Restoration Quarterly 17.3 (1974) 162-184.
Copyright © 1974 by Restoration Quarterly, cited with permission.
“Yahweh Is King over All the Earth”
An Exegesis of Psalm 47
LEO G. PERDUE
Few genres of Old Testament literature have solicited as much
attention as Enthronement Hymns. Literally hundreds of articles,
monographs, and books have been written dealing with this genre
during the past fifty years.1 This investigation will attempt to survey
the major trends of cultic studies which specifically deal with
"Enthronement Hymns" and to present an exegesis of a representative
psalm, Psalm 47.
Psalms 47, 93, 96, 97, 98, and 99 have been classified as
Enthronement Psalms, a Gattung which is a subdivision of the hymnic
genre and, therefore, shares the essential formal characteristics of the
Hymn.2 The basic reason for giving these psalms an independent status
is the unique content which evokes praise of Yahweh as king and the
cry of enthronement: YHWH malak.3 Enthronement Psalms present
two different concepts of the establishment of Yahweh's rule as king:
93, 96, and 97 depict Yahweh's rule as resulting from his defeat of his
divine adversaries, chaos and the abyss, in the creation event; 47, 98,
and 99 center his rule upon his activity as the Divine Warrior who
defeats the nations and establishes the Twelve
1. For a comprehensive survey, see
Poesie et le Cu/te de l'Ancien lsrael (Brussel: Paleis der Academien, 1968).
2. H.-J. Kraus (Psalmen, I [BKAT 15/1, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener
Verlag, 1960] XLII) presents a succinct form critical analysis of the hymnic
3. Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967) p. 36.
4. J. D. W. Watts, "Yahweh Malak Psalms," TZ XXI (1965) 341.
86 Restoration Quarterly
Attempts to ascertain the specific 'Situation in Life' which gave rise
to these psalms have led to quite a number of theories. The following
include the more important positions taken by major scholars.
Post-Exilic Eschatology. Efforts to reconstruct possible historical
situations reflected in 'Enthronement Hymns' have generally met with
little acceptance.5 More noteworthy has been the view of Gunkel that
such psalms belong within the framework of post-exilic eschatology
which gave expression to a future hope in the intervention of Yahweh,
an expression given formative impetus by Deutero-Isaiah,6 though such
a view has not elicited favorable response among contemporary
Cultic Life Situations. Since Mowinckel the Enthronement Hymns
have generally been regarded as originating in the cult. Efforts to
reconstruct a specific cultic situation are complex indeed, as can be
noted by the wide divergence of scholarly opinion.
The appearance of Sigmund Mowinckel's Psalmenstudien
revolutionized the understanding of
to some extent by Gressmann and, unknown to Mowinckel, Volz,7
Mowinckel's second volume, Das Thronbesteigungs fest Jahwas and der
Ursprung der Eschatologie, appearing in 1920, initiated the basic foci
around which cultic investigation in general and studies concerning
Enthronement Hymns in particular were to revolve for the next half
century. Rejecting Gunkel's view that Enthronement Hymns were the
product of the post-exilic eschatological vision, Mowinckel sought to
reconstruct an Israelite New Year's Festival as a part of which Yahweh
was annually enthroned as the universal king in a creative cultic
5. For example, see the work of C. A. Briggs (The Books of Psalms [ICC
6. H. Gunkel
and J. Begrich, Einleitung in die Psalmen (
Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1933). Gunkel later came to accept Mowinckel's
theory of an enthronement festival in a modified form, though his ideas of the
eschatological nuance still remained. Lipinski's critique (La Royaute de Yahwe,
43-4) of a strictly eschatological interpretation is most cogent: "Rien ne permet
d'affirmer, telle est une premiere remarque, que ces psaumes se referent un
avenir lointain. Au contraire, le parfait des verbes, et notamment celui de la
formule fondamentale Yahweh Malak, semble indiquer qu'il s'agit du passe ou du
7. H. Gressmann, Der Ursprung der israelitisch-judischen Eschatologie
(FR LANT 6; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1905) 294-301; and P.
Volz, Das Neujahrsfest Jahwes (L.aubhuttenfest) (SGV 67;
Mohr [Paul Siebeck] , 1912).
