One of the quiz question in today's class is to determine the genre of Psalm 13. Maggie Low, our Old Testament lecturer, said that it is a "Lament" psalm, period. The psalmist was mourning over his own struggle with grief, sorrow, and or possibly regret.
I don't think so. Let's look at Psalm 13 from the English Standard Version:
V.1-2I sensed anger in the psalm. It is not a mourn of lament. It is an expression of resentment. Why so?
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him,"
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
It is obvious from verse 1 - 2 that the psalmist has God's promise to deliver him from his problems in his mind. Unless this is so, it does not make sense for the psalmist to harbor expectation for God to help him. And it is not a vague expectation. The psalmist has specific expectation, that is his God will rescue him from his enemies. Such specific expectation can not exist in the psalmist's mind unless this particular clause in his relationship with his God is assumed.
Would you expect your friend to come to your house for dinner unless she has promised to do so? If she has promised to come but did not turn up, you have all the reason to be angry and write a psalm. But if your friend did not promise you that she will come, then you should not feel angry if she did not turn up simply for the fact that there is no such expectation (unless you are a sociopath). And without expectation, there is no reason to be angry, not to mention to write an angry psalm.
This said, yet I did not make the case that this means that Psalm 13 is an angry psalm. The psalmist can, well, lament too given his unfulfilled expectation. But this is the point: We cannot determine the category of this psalm as a "Lament". It can also be an angry psalm. Maggie misses this point. I think she is following the textbook where this psalm is identified as a lament. (Tremper Longman III & Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd Edition (USA: Zondervan, 2006), p.248)
The textbook also states that Lament psalm composed of seven basic elements: (1) Invocation, (2) Plea to God for help, (3) Complaints, (4) Confession of sin or an assertion of innocence, (5) Curse of enemies, (6) Confidence in God's response, and (7) Hymn or blessing. But not many psalms are composed like this (p.248) In other words, this is not a strict category.
But why there is no such category as 'Angry' psalm? The textbook lists only: Kingship, wisdom, Remembrance, Confidence, Thanksgiving, Lament, and Hymn (p.246-252)
Some might say that the psalmist cannot be angry with God because verse 5-6 show his trust in God. But these two verses can well be the psalmist's indirect speech act that demands God to act. That means the angry psalmist is indirectly demanding God to act fast and act NOW given that God was not doing God's part in the relationship.
After becoming the President of the United States for more than one year now, Obama has disappointed some of his supporters. Yet Americans can say to their president that they still and will continue to trust him and celebrate his office, so he has to act fast and act now.
Of course I didn't bring this up in the class as I had not formulated this at that time. Yet to force an uncertain category to the psalms and demand the students to swallow this dubiety is not helping us to learn, not least to think.
If my case makes sense, then there should be a category of 'Angry' psalm. The textbook is just a platform to help us to learn and think, not to box us into categories which the textbook itself confesses ignorance.