It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Knowing and Shaping, a Reflection on Psalm 139

"You know everything about me," the psalmist says. "You know where I'm going and when. You know what I'm going to say before I say it." The notes to this psalm in The New Interpreter's Study Bible says that the psalmist finds this knowledge wonderful but also uncanny and unsettling. And reassuring--the psalm ends with a request that God: Come search out my heart. 'If I have any wicked ways in me, lead me in the right way instead."

I'm reading Robert Alter's The Book of Psalms, a Translation with Commentary. The translation I usually use is the NRSV; it cites 139:5 as "You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand on me. Alter translates this verse as "From behind and in front You shaped me, and You set your palm upon me."

Here's his commentary on the word he translates as "shaped": "The verb could also mean something like "besiege," "bring into straits," but the sense of shaping or fashioning like a potter seems more likely here .... In this understanding, 'You set Your palm upon me' is not a menacing act but rather the gesture of the potter."

Jacob is running away because he is afraid of his brother's anger. He is running toward his uncle's home where he plans to find a wife. His uncle will trick him; he will trick his uncle. When is it that we begin to see evidence of God's shaping of Jacob?

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