Meditations on the Psalms #10

Day 10

The last of the Introductions:

Judgement in the Psalms. It may come as a surprise to notice a difference between the Christian concept of Judgement and the Hebrew one. Christian art and literature for centuries have depicted its terrors. An unbiblical concept of never-ending torment in hell-fire crept into Christian thinking and this has persevered beyond the Middle Ages where it was conceived. Modern translations like the NLT NRSV & NASB have corrected the bias of the KJV which often translated the Hebrew OT word ‘sheol’ by the word hell. These modern translations use the word ‘grave’ or ‘place of the dead,’ or just leave the word ‘sheol.’ The reader may be interested to notice that the word ‘hell’ does not appear anywhere in the OT in these modern translations. For a fuller study I have posted a paper on Facebook at One80dungog. 

The psalmist talks about judgement like this: “O let the nations rejoice and be glad for you judge the peoples with equity…” Ps67:4 “Let the field be joyful…all the trees of the wood shall rejoice before the Lord, for He comes, for He comes to judge the earth.” Ps96:12-13. Judgement is apparently an occasion of universal rejoicing. People ask for it: “Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness.” Ps 35:24. The ancient Jews thought of God’s judgement as we would think of a court of justice where the accused can seek vindication and resounding triumph with heavy damages paid. He prays, “Judge my quarrel,” or “avenge my cause” Ps35:23 

Jesus, in the parable of the sheep and goats, paints the traditional Christian view of judgement, then in other places, He is traditionally Jewish. In the parable of the unjust judge, the poor women (Luke18:1-5) has been overpowered by a powerful neighbour. Her case is watertight – all she needs to do is get it into court – she is anxious for ‘judgement.’ 

The Psalmists are not afraid of judgement. Dozens of passages make the point clear as we shall see when we study psalms like Ps.9. The ‘just’ judge rights a wrong in a civil case. The Divine Judge is the defender, rescuer and vindicator. 

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