Thursday, May 14, 2009

Psalm 23, A Perspective from Kenya

It was not that long ago that I did a post in this blog concerning Psalm 23 in African perspective (click here). Now, I've just reviewed a major paper done for my Psalms seminar by Mary Tororeiy, an international student from Kenya, interpreting Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd," through the eyes of Kenya. The paper was just fascinating. Here is one of the images that she presents in her project, her drawing of a traditional homestead-enclosure (click to enlarge):

Click to Enlarge

She notes how great a feel herders in Kenya have for the strong relationship between shepherd and sheep in Psalm 23. The kraal compound has one gate (# 4) for both humans (# 1) and cattle (# 2). Herders and animals are bound together, fenced in together against the chaos outside the fence. The calves and lambs are kept especially close to the residences, either in their own little area (# 3), or sometimes sleeping with the owners in the huts! The family does not mind the smell of dung so close by. In fact, the dung is heaped up in the kraal and the flies it attracts are viewed as a sign of wealth.

God's acting for God's "name's sake" (לְמַעַן שְׁמֽוֹ) in v. 3 of the psalm makes perfect sense in the perspective of Kenya. Of course a herder would want a kraal with lots of flies. You care about your honor so that you create the sort of family that people want to associate with and marry into. This is not about individualistic pride, but about working hard, building up the family and the community. Mary's own last name, is a good illustration of caring for the herd for one's names sake: "Toror" means "glorious, honorable," and "eiy" means "bull," so her family name "Tororeiy" means "glorious bull," pointing to the high quality of animal this family lovingly nurtures.

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