Bibliotheca Sacra 105 (Apr. 1948)  154-69.

                Copyright © 1996 by Dallas Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.    

 

                                         Department of

                            Semitics and Old Testament

 

             THE USES OF THE PSALTER: Pt. 1

 

                           BY CHARLES LEE FEINBERG, TH.D., PH.D.

 

Important as other phases of the interpretation of the

Psalter may be, and we should be the last to minimize the

significance of any aspect, none is of greater importance

than the use for which the Psalter was intended. Upon this

field archaeology has shed much light and made notable con-

tributions. The two scholars who have made the most

intensive study of the manner in which the Psalter was    

utilized in the life of the Hebrew people, based upon their

researches into the results of archaeological findings, are

Hermann Gunkel and Sigmund Mowinckel, the former a

German and the latter a Norwegian scholar. The lines of

investigation that they suggest are carried out also by the

English C. C. Keet and the American John P. Peters. From        

the conclusions of these scholars it is clear that the Psalter       

was collected for use in the Temple liturgy and meant to

fill the need for every form of worship.1 Welch claims that

the Psalter was no private collection of hymns, but an offi-

cial one. However, though these hymns were intended in

large measure for use in the Temple worship and its God-

appointed rituals, they have been able to separate them-

selves selves from their original setting- and usage, maintaining

their place in the community's religious life after the de-

struction struction of the Temple and the discontinuance of its

services.2

            So much has been written upon and argued for the litur-

gical use and purposes of the Psalter that, it is to be feared,

 

1 W. O. E. Oesterley, The Psalms, Vol. I, p. 1.

2 A. C. Welch, The Psalter in Life, Worship, and History, pp. 90, 91.

 



The Uses of the Psalter       155

 

some have lost sight of the devotional purposes of the

Psalms. We shall deal at length with the liturgical purposes

of the collection, but it seems logical and fitting to point

out the place that the Psalter had in the private devotional

life of the Hebrew people. Again we need to be reminded

that the Psalms are poetry, and as such emerge from deep

feeling and experience. In this manner the individual

psalms or poems arose. The godly one in Israel, directed of

the Spirit of God, found his heart full to overflowing, and

he set forth the stirrings of his heart and soul with the pen

of the ready writer. One such poem actually tells this ex-

perience:

 

“My heart overfloweth with a goodly matter;

I speak the things which I have made regarding

the king

My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”3

 

Such expressions of heart experiences served not only the

spiritual needs of those who set these thoughts to poetry,

but ministered to the requirements of their coreligionists.

They were utilized for private devotions. Oesterley asserts

that a number of the Psalms cannot have been used in

public worship, nor were they written for that end. Such a

scholar as Duhm denies that the Psalter was the hymn

book of the Second Temple. He understands it to be a

manual for devotional reading and meditation for the ordi-

nary man. Oesterley takes a middle position: some of the

Psalms were liturgical, while others were not. Some hymns

that were not written for liturgical use in the first place,

were so adapted later.4 Pfeiffer follows Duhm's position, if

not entirely then to a large extent. He does not concur in

the popular designation of the Psalter as the hymn book of

the Second Temple. For him that title is scarcely appropri-

ate. He views it as a “devotional anthology of religious

poems” meant for the spiritual uplift of the general public,

 

3 Psalm 45:1 (Hebrew 2).

4 W. O. E. Oesterley, A Fresh Approach to the Psalms, pp. 133, 134.

 



 

156                             Bibliotheca Sacra

 

