Psalm 114 – Psalms Of Hallel
1. Structure - Review the Hebrew or English text of the Psalm. All the verses in this Psalm exhibit parallelism. Spend some time examining the parallels. Are there differences in them?
2. Setting and Biblical parallels
Which Biblical narratives or texts might be referred to in this Psalm? (Answer this question before studying the Talmud passage.) Are more than one narrative linked here? How do the links simplify or complicate the Psalm?
(Some texts to consider after you come up with your own ideas: Exodus 6:6-8, Exodus 15, Joshua 3.)
What is the main theme of this Psalm?
What does verse 2 mean? Does it connect with the main theme of the Psalm? On יהודה and ישראל see also Ezekiel 27:17.
3. Difficult words/phrases
Verse 1: If you can, please look up the words לעז. Where else is this word found in Tanach? What do you learn from your investigations? See also Deuteronomy 28:49 for a description that may be related to מעם לעז. Rashi cites a similar expression (עם נועז) in Isaiah 33:19. Do you think this is related to our verse?
Verse 4: Check also the root רקד. Is this a common root? Where is it found? On the idea הרים רקדו, see Exodus 19:18, Judges 5:4-5, Habakkuk 3:3-6.
Verse 7: What is the root of the word “חולי”? What kind of verb is it? What does it mean? Can you find (or do you know) this root in any other Biblical texts? What do you think verse 7 means?
Verse 8: This verse contains an image found in other Biblical texts See Deuteronomy 8:15, Exodus 17:1-7, Numbers 20:1-13, Deuteronomy 32:13, Job 28:9-11
This Psalm also includes an unusual word ending. Can you find it? What do you think it means?
Students have commented that this Psalm lacks the word Halleluyah. Do you believe this Psalm fits in Hallel? If so, why? If not, why not? Should this Psalm be seen as part of a larger whole and what would that include?
4. Spiritual issues - Questions for reflection and discussion: What is the relationship between G-d and nature portrayed in this Psalm? Why might the Psalms original audience have found the Psalms message about G-d and nature important? Do you find it important?
Additional reading regarding the content of Hallel:
Please read over the selected passage from Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim. Why do you think the rabbis call Hallel the Egyptian Hallel (Hallel Mitzri)? How much of this passage is based on Psalm 114? Why do you think Psalm 114 figures so much in the interpretation?