Today, we will look at Psalm 37. Allow me to cheat a bit and copy from Biblical Hebrew— http://www.biblicalhebrew.com/alphabet.htm–the following chart.
We can learn the aleph-bet by examining various Biblical passages which are written as acrostics (alphabetically ordered verses and each first word commencing with each Hebrew letter of the alphabet in turn, from 1 through to 22). Psalm 119 is a famous example, written with 8 verses for each of the Hebrew consonants in order, so verses 1-8 each have a first word beginning with ‘aleph and verses 9-16 each have a first word beginning with beth, and so on.
|Acrostic passages occur in the following Psalms:|
|Psalm 9||2 verses for each of the 22 Hebrew consonants|
|Psalm 10||2 verses each|
|Psalm 25||1 verse each|
|Psalm 34||1 verse each|
|Psalm 37||2 verses each|
|Psalm 111||½ verse each|
|Psalm 112||½ verse each|
|Psalm 119||8 verses each|
|Psalm 145||1 verse each|
While Psalm 119 is the monster of this style—running five and more pages—the others are ordinary in size. There are other examples in other parts of the Old Testament.
The Hebrew alphabet consists of 22 letters, which is related to the number of generations from Adam to Jacob, the number of works of creation, and the number of books in the Jewish canon of the Bible. It is not a perfect number, but it is important.
Remember that chapter and verse numbers were added to the Bible only recently. Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, put the modern chapter divisions into place around 1227, the Jewish rabbi named Nathan added verse numbers to the Hebrew Bible in 1448, and Robert Estienne was the first to divide the New Testament into numbered verses, in 1555.
One result of this is that verses don’t always match the poetry or the complete expression of ideas. And make no mistake, the Psalms are poems.
Now to Psalm 37.
The first word is al, meaning no, not, nothing, etc. Thus, we have the alpha, the first letter of the first word. The next word is charah, to glow or grow warm, to blaze up, be incensed, etc. So, in English, we read, Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. ESV
The first word of verse three is batach, beginning with a B in both Hebrew and English. It means trust, be confident, be bold, etc.
Not surprisingly, the last couplet at verse 39 begins with the last letter of the alphabet, called tav. The first word is teshuwah. It means deliverance, help, safety. It reads in English: The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. ESV
While the last two verses of Psalm 37 is not officially part of today’s lesson, I believe it is a good starting point for understanding the meaning of the Psalm. We do not need to worry about anything because God is our salvation.
Hurricanes, fires, floods, volcanic eruptions, rule by a brutal dictator, war, famine. Yes, we suffer, but it does not change our salvation. Our hope lies ONLY in God. Electing the right person to office has nothing to do with our salvation—NOTHING.
Humans have struggled for thousands of years to make our lives as comfortable as possible, but we always have and will always fall short. Suffering, large or small, will come into our lives. Our only hope is in God.
Do not Fret; God is here.
Be righteous and do good.