especially the middle classes. His contention is that even

the doxologies liturgies and hymns used in the Temple

service were chosen because they were suited to private de-

votions. With Duhm he finds that a large part of the

Psalter was probably never sung in the Temple. The views

of Gunkel, Peters, Mowinckel, Gressmann, and Eissfeldt

(who find a great variety of liturgical uses for the Psalms),

he thinks, are based on inconclusive evidence. For one thing

their positions necessitate a pre-exilic date for many psalms,

a presupposition which is hardly warranted after his man-

ner of thinking. His final verdict is that the majority of

Psalms were not written for public use, but that the final

collection was primarily a book for private devotions, not a

hymnal. He cites Psalm 51 as an example where a psalm of

confession of sin and prayer for forgiveness, peculiarly pri-

vate in character, was adapted for public and liturgical use

by the addition of the last two verses.4 We feel that Pfeiffer,

though he takes the position to an extreme, has stressed a

phase of the use of the Psalter which is in danger of being

overlooked by many, at a time when so much attention is

being paid to the liturgical use of the Psalter. The Psalter

must have been used for devotional purposes, and that ac-

counts for the fact that, though stripped for so many cen-

turies of its original liturgical setting, it has indeed sus-

tained a tremendous influence upon the spiritual life of the

Jewish Synagogue and the Christian Church. Welch puts

the matter before us concisely when he says, “These hymns,

largely framed to serve a local and temporary cult, local

because it could only be practised on the soil of Palestine,

temporary because it has entirely ceased to be practised any-

where, have succeeded in so penetrating to the permanent

relations between the worshipping soul and God that they

have survived the purpose for which they came into existence

and have continued to be the help of unnumbered souls.”5

Devotional use of hymns in the ancient Orient is abundantly

 

4 R. H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 619, 620, 632, 633.

5 A. C. Welch, op. cit., p. 92.



The Uses of the Psalter                   157

 

attested by the findings of archaeological investigation. Such

is true because poetry and personal faith have ever gone

hand in hand.

When we come to a study of the Psalter from its liturgi-

cal use, we find archaeological research touching the Psalms

at so many points that the entire collection stands before

us in an altogether different light.7 There, is no scholarly

treatment of the Psalms now that overlooks this phase of

the study of the Psalter. Montgomery claims that with few

exceptions the Psalter is to be regarded as belonging to the

cult, used by the worshippers at the sanctuary individually

or congregationally. The Psalms are the liturgies employed

when the individual presented himself in the sanctuary to

make his offerings to God, to present his vows, to ward off

threatened calamities and disasters, and to be cleansed of

his sins.8  Barton notes that the Psalms were utilized in the

Temple services in connection with the various sacrifices,

the festivals, and the holy days. Later they were adapted to

the worship of the synagogue. With many of the psalms

the setting and background of their use lead the student to

a study of the Temple liturgy. We find this nowhere described

for us in the Psalter; it must be gathered together from

hints here and there. What such reconstruction reveal in

the way of Hebrew religion and religious practice we shall

see later.9  They have progressed so far that at the present

time the Psalter is considered by some to be largely a col-

lection of worship hymns associated with the ritual and

worship of the Temple. Usage shows that both the ritual act

and the liturgical form that accompanied it were clearly

defined and prescribed in all ancient worship. Its early

prevalence in Babylonian and, Egyptian worship suggests,

 

7 This is not to deny, to be sure, the great and telling differences between

      the thought, inspiration, and apmosphere of the Biblical Psalms and

      those of the pagan hymns of the ancient Near East.

8 J. A. Montgomery, “Recent Developments in the Study of the Psalter,”

      Anglican Theological Review, Vol. VI (July, 1934), p. 192.

9 G. A. Barton in E. Grant (ed.), The Haverford Symposium on Archaeol-

      ogy and the Bible, p. 66.



158                             Bibliotheca Sacra

 

even to the most sceptical, that it was possible for it to

be a part of early Hebrew worship and practice.10  Pfeiffer

tells us that the liturgical use of psalms in the worship of

the sanctuary is well attested since the time of the Chron-

icler,11 who speaks of the musical portions of the ritual with

expert knowledge that seems to point to his participation in

one of the Levitical choirs.12 Peters, who has probably done

more work on the subject of the liturgical use of the Psalter

than any other American scholar, describes the collection

as composed of liturgical poems and hymns, primarily for

the ritual that accompanied the sacrifices, but comprising

also hymns for other purposes and occasions. When he wrote

his work on the Psalms he found fault with modern scholars

who saw the impossibility of ascribing hymns to particular

events in the life of David, but who went on to commit the

same mistake in even worse form. They were satisfied to

view the Psalms as occasional poems, and tried to assign

them to events in their own reconstructed history in. the

same way that the Psalms in Chronicles were given titles.

