It’s a winter wonderland in Wisconsin. The sun is shining. Brilliant white snow dusts the ground. My church's fellowship hall is filled with the fragrance of turkey and pumpkin pie. A community supper is in preparation for families in need. I will enjoy celebrating the holiday with them. Below the fold, I present the text, a translation, and notes to Psalm 100, a quintessential psalm of thanksgiving.
A merry Thanksgiving to all!
2עִבְדוּ אֶת־יהוה בְּשִׂמְחָה
בֹּאוּ לְפָנָיו בִּרְנָנָה
עַמֹּו וְצֹאן מַרְעִיתֹו
4בֹּאוּ שְׁעָרָיו בְּתוֹדָה
וְעַד דֹּר־וָדֹר אֱמוּנָתֹו
A psalm of acclamation.
o land entire!
2 Worship יהוה with gladness,
come before him with singing!
3 Know that יהוה,
he is God!
It is he that made us,
and we are his,
his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Come into his gates with acclamation,
his courts with praise!
bless his name!
5 For יהוה is good,
his kindness everlasting,
his faithfulness for all generations.
Verbal acclamation of יהוה was part of a kinesthetic act of worship. You shout. You whoop it up. You process into God’s presence. Hasidic Jews and charismatic Christians know this. Others approach worship as if they were brains on a stick.
The prosody of the psalm follows a pattern. Two short strophes of two lines each (verses 1-2 and 3) are capped by a long strophe (verses 4-5). Across lines and versets, progressive lengthening is also evident. Progressive lengthening is a recurrent prosodic trope in this psalm. 2:2 is followed by 3:3 (verses 1-2). 2:2 is followed by (2:2):3 (verse 3). 2:2 is capped by a 3 (verse 5). The monotony of the recurrence of the trope is broken in verse 4a, where 3 is followed by 2.
The psalm begins and ends with an invitation to praise (verses 1-2 and 4-5). The middle imperative in a sequence of imperatives which structures the psalm, expresses the purpose of ecstatic praise: to know that יהוה is God, and that we are his people. How do we know? We know kinesthetically.
It might not be accidental that there are exactly seven imperatives in 3:1:3 format. Here is the structure of the whole (o stands for an intervening prosodic word) – I differ in detail, but not fundamentally, with the analysis of Luis Alonso Schökel and Cecilia Carniti:
Shout o o o o worship o o come o o
Know o o o o o o o o o o
Come o o o o acclaim o bless o
For-o o o o o o o
The second sequence is shorter by a third than the first: 21:16, equal to 3:2 at the line level. Note that the second sequence mimics but also differs from the first sequence. Symmetry combined with asymmetry: that is the name of the game in poetry.
Psalm 100 is an invitation to the entire nation to give thanks. כל־הארץ is often mistranslated in verse 1 with ‘all the earth.’ More probably, here and in various contexts elsewhere, the phrase means ‘all the land.’ The question deserves a thorough treatment I cannot offer here.
How does my prosodic analysis differ from others? In the past, scansion of this psalm has involved a fundamental inconsistency. Versets of two prosodic words each have been posited here and there. For example, Fokkelman analyzes verses 4b and 5a as pairs of two-beat versets. Robert Alter does likewise in his translation. Inconsistently, neither does the same in verse 3.
The case of verse 1 is not clear. I stress כל; it might also be left unstressed, in which case verses 1-2 would form a single tripartite line.
Luis Alonso Schökel and Cecilia Carniti, Salmos (2 vols.; Estella: Verbo Divino, 1992-93; It. tr. I salmi [tr. and ed. Antonio Nepi; 2 vols.; ComBib, Rome: Borla, 1991-93]; Port. tr. Salmos [tr. João Rezende Costa; 2 vols.; São Paulo: Paulus, 1996-1998]).
Robert Alter, Psalms: A Translation with Commentary (New York: Norton, 2007).
Jan P. Fokkelman, The Psalms in Form: The Hebrew Psalter in its Poetic Shape (Tools for Biblical Studies 4; Leiden: Deo, 2002).