Happiness and Its Discontents in the Psalms

William P. Brown

in The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199795734
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979691 | DOI:
Happiness and Its Discontents in the Psalms

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The book of Psalms is replete with lament and complaint over suffering. Even so, it is also full of beatitudes and happy- (or ʾašrê-) sayings so that it can be seen as a “guide to the blessed life.” How these two sides of life combine in the psalms indicates that happiness is no simple matter according to the Psalms. At times happiness comes via human agency, sometimes via divine agency, and sometimes via a complex mixture of both. Among other things, this suggests that happiness cannot be simplistically “pursued,” but is most often only received: snatched from the jaws of affliction. Happiness in the Psalms must therefore be read from the perspective of pain seeking understanding.

Keywords: happiness; Psalms; God; suffering; human agency; divine agency

Chapter.  7972 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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