The result was that they departed farther from the date of

composition than the first title-makers, and their conclusions

were worse. He continues, “They have treated the Psalms

not as hymns composed or used for liturgical purposes, but

as occasional poems composed to celebrate some historical

event; not as hymns composed like Wesley's to be sung by

choir or congregation, but as a national anthology, the lyri-

cal effusions of court poets celebrating the triumphs or

bewailing the misfortunes of king or people. This mistaken

principle of identification of the Psalms as occasional lyrics

led inevitably to a further mistake in identification of their

date and occasion by their contents, as that penitential

Psalms must indicate a period of calamity, and joyful and          

triumphant Psalms a period of prosperity. This method of

treating the Psalter has largely vitiated modern criticism

 

10 A. C. Welch, op. cit., pp. 76, 78.

11 He dates it about 250 B.C. which, needless to say, is far too late a

      dating.

12  R. H. Pfeiffer, op. cit., p. 621.

13 J. P. Peters, The Psalms as Liturgies, pp. 14, 15.



The Uses of the Psalter                   159

 

and commentation on the Psalms, and led into a pathless

wilderness of subjective and conflicting vagaries. The true

key to the method of study of the Psalter is to be found in

the history of the liturgies.”13 The quotation just given

epitomizes fairly Peter's position on the Psalter, as well as

indicates the lines along which he progresses in his inter-

pretation of the book.

            There is proof from archaeological findings that hymns

and songs of ancient Babylonia were used with the ritual.

The instances could be multiplied many times over, but we

shall choose a few that bear more striking resemblances to

the Hebrew Psalms. Near the close of many of the old

Babylonian liturgies there is a summons to sacrifice:

“Unto the temple of god upon a lyre let us go with

a song of petition.

The psalmist a chant shall sing.

The psalmist a chant of lordly praise shall sing.

The psalmist a chant upon the lyre shall sing.

Upon a sacred tambourine, a sacred lilissu shall

sing.

Upon the flute, the manzu, the consecrated lyre

shall sing,”

or again:

“Father Enlil, with song majestically we come,    

the presents of the ground are offered to thee

as gifts of sacrifice.

0 lord of Sumer, figs to thy house we bring; to

give life to the ground thou didst exist.

Father Enlil, accept the sacred offerings, the

many offerings,

We with offerings come, let us go up with fes-

tivity.”14

Peters suggests that many of the Hebrew Psalms manifest

a similar composition and a similar purpose. He takes Psalm

 

13 J. P. Peters, The Psalms as Liturgies, pp. 14, 15.

14 J. P. Peters,  op. cit., p. 19.



160                              Bibliotheca Sacra

 

65 as an example.15 In verse 3 the worshipper is seen cleansed

of his iniquities and transgressions, whereupon he enters

the courts of the Lord with offerings of the produce of the

ground (verse 4). He pours forth in the next four verses

praise to God for His unfailing bounty, reciting God's mar-

velous signs which cause even the inhabitants of the utter-

most parts of the earth to stand in awe. From the heavenly

rivers of God the earth is watered and the grain is made

to grow (verses 9-13a). At the very end (13b) we find, as

is the case so often in the Sumerian, the call to shout for

joy and sing as the gifts are presented in sacrifice. Another

illuminating instance is Psalm 66. Here there is a presenta-

tion of vows of burnt offerings, bullocks, rams, and goats

(verses 13-15). Peters feels that the actual method of pres-

entation of the sacrifice is perhaps best seen in a liturgy in

Psalm 118. In this case we have a thank-offering ritual. The

first part of the psalm is concerned with a long processional

ceremonial and its responsive singing. Then near the end

of the hymn, as appears to be common in the Sumerian sac-

rificial liturgies, there is mention of the sacrifice, indicated

by the rubric with its command that the sacrifice be offered

(verse 27), and followed by the song of praise that Jeremiah

indicates was used in the Temple services in his day.16

In both the Babylonian and the Hebrew psalms the deity

is said to cast down the mighty and exalt the lowly. In a

series of hymns and prayers found in the necropolis of

Thebes from the Nineteenth Dynasty, about 1350-1200 B.C.,

there are illuminating parallels to the Psalms. Peters points

out that the general atmosphere of the hymns, commemo-

rating as they do, deliverances from trouble brought upon

them by their own sins, making mention of the love an,d

mercy of the gods and expressing a fervent desire to make

known these works of the gods to all men, reminds us (of

 

15 The notation of the verses will be according to their English text; the

      Hebrew notation in this psalm, as with many others, will be one nume-

      ral higher because the superscription is counted as the first verse.

