Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Matt 6:10, cont.)

“May your Kingdom come!”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou
Matthew 6:10a

In the previous study, we explored the literary context of the Matthean version of the Lord’s Prayer (6:9-13, with its Kingdom-petition [v. 10a])—and, specifically, its position within the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (chaps. 5-7). In particular, the earlier Kingdom-references (including those in the Sermon) were examined. Now we turn to the Lord’s Prayer itself, considering the distinctiveness of the Matthean version of the Prayer (as it occurs in the Sermon), and how it relates to the Kingdom-theme.

Even the casual student of the New Testament will likely be aware of the differences between the Matthean and Lukan versions of the Prayer—with Luke containing a significantly shorter version. Later copyists tended to harmonize the two versions, reducing (or eliminating) the apparent differences; however, virtually all critical commentators recognize the originality of the shorter version for Luke. Whether the Lukan Prayer more accurately represents an original “Q” version is more difficult to determine. Even if it does reflect the original “Q” material, the Matthean ‘additions’ are best explained as being representative of the version of the Prayer familiar to the Gospel writer’s Community. Doubtless, even in the first century, the Prayer circulated widely, perhaps in several different iterations. The familiar lines “for thine is the kingdom and the power…”, etc, offers evidence (from the early centuries) for a continuing adaptation (and expansion) of the Prayer, for liturgical use.

The only ‘addition’ that is likely to come directly from the hand of the Matthean author is the qualifying phrase “the (One) in the heavens” (o( e)n toi=$ ou)ranoi=$) in the initial invocation to God: “Our Father, the (One) in the heavens” (Pa/ter h(mw=n o( e)n toi=$ ou)ranoi=$). This wording is utterly distinctive of the Matthean Gospel, making it quite likely that it is an adaptation (expanding the simple Pa/ter h(mw=n, cp. Lk 11:2) by the Gospel writer. The possibility must also be considered that the wording could reflect usage by the author’s Community, rather than an independent modification by the author.

The distinctiveness of the expression (as a qualifying phrase for God the Father) was discussed in the previous study. The specific expression “my/your Father the (One) in the heavens” occurs six times in the Sermon on the Mount (5:16, 45; 6:1, 9; 7:11, 21), along with another 7 times in the Gospel (10:32-33; 12:50; 16:17; 18:10, 14, 19)—13 total (cf. also 23:9). By comparison, it occurs just once in all the other Gospel combined (Mk 11:25). Similarly, the parallel expression “(my/your) heavenly Father” occurs six times in Matthew, including 4 times in the Sermon on the Mount (5:48; 6:14, 26, 32; 15:13; 18:35), and nowhere else in the Gospels (but cf. Lk 11:13) or the rest of the New Testament. We must consider also the fact that use of the plural “heavens” (ou)ranoi/) and the expression “in the heavens” (e)n [toi=$] ou)ranoi=$) itself is especially prevalent in the Gospel of Matthew:

    • e)n [toi=$] ou)ranoi=$ occurs 15 times in Matthew, including 7 times in the Sermon on the Mount (5:12, 16, 45; 6:1, 9; 7:11, 21), but only 6 in the other Gospels (Mk 11:25; 12:25; 13:25; Lk 10:20; 12:33; 18:22).
    • Matthew has “kingdom of the heavens” (basilei/a tw=n ou)ranw=n) instead of “kingdom of God” (basilei/a tou= qeou=) for a number of Synoptic (and “Q”) sayings of Jesus. The former expression is only found in Matthew (32 times), nowhere else in the New Testament (see also the discussion in the previous study); by contrast, “kingdom of God” is used only 5 times in Matthew, compared with 14 in Mark, 32 in Luke, and 16 times in John and the rest of the New Testament.

It is possible that Matthew preserves a Semitic mode of expression which may have been altered or omitted when presenting Jesus’ sayings in Greek (to a Greek audience), which could explain why it disappeared from the Synoptic tradition as a whole. The Synoptic saying in Mark 11:25 might be seen as confirming this (note the similar in content and style with the instruction by Jesus on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount and the “Q” material):

“And when you stand speaking out toward (God) [i.e. praying], you must release [i.e. forgive] (it) if you hold any(thing) against any(one), (so) that your Father the (One who is) in the heavens [o( e)n toi=$ ou)ranoi=$] might also release [i.e. forgive] for you your (moment)s of falling alongside [i.e. sins/trespasses]”

At the very least, this demonstrates that the expression on the lips of Jesus was not the invention of the Gospel writer. In a similar way, direct evidence for the use of the Aramaic aB*a^ (°abb¹°) by Jesus has disappeared from the Gospel tradition, except for one place in Mark (14:36) where it happens to be preserved.

The extensive use of the plural (ou)ranoi/) in Matthew may also reflect the corresponding word in Hebrew and Aramaic, which is always in the plural—<y]m^v* š¹mayim; Aram. /y]m^v= (always emphatic aY`m^v= š§mayy¹°, “the heavens”). A reconstruction of the Matthean phrase in Aramaic might be: aY`m^v=B! yD! an`Wba& (°A_»ûn¹° dî bišmayy¹°); cf. Fitzmyer, p. 901. Aramaic aY`m^v= has essentially the same range of meaning as oi( ou)ranoi/ in Greek. For Aramaic references in the Old Testament, where it refers to the abode of God, cf. Dan 2:18-19, 28, 37, 44; 4:31, 34; Ezra 5:11-12; 6:9-10, etc. The close association of God with “heaven” is indicated by the fixed (emphatic) expression “the God of Heaven” (aY`m^v= Hl*a$). It is possible that “…Father the (One) in the heavens” in Matthew reflects such a traditional expression in Aramaic.

Whether one attributes the phrase “our Father the (One) in the heavens” primarily to the Gospel writer or to Jesus himself (in Aramaic), there can be no doubt of the importance it has to the Sermon on the Mount, where it occurs six times (5:16, 45; 6:1, 9; 7:11, 21); the expression “in the heavens” itself occurs again in 5:12, and “the kingdom of the heavens” (par. to “kingdom of God”) also six times (5:3, 10, 19 [twice], 20; 7:21). In addition, we find the parallel expression “(your) heavenly Father” (o( path\r [u(mw=n] o( ou)ra/nio$) four times in the Sermon (5:48; 6:14, 26, 32), as noted above. Thus there is a definite (and concentrated) emphasis on associating God the Father with “the heavens” in the Matthean Sermon on the Mount, beyond anything we find elsewhere in the Gospel tradition. How is this to be understood?

The main point of emphasis appears to be the idea that the behavior of Jesus’ disciples on earth should follow the example of God the Father in heaven. This is clearly expressed in 5:16 and 45, and the principle is summarized powerfully in the declaration of verse 48, whereby, if Jesus’ teaching is followed:

“You shall then be complete, (even) as your heavenly Father is complete.”

When we turn to the instruction in 6:1-18 (of which the Lord’s Prayer is a part), we find a slightly different emphasis: that of a dualistic contrast between common religious behavior by people (on earth) and the behavior of Jesus followers (focused on God in heaven). The principle is well expressed in the opening verse: “you must not do (things) in front of men to be seen by them, otherwise you hold no wage [i.e. reward] from your Father the (One) in the heavens”. The earthly desire and inclination of human beings is to demonstrate one’s religious devotion publicly, and to receive recognition for it from other people. Such recognition, Jesus says, is the only reward such people will receive—i.e. earthly, not heavenly (vv. 2b, 5b, 16b). Jesus’ followers are instructed to behave in just the opposite way—to act privately (“in the hidden [place]”), being concerned only about being seen by God (who is in heaven), vv 3-4, 6, 17-18

In all of this there is an implicit spiritual dimension at work, even though the Spirit (Pneu=ma) is not specifically mentioned, neither in the Lord’s Prayer (the variant reading in Lk 11:2b has already been discussed), nor in the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. This is in contrast to the Lukan context of the Prayer, where the Spirit it is of the utmost importance (cf. the earlier study). I would, however, maintain that for the Matthean form of the Prayer, in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, the idea of the Spirit is embedded in the expression “in the heavens” —i.e. the heavenly dimension defined by God’s own Power and Presence. This will be discussed further.

In the first portion of the Prayer, in the Lukan version (11:2), there are two paired petitions: “May your name be made holy / May your Kingdom come”. These are also present in Matthew’s version (v. 9b-10a), with identical wording (a(giasqh/tw to\ o&noma/ sou: e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou). However, Matthew includes a third petition (“May your will be done”, v. 10b) not found in Luke (though it was added by copyists). This produces a triad of three petitions in the first section of the Matthean Prayer, with the Kingdom-petition at the center. Moreover, the two flanking petitions would seem to be parallel, both in form and meaning:

“May your name be made holy”
a(giasqh/tw to\ o&noma/ sou
“May your will be done”
genhqh/tw to\ qe/lhma/ sou

In each instance, the petition begins with a passive (aorist) imperative, with the subject being a particular attribute/aspect of the God ‘who is in the heavens’. This could be taken as an example of the so-called divine passive (passivum divinum), in which God is the implied actor. Since the petition addresses God, this would be a natural way to understand the wording. However, there can be little doubt that an emphasis is on the actions of human beings—both in treating God (and His name) with sanctity and honor, and in acting according to His will. Since the Kingdom-petition is at the center of these two flanking petitions, it is fair to assume (or at least consider) that these two petitions inform the meaning and significance of the Kingdom-petition.

Let us consider briefly the first petition. The verb used is a(gia/zw (“make pure/holy”). It can be used specifically in a ritual/ceremonial context, but also in a broader ethical-religious (or spiritual) sense, as with the adjective a(gno/$ (“pure, holy”, cp. a%gio$), from which the verb is derived. It is extremely rare in the Synoptic Gospels, occurring just once (Matt 23:17, 19) outside of the Lord’s Prayer. It is somewhat more common in the Gospel of John; cf. my recent note on 1 John 3:3.

When it comes to the specific idea of holiness, there are two aspects which should be delineated: (1) purity, and (2) setting something apart for special (religious) use. The Greek a%gio-/a(gno– word group emphasizes the former, while Hebrew/Aramaic vdq (qdš) the latter. Moreover, a fundamental religious principle is that: what we treat as holy in terms of religious behavior ultimately is an expression of how we view the nature and character of God. For Israel as the chosen people of God (YHWH), this is defined by the formula in Leviticus 19:2:

“You shall be holy, for I, YHWH your God, am Holy”

Jesus effectively restates this for his followers in the Sermon on the Mount—if they follow his teaching, then:

“…you shall be complete, as your Father the (One) in the heavens is complete” (Matt 5:48)

Thus, true religion requires that people act and think in a way that honors God and reflects His own Person and Character, including all the things He has done on behalf of humankind and His people (as Creator, Life-giver, Savior/Protector, Judge, etc).

