Favourite Psalm of Reba McIntyre
1. Reading exercise Read the Psalm in Hebrew and note Hebrew words that are not familiar to you. See the list below (question 6) for some definitions.
2. Activity List the images of protection found in this Psalm. Which is your favorite?
3. Setting Some commentators have suggested that this Psalm was recited before setting out on a journey. What evidence do you find in the Psalm for such a theory?
4. Structure Examine the changes in voice (person speaking) found in this Psalm. [Be careful to work in the Hebrew and not assume the correctness of any translation.] How do you make sense of the changes in voice? Who is אתה in verse 9? Who is the speaker and who is the audience in verses 14-16? If you found any relevant commentaries, please note them. (See also question 7 related to this question.)
Optional question for discussion: four verses in the Psalm begin with the word כי. How does this repetition create structure in the Psalm?
5. Biblical/Rabbinic references
-Look for verbal connections between Psalm 90 and 91. List any that you find. How do you see these two Psalms related?
-If you have time, examine the following parallel passages:
Verses 1-4: Job 39:26-30
Verse 4: Deuteronomy 32:10-11
6a. Difficult words
פח יקוש- this is a kind of metal trap. The Jerusalem Psalms commentary has a diagram. See also
הוות evil, evil desire (see Psalm 94:20)
יסך from the root סכך – to cover, like a Sukkah
צנה armor, shield (see Psalm 35:2)
סחרה defense. This is a hapax legomenon.
אפל dark, foggy
קטב plague, destruction (See Deut. 32:24)
ישוד root שדד steal, overpower, destroy
תאנה from the root אנה – befall, happen
תגוף from the root נגף – strike, bring a plague
שחל – lion
פתן – snake
תרמוס root רמס – step on
6b. Difficult phrases: The first verse of this Psalm is the most perplexing grammatically. Discuss the difficulties with this verse and give at least two possible explanations of its meaning.
7. Prayer and liturgy Some commentators have suggested that this Psalm might have been read chorally? Do you agree? Can you envision how this Psalm might have been performed?
8. Spiritual issues This Psalm makes a connection between G-d and our safety and security. Do you think G-d keeps people safe? Does faith in G-d increase your sense of security? Can you imagine reciting this Psalm at a time you felt unsafe? Would you, with the Psalmist, say to G-d you are my refuge and stronghold?
9. Conclusion There is a custom to repeat the last line of this Psalm. Please discuss this custom and any information you have found about it.