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Articles

METAPHORS IN PSALM 26
Posted On : Dec. 05, 2013
METAPHORS IN PSALM 26 INTRODUCTION In our study of collecting metaphors, determining the source and the target domains of the psalm 26, we will first explain about the issues related to the authorship and the setting. Then, we collect various metaphors that occur in the psalm. We will delineate about the metaphors and their source and target domains. We will also take into consideration opinions of various scholars regarding the metaphors that the psalmist has used in his psalm. Finally we arrive at an interpretation of these metaphors in the context of the psalm. 1. QUESTION OF THE AUTHORSHIP AND THE SETTING OF THE PSALM There are varied opinions among the scholars regarding the authorship of the psalm. Some argue that the psalm was written by King David. Based on the title of the psalm that is attributed to David, John Goldingay considers young David as praying the psalm and praying it before he was a king. Some contend that the psalm was composed during exilic times. Since there is reference to the temple, and the temple was not built until the time of King Solomon, the psalm may not have David as its author. Commenting on the superscriptions of the psalms that begin with the phrase “of David”, Anderson contends that the psalm might have been composed by the king David or might have been composed by the descendents of David. Because the title of the psalm starts with “of David” it does not imply that psalm refers to the authorship of David. It might mean that someone might have written the psalm after the reign of David in the name of David. He also contends not all the superscriptions that begin with the title “of David” are royal psalms as it is in the case of psalm 26. Mitchell Dahood considers the author as the one who is accused of idolatry. According to Gert Kwakkel the psalm could be bad experiences and expressions of a singer or an ordinary Israelite. He also states that the author of the psalm could be a king, a priest, a pilgrim and a person who has been facing false charges. Kwakkel states that there is no enough evidence to determine the actual author of the psalm. According to him none of the above could be excluded. Kwakkel contends that texts in the psalm did not mention the exact setting. We are not sure of the context, whether the text speaks about the “illness, hostilities, false charges or other charges” . Hence, he would argue that any Israelite might have prayed to prove his honesty, innocence and his trust in YHWH. If we consider David as the author, we are at least aware of the context of David that he had been facing difficulties because of Saul, his son Absalom and political problems in his kingdom. If David is not the author then we don’t know the context of the psalmist. The psalm is actually about the psalmist’s attempt to prove his uprightness or innocence and trust in YHWH. In order to prove his innocence, he mentions about his trust in YHWH. Psalmist explains his relation with God by avoidance of company of the wicked men, and then he goes to the temple and thus pleads God not to judge him along the wicked. The psalmist ends his prayer or the psalm by his promise to continue to walk in righteousness. According to Anderson the setting of the psalm is similar to the setting of psalm 7, wherein the psalmist is falsely accused by enemies and goes to temple, pleads God and asks for an acquittal. Unlike in psalm 7, in psalm 26 we do not see anyone accusing the psalmist. Nevertheless, the psalmist tries to prove his innocence. But then the psalmist mentions about ‘washing of hands’ (which represents the oath of ordeal), which raises doubts in the minds of the readers about someone accusing the psalmist. According to Mitchell Dahood, the setting of the psalm is about the psalmist who is accused of idol worship and who goes to temple to plead his innocence. Kwakkel states that the psalmist is explaining about his relationship and trust in YHWH in contrast to those wicked and unrighteous who do not trust in YHWH. Because, there are references to idol worshippers, there are reference to the rituals and reference to the temple and community, for our study we consider to decide the setting of the psalmist as the one who wants to prove his innocence and thereby his trust and relationship with YHWH. Having introduced about the issues of the authorship, the setting of the psalm and the main features of the psalm, we now focus on the identification of the metaphors in the psalm. How did the psalmist use metaphors to explain about his honesty and sincerity? To prove his honesty the psalmist appears to us of using metaphors to argue his case. 2. IDENTIFICATION AND DETERMINATION OF SOURCE AND TARGET DOMAIN OF THE METAPHORS We have identified the following metaphors “I walked in my integrity” v 1a and v 11a, “probe me, try me, test my heart and my mind” v 2b, “I do not sit with wicked” v 4a, “I wash my hands in innocence” v 6a and most importantly “I stand on the level ground” v 12a. 2.1. I WALKED IN MY INTEGRITY (V.1A) First, I would like to explain the metaphor “I have walked in my integrity” v 1a. By this expression the psalmist wanted to convey about