Biblical Archaeology Review 36:3, May/June 2010

Biblical Views: Searching for a Woman’s Voice in Psalms

By Marc Zvi Brettler

Feminist study often calls attention to what is absent, such as a female voice or point-of-view in a particular text. I am using this approach, among others, as I study the Book of Psalms. Upon first, second and even third reading, no psalm from Psalms was obviously recited by a woman. In contrast, tens of psalms deal with “male issues,” such as victory in war. Moreover, the Hebrew grammar does not suggest that any psalm was recited by or on behalf of a woman. Many that look gender-neutral in translation are not so in Hebrew; the Jewish Publication Society translation of the beginning of Psalm 1:1, “Happy is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked,” is more accurate than the New Revised Standard Version’s “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked.” The Hebrew word ’ish is masculine singular “man.”

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