D. Wayne Knife














                   Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements

                             for the degree of Doctor of Theology in

                                      Grace Theological Seminary

                                                     May 1973









      Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt,  Gordon College, MA  April, 2007















Accepted by the Faculty of the Grace Theological Seminary

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree

                          Doctor of Theology

                               Grade   A

                        Examining Committee

                              John J. Davis

                              S. Herbert Bess

                               James L. Boyer





            For many years the study of the Psalms has been a

fascinating and profitable discipline to the author of this

work. Psalm 89 is of captivating interest to the writer, not

only because it is a portion of the biblical corpus, but for

the reason that a large section of it is devoted to the

Davidic Covenant. It is a covenant which has tremendous

significance for the consideration of the movements of God

in the providential control of history. How the covenant and

the content of the Psalm blend together is an enriching study

and leads to a greater appreciation of all the Scripture.

            Another discipline has come to the attention of the

author in recent years, namely, a study of a portion of the

vast amount of literature from the ancient Near East. A pe-

rusal of this literature reveals that all poetry of the Near

East, including Psalm 89, had much in common. And much com-

parative study has been made. However, some scholars have

seriously neglected the distinct religious thought of the

Psalm and accordingly have given unsatisfactory treatment

the application. With the inconsistencies in some of these

comparative studies, the writer felt that the relationship of

the ancient Near East to Psalm 89 should be clarified.

            To achieve this goal the author gratefully acknowl-

edges the help of many, not all of whom are listed in the


Bibliography, in the writing of this dissertation. An ex-

pression of gratitude goes to the writer's graduate committee,

Dr. John J. Davis, chairman, Dr. S. Herbert Bess, and Dr.

James L. Boyer, for their study of the manuscript and their

valuable suggestions for its final form. Also, thankfulness

is extended to friends and fellow students, Donald L. Fowler

and David R. Plaster, for various forms of stimulation that

are too manifold to recount here. And a great deal of in-

debtedness is owed to the author's three daughters, Connie,

Vicki, and Ginger, for encouragement and help in countless


            Special gratitude must be expressed to the writer's

wife, Janet, for her patience, love, and understandingud.uring

the many months spent in the preparation of this manuscript.

Her devotion was amplified in a most practical way--the typ-

ing of this dissertation. To her is this work affectionately





                                  TABLE OF CONTENTS


ABBREVIATIONS                                                                                        v


I. INTRODUCTION                                                                         1

            The Problem

            The Raison d'Etre

            The Purpose of This Study

            The Contribution of Archaeology

            The Presuppositions of This Study

            The Method of This Study

II. ANTECEDENTS TO THE EXEGESIS                                        19

            Form Criticism


            Date and Unity

            Sitz im Leben

            Type of Psalm

            The Question of Structure and Meter

III. EXEGESIS OF PSALM 89                                                                     73

            89:1 Meditation with Insight

            89:2-5 :Introduction: Possession of Reality

            89:6-19 God's Characteristics: Basis for


            89:20-38 God's Covenant: Basis for Confidence

            89:39-46 God's Chastisement: Basis for


            89:47-52 Conclusion: Prayer for Restoration

            89:53 Benediction of Book III


            Philological Similarities

            Modes of Expression

            Concepts and Institutions







            The Application of Parallels in the

                        Hermeneutical Method

            In Terms of Vocabulary

            Allusions to Ideas

            Direct Application to Concepts and


            The Question of Borrowing



VI. NEW TESTAMENT REFERENCES                                         217

VII. CONCLUSION                                                                          221

BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                                                          225



AB                   Analecta Biblica

AJSL               The American Journal of Semitic Languages

ANET              Ancient Near Eastern Texts, third edition, ed.


ASTI                Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute

BDB                A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament,

                                    ed. Brown, Driver, and Briggs.

BJRL               Bulletin of John Rylands Library

BS                   Bibliotheca Sacra

CBQ                Catholic Biblical Quarterly

CJT                 Canadian Journal of Theology

EJ                    Encyclopaedia Judaica

ET                   Expository Times

ETL                 Ephemerides Theological Lovanienses

GJ                   Grace Journal

GKC                Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, Gesenius, Kautzsch and


HTR                Harvard Theological Review

HUCA             Hebrew Union College Annual

JAOS              Journal of Ancient Oriental Studies

JASTROW      A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and

                                    Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, Jastrow.

JBC                 The Jerome Bible Commentary

JBL                 Journal of Biblical Literature



JBR                 Journal of Bible and Religion

JETS               Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

JFB                 A Commentary: Critical Experimental and

                                    Practical on the old and New Testaments,

                                    Jamieson, Fausset and Brown.

JNES               Journal of Near Eastern Studies

JNSL               Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages

JPOS              The Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society

JQR                 Jewish Quarterly Review

JSS                  Journal of Semitic Studies

KB                   Lexicon in Veteris Testimenti Libros, ed. Koehler

                        and Baumgartner.

LXX                 The Septuagint

MT                  The Massoretic Text.

NASB              New American Standard Bible

NBCR              The New Bible Commentary Revised

RB                   Revue Biblique

RHR                Revue de L'Histoire des Religions

TARGUM       tvlvdg tvxrqm, “ylwm Mylht," “Fp

TS                    Theological Studies

TZ                    Theologische Zeitschrift

UT                   Ugaritic Textbook, Gordon.

VT                   Vetus Testamentum

WLQ               Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly

WTJ                Westminster Theological Journal

ZAW                Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft




                               CHAPTER I




                               The Problem


            At the present time, the battle still rages over the

relationship of Psalm 89 to the finds of the ancient Near

East. While many facets of the problem may be seen, four

areas will be considered here: treatment, textual criticism,

parallelism, theology.

In terms of treatment

            By treatment, it is meant how Psalm 89 as a portion

of the biblical corpus has been viewed. American scholars,

either through fear or oversight, have written very little

that offers anything exegetical in nature on Psalm 89. This

neglect may be due partly to the fact that some phrases and

doctrine in the psalm occur in Psalms one through eighty-

eight and, thus, are not treated fully. Other American

scholars just make a passing reference to Psalm 89 in their

treatment of different subjects. Few will even attempt to

show the significance of any ancient Near East connections.

            But this is not so with European scholars. The fol-

lowing statement can be made by DuMortier only from his side

of the Atlantic Ocean. "Les nombreuses études dont a fait

l'objet le Ps. lxxxix témoigent amplement de la complexité


de ce psaume."1 These numerous studies are from the pens of

European writers. Besides exegetical treatment, their arti-

cles and books are replete with ancient Near Eastern compar-

isons. Although this writer could not obtain all of the

European sources, this study will bear out the European con-

tribution, one which is not by any means conservative.

In terms of textual criticism

                        Ap-Thomas has said:

            Study of the Old Testament in general and of its Hebrew

            in particular has come into greater prominence in recent

            years. There are a number of reasons for this--a gener-

            ation of able teachers, some exciting archeological dis-

            coveries, the growth of interest in Near Eastern studies

            and in biblical theology. . . .2

            Dahood goes at length to defend his position that

Ugaritic has its bearing on the Bible on this subject.3 Con-

cerning Ugaritic and textual criticism, Dahood states else-


            . . . Ugaritic literature remains one of the most effi-

            cient instruments at the disposal of the biblical re-



            1Jean-Bernard DuMortier, "Un Ritual d' Intronisation:

Le Ps. LXXXIX 2-38," VT, XXII:2 (April, 1972), 176.

            2D. R. Ap-Thomas, A Primer of Old Testament Text

Criticism, Facet Books--Biblical Series 14, edited by John

Reumann (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. iii.

            3Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II, 51-100

(Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1968),

pp. XVII-XXVII. For the criticism Dahood is answering, see

John L. McKenzie, a review of Psalms 1:1-50 by Mitchell

Dahood, CBQ, XXIX:l (January, 1967), 138-40 and David A.

Robertson, a review of Anchor Bible: Psalms 1, 1-50 by

Mitchell Dahood, JBL, LXXXV:IV (December, 1966), 484-86.


                        In some instances Ugaritic brings a peremptory

            solution to a biblical verse; in others the evidence

            is less direct, but does inject new elements and con-

            siderations which an exegete may not overlook.1

            While the statement may be true, the method by which

it is put into practice is not always valid, especially if

the text is emended in an excessive manner. This aspect of

the problem will manifest itself throughout the study.

            The Targums, Old Latin Version, Septuagint, and

Peshito are employed by Kennedy for the "removal of blemishes"

in the Massoretic text.2 Many of these "corrections" in

Psalm 89 are not only unacceptable, but unnecessary. Other

works3 could be cited, but the above point out the problem


            lMitchell Dahood, "The Value of Ugaritic for Textual

Criticism," AB, 10 (Roma, 1959), 26-27. The same article may

be found in Biblica, 40 (1959), 160-70. A favorable evalua-

tion of Dahood's method is given by Stanislaw Segert, "The

Ugaritic Texts and the Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible,"

Near Eastern Studies in Honor of William Foxwell Albright,

edited by Hans Goedicke (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press,

1971), pp. 413-20. But a critical evaluation is noted by K.

L. Barker, a review of New Perspectives on the Old Testament,

edited by J. Barton Payne, BS, 129:514 (April-June, 1972),

154. For further study see H. L. Ginsberg, "The Ugaritic

Texts and Textual Criticism," JBL, LXII (1943), 109-15.

            2James Kennedy, An Aid to the Textual Amendment of the

Old Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1928), pp. 1-255.

            3Christian D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Mas-

soretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (New York: Ktav

Publishing House, Ind., 1966. This work was not given an

altogether favorable report, see Bruce K. Waltke, a review of

Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew

Bible by Christian D. Ginsburg, BS, 123:492 (October-December,

1966), 364-65. For further study see Nahum M. Sarna, et al,

"Psalms, Book of," Encyclopaedia Judaica, 16 Volumes (Jeru-

salem: Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 1971), Vol. 13, p. 1318

and Ernst Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testament, translated

by Peter R. Ackroyd (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1957), pp. 1-173.


that affects this study. Textual criticism will not be treated

as a separate topic because it is an inherent part of practi-

cally all that follows.


In terms of parallelism

            Parallels from the ancient Near East are seen every-

where in Psalm 89. Verbal parallels would be expected, but

not to the extent that McKenzie saw them. "The verbal paral-

lels between the Ugaritic tablets and several Old Testament

passages make it impossible to suppose anything but direct


            As some have advocated, there are parallels in thought

patterns.2 Scholars see parallels in the ancient Near East

to Psalm 89 in the realms of kingship, throne, covenant,

Rahab, and even God. Concepts of ruling, praise, and enthrone-

ment are also included.

            It is recognized that there have to be some relation-

ships because various forms of ancient Near Eastern poetry

are stereotyped. But does this constitute a direct paral-

lelism? Since a whole chapter will be devoted to this portion

of the problem, there is no need of further discussion here.


            1John L. McKenzie, Myths and Realities: Studies in

Biblical Theology (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company,

1963), p. 97.

            2John Hasting Patton, Canaanite Parallels in the Book

of Psalms (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1944), pp. 15-

28. Theodor Gaster, "Canaanite Parallels to the Psalms," JQR,

35:3 (January, 1945), 355-56.


In terms of theologv

            Actually, the three facets of the problem above are

involved in the theological, phase of the problem. Several

scholars are named by Baumgartel as viewing the Psalms "sep-

arated from the individual and . . . understood as cultic in

character."l This concept seems definitely to imply that the

individual psalmist had no relationship to God.

            Adherents of Religionsgeschichte provide another area

of the theological problem.

            Quite apart from the formal parallels, it has come to

            appear likely that the Canaanite religion at least ex-

            erted some influence upon the content of the Old Testa-

            ment psalms, although Yahwism and Israel's unique concept

            of God and existence carried the day.2

            Similarly, the eminent scholar W. F. Albright holds

that Psalm 89 swarms "with Canaanitisms."3 And Kapeirud


                        It is instructive to examine individual psalms from

            the standpoint of their relationship to Ugaritic motifs,

            expressions, and details of cultic practice. The psalms

            are firmly rooted in the Yahwistic faith and the Jeru-


            lFriedrich Bäumgartel, "The Hermeneutical Problem of

the Old Testament," translated by Murray Newman, Essays on

Old Testament Hermeneutics, edited by Claus Westermann,

English translation edited by James Luther Mays (Richmond,

Virginia: John Knox Press, 1963), p. 147.

            2Ernst Sellin and Georg Fohrer, Introduction to the

Old Testament, translated by David E. Green (Nashville:

Abingdon Press, 1968), p. 259.

            3William Foxwell Albright, Archaeology and the

Religion of Israel, Anchor Books edition (Garden City, New

York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1968), p. 124.


salem cult; but this does not mean that they do not con-

tain many elements derived from Canaanite religion.1

            What the above scholars have not considered is that

God and all His works are supernatural. This includes His

authorship of Scripture. The problem here is one of presup-

position which will be covered later.

            While there are many other problems that confront

Psalm 89, these areas deal with the main corpus of this study.

On the whole the problem is much more serious than stated

above, but another problem involved in a work of this size

is the avoidance of tautology.


                                 The Raison d'Etre

            The reason for writing may be observed first of all

by cause and effect. Archaeology has brought much to light

in the area of Old Testamentt background and studies. The

findings of the ancient Near East have enriched our knowledge

of the cultural background and linguistics within the biblical

corpus. As already indicated, due to theological bias or lack

of concern for the Author of Holy Writ, some scholars have

misapplied the material from the ancient Near East to Psalm

89. As a result, passages of the psalm are misconstrued,

parallels are seen everywhere, and knowingly or unknowingly,


            1Arvid S. Kapelrud, The Ras Shamra Discoveries and

the Old Testament, translated by G. W. Anderson (Norman:

University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), p. 81.


theology itself is greatly affected.

            Also, the present writer has found but few works that

offer anything exegetical in nature on Psalm 89.  Since all

details in the biblical record are worthy of diligent atten-

tion, there is a need to examine this portion closely.

Special study is also warranted because of God's covenant

with David, an all important aspect in the light of God's



                         The Purpose of This Study

            The purpose may be seen as many goals, all of which

are inherently involved and intermeshed. Psalm 89 is a rich

portion of eternal truth, therefore the first goal will be to

highlight this from the original language. Of necessity,

textual criticism will be important.

