“Who Is This Son of Man…?”: Johannine Sayings (Jn 5:27)

John 5:27

The next “son of man” reference in the Gospel of John is at 5:27, within the lengthy Discourse of chapter 5. The Johannine Discourses of Jesus are all carefully structured and arranged. For example, the first four Discourses are arranged in two pairs. The Discourses in the first pair (3:1-21; 4:1-42) are based upon encounters between Jesus and a particular individual—Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, respectively—characters who are vividly portrayed in the narrative. The Discourses of the second pair (chaps. 5 and 6) are each rooted in a different kind of historical tradition—namely, a miracle episode, similar to those we find narrated in the Synoptic Gospels. Indeed, the miraculous feeding episode in chap. 6 (vv. 1-14f) so closely resembles the Synoptic episode(s) (Mk 6:30-44 par; 8:1-10 par), that most commentators would consider both versions to be derived from a single (common) historical tradition.

As for the miracle episode in chapter 5 (vv. 1-16), it bears a certain resemblance to Mark 3:1-6 par, with the healing framed as a Sabbath controversy episode. Actually, in the Johannine narrative, the healing (vv. 1-9) and Sabbath-controversy (vv. 10-16) portions appear to reflect separate traditions, which the Gospel writer (or the underlying Johannine Tradition) has combined into a single narrative. In this regard, we might a comparison with the healing miracle (of a paralyzed man) in Mk 2:1-12 par, in its contextual position preceding the Sabbath controversy episodes of 2:23-3:6. As it happens, in both the episodes of 2:1-12 and 23-28, the expression “the son of man” plays a prominent role (vv. 10, 28).

The Johannine combination of traditional elements—healing miracle and Sabbath controversy—provides the narrative background for the main saying of Jesus (v. 17) that initiates the Discourse proper: “My Father works (even) until now, and I (also) work.” In the sections of the Discourse that follow, Jesus expounds the meaning of this saying.

In all of the Johannine Discourses, there is a reaction to the initial saying of Jesus by his hearers, and this reaction leads to an expository response by Jesus. The hostile reaction, by at least some of the populace (“the Yehudeans”) who heard him, is presented indirectly, in summary fashion by the Gospel writer, in verse 18. The people objected both to his healing act which (in their view) violated the Sabbath law, and to his statement, by which they recognized that “he was making himself equal to God”.

Typically, the audience reactions to Jesus’ statements in the Discourses involve a misunderstanding of (the true meaning of) his words. Here, the emphasis is not so much on misunderstanding, as it is on opposition to Jesus. Given the Synoptic parallels (see above), and also the certain parallels with the healing episode in chapter 9, it would seem likely that “the Yehudeans [i.e., Jews]” of verses 10-18 should be identified with the kinds of Jewish religious authorities (‘Scribes and Pharisees’) who typically feature as Jesus’ adversaries/opponents in the Gospel Tradition (cf. 9:13-16ff).

Jesus’ exposition that follows may be divided into two main portions—vv. 19-30 and vv. 31-47. The “son of man” reference occurs toward the end of first division. The principal theme of the Discourse is two-fold: (1) Jesus’ identity as the unique Son of God the Father, and (2) the fact that, as the Son, he does the work of his Father.

Like a dutiful son, Jesus follows his father’s example in his working—a principle that almost certainly reflects the practical situation of a son apprenticing in the same work/trade as his father. As Jesus states at the opening of his exposition:

“The Son is not able to do anything from himself, if not [i.e. but only] what he should see the Father doing; for the (thing)s which that (One) would do, the Son also does.” (v. 19)

The Father, like a human father instructing his son, shows the Son what to do and how to work (v. 20).

To illustrate the nature of the Father’s work, Jesus cites two examples, both of which have an eschatological orientation: (i) giving life to the dead (v. 21), and (ii) acting as Judge over humankind (v. 22). The first theme is loosely related to the healing miracle of vv. 1-16, though it would, of course, be more appropriate to the Lazarus episode of chap. 11. The ability to heal illness reflects the life-giving power of God. However, the exposition focuses specifically on giving life to the dead (i.e., resurrection), with the end-time resurrection primarily in view. This resurrection, according to traditional eschatological expectation, is connected with the end-time Judgment.

These twin themes are woven through verses 19-30, being developed in various ways, and (most importantly) given a Johannine Christological interpretation. Structurally, the exposition here is given in two parallel sections—vv. 21-24 and vv. 25-29. Three key points are made in each section:

    • The authority/ability both to give life and to judge is given by the Father to the Son (vv. 21-22f, 26-27)
    • Giving life: the one who hears the voice of the Son will receive life and be raised from the dead (v. 24a, 25ff)
    • Judging: those who hear the Son’s voice will face the Judgment (v. 24b, 28-29)

The emphasis in the second section (vv. 25-29) is on what we may call the traditional future eschatology, held by Jews and Christians in the first centuries B.C./A.D. In the first section (vv. 21-24), however, the focus is on the realized eschatology that is so distinctive of the Johannine Gospel. The two eschatological strands are joined together here by the phrase in v. 25a: “(the) hour comes, and is now (here)”.

From the standpoint of the Johannine ‘realized’ eschatology—that is, where traditional future events (i.e., resurrection, the Judgment) are realized for human beings already in the present—the eschatological events of the resurrection and the Judgment are understood in terms of trust in Jesus. This is stated quite clearly in verse 24:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, that the (one) hearing my word and trusting in the (One hav)ing sent me holds (the) life of the Age(s) [i.e. eternal life], and does not come into judgment, but has stepped over [metabe/bhken], out of death and into life.”

The use of the perfect tense of the verb metabai/nw, in particular, makes clear that the person trusting in Jesus (as the Son sent by the Father) has already (in the present) received the resurrection-life, and has passed through the Judgment into eternal life. Much the same idea was expressed earlier in 3:16-21, and can be found at other points in the Gospel as well.

Yet this ‘realized’ eschatology does not exclude the traditional (future) understanding of the end-time resurrection and Judgment. This is clear from the second section (vv. 25-29), though some commentators would view the future eschatology in these verses as the product of a later (redacted/edited) edition of the Gospel, and not the work of the original author. As noted above, verse 25a serves to join together the two different eschatological viewpoints. More than this, there is a certain inclusio to the section which could be interpreted as presenting the theme of Jesus’ life-giving (resurrection) power according to both eschatological aspects:

    • Realized eschatology:
      “(the) hour comes and is now (here)
      when the dead
      shall hear the voice of the Son of God,
      and the (one)s hearing shall live” (v. 25)
    • Future eschatology:
      “(the) hour comes
      in which all the (one)s in the memorials [i.e. tombs]
      shall hear his voice,
      and they shall travel out…(some) unto life…and (others) unto judgment” (vv. 28-29)

In both instances, human beings hear the voice of the Son (Jesus). This “hearing” has a double meaning, but the second (deeper) meaning applies only to the ‘realized’ eschatology of the Johannine theology. For this reason, the verb a)kou/w (“hear”) is used twice in verse 25:

    • “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God”
      viz., at the resurrection, when humankind is raised from the dead
    • “and the (one)s (hav)ing heard shall live”
      viz., believers, those trusting in Jesus, shall enter into eternal life

At the same time, the entire verse echoes the realized eschatology of vv. 21-24, and anticipates the Lazarus episode, in which “the dead hearing the voice of the Son” is applied to the present, not simply to the future.

With this analysis in place, we can now turn to the “son of man” reference in verse 27. It is important, first, to examine the reference within the unit of vv. 26-27. As noted above, in this unit, we find the theme of the Father giving to the Son the authority/ability both to give life (to the dead) and to judge. In the first section, this theme was expressed in vv. 21-22:

“For, just as [w(sper] the Father raises the dead and makes (them) live, so also the Son makes live th(ose) whom he wishes.
For the Father judges no one, but has given all (power of) judgment to the Son”

It is similarly expressed, though with quite different wording/phrasing, in vv. 26-27:

“For, just as [w(sper] the Father holds life in Himself, so also He (has) given to the Son life to hold in himself.
And He (has) given (the) authority [e)cousi/a] to him to make judgment, (in) that he is (the) Son of man.”

The point is thus made doubly: the Father has given life-giving power to the Son; He has also given the Son the power/authority to act as judge over humankind. With regard to the use of the expression “(the) son of man” here, there are three interpretive issues that need to be addressed:

    1. The relation between the (parallel) terminology “the Son” (v. 22) and “(the) son of man” (v. 27)
    2. In what ways (if any) does the power to give life and to judge differ, particularly as expressed in vv. 26-27, and (how) does this effect the use of the expression “son of man”?
    3. How is the judgment to be understood, comparing the matter in light of both sections (vv. 21-24, 25-29), and in the broader context of the Johannine theology? And how does the expression “(the) son of man” relate to this understanding of the judgment?

In addition, some consideration must be given to the distinctive anarthrous form of the expression (i.e., without the definite article[s]) here in verse 27.

These points will be discussed in the continuation of this study.

 

Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Luke 11:20)

“May your Kingdom come”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

An important passage for understanding this petition—and the idea of the coming of God’s Kingdom within the Gospel Tradition—is Luke 11:14-23, along with its parallel in Matthew 12:22-30. This passage is part of the so-called “Q” (Quelle, or “Source”) material—shared by the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but not present in Mark. It may be labeled broadly as the “Beelzebul episode”, and there is a corresponding episode in the Gospel of Mark (3:22-27).

