Psalm 113 and The Feminine Voice in the Psalter

I declare unto you that I am not now, nor have I ever been a feminist. Sure, I have flirted with believing that women have the same equal voice as us men, that in Christ there is neither male nor female, that the more voices which speak, the more magnificent the melody and that the word of God didn’t just come to men. But that was in my college days. I also flirted with Libertarianism (or libertarianism, for those of you who think that capital letters are unconstitutional and a sign of too much government control) too, and that didn’t work out either.

In the May/June issue of BAR, there is an article by Marc Zvi Brettler which poses the solution to the problem of a solely masculine voice in the Psalter, which is contrary to the rest of the Hebrew bible:

The Psalter contrasts sharply with other Biblical texts. As opposed to the apparent lack of female voice in the Psalter, the Bible does give many examples of women offering prayers or petitions.

He goes on to cite several of these feminine voices, but focuses in on Hannah’s petition which was heard and answered with a son, Samuel, and her prayer of thanks found in 1st Samuel chapters 1 and 2. He highlights 2nd Samuel 2.8, which does bear a resemblance to Psalm 113.7-8.

“He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor; For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, And He set the world on them. 1 Samuel 2:8 NASB

He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor. For all the earth is the LORD’s, and he has set the world in order. 1 Samuel 2:8 NLT

There are places where a song in one part of the Hebrew Bible will be singled out (perhaps with a variation) and found in the Psalms. For example, 2nd Samuel 22 and Psalm 18. Could this be one of those instances, but this time, instead of King David, we have Hannah who is represented in the Psalms? This Psalm has no title and is generally considered a rather late addition to the Psalter. The book of the Kings (1st and 2nd Samuel as well as 1st and 2nd Kings) would be a few centuries earlier than the date of this Psalm. It could be that Hannah’s song of praise was carried and sung as a tradition for centuries until being added to the Psalter, if, that is, Psalm 113 is a reflection on Hannah’s song.

New Living TranslationNew American Standard Version
Praise the LORD! Yes, give praise, O servants of the LORD. Praise the name of the LORD!
2 Blessed be the name of the LORD now and forever.
3 Everywhere– from east to west– praise the name of the LORD.
4 For the LORD is high above the nations; his glory is higher than the heavens.
5 Who can be compared with the LORD our God, who is enthroned on high?
6 He stoops to look down on heaven and on earth.
7 He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump.
8 He sets them among princes, even the princes of his own people!
9 He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD.
2 Blessed be the name of the LORD From this time forth and forever.
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting The name of the LORD is to be praised.
4 The LORD is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens.
5 Who is like the LORD our God, Who is enthroned on high,
6 Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in heaven and in the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 To make them sit with princes, With the princes of His people.
9 He makes the barren woman abide in the house As a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!

Examining Psalm 113 and Hannah’s song of praise, we do find a connection between 1st Samuel 2.8 and Psalm 113.7-8 as well as the concluding verse and 1st Samuel 2.5, at least in the thought of a now joyful mother.

Brettler is convincing that this Psalm represents perhaps the single feminine voice in the Psalter, although in many places, the voices are more neutral than masculine. While many of the Psalms are song by men of valor and war, some are song by people who are worshiping and praising Yahweh and have gone on to be sung by both men and women who were fighting their own unique battles. This singing has gone on for centuries. But here, in Psalm 113, we do find a rather unique gem in the already glorious Psalter.

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28 Replies to “Psalm 113 and The Feminine Voice in the Psalter”

  1. I also flirted with Libertarianism (or libertarianism, for those of you who think that capital letters are unconstitutional and a sign of too much government control) too, and that didn’t work out either.

    They’re wrong, you know. Capital Letters aren’t unconstitutional. In Fact, the constitutional Practice is to capitalize every single Noun. So it’s the lower-case ‘libertarians’ who’ve got it all wrong, and I’ve no doubt their Destruction of proper English Writing owes no small Debt to their tendency to read and write most of their Literature via the Internets.

    Keep on standing up for the Constitution by using Capitalization, Joel!

  2. ahaha that’s funny. as a down under kiwi though we do everything in a pretty under class chopped poppy way so I’ve decided to use lower case in a very unamerican way. what exactly do you mean by ‘equal voice’?

    1. Well, I have to keep up appearances, Steph. I mean, I wouldn’t want people thinking that I might believe that women are equal. What would that do for my reputation?

  3. well now I still don’t know whether you do or you don’t but if you don’t you’d better now come down under – you’d get your ears boxed and hide spanked soundly as a high proportion of people in power are women (eg the three highest positions of power were all held by women until the recent election when a donkey got elected PM (John Keys is a don key to me) – they were the PM, Leader of the House and the Governer General) So watch out down under. Mind you Destiny Church went against the grain – but look what happened to them. Brian Tamaki was american anyway. 😉

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