            Some writers have seen parallels to Psalm 89. There-

fore it is significant that an investigation be made in the

light of biblical exegesis.  The second goal is to demon-

strate whether there are valid parallels from the ancient Near

East. If there are bona fide parallels, these should be dem-

onstrated, examined, and evaluated as to their contribution

to the interpretation of the psalm. Likewise, if there are

no valid parallels, then the goal is to demonstrate such. In

essence, since archaeologists have uncovered material that

relates to biblical studies, the present author believes it

is a worthy goal to see if there is any exact relevance, as


some say there is, to Psalm 89.


                    The Contribution of Archaeology

            The relationship of the Holy Scriptures and archae-

ology has reached paramount interest. Archer says:

                        For students of the Bible the last fifty years of

            archaeological discovery have been more momentous than

            in any previous period of comparable length in the

            history of the Christian church.1

            Significant discoveries too numerous to mention have

greatly aided both scholar and student in understanding the

background of many biblical passages. Briefly, the contribu-

tion will be considered in terms of sources and biblical



In terms of sources

            In order to avoid needless repetition, individual

sources will not be named specifically here. Let it suffice

to say that ample material comes from the following: Akka-

dian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Hittite, Ugaritic, Dead Sea

Scrolls and other inscriptions. It will be apparent that

archaeology has contributed a very large portion of this



In terms of biblical studies

            On the one hand there is the contribution to the

study of biblical languages. Freedman writes:


            1Gleason L. Archer, Jr., "Old Testament History and

Recent Archaeology From Abraham to Moses," BS, 127:505 (Jan-

uary-March, 1970), 3.


                        The non-biblical materials help to give a clearer

            picture of the dimensions and character of the languages

            which are only partially represented in the Bible.

            Since the inscriptions also come from a variety of

            places and periods, they provide a basis for analyzing

            the biblical languages according to a historical per-

            spective, and thereby yield clues as to date and author-


            On the other hand there is the contribution for the

theologian in his task of exegesis.

            . . . archaeology should not be used either to prove or

            to confirm the "truth" of divine revelation. The true

            function of archaeology is to enable us to understand

            the Bible better, insofar as it was produced by men in

            given times and places. Because it pleased God to give

            us the sacred record in many different forms of liter-

            ature, with a great diversity of backgrounds in the

            ancient Near East, it is part of the theologian's task

            to use all the possible light that can be thrown on the

            biblical documents from outside sources.2

            Thus it is that archaeology contributes by helping to

supplement one's biblical knowledge. But it should be ac-

knowledged that this contribution is not without its problems.

While the following comment is directed mainly toward archae-

ology, it applies here quite well. According to Weddle:

            Even the most objectively-minded interpreter cannot fully

            escape from his cultural, religious, and philosophical


            1David Noel Freedman, "Archaeology and the Future of

Biblical Studies," The Bible in Modern Scholarship, edited by

J. Philip Hyatt (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965), pp. 310-


            2Alfred von Rohr Saur, "The Meaning of Archaeology

for the Exegetical Task," A Symposium on Archaeology and

Theology (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1970),

p. 7.


            biases. The annals of archaeology are replete with ex-

            amples where bias affected interpretation.1

            To which Smith would reply, ". . . it is not surpris-

ing that a long series of archaeological 'confirmations of

the Bible' have turned out to be howlers."2 Some will not

agree with Sanders. He raises the question on the canon of

the Old Testament, particularly the Psalms, because of the

influence of archaeological finds.3

            Wiseman refers to the issue in this study in a two-

fold manner. He concludes that archaeological discoveries

            . . . do not affect our understanding of any major doc-

            trine or detract from an obvious and vital interpreta-

            tion of the narrative. . . . At the same time these

            studies highlight the problems caused by divergent

            interpretation of the text. . . .4

            The contribution of archaeology is very significant,

but the application to God's Word is the basic issue. The

matter of interpretation will be highlighted in the following


            1Forest Weddle, "The Limitations of Archaeology Im-

posed by Interpretation and Lack of Data," GJ, 11:3 (Fall,

1970), 6. For further study see Merrill F. Unger, "The Use

and Abuse of Biblical Archaeology," BS, 105:419 (July-Septem-

ber, 1948), 297-306 and John C. Jeske, "The Role of Archae-

ology in Bible Study," WLQ, LXVIII:4 (October, 1971), 228-36.

            2Morton Smith, "The Present State of Old Testament

Studies," JBL, LXXXVIII:l (March, 1969), 31.

            3James A. Sanders, "Cave 11. Surprises and the Ques-

tion of Canon," New Directions in Biblical Archaeology,

edited by David Noel Freedman and Jonas C. Greenfield,

Anchor Books edition (Garden City, New York: Doubleday

and Company, Inc., 1971), pp. 122-27.

            4Donald J. Wiseman, "Archaeology and Scripture," WTJ,

XXXIII:2 (May, 1971), 152.




                   The Presuppositions of This Study

            In biblical studies today great freedom is exercised

with such terms as "cult" and "myth." It is only fair to the

reader that he know the position of the present author, es-

pecially in a study of this type. All that has been said

before and all that follows will be clarified at this point.

The purpose of this study does not include all the schools of

thought and their differences. For example, Widengren refers

to the Pan-Babylonian school, the so-called Scandinavian

school, and the British "Myth and Ritual School" and comments

on the differing viewpoints.l

In terms of cult

            The term itself seems to have various meanings, but

the chief concern is that which speaks of ritualistic acts

or ceremonies. For example, Johnson holds that there is

ritual drama in Psalm 89.2 Mowinckel holds a very similar


            1George Widengren, "Early Hebrew Myths and Their In-

terpretation," Myth, Ritual, and Kingship, edited by S. H.

Hooke (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1958) pp. 149-203. Cf.

also S. H. Hooke, "Myth and Ritual: Past and Present,"

Myth, Ritual, and Kingship, edited by S. H. Hooke (Oxford:

The Clarendon Press, 1958), pp. 1-21 and Amos N. Wilder,

"Scholars, Theologians, and Ancient Rhetoric," JBL, LXXXI:I

(March, 1956), 1-11.

            2A. R. Johnson, "The Psalms," The Old Testament and

Modern Study, edited by H. H. Rowley (London: Oxford

University Press, 1961), p. 196.


view.1 Woudstra mentions several definitions and then he


                        One of the major deficiencies in the current defini-

            tions lies in the fact that cultus is defined in almost

            exclusively phenomenological terms. The element of

            revelation does not significantly enter into the defi-


            Looking at Mowinckel's view in particular, Woudstra

goes on to say:

            . . .  it should not be overlooked that Mowinckel's

            assertion that revelation precedes cultus is itself a

            purely comparative statement. For Mowinckel makes it

            clear that not only Israel has a God who "revealed"

            Himself as to where He may be found, but that this idea

            is "a fundamental idea in all religion." In other words,

            we are not face to face with revelation. All that we do

            confront is the claim to having received revelation, and

            this claim is fundamental to all religions. Hence we

            are not yet beyond the phenomenological and the compar-

            ative. In this respect the term "cultus" has undergone

            a radical transformation when it is compared with ear-

            lier usages in medieval and early Reformation theology.3

            Even if the concept is based upon direct revelation,

it does not guarantee that the term is interpreted correctly.

Therefore, in this study the present writer will refrain from


            1Sigmund Mowinckel., The Psalms in Israel's Worship,

translated by D. R. Ap-Thomas (New York: Abingdon Press,

1962), p. 176. For further reference see Sellin and Fohrer,

Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 260-62. Although

Sarna does not employ the term as a ritual act, see his dis-

cussion in Sarna, et al. "Psalms, Book of," pp. 1316-17.


            2Marten H. Woudstra, "The Tabernacle in Biblical-

Theological Perspective," New Perspectives on the Old Testa-

ment, edited by J. Barton Payne (Waco, Texas: Word Books,

Publisher, 1970), p. 93.



any use of the word lest he be misunderstood.

In terms of myth

            A perusal of the abundance of literature reveals

there is no consensus of opinion as to the meaning of myth.

Kirk postulates:

            There is no one definition of myth, no Platonic form of

            a myth against which all actual instances can be mea-

            sured. Myths, as we shall see, differ enormously in

            their morphology and their social function.1

            And Knox says, "The term has a variety of uses in a

variety of connections and, as we have several times had oc-

casion to observe, is notoriously difficult to define.2

Still, these and others attempt definitions.3

            But, with or without definition, some see mythology

in Holy Writ. Kapelrud avers:

            We have already noted the tendency in Israel to suppress

            mythological material. It is primarily in the Psalms,


            1G. S. Kirk, Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in A

cient and Other Cultures (Cambridge: University Press,

1970), p. 7.

            2John Knox, Myth and Truth: An Essay on the Language

of Faith (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia,

1964), p. 34.

            3James Barr, "The Meaning of 'Mythology' in Relation

to the Old Testament," VT, IX:l (January, 1959), 1-10. John

L. McKenzie, "Myth and the Old Testament," CBQ, XXI:3 (July,

1959), 265-74. Sigmund Mowinckel, The Old Testament as Word

of God, translated by Reidar B. Bjornard (Nashville: Abing-

don Press, 1959), pp. 99-106. As one studies Mowinckel's

views on myth, he should also note his views on revelation

and inspiration, pp. 23-24, 46, 75.


            which could not easily be altered, that such material is


            Goldziher definitely sees mythology in Psalm 89.2

Full discussion is not given here in order to avoid repetition

later. Dulles states:

            . . . it is not surprising that the Israelites produced

            no mythology of their own. They did, however, borrow

            from the mythologies of the surrounding peoples, and in

            some cases subjected these to a process of demythologiz-

            ing which is at best relatively complete. For example,

            in various references to the creation, we find allusions

            to mighty struggles between Yahweh and mysterious mon-

            sters such, as Leviathan and Rahab (e.g., Ps 73/74, Ps

            88/89, Is 27, Job 9, Job 20).3

            However, the position of the present author is quite

clear. He dogmatically holds that the Israelites did not

borrow any mythology nor is there any hint of belief in any

mythology in the biblical corpus. Anything to the contrary

immediately affects biblical revelation and inspiration, and

thus, the very character of God. The employment of the word

bhr in 89:11 (Heb.) will be discussed later.

            But immediately, the liberal critic accuses the


            1Kapelrud, The Ras Shamra Discoveries and the Old

Testament, p. 72.

            2Ignaz Goldziher, Mythology Among the Hebrews and Its

Historical Development (New York: Cooper Square Publishers,

Inc., 1967), p. 424.

            3Avery Dulles, "Symbol, Myth, and the Biblical Reve-

lation," TS, 27:1 (March, 1966), 16. Also see B. K. Waltke,

a review of Israel's Sacred Songs: A Study of Dominant

Themes by Harvey H. Guthrie, Jr., BS, 123:492 (October-Decem-

ber, 1966), 363. Stanley Brice Frost, "Apocalyptic and

History," The Bible in Modern Scholarship, edited by J. Philip

Hyatt (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965), pp. 100-05.


present writer of coming to his study with basic presupposi-

tions. The thoughts and conclusions of McCown are pertinent


                        The problem of objectivity, of avoiding unjustifiable

            assumptions and presuppositions, is a difficult one.

            . . .

            The line between the interpretation of ancient thought

            and its evaluation and application for modern use is no

            barb-wired iron curtain. It may be as easily and in-

            sensibly crossed as the equator; but the navigator must

            keep his bearings and know where he is. . . .


            But if biblical scholarship is to retain a place of re-

            spectability among modern fields of research, it must

            maintain full freedom of investigation, thought, and

            expression, with no claim to a preferred status or

            special immunities, and with no theological presupposi-


            Without going into a detailed discussion, it can be

said that McCown's conclusion is not realistic. The liberal

critic ought to be honest enough to admit that everyone comes

to a study with some presuppositions. Erlandsson has devoted

an article to this very matter. To quote him in part:

                        Can a scholar who believes in the Bible's reliability

            do research without presuppositions? . . . We have seen

            that the historical-critical scholars who claimed that

            they worked without presuppositions at the same time

            take as their starting point absolutely fixed presup-


            Continuing on the same subject, Brown comments:


            1C. C.. McCown, "The Current Plight of Biblical Schol-

arship," JBL, LXXXV:I (March, 1956), 17-18.

            2Seth Erlandsson,, "Is There Ever Biblical Research

Without Presuppositions?" Themelios, 7:2-3 (1970), 28.


                        It may well be wondered what a scholar has to do to

            get a hearing for "conservative" results. Under such

            circumstances, one is tempted to conclude that much of

            the current consensus against the authenticity and re-

            liability of most biblical material is a presupposition

            of "scientific Bible scholarship," not a result.l

            And this is the crucial issue in this entire study.

Because of one's assumptions, his interpretation is greatly

affected. As a result, the viewpoints on Psalm 89 are like

the demons of Gadara; their reply would be, "My name is

Legion, for we are many." The words of Mendenhall are all

too true:

                        Today, little can be said concerning Biblical history

            and religion (beyond specific historical "facts") which

            will receive general assent among the specialists in the

            field. If the ability to command general assent among

            those who are competent be the criterion of the scien-

            tific, it must now be admitted that a science of Bibli-

            cal studies does not exist. Certainly, each scholar

            feels that the views he now holds represent a steady

            progress beyond those of a past generation, but that

            is not the point. A survey of the entire field shows

            rather such divergence of opinion and such disagreement

            on nearly every important issue that a consensus of

            opinion cannot be said to exist.2

            It should not be surprising, then, that controversy

will be evident in this work. If anything, this highlights

the importance of such a study.


            lHarold 0. J. Brown, "Editor's Page," Themelios,

7:2-3 (1970), 30.

            2George E. Mendenhall, "Biblical History in Transi-

tion," The Bible and the Ancient Near East, essays in honor

of William Foxwell Albright, edited by G. Ernest Wright

(Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1961),

p. 32.


                            The Method of This Study

In terms of scope

            The aim is to exegete the entire psalm and to treat

its related problems. But it will be virtually impossible

to deal with every word in the psalm and every theological

implication. Only those matters relevant and pertinent to

the purpose of this study will be considered. Therefore,

this dissertation will accordingly be limited to the study

of hermeneutics in this area.