According to many commentators, the “Q” and Markan versions of this episode represent variant versions of a single historical tradition. This explanation is probably correct. There is evidence that the Matthean Gospel writer has incorporated both lines of tradition in the narrative; note, for example, the way that the saying regarding the “insult against the Holy Spirit” is made to follow this passage (12:31-32), even as it does in Mark (3:28-29). The same Gospel writer also appears to have combined Markan and “Q” versions of this saying (cp. Luke 12:10).

The Markan version of the “Beelzebul episode” makes no mention of the Kingdom of God; however, the Kingdom-theme is present, and functions as a more important component of the “Q” version. Let us use the Lukan form (11:14-23) as the basis for our study.

The way that the various traditions have been combined, compared with the shorter Markan version of the episode, enhances the sense of the conflict built into the original historical tradition. The accusation, that Jesus performs healing (and exorcism) miracles through the power of Beelzebul, now becomes part of a larger contrast between two kingdoms—the kingdom of God and the kingdom of ‘Beelzebul’. As one who represents the kingdom of God, Jesus is exercising authority over the daimon-spirits who serve the kingdom of ‘Beelzebul’.

The Kingdom-theme is established by the saying in 11:17-18 (par Matt 12:25-26), a form of which is also present in the Markan/Synoptic version (Mk 3:24-26). The point of the proverbial saying (v. 17), as it is applied to Jesus’ situation (v. 18), is that it makes no sense for a person working for Beelzebul and the demons to cast out demons; it would be like a kingdom that was divided against itself. The implication is that Jesus represents a different kingdom—namely, the kingdom of God.

This line of argument is developed in vv. 18b-19 (par Matt 12:27), and, again, by the illustration in vv. 21-22 (par Matt 12:29, and cf. Mk 3:27). First, Jesus points out that there are other people who perform similar miracles (or are thought to). In addressing the people in the crowd who bring the accusations against him, Jesus refers to “your sons” —that is, others among them, of whom (it may be inferred) similar accusations are not made regarding the miracles they perform. How are such people able to cast out daimons, if they are not, like they say now of Jesus, working through the power of Beelzebul?

Indeed, such miracles would typically be attributed to God. It may be the particular success and prominence of Jesus in performing these healing miracles which led to certain people claiming that he must, somehow, be working in league with the demons themselves. The implication is that there was a distinctiveness in the way Jesus was able to cast out the daimon-spirits, a distinctiveness which reflected a special kind of authority over the spirit-world. This exercise of authority was part of what led to the initial popularity of Jesus (note the tradition in Mark 1:27-28 par, and the following summary in vv. 32ff), and, with it, certain jealousy and resentment among other Jewish leaders.

The rhetorical argument (and question) in vv. 18b-19 leads to the dramatic declaration by Jesus in verse 20 (par Matt 12:28):

“But, if (it is) by (the) finger of God (that) I cast out the daimons, then (know that) the kingdom of God has come (now) upon you!”

Jesus claims, unequivocally, that he casts out daimons by the power (lit. “finger”) of God. The expression “finger of God” probably alludes to the Exodus narrative, regarding the plagues on Egypt, which were performed by God through Moses (and Aaron) as intermediary (Exod 8:19 [Heb 15]); for other occurrences of the idiom, see Exod 31:18; Deut 9:10 (cf. also Psalm 8:4). Like Moses, Jesus functions as God’s specially appointed (and anointed) representative, and here makes such a claim for himself—a claim which would not have been lost on many of his hearers. If the specific pronoun e)gw/ (“I”) is to be included (as original), then almost certainly it is emphatic; I have indicated this in the translation above: “but if I…”.

The force of Jesus’ claim is explained by the Matthean version of this saying, but also by the historical context of the Beelzebul episode. Instead of “finger [da/ktulo$] of God”, Matthew (12:28) reads “Spirit [pneu=ma] of God”. Almost certainly, the Lukan version more accurately represents the original saying; the Matthean variant is best understood as an explanatory gloss—viz., to explain that “finger of God” means the Spirit of God, working through Jesus.

This explanation, indeed, properly reflects the context of the episode, which the Markan narrative brings out most clearly. People were claiming that Jesus was performing his healing miracles through demonic power, rather than by the power (i.e., Spirit) of God. This helps us to understand the saying regarding the “insult against the Holy Spirit”, Mk 3:28-29, which Matthew records here in the same location (12:31-32). It is one thing to insult the human being (“son of man”) who performs the miracle, but quite another to blaspheme the Spirit of God that works through the person. Mark clearly states that this was the point of Jesus’ saying (3:30).

That Jesus performs his miracles, in a very special way (like Moses), through the Spirit (or “finger”) of God, is also indicated by the illustration in vv. 21-22 par. Subduing “the strong (one)” (i.e., Beelzebul) requires someone even stronger—that is, God Himself, or Jesus as His representative, acting in and by His Spirit.

The wording of the statement in verse 20 is relevant to the key declaration made by Jesus, at the start of his ministry, according to the Synoptic narrative (Mark 1:15 par, discussed in the previous study). In that initial statement, Jesus declared that:

“…the kingdom of God has come near [h&ggiken]”

This indicates that God’s kingdom would soon appear; on the eschatological significance of the adverb e)ggu/$ (“close, near”) and verb e)ggi/zw (“come/bring near”), see the previous study, and my earlier article on the imminent eschatology of early Christians. By contrast, here in Lk 11:20 par, Jesus uses the verb fqa/nw:

“…the kingdom of God has (now) come [e&fqasen]”

The verb fqa/nw can be a bit difficult to translate. It denotes coming (or doing something) first, before (or ahead of) others. It can specifically indicate the aspect of arriving first, and then, more generally, the idea of “arriving” or reaching a particular point. Taken in the more fundamental sense, the statement here would mean, “the kingdom has first come (now)”; alternately, it could mean, “the kingdom of God has reached you”, or, more generally, “the kingdom of God has now arrived”. In any case, it certainly indicates a step beyond the statement in Mark 1:15 par: the kingdom of God is not just near to coming, it has now arrived. The verb fqa/nw is used in the aorist tense, but this would seem to differ little from the use of the perfect tense (for e)ggi/zw in Mark 1:15); practically speaking, it needs to be translated like a perfect in English (i.e., “has come”).

The point of the saying, then, is that the Kingdom of God has now arrived, with the ministry of Jesus. In particular, God is exercising His authority over the demon-powers. These spirits, responsible for disease, and other forms of evil and wickedness, have held a certain dominion over the world (and especially over humankind) during the current Age, a power and influence which has only been increasing as the end of the Age draws closer. But now God, through his anointed representative, Jesus, is beginning to subdue the spirits, and to defeat the kingdom of the evil powers (led by ‘Beelzebul’). In this conflict between the two kingdoms, the kingdom of God is sure to be victorious, and, indeed, is even now beginning to establish itself on earth.

This idea of Jesus as God’s anointed representative (i.e., Messiah) brings to mind a second, but related, aspect of the Kingdom-concept—that of the restoration of the Israelite kingdom, under the leadership of a new Ruler from the line of David. This represents a different Messianic figure-type, which is fulfilled in the person of Jesus. The miracles which formed the basis for the Beelzebul episode attest to Jesus’ identity as a Messianic prophet—along the lines of Moses and Elijah, each of whom were miracle-workers, through whom the power of God was specially manifest.

In the Synoptic narrative, Jesus’ identity as a Messianic prophet dominates the first half—the period of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. In the second half of the narrative (the period in Jerusalem), it is the Davidic/royal Messiah that is primarily in view. For next week’s study, in commemoration of Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, we will examine this particular aspect of the Kingdom-theme, as it is expressed in the Triumphal Entry scene.

The name Beelzebul (Grk Beelzebou/l) is a transliteration of a Semitic title, which was applied to the Canaanite deity Haddu (called Ba±al, Heb lu^B^, “Lord, Master”). The designation zbl (Heb lb%z+ z§»¥l) is an honorific title meaning something like “exalted” or “(most) high”. Thus, the Canaanite title b±l zbl means “Exalted Lord”. For Israelites and Jews, Baal Haddu was the most famous pagan deity from the ancient Near East, largely due to the fierce polemic references to him in the Old Testament (as a rival to El-YHWH). It was thus natural that this ‘exalted’ Baal would serve as a representation for the leader of all foreign/wicked deities (called daimons, or “demons”). Elsewhere in Jewish tradition and in the New Testament, this role is given to the Satan/Devil, or to the same essential figure called by different names.

December 26: Psalm 89:25-26

This series of daily notes on Psalm 89 is an extension of the article in the Sunday Studies on the Psalms feature. The Messianic orientation of this Psalm (especially in the central section vv. 20-38), dealing with the promise of kingship to David and his line, is particularly relevant to the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus.

Psalm 89:20-26, continued

(For verses 22-24, see the previous note)

Verse 25 [24]

“My firmness and my devotion (are) with him,
and in my name his horn shall (be) lifted high.”

