Psalm 75

There is a cup in Adonai’s hand with foaming wine fully mixed; from this God pours; all the wicked of the earth drink, draining it to the very dregs. (75:9)

The topic of this Psalm is a condemnation of arrogance. This particular verse caught my eye for its evocative imagery, but I didn’t immediately understand the point. In ancient times, wine was always mixed with water. This particular cup of wine is foaming – not a word one usually associates with a cup of wine. In fact, the root hamar is found only three other times in the Hebrew Bible, meaning anguish, tumult, and foaming (with rage). The cup of wine that God is serving here, therefore, is questionable. Perhaps the scene is an elegant dinner party at which poisonous wine is served. The wealthy, well dressed, arrogant, guests elbow their way to the front and snatch all of the bubbling, foaming, glasses of wine, leaving the more modest and polite guests with none. They drain the cup to the last drop and die horrible deaths, and finally, the meek inherit the earth (wait — that’s not one of our texts …)!

Leaving aside the question of theodicy, that God literally rewards and punishes, there is a clear truth in the idea that arrogance plants the seeds of its own downfall. An arrogant person will tend to make the same mistakes over and over again, unable to understand that bad outcomes are a result of bad decisions. Those who are humble will examine their behavior for things that they could have done differently. Those who are arrogant will blame their misfortune on the behavior of those around them.

In the end, a person’s arrogance and refusal to change patterns of behavior will lead to his or her downfall. We reap what we sow, and in the end, we drink the cup of wine that we ourselves have mixed and poured.

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