            As for the ancient Near East, the scope includes only

what scholars deem as parallels, extending from the life and

literature of Sumer to the life and literature of Qumran.

This does not encompass an interpretation of all ancient

Near Eastern literature cited. The concepts and beliefs of

the ancient Near East that apply to the psalm will be dis-

cussed and examined very briefly. Again, the purpose is not

to compare Psalm 89 to the ancient Near East, but to compare

aspects of the ancient Near East to Psalm 89. In other words

the principal study concerns Psalm 89; the ancient Near East

is confined entirely to its contribution or so-called par-


In terms of procedure

            The first task will be to treat the antecedents of

exegesis: author, date, etc. Also, no study of this type

would be complete without an investigation of form-criticism.

            In the following chapter of exegesis, the procedure



will be to follow the guidelines of normal or literal inter-

pretation. It does not exclude figurative language. The

method will be to determine the ordinary meaning and intention

of what the author sought to communicate. Only fantasy and

speculation are excluded.

            Valid comparisons from the ancient Near East will be

viewed in the fourth chapter. This does not necessarily

imply nor comprise parallelism because of the stereotyped

patterns of poetry.

            The next chapter involves what some scholars call

parallelisms to Psalm 89. If there are valid parallels,

they will be examined as to their contribution. Of necessity,

this chapter will be somewhat extended due to the explanation

of some ancient concepts.

            A brief chapter preceding the conclusion will contain

New Testament references. It is hoped that this procedure

will aid the reader's comprehension.


                                 CHAPTER II




                                 Form Criticism

            It seems evident that form criticism should precede

any study on the Psalms. In one way or another it affects

most of the remaining topics in this chapter: author, date

Sitz im Leben, and types. The significance of form criticism

is stated by Alexander:

            Though some have misused the results of this study, the

            results themselves have opened new vistas in the under-

            standing of the Old Testament. An outstanding example

            of a portion of the Old Testament unlocked by this study

            of literary genre is the book of Psalms and hymnic liter-


            Since this subject is another large enough to be a

dissertation in itself, especially with voluminous sources

at hand, the present work will only touch it in summary

fashion.2 Briefly, consideration will be given to approach

and method, weaknesses, and contribution.


            1Ralph Holland Alexander, "Hermeneutics of Old Testa-

ment Apocalyptic Literature," (unpublished Doctor's disserta-

tion, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968), p. 4.

            2The reader is referred to a rather exhaustive treat-

ment by Klaus Koch, The Growth of the Biblical Tradition:

The Form-Critical Method, translated from the 2nd German

edition by S. M. Cupitt (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,

1969). Especially note pp. 68-91.


In terms of approach and method

            Johnson observes:

                        In so far as the study of the Psalter has made any

            progress during the generation which has passed   .

            it is largely due to the influence of one man--Hermann


            Gunkel is generally regarded as the scholar who first

applied the principles of form criticism to the Psalms. His-

torically speaking, he seems to be the pivotal point.

            The author of it was first and foremost H. Gunkel, who

            applied form-critical methods to the study of the Psalms,

            classifying them into various types and studying the

            Sitz im Leben from which these sprang. Gunkel's work

            marked such a turning point that one may divide all

            study of the Psalms into pre- and post-Gunkel phases.2

            The basic approach and method of Gunkel began with

the conviction that all poetry in Israel's religion was com-

posed first to be sung as an accompaniment of a ritual act.

He viewed the Psalms as having their origin in various occa-

sions of Israel's worship. Thus he sought to determine the

specific situation in life for each Psalm. The next step was

to take the Psalms having a common Sitz im Leben and classify

them according to types or literary forms (Gattung). Besides

having a common occasion, the Psalms must have the following


            lA. R. Johnson, "The Psalms," The Old Testament and

Modern Study, edited by H. H. Rowley (London: Oxford Univer-

sity Press, 1961), p. 162.

            2John Bright, "Modern Study of Old Testament Litera-

ture," The Bible and the Ancient Near East, essays in honor

of William Foxwell Albright, edited by G. Ernest Wright (Gar-

den City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1961), p.



characteristics to distinguish the types: common motifs,

forms of expression, and ideas.1

            Another eminent scholar in this field, Sigmund Mo-

winckel, declares:

                        Form criticism, "die Form-und Gattungsforshung", is

            the absolutely indispensable basis of any understanding

            of the Psalms. It has taught us to distinguish between

            a certain number of types ("Gattungen"), easily defin-

            able with regard to form and content, in which each

            individual example has been composed according to the

            very fixed, established rules of form and content, and

            has shown that each of these types has sprung up out of

            a definite "Sitz im Leben", out of its traditionally

            fixed function in religious life, a situation and a

            function, which have created the very elements of form

            and content, which are peculiar to the type in question.2

            Mowinckel does build upon the form-critical approach,

but he differs with Gunkel's view. The difference is ex-

pressed by Hohenstein in a very concise manner:

            The majority of Biblical psalms are to be associated

            with the Hebrew cult. They were composed for, and used

            in, actual temple services. In this emphasis Mowinckel

            is at odds with Gunkel. While the latter admitted that

            many of the psalms were originally old cultic songs, he

            hastened to point out that in the form in which we have

            them they were no longer connected to the cult but were

            more personal and spiritual in outlook. Mowinckel, on

            the contrary, insists that there is no private poetry in


            1This summary of Gunkel's basic approach and method

was extracted from Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-

Critical Introduction, translated by Thomas M. Horner, Facet

Book--Biblical Series XIX, edited by John Reumann (Phila-

delphia: Fortress Press, 1967). For another viewpoint see

James Muilenburg, "Form Criticism and Beyond, JBL, LXXXVIII:I

(March, 1969), 1-18.

            2Sigmund Mowinckel, "Psalm Criticism Between 1900 and

1935," VT, V:1 (January, 1955), 15.


            the Psalter, but that all of it has group-cultic associa-


            Details cannot be given here, the reader is asked to

read the works cited in the footnotes. It may be simply said

that Mowinckel viewed ancient Israel as celebrating annually

a great New Year festival in many of the Psalms.2 Hahn says,

"But Mowinckel seems to have overshot the mark by assigning

each category of psalm to one ritual occasion exclusively."3

Although the Norwegian employs the form-critical approach,

his premise might be better entitled "the cultic approach."

            There is another variation of the form-critical ap-

proach. A leading advocate is the Swedish scholar, Ivan

Engnell. "Engnell calls his approach traditio-historical."4


            lHerbert E. Hohenstein, "Psalms 2 and 110: A Compar-

ison of Exegetical Methods," (unpublished Doctor's disserta-

tion, Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, 1967), p. 76. For a

direct study of Mowinckel's method see Sigmund Mowinckel, The

Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2 Vols., translated by D. R. Ap-

Thomas (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962). Especially note

Vol. I, pp.. 23-41. The disagreement between Gunkel and Mo-

winckel is also expressed by A. R. Johnson, "Divine Kingship

and the Old Testament," ET, LXII:2 (November, 1950), 36-42.

            2Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, Vol. I,

pp. 106-92. A brief treatment of his position is given in

Harvey H. Guthrie, Jr., Israel's Sacred Songs: A Study of

Dominant Themes (New York: The Seaburg Press, 1966), pp.


            3Herbert F. Hahn, The Old Testament in Modern Re-

search (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 139.

            4Ivan Engnell, A Rigid Scrutiny: Critical Essays on

the Old Testament, translated and edited by John T. Willis

(Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1969), p. 3. See

also J. T. Willis, "Engnell's Contributions to Old Testament

Scholarship," TZ, 26:6 (November-Dezember, 1970), 385-94.


The apparent aim of this approach is to seek to reconstruct

the occasion at which the psalm was first used. In reality,

it seems to differ very little from what the present writer

calls "the cultic approach."

In terms of weaknesses

            To this present author, the first and foremost major

weakness is not of the system itself, but the hermeneutic of

those who employ the form-critical method. Coppes has writ-

ten an excellent article on the "Hermeneutic of Hermann

Gunkel."l The author shows how in Gunkel's method of re-

search "Fact and fantasy flow freely together."2 In his

biased presuppositions Gunkel's conception of God's guidance

"was thoroughly humanistic."3 "Gunkel is trapped between his

presupposed anti-supernatural humanism and his osbervation of

historical phenomena leading him to supernaturalism."4 As to

his methodology, Coppes plainly states, "It is evident that

Gunkel's hermeneutical methods are colored by his theological


Engnell's views are also elucidated in G. W. Anderson, "Some

Aspects of the Uppsala School of Old Testament Study," HTR,

XLII:4 (October, 1950), 239-56.

            1Leonard J. Coppes, "'An Introduction to the Hermen-

eutic of Hermann Gunkel," WTJ, XXXII:2 (May, 1970), 148-78.

            2Ibid., 159.

            3Ibid., 167.

            4Ibid., 170.



            A major weakness in the system itself is found in the

approaches just reviewed. The Spirit of God through Scripture

has not given the slightest hint that one should reconstruct

historical incidents based upon imagination. The Bible makes

no statement of Israel celebrating a New Year's festival such

as Mowinckel, Engnell, et al advocate. If such a festival is

a key to understanding the psalms, God would have had it re-


            A third weakness is seen when one aspect of Gunkel's

Gattung is applied to the origin and composition of Scripture.

Mihelic outlines Gunkel's view:

            . . . the study of these types will reveal that all of

            these various categories were originally spoken and not

            written. This accounts for the brevity of the ancient

            compositions. Thus, wisdom literature existed originally

            as single proverbs and sayings, and the same was true for

            most ancient legal judgments, prophetic utterances and

            thorah statues.3

            Then he relates the weakness:


            lIbid., 172. A contrast may be observed in R. Lansing

Hicks, "Form and Content: A Hermeneutical Application,"

Translating and Understanding the Old Testament: Essays in

Honor of Herbert Gordon May, edited by Harry Thomas Frank and

William L. Reed (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970), pp. 304-


            2An answer to Mowinckel and his followers is given by

K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago:

Inter-Varsity Press, 1966), pp. 102-06.

            3Joseph L. Mihelic, "The Influence of Form Criticism

on the Study of the Old Testament, JBR, XIX:3 (July, 1951),



            Now, even though Gunkel s sketch of literary forms has

            been of great value for the smallest units, it has not

            taught us anything new about the composition and origin

            of our biblical books. This is especially true in re-

            spect to books and collections of books which are more

            than loose compilations of small units. This is due to

            the fact that form criticism is inclined to look at the

            typical and ignores or pushes into the background that

            which is personal and individual.1

            Even though there may be more, a fourth and final

weakness is set forth here. Just because it has been placed

fourth by the present writer, its importance is not diminished.

In consideration of any biblical truth, the understanding and

usage of terminology are exceedingly significant. Hals avers,

"The field of OT form-critical terminology is one in which

there exists great diversity and greater confusion."2 And

later he remarks:

                        It seems to me that the confusion in usage of form-

            critical labels has progressed to such an extent that

            it must be asked whether in some cases any standardly

            acceptable technical terminology is salvable.3

            Actually, all of this is just the result of divorcing

interpretation from the grammatical, historical method of

interpretation. A perfect example of this is a work on Psalm


            lIbid., 127. For a refutation of Gunkel's smaller

units in the Pentateuch see Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey

of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1964),

Pp. 87-88.

            2Ronald M. Hals, "Legend: A Case Study in OT Form-

Critical Terminology," CBQ, XXXIV:2 (April, 1972), 166.

            3Ibid., 172.


89 by G. W. Ahlström.1 He followed Engnell in his approach

that was explained earlier in this study.2 Also, his pre-

suppositions are similar to those of his Swedish colleague

and the Uppsala school with the myth-ritual interpretation.

Rather than go to Ahlstrom's work and a lengthy discussion,

a quote from Moran will be sufficient for an explanation. In

a review of Ahlström's effort on Psalm 89, Moran notes:

                        Following the commentary there are some brief studies:

            1. Dwd--David (pp. 163-173, Dwd is a vegetation deity,

            and Yahweh's son); 2. Anschliessende Bemerkungen (pp.

            174-185, meter, relation of TM and the versions, cult-

            prophets, Ps 89 and 2 Sam 7); 3. Spezialanmerkungen (pp.

            186-192, Tabor as cult-center of Tammuz, Hermon = "holy

            place", date of Canaanite influence on Israelite liter-

            ature, tenses in Hebrew).3

            Obviously, Ahlström's work offers little or no help

in this dissertation. Weaknesses in the form-critical ap-

proach are evident everywhere. One of the latest attempts on

the subject is by Gene M. Tucker.4 In his review, Waltke

reveals the basic problem:


            1G. W. Ahlström, Psalm 89: Eine Liturgie aus dem

Ritual des Leidenden Königs, translated by Hans-Karl Hacker

and Rudolf Zeitler (Lund: Hakan Ohlssons Boktryckeri, 1959).

            2Joseph J. DeVault, a review of Psalm 89: Eine Litur

ie aus dem Ritual des Leidenden Königs by G. TW. Ahlstrbm, TS,

21 1960), 280.

            3W. L. Moran, a review of Psalm 89, Eine Liturgie aus

dem Ritual des Leidenden Königs by G. W. Ahlström, Biblica,

42:2 (1961), 237. Moran concludes by saying, "One can only

wish that more respect had been shown for basic tenets of

Israelite faith." 239.

            4Gene M. Tucker, Form Criticism of the Old Testament

(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971).