Perdue: Yahweh is King 87
drama.8 His sources for such a reconstruction included the Babylonian
Akitu Festival, the Osirus-Horus
and various materials scattered throughout the Old Testament (over 40
psalms; II Sam. 6, I Kgs. 8; I Chr. 16; Neh. 8:10-12; Zech, 14; and Hos.
7:5). According to Mowinckel, the festival included two strata of
tradition: that involving an agricultural festival
(Feast of Tabernacles-Feast of Yahweh, Ex. 23:16; 34:22) and that
concerning the royal ideology after the adoption of
The festival consisted of an ark procession led by the king to the temple
where Yahweh was to be enthroned (Pss. 24; 132; II Sam. 6); the
dramatic enactments of the myths of creation and Yahweh's battle with
the dragon, the victory over the gods, the exodus, the battle with the
nations; and theophanic judgment. Finally the enthronement of
Yahweh is announced by the cry "Yahweh has become king." As a
result, Yahweh's covenant with David is renewed,
guaranteed for the coming year, and the reign of the new creation is
initiated. Such a festival existed during the time of the monarchy, but
after the exile disintegrated into the three major Jewish feasts of New
Year, Atonement, and Tabernacles.9
Though such an impressive reconstruction has been accepted by
many scholars, it is subject to several criticisms. In regard to sources,
Mowinckel has been criticized for inferring too much influence from
external evidence, especially as concerns the Babylonian New Year's
Festival,10 for overstressing Rabbinical materials,11 and for piecing
8. Sigmund Mowinckel, Psalmenstudien I I (
ursprunglich, sondern uberall and immer, ein Drama ... nicht lediglich ein
gespieltes Drama, ein Spiel, sondern ein wirkliches and Wirklichkeit
hervorbringendes Drama, ein Drama, das mit realer Kraft das dramatisierte
Ereignis verwirklicht, eine Wirklichkeit, aus der reale Krafte hervorstrahlen, oder
mit anderen Worten ein Sakrament." (Psalmenstudien II, 21).
9. Psalmenstudien II, 3-145. In his
more recent study (The Psalms in
Worship I [
emphasis upon the Ugaritic materials involving Baal and Anath and has
reconstructed a New Year's Festival
10. A. R. Johnson, "The Psalms," The Old Testament and Modern Study (ed.
11. L. I. Pap, Das israelitische Neujahrsfest (Kampen, 1933). For a summary of
Pap's arguments presented in his book, which was unavailable to me, see Lipinski,
"Les Psaumes de la Royaute de Yahwe dans I'Exege'se Moderne," Le Psautier
(Orientalia et Biblica Lovaniensia IV; Louvain: Publications Universitaires, 1962)
88 Restoration Quarterly
together too many diverse elements of the Old Testament, which never
actually mentions such a festival by name.12 Some scholars have also
questioned the translation of YHWH malak as an enthronement cry.
Mowinckel's statements concerning external influences were too
cautious for two groups of scholars, the Myth-Ritual School of S. H.
Hooke13 and the Uppsala School of Scandinavian scholars including
Ivan Engnell, G. Widengren, and Aage Bentzen.14 These two schools
have advanced the idea of a ritual pattern common to the religions of
the ancient Near East, involving an annual New Year's Festival in which
was enacted the enthronement of the god-king who represented the
community and portrayed the role of the deity in the cultic drama.
Such a festival included the dramatic representation of the death and
resurrection of the god, the enactment of the myth of creation, the
ritual combat in which the god defeated his enemies, the hieros gamos,
and the triumphal procession of the god-king to the palace where he
was enthroned.15 Such cultic enactments symbolized ancient man's
quest for order over chaos, riches over poverty, satiety over need, in
short, life over death.
It is quite improbable that Yahweh was ever regarded as a dying and
rising fertility god, even in the syncretistic cult of
monarchy, or that a hieros gamos was enacted.16 The idea of divine
12. Such criticism fails to discredit Mowinckel's thesis, since he indicates that
the enthronement ceremony was only one component of the larger Feast of
13. The views of this 'school' are presented in several volumes edited by
Hooke: Myth and Ritual, Essays on the Myth and Ritual of the Hebrews in
Relation to the Cultic
Pattern of the Ancient East (
Press, 1933); The Labyrinth, Further Studies in the Relation between Myth and
Ritual in the Ancient World (London: SPCK, 1935); and Myth, Ritual, and
Kingship (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958).
and im Judentum (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1952); and A. Bentzen, "King
ldeology-'Urmensch'-'Troonsbestijgingsfeest'," StTh 111 (1950) 143-57.