According to the ancient religious mind-set, shared by Jews and Christians in the first century A.D., the “name” of God represented the Person and Nature of God manifest to human beings on earth. For more on this concept of names and naming, cf. the Christmas season series “And you shall call His Name…” The “name” of God the Father is more than simply the name expressed by the tetragrammaton (hwhy, YHWH, Yahweh)—it reflects the very Person of God Himself as He relates to His People. And, it is God’s “name” that is to be honored and treated as holy by His People—cf. Exod 20:7, etc. By the time of the Prophets, the emphasis had shifted away from a ritual honoring of God’s name, toward honoring it in terms of one’s overall behavior and conduct (see esp. Isa 29:23). Jesus, in his teaching (as in the Sermon on the Mount), moves even further in this direction, and this is certainly intended in the Lord’s Prayer. But why/how is it that we pray to God for this, when it is our (i.e. human beings’) responsibility to treat His Name as holy? The key to this lies in the eschatological orientation of the Prayer, which will be discussed as part of the next study.

For examples in Jewish tradition of invocations or petitions similar to those in the (Matthean) Lord’s Prayer, I point out several here:

    • “…their Father in heaven, the Holy One” (Mekilta on Exod 20:25; Fitzmyer, p. 900)
    • “Thou art holy and Thy name is holy, and the holy ones praise Thee every day. Selah. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, the holy God.” (Shemoneh Esreh [3rd benediction])
    • “Let his great name be magnified and hallowed in the world which he has created according to his will” (The Qaddiš [Kaddish] prayer; Betz, p. 390)

In the next study, we will look at the second of the two flanking petitions—the third petition in the Matthean version of the Prayer. By examining both of these petitions, we will gain a better idea of what the Gospel writer (and Jesus as the speaker in the Matthean Gospel) understood with regard to the Kingdom-petition and the coming of God’s Kingdom (“May your Kingdom come”).

References above marked “Fitzmyer” are to Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV), Anchor Bible [AB], vol. 28A (1985).

 

 

 

 

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 102 (Part 2)

Psalm 102, continued

There are two main stanzas to Psalm 102: the first (vv. 2-12), discussed in Part 1, involves the individual sickness and suffering of the Psalmist/protagonist, while the second (vv. 13-23) focuses on the suffering of the people as a whole (and their land). The affliction of the Psalmist thus serves as an emblem for the people as whole, presumably in the exilic (or early post-exilic) period. In the first portion of the second stanza, vv. 13-18, the protagonist expresses his trust in YHWH, lauding His greatness and His Kingship, anticipating, as he does, the restoration of the Israelite/Judean kingdom (centered at Jerusalem). Just as the Psalmist’s suffering parallels that of the people as a whole, so his hope for healing and deliverance parallels the expectation for the restoration of Zion.

Second Stanza: Verses 13-23 [12-22]

Verse 13 [12]

“But you, YHWH, for (the) distant (future) sit (as King),
and mention of you (lasts) for cycle and cycle!”

This initial (4+3) couplet, praising YHWH as King, is nearly identical with Lamentations 5:19, the notable difference being “your memorial” (;r=k=z]) instead of “your throne” (;a&s=K!). It is possible that Lamentations here quotes the Psalm, making the natural substitution of “throne” for “memorial”. The noun rk#z@, from the root rkz I (“mention, have in mind, call to mind”), here relates to YHWH’s renown and glory as King, which makes Him worthy to be spoken of (and invoked) for all generations to come. The pairing of the temporal expressions, <l*oul= (“for/[in]to the distant [future]”) and rd)w` rd)l= (“for cycle and cycle”), is traditional and occurs frequently in the Psalms. The noun roD (rD)) means “circle”, indicating, in this context, a cycle of time (“age”), or the circle of people (“generation”) living during a particular cycle. YHWH’s reign as King lasts “into the far distant future” —i.e., forever.

Verse 14 [13]

“You (surely) will stand up (and) have mercy (on) Ṣiyyôn—
for (the) time to show her favor,
indeed has come, (the) appointed time!”

The pronoun hT*a^ (“you”) at the beginning of this verse matches that of v. 13; here, in particular, its occurrence is emphatic. The Psalmist urges YHWH to act, expressing confidence that God, in His ruling power (as King, v. 13), will surely now (or soon) take action. The idea is that YHWH will stand up (from His throne) and exercise His royal authority, so as to deliver Zion and restore the kingdom to the people of Israel/Judah. This restorative act is referenced in terms of “showing mercy/compassion” (vb <j^r*, Piel), implying YHWH’s deep love for His people (and the city of Jerusalem). The act is particularly described as that of a sovereign who shows favor (vb /n~j*) to a subordinate.

The Psalmist is convinced that this, indeed, is the time—considered as the “appointed (time)” (du@om)—for the restoration to occur, now, after a period of suffering and desolation (i.e., exile), which parallels the individual suffering and sickness of the Psalmist/protagonist (see above, and the exegesis of the first stanza in Part 1).

Metrically, this verse is a long 4-beat (4+4) couplet; however, the poetic rhythm seems better served by parsing it as a 4+2+2 tricolon.

Verse 15 [14]

“Indeed, your servants are favorable (toward) her stones,
and (even to) her dust they would show favor.”

If YHWH’s servants are eager to show favor to Jerusalem (in her ruins), then how much more should YHWH Himself wish to show her favor! There is also a certain chain of relationship at work here: YHWH is the Sovereign who shows favor to His servants, and they, in turn, would show favor to the ruined city (i.e., its stones and dust) by rebuilding it. But the servants can only convey this favor to the city if YHWH first bestows it upon them; in so doing, YHWH is effectively showing favor Himself upon the city.

The verbs hx*r* and /n~j* (also used in v. 14) are conceptually related in this regard. The first verb (hx*r*) indicates that a person has a favorable attitude or disposition toward someone (or something), while the second (/n~j*) denotes showing favor or bestowing a favor.

Even today, in an entirely different time period and generation, devout Israelites and Jews show favor to the ruins of Jerusalem, e.g., by spending time in prayer and meditation before the Western (‘Wailing’) Wall.

Metrically, this verse returns to the 3-beat (3+3) couplet format that tends to dominate the two main stanzas.

Verse 16 [15]

“And (even) the nations will fear (the) name of YHWH,
and all (the) kings of the earth your weight.”

The devotion that God’s people show to YHWH, acknowledging Him as King (v. 13), will eventually be shared by all the nations. This expectation, of the nations joining Israel in recognizing YHWH as their Sovereign and God, was an important theme of the Kingship Psalms 93-100. It is a key component of the eschatological prophecies of the exilic and post-exilic period, but a rudimentary form of the theme seems to have developed already by the late kingdom-period.

In ancient Near Eastern thought, a person’s name represents and embodies the person, in a magical sort of way. This is all the more true in the religious sphere, with regard to God. A deity is understood to be present (and manifest) through his/her name; and Israel shared this basic belief with regard to YHWH. The people were able to have contact with YHWH, in a symbolic and ritual manner, through His name. This was realized in a number of different ways and context, but, most notably, through the idea that YHWH’s name was present in the Temple sanctuary. The presence of God’s name applied to (was “called over/upon”) the entire building complex; the entire structure belonged to YHWH, and His name fully pervaded its precincts. This is a key theme in the Deuteronomic Writings; see, in particular, the Prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8 par), and my recent notes on this passage. On the significance of names and naming in ancient Near Eastern thought, cf. the Introduction to the series “And You Shall Call His Name…”.

YHWH is also manifest through His dobK* (“weight”)—viz., His attributes, etc, all that makes Him ‘weighty’ and worthy of honor and praise, etc. This dobK* came to conceptualized visually, drawing upon storm-theophany and various kinds of light-imagery; it was envisioned as a brilliant splendor that covered and surrounded YHWH. In 1 Kings 8 (see above), the dobK* of YHWH, manifest in the Temple, is described briefly (using traditional imagery) in vv. 10-11f; in the remainder of the passage, the emphasis is on the name of YHWH.

The meter of v. 16 is 4+3, as in the first couplet (v. 13).

Verse 17 [16]

“Indeed, (when) YHWH has built Ṣiyyôn,
(and) is seen (there) in (all) His weight,”

The precise syntactical relationship of vv. 16-18 may be debated. It is possible to read verse 17 as a continuation of v. 16:

“Even the nations will fear (the) name of YHWH,
and all (the) kings of the earth your weight,
when YHWH has built Ṣiyyôn (again),
(and) is seen (there) in (all) His weight”

That is to say, it is the restoration of Israel (including the rebuilding of Jerusalem) which will lead to the nations revering YHWH (as their God). Indeed, the coming of the nations to Jerusalem is a key theme in a number of Prophetic passages (e.g., Micah 4:1-5, par Isa 2:1-4), and is particularly prominent in connection with the eschatological theme of Israel’s restoration.

This approach is altogether valid. And yet, at the same time, one can also read verse 18 as a continuation of v. 17 (see below). I am more inclined to emphasize the relationship between vv. 17 and 18, indicated by the alliterative wordplay between the verbs hn*B* (b¹nâ, “build”) and hn*P* (p¹nâ, “turn, face”); on this point, cf. Dahood, III, p. 17f.

In any case, this verse clearly expresses the expectation for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. By all accounts, such a rebuilding has not yet occurred, but is viewed as a real possibility (in the near future). This would be accord with an exilic (or early post-exilic) date for the Psalm.

The meter of verse 17 is 3+2, followed by 3+3 in v. 18.

Verse 18 [17]

“(then) He will have turned to (the) prayer of the naked,
and (indeed) will not have disregarded their prayer.”

The implication of the Psalmist’s wording here is that the rebuilding of Jerusalem will be proof that YHWH has heard and answered (“turned to”) his prayer—and, collectively, the prayer of all other faithful and devout ones, who currently suffer (like the Psalmist) in the face of the kingdom’s ruin. The Psalmist’s purpose, again, is to urge YHWH to take action, beginning the chain of events that will lead to Israel’s restoration and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

The righteous ones, who are currently suffering, are designated here, collectively, as “the naked” (ru*r=u^h*). An implicit allusion to the suffering of the protagonist (in stanza 1) is probably intended. If so, then it anticipates the concluding section of the Psalm (vv. 24-29), in which the protagonist’s suffering (and his deliverance from suffering) is paired with that of the people as a whole. The conclusion, along with the remainder of the second stanza (vv. 19-23) will be examined in Part 3.

