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Psalms: Chapter 15

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A psalm of David.

1 LORD, who may sojourn in Your tent, who may dwell on Your holy mountain? 2He who lives without blame, who does what is right, and in his heart acknowledges the truth; 3 a‐ Meaning of Heb. uncertain; or “who has no slander upon his tongue.” whose tongue is not given to evil; ‐a Meaning of Heb. uncertain; or “who has no slander upon his tongue.” who has never done harm to his fellow, or borne reproach for [his acts toward] his neighbor; 4for whom a contemptible man is abhorrent, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who stands by his oath even to his hurt; 5who has never lent money at interest, or accepted a bribe against the innocent. The man who acts thus shall never be shaken.

Notes:

a‐a Meaning of Heb. uncertain; or “who has no slander upon his tongue.”

Text Commentary view alone

Ps. 15 :

Perhaps like the previous psalm, this may be considered a psalm of instruction, teaching the listener to become an individual who shall never be shaken (v. 5 ). In Jewish ritual, the psalm is often used as a type of eulogy, expressing the ideal human qualities that assure the deceased a place in the afterlife (see Radak to v. 5 : “Even at his death he shall never be shaken, since his soul will rest in the place of glory”); this is, however, a postbiblical notion. Most modern scholars take v. 1 literally, and suggest that the psalm functioned as an entrance liturgy for the Temple, where who may sojourn in Your tent, who may dwell on Your holy mountain? functions as the beginning of a dialogue between the priest and the worshipper who wishes to enter the Temple precincts. Such liturgies are suggested by Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts, and may also stand behind Ps. 24.3–4 : “Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place?—He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not taken a false oath by My life or sworn deceitfully.” The psalm, like much prophetic literature, emphasizes general moral, rather than cultic, characteristics. As in the Decalogue and later medieval lists of precepts, these are listed in groupings of positive and negative qualities. The qualities listed in this psalm are included among epitomes of the commandments (e.g., Isaiah 33.14–16; Micah 6.8 ) listed in b. Makkot 24a .

1 :

Tent may refer to a temple or sanctuary (see 1 Kings 2.28 ).

2 :

The list begins with very general positive qualities (He who lives without blame, who does what is right), followed by a more specific positive quality (and in his heart acknowledges the truth), which is to be connected to the following v.

3–4 :

Three qualities, all expressed as negatives, balanced by three positive qualities.

5 :

Two negative qualities conclude the list. To be shaken or to totter is the opposite of the ideal of stability. It is uncertain how this conclusion connects to the opening “who may sojourn in Your tent, who may dwell on Your holy mountain?”

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