                        In his attempt to popularize the form critical ap-

            proach as developed by H. Gunkel in the narrative

            literature, by C. Westermann in the prophetic liter-

            ature, by S. Mowinckel in the hymnic literature and by

            Alt in the legal literature, the author has produced a

            work that combines the strength and weakness of popular

            literature; viz. clarity and dogmatism. But by combin-

            ing this virtue with this vice he unwittingly makes it

            painfully clear, to the reader that most of the practi-

            tioners of this approach are humanists who regard the

            Bible as only a human document and presume that the

            direct intervention of God in the affairs of man exists

            only in man's creative imagination and not in historical


In terms of contribution

            One contribution is in the area of hermeneutics, es-

pecially literary genres. Alexander says:

            It is recognized, however, that liberal scholars have

            often misused this profitable hermeneutical tool in

            biblical studies. But, on the contrary, conservative

            scholars have often failed to take advantage of this im-

            portant means of studying Scriptures, simply because

            liberal scholars employ it. Recently, however, conser-

            vative scholars have begun to acknowledge the usefulness

            of studying the forms of literature in Scripture, and

            the results have been richly rewarding.2

            The Gattung of each psalm does help the scholar to see

where natural divisions fall within the psalm. Ideas or con-

cepts expressed by the author often help one to discern how

the song was organized. In another way the approach enables

the student to see the emphasis of the author within a


            lBruce K. Waltke, a review of Form Criticism of the

Old Testament by Gene M. Tucker, BS, 129:514 (April-June,

1972), 175.

            2Alexander, "Hermeneutics of Old Testament Apocalyptic

Literature," p. 108.


Gunkel-type. Probably the greatest aid has come in word

studies. To observe how a word is used in a similar literary

form in one psalm greatly assists one in his study of another


            Then, too, Gunkel's approach has validity that has

been employed rightly by many. He states:

            To understand the literary types we must in each case

            have the whole situation clearly before us and ask our-

            selves, Who is speaking? Who are the listeners? What

            is the mise en scene at the time? What effect is aimed


            What might be seen as another contribution is

Gunkel's use of archaeology and form-criticism to prove

wrong Wellhausen's theory on the evolution of Israel's re-

ligion. It is much too lengthy to discuss here.2

            Though it will not be stated as such, the reader will

detect the employment of the form-critical method in this

present study, but it will be based on the grammatical, his-

torical method of interpretation and the presuppositions

already mentioned. The above discussion not only acquaints

one with what is to follow, but it also will eliminate



            lCoppes, "An Introduction to the Hermeneutic of Her-

mann Gunkel," p. 161. The citation was taken from Hermann

Gunkel, "Fundamental Problems of Hebrew Literary History,"

What Remains of the Old Testament?, translated by A. K.

Dallas (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1928), p. 62.

            2Ibid., 150-54.



            There is absolutely no consensus of opinion on the

authorship of Psalm 89. The issue is confusing and quite in-

volved. Date and background cannot be divorced from the dis-

cussion, although they will be dealt with under separate


            The superscription in English reads, "A Maskil of

Ethan the Ezrahite."1 In the Hebrew and Greek, the super-

scription is incorporated as verse one. The MT has lyKiW;ma

yHirAz;x,hA NtAyxel;2 and the LXX has Sune<sewj Aiqan t&? Israhli<t^.3

The authenticity of the superscription has raised many ques-

tions. Kirkpatrick writes:

                        It is now generally acknowledged that the titles re-

            lating to the authorship and occasion of the Psalms

            cannot be regarded as prefixed by the authors themselves,

            or as representing trustworthy traditions, and according-

            ly giving reliable information.4

            Partially, Perowne would disagree. "That in some

cases the authors themselves may have prefixed their names to


            1All English passages quoted in this work are from

the NASB, unless otherwise rioted.

            2Rudolf Kittel, ed., Biblia Hebraica (Stuttgart:

Privileg. Württ. Bibelenstalt, 1937), p. 1053. All refer-

ences to MT in this study are taken from this source.

            3Alfred Rahlfs, ed., Septuaginta, 2 Vols. (Stuttgart:

Württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1935), Vol. II, p. 95. Psalm

89 in the MT is Psalm 88 in the LXX. All references to LXX

in this study are taken from this source.

            4A. F. Kirkpatrick, ed., The Book of Psalms (Cam-

bridge: The University Press, 1910), p. xxxi. For a few


their poems may be granted."l Inherent in the problem is the

date of the headings, especially in relation to the LXX.

            Rather than cite several different views, a few

quotes from Archer will set forth and clarify the problem.

                        The critics generally regard the Hebrew psalm titles

            as very late and unreliable, usually being derived by

            inference from the internal evidence of the psalms them-

            selves. This conclusion is often based upon two lines

            of evidence: the occasional discrepancies between the

            psalm titles in the MT and those in the LXX, and the

            lack of correspondence between statements of historical

            background and the situation presupposed in the psalms

            themselves. . . .

                        Mature reflection, however, should lead the investi-

            gator to quite an opposite conclusion. . . .

                        The LXX furnishes conclusive evidence that the titles

            were added to the Hebrew Psalter at a date long before

            Hellenistic times. That is to say there are several

            technical terms appearing in the Hebrew titles the mean-

            ings of which had been completely forgotten by the time

            the Alexandrian translation was made (c. 150-100 B.C.).2

            Wilson adds:

            That some of the headings of the Psalms are not


rash statements that have yet to be proved see Artur Weiser,

The Psalms: A Commentary, translated by Herbert Hartwell,

The Old Testament Library (Philadelphia: The Westminster

Press, 1962), pp. 95, 98-99.

            1J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols.,

revised edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1966)

Vol. I, p. 95. See several arguments for and against the

authority of the superscriptions in John McClintock and James

Strong, "Psalms, Book of," Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theologi-

cal, and Ecclesiastical Literature, 12 Vols., first published

in 1879, reprint (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969),

Vol. VIII, pp. 748-49.

            2Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament

Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press,. 1964), p. 428.


            rendered in the LXX would indicate that the songs, in-

            struments, times of circumstances to which they refer

            had passed out of the memory and tradition of the Jews.

            If the headings had been inserted after the Greek ver-

            sion was made, it is hard to see how the later Jews who

            made the Targums and Talmud, should not have understood

            their sense.1

                        And later he claims:

                        As to the text of the headings of the Psalms, the

            evidence of the manuscripts and versions goes to show

            that they are not merely substantially the same as they

            were in the third century B.C., but that most of them

            must even then have been hoary with age.2

            The age of the title is important for this Psalm be-

cause the author is actively involved in the context.  The

following material and the chapter on exegesis will seek to

demonstrate the relationship of the title to the content of

the Psalm.

            The next problem relating to the above is the under-

standing of l in the MT. As Smith declares, "We have no

clear objective guide as to the meaning of the preposition

in such contexts."3 It has been translated in the titles as

"by," “of,” “about,” or "for." At least a few seem to follow


            1Robert Dick Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of

the Old Testament, revisions by E. J. Young (Chicago: Moody

Press, 1959), p. 414.

            2Ibid., p. 154.

            3J. M. Powis Smith, The Psalms (Chicago: The Univer-

sity of Chicago Press, 1926), p. 241.


the LXX rendering and translate the lamed as "for."1 If so,

then this deprives Ethan of authorship. However, Murphy

signifies that this and the other translations above are

"The most common designations of 'authorship'. . . ."2 But

then another source says, "While it can imply authorship,

. . . more literally it means 'belonging to.'"3 And Sarna

purports, "Usually the preposition le must indicate either

authorship or a collection identified with a guild."4

            A most prominent Hebrew grammarian views the lamed

as indicating authorship without any question.5 Gesenius

concludes by noting, "Moreover, the introduction of the

author, poet, etc., by this Lamed auctoris is the customary

idiom also in the other Semitic dialects, especially in


            1See André Robert and André Feuillet, Introduction

to the Old Testament, 2 Vol., translated by Patrick W.

Skeham, et al, Image Books edition (Garden City, New York:

Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1970), Vol. II, p. 35 and A. R.

Fausset, "Psalm LXXXIX," JFB, 6 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.

Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961), Vol. III, p. 292.

            2Roland E. Murphy, "Psalms," JBC, edited by Raymond

E. Brown, et al (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-

Hall, Inc., 1968), p. 570.

            3Leslie S. M'Caw and J. A. Motyer, "The Psalms,"

NBCR, edited by D. Guthrie, et al (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.

Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970),, p. 446.

            4Nahum M. Sarna, et al, "Psalms, Book of," EJ, 16

Vols. (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 1971), Vol.

13, p. 1318.

            5William Gesenius, GKC, reprint (Oxford: The

Clarendon Press, 1910), p. 419.


Arabic."1 In his discussion on the subject, Engnell writes,

". . . lehêmān in Psalm 88 and le'êthān in Psalm 89 are in-

tended to provide information concerning authorship."2

            One may think the last remarks sound convincing, but

they are not to some. There are a few theories that can be

dismissed rather quickly. The Talmud says of Ethan,

the name is a pseudonym for the patriarch Abraham."3 Briggs


            Three pseudonyms are together in the midst of the

            Psalter, doubtless of editorial design: 88 ascribed

            to Heman, 89 to Ethan, 90 to Moses; all alike with

            the same purpose, to compose Pss. in the name and from

            the point of view of these ancient worthies.4

            Plainly, he declares of the Psalm, "It came from one

of the companions of Jehoiachin in his exile."5 Another

views Psalm 89 as ". . . the work of the general-in-chief of

Zedekiah. . . ." with the facts relating to 587 B.C.6 The


            lIbid., p. 420.

            2Engnell, A Rigid Scrutiny, p. 80.

            3Cecil Roth, ed., "Ethan the Ezrahite," The Standard

Jewish Encyclopedia (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and

Company, Inc., 1966), p. 642.

            4Charles A. Briggs, and Emilie G. Briggs, The Book

of Psalms, 2 Vols., International Critical Commentary,

edited by Samuel R. Driver and Alfred Plummer, 47 Vols.,

reprint, 1969 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1906), Vol. I, p.


            5Ibid., p. lxviii. See also.Vol. II, p. 250.

            6G. Castellino, a review of Die Psalmen nach dem

Hebräischen Grundtext by Bernard Bonkamp, VT, 111:2 (April,

1953), 205.


latter view will be handled in the next section of this

chapter. Wilson has an answer for Briggs:

            . . . it is absurd to suppose that the writers of them

            would have attributed so many of the Psalms to precap-

            tivity authors, when their contemporaries must have

            known that the whole body of Psalms had arisen after

            the fall of the first temple, had such been actually

            the case.1

            Besides late authorship, Albright postulates that

Ethan was a Canaanite.2 He does so on the basis of his in-

terpretation of Ezrahite.3 Harrison agrees with the interpre-

tation, but sees Ethan in the time of the monarchy.4 Gray

also holds the same view and adds Egyptian color to the

Canaanite influence.5 Ahlström's stand has been cited by

Italian scholars as a position of Ethan-a-Canaanite.6


            1Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testa-

ment, p. 154.

            2William Foxwell Albright, Archaeology and the Re-

ligion of Israel, Anchor Books edition (Garden City, New

York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1968), p. 124.

            3Ibid., p. 210, fn. 95. Also see p. 204, fn. 44.

            4R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament

(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969),

pp. 979, 1166. Another who seems to agree is Mitchell

Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II (Garden City, New York:

Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1968), pp. 308, 311.

            5John Gray, The Legacy of Canaan: The Ras Shamra

Texts and their Relevance to the Old Testament, revised

edition, Supplements to Vetus Testamentus (Leiden: E. J.

Brill, 1965), p. 207.

            6The reviewer seems to agree completely with the

statement, "Etan 1'Ezrahita a cui it salmo è attribuito è

un sapiente ei un clan cananeo." P. Giovanni Rinaldi, ed.,


            According to Rowley, the meaning of Ezrahite is ob-

scure.l The LXX has it meaning Israelite (Israhli<th) .

Granted that the term may mean native-born, the present

writer holds that Ethan was an Israelite. The linguistic

study of Albright, Gray, and Ahlström may be valid to a cer-

tain extent, but they have gone too far. Just because 'ezrah

means aboriginal, it does not have to indicate Canaanite

origin. From the following comments it will be seen that

Ethan was either of the tribe of Judah or Levi. Both of

these sons of Jacob were born in the land of Canaan, and

Jacob had received the land from God as a permanent estab-

lishment (Gen. 28:1-4, 13). A reading of the passages re-

veals that Jacob's seed was included. Therefore, that Ethan

was native-born means that he was a member of the original

settlers to whom the land had been given for an everlasting

possession. The humanistic approach has left out God again.

            But the problem still remains as, to Ethan's identity.

Peters concludes that he was a Galilaean of the temple of

Dan, which is not convincing at all.2 Burney has brought the


"I1 Salmo 89," a review of Psalm 89 by G. W. Ahlström, Bibbia

e Oriente, Anno 4 (Milano, 1962), 197.

            1H. H. Rowley, Worship in Ancient Israel: Its Form

and Meaning (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), p. 174.

            2J. P. Peters, "A Jerusalem Processional," JPOS, 1:1

(October, 1920), 36. His argument is based on. 89:13 (Heb.).


remaining issues to the forefront:.

            Ps. 88 is ascribed in the title to yHrzxh Nmyh, Ps. 89

            to yHrzxh Ntyx, Pss. 39, 62, 77 to Nvtvdy.  Hence the

            chronicler distinguishes Ethan and Heman, the sages of

            the tribe of Judah, from Ethan and Heman the musicians,

            who were Levites; and further, his statement that they

            were sons of Zerah need not conflict with that of Kings,

            'sons of Mahol,' since Zerah, as is suggested by the

            title yHrzxh may have been the remoter ancestor, Mahol

            the immediate father. On the other hand, the author of

            Psalm titles, in naming his men Ezrahites, seems to be

            introducing a confusion between Levites and the Ju-


            Considering Jeduthun (II Chron. 5:12) first, May de-

clares that “. . . Jeduthan has been substituted for Ethan

because it appeared in the Psalms."2 Driver says, “. . .  it

is generally allowed that Jeduthan . . . is another name of

Ethan."3 With an added feature another agrees, “. . .  it is

not necessary to assume that the Ethan here (I Kings v. 11;


            1C. F. Burney, "Notes on the Books of Kings, The

Book of Judges and Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of

Kings, revised, The Library of Biblical Studies, edited by

H. M. Orlinsky (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1970), p.

51. Arthur G. Clarke says, "Ezrahite = Zerahite," Analytical

Studies in the Psalms (Kansas City, Kansas: Walterick Pub-

lishers, 1949), p. 218.

            2Herbert Gordon May, "'AL . . . in the Superscriptions

of the Psalms, AJSL, LVIII:l (January, 1941), 83.