16 J. P. Peters, op. cit., pp. 19, 20.  Cf. also Jer. 33:11; 2 Chron. 7:3; 1

      Macc. 4:24.



The Uses of the Psalter                   161

 

course, apart from the pronounced polytheistic elements) of

much of our Psalms. An illustration of such a composition

is the following:

“Amen Ra is spoken of as the god

Who comes at the voice of the distressed humble one;

Who gives breath to him who is wretched.

Amen is he

Who comes at the voice of the humble man.

I call upon thee when I am in distress:

And thou comest that thou mayest save me;

That thou mayest give breath to him. that is wretched:

That thou mayest save me that am in bondage.

Of him it is said:

Thou art a Lord to him that calls upon thee.

Yet is the Lord disposed to be merciful.

 

Thou art a Lord to him that calls upon thee.17

 

Among the different types of psalms in the Psalter there

are the well-known penitentials. These compositions reveal

a deep sense of the burden of sin, a great longing to God

that He may forgive and cleanse, and lastly a new-born joy

in the sense of being purged, often accompanied with a

summons to others to praise God for His goodness. The first

of such penitentials in our Psalter, according to the order

in the Hebrew and English texts, is Psalm 6. The suppliant

cries out to God that He withhold His rebuke and chasten-

ing, but have mercy upon the sorely troubled soul. The

Lord is besought to save for His own sake, for in death the

afflicted one will not be able to praise God. He dwells upon

the agony of heart that has been his because of sin, and

closes with the assurance that God has heard the voice of

his weeping and his supplication. He is confident, too, that

his enemies will not prevail against him, but will be utterly

 

17 J. P. Peters, op. cit., footnote to p. 21.



162                             Bibliotheca Sacra

 

put to shame. Peters seeks to show how similar is this

penitential psalm in its purpose, tone, and method to the

Babylonian penitentials analyzed by Jastrow in his Religion

of Babylonia and Assyria.

The penitent addressing his goddess:

“I, thy servant, full of sighs, call upon thee;

The fervent prayer of him who has sinned do thou

            accept.

If thou lookest upon a man, that man lives.

O all-powerful mistress of mankind,

            Merciful one, to whom it is good to turn, who hears

sighs!”

Then the priest prays to the goddess thus:

                        “His god and goddess being angry with him, he calls

upon thee,

Turn towards him thy countenance, take hold of his

hand.”

Then the penitent continues:

                        “Besides thee, there is no guiding deity.

I implore thee to look upon me and hear my sighs,

Proclaim pacification, and may thy soul be appeased.

How long, 0 my mistress, till thy countenance be

turned towards me.

Like doves, I lament, I satiate myself with sighs.”

Then the priest:

“With pain and ache, his soul is full of sighs;

Tears he weeps, he pours forth lament.”18

Sufficient examples have been set forth to show the manner

in which, in the liturgies of other peoples besides the He-

brews, psalms and hymns were employed as a component

part of the liturgy.

Archaeological study has made available to us a great

quantity of such literature, and has definitely influenced the

 

18 J. P. Peters, op. cit., pp. 100, 101.

 



The Uses of the Psalter                   163

 

interpretation of the Psalter. For instance, the Hebrew

penitential psalms about which we have just spoken were

at one time thought of as indicating conditions of national

disaster, oppression by a foreign foe, and the like. They

point to foes of another character, because they are now

seen as part of a ritual, hymns to accompany the offering

of sacrifice for ills due to sins and to avert pestilence and

famine. In short, they need to be studied in relation to the

feasts and fasts of the Hebrew people, as well as all the

Temple ritual and service, instead of being connected with         

the political fortunes of the people.19 Such a position does

not mean to convey the impression that there is no national

nor political element in the Psalms. One part of the nation's

life could not be divorced from all other phases, but pri-

marily, it is held, the Psalter consists of ritual hymns to be

interpreted in the light of the needs and experiences of

worshippers and the directors of that worship. In his ex-

tended work on the Psalms Peters has put this principle

into practice in commenting on the individual psalms. He

cites twenty-three sacrifices and occasions of ritual with

which the Psalms may be connected. Psalms 3 and 4 are

taken to be hymns for royal sacrifices in the morning and

evening worship; Psalms 20 and 21 are hymns for Temple

uses after battle; Psalms 68 and 24 are songs for taking

out and returning the Ark; Psalms 42 and 43 are psalms

for the Temple festivals; and so on throughout the entire

Psalter. Psalms for individual use are not denied, but are

to be understood as primarily for Temple use whether in

individual cases or for the whole people.20

 

19 Cf. J. P. Peters, op. cit., p. 23.

20 In this connection it is interesting to note the following portion in the

      present-day prayer book of the Jews for the New Year’s Day (cf. M.