all those things that he has done honestly in his life. We consider walking as the source domain. We all know walking is a human action and in the context of psalm, it implies a person walking straight without looking to left-side or right-side. According to Konrad Schaefer, the metaphor implies that the psalmist rightly walked and rightly trusted in YHWH. This is being used by the psalmist to convey his integrity which can be treated as target domain. Although words like “I walked in my integrity” belong to physical activity of the human person, it represents the whole life of the psalmist and try to prove his sincerity which can be considered as target domain. Thus he psalmist opens himself with this metaphor to the one whom he is asking to judge. If the expression stands for David the king, then it would mean that David has followed honest ways in case of becoming king, in his attitude towards his former king and he has not done any malicious things. The noun or adjective ‘integrity’ is used pervasively in the Old Testament. Integrity refers to the ‘breastplate of the high-priest’ in which he puts ‘urim’ and ‘thummim’ and carries the judgments of the people of Israel on his heart (Ex 28.30). The breastplate of high-priest represents completeness. It also implies moral character (the integrity of Joseph Gen 39.1-12). Here ‘walking in integrity does not represent walking but living an honest life. Integrity can also be understood as ‘completeness of the law’ which means faultless state. Here the psalmist begins the psalm with the metaphor meaning ‘I have strictly observed the law’. The word ‘walked’ or ‘walk’ implies going along with, follow a course of action, or follow a way of life. It indicates the passage of the time of a person who continues in a chosen direction of life. In the context of the psalm the psalmist has continued to live honestly in the life he had chosen to be judged well by God. Thus, here “I walked in my integrity” is used as a source domain to prove the innocence of the psalmist which is the target domain. 2.2. PROBE ME, TRY ME, TEST MY HEART AND MIND (V. 2) The verbs ‘probe me’, ‘try me’, ‘test my heart and mind’ in v.2 can also be metaphors. Probing is testing a person’s whereabouts, physically examining a person or a thing. The psalmist asks to use fire to test his entrails and heart. Hill translates the words of Theodore saying that psalmist has compared himself with gold whose quality fire reveals. Heart and mind in Hebrew literally implies kidneys and heart. Anderson believes that this metaphor might have come from the process of testing silver. These metaphorical words belong to the realm of the smelting where the testing and the refining of gold or silver in the furnace is being done to check quality of the metal. Though the tense of the verb is not clear, we understand that the psalmist has allowed himself to be purified. By commanding to test his heart and mind, psalmist is ready for testing of his organs which were considered as source of thinking from which arise movements and feelings of concupiscence. By these words psalmist allows to show that he is not a hypocrite and he is sincere in his outward appearance and in his inward thinking. By allowing for these tests, the psalmist is naturally trying to state that he is innocent. Here we consider probing and testing heart and mind as the source domain and by allowing to those tests, he wants to prove his innocence, which can be reckoned as the target domain. 2.3. I DID NOT SIT WITH WORTHLESS (V.4A) The words “I did not sit with worthless” which the psalmist used in vs. 4 and 5 can be considered as a metaphor. ‘Sitting’ is an ancient word which means to sit down as a judge, sit in ambush, to dwell, to settle, to marry. The metaphor is also understood in the Hebrew world that if someone sits with empty men or deceivers, someone becomes like them. Anderson interprets ‘not sitting with worthless’ as not sitting in the presence of ‘idol worshippers’. According to Konrad Schaefer, the wicked are presented in the psalm as ‘worthless’, ‘hypocrites’, ‘evildoers’, ‘wicked’, ‘sinners’, and ‘men of blood’ (bloodthirsty) vs. 4, 5 & 9. The psalmist has not done that. According to Goldingay, ‘sitting’ has to be understood as the opposite of walking in moral character and commitment to YHWH. Hence, in the context of our study, the word ‘I did not sit with the worthless’ in the cola implies that he had not involved in any of the evil acts that the wicked people (idol worshippers). By this the psalmist wanted to show that he loved to be in the presence of YHWH. Here ‘I did not sit with worthless’ belong to the source domain. By not associating with the wicked people and sin, the psalmist wants to show his innocence which can be reckoned as the target domain. 