Hebrew Psalms


The Book of Psalms of the Hebrew Bible is recognised today as an anthology of poems made up of both pre-existing and original elements. The pre-existing elements are Bronze Age, say 1600-1200 BCE, and were gathered together by a kind of poetic osmosis from the surrounding regions, such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, Eritraea and locals such as the Ugaritic and Canaanite nations.


Looking at psalms 3 and 5, for example, we see early examples of supplication to an unseen entity believed both superior and capable of bodily intervention; likewise, revenge (as in 6 and 7) expressed bodily. We find the nation or the group as well as the individual represented as vulnerable in the realm of the physical body. Thus I conclude the bodily metaphor is very ancient and likely to be pre-textual. (note: another reason for this that is often forgotten is the orality of poetry; the small number who could read it verses those who could recite it was an educational divide until recent times)




Book One of the Septuagint is Psalms 1-41; a huge complex of themes that one also finds in earlier Egyptian, Indian, even Chinese texts. Selah belongs with asu, theus etc (non breath stopping sounds for god; but god and om have stops)(hmmm)


Z p737 says Books 1 and 2 (Psalms 42-72) probably pre-exilic; in the times of David and Solomon. Exodus was 1446 BC; 500 years before David 1010-970


Psalm 15


metaphors of body (also see A note 1 ; also Z psalm 26 notes) fundamental, old metaphors


he that walketh upright           walks blameless

speaketh the truth in his heart

that backbiteth not with his tongue    who slanders not with his tongue

in whose eyes a vile person is contemned


he that sweareth to his own hurt (tradition of martyrdom to abstract principles)

shall never be moved              will never stumble


Psalm 16


16:4 repulsion at earlier rites; NB taking of bread and wine at communion

Their drink offerings of blood will I not offer

Nor take up their names into my lips

16:8 (A) I set the Lord always before me, on my right hand

that I not stumble - suggests earlier rite with placement of idol, suggests ancient shamanistic thought

16:11 thou wilt shew me the path of life


Psalm 17


17:3, also 16:7 and 13:3 ?hint of asclepius

17:7 lovingkindness mentioned

17:10 inclosed in their own fat ? Z and A disagree

17:14 belly as metaphoric place: thou fillest with thy hid treasure


Psalm 18




18:8 smoke from nostrils, fire from the mouth, old monster imager Z plays down the violence of the mythical beast: 18:9 darkness under his feet alludes to his monster size (A) ; 18:10 flies mounted on a cherub: certainly the intrusion of another myth ?Canaanite.

(also see A notes to 14, 9, 11, Elyon, the Canaanite monster Deity Z conceals)

A god to be feared in bodily terms for unique bodily capacity which is amplification of human capacity see 18:32-4, 39-42.

18:6-18 very von-Daniken (also 8:3-4) then on to bit about saved because of merit: reads as intrusion into older victory song: eg 18:41 merciless; cf 14 and 15 quite different voices


Psalm 19



19:3-4 and 14 Power of words

19:12 anticipates work of Freud, or inquisitional psychology



Psalm 20


20:3 accept thy burnt sacrifice A says this is pagan see notes 2 and 4; Z has no note (typical of its politics). There is 2nd C BC pagan version of this poem : which came first the chicken or the egg?


Psalm 21


21:4 God grants both life itself and determines its span; 21: 9 and he taketh away (old swallow-up Canaanite sea monster Elyon mythology ignored by Z, but see A note kindness is attributed to Elyon 21:8 A 21: 7 Z translated as mercy


Psalm 22


22:14-16 excellent description of bodily effects of fear in battle


I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint:

my heart is like wax;

it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd;

and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws;

and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

For dogs have compassed me:

the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me:

the pierced my hands and my feet.


Psalm 25


25:16-18 simple supplication in illness; is it physical or moral?


Turn thee unto me, and have mercy on me;

for I am desolate and afflicted.

The troubles of my heart are enlarged:

O bring thou me out of my distresses.

Look upon mine affliction and my pain;

and forgive all my sins.


Psalm 26


sacrificial elements, wash hands, burn kidneys, see also 15; walking with a stumble versus steady walk image of faithfulness


Psalm 27


27:2; mention eating flesh of enemies: ie cannabilism. Also 14:4 and 7:2


Psalm 29


Ancient repetitive structure here; old Baal/Canaanite images? here Z strains in first commentary, A shows his difference here


Psalm 30



Psalm 30 thanks for healing; death is portrayed as a downwards movement into the pit; apparently a very old theme; sounds egytpian




Psalm 31




31:7-12 I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy;

for thou hast considered my trouble;

thou hast known my soul in adversities

and hast not shut me up in the hand of the enemy:

thou hast set my feet in a large room.

Have mercy upon me O Lord, for I am in trouble:

mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly.

