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Original Research

“Friends becoming foes”: a case of social rejection in Psalm 31

Alec Basson

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 27, No 2 (2006), 398-415. doi: 10.4102/ve.v27i2.154

Submitted: 22 September 2006
Published:  17 November 2006


The supplicant of Psalm 31 bemoans the fact that his neighbours and companions treat him like an outcast. What is even more disturbing is the fact that one would expect this from the enemies, as is the case in so many laments. The friends and family who were supposed to provide the necessary support in times of affliction, however, deserted the psalmist. The line between friend and foe became blurred. The plaintiff faces rejection on two fronts: attacked by his enemies and ostracised by his friends. Through the marginalisation the poet no longer feature as a member of the social group that embodies his identity. Instead of being in the centre, he now operates on the periphery, thus bearing the full brunt of social rejection in ancient Israel. This form of rejection is tantamount to life on the “outskirts” of society. Focusing on the notion of spatiality, this paper aims at illustrating that the image-schema of centre-periphery underlies the behaviour of the  companions in Psalm 31. The neighbours and companions reside in the centre (important and honourable), whereas the psalmist exists on the periphery (unimportant and disgraced).

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Author affiliations

Alec Basson, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa



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ISSN: 1609-9982 (print) | ISSN: 2074-7705 (online)

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