      Adler, ed., The Service of the Synagogue, Part I, pp. 168, 169): “Mish-

      nah Tamid, Cap. vii. These are the Psalms which the Levites used to

      say in the Temple:

           On the first day of the week they said—‘The earth is the Lord’s, and

      the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.’

            On the second day—‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in

      the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.’



164      Bibliotheca Sacra

 

At this point in our discussion of liturgical uses of the

Psalter we must turn to the important theory of Sigmund

Mowinckel. This scholar has made perhaps the most inten-

sive study of the Psalter, as witnessed by his Psalmenstudien

(studies in the Psalter), which consists of six volumes on

the Psalms. The first volume deals with sin and the indi-

vidual lament psalms, published in 1921; the second treats

of the enthronement festival of the Lord and the origin of

the Psalter's eschatology (1922); the third handles the

theme of cult prophecy and the prophetic psalms (1923);

the fourth occupies itself with the technical termini in the

superscriptions to the Psalms (1923); the fifth deals with

benediction and imprecation in Israel's cult and psalm poetry    

(1924); and the last discusses the psalmists (1924). We are

particularly interested in the theory of Mowinckel relative

to the Enthronement Festival (das Thronbesteigungsfest).        

It is considered so significant that Keet in his volume has

devoted four chapters (8-11) to a discussion and appraisal

of it. From his many investigations Mowinckel has come to

the conclusion that there is ample evidence to prove the

existence among the Hebrews of a festival of the Lord's

accession to the throne, celebrated at the beginning of each

year with great ceremony and solemnity. Undoubtedly, it is

argued, from very early times the commencement of the civil   

and agricultural year in the Hebrew month Tishri was

marked by ceremonies and celebrations. The important cele-

bration at this time of the year was the Enthronement Fes-

tival. It had several distinct features. God was acclaimed as

 

     On the third day—‘God standeth in the congregation of the mighty: he judgeth

among the judges.’

            On the fourth day—‘O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to

whom vengeance belongeth, shine forth.’

            On the fifth day—‘Sing aloud unto God our strength; make a joyful noise unto

the God of Jacob.’

            On the sixth day—‘The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the Lord is

clothed with strenth, wherewith he hath girded himself; the world also is stablished,

that it cannot be moved.’

            On the Sabbat—‘A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath Day.’ It is the psalm and son

for eternity, for the day that shall be wholly a Sabbath, even repose for life everlasting.”

The references are to Psalms 24, 48, 82, 94, 81, 93, and 92.


The Uses of the Psalter                   165

 

King, Creator, and Judge. Agricultural aspects were also

prominent, for in the minds of the Hebrews these features

formed part of the divine Kingship. A type of liturgical

drama was an essential part of the celebration of the festi-

val. There is no evidence to lead us to suppose that any

actual representation of God ascending the throne was made,

although it is conjectured that symbols of some sort were

employed.21 The climax of the festival may have been the

several liturgical processions of the worshippers about the

Temple, the altar, and the city itself. It is assumed that in

the processions the people thought of God as ascending His

throne and assuming royal power. The concept of the Lord's

ascent to His throne was coupled with the implication that

all the surrounding nations had been made subservient to

Him. Certain ancient myths, it is claimed, that related to

the Lord's conquest of the peoples were given prominence

at this celebration. Since God has subdued the nations He is

prepared to distribute His favors to all the worshippers,

granting them prosperity, fertility, and numerous benefits.

