Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Is בקש פנים liturgical?

The phrase מְבַקְשֵׁי פָנֶיךָ יַעֲקב ("who seek your face, O Jacob") in Psalm 24:6 has been text critical headache for generations, as I posted about here. One argument in favour of the Septuagint's alternative rendering (ζητούντων τὸ πρόσωπον τοῦ θεοῦ Ιακωβ, "those who seek the face of the God of Jacob") is that בקש פנים belongs to liturgical idiom. Tromp says:

like the verb drš of verse 6a bkš properly signifies the appearing before a god's statue (Kittel, 1929:95). Indeed the lexicon shows that bqš pnym in the Old Testament is exclusively used for a visit to the king (twice) and to God, in order to obtain good advice or help (five times); for this see especially Psalms 27,8 and 105,4 (Gesenius-Buhl, 112B).
I'm probably missing something here, but since when is visiting a king a liturgical act? And if it isn't, then doesn't that simply undermine the argument that, on the basis of the terminology alone, one ought to expect מְבַקְשֵׁי פָנֶיךָ to supplement by אֱלהִים ?

Another question: is the use of the phrase in Psalms 27:8 (אֶת־פָּנֶיךָ יהוה אֲבַקֵּשׁ) and 105:4 (בַּקְּשׁוּ פָנָיו תָּמִיד) necessarily liturgical? Why can't it refer to seeking God in prayer apart from the temple (as the lament Psalms of sickness do)?


Bob MacDonald said...

Hi Phil
you're doing what my pastor has done - his doctorate in Germany and married a continental European - now just had their fourth child. And I can still talk to him though he towers above me in philosophical and theological knowledge and in responsibilities too I might add. But - as if one of your Bible study folks - I might have an opinion on these questions...

so re seeking the face of Jacob - is it not true that the chosen reflects the reality of God's impact? By seeking the face of the Chosen, I seek to know both if that reality is desirable and knowing that desirability, I seek to know in the face of Israel if it is truly desired. Think of the Job comforters - though placed outside of Israel in their characterization - do we not judge them by their statements (and therefore actions etc) about their 'God'?

re the liturgy of the king - I am sure it might be liturgical. It is clear that kings like that sort of thing. Makes them seem important. Bruggemann actually suggests that the later psalms do not sufficiently rehearse the rationale for worshiping God and run the risk of being politically convenient. (I don't agree with him BTW but he has a warning pointer.)

re seeking the face of יהוה continually, it seems to undermine that there is only one place and liturgy where this can happen. I have been reminded both by Rachel Barenblatt today and my own Bible Study yesterday that liturgical action sets a pattern for worship. Seeking the face of God everywhere undermines liturgy. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks... (1 Thess) but maybe I should pay attention to the reminders. How good and pleasant it would be that the unity of worship might emerge with fullness of joy - like the oil and dew of Psalm 133. Perhaps it would not also undo the idiosyncratic presence of the Spirit everywhere and at all times.

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Bob.

the chosen reflects the reality of God's impactI like this. This is one interpretative move I'll be taking.