The keyword of this Psalm is hn`Wna$, emphasizing the firmness of YHWH. That term combines both the idea of God’s strength and His faithfulness. The former has been the focus in verses 18-24, as also in the prior vv. 10-14; however, it is the latter that is emphasized by the pairing of hn`Wma$ and ds#j#. These same two nouns were paired at the opening of the Psalm, in vv. 2-3, and also in v. 15 (with the related tm#a# in place of hn`Wma$). Though hn`Wma$ has the basic meaning “firmness”, it frequently carries a meaning of “faithfulness, trustworthiness”; similarly, ds#j# (“goodness, kindness”) often has the meaning “faithfulness, loyalty, devotion”. These are fundamental attributes of YHWH, relating particularly to the covenant loyalty that he shows to His people.

Here, in line 1, it is declared (and promised) that these attributes are with (<u!) the king—that is, the Davidic ruler, chosen by God, and expected to be a loyal servant to Him. The same preposition was used in v. 22 (cf. the previous note), where it was stated that YHWH’s strong and supporting hand/arm is “with him” (oMu!). This may allude to the statements regarding David in 1 Sam 18:12, 14; 2 Sam 5:10:

    • “And Ša’ûl was afraid from before (the) face of David, because YHWH was with him [oMu!]” (v. 12)
    • “And in all his ways David was having success, for YHWH (was) with him [oMu!]” (v. 14)
    • “And David kept on, going on and becoming great, for YHWH (the) Mighty (One) of (the) armies (was) with him [oMu!]” (2 Sam 5:10)

Much the same was said of the Judean king Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:7:

“For he clung on(to) YHWH; (and) he did not turn aside from following Him, but guarded His commands, (those) which YHWH had commanded Moshe. And YHWH was with him [oMu!], so (that), in whichever (way) he went forth, he had success…” (vv. 6-7)

The thought expressed in v. 7a, regarding Hezekiah, may well relate to the name la@ WnM*u! in Isa 7:14; 8:8, 10 (cf. below).

The wording of the second line is similar to that in vv. 17-18, both with the idea of being/acting “in the name” of God, along with the specific idiom of one’s “horn” (/r#q#) being “raised/lifted high” (vb <Wr in the Hiphil stem). The horn-motif applies particularly to a ruler or king, and was applied specifically to the Davidic ruler in Ps 132:17; cf. also 148:14; a Messianic interpretation of the idiom is suggested by Ezek 29:21, and certainly in Luke 1:69 (cf. below). Being “in the name” of YHWH implies that the king is faithful and loyal to God, able to participate in the Divine blessing and protection that He provides.

Verse 26 [25]

“And I will set his hand on the sea,
and his right (hand) on the rivers.”

This couplet alludes to the imagery from vv. 10-11 (cf. the discussion in the earlier note), describing YHWH’s sovereignty over the universe in the terminology of cosmological myth—viz., His subduing of the primeval waters at the time of Creation. The Davidic king, drawing upon the strength of YHWH Himself, similarly has authority over the waters—described by the pair of terms <y` (“sea”) and torh*n+ (“streams, rivers”). An allusion to the cosmological myth of the Creator’s victory over the primeval waters seems all the more likely, given how, in the Canaanite Baal Epic, the foe defeated by Baal-Haddu is both called Sea (ym = <y) and River (nhr = rhn, “judge River”, ¾p‰ nhr); cf. Dahood, II, p. 317. For more on this subject, see my article “The Conflict with the Sea in Ancient Near Eastern Myth”.

In verse 11, the dark and unruly waters (a) are compared with hostile human adversaries (b), and the “waters” here in v. 26 almost certainly have the same significance. Through God’s strength, the king has protection from all enemies, and is able to achieve victory over them; thus his rule is allowed to extend over the surrounding nations. Historically, this may allude to the Israelite conquests under David, which allowed the kingdom to reach its zenith during the reign of Solomon.

Metrically, verse 25 follows the three-beat (3+3) couplet format that dominates this division of the Psalm; however, verse 26 has a shorted 3+2 meter.

Textually, it is interesting to note that, in the Qumran manuscript 4QPsx, verse 26 appears between vv. 22 and 23, and that vv. 24-25 appear to be missing.

Comments for Christmas

Verse 25b, repeating as it does the horn-motif from v. 18, can be understood in a Messianic sense. This motif was applied to Jesus in Luke 1:69, as mentioned in the prior note. The added promise in v. 25a, that YHWH’s strength and devotion will be with the Davidic king (“with him,” oMu!), naturally reminds one of the name la@ WnM*u! (±Imm¹nû °E~l) in Isa 7:14; 8:8 (cf. also 8:10), and the identification of Jesus with the promised child of 7:14 (on which, cf. my earlier study and notes). This identification features prominently in the Matthean Infancy narrative (1:22-23), with Isa 7:14 representing the first of the Gospel’s Scripture citations. There is likely a similar use of the “God-with-us” motif in Luke 1:28, which clearly occurs in a Messianic context, identifying Jesus with the promised Davidic Messiah (vv. 27, 32f).

As for the extent of the Davidic ruler’s kingdom, and of his reign over the nations (symbolized by the waters), this is indicated in Luke 1:33. The worldwide scope of the Messiah’s rule, which the Lukan author compares (implicitly) with that of Augustus (and the Roman Empire), is established in 2:1ff, 10ff, and then is further interpreted in 2:30-32 as a foreshadowing of the early Christian mission. For more on the parallels between Jesus and Augustus, in the context of 2:1ff, 10ff, cf. my earlier note on the subject.

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).

December 25: Psalm 89:22-24

This series of daily notes on Psalm 89 is an extension of the article in the Sunday Studies on the Psalms feature. The Messianic orientation of this Psalm (especially in the central section vv. 20-38), dealing with the promise of kingship to David and his line, is particularly relevant to the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus.

Psalm 89:20-26, continued

(For verses 20-21, see the previous note)

Verse 22 [21]

“(He) who (by) my hand is kept firm (in place),
with him also my arm will give him strength.”

As the King over all creation, YHWH is the source of power and authority for every human king on earth; and this is certainly so for His chosen king (David) ruling over His people Israel. The power/strength of YHWH was described by the familiar figurative use of the arm/hand motif in verse 14 (cf. the earlier note). The noun pair dy` (“hand”) and u^orz+ (“arm”) occurs again here; only, in this instance, God’s strength is used to support the king (David).

The theme of YHWH’s firmness, established in verse 2 and running throughout the Psalm, continues here, utilizing the pair of verbs /WK and Jm^a*, both of which essentially mean “be firm”. YHWH’s hand/arm—that is, His strength—is the means by which David is set firmly in place (as king), as expressed by the verb /WK in the Niphal (passive) stem. God’s supporting power remains with the king (“with him,” oMu!), strengthening his rule (vb Jm^a*, Piel stem).

Verse 23 [22]

“(The) hostile (one) shall not lift (a hand) against him,
and (the) son of perversion shall not oppress him.”

With the support and strength of YHWH on the king’s side, enemies and wicked adversaries will not be able to attack him successfully. This draws upon the militaristic imagery in verse 19, as well as the earlier emphasis on YHWH defeating His (human) enemies, just as He had subdued the dark and unruly waters at the time of creation (vv. 10-11). The king’s adversaries are defined, in a general sense, by two traditional descriptive terms, set in parallel. The first is the participle by@oa (“being hostile”), as a substantive, i.e., “hostile (one)” = “enemy”.

The second term is the expression “son of perversion” (hl*w+u^ /B#). The noun hl*w+u^, like the related lw#u^, basically means “crookedness” or “deviation”, particularly in the ethical-religious sense of something deviating from what is right; it is often translated as “injustice”, but the more rudimentary “deviation” or “perversion” is preferred. The noun /B# (“son”) often is used in the generic or figurative sense of a person who belongs to a group or category, possessing certain defining characteristics, etc. The expression “son of perversion” is a colorful way of referring to the wicked.

The verbs used, for the actions of the king’s adversaries, are also set in parallel. In the first line, the MT reads aV!y~, apparently a form of the verb av^n`, meaning “lend”. As this seems incongruous to the context, it is, I think, fair to assume that a slight scribal error has occurred, and that the correct reading is aC*y], “lift up (i.e., one’s face/hand)”, in a hostile sense; cf. Dahood, II, p. 317. Parallel with ac^n`, in the second line, is the verb hn`u* III, “press down, oppress”.

Verse 24 [23]

“Indeed, I will crush his adversaries from (before) his face,
and (the one)s hating him I will strike!”

Not only will YHWH’s power protect the king from the attacks of wicked/hostile foes, but He will defeat and destroy them completely. Again, two parallel terms are used for the king’s foes, and also for YHWH’s action against them. First, there is the plural of the noun rx^, denoting someone who is hostile, similar in meaning to the participle by@oa (cf. above on v. 23); to distinguish these terms, I have translated the former here as “adversary”. Parallel to this is a participle of the verb an`c* (“hate”), in the Piel stem, denoting someone “who hates” another.

In the first line, YHWH states that He will “crush” the king’s enemies, utilizing a relatively rare verb (tt^K*) which can have the intensive meaning “pound (to dust), pulverize”. In the second line, the verb is [g~n`, “strike, land a (fatal) blow”.