            3S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of

the Old Testament (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company,

1956), p. 370. For a full discussion of this and related

problems see Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the

Psalms, 3 Vols., translated by Francis Bolton, reprint (Grand

Rapids; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, [n.d.], Vol. I,

pp. 9-10; Vol. III, pp. 32-33 and John M'Clintock and James

Strong, "Ethan," (and) “Ezrahite,” Cvclopaedia of Biblical,

Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, 12 Vol., reprint


I Chron. xi. 6) is the same as the Ethan or Jeduthan (I

Chron. xv. 17), who was of the tribe of Levi and a Merarite."1

            Assuming Burney is correct, the problem now revolves

around Ethan of Judah (I Kings 5:11 [Eng. 4:31]; I Chron.

2:6) and Ethan of Levi (I Chron. 6:29 [Eng. 6:44]; 15:17,

19). Perowne holds that Ethan was of the tribe of Judah and

because of his musical skill he enrolled in the tribe of

Levi.2 One argument could be that I Kings 5:11 has Ntyx  

yHrzxh which is the same as the title of Psalm 89:1.

            But I Chronicles 6:29; 15:17-19 has Ethan belonging

to the tribe of Levi. In the latter passage Ethan is known

as a singer, but not called an Ezrahite. Of course, the

silence does not mean that he could not have been native-born

and still be the Ezrahite of Psalm 89. There are still too

many problems to be dogmatic one way or another.

            The last part of total discussion involves the period

of his existence. Was he David's contemporary, Solomon's,

both or neither? Someone writing with Sarna views Ethan of


(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), Vol. III, pp. 317-

18; 439-40 and "Psalms, Book of," Vol. VIII, pp. 749-50.

            1Carl Bernard Moll, "The Psalms," translated with

additions by C. A. Briggs, et al, Lunge's Commentary on the

Holy Scriptures, 12 Vol., revised edition (Grand Rapids:

Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), Vol. 5, p. 482.

            2J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols.,

revised edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,

1966), Vol. I, p. 95.


Psalm 89 as a Temple musician under Davidl, while Sarna him-

self believes that the real author lived after 735-34 B.C.2

Bewer says that he was David's musician.3 This cannot be de-

nied in the light of the biblical statements. Dickson claims

that Ethan survived Solomon's kingdom.4 Spurgeon avers,

“. . . Ethan . . . was a musician in David's reign; was noted

for his wisdom in Solomon's days and probably survived till

the troubles of Rehoboam's period.”5 Actually, this view

ties all the passages together well, if the Ethan of I Kings

5:11 were of the tribe of Levi.

            As for Barnes, he is not sure who the author was.6


            lNahum M. Sarna, et al, "Psalms, Book of," EJ, 16

Vols. (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 1971), Vol.

13, p. 1318.

            2Nahum M. Sarna, "Psalm 89: A Study in Inner Bibli-

cal Exegesis," Biblical and Other Studies, edited by

Alexander Altmann, Philip W. Lown Institute of Advanced

Judaic Studies, Brandeis University, Studies and Texts:

Volume I (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963), p. 45.

            3Julius A. Bewer, The Literature of the Old Testa-

ment, revised edition (New York: Columbia University Press,

1940), p. 343.

            4David Dickson, The Psalms, 2 Vols., first published

in 1653, reprint (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1959),

Vol. II, p. 107.

            5C. H. Spurgeon, "Psalm LXXXIX," The Treasury of

David, 6 Vols. (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott Limited,

1950), Vol. IV, p. 23.

            6Albert Barnes, Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms,

3 Vols., reprint (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964),

Vol. II, p. 369.


The present author would conclude that Ethan the Ezrahite is

the author. It would be helpful, but Smith's remarks cannot

be easily applied to Psalm 89:

                        The general conclusion as to the value of the super-

            scriptions that is forced upon us by the foregoing facts

            is that the testimony of a superscription regarding the

            origin of a biblical book or a psalm may not be accepted

            as authoritative in and of itself. Only if the psalm or

            writing by its spirit and content supports the claim of

            the superscription may it be accepted as stating the

            actual fact.1

            As much as possible, this study will seek to demon-

strate that the spirit and content support the claim of the

superscription. Even though Ethan is the author as concluded

above, he may not have placed the superscription above the

psalm. If so, the present writer totally agrees with Wilson

when he avers, "It is hardly to be supposed that the writer

of these headings would make his work absurd by making state-

ments that his contemporaries would have known to be untrue."2

            The authorship cannot be studied thoroughly without

consideration of date and historical background. The treat-

ment of these facts will not be as extensive since much of it

has been covered here.


                                Date and Unity

            For beneficial study of the background which is to


            lSmith, The Psalms, p. 243.

            2Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testa-

ment, p. 154.


follow, an approximate date or time period must be estab-

lished. From the above considerations it is held that Ethan

is the author, but when did he compose the song?

            Usually, date and unity could be viewed separately,

but the complexity of viewpoints does not allow a total sepa-

ration here. It is impossible in this dissertation to spell

out all the reasons why scholars hold the dates they do. The

reader is asked to complete the study by perusing the sources

in the footnotes.

            In the discussion, expressions of early date and

late date will be employed. An early date is the David-

Solomon period or shortly thereafter. The time from Josiah

to the Exile or after is considered a late date.

            The date of Psalm 89 is tossed in contrary directions

with the unity or disunity of the composition not held con-

sistently with either. Buttenweiser holds a late date and

no unity.1 Others such as Crim,2 Kissane,3 McCullough,4


            lMoses Buttenweiser, The Psalms: Chronologically

Treated with a New Translation (Chicago: The University of

Chicago Press, 1938), pp. 227, 239.

            2Keith R. Crim, The Royal Psalms (Richmond, Virginia:

John Knox Press, 1962), pp. 104-09.

            3Edward J. Kissane, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols.

(Dublin: Browne and Nolan Limited, 1954), Vol. II, p. 90.

            4W. Stewart McCullough, Exegesis of Psalm "89," The

Interpreter's Bible, 12 Vols. (New York: Abingdon Press,

1955), Vol. IV, pp. 478-79.


and Roddl view the psalm as late but having unity. Both

Leslie2 and Sarna3 see it composed in the eighth century,

but the former says with disunity and the latter claims

unity. DeQueker4 agrees with Gunkel5 on the disunity, and

both discern that one portion of Psalm 89 is pre-exilic and

another is exilic.

            On the disunity, Buttenweiser writes dogmatically

that it is two Psalms and "The two pieces differ so radically

in tone and content that they cannot possibly be considered

an organic whole."6 As for Cheyne, he goes a step farther by

suggesting, . . . if we admit the vv. 4 and 5 were inserted

later as a link between the two psalms, it is surely most

natural to assume that originally they had no connexion


            lCyril S. Rodd, Psalms 73-150, Epworth Preacher's

Commentaries, edited by Greville P. Lewis (London: The

Epworth Press, 1964), p. 34.

            2Elmer A. Leslie, The Psalms (Nashville: Abingdon

Press, 1949), pp. 273-79.

            3Sarna, "Psalm 89: A Study in Inner Biblical Exe-

gesis," p. 45.

            4DeQueker, "Les Qedôsîm du Ps. lxxxix à la Lumiére

des Croyances Semitiques," ETL, 39 (1963), 474-75, 482.

            5Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction,

pp. 24-25. A similar view is held by J. T. Milik in E. M.

Laperrousaz, "Chronique," RHR, 171 (Nouvelle Serie, 1966),


            6Buttenweiser, The Psalms: Chronologically Treated

with a New Translation, p. 239. On the basis of "Selah,"

Snaith sees three psalms but does not admit unity nor dis-

unity: Norman H. Snaith, "Selah," VT, II:1 (January, 1952),



whatever."1 In reference to the same two verses, Crim

replies that they ". . . form an excellent introduction to

the whole, and any rearrangement of verse order would mar

the literary perfection of the Psalm."2

                        Elsewhere, Crim affirms:

            Psalm 89 contains material characteristic of several

            different Psalm categories, but they are united in a

            harmonious whole in which each part contributes to the

            petition to God to fulfill his promises to King David.3

            Ward says, "Turning to the pattern of ideas in the

poem, we find, I believe, a beautifully articulated unity.”4

Another source states:

            The unity of this psalm is seen by the recurrence of the

            words faithfulness, mercy, and lovingkindness (vs. 1, 2,

            5, 8, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49), and the word covenant (vs. 3,

            28, 34, 39).5

                        According to Hillers:

                        Hebrew poems are ordinarily not notable for logical

            organization, but this is exceptional, for it follows


            1T. K. Cheyne, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols. (London:

Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Company, Ltd., 1904), Vol.

II, p. 63.

            2Crim, The Royal Psalms, p. 105.

            3Keith R. Crim, "Translating the Poetry of the Bible,"

The Bible Translator, 23:1 (January, 1972), 104.

            4J. M. Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Back-

ground of Psalm LXXXIX," VT, XI (1961), 322. A little later

in his work Ward is correct in asserting ". . . that Ps.

lxxxix is in its present form an 'original' composition." p.


            5Francis D. Nichol, ed., "Psalm 89," The Seventh-day

Adventist Bible Commentary, 7 Vols. (Washington, D. C.: Re-

view and Herald Publishing Association, 1954), Vol. 3, p. 837.


a carefully conceived plan and the fundamental unity of.

theme and imagery becomes even more apparent with study.1

            To sum it up, the present writer thoroughly concurs

with Ridderbos:

            The assumption is often made that this psalm does not

            present an original unity. It seems to me, however,

            that such a thought is insufficiently motivated, and

            that this psalm, as it stands before us, is an example

            of complete unity.2

            Tables by Sarna emphasize the unity by words and

phrases.3 Should anyone carefully study these tables, he

would be convinced of the unity.

            Besides those already mentioned, several other

scholars take the late date. Usually, the reason given is

that 89:39-52 are looked upon as the end of David's dynasty

when the Kingdom of Judah fell. For example, Dahood after

a brief discussion writes, "The question of this psalm's

date invariably sparks lively debate, but the language and

conception comport well with a dating in the post-Davidic

monarchic period."4 Some scholars who hold this position


            lDelbert R. Hillers, Covenant: The History of a Bib-

lical Idea (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1969), p.


            2N. H. Ridderbos, "The Psalms: Style-Figures and

Structure," Studies on Psalms, Deel XIII, Oudtestamentische

Studiën, edited by P. A. H. DeBoer (Leiden: E-. J. Brill,

1963), p. 58..

            3Sarna, "Psalm 89: A Study in Inner Biblical Exe-

gesis," TABLE I, p. 31; TABLE II, p. 32. Explanation of

headings are on pp. 30-31.

            4Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II, p. 311.


with no firm conviction and those who unquestionably advocate

an exilic date or after are Perowne,l Driver,2 Tournay,3

Kirkpatrick,4 Russell,5 Westermann,6 Eissfeldt,7 Zimmerli,8


            lPerowne, The Book of Psalms, Vol. II, p. 146.

            2Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old

Testament, pp. 381, 385.

            3R. Tournay, "En Marge D'une Traduction des Psaumes,"

RB, 63:2 (Avril, 1956), 176-77.

            4Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms, p. 531.

            5D. S. Russell, The Jews From Alexander to Herod

(London: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 289. On the

same page Russell assigns a number of the psalms to the

late date. This is somewhat significant since he is a

recent author.

            6Claus Westermann, The Old Testament and Jesus Christ,

translated by Omar Kaste (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing

House, 1968), p. 50.

            70tto Eissfeldt, "Die Psalmen als Geschichtsquelle,"

Near Eastern Studies in Honor of William Foxwell Albright,

edited by Hans Goedicke (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press,

1971), p. 103.

            8Walthe:r Zimmerli, "Promise and Fulfillment," trans-

lated by James Wharton, Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics,

edited by Claus Westermann, English translation edited by

James Luther Mays (Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press,

1963), p. 111. Zimmerli is a good example of one using the

latter part of the psalm to determine a date. He writes,

" . . .  at a time when the Davidic monarchy has disappeared,

one can hear the passionate questioning of Yahweh about the

fulfillment of the promise which still tarries."


G. B. Gray,l Toy,2 Clarke,3 Treves,4 Pfeiffer,5 and North.6

A slightly different position is advocated by Box who regards

“ . . . the psalm as based upon a pre-exilic one."7

            McKenzie dates it near the fall of the Kingdom of

Judah in 587 B.C.8 Barnes9 and Leupold10 concur by fitting

it in the days of Josiah or Zedekiah. Crenshaw writes,


            1G. Buchanan Gray, "The References to the 'King' in

the Psalter, in Their Bearing on Questions of Date and Messi-

anic Belief," JQR, 7 (July, 1895), 665. See also by the same

author A Critical Introduction to the Old Testament (London:

Gerald Duckworth and Company, Limited, 1913), pp. 135, 141.

            2C. H. Toy, "Rise of Hebrew Psalm Writing," Journal

of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, VII

(June, 1887), 53.

            3Clarke, Analytical Studies in the Psalms, p. 189;

yet, there seems to be a contradictory suggestion on p. 221.

            4Marco Treves, "The Date of Psalm XXIV," VT, X:4

(October, 1960), 433. See also by the same author "The Reign

of God in the 0. T.," VT, XIX:2 (April, 1969), 233.

            5Robert H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament

(New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1948), pp. 373, 630.

R. North, "The Religious Aspects of Hebrew King-

ship," ZAW, Neunter Band:l (1932), 26.

            7G. H. Box, Judaism in the Greek Period, Old Testament

Volume V, The Clarendon Bible, edited by Thomas Strong, et al

(Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1932), p. 182.

            8John L. McKenzie, "Royal Messianism," CBQ, XIX:l

(January, 1957), 29.

            9Albert Barnes, Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms,

3 Vols. (Grand.Rapids: Baker Book House, 1950), Vol. II, p.


            10H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand

Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 632.