15. For a complete analysis of the
"L'Interpretation des Psaumes selon I'ecole 'Myth and Ritual'," RSR XXXIII
(1959) 321-342. Bernhardt's criticisms of the two schools are most cogent (Das
Problem der altorientalischen Konigs-Ideologie im Alten Testament [SVT 8;
16. H. H. Rowley, Worship in Ancient
1967), p. 189.
Perdue: Yahweh is King 89
kingship, while having existed in
Ugarit17 and improbable in Mesopotamia18 and Israel.19 The basic
problem involved in this approach is in the methodology which tries to
oversystematize the complexities of the ancient Near East cults. A basic
assumption of this approach has been that similarities of rites and ideas
could be explained only by positing one central cultic pattern and myth
in a fixed geographical and historical locus, from where it spread to
other cultures. This methodology goes back to Frazer, who took over
the common philosophical ideas of evolutionary development current
in the last part of the nineteenth century and applied them to the
development of cult and myth in the ancient world. Such a scheme is
not operative among present historians of religion, for it could not
explain, for example, comparable rituals and myths found-among such
diverse and separated cultures as those of the Incas, Chinese, Japanese,
and many others.20 A better methodology would be to utilize the Old
Testament materials which are appropriate and then seek to illuminate
with external materials.21
One other cultic reconstruction which should be noted is that of
Artur Weiser, who places the Enthronement Hymns within the cultic
situation of a Covenant Festival, an annual autumn celebration of the
renewal of the covenant and the reaffirmation of the people to observe
the law (II Kgs. 23:1-3; cf. Deut. 31:10-13; Josh. 24:25). The festival
was highlighted by a cultic drama depicting the elements of the
Heilsgeschichte and a theophany of Yahweh who came as king and
Conclusion. The situation in life which gave rise to these psalms
celebrating Yahweh's kingship is difficult to assess. Perhaps we may
begin by noticing the traditions reflected in the Enthronement Psalms
17. Werner Schmidt, Konigtum Gottes in
Alfred Topelmann, 1966).
18. H. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (
19. Martin Noth, "God, King, and Nation in the Old Testament," The Laws in
the Pentateuch (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1957) pp. 156-175.
20. Bernhardt, Das Problem der altorientalischen Konigs-Ideologie, p. 62.
21. Such a methodological point is emphasized by C. R. North, "The O. T.
Estimate of the Monarchy," AJSL XLVIII (1931-32) 1ff.
22. Artur Weiser, The Psalms (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1962) pp.
For a critique of Weiser's
theory, see Kraus, Worship in Israel
Basil Blackwell, 1966), p. 209.
90 Restoration Quarterly
and then try to make our own suggestions as concerns a possible
setting. As pointed out by Gray,23 two traditions are present:
Enthronement Psalms which associate Yahweh's kingship with creation
(e.g., 93) and those which stress Heilsgeschichte (e.g., 47). Sometimes
the two traditions are bound together (e.g. 98). Leaving for the
moment the question of the date of the origin of Yahweh's designation
as king, we may postulate that each tradition points to its own unique
life situation. The recital of the Heilsgeschichte would have been most
appropriate within a covenant renewal festival which existed during the
pre-monarchial period (cf. Josh. 24; Ex. 24:3-8).24 This festival
possibly occurred within the structure of the larger Feast of
a festival borrowed from
celebrated at the beginning of the New Year during the autumn
according to the old Israelite calendar (Ex. 23:16; 34:22). With the rise
of the monarchy a significant change was signalled in the cultus in that
elements of the old federation cultus were conflated with Canaanite
elements of the cultus
precursors. We are suggesting that within this context the salvation
history of the covenant renewal festival, the Davidic covenant, the
Jebusite traditions of the worship of the central deity as king, and the
recital of the creation story became integrated within a New Year's
Festival.25 It must be admitted that such a reconstruction is
hypothetical, but it does seem to provide some structure to a complex
problem. Therefore, it is within this context of a New Year's Festival
that the worship of Yahweh as King occurred, producing the
23. Gray, "The O.T. Estimate of the Monarchy," 1-29.
24. Walter Harrelson, From Fertility Cult to Worship (
Doubleday, 1970), p. 60.
