This psalm of David is so well-known that parsing its Covenant-literary structure is like seeing an old friend in a new light.
The Psalms were all composed with the history, images and patterns of the Torah in mind. So it makes sense if the arrangement of a sacrifice of praise might recapitulate, step-by-step, the process of a sacrifice of flesh.
The fact that the order of the Old Testament canon is different in the Hebrew Bible from the Christian Bible shows that the books can be grouped in a number of ways. The Hebrew Bible gathers them as Law, Prophets and Writings. Chris Wooldridge has worked out a “Covenant-literary” ordering which is similar to that in the Christian Bible but with a few minor differences.
Is there a theological reason for the order of the books in the New Testament canon?
Peter Leithart notices that the Revelation uses the word “sign” (semeion) seven times, all between chapters 12 and 19.
Parsed by Chris Wooldridge | Notes by Chris Wooldridge and Michael Bull
We no longer possess the music for the Psalms,1Unless, as Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura proposes, the tunes are included as notations in the Hebrew text. but the allusions and recapitulations employed by the psalmists remain veiled to us without an awareness of the “tune of ideas” they present to us. Psalm 17 is another wonderful example of the outcome of meditation on the Torah by the authors of the wisdom literature. Familiarity with the historical and literary structures of the books of Moses is the key to comprehension of the books of wisdom.
A hyphenated-word-block indicates a single Hebrew word, with each Hebrew word being | separated | by a line and double spacing on each side.
Creation (Ark of the Testimony)
- This first stanza is David’s cry to Yahweh. The Ethics section is threefold: the word given, opened and received, so the Stanza is sevenfold, a “new creation.”2For more discussion, see Reading the Bible in 3D and Bible Matrix II: The Covenant Key.
- David places his prayer at Maturity to emphasise that it ascends from clean lips, not “feigned” ones, since the Lord does not accept prayer from those whose confession is only lip service. The allusion is to the serpent in the Garden, with David as a faithful Adam who does not hide but instead calls upon the Lord to judge him.
- The author is fully aware of the nature of Covenant, beginning with delegation and Oath, and ending for the faithful with vindication and blessing at Sanctions. Faithful obedience as a servant results in the understanding and friendship of the confidant, which is often pictured in Scripture as “seeing the Lord’s face” (John 15;15; James 2:23). As it was for Adam, so it was for David, yet David presents himself as a faithful delegate.
- At Succession, the Lord is the all-seeing judge, the one whose glory fills the Sanctuary as the sign of a blessed future bestowed upon the faithful.
- At Hierarchy, the focus moves from the Lord’s righteousness to the blamelessness of David, and David’s allusions move from the Garden Sanctuary of Genesis to the Passover of Exodus.
- At the first Passover, Yahweh visited the Hebrews at night, so Yahweh visits David “at night” in the second line.
- At Firstfruits, as on Day 3, the Land and its fruits are split at lines 3 and 4, which allows David to be both the house passed over and also the blameless, silent lamb, the suffering servant constrained to speak only the words of God.
- Sin’s deceits are exposed by the Spirit at Pentecost, the centre of the now opened Ethics of the Covenant.
- The words of the Lord Himself are the words of the prophet at Trumpets, and by them David is kept safe at Atonement, delivered from evil as the firstborn was preserved from the sword of the destroyer.
- The final line of this stanza speaks of Representation, an Adam who images God and is thus qualified to rule: Where the Lord was the judge between light and darkness in the first stanza (Transcendence), the meek saint is now wise concerning light and darkness (Hierarchy). He walks safely in the darkness of the veil through the light of the law. The obedient man himself is God-in-flesh, a sacrificial mediator waiting to be “opened” like a scroll. Fittingly, the final line itself also follows the Covenant pattern.
Ascension (Bronze Altar and Golden Table)
- This short stanza is a cry to Yahweh for protection from His enemies. But it is a call made with the authority of a man “under authority.”
- The first line now focusses on man rather than God as the representative of the Covenant.
- The second line is a statement of faith that God will answer, because David is blameless before Him.
- At Ethics, David, as a beloved son and now master of Israel, speaks of his own word as though it were a command of Yahweh Himself.
- At Oath/Sanctions, David uses only two Hebrew words but they express both the Oath and the Sanctions. The first is palah, meaning special or distinct, but carrying the idea of separated or set apart, alluding to the process of division between the faithful and faithless for blessing and cursing. The second is chesed, which refers to God’s covenant loyalty (by oath), especially to His people, Israel.