References marked “Dahood, I”, “Dahood, II” and “Dahood, III” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968), and Psalms III: 101-150, vol. 17A (1970).

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8 and the Role of the Temple (cont.)

In this conclusion to our series of notes on the Prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8, we are examining the two major themes of this Prayer (and its surrounding narrative): (1) the centralization of worship, and (2) the name of YHWH. Last week, the theme of centralization of worship was discussed; today, we will be looking at the second theme.

The name of YHWH

Throughout the Prayer, there is a strong emphasis on the Temple as the place where God’s name resides—vv. 16-20, 33, 35, 42-44, 48. In this regard, 1 Kings 8 is simply continuing an important theme and motif of the Deuteronomic history. Beginning with the book of Deuteronomy, the idea of a place for God’s name is used to designate the city of Jerusalem (and the specific site of the Temple), and, by extension, the territory/kingdom of Judah as a whole. The presence of His name indicates that YHWH has chosen Judah and Jerusalem for His dwelling-place among His people. For the key references, see Deut 12:11, 21; 14:23-24; 16:2, 6, 11; 26:2; 2 Sam 7:13; 1 Kings 9:3, 7; 11:36; 14:21; 2 Kings 21:4, 7; 23:27.

There are three principal aspects to this emphasis on YHWH’s name that need to be noted:

    1. In ancient Near Eastern thought, a person’s name stands for the person, representing and embodying his/her essential nature and character. I have discussed this in the earlier series “And You Shall Call His Name…”. There was thus a quasi-magical quality to a person’s name; in dealing with a person’s name, one could effect or relate to the actual person. This was especially true in a religious context, when dealing with the name of God.
    2. Along these same lines, the name represents the presence of the person, even when he/she cannot actually be present physically. This is equally true in the case of God. As the Prayer points out repeatedly, though YHWH actually resides in heaven (vv. 27, 30, 32, 34-36, 39, 43, 45, 49), His name resides in the Temple sanctuary.
    3. The presence of a person’s name also serves as a mark of possession or ownership. So the symbolic presence of YHWH’s name is a mark that the Temple belongs to Him; and, not only the Temple, but the sign of possession radiates outward to include the entire city of Jerusalem, the territory of Judah, and indeed the whole Kingdom of Israel. This aspect of the Temple is a sign that the people of Israel belong to YHWH, as His people. And, when the people pray in the direction of the Temple, where His name resides, they are essentially recognizing and acknowledging this fact.

When we turn to the New Testament, and the beliefs and practices of early Christians, we can see that this emphasis on the name of God has been developed and adapted in a number of interesting ways. I would point out three, in particular, that I wish to discuss briefly:

    1. Jesus as God’s chosen representative, who comes and acts “in His name”
    2. The Johannine theme that Jesus, as the Son of God, makes God the Father known to believers in the world—this can specifically be understood in terms of making known the Father’s name.
    3. The importance of the Jesus’ name—specifically for prayer, but also for other aspects of the religious life and experience of believers.

1. The principal Gospel passage(s) that expresses the idea of Jesus as a Divine representative who comes “in YHWH’s name”, involves the tradition of his entry into Jerusalem. This episode occurs in all four Gospels—both in the Synoptics (Mk 11:1-10; Matt 21:1-9; Lk 19:29-38) and the Gospel of John (12:12-15)—and essentially marks the beginning of Jesus’ Passion. In the overall Synoptic narrative, the ‘triumphal entry’ stands at the beginning of a period of teaching and ministry in Jerusalem (Mk 11:12-13:37 par) that precedes the Passion narrative.

In all four accounts of the Entry, the crowd that receives Jesus is recorded as quoting Psalm 118:26:

“Blessed (is) the (one) coming in (the) name of YHWH!”

Though there are slight variations in how this declaration is presented in each account (Mk 11:9; Matt 21:9; Lk 19:38; Jn 12:13), it is clearly part of the underlying historical tradition.

I have discussed this tradition in earlier notes and articles, and will be doing so again in Part 3 of my study on the Sukkot festival. What is most significant is how the quotation of Psalm 118:26 relates to the Messianic identity of Jesus. There were a number of Messianic figure-types current in Jewish thought and expectation, and early Christians ultimately identified Jesus with all of them. I discuss this subject at length, including treatments of the different figure-types, in the series “Yeshua the Anointed”. Regardless of which Messianic figure-type Jesus was seen as fulfilling, the principal idea is that he was God’s chosen (“anointed”) representative, whose presence and activity on earth marked the end of the current Age and the beginning of the New Age for God’s people.

In the Entry episode, it is clearly the royal/Davidic Messiah that is in view (cf. Parts 68 of “Yeshua the Anointed”). In this respect, the use of Psalm 118 is especially appropriate. Even though this Psalm, as one of the Hallel Psalms (113-118), came to be associated with great pilgrimage festivals (esp. Passover and Sukkot), and were sung on those occasions, it is probable that the original context of the Psalm involved the victorious return of the Israelite/Judean king to Jerusalem (after battle). For more on this, cf. my article in the series “The Old Testament and the Gospel Tradition”. Psalm 118:26 is also cited by Jesus himself, in relation to his Messianic identity, in Matt 23:39 / Lk 13:35 (“Q” tradition).

2. The Gospel of John develops the Messianic significance of coming/acting in God’s name in a distinctive way, informed by the Johannine theology (and theological idiom). In the Gospel of John, Jesus is not only the Messiah, he is also the eternal (and pre-existent) Son of God. He was sent to earth from heaven by God the Father, being given a mission from the Father to complete. This mission included speaking and acting in the Father’s name—speaking the Father’s words and doing His works (such as working healing miracles and raising the dead). Like a dutiful son, Jesus follows his father’s example, doing what he sees the Father doing, and saying what he hears the Father saying. Thus Jesus (the Son) truly represents the Father, manifesting His presence and power to people on earth.

Two specific statements by Jesus may be pointed out:

“I have come in the name of my Father…” (5:43)
“the works that I do in my Father’s name, they give witness about me” (10:25)

The Son’s mission and work on earth culminates in his sacrificial death (19:30); all of this is done in the Father’s name, and the death and resurrection (i.e., the exaltation) of the Son serves to give honor/glory to the Father (12:28, note the context of v. 13). This theme finds its fullest development in the great Discourse-Prayer of chapter 17, where Jesus specifically refers to his work in manifesting the Father’s name to believers (vv. 6, 26; cf. also 11-12):

“I made your name shine forth to the (one)s whom you gave to me out of the world” (v. 6)
“and I made known to them your name…” (v. 26)

3. Finally, it is important to consider how, for Christians, the Son’s name came to replace the Father’s name. This is particularly notable in relation to the tradition of prayer by early Christians. Even though believers were still directed to pray so as to give honor to the Father’s name (Matt 6:9 par), at an early point there came to be a strong tradition of praying (to the Father) in Jesus’ name. There is surprisingly little direct evidence for this in the New Testament itself; we see it most clearly in the Gospel of John (in the Last Discourse, 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-24, 26), where the tradition is rooted in the Johannine theology and Christology (i.e., the Son’s abiding relationship to the Father). Of particular importance is the idea that the Father will send the Spirit to the disciples/believers in Jesus’ name (14:26); on the sending of the Spirit as the goal (and result) of prayer, cp. the context of Luke 11:13.

Another Johannine theme which is more firmly rooted in the wider Gospel tradition is the idea of the disciples (believers) continuing the (Messianic) mission of Jesus on earth. This goes back to the early tradition of the choosing of the Twelve and their initial mission (Mark 3:13-19; 6:7-13 pars). The disciples were specifically chosen by Jesus, and were allowed to share the same authority (and ‘anointing’) that he possessed, so that they would proclaim the good news (Gospel) and perform healing miracles, etc., in his name. The particular association with Jesus’ name is seen more clearly in the Gospel of Luke (10:17; 24:47; cp. 9:49; 21:9 pars), after which it occurs frequently throughout the book of Acts (3:6, 16; 4:7, 10, 17-18, 30; 5:28, 40-41, etc).

Part of this ministry involved the baptizing of new believers, as a ritual symbol of their belonging to Jesus, and of their participating in the life-giving power of his death and resurrection. One trusts in Jesus’ name (i.e., his identity as the Messiah and Son of God; cf. Acts 2:21, 38; 4:12; John 1:12; 2:23; 3:18), and so is baptized in that name (Matt 28:19; Acts 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16, etc). Everywhere that believers work or gather together, they are representatives of Jesus, and so act in his name (Matt 18:20; cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 5:4; Col 3:17, etc). The identity of belonging to Christ, conferred and realized through the baptism ritual, governs and informs all aspects of our life as believers.

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 83 (Part 2)

Psalm 83, continued

Part 2: Verses 10-19 [9-18]

After the description of the hostile nations in Part 1 (cf. the previous study), with which the Psalmist gives forth a national lament and plea to YHWH, the tone in Part 2 shifts to a prayer for deliverance, asking God to bring judgment upon the nations. This is an early example of the Prophetic theme of the day of YHWH’s collective judgment against all the nations of earth. The concept of a collective judgment is an extension and development of the nation-oracle genre, in which the prophet delivers an oracle of judgment against a particular nation or people. Another example of this development is the Isaian ‘Apocalypse’ (chapters 24-27) that follows the collection of nation-oracles in chaps. 13-23.

Verse 10-11 [9-10]

“Do to them as (you did to) Midyan, as (to) Sîsera,
(and) as (to) Yabîn at (the) wadi Qîšôn,
(who) were destroyed at (the) Spring of Dôr,
(and) became manure for (the) ground!”

In calling for YHWH to bring judgment on the nations, the Psalmist turns to past historical examples when God delivered his people from oppression and attack. Obviously, these examples indicate that YHWH acted to achieve a military victory for Israel, and, most likely, the Psalmist envisions the judgment on the nations coming in a similar manner. The victory over Midian presumably alludes to the episodes described in Judges 6-7, while those over Sisera and Jabin are narrated in Judges 4-5. There were two different kings of the Canaanite city-state Hazor with the name Jabin (for the other, cf. Joshua 11).