25. Harrelson (Fertility Cult, p. 59) remarks: "The ancient covenant festival at
the turn of the year, then, was modified in such a way as to become a festival of
the New Year. Such modification occurred, in all probability, soon after the
building of the temple in
David probably opened the way for this change. The priesthood of Zadok,
perhaps a continuation of the Jebusite religious traditions at
own measures taken to add strength and prestige to
to bring Israelite worship more directly into relation with ancient Near Eastern
Perdue: Yahweh is King 91
Exegesis of Psalm 47
In our exegesis of Psalm 47 we shall attempt to concentrate on the
theological traditions formative in the creation of the psalm. At the
same time, an effort will be made to demonstrate how the psalm could
be utilized by the cultus in an enthronement ceremony. The translation
of the psalm is as follows:
Strophe I All ye peoples, clap your hands,
Shout to Elohim with a joyful cry.
For Yahweh Most High (‘elyon) is fearful,
A great King over all the earth.
He has subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
He has chosen for us our inheritance,
The Pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah
Elohim has gone up (‘alah) with a shout,
Yahweh to the sound of the ram's horn.
Strophe II Sing praises to Elohim, sing praises,
Sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For he is a great King over all the earth,
Sing to Elohim an artistic psalm.
Elohim has become King over all nations,
Elohim has taken his seat upon his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples are gathered together,
With the people of the God of Abraham.
Because to Elohim belong the shields of the earth,
He is greatly exalted (na’alah).26
In the hymnic introitus, two parallel stichoi contain the standard call
of the peoples to join in worship to Yahweh (hari’u, tiq’u). The two
26. Muilenburg ("Psalm 47," JBL LXIII [19441, 244) makes some interesting
observations concerning the literary analysis of this psalm: "The strophes are of
equal length, five full lines, or ten stichoi. Observe the similar phrases at the close
of the first and last full lines of the first strophe. Observe that 'Pride of Jacob' and
'God of Abraham' occupy the same relative position in the strophes. Again, the
place of the Ki line, following the opening of each strophe, is exactly the same.
Finally, the most significant of all, are the key words and their position: 'Elyon,'
'is gone up,' and 'he is exalted.' "
92 Restoration Quarterly
cultic acts which the people are to perform are the clapping of hands
(tiq’u-kap) and the cry of adulation (hari ‘u beqol rinnah), both of
which are performed during the coronation of an Israelite king, thus
demonstrating Mowinckel's contention that the imagery of the royal
clapping of hands indicated the joyous acclamation of the people
concerning the new king who had just been proclaimed king in the
temple (II Kgs. 11:12).28 In synonymous parallelism with the clapping
of hands is the cultic shout, again indicative of joyous acclamation.
Hari ‘u is the imperative issued to the people who are to acclaim God as
King (Pss. 95:1; 98:4; Num. 23:21), more coronation language.29 The
imperative to 'shout forth a joyful cry' (rinnah) has been suggested by
Wagner to be an indication of a "creedal statement, a confession of
faith in a God who acts in the events of history" (Pss. 98:4; 105:43;
107:22).30 The universal setting for the worship is recognized in the
demand that 'all peoples' are to demonstrate their subjection to King
Yahweh by these acts of acclamation.31
The main section of the first strophe, introduced by the hymnic ki,
states the attributes and deeds of Yahweh which are worthy of praise.
Yahweh, given the epithet 'Most High,' is to be worshipped because he
is 'fearful' (nora'), a hymnic participle describing the awe and majesty of
Yahweh which inspires the cultic adulation.32 What appears most
striking is the attributing of the divine epithet ‘elyon to Yahweh (Pss.
27. Psalmenstudien, I I , 6.
28. Cf. Nah. 3:19; Isa. 55:12; and Ps. 98:8. The last pictures the floods
clapping their hands (yimha'u-kap), thus indicating that the forces of chaos are
subject to Yahweh the King.
29. Lipinski (La Royaute de Yahwe, 352) states: "De ces indices it parait
resulter que la teru’a en I'honneur de Yahwe . . . consistait en une acclamation,
dont le sens
devait etre proche de
israelites: Yehi hammelek, 'Vive le roil' "
30. N. E. Wagner, "hn.Ari in the Psalter," VT X (1960) 435-441.
31. Schmidt's comment (Konigtum Gottes, 77) is important: "Der sog.
keine erst spat in
zeichnet bereits die Kanagische Religion aus."