“. . . psalm 89 may be Israel's reaction to the death of

Josiah."1 And Mowinckel also agrees by noting that the psalm

is ". . . in all probability from the later part of the period

of the monarchy."2

            Several other scholars do not commit themselves other

than saying it is pre-exilic: Archer,3 John Gray,4 Engnell,5

and Wright.6 Basing his argument by comparisons to Ugaritic

poetry, Hummel avers,

            In general, the upshot is that there is no longer any

            reason to question the pre-exilic date of many of the

            psalms--or, for that matter, of the Davidic or even pre-

            Davidic substance of many of them.7


            1J. L. Crenshaw, "Popular Questioning of the Justice

of God in Ancient Israel," ZAW, 82:3 (1970), 386.

            2Mowinckel, "Psalm Criticism Between 1900 and 1935,"

p. 32. See also John Paterson, review of Psalmen by Hans-

Joachim Kraus, JSS, V:3 (July, 1960), 291.

            3Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p.


            4John Gray, "The Hebrew Conception of the Kingship of

God: Its Origin and Development," VT, VI:3 (July, 1956), 277.

            5Ivan Engnell, Studies in Divine Kingship in the

Ancient Near East, revised edition (Oxford: Basil Blackwell,

1967), p. 176. 

            6G. Ernest Wright, The Old Testament Against Its

Environment, Studies in Biblical Theology, No. 2 (London: SCM

Press, Ltd., 1950), pp. 33-34. Other views on psalm dating

can be found in Matitiahu Tsevat, A Study of the Language of

the Biblical Psalms, Journal of Biblical Literature Monograph

Series, Vol. IX (Philadelphia: Society of Biblical Litera-

ture, 1955), pp: 61-72.

            7Horace D. Hummel, "The Influence of Archaeological

Evidence on the Reconstruction of Religion in Monarchical



            Sarna declares that the psalm ". . . was inspired by

the Aramean-Israelite invasion of Judea in 735-34 B.C.E."1

Eerdmans2 and Moll3 claim that it was composed in the days of

Rehoboam. And Delitzsch adheres to the time of Rehoboam with

explanation.4 While not mentioning Psalm 89, Wilson con-


                        Finally, a striking and almost convincing testimony

            for the early date of most of the psalms lies in the

            fact that, except in a very few cases, we find no defi-

            nite allusions in them to events or persons later than

            the time of Solomon.5

            Although a few of the late-date scholars are of re-

cent time, Bright comments,

            The fashion of regarding the Psalms as largely post-

            exilic has all but vanished; to date any of them in the

            Maccabean period seems little short of impossible. The

            bulk of them are of pre-exilic origin, and some of them

            are very archaic indeed.6


Israel," A Symposium on Archaeology and Theology (Saint Louis:

Concordia Publishing House, 1970), p. 43.

            1Sarna, "Psalm 89: A Study in Inner Biblical Exe-

gesis," p. 45. For arguments against post-exilic dating see

Sarna, et al, "Psalms, Book of," p. 1312.

            2B. D. Eerdmans, "The Hebrew Book of Psalms,"

Oudtestamentische Studiën, Deel IV, edited by P. A. H. DeBoer

(Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1947), p. 22.

            3Moll, "The Psalms," pp. 481-82.

            4Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, Vol.

III, pp. 33-340.

            5Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testa-

ment, p. 156.

            6Bright, "Modern Study of Old Testament Literature,"

p. 27.


            There are at least three reasons why the present

author must hold to an early date. One is rather obvious from

the discussion on authorship. The psalm was composed by Ethan

the Ezrahite. Since he was contemporary with the United Mon-

archy, it is best to view the origin of the psalm in the days

of David or Solomon or Rehoboam.

            Secondly, the discoveries at Ras Shamra have greatly

influenced the dating of Psalms. The people of Ugarit wrote

on clay tablets before 1200 B.C. The writing was done by

“ . . . using a stylus on soft clay which was subsequently

baked and thus rendered hard as stone."1 These clay tablets

“. . . have survived unchanged till our own day."2 What has

been learned is that the Hebrew psalms have much of the same

style, poetic imagery, and vocabulary as Ugaritic. This

would not likely have occurred if the psalms were of late

origin. In Psalm 89, in particular, the features of Ugaritic

poetry are very noticeable. As it will be demonstrated in

the coming chapters, there is really nothing that compares to

Psalm 89 in demonstrably late sources, but there is much from

very early sources.

            Finally, there is no valid reason to commit this


            lArvid S. Kapelrud, The Ras Shamra Discoveries and

the Old Testament, translated by G. W. Anderson (Norman:

University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), p. 15.



psalm to a late date. Previously it was shown that the major-

ity of those who hold to the late date do so on the grounds

that the psalm is a result of Judah about to go into the

Exile, or as some see it, the Davidic reign has ceased and

the psalm is a product of the Exile. This seems to be a good

case of eisegesis. There is nothing in Psalm 89 that indi-

cates a reigning monarch has died or that Judah has ceased to

be.1 An event such as the destruction of Jerusalem and the

temple was definitely a momentous occasion in the history of

Israel. There is much Scripture to support this. It would

seem to this writer that a vital matter, as this is, would

surely be mentioned specifically by the author, or at least

alluded to in such a way as to leave no doubt. Upon further

consideration, to hold the fall of Jerusalem as the occasion

one would almost have to agree with Albright that Ethan was a

Canaanite, because it is certain that no Jew would pass over

it lightly.

            The date is an all-important issue because Psalm 89

refers to some historical situation, which is to be covered

in the next section. An exegesis of the psalm will help to

support the conclusions above.


                                Sitz im Leben

            The historical situation of Psalm 89 is not easily


            1For a similar view see Weiser, The Psalms: A Com-

mentary, p. 591.


discerned, as the previous discussion indicated. A setting

in the tenth century B.C. seems to fit best.

            But before a choice is considered, another problem

must be handled. A number of scholars usually take it for

granted that II Samuel 7:8-16 is the source for Psalm 89:20-

38, but others do not. And the issue should be dealt with,

if this work is to be free from the accusation implied in

McKenzie's remark, "Some writers have quoted it without any


Priority of II Samuel 7

            The priority and date of II Samuel 7 is important to

the setting of Psalm 89. If the origin of the Davidic Cove-

nant is not established, then the historical situation of

Psalm 89 is open to complete conjecture. A few illustrations

will convey this.

            Another passage involved in the problem is I Chron-

icles 17:7-14. After a couple of lengthy paragraphs,

Pfeiffer concludes:

                        These facts do not exhaust the evidence, but they

            suffice to prove that II Sam. 7 cannot antedate Ps. 89.

            Since the Psalm is explicitly dated after the Exile of

            586, and II Sam. 7 comes earlier than about 250, when

            the Chronicler copied it in his book, II Sam. 7 was


            1John L. McKenzie , Myths and Realities: Studies in

Biblical Theology (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company,

1963), p. 205. See his view of the problem in this work just

cited, pp. 205-08.


undoubtedly written somewhere between those dates. The

character of the language places it closer to the later

than to the earlier period, probably in the late fourth


            North argues the situation from the Deuteronomists'

standpoint.2 With his position on the disunity of the psalm,

Buttenweiser contends:

                        The prevailing view to the contrary, II Samuel,

            chapter 7, cannot be considered as the source of God's

            promise to David in Ps. 89B:3a, 4-5, 20-38, for, first

            of all, in these verses God is described as speaking to

            David directly in a vision and not through the medium

            of a prophet as in Samuel.3

                        A different interpretation is given by McKenzie:

            The question has not been properly proposed by critics.

            It is not, which came first, Samuel or the Psalm? I

            submit that an examination of the passages will show

            that neither came first; that the original oracle was

            first; that the divergences of the three recensions can

            only be some kind of reconstruction of the original

            oracle. . . .4


            1Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 373.

Later, Pfeiffer calls II Samuel 7 a late midrash, p. 630.

            2Christopher R. North, The Old Testament Interpreta-

tion of History (London: The Epworth Press, 1946), p. 99.

For other views given on II Samuel 7 or Psalm 89 see Gerhard

von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2 Vols., translated by D.

M. G. Stakler (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1962),

Vol. I, p. 310, Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship,

Vol. I, p. 63 and Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods

(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1948), p. 341.

            3Buttenweiser, The Psalms: Chronologically Treated

with a New Translation, p. 250.

            4John L. McKenzie, "The Dynastic Oracle: II Samuel

7," TS, VIII:2 (June, 1947), 195. Also see his discussion

in "Royal Messianism," pp. 27-31.


            According to Cooke, "Indeed, both might be seen as

drawing upon a source which originated in the united monarchy

period."1 And Weiser's claim is ". . . a common cultic tra-


            Since these scholars deny the objective historicity

of the covenant promise to David (II Sam. 7), they enter

into all manner of speculation on the date of origin of II

Samuel 7. But the present writer fully agrees with Clements:

                        The origin of the idea of such a covenant between

            Yahweh and the house of David is found in the prophecy

            of Nathan recorded in II Samuel ch. 7. This oracle

            gives an account of how this covenant originated, and

            what is promised.3

            All the judgments prior to this lack evidence to sup-

port their assertions; only Clements' view has validity. As

Glueck says, "In Ps. 89 the contents of II Sam. 7:14-16 are

repeated almost verbatim in poetic form."4 It is the word

almost that some scholars take as a loophole to see no con-

nection. However, it must be realized that Psalm 89 is a

poetic version of II Samuel 7. Therefore, some of the


            1Gerald Cooke, "The Israelite King as Son of God,"

ZAW, 73 (1961), 203.

            2Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, p. 591.

            3R. E. Clements, Prophecy and Covenant, Studies in

Biblical Theology, No. 43 (London: SCM Press, Ltd., 1965),

p. 56.

            4Nelson Glueck, Hesed in the Bible, translated by

Alfred Gottschalk (Cincinnati: The Hebrew Union College

Press, 1967), p. 76. See also Crim, The Royal Psalms, p.



variations are due to style and ". . . many of the differ-

ences reflect the distinct viewpoint of the writer."1

            There are other opinions that might be considered,2

but those who hold to a late date of the original covenant

promise must be answered. The date of II Samuel 7 can be

fairly well established. Thiele has done a remarkable work

on the chronological problem of the Hebrew kings. After

nearly fifty pages of dealing with the problems and facts,

he concludes, ". . . we thus secure the date of 931 B.C. as

the year of Jeroboam's accession and the schism between

Judah and Israel."'3 The recorded fact in I Kings 11:42

would then place the beginning of Solomon's reign at 971 B.C.;

according to II Samuel 5:4-5 and I Kings 2:11, the start of

David's reign would be near 1011 B.C. There is clear indica-

tion that the oracle of Nathan was given after David ruled

over all Israel (II Sam. 5-7), which would place II Samuel 7

shortly after 1004 B.C. or very early in the tenth century.


            1Norman Habel, Literary Criticism of the Old Testa-

ment (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), p. 9.

            2George Widengren, "King and Covenant," JSS, II:l

(January, 1957), 21-26. Joseph A. Alexander, The Psalms:

Translated and Explained, reprint of 1864 edition (Grand

Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, [n.d.], p. 369. Jean-

Bernard DuMortier, "Un Rituel d'Intronisation:' Le Ps.

LXXXIX 2-38,", VT, XXII:2 (April, 1972), 193-96.

            3Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the

Hebrew Kings, revised edition (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.

Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), p. 52.


And Psalm 89 would be subsequent to this date.

Proposed setting

            Mowinckel accepts Psalm 89 as one of the Royal Psalms,

but then says:

            They contain therefore no realistic description of the

            individual historical king and his particular situation.

            They present the royal ideal, the typical king as he

            exists in religious theory and in the people's mind and

            imagination, and as he should be when he appears before

            God in the cult. The psalms presuppose and describe

            typical, constantly recurring situations, e.g. the sit-

            uation at the death of the old king who is represented

            as a universal king. Before the enthronement of his

            successor, the vassals might be preparing insurrection

            (Ps. 2) or the enemies have overrun the country (Ps.

            89), but the deity arises to save his royal son (Ps.

            18), etc.1

            Neither does Johnson hold to a historical situation.2

These are certainly unwarranted assumptions. Kapelrud ob-


            Aubrey R. Johnson's interpretation of the "nations" in

            Psalms 2, 18, 89, and 118 as mythological beings is a

            natural consequence of MOWINCKEL's view. MOWINCKEL's

            criticism of JOHNSON's opinion is in reality also a

            criticism of his own interpretation of the mythical

            combat in the Psalms of Enthronement.3


            1Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, Vol. I,

p. 75. Faw is not certain of his position. See Charles

Ernest Faw, "Royal Motifs in the Hebrew Psalter," (unpub-

lished Doctor's dissertation, Divinity School, The Univer-

sity of Chicago, 1939), p. 45.

            2Aubrey R. Johnson, Sacral Kingship in Ancient

Israel, (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1967), pp.


            3Arvid Kapelrud, "Scandinavian Research in the

Psalms After Mowinckel," ASTI, Vol. IV, edited by Hans

Kosmala (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1965), p. 78.



            Including II Samuel 7 in his discussion, Sarna's con-

viction is completely contrary to these assumptions:

            Psalm 89, verses 4-5, 20-38, accordingly, do not repre-

            sent a different, independent recension of Nathan's

            oracle to David, and there is no question of deciding

            upon the relationship of the prose to a supposed poetic

            version. These verses constitute, rather, an exegetical

            adaption of the oracle by the psalmist to fit a specific

            historic situation.l

            The very nature of Psalm 89 points to some particular

historical circumstance. The exegesis will help bear this

out. But the task remains to determine, if possible, that

specific event. It appears that 89:31-46 is referring to a

descendant of David. As a result of the previous discussion

in this dissertation, the late date is out of the question.

Therefore, the following material is narrowed down to those

who adhere to the early date, that is, to a descendant not

too far removed from the united monarchy.

            A closer look at verses 39-46 bring out several more

requirements that must match the situation. To name a few,

there is mention of strongholds being brought to ruin,

enemies are involved, the clear indication of an invasion,

etc. In much the same vein, Sarna commences the exposition

of his view:

                        Bearing in mind all the foregoing, it is possible to

            reconstruct the nature of the events which produced the

            lament. This latter must reflect an invasion of Judea,


            1Sarna, "Psalm 89: A Study in Inner Biblical Exe-

gesis," p. 39.


            but it must have been one that did not have as its pri-

            mary goal the conquest of Jerusalem or the Temple. The

            real target was the reigning monarch, whom the invaders

            wished to depose and replace by an outsider, not of

            Davidic descent.l

            Then Sarna goes on to discuss and argue for the days

of Ahaz and the anti-Assyrian coalition which desired to dis-

pose of Ahaz in favor of a non-Davidic king (Isa. 7).2 Sev-

eral of his arguments are rather convincing, but there are

one or two matters that can be seriously questioned. For

instance, there is not a hint in the psalm of an attempt to

replace the king; it seems that Sarna read a little too much

into it. Also, he makes mention of verse one in the MT (i.e.

the psalm title) but has to settle for some type of editor-

psalmist. Thus the 735-34 B.C. date is no problem to him.