I take verse 11 as a continuation of the example in v. 10, and read the perfect verb forms as past tense narrative verbs. However, Dahood (II, p. 275f) treats the verbs as precative perfects, understanding the couplet to express a separate (or additional) imprecation against the nations—i.e., “Let them be destroyed…, may they become…”.

If verse 11 is truly a continuation of the thought in v. 10, then the (plural) subject of the verbs is almost certainly the pair of leaders Jabin and Sisera, who were defeated near the wadi Qîšôn (Kishon), cf. Judg 4:7, 13ff; 5:21. The location of the “Spring of Dor” (En-Dor, rad) /yu@) in the first line is problematic. There is no mention of this site in Judges 4-5, and, though it is in the general area indicated, it is located some distance north of the Kishon. It may reflect a detail in the historical tradition that has otherwise been lost. Kraus (p. 160) would emend the text to dr)j& /yu@ (“Spring of Harod,” En-Harod), the location of the battle against the Midianites (Judg 7:1). Dahood (II, p. 275f) takes an entirely different approach, which, while alleviating the geographic difficulties, creates certain implausibilities of its own.

Verses 12-13 [11-12]

“Set their nobles (to be) like ±Oreb and like Ze°eb,
and like Zebaµ and like ‚almunna all their princes,
who said, ‘Let us seize for ourselves
(the) abodes of (the) mighty (one)s!'”

This pair of couplets picks up from the initial mention of Midian in v. 10a, referring to the Gideon narratives in Judges 6-8. The four Midianite leaders mentioned here were among those defeated and killed by Gideon, according to Judg 7:25ff and 8:5-21. Their declaration in v. 13 reflects the wicked and violent ambitions of the foreign rulers, who seek to take possession (vb vr^y`) of the land of Israel. The noun ha*n` is a general term denoting a dwelling or abode, whether human or animal; it can refer to a human home/house, but also to pasture-land for herds, etc. The expression <yh!l)a$ toan+ could be translate “abodes of (the) Mightiest [i.e. God, Elohim]”; in any case, the author is doubtless playing on the double meaning of <yh!l)a$ (“mighty ones” / “Mightiest”), cf. the first word of v. 14. Dahood (II, p. 276) is probably correct in emphasizing the term’s principal significance here as a superlative, viz., the best/finest lands, etc.

Verse 14 [13]

“O Mightiest, set them (to be) like the rolling (brush),
like stubble (blown) before (the) face of (the) wind;”

Here, the defeat of the nations is expressed via images from nature. The noun lG~l=G~ denotes something that rolls or is rolling; here it probably refers a rolling tumbleweed (or similar brush) that is blown about by the wind. Describing them as stubble (vq^) suggests an even more feeble and helpless condition in the face of YHWH’s judgment.

Verse 15 [14]

“(just) as fire burns (through) a forest,
and as (its) flame consumes (the) hills—”

Syntactically, this couplet continues the thought from v. 14, shifting the imagery, from a windstorm to that of a fire that burns through (and burns up) the forests and wooded hills. The verb ru^B* denotes the actual burning of something, while fj^l* refers to something being consumed (i.e., burned up) by fire.

Verse 16 [15]

“so may you pursue them with your windstorm,
and with your tempest terrify them!”

I view this couplet syntactically as the principal clause that completes the thought of vv. 14-16. It calls on YHWH to strike the nations, driving them off (lit. pursuing [vb [d^r*] them) in fear/alarm (vb lh^B*). Two different nouns signifying a powerful storm are used—ru^s^ and hp*Ws. This is part of an ancient poetic storm-theophany tradition, describing the manifest presence of YHWH through the imagery and phenomena of the storm. This reflects YHWH’s control over the forces of nature, but particularly the celestial phenomena related to the rains and the waters above the heavens (cf. my earlier article “The Conflict with the Sea in Ancient Near Eastern Myth”). The forces of nature fight under YHWH’s command and control, on behalf of His people Israel. The most famous example of this tradition is the event and the Reed Sea (Exodus 14-15), but it is also present in the Song of Deborah (Judg 5:4-5, 20-21); cf. above on the mention of Sisera and Jabin in v. 10.

The verb forms are jussive imperfects, with the force of imperatives.

Verse 17 [16]

“Fill (all) their faces (with) dishonor,
and let them seek your name, YHWH.”

This couplet is problematic, as the apparent wish for the nations to seek the name of YHWH seems rather out of place. Dahood’s clever solution (II, p. 277) is worth mentioning. He divides and vocalizes the text in the second line differently from the MT, reading the first two words as ;m=v!W vQ@b^w], with the second w-conjunction having emphatic force: “and let your name (indeed) seek (vengeance)”.

However, if the MT is correct, then a different explanation must be sought. Thematically, it would seem that the two lines of verse 17 represent a seminal form of a juxtaposition that is developed more fully in vv. 18-19. The first line refers to the judgment/punishment of the nations, and corresponds to v. 18; the second line, corresponding to v. 19, refers to the nations’ acknowledgment of YHWH as the one true God and Sovereign over the earth.

Verse 18 [17]

“May they be put to shame and alarmed even to (the end)—
indeed, may they be disgraced and may they perish!”

As noted above, this couplet corresponds with the first line of v. 17. The two verbs denoting the experience of shame/disgrace, vWB and rp^j*, essentially carry the same meaning as the idiom in v. 17 (of one’s face being filled with disgrace [/olq*]), and are parallel here. Also parallel is the phrase “let them be alarmed until (the) end” and the verbal form “let them perish” (vb db^a*). The line 1 phrase uses the verb lh^B* (“be alarmed, frightened, disturbed”), as earlier in v. 16 (cf. above), along with the qualifying expression du^ yd@u&. This prepositional expression is difficult to translate; loosely it means something like “for perpetuity”, connoting something going on continually, and yet the parallel with the verb db^a* (“perish”) suggests an end. The intensity of the double du construction is best understood as referring to a severe and prolonged state of fear and suffering that accompanies the nations’ destruction.

Verse 19 [18]

“And let them know that you, your name (is) YHWH,
you alone are (the) Highest (One) over all the earth!”

The Psalm closes with this elongated 4-beat (4+4) couplet, developing the theme from the second line of v. 17 (cf. above). The judgment of the nations will cause them (i.e., the nations) to know that YHWH is the supreme God and Sovereign over all Creation. I take hwhy ;m=v! (lit. “your name YHWH”) as a phrase modifying the pronoun hT*a^ (“you”)—i.e., “you, (whose) name (is) YHWH”; that is, the God of Israel, whose name is YHWH.

How does this couplet relate to v. 18? There are three possibilities:

      • Both couplets refer to the nations that are judged (and destroyed); in their punishment, they are forced to acknowledge YHWH as the Mightiest (One), the supreme God.
      • The verses refer to two different groups of nations—those who are judged/destroyed, and those which remain; the ones remaining recognize Israel’s God, YHWH, as the true God.
      • The same nations are referenced in both verses; while they are judged and punished as nations, not all the people are destroyed, and the survivors acknowledge YHWH as God (compare Zech 14:16ff).

The last approach seems to make the best sense of vv. 18-19, and also of the juxtaposed lines in v. 17, where the more positive motif of people seeking (vb vq^B*) YHWH is present.

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).
Those marked “Kraus” are to Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalmen, 2. Teilband, Psalmen 60-150, 5th ed., Biblischer Kommentar series (Neukirchener Verlag: 1978); English translation in Psalms 60-150, A Continental Commentary (Fortress Press: 1993).

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8:44-53

1 Kings 8:44-53

Solomon’s Prayer in 1 Kings 8 concludes with two contrasting situations for the people (and the kingdom) involving warfare. The situations each begin with the particle yK! followed by an introductory verb:

    • “When [yK!] your people goes out [ax@y@] against its enemy…” (v. 44)
    • “When [yK!] they do wrong [Waf=j#y#] to you [i.e. sin against you] … and you give them (over) to (the) face of (the) enemy…” (v. 46)

In each instance, the people go out to battle a foreign enemy. In the first instance (vv. 44-45), it is assumed that the people, as a whole, have been faithful/loyal to the covenant with YHWH (and its Torah); as a result, the expectation is that, when they pray to YHWH (in the direction of the Temple), He will hear their prayer and answer them (that is, give victory to them).

In the second instance (vv. 46-50), when the people have sinned against YHWH, transgressing against the covenant (as a people/nation), then they will be defeated by the enemy in battle. As is typical in the Old Testament, such a military defeat against God’s people is viewed as a manifestation of Divine judgment. The wording here makes it clear that defeat comes from YHWH’s initiative: “…you give them (over) to (the) face of (the) enemy”. The same basic situation was described briefly in vv. 33-34, along with an allusion to the exile of the population; the theme of exile is given much greater prominence here:

“…to (the) face of (the) enemy, and they take them captive (as) their captives to (the) land of the enemy, (whether it is) far or near” (v. 46b)

The dual-use of the verb hb*v* (“take captive”) is emphatic, emphasizing the captivity of the defeated people, being exiled off to a foreign land. Many commentators feel that this emphasis on exile is an indication of a Exilic date for the Prayer; at the very least, it does seem likely that the reality of exile played a role in the literary shaping of the Prayer (in the context of Kings) as it has come down to us. However, this need not mean that the Babylonian Captivity (of Judah) had already taken place when the Prayer was composed (and/or edited). If the reign of Josiah is the primary setting for the book of Kings (and the editing of the Deuteronomic history as a whole), then the Judean kingdom would still have been intact (along with Jerusalem and the Temple), but the reality of exile would have been experienced through the earlier Assyrian conquests (including the conquest/exile of the Northern Israelite Kingdom).

In any case, the prospect of exile for a defeated population would have been natural enough at any time in the ancient Near East. It is not necessary to make any definitive judgment regarding the background and composition of the book of Kings (or the Prayer in particular), in order for this passage (and the situation it describes) to be relevant for the audience. As in vv. 33-34, here the promise is that, if the people genuinely repent, confess their sins, and pray to YHWH, then He will forgive their sins and eventually restore them to their land (vv. 47-50).

