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Persuading God: Rhetorical Studies of First-Person Psalms

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Written by a scholar of rhetoric, Persuading God demonstrates that the first-person psalms that make up over a third of the Book of Psalms were designed not simply to express the feelings of individual Israelites but to persuade God to act.

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Written by a scholar of rhetoric, Persuading God demonstrates that the first-person psalms that make up over a third of the Book of Psalms were designed not simply to express the feelings of individual Israelites but to persuade God to act.

The book casts a new light on the roles of all the players in the situations in which the psalms were composed and performed: the person represented by the speaker on whose particular troubles the psalm is based, the spectators and opponents who are sometimes addressed directly by the speaker, the poet-musicians who craft the speaker’s case and occasionally undermine it, and most of all, God as the direct addressee whose presumed openness to persuasion and willingness to intervene underlie the entire event.

The readings provide new explanations for many long-standing puzzles: how to deal with the long string of imprecations in Psalm 109, whether Psalm 4 is best read as protesting a false accusation or as countering apostasy, why so many verses in Psalm 62 begin with the exclamation ach , and, more generally, why so many first-person psalms seem to swing abruptly between despair and praise.

The book demonstrates the relevance of contemporary rhetorical theory to Hebrew Bible studies, including the work of ChaÌøm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, Kenneth Burke, and Mikhail Bakhtin. It also illuminates the state of rhetorical practice in the ancient Near East at the same time that rhetorical theories were first being codified and taught in archaic and classical Athens.

Additional information

Table of Contents

Introduction
Psalms as Arguments in the Israelite Public Sphere
Beyond Psychologizing the Speaker
Beyond Presuming Piety
Distinguishing Rhetorical and Literary Analyses
Ancient and Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
Toward a Rhetorical Theory of the Psalms
Stances toward God
A Note on Translations

1. PRAISE AS DIVINE CURRENCY
Praise as Negotiable Currency
Psalm 71: Extending the Supply of Praise
Praise as a Charged Current
Psalm 16: Balancing with God's Guidance
Psalm 26: Ongoing Refinement
Psalm 131: Bragging on Quietism

2. INSTRUCTIONS FOR KEEPING FAITH
Two Pieces of Rhetorical Theory: Amplitude and Identification
Psalm 4: A Seven-Step Recovery Program
Psalm 62: Restoring the Expletive
Psalm 82: Persuading Gods
Conclusion: Bait and Switch?

3. THE LAMENT AS PROPOSAL
Psalm 54: Invoking Action
Psalm 13: Questioning Absence
Absence of Amplitude
Address, Problem, Action: Divine and Reciprocal

4. SONGS OF INNOCENCE
Psalm 44: God's Breach of Covenant
Psalm 22: From Worm to Champion
Psalm 17: Assertions of Godliness
Conclusion

5. THE KAIROS OF CURSES
Psalm 7: Measured Innocence
Psalm 35: Paying Back in Kind
Psalm 109: Returning Curse for Curse
Conclusion

6. RECOVERING FROM GUILT
The Discourse of Guilt
Psalm 130: Proclaiming Patience
Psalm 38: Eloquently Inarticulate
Psalm 51: An Action-Oriented Confession
Conclusion

7. SELF-PERSUASION AND WISDOM
Psalm 77: Reimagining the Past
Psalm 73: Speaking Internally and Externally
Discipline and Persuasion

Book information

Author
Davida H. Charney
List Price
£45 / $70 / €55
Series
Hebrew Bible Monographs, 73
Scholars' Price
£22.50 / $35 / €27.50
ISBN 13 hardback
978-1-909697-80-5
Paperback price
£18.50 / $22.50 / €20
ISBN 13 Paperback
978-1-910928-21-9
Format
Hardback / Paperback
Page Extent
xii + 156
Publication Date
July 2015
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