            Clarke takes a much earlier date. He says that Ethan

            . . . must have known the divine declaration recorded I

            Kings xi.9-13. This would come as a shock to all who

            had rejoiced in the covenant which God had made with

            David, 2 Sam. vii. With that covenant in mind Ethan

            here utters his impassioned acknowledgment and appeal

            to Jehovah. It is possible that Ethan outlived Solomon

            and saw the break-up of the kingdom.3

            This view does not have enough sufficient evidence to

satisfy the psalm passages. In an interesting allusion to

89:11 (Heb.) Moll suggests a different event:


            lIbid., p. 43.

            2Ibid.; pp. 44-45.

            3Clarke, Analytical Studies in the Psalms, pp. 220-



            The occasion of the composition was most probably the

            defeat of Rehoboam I Kings xiv.25ff. 2 Chron. xii.lff.

            by Shishak, that is, Sheshonk I. From this is perhaps

            to be explained the preminence [sic] given here to Egypt

            under the name Rahab . . . in allusion to the former

            overthrow of this presumptuous and defiant enemy by the

            judgment of God. At that time the Ezrahite Ethan could

            have been still living.1

            Holding the same occasion, Delitzsch has additional

remarks of interest:

                        During this very period Ps. lxxxix. took its rise.

            The young Davidic king, whom loss and disgrace make pre-

            maturely old, is Rehoboam, that man of Jewish appearance

            whom Pharoah Sheshonk is bringing among other captives

            before God Anun in the monumental picture of Karnak, and

            who bears before him in his embattled ring the words

            Judhmelek (King of Judah)--one of the finest and most

            reliable discoveries of Champollion, and one of the

            greatest triumphs of his system of hieroglyphics.2

            The latter view expressed by Moll and Delitzsch seems

best to fit the language of Psalm 89. This is not to say the

view has no problems. In light of the exegesis in the next

chapter, the thoughts here will be brief to prevent needless


            The proposed setting, then, for the composition of

Psalm 89 is found in I Kings 14:21-28 and II Chronicles 12:1-

12. Comparing these passages with Psalm 89:31-46 (Heb.) and

II Samuel 7:12-16 offers the most plausible explanation.

            The covenant is unconditional; it rests solely on the


            1Moll, "The Psalms," p. 482.

            2Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, Vol.

III, p. 34.


promises of Yahweh. But, if David and his descendants were

to enjoy the promises, they had to be obedient (II Sam. 7:4;

Ps. 89:31-33). That Rehoboam sinned is not open to question.

"It took place when the kingdom of Rehoboam was established

and strong that he and all Israel with him forsook the law of

the Lord" (II Chron. 12:1).

            The content of 89:41-43 (Heb.) can be understood from

the facts in I Kings 14:25-28 and II Chronicles 12:9-11. In

his quote above, Delitzsch has given a valid explanation for

89:46 (Heb.). The remaining verses of 89:39-46 are not too

difficult to meet the description in the historical passages.

            Also, this opinion allows for the direct authorship

of Ethan. And he, who was close to the Davidic line and the

freshness of the covenant, would be most likely for the peti-

tion at the close of the psalm. The date, then, of the com-

position would be shortly after or in Tishri, 926, to Tishri,

925 B.C. Someone may argue that this would make Ethan too

old. The present writer can see no reason why Ethan could

not have been eighty to ninety years old. It may be why he

considers King Rehoboam as in the days of his youth.


                               Type of Psalm

            Reference to the matter of type has already been men-

tioned in the first section of this chapter. The task here

is to see where Psalm 89 fits best in the classifications. As

stated before, Gunkel is responsible for the pioneer work in


this area. Guthrie explains the four basic principles upon

which Gunkel erected his work,l but they will not be delin-

eated here.

            By combining the works of Gunkel2 and Guthrie,3 the

present writer has attempted to present the classification of

types in chart form. The works themselves should be read for

a full explanation. "Proceeding from his four principles,

Gunkel identified . . . six major types of poetry, six minor

types, and two special types."4

            A.        MAJOR TYPES

                        1.         The Hymn

                        2.         Songs of Yahweh's Enthronement

                        3.         The      Community Lament

                        4.         The      Royal Psalm

                        5.         The      Individual Lament

                        6.         The      Individual Thanksgiving

            B. MINOR TYPES

                        1.         Pronouncements of Blessing or Curse

                        2.         Pilgrimage Songs

                        3.         Victory Songs

                        4.         Community Thanksgivings

                        5.         Sacred Legends

                        6.         Torah Songs


            1Guthrie, Israel's Sacred Songs: A Study of Dominant

Themes, pp. 8-9.

            2Gunkel, The Psalm  A Form-Critical Introduction,

pp. 30-39.

            3Guthrie, Israel's' Sacred Songs: A Study of Dominant

Themes, pp. 10-14.

            4Ibid., p. 9.


            C. SPECIAL TYPES

                        1. Prophetic Psalms

                        2. Wisdom Poetry

            Of course, no man's work goes without criticism. For

example, there are no legends in the psalms. Also, many

would point out that Gunkel omitted Messianic Psalms and

Imprecatory Psalms. Watts takes Gunkel's "Psalms of Yahweh's

Enthronement" and entitles them "Yahweh Malak Psalms." He

then establishes his own characteristics or categories and

says that Psalm 89 has all five of them.1 Murphy evaluates

Westermann's challenge to Gunkel and expresses his own views.2

            The psalm is considered a national lamentation by

Eissfeldt3 and Leslie,4 the former on the basis of a late 

date and the latter on the basis of the closing verses in the

psalm. A reading of these sources reveals that there are

obvious reasons for rejecting these views.


            1John D. W. Watts, "Yahweh Malak Psalms," TZ, 21:4

(Juli-August, 1965), 343-48. Faw says, "Few melek psalms

have received a wider variety of treatment at the hands of

commentators than this one." Faw, "Royal Motifs in the

Hebrew Psalter," p. 40.

            2Roland E. Murphy, "A New Classification of Literary

Forms in the Psalms," CBQ, XXI:l (January, 1959), 83-87.

            3Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction,

translated by Peter R. Ackroyd (Oxford: Basil Blackwell,

1966), pp. 111-12. His view of a late date had been referred

to earlier in this work.

            4Leslie, The Psalms, pp. 259, 273.



            Gunkell and Anderson2 advocate that the first part of

the psalm is a hymn and the second part is a lament, but

Gunkel does so on the basis of date and disunity. And Murphy

sees it as a mixed composition.3

            Probably the most widely held position is that Psalm

89 is a royal psalm. But even within this realm, there is no

consensus of opinion. Commencing with definitions, differ-

ences are revealed. Mowinckel asks and answers:

            Now, what do we mean by the expression 'royal psalms'?

                        These psalms are not a special 'kind' or 'type'

            (Gattung) from the point of view of the history of

            style or literature or liturgy. They comprise nearly

            all kinds of psalms, both hymns of praise and lamenta-

            tions, thanksgivings and prophetic sayings, and several

            other types. Common to them is the circumstance that

            the king is in the foreground. He is the one who prays

            or the one who is spoken of, or who is prayed for.

            They include Pss. 2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 101; 110; 132;

            28; 61; 63; 89; and quite a number of others.4

            Much of what Mowinckel has said is true of Psalm 89.

Yet elsewhere in his work, Mowinckel calls the psalm a na-

tional lamentation.5 Robert and Feuillet have a similar


            1Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction,

pp. 24-25.

            2Bernhard W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testa-

ment, second edition (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:

Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966), p. 480.

            3Murphy, "Psalms," pp. 571, 592.

            4Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, Vol. I,

p. 47.

            5Ibid., pp. 219, 236.


definition with this emphasis, "But the important place occu-

pied in these psalms by the king gives them a special char-

acter which should be noted."1 Dahood gives a number of

“. . .  verbal clues that help to identify these psalms as

royal. . . ."2 But prior to this, his statements manifest an

added feature to the type:

                        Scholars generally classify eleven psalms as royal,

            that is, psalms sung on festive occasions for or in

            honor of the king and the royal house. These are ii,

            xviii, xx, xxi, xlv, lxxii, lxxxix, ci, cx, cxxxii,


            The festival concept has some serious ramifications.

Rowley refers to Psalm 89 in connection with "ritual combat."4

Weiser relates the psalm to festive occasion,5 Weaver to cere-

monies,6 and Ward to a national rite and ". . . a ritual set-

ting that bears the marks of a pilgrimage festival."7 To all

of which Leupold would reply:


            1Robert and Feuillet, Introduction to the Old Testa-

ment, Vol. II, p. 56.

            2Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms III, p. XXXVIII.

            3Ibid. For further study of the type, scholars, and

views see Leopold Sabourin, The Psalms: Their Origin and

Meaning, 2 Vols. (Staten Island, New York: Alba House, 1969),

Vol. 2, pp. 209-12.

            4Rowley, Worship in Ancient Israel: Its Form and

Meaning, p. 198.

            5Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, p. 63.

            6Horace R. Weaver, The Everlasting Covenant (Nash-

ville; Graded Press, 1965), p. 186.

            7Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background

of Psalm LXXXIX," p. 328.


            But why the "rituals" should be made so prominent is far

            from obvious, except for the fact that one strong trend

            of the present is to include everything in the psalms

            under the category of the liturgical.1

            After expressing practically the same thought, Robert

and Feuillet rightly comment:

            With few exceptions (Ps 24 is one) the data of internal

            criticism, such as allusions to sacrifices and liturgical

            actions, references to processions and dialogue recita-

            tions, are usually vague. These items call for close

            attention, but they simply do not tell us very much. We

            have already pointed out that there is no solid reason

            for imagining the existence of liturgical feasts when

            tradition tells us nothing about them.2

            Another problem relative to this is the speaker in

the psalm. In connection with his cultic-ritual view,

Mowinckel devotes much to an "I" and "We" concept in the

royal psalms. By this method he determines the speaker.

Thus, he writes, “In Ps. 89 the king laments about the defeat

he has suffered in the fight against his enemies . . . .”3

Dahood also purports that the king is the speaker.4 In answer-

ing Mowinckel's Conviction, Sabourin argues:

            It can be recalled here that unless the king is men-

            tioned explicitly or implicitly it is usually difficult

            to prove that the "I"-speaker is a royal figure, when


            1Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms, p. 228.

            2Robert and Feuillet, Introduction to the Old Testa-

ment, Vol. II, p. 61.

            3Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, Vol. I, p.

48. Another discussion of the problem is found in George W.

Anderson, "Enemies and Evildoers in the Book of Psalms, BJRL,

48:1 (Autumn, 1965) 18-29.

            4Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II, p. 311.


            the context points to the interests of a private


            Bewer just simply states that Psalm 89 is a prayer

for the king.2 There are too many others to quote who plain-

ly see the psalmist as the speaker. Having discussed the

related problems, the type can once again be brought to the


            The predominant conclusion, even with those who

differ in related matters, is that Psalm 89 is a royal psalm.

The constant references to king and covenant support this.

But there is the lament which cannot be neglected. As Driver

says, it is a royal psalm with ". . .  a supplication on ac-

count of the humbled dynasty of David. . . “3 Guthrie con-

curs.4 But Dentan puts it specifically that ". . . Ps. 89,

a royal lament . . . has more to say about God's faithfulness

than any other psalm."5

            If the present writer has a choice, he would combine

a couple terms of Gunkel and type Psalm 89 as a Royal Lament.


            1Sabourin, The Psalms: Their Origin and Meaning, Vol.

2, p. 210.

            2Bewer, The Literature of the Old Testament, p. 371.

            3Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old

Testament, p. 369.

            4Guthrie, Israel's Sacred Songs: A Study of Domi-

nant Themes, p. 140.

            5Robert C. Dentan, The Knowledge of God in Ancient

Israel (New York: The Seabury Press, 1968), p. 176.


The speaker is Ethan, who with no ritualistic aspect, extolls

God through it all. This does not say the psalm may not have

been used in temple singing later, but it does mean that it

was not originated in a cultic setting, nor was it designed

primarily for liturgical worship. The exegesis will support

as well as highlight this.

                   The Question of Structure and Meter

            Thus far, every division of this chapter has been

highly controversial, and the structure and meter of the

psalm are no exception. Since the problem is so detailed

and involved, the present discussion will be characterized

by brevity because of limited space. Therefore, the reader

is asked to read all sources cited for details.

The question of structure

            According to some scholars the structure of poetry is

made up of strophes. Briggs explains:

            The simple strophes are of few lines of one kind of

            parallelism. The complex strophes have more lines and

            two or more kinds of parallelism. In this case the

            connection of thought is usually clear. The strophical

            divisions may be determined by a more decided separation

            in the thought of the poem.1

            In applying his method to Psalm 89, the outcome as

given in his work is verses 47-52, a pair of strophes (3

lines each); verses 4-5; 18-46, sixteen strophes (2 lines


            1Briggs, The Book of Psalms, Vol. I, p. xlv.



each); and verses 16-17 are omitted.1 The conclusion is far

too choppy. It seems that Briggs could have applied the

separation of thought to a much better advantage.

            With no explanation, Kissane declares, "The poem con-

sists of five strophes of eight verses each, with an intro-

duction and a conclusion of six verses each."2 This is a

simple arrangement, but it is forced. The value is lost be-

cause it disrupts thought patterns, and, like Briggs, he has

employed no grammatical features.

            On the basis of an elaborate approach, and the English

numbering system, Forbes first divides the psalm into three

parts: verses 1-18; verses 19-37; verses 38-51; each having

four strophes. Several of his strophes are combined and are

viewed as strophe and antistrophe.3 Some aspects of this

arrangement are commendable, but the analysis is so burden-

some; and it surely adds nothing to the content. Moreover,

there is the danger of causing some students to dwell on the

structure and miss the meaning and flow of thought.