32. Kraus (Psalmen, XLII) indicates that such participles express Yahweh's
characteristics, power, and actions in Hymns (cf. Pss. 66:9; 114:8; 135:21).
Weiser points out that "fear for their worship is in accordance with the essential
nature of the OT God; Yahweh shall be received with shouts of joy because he is a
terrible God. Fear causes humility. Fear is prominent in almost every aspect of
OT faith "(The Psalms, p. 376).
Perdue: Yahweh is King 93
7:18; 83:19; 97:9) followed by the synonymous parallel melek. In
these two stichoi the Canaanite influence is most prominent, since the
cult uses the Theologumena of the high god of the pantheon, El, who
was described as both king and 'Most High' in pointing to his place of
eminence among the council of the gods. In
there appears to have existed a cult of El Elyon (Gen. 14:19, 20),33
thus allowing for the later assimilation into the Davidic and Solomonic
cultus.34 In the faith of the
replaced El as the heavenly ruler.35 The reference to Yahweh as King
again points to the theological vocabulary of Canaan.36 Though the
problem of the date of such an ascription to Yahweh is a difficult one,
it probably should be after the establishing of the monarchy and the
have been most prominent.37 As is common in Ugaritic sources,
Yahweh's kingship is 'over all the earth.'38
The kingship of Yahweh is based upon the salvific acts he has
33. G. Levi Della Vida, "El 'Elyon in Gen. 14:18-20," JBL LXIII (1944) 9.
34. H. Schmid, "Jahwe and die Kulttraditionen von Jerusalem," ZAW (1955)
35. The fact that El Elyon is worshipped as creator of heaven and earth in
Gen. 14:19, 20 may indicate Yahweh is recognized implicitly as creator in Psalm
36. John Gray, "Hebrew Concept of the Kingship of God," VT VI (1956) 277.
He observes: "The psalms demonstrate that in the monarchic period the literature
and liturgy of
religious thought." It should also be noted that Yahweh would probably not be
worshipped as king until his 'house' was built by Solomon, as is the case with Baal
37. The question of the date of the reference to Yahweh as king has been
debated for a long time. Martin Buber (Konigtum Gottes [Heidelberg, 1956] ) has
argued such an understanding and expression came from
when Yahweh was a Stammesfuhrer. Albrecht Alt has placed the expression in the
period between the conquest and state building ("Gedanken fiber das Konigtum
Jahwes," Kleine Schriften, I [Munchen, 19531 pp. 345-357. Eissfeldt has opted
for a period after Second Isaiah as the best time for such references to Yahweh as
world king and creator ("Jahwe als Konig," ZAW XLVI  81-95). We feel
the origin is to be found during the time of the monarchy (Isa. 6:1ff), probably
during the period of Solomon.
38. Against Rosenbloom, who feels Yahweh's universal rule was developed by
Isaiah as a result of the influence of the world empires of
King," JBL, LXXXV (1966) 297ff.).
94 Restoration Quarterly
affirm in continuous parallelism Yahweh's defeat of the nations: "He
subdued peoples under us and nations under our feet." It is at this
Warrior'39 are combined with the royal ideology of the Canaanite
cultus. By theological reflection, Yahweh's defeat of the other nations,
implying the defeat of their gods as well, demonstrates the legitimacy
of his claim to the titles of 'Most High' and 'King.' Verse 5 points to the
promise of the land, another important motif of
history. Bahar is the technical term for divine selection (Pss. 33:12;
78:68; 78:70; 132:13; 135:4) and has as its object nahalah, a term
15:4; I Kgs. 8:36). The second stichos of verse 5 continues the idea of
its preceding stichos: 'the pride of Jacob whom he loves' (Amos 8:7;
Nah. 2:2). Yahweh's motivation for his action is his divine love
('aheb cf. Deut. 7:8; I Kgs. 10:9). Such a cultic recital of the
Heilsgeschichte points to
his sovereignty over all the world and thus is entitled to adoration as
the World King.40
As is common to hymns, the conclusion in verse 6 restates the basic
elements of the introduction.41 In the midst of cultic worship God is
enthroned as universal king. The blowing of trumpets (shopar) is a
common cultic act (Lev. 23:23-25; 25:9; Ps. 81:4) and is especially
frequent in the context of the coronation of an Israelite king (II Sam.