- At Succession/Booths, the righteous find refuge in Yahweh, shelter from enemies who stand, self-styled (Altar) and self-exalted (Table), as accusers against God’s anointed.
- Of course, with hindsight, we now know that this stanza refers to the ascension of Christ as king at the right hand of the Father.
- The structure now moves from the “Levitical” priestly head to the Covenant Body. In four simple lines, David takes Israel from the Garden of Eden to the wilderness.
- This might explain the unique and untranslated use of the word “daughter” in line 1. Adam was the keeper of the Garden, and Eve was to be the focus of his protection, the “pupil” of his eye. Instead, at Testing, Eve’s eye was allowed to be drawn to the forbidden fruit of kingdom. Their eyes were opened, and they understood the serpent’s light had in truth been darkness.
- Following the allusion to Genesis comes a reference to Exodus, a plea for Israel to remember what she had seen with her own eyes: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (19:4).
- The Levitical allusion is more obscure, and thus only discernible in context. Laying waste or despoiling refers to cities and the Land, which fits line 3 as Day 3. But this word for wicked, which means guilty or criminal, appears in every book of the Torah except Leviticus. Based on a recurring biblical pattern of “false ascensions” beginning with Cain, this might refer to the usurping of priesthood by lawless kings who refused to submit to God.
- As is common, the Testing stanza is only a “three-and-a-half,” like the ministry of Christ, who Himself was surrounded by beasts in the wilderness, both animal and then human. Unlike the children of Israel in Numbers who face fiery serpents and the deceit of Balak and Balaam, both David and Christ were kings whose enemies were beastly Israelites. Christ called the Pharisees a brood of snakes, and Peter, Jude and Revelation use Balaam to describe Israel’s first century false prophets.
Maturity (Incense Altar)
- As observed in a number of other passages, the Maturity stanza runs the festal pattern backwards. In those instances, it seemed to be an expression of the reversal of death. In this case, however, the purpose seems to be the silence of the people of God through false “prophetic” witness.
- The stanza is thus a “de-Creation,” beginning with men as gods (line 1), speaking their false oaths when they should be silent (line 2), gathering themselves against God’s anointed as godless hosts instead of waiting upon him (line 3). The remainder of the stanza paints these judges (and their offspring) as devouring beasts rather than the shepherds they were supposed to be. The fact that these beasts are in the Land (Leviticus 26:22) is a precursor to the ministry of the true prophets (2 Kings 2:23-24).
Conquest (High Priest and Sacrifices – Mediators)
- At Conquest/Atonement, David calls on the Lord to pour out His curses on the unfaithful. As on the Day of Atonement, there are two approaches, the first for the priesthood, and the second for the people. Here, it is instead these false kings and their heirs.
- The process begins with the Lord as light in the darkness (line 1), with the self-styled kings cut off as “leaven” (line 2).
- At Ascension, it is now those who avoided priestly submission and substitutionary sacrifice who are themselves the meat on the altar and the table, in “the path of the destroyer.”
- The central line is the Covenant pattern in miniature, a description of those who believe the lies of the evil one at Testing:
- Although the promises to David centred upon a continued dynasty, a legacy in offspring, David looks beyond that to a greater throne, just as Abraham saw in the promise of Canaan a taste of the heavenly country. He condemns those who see children as the source of Covenant Succession rather than merely an outcome. As in Eden, God desires first the fruits of righteousness. The fruit of the womb and the Land are secondary blessings which follow. The shift from the emphasis on “Land and womb” in circumcision to the repentance of New Covenant baptism is an expression of this fact, which is why baptism occurs at the Oath/Sanctions step in many New Testament passages. The children born of the will of men (earthly fathers, including Abraham) are not the children born by the Spirit of God (John 1:13; 3:6). The sons of heaven are the fathers on earth.
Glorification (Shekinah – Rest)
In the final stanza, David reminds himself of the future promised to those who love and obey God. The light of the law gives way to beholding the face of Yahweh as a righteous Adam, made complete in the likeness of God.
References [ + ]
Here is a parsing of Psalm 12 by Chris Wooldridge, which makes the beauty of its structure apparent. Several of its Stanzas reflect the overall shape of the Psalm by placing the wicked and their boasts at the end. Most interestingly, the Maturity Stanza ‘refines’ the words by running the order backwards. 1For the skeptics, Chris saw this quite independently, and yet it is something I have also observed. See If I Could Turn Back Time.
