Psalm Study: Psalms 9 and 10

Dear Reader,

This week we studied Psalms 9 and 10 in our homeschool (see my post on Psalm 8 for more background info on how and why we do Psalm study). In the Hebrew Bible, Psalms 9 and 10 form an acrostic poem — every other line begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 10 also have no heading as Psalms 8, 9 and 11 do. For these two reasons, I chose to study the two together as one unit. You can find my own translation of the psalms which we used as the text for out study here (opens a Google document). The line divisions are my own to try and highlight the parallelism of the psalms; they are not verse numbers nor do they show the acrostic pattern (though that might not have been a bad idea in this case).

I introduced these Psalms by explaining why we were studying them together (see above) and by saying that since what we have before us is a very long passage, they should not hope to deal with it all but should focus in on a few things to look for. One suggestion is to try to divide the psalms into logical sections. Another would be to look for common themes, even within these sections, or throughout the poem.

I then set my kids to work with pencils (having a selection of colored ones is best) and their own copy of the text. After ten minutes or so, when I could see most of them were slowing down, I called them back together to discuss.

I opened the discussion by asking them if there was anything that they noticed about the psalms. We came up with the following list:

  •  Judgment is mentioned a lot; the Lord will judge.
  • It tells what people say a lot.
  • There are a lot of “I will”s. I asked who the “I” is for these and the answer was the psalmist.
  • The Lord will help the poor, afflicted, etc. is a theme.
  • They are mostly pairs of parallel lines.
  • It uses the proper name of God (“LORD”) a lot.

After letting them share their observations, we moved on to some more specific questions:

  • What sections would you divide these psalms into? Three children had marked parallel lines, but only one looked at the larger sections though his were roughly the same as mine.
  • What themes do you see? One child mentioned praise but upon further inspection we decided praise comes mainly at the beginning of the text.
  • How is God described? It is always a good idea to look at what names for God or what descriptions of him a psalm uses. At this point I drew particular attention to line  23 and asked them who the “Seeker of Blood” is. The first response was Satan, but then another child noticed that this line is parallel to line 24 so that the Seeker of Blood who remembers is the same as the “He” that does not forget the cry of the afflicted. This latter seems to refer to God since He is often described thus so we can work backwards and say that God is also the Seeker of Blood. We then discussed how this is not a common designation for God or way that we think of Him. I asked them if they could think of other passages which seem to speak the same way. It took some prompting to make a connection with Genesis 4 in which Abel’s blood calls out to God from the ground. In this sense God is a Seeker in that He seeks out the innocent blood and executes justice.
  • Who is the wicked in this text and how is he described? A closer reading shows that the nations are wicked in the first half of the poem, through line 40, but after that point it seems to be speaking of individuals, at least until the end when nations are mentioned in line 75. We then listed ways the wicked are described and things he does, especially in the second half of the poem. I observed that a main contrast between God and the wicked seems to be in how they treat the poor and afflicted.
  • How do you picture God in these psalms? We talked about how He is a judge seated on a throne (see footnote 6). He is not inactive but He is the sort of powerful ruler who can sit on His throne and have His will be done.

Remember that there can be many right answers or right ways to look at a text, as long as you can support what you see with the text itself. Your conclusions don’t have to be the same as ours.



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