Comments for Christmas

The Lukan Infancy narrative draws upon some of this same kind of militaristic imagery, tied to the expectation that God, through His servant the (Davidic) Messiah, will defeat the enemies and oppressors of His people. This line of thought is expressed at several points in the canticles of the Lukan narrative:

    • In the Magnificat, 1:51f, we find the idea that God, through the strength of His “arm”, scatters throughout (vb diaskorpi/zw) those who are overly inflated (with wicked arrogance); He does this specifically to help His people Israel, and those of them who are oppressed (vv. 52-54f).
    • In the Benedictus, in the context of the promise of “raising up a horn for salvation” from among the descendants of David (1:69, cf. verse 18 of our Psalm), this salvation is expressed in terms of delivering Israel from the hands of enemies (those who are hostile) and those who hate them (vv. 71, 73f).

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).

December 22: Psalm 89:14-15

This series of daily notes on Psalm 89 is an extension of the article in the Sunday Studies on the Psalms feature. The Messianic orientation of this Psalm (especially in the central section vv. 20-38), dealing with the promise of kingship to David and his line, is particularly relevant to the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus.

Psalm 89:14-15 [13-14]

Verses 14-15 are best treated in the manner of an intermediary refrain, occurring between the second (cf. the previous note) and third strophes of the first division (vv. 6-19) of the Psalm. These lines summarize and reiterate several key themes from the prior sections, and genuinely seem to constitute a distinct poetic unit. See the outline of the suggested structure by Hossfeld-Zenger (p. 399f) along with their brief discussion (pp. 406-7).

Verse 14 [13]

“To you (belongs) an arm with might—
strong is your (left) hand,
high is your right (hand).”

This opening verse is an irregular 3+2+2 tricolon, with a governing 3-beat line followed a short two-beat couplet. The power of YHWH—His strength and might—is emphasized, building upon the descriptive imagery in vv. 10-13 (discussed in the previous note), but also developing further the thematic motif of God’s firmness (hn`Wma$), established in the introductory unit (vv. 2-5).

The imagery is that of YHWH as a warrior, referring back to the cosmological tradition of the Creator-deity subduing the primeval waters (v. 11), and, in a similar manner, defeating all human enemies (viz., those of His people). The noun hr*WbG+ (“strength, might”) indeed suggests the strength of a warrior. YHWH’s “arm” —an anthropomorphic way of referring to His power and strength—is filled with this ‘warrior-might’.

The same point is elucidated poetically in the terse couplet that follows, in the second and third lines. YHWH’s “hand” is strong (vb zz~u*), and His “right (hand)” is high (vb <Wr). The term “right (hand)” (/ym!y`) may simply be an intensification of “hand” (dy`), since the right hand particularly designates strength (as well as similar positive aspects of blessing, etc); however, I have adopted the suggestion of Dahood (II, p. 315), that “hand” here implies the left hand, allowing for a left-right pairing in the couplet.

Verse 15 [14]

“Right and justice (are the) firm base of your throne,
(while) loyalty and fidelity stand before your face.”

The motif of YHWH’s throne—symbolizing His sovereignty over the universe (including over the divine beings in the heavens)—was introduced in verse 5. This image was presented in the context of the firmness theme that was established in vv. 2-5. In vv. 2-3, the noun ds#j# was paired with hn`Wma$, while here, in the second line, it is paired with the related noun tm#a#. Both hn`Wma$ and tm#a# essentially mean “firmness”, in the sense of faithfulness, trustworthiness, and also truthfulness (tm#a# frequently carries this specific nuance of meaning). As I have mentioned, while ds#j# denotes “goodness, kindness”, in the context of the covenant it tends to carry the specific meaning(s) of faithfulness, loyalty, and devotion.

Here the nouns should be understood somewhat more abstractly, as detached attributes which characterize the domain of YHWH’s Kingship; thus I render the pair in this verse as “loyalty [ds#j#] and fidelity [tm#a#]”. They “stand before” (vb <d^q*, possibly, “travel before”) God’s throne, like dutiful servants. Similarly, the pair of attributes, “right(eousness)” (qd#x#) and “justice” (fP*v=m!), in line 1, function as servants to YHWH, supporting His throne. The noun /okm= denotes a firm/fixed place, which I render here as “firm base” (that is, for the throne); the verbal root /wK is very close in meaning to /ma (“be firm”), and thus continues the Psalm’s thematic motif of YHWH’s firmness (hn`Wma$).

YHWH, seated on His throne as King, is surrounded by these four Divine attributes. They also characterize His Kingdom (and His Kingship). The idea of God’s throne being supported by right and justice (as their firm base), means that His rule is based on these same attributes. Similarly, the loyalty and fidelity that stand before Him reflect the way that God handles the affairs of His kingdom. In particular, they allude to His covenant with His people Israel.

In the next daily note, we will turn to the third (and final) strophe (vv. 16-19) of the praise-hymn, where the aspect of YHWH’s faithfulness toward His people is emphasized.

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 “Hossfeld-Zenger” are to Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51-100, translated from the German by Linda M. Maloney, Hermeneia Commentary series (Fortress Press: 2005).

December 21: Psalm 89:10-13

This series of daily notes on Psalm 89 is an extension of the article in the Sunday Studies on the Psalms feature. The Messianic orientation of this Psalm (especially in the central section vv. 20-38), dealing with the promise of kingship to David and his line, is particularly relevant to the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus.

Psalm 89:10-13 [9-12]
Verse 10 [9]

“You are ruling over (the) rising up of the Sea;
at (the) lifting of its billows, you still them.”

In this second strophe of the hymn in vv. 6-19 (cf. the previous note on vv. 6-9), the focus on YHWH’s incomparable power over the universe (as Creator and King) shifts from the heavens to the cosmos as a whole. Here it is particularly the Sea (<y`) that is in view—and, not simply the waters of the earth (seas, lakes, rivers, etc), but also (and especially) the primeval cosmic waters that surround the world. According to the ancient Near Eastern cosmology, at the beginning of Creation, there was a great mass of dark waters (Gen 1:2), in the midst of which the universe took shape, as a spherical (or hemispherical) form, like a bubble within the waters. These primeval waters continue to surround the cosmos, being held above the disc/cylinder-shaped earth by the hemispheric shell of the ‘firmament’ (Gen 1:6-8); similar waters surround the world below the earth.

In His act of creating the world, the Creator gave both light and order to the dark and chaotic waters (Gen 1:4ff). In cosmological myth, this is often described in terms of God subduing the unruly waters, defeating them like a warrior in combat. Because of their dark and chaotic aspect, the primeval waters tend to be depicted as a great monster (aided by monstrous allies) which needs to be defeated by the Divine hero, in order to bring about a universe capable of sustaining life. I discuss this subject in the article “Conflict with the Sea in Ancient Near Eastern Myth”.

Not infrequently, ancient Hebrew poetry draws upon this line of cosmological myth, applying to YHWH (the Creator) the militaristic imagery of a hero-warrior who defeats/subdues the primeval waters. This imagery is very much being referenced here in vv. 10-11; I mention a number of similar Old Testament poetic passages in the aforementioned article.

YHWH’s subduing of the Sea means that He has control over the waters that surround the earth, including all the waters present on/in the earth—the rain from above, the floods/springs below, and all the seas, etc, on the surface. As expressed here in verse 10, He rules (vb lv^m*) over them; and, since the waters continue to possess something of their primeval chaotic unruliness, YHWH frequently has need or occasion to tame them when they get out of line. The lifting and swelling of the sea’s great waves, so powerful and awesome to behold, are governed by God’s authority, and are “stilled” (vb jb^v*) when necessary.

There is some alliterative assonance here in v. 10, which cannot be captured in translation but can be demonstrated in transliteration:

°¹ttâ môš¢l b®g¢°û¾ hayy¹m
b®´ô° gall¹yw °attâ ¾®šabµ¢m

Verse 11 [10]

“You crushed Rahab like (one who is) slain;
with (the) arm of your strength you scattered your foes!”

YHWH’s control over the waters (v. 10) is due to his ‘defeat’ of the primeval Sea, drawing upon ancient cosmological myth (as noted above). “Rahab” (bh^r*) is one of the names in the tradition for the great Sea-monster of myth, also occurring in Job 9:13; 26:12; Isa 51:9. The same line of mythic tradition probably underlies its application to Egypt (Ps 87:4; Isa 30:7), blending with the naturalistic image of the mighty creatures (i.e., crocodile, hippopotamus) of the Nile to symbolize Egypt’s ancient power and prestige.

Indeed the ‘subduing of the Sea’ motif can be applied to the defeat of human enemies (i.e., enemies of Israel) by YHWH. The event at the Reed Sea (Exod 14-15) is a good example of this, where God uses his power over the waters to defeat the Egyptians (cf. especially the poetic account in the Song of chap. 15). The primeval Sea (and its monstrous allies) had to be “scattered” in order to create the cosmos, and also to provide the individual bodies of water on earth (and also the rain from above, etc); similarly, human enemies are scattered (vb rz~P*) when they are defeated by God.

The suffixed plural participle ;yb#y+oa means “your hostile (one)s” or “(those) hostile to you”; here, for poetic concision, it has been translated “your foes”.

Verse 12 [11]

“To you (belongs the) heavens, (and) also to you (the) earth;
(the) thriving (world) and its fullness, you have founded them.”

The first line of this next couplet states concisely what has been established in vv. 6-9 and 10-11—namely, that YHWH is Creator and Sovereign over both the heavens and the earth. The conjunctive particle [a^ (“also, indeed”) emphasizes that the earth (and its inhabitants) belong to YHWH, and is under His authority, just as much as the heavens are.

