are generally less obvious and the key words or phrases less strictly repeated. But it is undeniable that a Psalm often uses key words to unite the whole composition. R. G. Moulton called the repetition of certain words from the beginning of a Psalm at its end the “envelope figure.”2 And Martin Buber said:
The recurrence of the key-words is a basic law of composition in the Psalms. This law has a poetic significance—rhythmical correspondence of sound values—as well as a hermeneutical one: the Psalm provides its own interpretation, by repetition of what is essential to understanding.3
To that I would add that often the key words are chiastically arranged. In this study are fifteen Psalms put into an outline that reverses itself once the center or apex is reached. It is like climbing a mountain pass—the climate zones, varieties of growth, temperature and barometric changes experienced on the way up are experienced on the way down but in reverse order once the summit is passed. Or it is like looking into a mirror—the things close to the mirror appear to be just inside it, while the objects farther from it appear at a greater distance behind the mirror. In these outlines the “A” members, for example, are some distance away and the “C” members are closer.
A God’s grace is continual
*Robert Alden is associate professor of Old Testament at Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado.
JETS 19:3 (Summer 1976) p. 192
B “Your tongue works deceitfully”