The new year was seen also as the completion of the year

just past. Thus there was gratitude for the harvest from

the Lord's bounty. A social feast was partaken of to cele-

brate the harvest of the field, and this festive meal became

very popular. Mowinckel feels that the royal procession is

described in 2 Samuel 6 and its parallel passage in 1 Chron-

icles 15, where we have the accounts of David's bringing the

Ark to Mount Zion. The mention of the blowing of the

trumpet in 2 Samuel 6:15 is important, for Keet points out

rightly that the blowing of the ram's horn has always been

a distinctive feature of the new year celebration among the

Jewish people. The distribution of gifts has its place in the

celebration today, and the record of 2 Samuel notes that

gifts were distributed to all who came to Jerusalem for the

feast. Other passages of a historical character that are said

to be pertinent to this theme are 1 Kings 8 and its parallel

passage in 2 Chronicles 5, where the Ark is brought to its

 

21 C. C. Keet, A Liturgical Study of the Psalter, p. 83.



166                             Bibliotheca Sacra

 

resting place in the sanctuary of the Temple built by Solo-         

mon, and Nehemiah 8, with its mention of the distribution

of gifts in verse 10.

The passages in the Psalter which refer to the kingship

of the Lord can be divided into three groups: (1) those that

apply the title of “King” to the Lord; (2) those that have

references to the throne of the Lord; and (3) those in

which the phrase “the Lord is become King” is found.22

Oesterley catalogues all the passages in the Psalms under

these divisions. In the first category are 5:2; 10:16; 24:7-10;

29:10; 48:2; 74:12; 84:3; 95:3; 98:6 and 149:2. The refer-

ences in the second group are 9:4; 9:7; 11:4; 47:8; 89:14;

93:2; 97:2 and 103:19. The passages for the last division

are 47:7, 8 ; 93:1; 96:10; 97:1 and 99:1. Mowinckel assigns

the following psalms to the Enthronement Festival: Psalms

95 and 98 (in which the Lord is acclaimed as a King who

has ascended the throne), 96 (where the people are com-

manded to sing a new song to the new King), 47 (a picture

of the King's procession going up in triumph), 149 (with

its new song and its conception of God as Creator, Judge,

and Savior, although Keet questions whether so early a date

is allowable for this psalm), 33 (with its reference to cre-

ation, the judgment of God, and the deliverance of Israel;

again, Keet denies the applicability of this psalm to the

Enthronement Festival because there is no mention of the

Kingship of the Lord), 29 (an accession hymn and used

liturgically by the Jews at Sukkoth, the Feast of Taber-

nacles), and 34 (which is said to have been written for the          

ceremony of illuminating the Temple at the Feast of Tab-

ernacles, although Keet finds the evidence unconvincing be-

cause of but one very indirect reference to the concept of

light). Since the Feast of Accession was also an agricul-

tural festival, hymns which express gratitude for the bless-

ings of the harvest are appropriate. Mowinckel suggests

Psalms 65, 67, 85, and 126 as appropriate for such an occa-

 

22 W. O. E. Oesterley, The Psalms, Vol. I, p. 45.

 



The Uses of the Psalter                   167

 

sion, along with certain songs of joyful expectation of the

coming One as Psalms 81, 85, and 132. The idea of judg-

ment was also prominent in the concept of this festival,23

and according to Mowinckel this is found in Psalms 50 and

82. The setting forth of these passages and psalms will

serve to show how large a place in the Psalter Mowinckel

finds for his theory.24 He does not base it upon one obscure

passage or two, but finds it, according to his view, in many

hitherto unthought of places.25

Before we undertake a critical evaluation of the theory,

one feature of the Feast of Accession should be given some

elaboration; we refer to the liturgical procession in which

the Lord's ascent to the throne was set forth in a dramatic

manner. There is a question as to the place of this proces-

sion in the ceremonies of the festival, whether it came at

the beginning of the celebration or at the end. The argu-

ment from analogy with the Egyptian ceremonies related to

the worship of Osiris, in which the procession concluded the

festival, is admitted by Keet to be precarious. The Talmudic

tractate Sukkah speaks of a procession about the altar in the

Temple on the seventh day of Sukkoth. It is by no means

out of the question that a daily procession was part of the

festival ceremonies (so Keet). Mowinckel favors the last

day of the feast as that upon which the royal procession

was made; at one time it did not pass around the altar, but

in later days this addition was made. The procession about

the altar has been considered as an independent act that

became an important feature in the celebration after the

loss of the Ark. Box, Keet, and others challenge Mowinckel's

use of psalms of ascents for a pre-exilic ceremony such as

this, but they do not thereby feel that his theory is dis-

proved.26

 

23 It appears in the later synagogue liturgy for the new year and in the

      ancient Babylonian celebrations of the new year when Marduk was

      thought of as passing judgment on his subjects as he sat in state.