The universe as a whole (as understood within the ancient Near Eastern cosmology) is defined by the pairing “the heavens [upper half] and the earth [lower half]”; however, the inhabitable world, supportive of life, is signified here by the term lb@T@. This noun is extremely difficult to translate, as there is really no English word (or phrase) that corresponds to it. The noun lb@T@, in context, refers to the living and productive aspect of the world—the movement of things (and creatures) from one place to another, entailing growth and activity of all sorts. I have rendered this above as “thriving (world)”. YHWH’s founding (vb ds^y`) of this world, and all that is in it (“its fullness”), refers to His work as Creator (Gen 1:6-31).

Verse 13 [12]

‚a¸ôn and Yamîn, you have created them;
Tabôr and „ermôn, at your name they ring out!”

The final couplet of this strophe, emphasizing YHWH’s sovereignty over all the universe, seems to be utilizing some wordplay that cannot be captured in translation. The terms /opx* and /ymy` in line 1, in particular, likely carry a double-meaning. The noun /opx* denotes something “hidden”, but came to be used specifically, in a directional or geographic sense, for the north. In this, Hebrew tradition (and its poetry) is drawing upon Canaanite religious myth, which located the dwelling of the gods in the north, on the ‘hidden’ peak of a cosmic mountain, which had a local/symbolic manifestation in the mountain called by the name ƒpn or ƒpwn (= Heb ƒ¹¸ôn), modern Jebel el-Aqra. Thus /opx* can refer either to the north, or to a great mountain in the north.

Similarly, /ym!y` (y¹mîn) can refer to the south (lit. right-hand side); but Dahood (II, p. 314) may well be correct that here /my (ymn) also serves as a byform of /ma (°mn), referring to the Amanus mountain(s)—that is, the Alma Dag or Nur mountains. This would allow for the terms /opx* and /ym!y` to refer, alternately, to the directions of north and south, or to the great northern mountain locales of Zaphon and Amanus.

The mountain sites of Tabor and Hermon in the second line add support to the view that there are also mountain references in line 1. Tabor and Hermon are mountains in Israel—located in the northern Esdraelon plain of Galilee, and further north in the anti-Lebanon range, respectively. By contrast, Zaphon and Amanus are located in the ‘far north’, in northern Syria and southern Turkey.

However the first line is to be understood, the emphasis is (again) on YHWH as Creator. His creation of the entirety of the cosmos may be implied by the comprehensive juxtaposition of north/south. On the other hand, creation of the mountains Zaphon and Amanus, with their associations with Semitic/Canaanite mythic tradition, would fit in well with the theme from the first strophe (vv. 6-9, cf. the previous note)—of YHWH’s superiority over all other divine beings. The second line plays on this same theme, by reiterating that even the great mountains, like the heavens (and the heavenly beings), give praise and worship to YHWH. Here, the specific idiom is “ring out [vb /n~r*] (praise)” to God’s name.

In the next note, we will turn to verses 14-15, which, it seems, function as something like a refrain between the second (vv. 10-13) and third (vv. 16-19) strophes.

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).

December 20: Psalm 89:6-9

The daily notes for December will be focused on Psalm 89, as an extension of the article in the Sunday Studies on the Psalms feature. The Messianic orientation of this Psalm (especially in the central section vv. 20-38), dealing with the promise of kingship to David and his line, is particularly relevant to the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus. The Gospel tradition, as presented by the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke, preserves a definite emphasis on Jesus’ identity as the royal (Davidic) Messiah; the Lukan narrative, in particular, features this component rather prominently (1:32-33, 68-69; 2:1-4ff, 10-11ff).

The Psalm was introduced, along with an exposition of the opening prologue-section (vv. 2-5), in the Sunday study. The remainder of the Psalm will be treated in this series of daily notes.

Division 1: Vv. 6-19 [5-18]

Psalm 89:6-9 [5-8]
Verse 6 [5]

“(The) heavens throw (praise for) your wondrous (devotion), YHWH—
yes, (and for) your firmness—in (the) assembly of (the) holy (one)s.”

The praise of YHWH, introduced as a theme in vv. 2-3 (cf. the introductory study), is developed in vv. 6-19. This couplet begins the hymn of praise. The location of the heavens builds upon verse 3, with the emphasis on YHWH as the Creator (and Sovereign) of the universe. God is to be praised (lit. thrown praise, vb hd*y`), in particular, for his faithfulness. In vv. 2-5, this fundamental attribute and characteristic was expressed by the pair of nouns ds#j# and hn`Wma$. The former noun means “goodness, kindness”, often in the sense of “loyalty, devotion”, while the latter means “firmness,” often in the sense of “faithfulness, trustworthiness,” etc.

The noun hn`Wma$ occurs again here, but this time is paired with al#P#, which denotes “something wonderful”. This word often refers to the miraculous/mighty deeds performed by YHWH (on behalf of His people); but here, the context (and pairing with hn`Wma$) suggests rather that His covenant loyalty is being emphasized. Part of YHWH’s covenantal obligation is to provide protection for His people (the faithful ones)—a theme often featured in the Psalms; this protection entails the exercise of power, including His control over the natural forces, and the performance of wondrous deeds. The verb al*P* is used in Lev 22:21; 27:2; Num 15:3, 8, in the context of fulfilling a vow, which certainly would relate to the idea YHWH’s faithfulness to a binding agreement (covenant). In this light, I have translated al#P# above as “wondrous (devotion)”.

The parallel with “heavens” in line 1, clearly shows that “holy (one)s” (<yv!d)q=) refers to heavenly beings. As the Creator, YHWH is the supreme Sovereign over all other divine/heavenly beings. The image here is of the entire assembly (lh*q*) of divine beings surrounding YHWH (presumably on His ‘throne’) and giving praise to Him.

Verse 7 [6]

“For who in (all) the cloud(s) can (be) set next to YHWH,
(who) is like unto YHWH among (the) sons of (the) mighty (one)s?”

This couplet emphasizes YHWH supremacy and incomparability. None of the divine/heavenly beings can be compared to Him. This is expressed by the parallel verbs Er^u* and hm*D*. The first verb means “set in order (or in a row)”, and, more generally, “arrange”; however, this setting/arranging can carry the more figurative meaning of “compare” (i.e., by setting one thing alongside another). The second verb (hm*D*) has the basic meaning “be like, resemble”.

The noun qj^v^ (“cloud, vapor”) in the first line parallels “heavens” in v. 6, while the expression “sons of the mighty (one)s” obviously parallels “holy (one)s”, referring to the divine/heavenly beings (as a group). The plural <yl!a@ (plur. of la@) means “mighty (one)s”, or (more conventionally in English) “gods”, i.e., divine beings. The usual word for “God”, <yh!l)a$ is essentially an extended variant of the same plural; cf. my earlier notes on El and Elohim as names/titles of God.

By all accounts, the early Israelite religion was monotheistic in a qualified sense. That is to say, the emphasis was on YHWH’s superiority to all other divine beings, rather than claiming that no other divine beings existed at all. In the light of the more absolute monotheism of later periods, the expression “sons of God” was understood as referring to heavenly beings (i.e., angels), but not gods or deities per se. For more on this, cf. the earlier study on Psalm 82, as well as my note(s) on Deut 32:8.

Verse 8 [7]

“A Mighty (One) terrifying among (the) council of holy (one)s,
great and fearsome over all (those) surrounding Him!”

Again the superiority (and sovereignty) of YHWH is emphasized, this time in terms of the fear/awe with which even the divine/heavenly beings regard Him. This idea is expressed by another pair of (parallel) verbs—Jr^u* and ar*y`. The Niphal (passive) participle of these verbs, however, is a bit difficult to translate. The first verb, Jr^u* means “be terrified” (or transitively, “cause/bring terror”), while the second, ar*y`, is the common verb meaning “fear, be afraid”. The passive participle forms denote something like “being feared”, probably in the sense of “to be feared”, “to be held in dread”. Rather than emphasizing the response of the heavenly beings, I have chosen to translate the participles as Divine attributes/characteristics (“terrifying”, “fearsome”) which, of course, deserve the proper response of fear and awe.

Verse 9 [8]

“YHWH, Mighty (One) of (the) armies,
who (is) like unto you?
O strong(est) YH,
how your firmness surrounds you!”

Metrically, this verse (which climaxes the strophe-unit of vv. 6-9) diverges from the general (4-beat) couplet pattern of vv. 6-8. I parse it as a pair of shorter couplets (3+2 and 2+2), loosely parallel in form. The first line of each couplet contains a vocative address to YHWH, emphasizing (again) His power/strength. The second line reiterates the unit’s theme of the incomparability of YHWH, and His absolute superiority over all other divine/heavenly beings.

In v. 8, YHWH was referred to by the ancient Semitic term la@, the word for deity, which I understand as more or less meaning “Mighty (One)”, the plural <yl!a@ (“mighty [one]s”) being used in v. 7. Here, in v. 9, the expanded plural <yh!l)a$ (the customary Hebrew word for “God” in the OT) is used; it is best understood, when applied to YHWH in a monotheistic context, as an intensive or comprehensive plural (i.e., “Mightiest [One]”). In the second couplet, the adjective /ys!j& (“mighty, strength”) is used, as a similar (if much more rare) Divine title.