15:10; I Kgs. 1:34ff; II Kgs. 9:13), as well as in the enthronement of
Yahweh (Ps. 98:6). The terminus technicus for an ark procession, 'alah,
points to a procession ascending
enthroned.42 That such a procession occurred is apparent from II
Samuel 6, 7, I Kings 8, and Psalms 24 and 134. Though the ark is not
specifically mentioned in Psalm 47, the reference to God's throne in the
39. The imagery of placing the foot upon a defeated enemy's neck is common
in the ancient Near East (cf. Joh. 10:24 and "The Hymn of Victory of Thut Mose
III," ANET, 373-374). For an excellent study of Yahweh as Divine Warrior, see
Cross, "The Divine Warrior in
40. The depiction of a deity leading his people to military victories is a
common one in the ancient Near East (B. Albrektson, History and the Gods.
41. Kraus, Psalmen, XLI I.
The Psalms in
Perdue: Yahweh is King 95
second strophe would seem to suggest the ark. While the traditions of
the ark are quite varied, it was regarded during the monarchy as the
throne of Yahweh; it indicated his presence and was placed in
Solomon's Holy of Holies (I Kgs. 8:12, 13; Ps. 99:lff.).43
The first strophe has combined the elements of the coronation
imagery of the Hebrew kings,44 the Canaanite adulation of the 'Most
High,' the unique traditions of the Heilsgeschichte in cultic confession,
and the ark procession in order to express the cultic praise of Yahweh
as universal king. The material best fits the cultic setting of a New
Year's Festival in which Yahweh's kingship is celebrated. The direct
reference to the creation tradition is absent, though the reference to
Yahweh as ’elyon may demonstrate its subtle presence.
The second strophe, by means of external parallelism, restates the
theme of the first. This strophe is initiated by four hymnic imperatives
(zammeru) which solicit praise from the cultic community. In the first
two stichoi, 'elohim and are in parallelism. The hymnic ki again
introduces the main section, which indicates the reason Yahweh is to be
praised: "Because he is king, over all the earth." The community is
directed to "Sing to God a maskil," an obscure word, but perhaps the
best translation is 'artistic psalm' (II Chr. 30:22).45
Verses 8, 9 continue the bases for the hymnic praise of Yahweh. God
has assumed his position as king over all the nations. The imagery
suggested is that of a cultic ceremony participated in by all the nations
of the earth, most probably those of the Solomonic empire. Malak
‘elohim (cf. the similar, expression in other Enthronement
Hymns—YHWH malak) is one of the most debated expressions in the
Old Testament in regard to translation and function. Mowinckel,
comparing it with the Akkadian Marduk-ma Sarru, has argued the
expression YHWH malak should be translated as a cry of
enthronement: "Yahweh has become King."46 Kohler, basing his
43. Cf. G. Henton
(ed. F. F. Bruce;
44. Gerhard von Rad,
"The Royal Ritual in
Hexateuch (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966) pp. 222-231.
45. Weiser (The Psalms, p. 281) points to the enigmatic nature of this
46. Psalmenstudien, I I, 40.
96 Restoration Quarterly
arguments upon I Kings 1:11, 18, feels the implication of the
expression is that of a polemic against other deities. This, he argues, is
indicated by the word order, subject-predicate, which places stress upon
the subject. He translates: "It is Yahweh who is (has become) King, and
no other."47 Ridderbos, on the contrary, has suggested the expression
YHWH malak describes a state of being, that is, Yahweh's royalty. The
reverse order, according to Ridderbos, is necessary if Mowinckel's
translation is possible.48 Finally, Michel has translated YHWH malak:
"Yahweh is he who exercises kingship," thus regarding the verb as
describing an action of the subject.49 As concerns Psalm 47:9 we
should stress that the word order malak 'elohim is the most typical
order for a short Hebrew sentence, thus eliminating any arguments
concerning placing stress upon the subject. In our opinion the
expression is best translated as "Elohim is king" or "Elohim has
become king." The latter is preferred if Psalm 47 is to be regarded as, an
actual enthronement liturgy that reoccurs each year in the cult (cf. I
Kgs. 1:11, 13; II Sam. 15:10).50
The question then arises as to whether malak ‘elohim is a formula of
investiture, a cry of acclamation, a formula of homage, a cry of
proclamation, or an enthronement cry.51 A formula of investiture
comparable to those in Mesopotamia and
God is not addressed in the second person. There is also the problem of
determining who would transfer the royal power to Yahweh!52 The
argument that the expression is a cry of acclamation can be rejected,
since the usual formula is yehi hammelek (I Sam. 10:24; II Sam.
