Groseclose Studies the Hallel Psalms

Win Groseclose. 2015. The Egyptian Hallel Psalms: An Exposition of Psalms 113-118—Observations: Practical, Exegetical, and Theological. New Sewickley Township, PA

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

At Passover, the Egyptian Hallel Psalms are sung before (Ps 113-114) and after (Ps 115-118) the Passover meal. This implies that hymns sung after the Last Supper, as recorded in Matthew 26:30, were likely Psalms 115-118 (1).In his commentary, The Egyptian Hallel Psalms,Win Groseclose cites these objectives:

“My hope, as you reflect upon these psalms is that they encourage you in your worship life, but that they cause you to think and reflect upon how you can live out your praise and worship of our God in a way that draws outsiders into worship alongside of you.”(2)

The purpose of an expository commentary is more generally to describe and explain the passages under review.

Background and Organization 

Win Groseclose is the Senior Pastor, St. John’s (Burry’s) United Evangelical Protestant Church, Rochester, PA, an Adjunct Professor of Theology, International Theological Seminary of Donetsk, Ukraine, and graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.[1]He writes in these chapters:

  1. Praise Yahweh, You Servants of Yahweh (Psalm 113)
  2. When the Mountains Leapt (Psalm 114)
  3. Glory in God Alone (Psalm 115)
  4. For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (Psalm 116)
  5. Oh, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (Hymn)
  6. The Nations Should Praise (Psalm 117)
  7. For He is Good (Psalm 118) (vii)

The first chapter is preceded by an introduction. Because Grosdeclose organizes his book around the Psalms, let me sample two of them, Psalms 113 and 116, as examples.

Psalm 113

Grosdeclose’s exposition organizes his comments primarily verse by verse following his own translation of the Hebrew.  For example, in verse 1 we read:

“Praise Yahweh, praise him you servants of Yahweh! Praise the name of Yahweh.”(Ps 113:1, Grosdeclose’s translation)

“Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!”(Ps 113:1 ESV)

“αλληλουια αἰνεῖτε παῖδες κύριον αἰνεῖτε τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου”(Ps 112:1 BGT)

‎הַ֥לְלוּיָ֙הּ׀הַ֭לְלוּעַבְדֵ֣ייְהוָ֑ההַֽ֜לְלוּאֶת־שֵׁ֥םיְהוָֽה (Ps 113:1 WTT)

For purposes of exposition, I have cited Grosdeclose’s translation along with the English Standard Version, the Greek Septuagint (BGT), and the original Hebrew (WTT). Several observations can be made:

Grosdeclose uses God’s covenant name, Yahweh (יְהוָ֑ה), while normally Jewish tradition substitutes the word, Lord. Yahweh is too sacred in Jewish tradition to use outside of a worship context. Most translations, starting with the Greek, use the word, Lord (κυρίου). 

In his discussion of verse 2 (6), he notes the focus on the sacredness of the name and relates it back to the Second Commandments:

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.“(Exod 20:7 ESV)

We see an echo of concern about the name in Philippians 2:9 (7).

In his discussion of verse 3, he relates the phrase—“From the rising of the sun to its setting”—to Joshua 1:8: 

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”  (Jos 1:8 ESV)

Grosdeclose, like the Psalmist, is clearly interested in the Law of Moses and its careful study. We note that veneration of the name (of God) is a theme in all three of these verses. We also observe that the Greek Septuagint (the first translation of the Old Testament that took place in 200 BC) frequently organizes these verses differently than the Hebrew—in this case, verse one of Psalm 113 is found in a different chapter in the Greek. 

Psalm 116

Grosdeclose observes that the Hallel Psalms frequently appear in the hymns. In this case, he finds a parallel with the hymn, O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing, written by Charles Wesley. Wesley’soriginal edition had noneteen stanzas, just like Psalm 116 and with a similar theme—Thanksgiving. Grosdeclose is so impressed with this hymn that he devotes an entire chapter to reviewing it.

Grosdeclose’s attention to translation shows up again in verse where he depresses theologically from common translations:

“I have loved because Yahweh will hear; my prayer of supplication.”(Ps 116:1, Grosdeclose’s translation)

“I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.”(Ps 116:1 ESV)

“αλληλουια ἠγάπησα ὅτι εἰσακούσεται κύριος τῆς φωνῆς τῆς δεήσεώς μου.”(Ps 114:1 BGT)

‎אָ֭הַבְתִּיכִּֽי־יִשְׁמַ֥ע׀יְהוָ֑האֶת־ק֜וֹלִ֗יתַּחֲנוּנָֽי  (Ps 116:1 WTT)

Again, we observe Grosdeclose sticking closely to the exact wording of the Hebrew. The key phrase is: I have loved because. I have loved is one word in the Hebrew (אָ֭הַבְתִּי) followed by the word because (כִּֽי). The Greek (and the Vulgate) agrees on this point, but also adds the word hallelujah (αλληλουια). 

The English Standard Version and most other translations insert a reference to God, presumably because the parallel cited in verse 2. The parallel mimics only the phrase starting with because. Thus, Grosdeclose’s New Testament cite—

“We love because he first loved us.”(1 John 4:19 ESV)

–seems like a direct quote of Psalm 116 verse 1.

Assessment

Win Groseclose’s book, The Egyptian Hallel Psalms, is an interesting exposition of

Psalms 113 through Psalm 118 with special attention to the translation from Hebrew. It is interesting both to those looking for a devotional reflection on these psalms and those interested in underlying translation issues.


[1]https://preacherwin.com.

Groseclose Studies the Hallel Psalms

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