YHWH’s incomparable might/strength is defined in relation to the other divine/heavenly beings (<yl!a@). He is their Creator and absolute Sovereign. This is indicated by the title “YHWH of (the) armies” (toab*x= hwhy), here in the expanded form “YHWH Mightiest (One) of (the) armies” (toab*x= yh@l)a$ hwhy). The “armies” refer to the heavenly beings, conceived of as a vast army of entities. They were created by YHWH and are under His control/command.

This army of heavenly beings (and their domain/power) includes the various forces of nature, especially those located in the skies/heavens—the sun, moon, stars, and, in particular, the wind and rain and all other storm-phenomena. These forces of nature are under God’s control and will ‘fight’, at His command, on behalf of His people. In addition to the famous event at the Reed Sea (Exod 14-15), one may point to the references in Josh 10:12-14 and Judg 5:4-5, 20-21 as famous examples. Descriptions of YHWH in terms of ancient storm-theophany traditions are relatively common in Hebrew tradition (esp. the older poetry); for the Near Eastern background of this imagery, cf. my article “The Conflict with the Sea in Ancient Near Eastern Myth”.

In the final line, this emphasis on YHWH’s strength is expressed again in relation to His faithfulness, with the use (again) of the noun hn`Wma$. The fundamental meaning of this word (“firmness”) covers both aspects—strength/power and faithfulness—of God’s nature and character.

In the next note, we will turn to the second strophe-unit (vv. 10-13) of this section.

August 16: Psalm 78:23-31

Because of the length of Psalm 78, the exegesis of its couplets and verses will be presented over a series of daily notes. The previous note examined vv. 17-22; for the discussion of the opening section (vv. 1-8), see the introductory study.

Psalm 78:17-31 (cont.)

Verse 23

“And (yet) He commanded (the) clouds from above,
and (the) doors of (the) heavens opened (up).”

This couplet follows the angry reaction by YHWH (v. 21) to the people’s faithless response regarding their predicament (i.e., lack of food to eat in the desert), vv. 19-20, 22. The initial w-conjunction could indicate that God’s opening of the heavens is an expression of His anger (“and so…”), or that He fulfilled the people’s request in spite of it (“and yet…”); the latter would seem to be a better fit.

The noun qj^v^, which almost always occurs in the plural, refers to clouds of dust or other fine particles; it could be rendered “vapors” here. The idiom “doors/gates [yt@l=D^] of the heavens” is a bit unusual; somewhat more common is the idea of windows in the heavens (cf. Gen 7:11), through which the rain comes down. Again, YHWH’s control over the waters is alluded to here, even though the motif of rain is figurative in this instance—as God ‘rains down’ bread and meat, instead of water, from heaven (v. 24; Exod 16:4).

Verse 24

“And He rained down upon them man(na) to eat,
even grain of (the) heavens He gave to them.”

This couplet essentially paraphrases Exod 16:4, and the following description in vv. 13ff. In Exodus, the expression is “bread [<j#l#] from the heavens”, while here it is “grain [/g`D*] of (the) heavens” (however <j#l# [‘bread”] is used in v. 25). The use of <j#l# is more in keeping with the tradition (Ps 105:40; Neh 9:15), followed in the Johannine Bread of Life Discourse by Jesus (Jn 6:31ff).

Verse 25

“Bread of (the) mighty (one)s did man eat—
He sent to them provision to (the) full!”

Since this bread came down from heaven, it has a heavenly nature and origin; the implication here is that it is food that the heavenly beings would eat. The plural substantive adjective <yr!yB!a^ is more or less synonymous with <yh!ýa$—both have the basic meaning “mighty ones”, and refer to Divine/heavenly beings. The singular ryb!a* is used as a Divine title for El-YHWH in Gen 49:24; Psalm 132:2, 5; Isa 1:24; 49:26; 60:16. In other passages, the plural adjective refers to powerful animals (bulls, oxen), or to human leaders/warriors by way of an animal-epithet. The idea that this heavenly food conveys life to Divine beings is certainly of significance for the use of the tradition in the Bread of Life Discourse (cf. above). This surely was a special privilege—for human beings to eat the food of the gods (or angels)!

Not surprisingly, the heavenly source of this food meant that it gave nourishment and provision (hd*yx@) in a way that was completely and fully satisfying (cf. below on v. 29).

Verse 26

“He made the front-wind set out in the heavens,
and drove forth (the) right-hand wind by His power.”

YHWH’s activity in causing the bread and meat to ‘rain down’ emphasizes still further His control over the skies and all related atmospheric phenomena (wind, etc). On the role of the wind in bringing forth the meat from heaven—i.e., driving the quail down to earth—see Num 11:31. The term <yd!q*, denoting a front or forward position, directionally refers to the east; thus the “front wind” is the east-wind. Similarly, the “right-hand” (/m*yT@) wind is the south-wind.

Dahood (II, p. 242, and elsewhere) notes that the wide semantic-range of the preposition B= includes “from”, especially in poetry where the archaic usage tends to follow that of the Canaanite (Ugaritic) poetic style. Thus <y]m*V*B^ could be translated “from the heavens”, as befits the context.

Verse 27

“And He rained down upon them meat like dust,
and feathered wing(s) like (the) seas’ whirling (sand)!”

The meat (“flesh,” ra@v=) that God “rained down” on the people was in the form of birds—spec. quail (according to Exod16:13ff; Num 11:31ff); here the visual image is of the flurry of feathers ([ou) and wings ([n`K*). A mass of birds comes down like a great dust-cloud, or like the swirling sands of the seashore; the motif of sand, in particular, is used to indicate a vast number (Gen 22:17, etc).

Metrically, this is a longer (4-beat, 4+4) couplet, prompted some commentators (e.g., Kraus, p. 122) to emend the text for rhythmic consistency.

Verse 28

“And He made (it) fall in the midst of (the) camp-circle,
(and) surrounding (all) their dwellings.”

The visual image here is two-fold: (a) the birds fall within the bounds of the Israelite encampment (hn#j&m^), traditionally assumed to be in an arc or circle (derivation from the root hn`j*); and (b) within the camp they fall all around the individual tents. Thus the ground of the entire camp is practically covered with birds.

The meter of this couplet, too, is slightly irregular (3+2).

Verse 29

“And (so) they ate, and were filled up (full)y;
even their (very) desire He made come to them!”

On the satisfying abundance of the bread and meat that came down, cf. Exod 16:13ff; Num 11:32ff. The very abundance ultimately served as a kind of punishment for the faithlessness of the people, cf. Num 11:4, 19-20, 34.

Verse 30

“(Yet) they were not estranged from their desire,
(even while) their food (was) still in their mouths.”

From these lines, it is clear that the noun hw`a&T^ (“longing, desire”) has a negative connotation that goes beyond the natural longing for food; it alludes also to the pervasive faithlessness of the people. Moreover, the sense is of fleshly orientation that values satisfying one’s appetite, through greedy consumption, rather than obedience to God. On the basis for this idea in the tradition, cf. Num 11:33, where it is indicated that Divine judgment (in the form of disease/plague) struck the people while the meat was still in their mouth.

Verse 31

“And the anger of (the) Mightiest came up against them,
and He slew (many) of (their) fattest—
indeed, (the) choice (one)s of Yisrael He cut down!”

The motif of YHWH’s rising anger ([a^), introduced in v. 21 (cf. the previous note), is completed here; on the judgment that kills off (with disease) many of the people, cf. Num 11:33ff. Here, the emphasis on the people’s sinful craving continues, by identifying the slain as among the “fattest” ones—i.e., sturdiest and most vigorous. The implication is that chief among the slain are those most well-fed and with the largest appetite. Clearly, the tradition is being interpreted here from a moralistic standpoint, which is in keeping with the didactic purpose and wisdom-orientation of the Psalm.

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).

 

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 77 (Part 2)

Psalm 77, continued

PART 2: Verses 12-21 [11-20]

Strophe 4: Verses 11-13
Verse 11 [10]

“And I said ‘My sickness—(is) it (due to)
(the) changing right hand of (the) Highest?'”

Thematically, verse 11 [10] belongs to the first half of the Psalm (on which, cf. the previous study); however, poetically, according to the five-strophe arrangement (proposed by B. Weber, and followed by Hossfeld-Zenger [pp. 273-6]), it can be counted as the first couplet of the fourth strophe (vv. 11-13).

It is possible to treat verse 11 as either another question (continuing those of the previous strophe), or as a declarative statement by the Psalmist. The context (though not necessarily the syntax) suggests another fearful question, and that is how I translate it above.

The root hlj (I) denotes being weak or sick. The Psalmist describes how he became worn-out physically during his night-time vigil (strophe 2, vv. 5-7), during which time he has meditated and prayed fervently to God—with apparently no answer given (strophe 3, vv. 8-10). The moment is also characterized as a “day of distress” (v. 3) for the Psalmist; this can refer to individual suffering, but it is likely that the protagonist also is meant to represent the people as a whole. Thus, the “sickness” he feels also refers to the condition of the people (of Israel/Judah), perhaps alluding to an Exilic setting.