A hyphenated-word-block indicates a single Hebrew word, with each word being | separated | by a line and double spacing on each side.
Upon | Sheminith2“eighth” (an eight-stringed instrument) Hitchcock’s Dictionary of Bible Names. (Sacrament)
A-psalm | of-David (Government)
Help | Yahweh! (Sabbath – Authority)
For | ceases/ends (Passover – Leaven cut off)
The-godly-man, (Ascension – Covenant Head: Singular Seed)
from-among-the-sons (High Priest and Beloved King)
of-men. (All Adams, All Nations)
Placing Yahweh in the first line highlights this as a call to His authority over all life. Notice the symmetry between the cutting off of the godly at Passover and the singled-out “sons” of the faithful at Atonement. The central Line is usually translated “vanish” or “disappear,” but it is also the word for “blotting out,” which in the Bible has legal connotations. At Conquest, there are “sons”, but the godly are not amongst them. 3It is interesting that the selection of David (“Beloved”) and Christ (the “beloved Son”) both appear at Conquest / Baptism in their respective passages. There, and here, God looks upon the heart, and circumcision of the flesh becomes meaningless.
This Stanza puts the words of Man in the place of the Word of God. At Transcendence, instead of a true revelation, we have only vanity. Instead of Division, we have all men united against God as a false Hierarchy, giving God only lip service at Ethics. Instead of the “division” of sacrificial sanctification, we have men before God as false witnesses. The heart is mentioned twice because it is a double-heartedness driving their forked tongue. Succession is about Representation of the Father. Despite their outward religion, these men represent only themselves.
Ascension (Law Given – Priest)
Here, the nature of the “lip” as a religious confession becomes clear. Instead of listening to God (a priestly act), the boasts of the wicked are “lofty,” that is, they pretend to be the Words from the mountain of God (Acts 12:22). As the “Levitical” Stanza, instead of moving (chiastically) into the Most Holy and out again, as did the High Priest, the action moves from heaven, through the lips and tongue into the human heart and out again, but what comes out defiles the Man (Matthew 15:11).
Testing (Law Opened – King)
Line 1 concerns the false authority of these men. Line 2 is the groaning response of those under their authority. But Yahweh is on the true throne. Though He sits as a King, He stands as a Priest on behalf of the oppressed and speaks as a Prophet. Notice that the Lord is now the “Head” and the oppressed are the “Body.” The puach in Line 7 is possibly an ironic ruach, that is, it is the breath of life given by God to Man “puffed” at the helpless in defiance of God. Instead of being God’s Shekinah, the false kings have given their members to the serpent and fashioned a dragon (Genesis 3:14-15). In doing so, Man kindles God’s nostrils, an expression which almost always has reference to His anger against oppressors of widows and orphans.
Maturity (Law Received – Prophet)
In the “Prophet” Stanza, the words of Yahweh are contrasted with the words of men. The pattern works backwards (as does Day 5 in Genesis 1), which may refer to the Lord’s ability to bring abundance from nothing, or reversing the process of decay as we see in Ezekiel 37. Silver usually appears at Line 5 as “Bridal plunder.” The purpose seems to be tracing God’s Words back to their pure source, the sevenfold Spirit. Putting Booths in Line 1 makes Yahweh both the true father of the helpless and also their shelter.
This Stanza corresponds to the Day of Atonement (Coverings), where the Lord, as High Priest, or Joshua, speaks both blessing and cursing with His two-edged tongue to destroy His enemies and redeem His friends. Yahweh sets apart (sanctifies) the righteous at Hierarchy, He is the fiery cloud in the wilderness at Ethics, and at Sanctions we learn what those in His charge are being protected from: this wicked generation. Israel herself was being divided in two, those with integrity from those who were double-tongued. However, that generation is cast out, since the Succession Line makes it clear that unlike the wicked and their false oaths, the righteous have a future.
The final Stanza condemns the wicked. “All around” refers architecturally to the uncircumcised, although here it is Israelites behaving like pagans, those called to be priests acting like kings. They are “raised up” and enthroned at Ascension but when jealously inspected at Testing they are found to be vile or worthless. The mention of “children” at Maturity is ironic, since these are the offspring of the serpent, the one who attempted to murder the generations promised to Adam. There is no Succession to this Stanza, because the wicked are given no Rest. Those who refuse God as their Father will see their own children cut off. The situation in Stanza 1 is now “backwards” or reversed.
