Original Research - Special Collection: Septuagint

An injured and sick body – Perspectives on the theology of Psalm 38

Dirk J. Human
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 1 | a7783 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i1.7783 | © 2022 Dirk J. Human | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 May 2022 | Published: 31 August 2022

About the author(s)

Dirk J. Human, Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Descriptions of body imagery and body parts are evident in expressions of Old Testament texts. Although there is no single term for ‘body’ in the Hebrew mind, the concept of ‘body’ functions in its different parts. As part of anthropomorphic descriptions of God and expressions attached to humankind, body parts have special significance, contributing to the theological dimension of texts. The poems in the Psalter are no exception. Several body parts are mentioned in Psalm 38, an individual lament song. In addition to God’s hand (v. 3) and an allusion to his voice (v. 16), several body parts describe the psalmist’s condition. These include ‘flesh’ (bāšār, 3, 8), bones (‘ætsæm, 3), head (rôsh, 5), loins (kæsæl, 8), heart (lēb, 9, 11), eyes (‘yn, 11), mouth (pæh, 14, 15), and feet (rægæl, 17). In addition, allusions to the ear (14, 15) and injured body (wounds, 6) form part of the psalmist’s lamenting experience.

Contribution: This presentation touches on the general meaning of these body imagery in the Old Testament and their specific function and meaning in the text of Psalm 38. A textual analysis will portray their theological significance.


lament; prayer for wholeness; body parts; body imagery; embodiment; body of God


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