Again, a sign of their faith and devotion is that, when they pray to YHWH, they pray in the direction of the Temple:

“And (if) they return to you with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and they make prayer to you (on the) path (to) [i.e., in the direction of] their land that you gave to their fathers, (and) to the city that you chose, and the house that I have built for your name…” (v. 48)

The Temple as the unifying focal point of prayer for the people has been emphasized throughout vv. 31-50, being specifically mentioned in each of the examples given. As I have noted, the importance of this symbolism lies in the idea that YHWH’s name resides in the Temple. Even though God actually dwells in heaven (where He hears the prayer), the prayer itself is made in the direction of the Temple, as a symbolic point on earth where God’s people can direct their worship and devotion to Him.

The presence of God’s name also indicates ownership and possession. That is to say, it is an indication that the Temple belongs to YHWH; the Temple is the focal point at the center, but the sign of ownership radiates outward, encompassing the city of Jerusalem, the territory of Judah, and the entire land/kingdom of Israel (along with its people). All of it belongs to YHWH, even as Israel is God’s own people. This is the theological point emphasized in the concluding verses 51-53:

“For your people, they indeed are your inheritance, which you brought forth from (the) land of Egypt, from (the) midst of (the) pot for (smelting) iron, (so that) your eyes (are) to be open (to the) request for favor by your servant, and (to the) request by your people Yisrael, to listen to them in every (moment) they call to you. For you separated them for yourself, for an inheritance, from all (the) people of the earth, just as you spoke (it) by (the) hand of Moshe your servant in your bringing forth our fathers from Egypt, my Lord YHWH.”

The Prayer closes much as it began, with a reference to the Exodus (v. 16). This defining moment in the history of Israel, essentially marking the beginning of their ‘birth’ as God’s people, frames the Prayer. It provides the backdrop for the choice of Jerusalem and the centralization of worship focused on the Temple building. The name of YHWH that resides in the Temple properly symbolizes the covenant bond between YHWH and His people—they are His people (belonging to Him), and He is their God.

The same essential symbolism applies, even when the concept of being God’s people has shifted and expanded to include all believers in Christ. The idea of the unifying presence of God’s name, as an abiding sign of the covenant bond, continues for us today as believers. In the next study, we will begin to explore this line of interpretation further, even as we examine the concluding verses of 1 Kings 8, looking again at the Prayer in its narrative context.

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8:41-43

Before proceeding with the next section of the Prayer of Solomon (in 1 Kings 8), it may be worth considering several points of interpretation, established from our study thus far, as they might apply to Christians (both in the New Testament era and today).

In terms of the religious and historical background of the Prayer, a key theme is the centralization of worship for the Israelite people, focused on the kingdom-capital of Jerusalem and the site of the Temple (Zion). This theme runs throughout the entire Deuteronomic history, beginning with the book of Deuteronomy and climaxing with the religious reforms in Judah under Josiah (2 Kings 23). For people all over the kingdom, Jerusalem (and the Temple) was to be the focal point of their religious devotion. Sacrificial offerings were to be presented only at the Jerusalem Temple, adult males were to travel to Jerusalem for (at the very least) the three great pilgrimage festivals, and, as expressed here in 1 Kings 8, prayers were to be directed toward the Temple.

The Temple filled the ritual and symbolic role as YHWH’s dwelling place among His people, His “house”. And yet, as the Prayer makes clear, God does not actually reside on earth in the Temple sanctuary, but in heaven. This important theological principle is made repeatedly, in spite of the reference (in vv. 10-13) to the older conception of God’s manifest presence residing within the sanctuary (of the Temple, and earlier Tent-shrine).

It is only God’s name that truly resides in the Temple. The name represents the person, if only in a symbolic and ritual sense; it also signifies ownership—i.e., the Temple building belongs to YHWH, just as the city of Jerusalem belongs to Him, and also the Israelite/Judean people (as His people). It is for these reasons, that the people are to demonstrate their devotion and loyalty to YHWH by praying in the direction of the Temple, to the place where His name resides.

This idea of the centralization of worship, focused on the Temple, has important implications for Christians, in light of the Christological principle that Jesus Christ essentially replaces the Temple, fulfilling in his own person the symbolic and ritual significance of the Temple building. For more on this subject, cf. my earlier articles in the series “Jesus and the Law” (part of “The Law and the New Testament”). This shift in focus is already evident early on in the New Testament, within the historical traditions of the Gospels and Acts, emphasizing the Temple as a place for prayer (and teaching/preaching), rather than sacrificial ritual. In this regard, early Christians were essentially developing the very emphasis we find here in the 1 Kings 8 Prayer.

The focus on the name of God also is significant in this regard. We may mention, for example, the well-established early Christian tradition that prayers were to be made in Jesus’ name. Even more important, from a theological standpoint, is the idea that Jesus (the Son) makes the name of God the Father known to believers. This is a prominent theme in the Gospel of John, particularly in the great Discourse-Prayer of chapter 17 (vv. 6, 11-12, 26). It serves as another key example of how Jesus fulfills the role of the Temple as the dwelling place for God’s name.

Finally, we should mention the related idea of believers as the dwelling place for God’s presence—now no longer symbolically, but through the reality of God’s own Spirit. The image of believers—both individually and collectively—as the Temple of God is most prominent in the Pauline letters. Paul applies the image to individual believers in 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16, while in Eph 2:21 it is applied to believers in a collective sense. The presence of God—both manifest through His Spirit, and through His name—in believers (as His Temple) demonstrates that we belong to Him and bear His name.

These points will be discussed and developed further as we approach the end of our notes on 1 Kings 8.

1 Kings 8:41-43

“And also unto (the) foreigner, he who (is) not from your people Yisrael, but comes from a land far off in response to your name— ” (v. 41)

Verses 41-43 make clear that the role of the Temple, applies, not only to Israel (as YHWH’s chosen people), but to people from other nations as well. The adjective yr!k=n` (cf. also the related rk*n@) is used as a substantive, denoting something that is “(not) recognized”, derived from the root rkn (“recognize, acknowledge”), presumably in a privative sense. From an ethno-cultural standpoint, yr!k=n` refers to a foreigner, to be distinguished, however, from the foreigner who comes to reside among the Israelite people (the word rG@ is used for such a person). Here, the idea is of a foreign visitor to the land of Israel, but particularly one who has traveled to Israel “in response to” (/u^m^l=) the name of YHWH—that is, because he/she has heard about the great things that YHWH, as the God of Israel, has done for His people. This qualification is clearly expressed in verse 42:

“for they shall hear of your great name, and (of) your strong hand and your arm (out)stretched— “

The “hand” and (outstretched) “arm” of YHWH are euphemisms for the exercise of His Divine power and strength, through miracles and mighty deeds performed on behalf of His people. This motif-pair is part of the Deuteronomic language, occurring repeatedly in the book of Deuteronomy (4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8; cf. also Jer 21:5; Cogan, p. 286), but the basic imagery is traditional—see, for example, its use in the Song of the Sea (15:6, 12, 16). In that ancient Song, as here, it is assumed that people in the surrounding nations will hear of the mighty things done by YHWH (vv. 14-16), demonstrating that He is far greater than any of the deities they worship (v. 11).

The second half of verse 42 picks up from v. 41:

“…but he comes and makes prayer to(ward) this house”

The fact that the foreign visitor makes prayer toward the Temple demonstrates two important points: (1) he/she recognizes YHWH as God, worthy of worship, and (2) she/he acknowledges the role of the Temple within the Israelite religion (i.e., the worship of YHWH). It is clear that Solomon (and the author of Kings) expects that YHWH will answer the prayers of such a devout foreigner, no less than He will those of His own people:

“you shall hear (him from) your dwelling place (in) the heavens, and shall do (for him) according to every(thing about) which the foreigner calls to you, so that (as a result) all (the) peoples of the earth might know your name, (coming) to fear you (just) like your people Yisrael, and to know that your name is called over this house that I have built.” (v. 43)

The prayer-wish is that, through the witness of such a devout foreigner, many other people, throughout all the surrounding nations, will come to respond in like manner—learning to know and fear YHWH, acknowledging Him (His name) as true God and Sovereign, and recognizing the Temple (in Jerusalem) as the place where His name dwells. This is an early example of a theme that would be developed in the later Prophets (and subsequently in Jewish eschatology)—namely, the prospect of people from the surrounding nations coming to Jerusalem in order to worship YHWH, and even joining with Israel to become part of the people of God. It is a theme that would feature prominently in early Christian thought, and, as a principle, would underlie the entire early mission to the Gentiles (cf. Mk 13:10 par; Lk 2:30-32; 24:47; Acts 1:8; 10:35ff; 13:46-47ff; 15:7-11, 14-18ff, etc). A key reference to the Temple, in this regard, is found in Isaiah 56:7, a Scripture cited by Jesus in the context of his Temple-action (according to the Synoptic tradition, Mk 11:17 par); the emphasis, as here, is on the Temple as a place associated with prayer.

Within Old Testament tradition, the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1-13) is the most notable example of a foreign visitor who comes to Israel and acknowledges YHWH as God (v. 9). Naaman (in 2 Kings 5) also features as a foreigner who recognizes that worship must be given to YHWH alone (vv. 17f); cf. Cogan, p. 286. In the New Testament, in the context of the early Christian mission, Cornelius (Acts 10-11) is the type-figure for the God-fearing non-Israelite who becomes a believer.

References marked “Cogan” above are to Mordechai Cogan, I Kings, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 10 (Yale: 2001/8).

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8:33-40

1 Kings 8:33-40

Verses 31-32 (discussed in the previous note) dealt with the ritual role of the Temple, in the context of a specific socio-cultural situation. In verses 33-40 that follow, there is a return to the principal theme (and point of emphasis) in the chap. 8 Prayer of Solomon: the Temple as a unifying focal point for the prayers of the people. The idea is that the Israelite people, from every part of the kingdom, should be unified in their focus on the Temple, as the conceptual and symbolic location for the presence of YHWH (specifically, His name). In the vv. 31-32 example, the individuals involved are expected to travel to the Temple precincts in Jerusalem; however, in the examples of vv. 33-40, one simply may look toward (la#) the Temple, praying in the direction of the actual site in Jerusalem.

It is assumed that, while people may respond as individuals, in the face of dangers and crises facing the nation, ultimately the action will be collective—i.e., the entire nation unified in its prayer to YHWH, directing its petition to the place where God’s name symbolically resides.

Three different situations of crisis are given as examples, utilizing a formal pattern (with some variation). The first situation (vv. 33-34) will serve to delineate the elements of the process of the people’s prayer:

“In your people Yisrael being struck before the face of (the) hostile (one), (in) that [i.e. because] they have done wrong to you, and (if) they (then) turn back to you and throw (praise to) your name, and they make prayer and a request for favor to you in this house, then you shall hear (it) in (the) heavens and shall grant forgiveness for (the) wrong of your people Yisrael, and you shall return them to the land that you gave to their fathers.”

