Psalm 41 – Confidence, Betrayal and Triumph & The Elohistic Psalter

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

 1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.

2 The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.

3 The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.

4 I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.

5 Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish?

6 And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it.

7 All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt.

8 An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more.

9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.

10 But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them.

11 By this I know that thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me.

12 And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face forever.

13 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.

The fervent desire of the just after God: hope in afflictions.  Coming out of betrayal and death into resurrection.

The Elohistic Psalter

The Old Testament generally uses one of two different Hebrew words to refer to God:

The Yahwistic and Elohistic Bibles
By Dr. Jerry Wayne Bernard

Palestine’s hard crust felt the spade of the Archaeologist and gave up its secrets.

We are now told that these Hebrews beat their way into this territory populated with a civilized people dwelling in fortified cities.

Caravans made their way into this land of wonder by the trek of the sun and crossed over these great empires which stretched along the Nile and the Euphrates.

The marauding tribes swarmed out of the Arabian desert and found new homes in that fertile crescent.

Archaeologist have told us that among these people were a people who called themselves Israel, long before Moses.

This great mixture of people were pregnant with charming traditions, legends and terrific stories of their history.

Centuries in advance of Abraham such places that were later known as Bethel, Dan, Shiloh, Hebron and Beersheba had witnessed the smoke of sacrificial altars.

These ancient spots became holy in the eyes of the newcomers who called themselves Hebrews.

The Hebrew priests located in these centers and developed their influence from there.

Their histories began with stories collected and created in these locations.

These stories had lived for many generations from tongue to ear.

For one thousand years the stories of the early Hebrew heroes and patriarchs were recited by the priests at their shrines or by wandering troubadours who chanted at local firesides.

These are the beginnings of our Scripture.

With the progress of the arts came the settling of these floating stories.

They settled down in artful writings and became the source of the holy parchment.

During the greatest years of Hebrew history, David and Solomon collected the old folk songs, legends and fables which had been current among the people for many generations.

The scribes were then driven by the flames of David’s desire to preserve these accounts.

They went all over the land to get these stories and write them down. The Jerusalem countrymen had plenty of material in songs, folk-poetry, traditions and tribal records.

These Semitic pasts were beginning to pour out upon the ears of the scribes as these Yahwistic men went up and down the country gathering the various legends and scattered stories about Yahweh’s dealings with their ancestors.

They collected every scrap of information they were told about.

They tried to leave nothing out of their report to King David.

Primitive beliefs, ritual practices and the relation of Yahweh to their patriarchs were found in the various local villages, shrines and city gates.

In Shechem, they heard stories about Abraham’s sojourn into a strange land.

Beersheba supplied them with materials about Isaac, the Father’s delight.

Bethel and Shiloh gave them the legends of Jacob.

Among the craggy hills of Judea the collected tales of pastoral life was

told to them.

Farmers sat down and told of their agricultural lore and daring accounts of the achievements of their ancestral heroes.

The city dwellers gave them their collected proverbs, anecdotes and wise sayings.

As these stories were collected, the scribes reshaped and rewrote, transforming simple tribal memories into legends with a deep underlying ethical significance.

They took fragmentary and disjointed accounts of the distant past and welded them into narratives with a fair degree of coherence and so arranged the whole as to tell a connected story.

Through these stories was seen the grand and glorious purposes of Yahweh.

To read more go here.

Elohim: This term, translated simply as God, is a generic Hebrew word, comparable to the English God, French Dieu or the German Gott.

Yahweh: This word is the proper name of God, but it is usually translated in English as “the LORD.”  In older translations it is sometimes written as “Jehovah.”

An enigma in the Psalms is the so-called Elohistic Psalter, encompassing Psalms 42-83.  This collection of psalms has been so designated because in them God is generally referred to as Elohim instead of Yahweh (230 versus 43 occurrences, respectively.

We can verify this even in the English by simply comparing how often the word “God” appears in these psalms in comparison to “the LORD.”

Elsewhere in the Psalms, however, Yahweh is used more frequently than Elohim.  How can we explain this peculiarity in Ps 42-83?

A hypothesis that is almost certainly incorrect relates the Elohistic Psalter to the “Documentary Hypothesis.”  This theory states that three major documents, referred to as J, E, and P, are the sources of Genesis (a 4th theoretical source, D, contributed very little to Genesis). 

According to this theory J refers to God as Yahweh in Genesis because J believed that the patriarchs knew the divine name Yahweh.  

Thus, so-called “J” texts always refer to God as Yahweh.  However, E and P call him Elohim because they believe that the name Yahweh was not revealed until the time of Moses.  Thus, E and P do not use Yahweh in Genesis.

There are good reasons to believe that this theory is groundless.  More than that, this hypothesis has no bearing on the divine name as it appears in the Psalms.

A second possibility is that Ps 42-83 use Elohim instead of Yahweh in order to communicate that the God whom Israel worshipped was not merely a local, national god but the One True deity over heaven and Earth: GOD.

A problem with this explanation is that even when speaking to Gentiles about God as the universal deity, Israelites did not avoid the name Yahweh.  Jonah, in Jonah 1:9, asserted to pagan sailors, “I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (see also Ps 89:6; 113:5; Jer 51:19).

A third possibility is that the Elohistic Psalter reflects a shift in attitude about speaking the divine name, Yahweh.

We know that in later Judaism the name Yahweh was never pronounced for fear of committing blasphemy.  Instead of pronouncing God’s proper name the Israelite would say Adonai (“my Lord”) or hashem (“the name”).  

When a reader in the synagogue came to the name Yahweh in a text, he would simply substitute Adonai.  It may be that the Elohistic Psalter represents a specific stage in the history of the compilation of the book of Psalms. 

Psalm 14 is almost identical to Ps 53, except that where Ps 14 uses Yahweh Psalm 53 substitutes Elohim.  If Psalm 14 is the original version, it may be that a later editor replaced Yahweh with Elohim in Ps 3 (a similar relationship exists between Ps 40 and 70).

Thus, the collection and editing of the Elohistic Psalter may reflect a time when people had begun to feel uncomfortable about pronouncing the name Yahweh but had not yet developed the practice of substituting Adonai or Hashem.

We do not know with certainty why the Elohistic Psalter prefers Elohim over Yahweh.