The “right hand” (/ym!y`) is an idiom for strength and power—and, particularly, the ability to act. When applied to YHWH, it typically connotes His ability to save His people from danger and distress; cf. especially in the Song of the Sea (Exod 15:6, 12), and similarly in Deut 33:2; note the usage in the Psalms (17:7; 18:36[35]; 20:7[6]; 44:4[3]; 60:7[5]; 78:54, etc. Probably the event at the Reed Sea is being alluded to specifically (cf. below on vv. 17-20).

The Psalmist’s fear is that YHWH’s strong right hand has “changed” (verbal noun from the root hn`v* I). This verb can sometimes connote “growing old”, with the associated attributes of weakness and withering, etc. If God has chosen (for some reason) not to act, that is one thing, but what if He is now unable to deliver His people? This is the unspoken question among the people, spurred by fear, frustration, and despair.

Verse 12 [11]

“I call to mind (the) dealings of YH(WH);
indeed, I bring to mind your wonders from before.”

The Psalmist responds to the question of fear in v. 11—which, again, thematically marks the climax of the first part of the Psalm—with a hymn of praise to YHWH. The shift from speaking of YHWH (line 1), to addressing Him directly (line 2), is transitional, and makes somewhat more sense when v. 11 is read as the beginning of a strophe. The repetition of the verb rk^z` (“bring to mind, remember”) serves this transition; the verb occurred earlier in vv. 4, 7 (cf. the previous study), being something of keyword for the Psalm. The Kethib has a Hiphil (causative) form in line 1, while the Qere ‘corrects’ this as a Qal imperfect (to match the form in line 1); the Kethib reading is to be preferred as the more difficult, and thus more likely to have been modified by scribes. The Hiphil stem is appropriate for the Psalmist, who, through his composition, will cause YHWH’s deeds to be remembered; however, it also fits the dramatic scene, as the composer wishes to spur God to action by making Him remember what He has done for His people in the past.

The noun ll*u&m^ (from the root llu I), denotes a person’s dealing (i.e., how he deals) with another; specifically it refers here to how YHWH has dealt with His people (and their adversaries) in the past. In particular, the Psalmist has in mind the wonderful deeds (“wonder[s]”, collectively al#P#) God has performed—i.e., miracles, such as the event at the Reed Sea, by which He rescued and brought victory for His people. The word Hy` here is typically understood as the shorthand for the Divine name hwhy (YHWH, i.e., YH or Yah); however, Dahood (II, p. 229) would read it as a superlative (suffixed) element, Hy`-, attached to the noun (i.e., “[your] magnificent deeds”).

The expression <d#Q#m!, as in verse 6, indicates that the Psalmist is referring to things YHWH has done in the past—lit., “from (times) before”.

Verse 13 [12]

“So will I make mention of all your deeds,
and will compose on all your dealings.”

I treat the initial w-conjunction as emphatic (“so, indeed”), building upon the prior couplet. The verb hg`h* properly means something like “mutter”, even though it can be understood specifically as uttering something internally, within one’s heart/mind (i.e., “meditate”). The line is often translated that way here (“I meditate on your deeds”); however, the context suggests that the Psalmist is about to speak. I have rendered the verb loosely as “make mention”, building upon the idea of the Psalmist bringing God’s actions to mind (vb rk^z`) in the prior couplet.

The verb j^yc! in the second line can similarly be used both of audible communication and of something that one goes over in the heart/mind. The latter is probably more common, but here I think that audible communication is intended. In any case, the meaning of “going over” a set of words or facts is primary, and would also be appropriate for the Psalmist’s act of composing; I have translated the verb loosely above as “compose”. I.e., the Psalmist expresses here his intention (fulfilled in vv. 17-20) to compose a poem on YHWH’s mighty deeds from times past.

The supplemental character of this couplet is indicated by its shortened meter (3+2, or 2+2).

Strophe 5: Verses 14-16
Verse 14 [13]

“O Mightiest, your path (is) in the holy (place)—
who (is) a mighty (one) great like (the) Mightiest?”

Dahood (II, p. 230) is probably correct in understanding the noun Er#D# (“path[way]”) in the sense of “domain, dominion” (cp. in Ps 1:1 [I, p. 2])—i.e., the territory where the sovereign treads (ird) as representing his domain. YHWH’s domain (as King) is in the “holy (place)”, that is, the heavens high above; the noun vd#q) specifically refers to God’s dwelling—i.e., His holy palace, represented on earth by the Temple-shrine and its sanctuary. In Near Eastern cosmological tradition (cf. below), the Creator/Sovereign dwells on a great mountain that reaches up into the highest heaven.

The second line demonstrates the basic problem with translating both la@ (E~l) and <yh!ýa$ (E_lœhîm) equally (and flatly) as “God”. Here it results in a translation (“Who [is] a god great like God?”) that Dahood (II, p. 230) rightly calls “insipid”. This all changes, however, when one properly retains the distinction between the old singular form la@ (“Mighty [one]”) and the plural <yh!ýa$ (“Mighty [ones]”), treating the latter as an intensive/superlative (or comprehensive) plural (“Mightiest [One]”). Now, the character of the line as a confession of Israelite (Yahwistic) monotheism becomes clear: “Who (is) a mighty (one) [i.e. a god] (who is great) like (the) Mightiest [i.e., our God El-Yahweh]?”

Verse 15 [14]

“You, the Mighty (One) doing wonder(s),
you make known your strength among the peoples!”

Indeed, YHWH is the only true God (Mighty [One], la@), Creator and Sovereign of the universe, unsurpassed in greatness and strength. For poetic concision, I have translated the perfect verb form in the second line “you make known,” but it should properly be rendered “you have made known”. By the wonders YHWH has performed on behalf of His people (in the past), he has made known His strength (zu)) among all the surrounding peoples. The use of a participle (hc@u), “doing”) in the first line indicates that the performance of “wonders” is part of YHWH’s character; He is able to do such things on a regular basis, so there is no reason why He cannot can act again, now, and perform wonders once more on behalf of His people.

Verse 16 [15]

“You redeemed, with your arm, your people,
(the) sons of Ya’aqob and Yôsep.”
Selah

The wondrous deeds performed by YHWH in the past served to redeem (vb la^G`) the Israelite people, freeing them from servitude to a foreign nation (e.g., Egypt). Indeed, the Exodus from Egypt is primarily in view, with the specific mention of the “sons of Jacob and Joseph” —i.e., the Israelites who came out of Egypt. This reference sets the stage for the poem in vv. 17-20, with its echoes of the Song of the Sea (Exod 15), alluding to the event at the Reed Sea.

Cosmological Poem: Verses 17-20

This brief poem (or portion of a poem) has been inserted into the fabric of the Psalm. It is presented as the work of the Psalmist, but it may represent an older poem, with similarities in theme and structure to the ancient Song of the Sea (or Song of Moses, Exod 15); cf. also Habakkuk 3:10ff. Of course, the Psalmist could simply have written a poem in an archaic style, imitating older poems (like the Song of the Sea or Psalm 18, 29, etc).

This poem has a three-beat (3+3+3) tricolon format, while the rest of the Psalm tends to follow a bicolon (couplet) pattern. The poem’s emphasis is cosmological, referring to the subduing of the primeval waters by YHWH (on which, cf. my article in the Ancient Parallels feature on this site). As in the Song of the Sea, this cosmological motif is applied to the history of Israel—esp. to the Exodus and the event at the Reed Sea. YHWH demonstrates his control over the waters, by separating the waters of the Sea, and allowing His people to cross over and escape from Egypt.

Verse 17 [16]

“The waters saw you, O Mightiest,
the waters saw you and swirled—
even (the) depths shook (with fear)!”

These lines allude to YHWH’s subduing of the primeval waters at the beginning of Creation (Gen 1:2); on this cosmological mythic theme, applied to El-Yawheh in ancient Hebrew poetry, cf. my aforementioned article (“Conflict with the Sea in Ancient Near Eastern Myth”). The primary reference here, however, is to the control and power YHWH has over the waters. The waters themselves recognize this power, and acknowledge YHWH as their Lord, responding with fear at the sight of Him. The verb lWj in the second line has a double meaning; fundamentally, it means that the waters “swirled”, but the verb can also connote “twisting” or “writhing” (i.e., in anguish, etc), which would be more fitting to the theme of the waters showing fear. Cf. Psalm 114:3 and Hab 3:10.

Verse 18 [17]

“(The) dark clouds poured forth waters,
(the) fine clouds gave (forth your) voice—
and your arrows went back and forth.”

The theme of YHWH’s control over the waters continues here, shifting the focus to the rain that comes down out of the clouds, accompanied by the phenomena of the storm: thunder (line 2) and lightning (line 3). The Near Eastern storm-theophany is applied to El-YHWH with some frequency in ancient Hebrew poetry (including a number of Psalms, e.g. 18); the similarities with Canaanite Baal-Haddu in this regard helps to explain the fierce ‘rivalry’ between YHWH and Baal, at the religious level, in early Israelite history.

Thunder is frequently denoted by the word loq (“voice”)—i.e., as the “voice” of God; similarly, bolts of lightning are depicted as God’s “arrows” being shot back and forth. The ancient storm-theophany typically has a militaristic context, and especially so when applied to El-YHWH in the Old Testament. To some extent, as noted above, this motif of God as a warrior reflects the cosmological myth of the Creator defeating (subduing) the chaotic primeval waters, and thus allowing an ordered universe (capable of sustaining life) to be established.