The condition is introduced by a construct phrase that is governed by a preposition and verbal noun (infinitive). Literally, it reads “In (the) being struck of your people…”; however, the passive (Niphal stem) verb makes this especially awkward in English, and I alleviate this somewhat above (“In your people being struck…”, i.e. “When your people are struck…”). Clearly, this refers to a military attack by an enemy nation; the verbal noun by@oa literally means “(one) being/acting hostile”, i.e. one who is hostile.

The context of verse 34 implies that the land (and its people) have been conquered by the enemy; this may simply allow for the most extreme example of being “struck” (vb [g~n`) by an enemy nation. However, the idea that the people who would pray are far away (in exile) gives added weight to the principle that, even when the people are dispersed over a great geographic distance, they are still unified in thought and purpose when they pray in the direction of the Temple. The use of the preposition B=, in the expression “in this house” (hZ#h^ ty]B^B^), can be misleading in this regard, since it might suggest that the prayer is to be made within the Temple precincts (as with the example in vv. 31-32). While individuals might, indeed, make prayer at the Temple itself, the real point of emphasis is on praying “in the direction of” the Temple; the preposition B= would then function like la# (“to, toward”). Principally, it is YHWH’s symbolic presence—His name—that resides in the Temple.

The people’s response implies repentance and a return to faithfulness. The verb bWv (“turn (back), return”) is frequently used in this religious-ethical sense. By turning back to God, one also turns away from sin. It is clearly indicated, in this example, that Israel’s defeat is a consequence of the people’s sin. For consistency with vv. 31-32 (cf. the previous study), I have translated the verb af*j* as “do wrong”. In vv. 31-32, a person does wrong to another person; however, here the wrong is done to YHWH, i.e., the sin is against God, implying a violation of the covenant.

It was common in ancient Near Eastern thought to consider military defeats, especially when they involved the destruction of cities and the exile of populations, etc, as a manifestation of divine judgment. The ancient Israelites were no different, and, indeed, the Old Testament typically explains Israel’s defeats in this way. It is an especially prominent theme in the Deuteronomic history, particularly as recorded and presented in the books of Kings. Idolatrous worship of deities other than YHWH is the principal violation of the covenant that brings about catastrophic judgment on the nation.

If the people, collectively, repent of their sin, turn back to YHWH, praising His name and focusing their prayers in the direction of the Temple (where His name dwells), then the expectation is that God will hear and answer their prayers, and will (eventually) restore any exiled populations back to the land. The sin will be forgiven (vb jl^s*), and the covenant bond between YHWH and His people will be restored.

In verses 35-36, a different kind of national crisis is referenced: an extended lack of rain (drought). This is introduced in the same way as the condition in v. 33, with a construct phrase using the preposition B= and a verbal noun (infinitive):

“In (the) closing up of (the) heavens, and there is (thus) no rain, because they have done wrong to you…”

The syntax overall is very similar to the earlier passage; it continues:

“…and (if) they pray to(ward) this standing place [i.e. where the Temple stands], and throw (praise to) your name, and turn back from their wrong (so) that you would answer them, then you shall hear (in) the heavens and shall forgive (the) wrong of your servants, even your people Yisrael…”

There is some variation in wording, but the formula here in the Prayer definitely follows the pattern from vv. 33-34. The expected response by YHWH, however, is given in a more expanded form:

“…(so) that you might instruct them (in) the good way in which they must walk; and you shall give (then the) rain upon your land that you gave to your people for an inheritance.”

Clearly, the drought, like the military defeat/conquest of the people, is viewed as the consequence of sin against YHWH (i.e., violation of the covenant). In the ancient world, for agricultural and pastoral societies, a lack of rain could be just as devastating (and life-threatening) as a military attack. Repentance from sin, accompanied by faithful worship and prayer to YHWH, will bring about a return of the needed rains.

In addition to the restoration of the pre-sin condition (i.e., abundance of rain), mention is made of the idea that YHWH would give instruction/direction (vb hr*y`) to His people, once they have repented, so that they would be able to remain faithful to the covenant in the future. This particular promise underwent development in the later Prophetic writings (of the exilic and post-exilic period), being specifically tied to the role of God’s Spirit in the New Age of Israel’s restoration. The Instruction (Torah) will come to be written on the heart of the people, so that they might fulfill the covenant without needing to be taught or disciplined (as in the past) any longer. For a list of the key Prophetic passages, with links to detailed notes, cf. the introduction to the recent series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”.

The final example (vv. 37-40) involves a famine (lit. “hunger,” bu*r*) in the land. Drought and famine are often closely related; however, life-threatening hunger can be caused by other circumstances, such as a military attack/siege, forced migration, displacement of populations, the shifting of rivers, and so forth. Verse37 actually mentions some of the agricultural conditions that can lead to failed crops (and thus hunger/famine): pestilence/disease, blight, mildew, locust (using two different terms, hB#r=a^ and lys!j*), and the siege (of a city) by a foreign enemy. This suffering from famine/hunger is broadened to include the idea of any “touch” (of disease) or “sickness/weakness” (the terms ug~n# and hl*j&m^, respectively).

Again, prayer to YHWH, directed toward the Temple, will bring forgiveness, and (it is implied) a restoration of healthy conditions. This example does differ from the previous two, as it implies that certain individuals or communities may experience suffering that others do not (v. 38). However, the expectation is that, for anyone who repents and prays earnestly to YHWH in this manner, the prayer will be answered (v. 39). This focus on the individual provides an important counterbalance to the collective/national emphasis in vv. 33-36:

“Indeed, you shall give to (each) man according to his ways, (in) that you know his heart—for you alone know (the) heart of every (one) of (the) sons of man” (v. 39b)

As in verse 36 (see above), Solomon’s prayer here also includes the hope that the Israelite people would learn from any such discipline, however painful, so as to remain faithful to YHWH (and the covenant) into the future:

“…so that they might fear you all the days that they live upon (the) face of the land that you gave to our fathers.” (v. 40)

Next week, as we continue our study on the Prayer (looking at vv. 41-45), we shall begin drawing some exegetical conclusions, based on our analysis thus far, which can be applied to the life-situation of Christian believers today.

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8:27-30

The Monday Notes on Prayer feature for the remainder of Summer (in August & September) is focusing on the Prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8. Verses 22-26 were discussed in the previous study.

1 Kings 8:27-30

With verse 27, the focus of the Prayer shifts to the role and purpose of the Temple. This is significant, since the purpose indicated in the Prayer differs noticeably from the emphasis earlier in vv. 10-13. The shift in emphasis began already in vv. 16-17ff, with the statement that the “house” (i.e., the Temple) was built specifically for the name (<v@) of YHWH. The distinction is between a dwelling for YHWH Himself and a dwelling for His name.

In vv. 10-13 (cf. the earlier study), the clear implication is that YHWH personally comes to dwell in the “house”, being present through the theophanous cloud. This reflects an older line of religious (and theological) tradition, drawing upon anthropomorphic and cosmological-mythic concepts—i.e., the Deity is personally present and manifest in the theophanous cloud, with the Temple building (esp. the sanctuary) serving as His dwelling-place on earth.

While this line of tradition is acknowledged in vv. 10-13, it disappears completely from the remainder of the narrative. Indeed, within the Prayer proper, there is no mention at all of YHWH Himself dwelling in the Temple, but only His name. This is especially clear here in verse 27:

“But (is it) that (the) Mightiest can truly sit [i.e. dwell] upon the earth? See, the heavens—even (the) heavens of the heavens—can not contain you, (and) even (less) that this house which I have built (could do so)!”

The theological point is that the Creator El-YHWH cannot truly, in a metaphysical sense, dwell in a building on earth. His true dwelling is in heaven—and yet, even the heavens cannot actually contain him. The verb lWK has the concrete meaning “contain” (as in a vessel), implying that a physical/material substance is involved. This is one of the clearest statements in the Old Testament Scriptures regarding the transcendence of God, expressed in terms of size. YHWH is simply too great and vast to be contained in any physical space.

The expression “heavens of the heavens” (<y]m^V*h^ ym@v=) is idiomatic; it follows a pattern—e.g., “holy of holies”, “king of kings”, “song of songs” —in Hebrew (and other Semitic languages), using this particular mode of construct expression as a superlative. The particular meaning of the expression here is “the greatest heaven,” “the highest heaven”, etc.

The ancient Near Eastern cosmology was geocentric, with the surface of the earth dividing a cosmos that tended to be seen as spherical in shape, the upper half certainly being hemispheric. There were layers—commonly three layers (i.e., three ‘heavens’)—to the upper hemisphere. Eventually the concept of a concentric spherical cosmos, with seven layers/heavens, came to be adopted on a widespread scale throughout the ancient world. According to this traditional cosmology, YHWH would be seen as dwelling in the ‘highest’ heaven.

Clearly, if YHWH cannot be contained in the vastness of the heavens, he certainly cannot be contained in a single building (built by human beings) on earth. In spite of this, Solomon continues:

“Yet may you turn to (the) prayer of your servant, and to his request for favor, O YHWH my Mighty (One), to listen to (the) cry and to (the) prayer which your servant prays before you th(is) day, (and for) your eyes to be opened to(ward) this house, night and day, to(ward) this standing place of which you said ‘My name shall be there’, (and) to listen to (the) prayer which your servant shall pray to(ward) this standing place.” (vv. 28-29)

The basic request, at the heart of the entire prayer, is that YHWH would pay attention to prayers made in the direction of (la#, “toward”) the Temple. As becomes clear in the remainder of the prayer, the Jerusalem Temple is to become the focal point of Israelite worship—in particular, for the prayers made by the people. Solomon (as king) represents the people in this regard. At the beginning of the request (in v. 28), Solomon refers to himself as YHWH’s loyal servant (“your servant”); but, at the close of the request (in v. 29), the same expression “your servant” stands for any faithful Israelite who prays to YHWH (as is clear from v. 30, cf. below).

