Psalm 39 as a response to the doctrine of retribution

  • Phil J. Botha University of Pretoria
Keywords: Psalm 39, Psalm 34, Psalm 37, Psalm 73, retribution


Psalm 39 is a peculiar, late post-exilic wisdom composition which reflects the style of a supplication of a sick person, but actually rather constitutes a meditation on the transitoriness of human life. It has been neatly integrated into the conclusion of Book I of the Psalter by a late post-exilic redaction, but displays antithetic views with regard to expectations about retribution expressed in other psalms ostensibly from the same post-exilic era. This article explores its possible purpose in view of its form, its integration into Book I of the Psalter, and particularly its contrastive stance towards Pss 34 and 37. Its criticism of the doctrine of retribution renders it very similar to Ps 73 and the Book of Job, and the psalm is therefore compared to these texts as well.

Author Biography

Phil J. Botha, University of Pretoria
Professor, Department of Ancient Languages and Cultures


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