Psalm 113 – Psalms Of Hallel
Class 1 Summary and Psalm 113 Introduction
1. Activity - Review the Hebrew or English text of the Psalm. Which words in the Psalm refer to height or depth? Look for repeated words or roots. How does repetition function in this Psalm?
2. Structure - Would you divide this Psalm into two or more sections? What sets the sections apart? What connects them?
3. Setting – Who do you think is the speaker in this Psalm? Who is the audience?
4. Biblical parallels and contexts:
Verse 3 - What is the meaning of שמש מזרח? Look closely at these words. What is the root of מזרח and what does it mean? השמש מבוא also seems to have a directional meaning see Joshua 1:4 and 23:4 as well as Malachi 1:11 and Psalm 50:1.
Verse 4 - See Isaiah 6:3 and Psalm 72:19. How does our verse differ from these?
Verse 7 - I Samuel 2:1-10, the Prayer of Hannah. Verse 7 of our Psalm is repeated almost exactly in I Samuel 2:8. What other parallels with our Psalm do you find in the prayer of Hannah?
Verse 7 – the pair of terms ואביון דל is often found together. See Psalm 72:13; Psalm 82:4. For a deeper understanding of אביון, see Deuteronomy 15 where this term appears multiple times.
Verse 7 for דל as a metaphor for the situation of Israel, see Psalm 79:8.
Verse 9 - הבית עקרת this is the only time this exact term is used in Tanach. It is considered related to עקרה, a barren woman. Is this literal or metaphoric? For a metaphoric possibility, see Isaiah 54:1. For a promise associated with this term, see Exodus 23:26.
5. Difficult words/phrases
Five words in the Psalm have a strange ending in Hebrew. Can you find them? What do they have in common? For possible similar forms, see Genesis 49:11 and Deuteronomy 33:16 these are found in the Hebrew and you have to look closely. How do you make sense of these special endings?
Verses 5 & 6 – לראות המשפילי ,לשבת המגביהי these phrases contain hifil, causative verbs, which are usually used in the context of a subject causing another to do the action. This does not seem to be the case here. How do you understand these two phrases and how do you make sense of the verbs here?
6. Liturgy – What makes this Psalm a fitting opening for Hallel? What about this Psalm do you think connects it to the celebration of festivals?
7. Spiritual issues - Questions for reflection and discussion: What does this Psalm say about Hashem? Do you find any of the images comforting or helpful to you in your efforts to connect with Hashem?
8. Conclusion - What image in this Psalm do you find most powerful or valuable? Why?