There is a symbolic and ritual aspect to prayer, in relation to the Temple building. The location of the Temple (lit. its “standing place,” <oqm*, i.e., the place where it stands) has a unifying role for the people, and as a religious expression of their faith and devotion to YHWH. By praying in the direction of the Temple, the place where YHWH’s name dwells, this demonstrates that a person’s heart is directed toward God. Such prayer can be made at any time (“night and day”); according to Solomon’s request, YHWH’s eyes will constantly be open, attentive to any such prayer, and listening to (lit. hearing, vb um^v*) it. In the traditional religious idiom, for God to “hear” a prayer means that He will answer it.

The root llp is used several times in vv. 28-29, both the verb (ll^P*) and the related noun hL*p!T=; it is the basic Hebrew root denoting prayer to God. Prayer here is also defined specifically as a request made to God that He would show favor—i.e., respond favorably, giving help and bestowing blessing or benefits, etc. The noun signifying such a request is hN`j!T= (from the root /nj), which is formally parallel to hL*p!T=. Another word used is hN`r!, which means a ringing cry or shout; it can connote either a desperate plea (i.e., cry for help), a joyful expression of praise, or a confident shout (of triumph, etc).

From a theological standpoint, it is most significant that it is YHWH’s name, specifically, which “dwells” in the Temple. While YHWH Himself dwells in the heavens, His name dwells on earth among His people. In ancient Near Eastern thought, a person’s name represented and embodied (in a quasi-magical way) the essence and nature of the person. This was equally true in a religious context, when applied to a deity; to know a deity’s name meant knowing the deity. This name-theology represented a more abstract and rational/intellectual way for a person to relate to a deity. In this regard, it is particularly meaningful that YHWH’s name is related to the act of prayer. This is the aspect of the Temple’s purpose that is being emphasized here, rather than its role in the sacrificial ritual, for example.

The name of YHWH was important in Israelite religious tradition from the earliest times, but the name-theology took on special prominence in the book of Deuteronomy (and the subsequent Deuteronomic History, of which 1-2 Kings is a part). Beginning in chapter 12 (vv. 5, 11, 21), and then throughout the book of Deuteronomy, the implicit location of Jerusalem (and the Temple site) is repeatedly referenced as the place chosen by YHWH to set His name. The names of the Canaanite deities are to be removed from the land (Deut 12:3), replaced entirely by the name of YHWH, the one true Creator God, with whom Israel is joined in a special covenant-bond. His name is thus closely connected with the covenant, as is clear implicitly from the references here in vv. 9, 21. The people belong to Him, and this is symbolized by the Temple which bears His name, indicating a sign of ownership, etc. God’s faithful vassals (“servants”) will pray in the direction of the Temple—that is, toward His name—as a sign of covenant loyalty and devotion to their Sovereign.

The people, collectively, as YHWH’s servant(s), are emphasized in verse 30:

“May you indeed listen to (the) request of your servant for favor, and of your people Yisrael, when they shall pray to(ward) this standing place; you shall listen at (the) place of your sitting [i.e. dwelling] (in) the heavens, and (when) you listen you shall forgive.”

As noted above, the expression “your servant” refers not only to the king, but to the people as a whole; this point is made quite clear here in v. 30. Solomon’s request is that whenever the people pray toward the Temple, YHWH will respond favorably to them, answering their prayers, even to the point of forgiving (vb jl^s*) their sins.

The preposition la# has a dual-meaning in this verse; on the one hand, the directional aspect of praying “to(ward)” the Temple is in view (continued from vv. 28-29), but in the second half of the verse it also is used in the locative sense of YHWH’s dwelling in the heavens. This dual-use may be intentional, as a subtle way of juxtaposing the dwelling-place of YHWH’s name (i.e., the Temple) with the place where He Himself dwells (in heaven). For more on this, see the discussion above.

In the verses that follow (vv. 33-44), a number of examples are given of circumstances under which the people might pray to God, using the Temple as their religious focal-point. In the next study, we will begin examining these.

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 33 (Part 2)

Psalm 33, continued

The central core of Psalm 33 is the hymn of vv. 4-17, recognizing God (YHWH) as Creator and Ruler of the universe. It may be divided into two parts, as indicated by the outline below.

    • Vv. 1-3: Call for the righteous to praise YHWH
    • Vv. 4-9: YHWH’s authority over Creation
    • Vv. 10-17: YHWH’s authority over the Nations
    • Vv. 18-22: Exhortation for the righteous to trust in YHWH

Verses 4-9 (discussed in last week’s study) focus on YHWH’s authority over Creation, while vv. 10-17 emphasize his authority over humankind (the Nations).

Verses 10-17

Verse 10

“YHWH makes the purpose of (the) nations crumble,
He causes (the) thoughts of (the) peoples to fail.”

YHWH’s control and power over Creation extends to humankind—the various peoples (<yM!u^) and nations (<y]oG) on earth. He has power even over those things which human beings (and their governments) intend and plan to do. God’s ability to know the thoughts and the “heart” of human beings came to be expressed by the traditional designation “heart-knower” (Greek kardiognw/sth$, Acts 1:24; 15:8), i.e., one who knows the heart (of a person). Here the Hebrew words are hx*u@ (“purpose, plan, counsel, advice”) and hb*v*j&m^ (pl. “thoughts, plans, intentions”), which overlap in their meaning.

Not only does God know the intentions of people, He has the power to frustrate them, causing them to remain unrealized and unfulfilled. The implication is that such intentions and plans are contrary to righteousness and justice of God, and reflect the wickedness of humankind; however, YHWH’s power over humankind is absolute, and He may choose to frustrate the plans of a people, even if they are not wicked per se. A pair of verbs, each in the Hiphil causative stem, is used to express this ability of YHWH: rr^P* (“break, crumble”) and aWn (“refuse, forbid, oppose”). The connotation of the latter verb in the Hiphil here is “make (something) stop working”, i.e. cause it to fail.

There is thus a clear synonymous parallelism in this 3-beat (3+3) couplet.

Verse 11

“(The) purpose of YHWH stands (in)to (the) distant (future),
(the) thoughts of His heart (in)to circle and circle (of life).”

In contrast to the plans of human beings (v. 10), what YHWH intends can not be frustrated or made to fail. His purpose is fulfilled, and what He intends comes to pass and stands (unaltered) long into the distant future, after each revolution or “circle” (roD) of time, and with it each generation of human beings, has come and gone.

Quite possibly, this difference between YHWH and human beings is expressed poetically by the difference in meter: a 4-beat (4+4) couplet in verse 11, compared with a 3-beat (3+3) couplet in v. 10.

Verse 12

“Happiness of the nation (for) whom YHWH is its Mighty (One),
the people He has chosen for a possession (belonging) to Him!”

This couplet draws on the religious and cultural tradition of Israel as the people belonging to YHWH, the nation He has chosen (vb rh^B*) as His own. The terminology used in this verse occurs in many other Old Testament passages—see especially the ancient poetic references in Exod 15:7 and Deut 32:9. There is a strong covenant context to this language. On Israel (and the righteous) as God’s “possession” (hl*j&n~), cf. Ps 28:9, and other references in the Psalms (68:10 [9]; 74:2; 78:62, 71; 79:1; 94:5, 14; 106:5, 40). At the same time, the covenant bond also leads to Israel being given a possession by God; and the noun hl*j&n~ is frequently used in this sense as well (Ps 135:11; 136:21-22, etc). On the nations as God’s possession, cf. Psalm 2:8, and note, in particular, the Messianic interpretation of that verse.

For any nation—whether Israel or another—who recognizes YHWH as its God, there is truly blessing and happiness. On the use of the construct plural yr@v=a^ to introduce the beatitude-form, cf. Ps 1:1, and the previous study on Psalm 32 (v. 1). There is a bit of wordplay here between yr@v=a^ (°ašrê) and the relative particle rv#a& (°¦šer).

Verses 13-14

“From (the) heavens YHWH gives a look,
He sees all (the) sons of men;
from (the) fixed place of His sitting, he gazes
at all (the) sitters [i.e. dwellers] of (the) earth.”

This pair of couplets, with synonymous parallelism, expresses, in colorful and picturesque imagery, the authority and rule of YHWH over all humankind. His position of rule is His throne in heaven, on which he sits, and from there He looks down upon all the ones sitting (i.e. dwelling) upon the earth. Clearly, there is a bit of wordplay in the second couplet involving the verb bv^y` (“sit”).

Verse 15

“The (One) fashioning (them) looks on their heart,
the (One) discerning, to all their works.”

This is another couplet with synonymous parallelism; the two substantive participles (with definite article) are descriptive titles for YHWH:

    • rx@Y)h^, “the (One) fashioning”, i.e. forming human beings, like a potter out of clay; a traditional idiom for referring to God as Creator.
    • /yb!M@h^, “the (One) discerning”, i.e. God as one who knows and understands all things, esp. the thoughts and intentions (the “heart”) of human beings (cf. above).

Dahood (p. 202) is almost certainly correct in reading djy as the main verb of the couplet, which has been mispointed by the Masoretes. It is to be derived from the root hd*j* III (= Ugaritic µdy), “see, look, gaze”. This meaning fits perfectly with the context of vv. 13-14, and gives a fine sense to the lines. The couplet thus declares, in more general terms, what was stated in verse 10 (cf. above)—that YHWH sees and knows the “heart” (i.e., the thoughts and intentions) of human beings. Such immediate knowledge and discernment is due to His role as Creator; having created (“fashioned”) human beings, YHWH has full knowledge of their thoughts and impulses.

Verses 16-17

“There is no king being saved by (the) multitude of (armed) force(s),
(and) a mighty (warrior) is not snatched away by an increase of power;
the horse (is) a false (source) for (bringing) help (to him),
and by a multitude of his force(s) he shall not make escape!”

The thoughts and actions of the nations are controlled by YHWH, and this fact is illustrated most dramatically through the idiom of military force (“force, strength”, ly]j*), as representing the pinnacle of the power of the nations (and their kings). Ultimately, even the greatest kings are powerless in the face of YHWH’s overriding authority, which determines the course and outcome of any military action. It is not the strength and skill of a nation’s military that ultimately determines the outcome, but the providential, governing power of God Himself. Even the use of the horse-drawn chariot (and horse-riding cavalry), generally seen as embodying the peak of military technology in the ancient Near East (late Bronze and early Iron Age), will not bring victory if victory has not been determined for that people by YHWH.

Verses 18-22

The final section of the Psalm is an exhortation for the righteous, the people of God (cf. verse 12), for them to continue trusting in YHWH. It is parallel with the opening section (vv. 1-3) and the call for the righteous to praise Him.

