DA of Poetry, Psa 77
brocine at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 20 23:13:37 EST 2000
I have been asked to present a discourse analysis of Psa 77.
Please allow me.
Taken as a whole I think the psalm is an Expository
Discourse persuading the hearers that _qoli 'el 'elohim_.
In other words, the repeated phrase _qoli 'el 'elohim_ is
the thesis of the psalm overall.
The psalm can be divided into four parts. The divisions
between the part is based on the prevailing person in each
of the four parts. In the first (vv. 2-7) and third (vv.
11-13) parts the first person pronominal elements prevail.
In the second part (vv. 8-10) third person references
prevail, most of which refer to the Lord. Also adding
cohesion to third section is the repeated use of questions.
In the fourth part(11-21), second person references to the
Lord prevail, and there are also a number of third person
references. The abrupt shifts in person within the psalm
are an example of the ecstatic point of view we expect in a
lot of BH poetry. It would make an excellent oppurtunity
for an oral interpreter to demonstrate his repertoire of
Parts two and four are expository discourses or an expositry
discourse that is embedded within the larger host. We can
look at each of the four parts individually, relating it to
the thesis of the psalm. Part one (2-7) paraphrases and
defines the idea _qoli 'el 'elohim_. It should be taken as
an expression of the persona's habit; that is, these are the
things that comprise his cry . A section like this is where
we need some close reading of many expository texts: to
assess just how prefixed and suffixed forms are distributed
and with what function. I would translate the verbs as
v. 2 ve'ets`aqah "and I cry'
veha'azin "and He has given ear" or "and He is a giver of
v. 3 dara$ti "I have sought" or "I am a seeker"
nigrah "(my hand) is streched out"
velo' taphug "it does not weary"
me'anah "(my soul) has refused" or "is a refuser"
...and so on. You can see that I am maintaining a present
reference with both the yiqtols and qatals. I justify this
by the expository nature of the head sentence _qoli 'el
'elohim_ and the over-all plan and purpose of the section,
which seems to be exposition. The difference between the
verb forms is that the qatal refers to a state that has
already come about at the time of the speaking. The
existence of both past and present in the qatal is why I am
using present perfect in English for the translation.
My -er alternatives (e.g. "I am a seek-er") are not
attempts at good English style, obviously. The translations
are meant as converstation pieces that highlight the
attributive nature of the qatals. The yiqtol, on the other
hand, portrays action, in this case, English simple
An interesting case in this first part is the wayyiqtol is
v. 7: wayxappes I would say that the wayyiqtol is used in
this present time context to lend a sense of consecutivity
to the expression, in English, "and then my spirit searches
In part two (8-10), we have an abrupt and disjunctive shift
to questions with third person subjects as I mentioned
earlier. The linguistic shift helps to mark a shift from
the persona speaking about his _qoli_ in the first part to
his actual words and/or thoughts in part two. It is common
in psalms for an expository discourse to set up the
exposition proper with questions that illicit the critical
information (e.g. "Who shall ascend into the hill of
YHVH?"). In part two we have the yiqtol and qatal forms
used complementarily to create the verbal merismus that I
mentioned in a previous post. For instance, the yiqtols of
yiznax "Does (Adonay) reject...?"
yosiph lirtsot "Doesn't He any more delight?"
and the qatals of v. 9
he'aphes "Has (His grace) vanished...?"
gamar "Has (His promise) ceased...?"
all refer to the same situation in the same time frame. The
merismus created by using both forms in reference to one
situation suggests the utter absence of grace. Grace is not
present as state or as emergent action.
In part three (11-13), the persona once again talks about
his talk/thought. The section suspensfully delays the
answer to the questions of part two until later. I am
inclined to read the section like part one, an reiteration
of the persona's habit, as follows:
v. 11 va'omar "then I say"
(the "quoted" verbless clause is actually a tiny
embedded Expository Discourse: "this is my appeal: the years
of the right hand of the Most High.")
v. 12 'azkir "I mention..."
ki 'azkerah... "for I remember..."
v. 13 vehagiti "and I have meditated..."
'asixah "I consider..."
V. 14 begins the last and longest part. It is clearly
expository, meant to answer the questions of part two and
confirm the thesis of the psalm, that _qoli 'el 'elohim_ by
revealing the actual words of the persona that are "towards
Elohim." It is an embedded Expository Discourse which
stands in support of the host Expository Discourse having
the thesis _qoli 'el 'elohim_. The skeleton of the part
four exposition is made by the verbless clauses that I would
translate with English present of "to be." Some of the
qatals are tempting to translate as pasts in English.
Translation into the English past makes sense for some of
them because they express Elohim's past actions that support
that "You are the God doing wonderously" (v. 15). On the
other hand, when the section is taken as a unit, the yiqtols
fight against a past translation as do some of the qatals
that refer to the natural wonders that are part of the
present world. I would therefore opt for a present
translation of the whole section, once again making liberal
use of the English present perfect for the qatals.
v. 15. hida`ta "you have revealed..." or "you are the
v. 17 ra'uka...ra'uka...yirgezu "(the waters) have seen
you...(the waters) have seen you...(even the depths)
In schematic review :
| Thesis: _qoli 'el 'elohim_
| __Embedded E.D.:
| | Part two: Expository questions
| | Thesis: Where is Elohim's grace?
|___Part three: the persona's cry
| __Embedded E.D.:
| | The persona's actual words
| | to Elohim. Thesis: Elohim does
Perhaps even a better way to think of the psalm is as two
intertwined (like a double helix) Expository Discourses.
The one, found in parts one and three, explains the
persona's cry, and the second, found in parts two and four,
is the actual cry.
Hoping to help,
B. M. Rocine
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13206
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