Saturday, January 07, 2012


My Mom likes to know what I am doing in school, and so, Mom, this post is for you.  And yes, exegeting is a real word, generally only used among theology geeks.  

Psalm 44 was written as a communal lament during an unknown national disaster as a rhetorical appeal to God for deliverance in a time of suffering.

The criticism method best suited for this pericope is literary criticism because both the context and structure are important in exegesis of this passage, contributing to the overall persuasive rhetoric.     This psalm is a communal lament, but like many psalms, it is not easily dated to a specific event.   This pericope begins with the writer giving praise to God for God’s good deeds (verses 1-8) that benefitted the peoples’ ancestors, with what could potentially be an allusion to the Exodus in verse two.

Beginning with verse nine, the tone markedly shifts, with references to defeat of armies, and scattering the people among the nations.  An understanding of the history of Israel could support the argument that this psalm was written in response to either the Babylonian exile or the Persian period.  In this portion of the pericope the writer starts to make use of such literary devices as simile and hyperbole to make a powerful pathos appeal.  In verse 11 is a powerful simile, “you have made us like sheep for slaughter, and have scattered us among the nations. ”  The reference pertaining to sheep makes the logos argument that God’s people have dutifully followed the law, and yet are still forsaken in their time of suffering.  The writer goes on to use hyperbole in verses 12-16, with this deliberate exaggeration serving to make a pathos appeal to God for comfort. 

The writer returns to the logos appeal to God in verses 17-22, including the comparison of the people to innocent sheep headed for slaughter, arguing that since the people have been faithful to the covenant, God should alleviate their suffering. 

The writer makes a direct appeal to God for help in verses 23-26, asking God to awake and make Godself known to the people in their suffering.  The latter part of verse 26, “…Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love,” reframes the faith iterated by the writer at the beginning of the pericope, a rhetorical technique known as inclusio.  

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