As far as I can tell, all of the acrostic Psalms (9-10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145) end appropriately after taw, although many of them are missing various letters.* Psalms 25 and 34 both have an "extra" verse hanging on the end after taw (vv. 22 and 22 [Heb. 23], respectively). Oddly, both start with pe, though neither is missing pe in the sequence of the acrostic. In fact, both final verses start with the same lexeme (p-d-h,"redeem"), although an imperative form in Psalm 25 and a participle in Psalm 34.

  • Is there something special about the textual history of these verses, or something about the letter pe, or something about acrostic technique, (or...?) that might explain these extra verses?

  • Is there any connection between Psalms 25 and 34 that explains this shared idiosyncrasy?

*We have one other question about the topic that I have found.


5 Answers 5


The most I was able to find from my preliminary research is a few lines in this book:

In true acrostics the alphabet used can vary: certain letters can be omitted or transposed. Professor Williams Johnstone has argued that pe replaced waw some stage in the Hebrew alphabet. Since Sirach 51 has a waw verse and an extra pe verse at the end while Psalms 25 and 34 not have the waw verse (but do have the extra pe verse) then the acrostic in Sirach 51 may mark a transitional stage and perhaps it is older than the two Psalms.

Other sources simple explain that the pe was added to complete the number of 22, since the letter waw was omitted from the list (for reasons unknown), to compensate for this loss the letter pe was added in the end (perhaps because it was thought to be the replacement letter of the waw) to complete the 22 letters that were customary in the acrostic Psalms. For the significance of the number 22 see here.

The idea espoused by Johnstone that Sirach 51 marks a transitional stage is pretty audacious, since that would mean that Psalms 25 and 34 were composed no earlier than 200 BC, the time Sirach is thought to have been written down, and at that time the LXX may have already been completed. It is more likely that Sirach 51 marks a later development of the pe-waw replacement method, in which it became customary to end any acrostic psalm with a pe, even when a replacement for the waw wasn't anymore necessary. So although it started off as a replacement method for the letter waw as prof. Johnstone contends, at the time Sirach was composed this tradition morphed into something else and took on a life of its own. Perhaps at that point the letter pe came to symbolize something sacred, and had some other meaning that was completely lost to us.


I don't think Ps 9-10 is acrostic. Too many missing letters and too many verses that are not part of the acrostic. So Psalms 25, 34 & 37 are the 1st 3 acrostic Psalms. Psalm 25 is missing 2 Hebrew letters (vav and kof) and has 1 letter repeated (resh) and the final verse is not part of the acrostic. Psalm 34 is missing 1 letter (vav, which is one of the 2 missing in Ps 25) and the final verse is also not part of the acrostic. The next acrostic, Ps 37 is the first perfect acrostic with all 22 letters and no extras. This shows the experience of the Psalms getting finer as we advance in them, at least in book 1 of the Psalms. See the end of my comments on Psalm 25 here: http://www.voiceinwilderness.info/psalm_25.htm


Psalm 25 is not a perfect acrostic of the alphabet. It skips Qof, repeats Resh. I think the most general but soundest answer is that these acrostics don't have to be perfect. David was inspired to add another verse, perhaps after he had finished it. The break in the acrostic at the end also has the effect of being epigrammatic - kind of like the couplet on the end of sonnets.

  • It would be interesting to show us an example. Thanks,
    – Dieter
    Jun 2, 2018 at 0:36

In researching this question on Mi Yodeya, I came across the following idea, which would answer your question (slightly edited):

This paper (end of page 3) cites a number of earlier sources that note that when one letter from near the beginning is removed, and a final line beginning with פ is added ('פודה ה), the first, middle, and final letters spell out אלף, which is not only the first letter of the Aleph Bet, but also means to teach. As this paper notes (section 4), teaching is a central theme of this Psalm:

The theme of teaching picks up on the key words of Ps 25, למד or יורה in vv 4, 5, 8, 9, 12.

(If that was the case, the choice of combining two into one sentence makes sense, and this was likely the easiest based on the vav already being in a correct position.)


The son inherits the nations in Psalm 2 and the good shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep, the king is in 22, 23, 24 directly proceeding 25

I think the two acrostics 25 and 37 are inclusio bookends and punch the idea that the redeemed inherit the earth. Those who fear the lord, the humble the pure and yes 'the meek inherits the earth' in the son and in God. The meek inherit with earth with many Psalms touching on Jesus' sufferings between 25 and 37 making it possible. Book 1 of Psalms is poetically Genesis and this aspect extends poetically Abraham inheriting the land in Genesis to the Psalms Book 1 Ps 1 to Ps 41. (Other similarities to Genesis would be book 1 starts with a man like a tree of life and ends with a man like Joseph betrayed for the sins of the world and quoted by Jesus at the last supper in Psalm 41.)

Psalm 25 also has 'God leads sinners in the way' so an imperfect acrostic could be deliberate. We see a large-scale acrostic breakdown in Lamentations where the first stanza is triple acrostic then the second stanza double and it works down until the last is not at all acrostic, as if someone broke down emotionally in grief. The point is sometimes a departure from acrostic could be deliberate.

In the case of Psalms 9 and 10, they have at least two things going on. In Psalm 8 there is someone who is like a second Adam over creation whereas in Psalms 9 and 10 he is in contrast with the man of the earth who does injustice. As far as a ganged acrostic 9 is like victory is here with the first half of the Hebrew alphabet and 10 is like victory is not yet with how longs and the 2nd half of the Hebrew alphabet Just as the second Adam of Psalms 8 contrasts with the man of the earth in 9 and 10, Psalm 2 contrasts with 3 as there is a son of God in Ps 2 and David is on the run from the son in Psalm 3.

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