2.4. I WASH MY HANDS IN INNOCENCE (V.6A) We understand ‘I wash my hands in innocence’ 6a, also as a metaphor. Here psalmist used this cola to speak of his innocence. Once again the psalmist employed a human activity. Washing of hands in Israel’s history refers to making ‘an oath of cleansing’. This oath of cleaning was made when the accused had no evidence to prove, he is ready to prove his innocence in the temple. The idea of this oath of cleansing was that if the accused is the culprit of the charges he will meet the consequences. But if he is not, then he proves his innocence. Some scholars consider washing of hands as part of ritual before entering the sanctuary. Some others consider washing as the activity of the priest. John Godingay suggests that the phrase is catachresis and hence ‘washing one’s hands in innocence’ implies keeping ones hands innocent. It was also an ancient custom when someone wants disassociate with someone, as sign of removal, they would wash their hands (Deut 21.1-9, Ps 71.13). Some others also considered it as a cultic activity because of the succeeding verse, where the psalmist informs about going around the altar. For our analysis, we consider ‘wash my hands’ as a metaphor representing the innocence and moral character of the psalmist. In our study, because the verb is in present tense, we understand it as the psalmist wants to avoid the company of evil-men. “Washing hands in the sanctuary corresponds to the purity of the heart” states Kwakkel. We wash hands to keep our hands clean. May be psalmist is ready to prove his innocence and show he is not associating with evil men. Thus this phrase ‘I wash my hands in innocence’ is the source through which psalmist wants to prove his innocence which is his target. 2.5. MY FOOT STANDS ON A LEVEL GROUND 12A We also consider the cola ‘I stand on the level ground’ as a metaphor. When we analyse the words ‘stand’ and ‘level ground’ they are two separate words. But when we understand them together, they represent something else. In the context of our study, they refer to the firm position or stand that the psalmist had to taken to show his honesty and sincerity. The Hebrew word for ‘stand’ is ?m’d?h. It means “to stand, to stop and to be firm.” It connotes movement towards the formation of habits or patterns. According to Goldingay, the phrase ‘my feet stand on a level ground’ implies the confidence of the psalmist. And he saw this verb a completion of the actions of other verbs which the psalmist has been citing i.e. ‘walk’, ‘sit’ and finally ‘stand’. He interprets this standing as the moral stance the psalmist had taken. According to Kwakkel, ‘level ground means a firm place and not a slippery place. For him, ‘slipping’ is used as a metaphor to speak of someone’s fate and behavior. ‘My feet stand on a level ground’ can also be understood as the upright behavior of the psalmist. Based on the context of the preceding verse, Kwakkel would consider verse 12a as the confidence of psalmist about the safety that he is going to get from YHWH. Anderson states that since the psalmist has stated in the beginning of the verse about ‘walking in integrity’ v.1a, and now ‘standing on level ground’ might mean the faithfulness of the psalmist in his past life. After considering the scholarly opinions, we would interpret this verse as the evidence of the psalmist that his life is transparent just like a level ground which is not stumbling or slippery, which refers to the faithful life that he has led. As we have already stated the place where the wicked stands are not level, they hide in ambush, their thoughts are malicious, they are not worried even to kill those who come on their way and they act as hypocrites. In this metaphor we understand ‘I stand on a level ground’ as the source domain and once again trying to prove innocence by building his life on integrity as the target domain. 3. COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF METAPHORS In the collection and determination of the sources and targets of the metaphors, we have seen that the psalmist is consecutively using them to prove his innocence and show his trust in YHWH. All the metaphors in the psalm are consistent and coherent. Among them, three of the metaphors are associated with human actions such as ‘walking’, ‘sitting’, ‘standing’ which are consistent metaphors. Two of the metaphors like ‘probe me, try me and test my heart and mind’ and ‘I wash my hands’ are partly juridical and ritualistic, but they are also consistent. All these metaphors are used by psalmist as a source domain and are directed towards only one target domain to speak of his honesty and trust in YHWH. CONCLUSION To sum up the analysis of the metaphors and their source and target domains, the psalmist has used metaphors like ‘walking in honesty’, ‘probe me, try me and test my heart and mind’, ‘not sitting with sinners’ and ‘standing on a level ground’ to prove his innocence and trust in YHWH. Psalmist employed these metaphors to speak of his honesty and sincerity that he has led in his past life, is leading in the present life and also going to lead in his future life. He suggests that he is morally and religiously genuine. He wants to show that he is pure both in his outward appearance and inward thinking. He asserts to avoid the company of wicked people and always committed to YHWH. Hence, he used the words ‘I did not sit with worthless’ to show that he does not associate with sinners. Finally by using the metaphor ‘standing on level place’ he asserts his confidence that he has not wronged in his life and that he has trust in YHWH who never fails him. by Inna reddy Gundreddy
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