Since Chris is so keen and capable, we are together working on parsing the first book of Psalms (1-41) and hope to have it published early next year.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||For the skeptics, Chris saw this quite independently, and yet it is something I have also observed. See If I Could Turn Back Time.|
|2.||↑||“eighth” (an eight-stringed instrument) Hitchcock’s Dictionary of Bible Names.|
|3.||↑||It is interesting that the selection of David (“Beloved”) and Christ (the “beloved Son”) both appear at Conquest / Baptism in their respective passages. There, and here, God looks upon the heart, and circumcision of the flesh becomes meaningless.|
Christopher Wooldridge has parsed Psalm 3 (according to the Bible’s Covenant matrix) and has demonstrated that he now has this peculiar but glorious literary art under his belt. He has today been awarded the rank of Grand Master. We have added hyphenations (Chris’ suggestion) and vertical bars to indicate single Hebrew words, a method of expressing the rhythm of the original language. Chris provided some helpful notes and I have added a few more.
Even the title follows the Covenant pattern. It puts David under the sword at Hierarchy and makes Absalom (whose name ironically means “father of peace”) the sword-bearer at Sanctions. David is the exile in the wilderness at the center of the structure. The title prefigures the structure of the actual Psalm.
Stanza 1: TRANSCENDENCE
Note the “rising up” at Ascension and the “many” bearing false witness at Trumpets. At Atonement (Oath/Sanctions), that false curse is expressed. There is no Succession. There is no rest for the wicked who rise up against the righteous. But here it is the righteous one who is cursed. Selah indicates the end of the legal testimony, which is in this case a miscarriage of justice.
Stanza 2: HIERARCHY
Just as the blood covered the doorposts at the first Passover, here the Lord shields the righteous. This time Ascension concerns the victim, although unlike the wicked he is lifted up by God rather than exalting himself. And it is now the voice of the victim, as Abel, crying out as a legal witness at Maturity/Trumpets. Notice that “[You] are a shield for me” reflects an objective covering (the Covenant head) and matching it chiastically is “And He heard me” as the reception of the subjective response, the “Oath” of the faithful (the Covenant body). This time, the legal testimony begins the vindication of the faithful saint.
Stanza 3: ETHICS
Here is David in the wilderness, sustained by heavenly bread. The Tabernacle furniture “thread” shows through a little in this Stanza. “Awoke” corresponds to the altar, where the Israelite renewed Covenant with God. “Sustained” alludes to David and his men eating the Showbread. “Do not be afraid” refers to the saint refusing to fear men, trembling at the Law of God instead, and finding it to be a light to his path. Ten is a common number at Trumpets, where Israel’s troops mustered ten days before Atonement. Here, those troops are set against their true king. At Atonement, David is the Man-to-be-bloodied, a priest-king, a Tabernacle to be torn apart at the center of Israel’s tents (Booths).
Stanza 4: OATH/SANCTIONS
Arise, Yahweh! (Sabbath)
Save-me, my-God. (Passover)
For You-have-struck (Firstfruits: Priesthood)
The-teeth | of-the-ungodly (Atonement)
At Oath/Sanctions, Yahweh comes to judge David’s enemies. Since they are Israelites, they are Covenant-breakers. They have broken their Oath, so he uses shabar, the word which describes the breaking of the tablets at Mount Sinai after Israel’s sin with the golden calf. Since they have broken their Oath, God will strike them in the mouth. At Booths, the righteous are gathered and the wicked are scattered among the nations. Since, architecturally-speaking, the human head pictures the heavenly throne of God, teeth are the wise elders who offer counsel in the heavenly court. In this image, the rottenness of their false witness is shattered, just as the Lord shattered the Egyptians, and the true king is vindicated before God.
Stanza 5: SUCCESSION
The final Stanza presents the true Israel, those who are “Jews indeed,” expressed through the placement of the faithful at the center, fulfilling the Law under God’s watching eyes. Selah indicates the end of the complete process, the vindication of the suffering saint, the Beloved One in whom God is well pleased. Notice that salvation is located in the “head” of the passage, and blessing upon the “body.” Within Israel, this was the priestly king and his people. Beyond Israel, this is the blessing of the heavenly king upon those with circumcised hearts from all nations.