A Chance to Respond

I’m rereading Erhard Gerstenberger’s Psalms Part I with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry.  On page 79, Gerstenberger talks about Psalm 11, in which the Psalmist defends himself against accusations by enemies.  Gerstenberger asks if there is evidence in the Hebrew Bible of disputes within the cult—in which someone accuses somebody else, and the accused defends himself, or pleads his innocence before God.

There are indeed statements about divine and cultic ordeals that investigate guilt or innocence.  Deuteronomy 17:8-11 is about Levites and a judge at the central sanctuary pronouncing judgment on difficult cases concerning bloodshed, lawsuits, or assaults.  Exodus 22:7-9 is about God (or judges, according to translations) determining whether a person is a thief.  Numbers 5:11-26 is an ordeal to determine if a woman was unfaithful to her husband.  And Joshua 7:16-21 describes the procedure that led to the discovery of Achan’s sin, and this story concludes with Achan’s confession of guilt.  Gerstenberger says that the accused may have had an opportunity to defend himself or herself before God at such occasions, but we are not told that explicitly.

Gerstenberger then cites what he considers to be “definite evidence of this confrontation with enemies within the worship ceremony (see Psalms 4; 52; 62; and the evidence from Jer 11:18-23; 18:18-23; 20:7-13…)”, but I don’t think that those passages describe that.  Rather, they could be the Psalmist and Jeremiah putting words into their enemies mouths and responding to them—rather than the Psalmist and Jeremiah replying to enemies who are with them in the very vicinity of the cult.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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