1. Reading exercise Read the Psalm in Hebrew and note any familiar phrases, expressions or words.
2. Activity This Psalm has several different ways of describing G-d and G-ds activity in the world. How would you describe the theological themes of the Psalm?
3. Setting Please answer one of these questions:
- Verse 2 seems to indicate a particular setting for the Psalm. What does this verse tell you about the recitation of the Psalm. (See also the parallel Biblical citations below in question 5.)
- Verses 8-12 could be described as an encapsulated history of the Israelite people. Please comment on the historical events that are included and those that are left out.
4. Structure How would you break this Psalm into sections? What holds the sections together?
5. Biblical/Rabbinic references-
Verse 1: Psalm 113:1
Verse 2: Psalm 92:14, Psalm 116:19
Verse 4: Exodus 19:5-6, Deuteronomy 14:2
Verse 5: Exodus 18:10-11
Verse 6: Psalm 115:3
Verse 9: Deuteronomy 34:11
Verse 11: Numbers 21:21-35, Deut. 3
Verse 13: Exodus 3:15
Verse 14: Deuteronomy 32:36
There are many parallels between this Psalm and Psalm 115. (The Jerusalem Commentary shows them in a chart.) I encourage you to review Psalm 115 and compare with Psalm 135.
Extra question: Psalm 115 (verses 9-11, 12-13) and Psalm 118 (verses 2-4) use similar language to describe groups of worshippers, בית ישראל, בית אהרן, יראי ה’. Our Psalm (verse 20) adds בית הלוי to this grouping. What ideas do you have about this addition?
6. Difficult words
Verse 7 נשיאים here meaning rain clouds. See Jeremiah 10:13 and Jeremiah 51:16 for parallels.
Verse 14 יתנחם this root is also found in Psalm 90:13. What does this word mean in our Psalm?
7. Prayer and liturgy Beginning with Psalm 113, the book of Psalms seems to follow a structure almost like an early prayer book. Psalms 135-136 are connected to one another. Halachic authorities differ about the precise definition of “The Great Hallel” some include only Psalm 136, others include Psalm 135 and even Psalm 134. I will post some additional material about this. We will study more about the Great Hallel with Psalm 136.
8. Spiritual issues
- Verse 14 tells us something about what it means to be in right relationship with G-d. Does this verse speak to you?
- Verses 15-18 offer a strong critique of idolatry. How are these verses relevant today?
9. Conclusion The last verse of this Psalm describes G-d as dwelling in Jerusalem. What is the importance of Zion and Jerusalem to the Psalmist? What is the importance of Zion and Jerusalem in your theology?