Verses 18-19

“See, (the) eye of YHWH (looks) to (those) who fear Him,
to (the one)s waiting (in trust) for His goodness,
(for Him) to snatch away their soul from death,
and to keep them alive in the hunger!”

The watching eye of YHWH is a theme that dominated the hymn in vv. 10-17 (cf. above), in terms of His authority and ruling power over humankind. Now the focus shifts to the righteous, and YHWH’s all-seeing power is especially directed at His people, the ones who fear (vb ar@y`) Him and trust (vb lj^y`) in Him. The latter verb denotes waiting, but often in the sense of waiting with hope, with the confident expectation (and trust) that things will come out for the good.

The trust of the righteous is particularly aimed at being rescued by God from the danger of death. A number of the Psalms we have studied deal with this basic idea, sometimes in the specific context of being healed/delivered from a life-threatening illness. Here, in the final line, it is hunger (bu*r*) that is in view. In the ancient world, life-threatening hunger, as a result of famine, war, and other causes, was a pervasive danger felt by much of the population. In an agricultural society, the failed crop of a single season could put the survival of the population at risk. While the Psalm here may simply refer to the hunger of human beings in this way, it is also possible that there is a dual-meaning, and that the line is also drawing upon the traditional idiom of Death as a being with a ravenous, devouring appetite (i.e., “hunger”).

Verse 20

“Our soul waits for YHWH—
He (is) our help and our protection!”

The exhortation of vv. 18-19 is repeated here, in the form of a declaration–collectively, by the righteous. A different verb (hk*j*) is used to express the idea of waiting for YHWH (lj^y` in v. 18, above), trusting that He will act to bring deliverance. The terms “help” (rz#u@) and “protection” (/g@m*) have a military connotation, and thus relate to the imagery in the closing lines of the hymn (vv. 16-17, cf. above). The contrast between the people of God (the righteous) and the nations, frequent in the Psalms, is very much present here. While the nations (and their kings) trust in military power and technology, the righteous trust in YHWH Himself for protection.

Verse 21

“(And it is) that our heart shall find joy in Him,
for in (the) name of His holiness we sought protection.”

Here the protection YHWH brings is defined in terms of His name, lit. “the name of His holiness” (i.e., His holy name). In ancient Near Eastern thought, the name had a magical, efficacious quality, representing and embodying the nature and character of a person. In a religious context, to know (and call on) a deity’s name enabled a person to have access to the presence and power of the deity. This was very much true in ancient Israelite religion as well, in relation to YHWH and His name. The idea was enhanced by the specific covenant relationship between God and His people—Israel belonged to YHWH, and was under His protection as part of the binding agreement. The righteous seek out that protection, trusting in God; and, in finding it, they also find the joy that comes from being in that place of safety and security. According to the ancient idiom, they are protected by the name of YHWH—meaning, by the presence of YHWH Himself.

Verse 22

“May your goodness, YHWH, come to be upon us,
according to (the way) that we wait (in trust) for you!”

The final couplet of the Psalm takes the form of a prayer, by the righteous (collectively), addressed to YHWH. In it the righteous declare their trust, affirming that they “wait” (lj^y`, cf. verse 18 above) for Him, expecting that He will act on their behalf and deliver them in time of trouble. The prayer expresses the hope that, in response to this trust, God will bless the righteous, bestowing his “goodness” (ds#j#) upon them. As previously noted, the noun ds#j# (“goodness, kindness”) often connotes faithfulness and loyalty, when used in a covenant context, as is frequently the case in the Psalms. The righteous, in their loyalty to YHWH, hope (and expect) that He will give blessings to them in return, according to the principle (and terms) of the binding agreement.

October 27: Philippians 2:10a

Philippians 2:10a

i%na e)n tw=| o)no/mati Ihsou=
“(so) that, in the name of Yeshua…”

This clauseindeed, the whole of vv. 10-11is subordinate to v. 9, and depends on the exaltation of Jesus by God (making him “high over [all]”, v. 9a, note) as being defined by “the name th(at is) over every name” (v. 9b, note), which God gives to him as a special favor. The “name th(at is) over every name”, given to Jesus, is clearly the same “name” (o&noma) referred to here. Strangely, many readers (and commentators) seem to understand the phrase in v. 9 in light of the expression here in v. 10, rather than the other way around. Moreover, in this regard, a casual (and careless) reading of the passage could lead one to think that “the name over every name” is simply the name Jesus (Yeshua). While Jesus/Yeshua, as a name, was certainly of great importance to early believers (cf. below), it almost certainly is not the focus or point of reference here. There are two ways one can understand the genitive relationship in the expression “the name of Yeshua” here:

    • an explicative genitive = “the name Yeshua”
    • a possessive genitive = “the name belonging to Yeshua”

The latter option is to be preferred as correct, if for no other reason than that the name is something given to Jesus (after his death and resurrection), implying that it was not something he already possessed (during his earthly life). What, then, is the “name th(at is) over every name”? A correct understanding requires that we pay close attention to the overall structure and context of hymn. In particular, I would make the following points:

    • The name relates specifically to the exaltation of Jesus (v. 9a)
    • The chiastic structure of the hymn, with its juxtaposition of “making low” vs. “making high”, indicates that the exaltation entails a return to the sort of (exalted) position Jesus held prior to his earthly life
    • Traditionally, in early Christian belief, the exaltation of Jesus is defined in terms of Jesus standing alongside (“at the right hand of”) God in heaven
    • Based on the description in v. 6, this would seem to imply that the exaltation involves the idea of his “being equal with God” (ei@nai i&sa qew=|)

All of this would imply that the name given to Jesus must be related to God’s own name. Bearing in mind the significance of names and naming in the ancient world (cf. the previous note), the “name” of God is no mere word or label, but represents and embodies the very nature and character of God Himself. There were two titles, applied to Jesus by early believers, which serve to express a belief in the divine status, or deity, of the exalted Jesus: (1) “Son of God”, and (2) “Lord”. In the earliest Christology, both titles were applied to Jesus primarily in terms of the resurrection, and, as it happens, by way of a distinctive interpretation of two Psalm passages (2:7ff and 110:1). This is clear enough from the early Gospel preaching (kerygma) recorded in the book of Acts (cf. 2:24-36; 13:30-33ff); the same basic kerygma surely underlies the formal usage of both passages in Heb 1:3b-13 and 5:5-10 as well.

However, given the more ambiguous nature of the title “Son of God”, which at an early stage was also applied to Jesus at the time of his baptism and earthly ministry (Mk 1:11 par; Lk 3:22 [v.l.]), it seems rather more likely that the title “Lord” (ku/rio$) is in view here in the hymn. There are several factors which would tend to confirm this; for one thing, it is the title that is actually applied to the exalted Jesus here in the hymn (v. 11, to be discussed). Also, the wording in Acts 2:36, reflecting the early kerygma, seems to be especially relevant; it states, somewhat uncomfortably (perhaps) for orthodox Christology, that “God made him (to be) Lord” (ku/rion au)to\ne)poi/hsen o( qeo/$) at the resurrection. Vv. 9-10 of the hymn seem to be expressing much the same idea.

The importance of this title, ku/rio$ (“Lord”), as applied to the exalted Jesus, lies in its traditional use as a substitution when reciting the name of God (i.e., hwhy/YHWH/Yahweh). In Hebrew, the word /oda* (yn~d)a&, “my Lord”, cf. my earlier article on this title) was used, with the corresponding ku/rio$ for Greek speakers. While Jesus’ followers may originally have called him “Lord” as a simple honorific (= “Master”, “Rabbi”), the title soon carried a deeper religious (and theological) meaning for believers, as they increasingly came to realize the special divine status (and nature) which Jesus possessed. Indeed, there are instances in the New Testament when one cannot be entirely certain if the title ku/rio$ refers to God the Father, Jesus, or both together; for most early Christians, it seems, the title could be used interchangeably.

The Gospel of John expresses this identification of Jesus (the Son) with the deity of God the Father in a slightly different manner (which may be unique to the Johannine tradition). First, we have the numerous “I am” (e)gw/ ei)mi) statements by Jesus in the Discourses, which, in their own way, connect Jesus with the name of God (YHWH, cf. Exod 3:14 and my earlier article on the name). Second, there is the important theme, emphasized primarily in the great Prayer-Discourse of chapter 17, of Jesus (the Son) manifesting the name of the Father to his followers (believers)cf. verses 6ff, 11-12ff, 26. The name also serves to define the special relationship between Son and Father at various points throughout the Discourses (5:43; 10:25; 12:13, 28; and note also the emphasis on Jesus‘ name [“my name”] in the Last Discourse).

Thus, for the reasons outlined above, I would tend to agree with those commentators (e.g., O’Brien, pp. 237-40) who identify the “name” given to Jesus as God’s own name, represented by the divine title (in Greek) ku/rio$, “Lord”. This interpretation follows (and is supported by) the line of early Christian tradition that associates the title specifically with the resurrection of Jesus and his exaltation to the “right hand” of God (cf. Acts 2:36 and the discussion above).  To call Jesus “Lord” in this sense recognizes that he holds a divine position and status alongside of God the Father (i.e., equal with God, v. 6). It is a ruling position, in which Jesus rules “over all” which means that the “name” given to him is likewise high over all other names and titles, being the name/title of God Himself.

It remains now to consider the expression in the context of the full prepositional phrase: “in [e)n] the name of Yeshua”. Typically, in the New Testament (and early Christian tradition), the phrase “in the name of Jesus” is understood two ways:

The use of phrase here in the hymn is related to, but not exactly the same as, this traditional usage. There is the common theme of Jesus as an intermediary, through whom believers are able to worship and relate to God the Father in a new (and more direct) way. The idea of Jesus as a divine representative of God Himself is fundamental to early Christian belief, and is reflected here in the hymn as well. Similarly, our trust in Jesus is ultimately based on his special divine status as the Anointed One of God, His Son, who can be recognized as the very Lord Himself. Our salvation (from the Judgment), and with it the promise of eternal life, is rooted in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus; when we “call on the name of Jesus” (= trusting in Jesus’ name), we participate in the symbolic imagery that runs through vv. 9-11 of the hymn. In particular, our salvation (through trust in Jesus) allows us to pass through the scene of Judgment alluded to in the climactic lines of verses 10-11. This will be discussed further in the next note.

References marked “O’Brien” above, and throughout this set of notes, are to Peter T. O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, The New International Greek Testament Commentary [NIGTC] (Eerdmans: 1991).