The third line of this tricolon, like that of v. 17, begins with the particle [a^, a primitive adverbial/conjunctive particle with emphatic force (“[so] also, even”); it is typically used in poetry, or in comparable poetic/ritual forms.

Verse 19 [18]

“(The) voice of your thunder in the rolling (cloud)s,
(your) lightning-flashes light up (the) world,
(and so) the earth shakes and quakes!”

The power of the storm, and thus of the storm theophany (as applied to YHWH), is vividly expressed in this third tricolon. Here the “voice” (loq) of YHWH (v. 18) is explicitly identified as thunder (<u^r^). Earlier, it was stated that the waters shook in fear at the sight of YHWH; now the entire earth below shakes/quakes in fear at the awesome power of YHWH that is expressed through the rainstorm.

Verse 20 [19]

“On the sea, <Mightiest,> (is) your path,
and your passage-ways on mighty waters,
and (yet) your heel(print)s are not seen!”

The expression of YHWH’s power/control over the waters culminates here with the idea of his treading upon (B=) the waters. The preposition B= could also be rendered “in”, and this meaning is probably intended, at least secondarily, as an allusion to the Exodus event at the Reed Sea, when God led His people “through” (i.e., in) the waters of the Sea. However, it would seem that the principal reference here is to YHWH’s dominion over the waters, illustrated by the path(way)s he walks over/upon them. Yet, in spite of this anthropomorphic imagery, God leaves no “heel-marks” (i.e., footprints) in the surface of the water. His presence is invisible; we can only see the effects of His powerful presence and the control he has over the universe (esp. the rain and storm).

The first line (of the MT) has only two words/beats, in utter contrast to the rest of the poem. It thus seems relatively certain that something has dropped out, and a word is missing. The simplest solution is to propose that an occurrence of <yh!l)a$ (“Mightiest [One],” i.e., God) has somehow been omitted.

For more on the use of the noun Er#D# (“path[way]”), in the sense of “domain, dominion”, see the note on verse 14 above.

Conclusion: Verse 21 [20]

“May you lead, like the flock, your people,
by (the) hand of Moshe and Aharon!”

The Psalm concludes with this 3+3 couplet, returning to the regular meter of the composition. In a sense, the couplet follows upon verse 16, resuming the line of thought from strophe 5 (cf. above), after the intervening poem of vv. 17-20. If the verb form is read as a typical indicative perfect, then the couplet simply concludes the recitation of YHWH’s past action on behalf of His people—i.e., “You led your people like a flock…”. However, given the prayer-lament emphasis of the Psalm as a whole, a precative perfect seems more fitting as a conclusion (as Dahood, II, p. 233, suggests). That is, the Psalmist states his heartfelt wish for what YHWH will do, expressing it in terms of something that has already happened. A more literal (but very cumbersome) translation would thus be: “(O, that) you (would) have led your people (again) like a flock…!”.

The wish is that YHWH will lead his people out of bondage/distress, just as He did in the time of the Exodus (“by the hand of Moses and Aaron”). This suggests an Exilic setting for the Psalm—viz., God will lead His people out of the (Assyrian/Babylonian) Exile, essentially repeating what He did in the Exodus from Egypt. This is an important theme, for example, in the Deutero-Isaian poems, where the idea of a new Moses also seems to be implied. This Moses-symbolism, accompanied by an application of the prophecy in Deut 18:15-19, helped shaped the eschatological expectation of the “Prophet-like-Moses” who is to come. For more on the Messianic Prophet figure-types, cf. Parts 2 and 3 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.

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 “Hossfeld-Zenger” are to Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A Commentary on Psalms 51-100, translated from the German by Linda M. Maloney, Hermeneia Commentary series (Fortress Press: 2005).

March 13: Psalm 68:33-36

Strophe 9: Psalm 68:33-36 [32-35]

Strophe 8 was discussed in the previous note; on the overall structure of Psalm 68, see the introductory study.

Verse 33 [32]

“(You) kingdoms of the earth,
sing to (the) Mightiest,
make music (to our) Lord,”
Selah

The opening verse of this final strophe is a 2-beat (2+2+2) tricolon. As previously noted, a Selah (hl*s#) pause-marker occurs after the first verse of the third strophe in each part of the Psalm. Probably, the initial verse is meant to establish the musical pattern for the strophe, in some way.

This verse continues the theme of the previous strophe (cf. the previous note), calling on the nations (“kingdoms of the earth”) to join Israel in giving praise to YHWH. They are to sing and make music, just as in the scene of worship depicted in the first strophe of this part (strophe 6, vv. 25-28). In vv. 29-32, the emphasis was on the surrounding nations submitting to YHWH, resulting in their coming to Jerusalem to pay homage to Him. This homage is now expected to take the form of worship.

Verse 34 [33]

“to (the One) riding on (the) heavens,
(the) heavens of (times) before,
see!—He gives (forth) with His voice,
(the) voice of (His) strength.”

It is probably best to see this verse, syntactically, as continuing the thought of the previous v. 33. The One to whom the nations are to give praise, YHWH, the God of Israel (“my Lord”), is further identified as the Creator God and King of the universe who “rides on the heavens”. This is a variation of YHWH’s designation in v. 5, as “Rider on the Clouds” (“[one] riding on [the] clouds”); cf. also Deut 33:26. For more on this expression, cf. the earlier note on strophe 2.

The “heavens” on which YHWH ‘rides’ are further described as “(the) heavens of (times) before [<d#q#]”; this alludes to the primeval period at the beginning of Creation, when El-YHWH subdued the dark and chaotic waters, bringing order to the universe. His control over the waters, means, in particular, that He is able to bring life-giving rain in its season. The language and imagery here is cosmological.

This is also so with regard to the “voice” that YHWH gives forth (vb /t^n`). Traditionally, in the ancient Near East, thunder was thought of as God’s voice. Indeed, typically in the Old Testament, thunder is referenced simply by the word loq (“voice”), just as it is here. It is a voice of incomparable strength (zu)) and power.

Verse 35 [34]

“Give (praise with) strength
to (the) Mightiest, High (One) of Yisrael,
His height and strength (are) above (the) clouds!”

This strength (zu)) of YHWH needs to be acknowledged correspondingly through the praise given to Him by humankind. I have tried to preserve something of the wordplay (completely lost in most translations) between vv. 34-35:

    • YHWH gives (forth) [/T@y]] His voice of strength [zu)]
    • People are to give [WnT!] acknowledgment (with their voices) to God’s strength [zu)]

This one instance where I follow Dahood (II, p. 152), in reading lu as a Divine title “High (One),” or “(Most) High” (cf. the root hlu and the related title /oyl=u# [±Elyôn]), rather than the preposition –lu^. Here the poetic context and syntax seems to require such a reading. The titles <yh!l)a$ (“Mightiest [One]”) and lu^ (“High [One]”) correspond to the attributive nouns zu) (“strength, might”) and hw`a&G~ (“height, elevation,” i.e., majesty) in the following line. More to the point, “High (One) [lu] of Israel” precisely matches the expression “Mighty (One) [la] of Israel” in v. 36 (cf. below); and the validity of this reading is thus confirmed.

The final word, the plural noun <yq!j*v= more or less corresponds to <y]m^v* (“heavens”), but specifically in terms of the atmospheric vapors or “clouds”. As in v. 34, the preposition B= here means “(up)on”, but perhaps with the specific nuance of “above”. Dahood would read the meaning here as comparable to /m! (“from”) used in a comparative sense (“more/greater than”). This is certainly possible.

Verse 36 [35]

“(To be) feared (are you), Mightiest, from your holy places!
(The) Mighty (One) of Yisrael,
He (is the One) giving
strength and might (to His) people.
Blessed (be the) Mightiest!”

Metrically, this final verse is comprised of another 2+2+3 tricolon unit, bracketed by two exclamations of praise to YHWH—a longer 3-beat line (1) and a short 2-beat line (5). The central tricolon continues the theme of strength in this strophe. Previously, it was the strength/might of YHWH Himself that was emphasized; here, the focus is on how God, in His power, gives strength to His people (cf. the same idea expressed in v. 29). YHWH is described with the verbal noun (participle) /t@n), “(the one) giving,” i.e., the one who gives. It implies that this is characteristic of YHWH, reflecting regular activity, by which He acts/works to protect and strengthen His people.

The two nouns expressing what He gives to His people are more or less synonymous—zu) (used repeatedly in prior verses, cf. above) and hmx%y&T^—both essentially meaning “strength”. The latter noun occurs only here in the Old Testament, but other related words are more common: <x#u), hm*x=u*, <Wxu*. Possibly twmxut represents a feminine singular form, rather than the apparent feminine plural; cf. Dahood, II, p. 152. If a plural is intended, it should probably be understood in a collective or comprehensive (or intensive) sense.

The initial line of the verse continues the theme of YHWH’s dwelling-place that has run through most of the Psalm. Three different such dwellings have been emphasized: (1) His heavenly dwelling, (2) the mountain dwelling of Sinai, and (3) the Temple in Jerusalem (on ‘mount’ Zion). YHWH is to be acknowledged and worshiped in all these “holy places”. The final line repeats this point, in the simplest possible terms, with the declaration “Blessed [EWrB*] (be) the Mightiest!”

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).