16:16). That the expression could be a formula of homage is a
possibility when one compares it with the expression of homage by the
gods who accept Marduk as king in the Enuma Elish.53 It is also
47. L. Kohler, "Jahwah Malak," VT III (1953) 188-189.
48. Ridderbos ("Jahwah Malak," VT IV  87-89) observes: "Will man in
Hebraischen den Gedanken: J. ist Konig geworden, deutlich ausdrucken, so kann
49. D. Michel, "Studien zu den sogenannten Thronbesteigungspsalmen," VT
VI (1956) 65.
50. Kraus, Psalmen I, 202, 203. Kraus believes that 47:9 has the only word
order capable of the translation defended by Mowinckel.
51. For a complete discussion, see Lipinski, La Royaute de Yahwe, pp.
52. Lipinski, La Royaute de Yahwe, p. 347.
53. ANET, 66-72.
Perdue: Yahweh is King 97
possible to regard the expression as a proclamation of God's kingship
(cf. Isa. 52:7; II Sam. 15:10; and II Kgs. 9:13). However, in our
opinion, the expression of Psalm 47:9 is best seen as a cry of
enthronement, since an ark procession to the temple seems to be
implied. While Yahweh is confessed as eternal
king in the
cult, Psalm 47 points to the way he has proved his kingship, i.e., by his
defeat of the nations in the conquest.
The second stichos in verse 9 points to Yahweh's enthronement:
"God has taken his seat upon his holy throne." Kisse' best refers to the
ark of God, as indicated by Jeremiah 3:16 and Psalm 99:1. God's
ascension to the throne initiates his reign as king and judge (cf. I Kgs.
Verse 10 points to an assembly of the nations to worship God as
universal king and perhaps also implies a judgment scene. Nedibe
‘ammim is an expression used to refer to the princes of the various
nations who have been subjected by Yahweh in the conquest and in the
wars of David (cf. Num. 21:18; Pss. 78:12; 107:40). An important
textual problem exists in the second stichos. The MT reads: 'am ‘elohim
'abraham ("People of the God of Abraham"), which parallels the first
stichos, thereby indicating that all the nations are now regarded as the
people of the covenant (Gen. 12:1ff.). However, the LXX and Syriac
read `im for `am, thus changing the translation to "with the God of
Abraham." BH3 conflates the two readings, arguing one should read ‘im
‘am: "The princes of the peoples are gathered together with the people
of the God of Abraham." Perhaps this suggestion is preferable, pointing
to a cultic assembly of all nations together with
their acceptance of Yahweh's rule. "The shields of the earth (maginne
'eres) belong to God" is a declaration again affirming God's universal
The psalm closes with the theme of the entire liturgy: "He is greatly
exalted." The word play involving the root 'lh has already been
54. Cf. Pss. 89:19; 84:10. A striking parallel to "God has taken his seat upon
his holy throne" is found in the Baal Cycle: "Baal mounts his throne of kingship"
(Mendelsohn, Religions of the Ancient Near East [London: Luzac and Co., 1949)
98 Restoration Quarterly
As has been emphasized in the exegesis, Psalm 47 expresses in
hymnic praise Yahweh's assumption of world rulership. Such
sovereignty is theologically based upon his defeat of the nations. This
psalm is to be regarded as arising from the cultic context of a New
Year's Festival which has as an essential component Yahweh's
enthronement as king. Such an enactment of Yahweh's enthronement
each year placed emphasis upon one of
conquest of the land by the Divine Warrior. Such a victory was recited
in the cult and was climaxed by the processional enthronement of
victorious Yahweh as king. The inclusion of certain Canaanite elements
and components of the ritual of the coronation of the Israelite king
dates the Psalm in the period of the monarchy.
The theological significance of such an affirmation of Yahweh should
not be overlooked. The conception of Yahweh as world king, an idea
power from that of a wandering desert deity of a tribal federation to
that of universal king holding the power of dominion over the earth.
This faith developed such a dynamic quality that its expression gave rise
to prophetic interpretations of the rise and fall of world empires as the
result of Yahweh's direction of history. Such a faith in Yahweh's
actions provided the basis upon which a decimated remnant could
reorientate its existence even in the wake of national destruction.
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