24 C. C. Keet, op. cit., pp. 88-92

25 We might add to the number already given, Psalms 48, 118, 24.

26 C. C. Keet, op. cit., pp. 93-96.



168                             Bibliotheca Sacra

 

In seeking to evaluate the theory we must inquire

whether there is extra-Biblical confirmation of Mowinckel's

views. The evidence from Jewish sources will be considered

first. As for the theory of Mowinckel (in which he was

anticipated in some of his views by Staerk and Gunkel), if

it be correct, then some of the elements associated with the

Feast of Divine Accession should be, found in the syna-

gogue liturgies for the New Year Feast. Among the Jews

the Feast is pre-eminently the Feast of Trumpets. But why

is the ram's horn blown? The Jews claim it is to call all to

repentance before the Day of Atonement. The idea of judg-

ment is also present. God is said to open the books of judg-

ment on the New Year's Feast and to seal them on the Day

of Atonement. Both the blowing of the trumpet and the

idea of judgment are noteworthy features of the Feast of

Divine Accession. The Jewish prayer book for the New

Year's Festival gives all these features in a striking prayer

which is called Un'saneh Tokef, after the first two words

of the prayer which we now quote. We render the prayer

in full because it affords seemingly such remarkable proof

for the theory of Mowinckel.

“We will celebrate the mighty holiness of this day, for

it is one of awe and terror. Thereon is thy kingdom exalted

and thy throne is established in mercy, and thou sittest

thereon in truth. Verily it is thou alone who art judge and

arbiter, who knowest and art witness; thou writest down

and settest the seal, thou recordest and tellest; yea, thou

rememberest the things forgotten. Thou unfoldest the rec-

ords, and the deeds therein inscribed proclaim themselves;

for lo! the seal of every man's hand is set thereto. The great

trumpet is sounded; the still small voice is heard; the angels

are dismayed; fear and trembling seize hold of them as they

proclaim, Behold the Day of Judgment! The host of heaven

is to be arraigned in judgment. For in thine eyes they are

not pure; and all who enter the world dost thou cause to

pass before thee as a flock of sheep. As a shepherd seeketh

out his flock and causeth them to pass beneath his crook, so

 



The Uses of the Psalter                   169

 

dost thou cause to pass, and number, tell and visit every

living soul, appointing the measure of every creature's life

and decreeing their destiny.

“On the first day of the year it is inscribed, and on the

Day of Atonement the decree is sealed, how many shall pass

away and how many shall be born, who shall live and who

shall die, who at the measure of man's days and who before

it; who shall perish by fire and who by water, who by the

sword, who by wild beasts, who by hunger and who by

thirst; who by earthquake and who by plague, who by

strangling and who by stoning; who shall have rest and

who shall go wandering, who shall be tranquil and who shall

be harassed, who shall be at ease and who shall be afflicted;

who shall become poor and who shall wax rich; who shall

be brought low and who shall be upraised.”27

The Jewish New Year's Feast makes much of remembering

God's past mercies, especially the creation, the Exodus, and

God's salvation, and this concept is part of Mowinckel's

argument. In the Feast of Divine Accession much is made

of the Kingship of God. This is seen to be paralleled in the

special conclusion affixed to the Amidah prayer during the

days of penitence.28  This appendix consists of forty-four

prayers, each beginning with the words Our Father, Our

King. The three ideas of trumpet blowing, remembrances,

and kingdom are found in the benedictions in the Amidah

prayer. The Jews call them Shofaroth, Zikronoth, and Mal-

kiyyoth, respectively. All these items serve to confirm the

theory of Mowinckel from Jewish sources. A concluding

article will summon the remaining evidence before a final

adjudication can be made.

 

(To be concluded in the July-September Number, 1948)

 

27 M. Adler, ed., op. cit., Part I, pp. 146, 147.

28 The ten days between the New Year’s Festival and the Day of Atone-

      ment are called “ten days of penitence.” For the time element compare

      Leviticus 23:24 and 23:27.

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204       www.dts.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu

            Thanks to Carolyn Gibney for help with proofing.