For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing:

My strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.

I was a reproach among all mine enemies,

but especially among my neighbours,

and a fear to mine acquaintance:

they that did see me without fled from me.

I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind:

I am like a broken vessel.


Psalm 32


32:8-10 A says these are wisdom literature elements

in three parts with Canaanite suggestions, even Z agrees with this


Psalm 34


34:8 taste and see the Lord metaphor

34:13 tongue as weapon, see also 5:9

34:18 broken heart (exists)

34: 20 god prevents broken bones


Psalm 35


35:13  when they were sick I was humble, Z says means King was attacked whilst ill 35:4 (debateable) A note ?unrevealing


Psalm 36


36: 8b-9 reads like a wisdom literature insert


Psalm 37


37:14 the wicked want to slay the good; 37:28 offers transgenerational punishment cf :25 Z note 37:32


Psalms 38 and 39


Two perfect psalms, the first about physical bodily reality; the second physical bodily metaphor. 38 is Davidic, here physical illness is blamed on his iniquity, he is shunned as such by others, it is has physical and spiritual elements;

39 ?by Job poet has a triadic structure and a superb poem on the ephemerality of human life, lots of physical metaphors and similies; 9-10 a stroke


Psalm 40


40:4 Canaanite sea monster and abyss cover-up; see A 145 note 5



Psalm 41


  This is clearly before the time of Christian forgiveness; (but compassion is already found in India and in Egypt); 3-4 a healing bed; 8 an evil disease; 41:13 conspicuous tag to end book; A note 2; many languages to see or look becomes to understand (basic bodily metaphor)


Psalm 42 and 43




Psalm 44


A44:26 anatomical neck and body crushed to the dust

 (Canaanite cosmology 20 also A 46:5; 48:3; 58:12; 65 second half ? pre-Canaanite; 74:13-15 KJB; 82; 83:16; 92:10 A says Baal; 93 Canaanite sea; 95:3 KJB or 3A in A numerous gods; 96:4-5; 97 see A note 7; 104:3; 135:5; 144:6 A see note; 148: 6-7 in A)


Psalm 46


Z says probably pre-exilic, see note 46:5 in A evidently Canaanite


Psalm 51


A penitential psalm, not militant like predecessors. (Wash me and I shall be clean). 7: Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean A 9 hyssop note. No need for burnt offerings...contrary to older psalms showing change from religious sacrifice


Psalm 52


A 4&6 The tongue of deceit, the power of words


Psalm 55


55:4 KJB My heart is sore pained within me


Psalm 56


56:4 KJB I will not fear what flesh can do to me


Psalm 57


57: 4 KJB teeth are spears and arrows, tongue is a sword


Psalm 58




Psalm 64


64:3 KJB tongue as sword, words as arrows


Psalm 67


67:2 KJB Thy saving health; 


Psalm 69


69:23 KJB  loins shaking

69: 20 A  reproach breaks my heart, I grow ill


Psalm 71


KJB 71: 68 God delivers children


Psalm 73


Numerous bodily images in KJB and A; see note 21 in A veins=kidneys?


Psalm 80


(80:16 note in A yes perhaps but here KJB editors use common sense?)


Psalm 88


88:19 see note in A



Psalm 89


89:33 A  the Lord will visit transgressors with plagues


Psalm 91


A calls this an amulet psalm: it is a sort of chant/charm likely transformed from ancient sources against the plague, death in war, and snake poison


Psalm 102


For the afflicted


Psalm 103


103:3-4 KJB who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction


Psalm 104


(debate over source from Ahknaten 104:21 see A)


Psalm 106


106:28 and 38 KJB (A 37-38) refers to Canaanite human sacrifice and cannibalism (see A note is this a political lie?); A 106: 29-30 scourge is released/confined by human behaviour


Psalm 107


107 KJB affliction and the shadow of death because they rebelled against the word 107:10-20; :38-9 blesseth with multiplication (birth and death); :41 poor relieved of affliction


Psalm 109


109: 18; 22-4


Psalm 113


113:9 Lord gives the barren women children


Psalm 115


115:5-6 famous body part lines but not medical


Psalm 116


116: 116:1-10 affliction; 116:17 sacrifice (A see note debating this)



Psalm 119


See Zain 49-50; Teth 6-7; Jod 75-7; Caph 81-4; Lamed 92; Resh 153


Psalm 139


139:13-6 marvels in the womb (see A notes)


Psalm 145


145:14 raise up all those that be bowed down (A beat down); also 146:8)


Psalm 147


147:3 He healeth the broken in heart/ and bindeth up their wounds


Psalm 149


149 saints that execute





(Z) Zondervan (2002) King James Study Bible  Zondervan


(A) Alter R (2007) T

updated: 14/04/2013