Study of Poverty Terms in Psalm 82 & The Psalter

Psalm 82 includes a linguistic emphasis on marginalized people in various levels and types of need. The synonyms for the poor or disadvantaged are extensive in Psalm 82:3-4. It is the densest list of synonyms for the poor in the Hebrew Bible. A study of these terms demonstrated that they appear uniquely ordered in Psalm 82 (for example, the orphan appears without the widow, and the normal hendiadys עָנִי and אֶבְיוֹן is split, each occurring independently).

The terms of poverty featured in Psalm 82:3-4 occur regularly throughout the Psalter. In an attempt to explore the boundaries of these terms, I extended my linguistic study to look at other terms for powerless or marginalized individuals in Hebrew, i.e., the widow and the foreigner. The graphics in the image below show that the list of terms for the poor in Psalm 82 includes both common and uncommon descriptors. Some words, like ‘nî and ‘vyôn are extremely common, while others, such as rsh and dl, are rare. The inclusion of such a complete list in Psalm 82 is extraordinary.

The following handout shows a summary of findings from the more extensive research published in my dissertation. I have presented these findings at Trinity College Bristol PGR Conference in 2018, where my paper received the Research Award. This information was also referenced in a paper I presented at the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Annual Meeting in 2019, and in 2022 at the Psalms in Interfaith Context Reading Group hosted by the Oxford Interfaith Forum.

Read more about this presentation in context of my research on Psalm 82.