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Psalm 77

Elie Wiesel writes in Night that as a young boy dangled with a noose from a tree, someone asked, “Where is God?” In his mind, he pointed to the boy. For in the midst of the horror of the Extermination Camp, the images of an all-powerful, protective God- in Yiddish called “Tatte,” (“Father”)- could no longer hold the same meaning.

Psalm 77 presents a Psalmist traumatized by tragedy. Most identify the moment with the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians, which entailed mass death, expulsion, an end to Jewish sovereignty, and cessation of Biblical, sacrificial worship. In a dark shadow, the Psalmist declares, “When I recall God, I moan” (verse 4). The Psalm begins, “My voice to God and I cried out loud; my voice to God who gives ear to me” (verse 2), but we are never told if the Psalmist feels heard by God. Rather the second half of the Psalm recounts an earlier time of God’s deliverance, specifically with allusions to the Song of the Sea sung after the Exodus. Classic commentators say that this memory offers comfort and reveals faith. Others see the description of the past as pointing to the gap of God’s absence in the present.

This study session is dedicated to Jack Pariser