            The comments of Ward are by far the most realistic:

            Is it possible to divide the psalm into strophes? If

we define a strophe in terms of the poetic canons of


            1Ibid. p. xlvi.

            2Kissahe, The Book of Psalms, Vol. II, p. 89.

            3John Forbes, Studies on the Book of Psalms (Edin-

burgh: T. and T. Clark, 1888), pp. 87-91.


            some other literature than that of Israel, the answer is

            surely no. Attempts have been made to analyze the psalm

            on the basis of such definitions. They are arbitrary,

            artificial, and unconvincing. There is no precise,

            fixed pattern of strophic arrangement in the psalm.

            There are discernable groups of lines, however, which

            can be called strophes in a broad sense.1

            He forms the psalm into quatrains: the introduction

(vss. 2-5); the praise portion (vss. 6-19) consisting of

three quatrains with verses 18-19 as a climax; the oracle

(vss. 20-38) consisting of five quatrains; the judgment (vss.

39-46) made up of two quatrains; and the prayer (vss. 47-52)

cast into an eight-stress rhythm of six lines.2 (Italics


            This approach certainly seems valid. If the term may

be used, there are four-line strophes composed of paired

couplets. The grammatical features, the thought patterns,

the parallelism, and the continuity concur with this type of

structure. Although some will disagree, the present writer

will follow an indentical structure because of internal evi-

dence, whereas, the other arrangements have little or no

internal evidence or are overdone.

The question of meter

            The words of Byington are most appropriate for a look

at the problem:


            1Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background

of Psalm LXXXIX," p. 324.

            2Ibid., pp. 324-26.


                        It would be hard to discover a possible theory of

            meter that has not been applied to Hebrew poetry. . . .

            Those who profess the same principles will disagree as

            to the number of feet per line in a given psalm.1

            But he offers a very tedious mathematical approach

which is not convincing.2 In an answer to Byington, only a

small part of Gottwald's total argument is cited here:

            It is a matter of debate whether longer words require or

            permit a second stress. It is also problematic whether

            on occasion two short terms may receive a single stress,

            while terms joined by the "binder" may be permitted

            separate stresses.3

            New problems have arisen with the discoveries of Ras

Shamra. Young concludes his article on "Ugaritic Prosody" by

saying, "That regular meter can be found in such poetry is an

illusion."4 But Albright interprets the facts differently,

naming Gordon and Young as his opponents.5 However, to ob-

tain his regular meter Albright admittedly has to do some

reconstruction.6 While Gordon does not name Albright, he

seems to be replying to him directly:


            1Steven T. Byington, "A Mathematical Approach to

Hebrew Meters," JBL, LXVI (1947), 63.

            2Ibid., pp. 64-77.

            3N. K. Gottwald, "Poetry, Hebrew," The Interpreters

Dictionary of the Bible, 4 Vols. (New York: Abingdon Press,

Vol. K-Q, p. 834.

            4G. Douglas Young, "Ugaritic Prosody, JNES, 9:3

(July, 1950), 133.

            5W. F. Albright, "A Catalogue of Early Hebrew Lyric

Poems (Psalm LXVIII)," HUCA, XXIII: Part I (1950-1951), 6.

            6Ibid., pp. 5ff., 9ff.



                        Structually different verses and strophes occur con-

            stantly within the same poem in Ugaritic. It is there-

            fore unsound to attribute similar variety in the Bible

            to the blending of different poems. Perhaps the most

            important fact to bear in mind is that the poets of the

            ancient Near East (e.g., Acc., Ug., Heb., Eg.) did not

            know of exact meter. Therefore emendations metri causa

            are pure whimsy. The evidence can be found in G. D.

            Young's treatment of the subject in JNES 9 1950 124-133.

            All that is asked of those who maintain metric hypotheses

            is to state their metric formulae and to demonstrate that

            the formulae fit the texts. Instead they emend the texts

            to fit their hypotheses. A sure sign of error is the

            constant need to prop up a hypothesis with more hypoth-


            Gottwald also states it very plainly:

            These Canaanite discoveries in particular, dating from

            the fourteenth century B.C. and in a tongue dialectically

            related to biblical Hebrew, argue strongly the futility

            of seeking metrical exactness in the poetry of the OT.

            Emendation of the text for metrical reasons and without

            syntactic or versional support, is a dubious practice.2

            It is usually agreed that Ugaritic has a 3+3 pattern,3

“. . . but there are innumerable variations."4 According to

some, the same holds true for Hebrew poetry basically.5 When


            1Cyrus H. Gordon, UT (Roma: Pontificium Institutum

Biblicum, 1965), p. 131, fn. 2.

            2Gottwald, "Poetry, Hebrew," p. 834. For further

study on the futility of metrical exactness in Hebrew and

Ugaritic poetry see S. Gevirtz, Patterns in the Early Poetry

of Israel, SAOC 32 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

1963), pp. 12-13 and Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of

the Old Testament, pp. 175-76.

            3John Hasting Patton, Canaanite Parallels in the Book

of Psalms (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1944), p. 6.

            4Gottwald, "Poetry, Hebrew," p. 834.

            5Ibid. Also see Robert G. Boling, "'Synonymous'

Parallelism in the Psalms," JSS, V:3 (July, 1960), 222.


it comes to Psalm 89, McKenzie points out that Hanel has ob-

tained a 3:3 meter for the psalm on the basis of reconstruc-


            With some variations, the following scholars see Psalm

89 in a 4:4 and 3:3 meter: Ward,2 Cheyne,3 Podechard,4

Briggs,5 McCullough,6 and Faw.7 Their arrangements and dis-

cussion are much too lengthy to quote here. Other studies on

meter are available, but also too large for consideration.8

Another controversy related to this concerns formulaic

technique. Gevirtz writes:

            . . . the Hebrew poet structured his verses not with

            whole formulaic phrases (though on occasion as we shall

            indicate, this technique also was employed) but with

            fixed pairs of parallel terms. If these pairs were,

            fitted into the lines in accordance with some principle

            of meter, it has yet to be discovered.9


            1McKenzie, "The Dynastic Oracle: II Samuel 7," p. 196.

            2Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background of

Psalm LXXXIX," pp. 322-23.

            3Cheyne, The Book of Psalms, Vol. II, pp. 63, 68.

            4E. Podechard, Le Psautier, 2 Vols. (Lyon: Facultes

Catholiques, 1949), pp. 108-11.

            5Briggs, The Book of Psalms, Vol. I, pp. xli, xlii;

Vol. II, p. 250.

            6McCullough, Exegesis of'Psalm "89," p. 479.

            7Faw, "Royal Motifs in the Hebrew Psalter," pp. 41-42.

            8Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, Vol. 1,

pp. 28-30. Koch, The Growth of the Biblical Tradition: The

Form-Critical Method, pp. 91-100.

            9Gevirtz, Patterns in the Early Poetry of Israel, p.



            His arguments immediately following this quote are

rather convincing and should be consulted. But, as always,

there must be opposition. Culley has written an entire work

on formulaic language. He recognizes that Gevirtz sees meter

involved, however, he does not accept Gevirtz's proposal

cited above.1 After some discussion, Culley surmises:

            Then again, while parallelism is dominant in Hebrew

            poetry, it is not necessary that every line show this

            characteristic. In other words, there is something

            more fundamental to Hebrew poetry than parallelism,

            and this probably has to do with metre, which although

            we cannot as yet say precisely how, restricts the cola

            within certain limits.2

            In the light of evidence, internal and external,

Culley is certainly in error in assuming meter to be more

fundamental than parallelism. There is just no question

about parallelism being the chief characteristic of Hebrew

poetry. In conclusion, the present writer solely agrees with

the balanced and sound statements of Gevirtz:

            . . . while the existence of meter in biblical Hebrew

            poetry is highly probable and certainly cannot as yet

            be categorically denied, it has yet to be convincingly

            demonstrated. Metrical analysis, still dubious in the

            extreme, can add little to our understanding of a poem's


            This controversial chapter has dealt with what the


            lRobert C. Culley, Oral Formulaic Language in the

Biblical Psalms (Toronto: University of Toronto Press,

1967), pp. 117-19.

            2Ibid., p. 119.

            3Gevirtz, Pattern in the Early Poetry of Israel, p. 2.


writer feels are necessary antecedents to the following exe-

gesis. It must be said that the exegesis will not be forced

to meet the conclusions in this chapter, but rather, it will

be a privilege to allow the Scripture to speak for itself.




                                  CHAPTER III


                         EXEGESIS OF PSALM 89


            In consideration of the psalm's form and content, the

complexity is quite significant when understood properly. As

an integral portion of God's Word, Psalm 89 manifests its own

contribution. The opening words of Ward are very appropriate:

                        Ps. lxxxix is in many ways the most interesting and

            important of the royal psalms. Taken as a whole it is

            a lamentation (vss. 39-52) over the frustration of God's

            promises to the Davidic dynasty (vss. 20-38), which were

            made possible by his cosmic sovereignty (6-15). The

            first part of the psalm recalls the hymns of Yahweh's

            enthronement (xlvii, xciii, xcv-c), the second, the

            oracle of Nathan (2 Sam. vii; Ps. cxxxii), and the third,

            the individual lamentations of the Psalter.l

            Thus, there is the need to exegete this enriching

revelation. Also, the need can be exaggerated, for the aim

later is to judge the ancient Near Eastern parallels. The

exegesis will not be as broad and deep as the present author

would like. Though there be limitations, the exegesis will

still be sufficient to see the revealed truth.

            The form will be to follow the Hebrew text. Verse

one in the MT is verse two in the NASB. Since commentators

are not unified, confusion could result and space wasted if


            1J. M. Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Back-

ground of LXXXIX, "' VT, XI (1961), 321.



no definite scheme is employed. Therefore, the present writer

must establish a system. Since the Hebrew text is followed

here, all verse citations from other sources also following

the Hebrew text: will remain as they are. But the liberty

will be taken in all other quotes to put the Hebrew verse

reference in brackets [].

            The pattern for verses 1-19 will be to place the

Hebrew verse or verses at the beginning of each main section

or subsection. This easy access prevents the flipping of

pages to reach an entire presentation.

                           89:1 Meditation with Insight

              yHirAz;x,hA NtAyxel; lyKiW;ma


            The chief concern here is the word lyKiW;ma.  It is

almost unbelievable that some should tie this word with a

ritualistic connotation. Ahlström practically interprets the

entire psalm in the light of this one word. He claims that

it is a psalm employed in renewal rites.1 His concept is

summarized well by DeVault:

                        What, then, is A.'s view of Ps 89? As a maskil, the

            Psalm belongs to those rites in which joy over the re-

            newal of life is expressed, but to which are to be added

            also rites which represent suffering and death, drama-


            1G. W. Ahlström, Psalm 89: Eine Liturgie aus dem

Ritual des Leidenden Königs, translated by Hans-Karl Hacker

and Rudolf Zeitler (Lund: Hakan Ohlssons Boktryckeri, 1959),

pp. 21-26.


            tizing the (temporary) victory of the forces of chaos

            and the humiliation of the king.1

            In his review, Mowinckel says, ". . . . on the negative

side, Ahlström's treatment of maskil is good . . . .”2 How-

ever, Mowinckel does not agree totally. A portion of his

view is cited by DuMortier, who then expresses his own inter-


            Le mot maskîl est d'interprétation difficile; on re-

            tiendra l'explication de S. MOWINCKEL qui volt dans la

            racine skl "la capacité de comprehension et d'énergie

            qui permet de réussir quelque chose, d'obtenir un

            resultat positif". Dans la mesure ou cette racine

            est bien en rapport avec la notion d'efficacité, de

            sagesse efficiente, on pourra voir dans le culte le

            "Sitz im Leben" probable de ces maskîlîm (au sens de

            rites efficaces).3

As Engnell construes the word, he states:

            Maskîl . . . is undoubtedly the technical term for a

            particular kind of "Enthronement Psalm" belonging to

            the central part of the ritual of the annual festival

            which describes the act of atonement of the king

            [catchwords ransom and covenant] both in its negative

            and especially in its positive aspects, and refers to

            the result of the atonement and the hymnic motif asso-

            ciated with it.4


            1Joseph J. DeVault, a review of Psalm 89: Eine

Liturgie aus dem Ritual des Leidenden Königs by G. W. Ahl-

ström, TS, XXI (1960), 281.

            2Sigmund Mowinckel, a review of Psalm 89. Eine

Liturgie aus den Ritual des Leidenden Königs by G. W.

Ahlström, JSS, V:3 (July, 1960), 295-96.

            3Jean-Bernard DuMortier, "Un Rituel d'Intronisation:

Le Ps. LXXXIX 2-38," VT, XXII:2 (April, 1972), 177. A full

understanding of Sigmund Mowinckel's view can be observed in

The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2 Vols., translated by D. R.

Ap-Thomas (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), Vol. II, p. 209.

            4Ivan Engnell, A Rigid Scrutiny: Critical Essays

on the Old Testament, translated and edited by John T. Willis,


            There is absolutely no evidence that the word can be

designated as referring to any kind of rites. Data and opin-

ion are offered by another:

            Featured in the headings to 13 psalms, maskil never ap-

            pears without a proper name with a prepositional lamed

            (Ps. 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, 142).   The

            LXX understood it to mean "instruction" (cf. Ps. 32:8).

            It must be assumed to refer to some special skill re-

            quired in the manner of musical performance (cf. Ps.

            47:8). From the context of Amos 5:13 and the contrast

            between the maskil and the mourning rites (5:16-17),

            the term might well indicate some type of song.1

            It may be some type of song, but nothing indicates a

ritual setting. Another view says:

            Maskîl (13 times), on the basis of the vb. skl, has been

            taken to mean a didactic poem, but it is found also with

            those that are not didactic. Another possibility is

            "artistic poem," i.e., one executed with art.2

            But most scholars, too many to mention, agree with a

standard lexicon definition, "contemplative poem."3 To this

the present writer concurs and would like to add an addi-

tional explanation. Another lexicon places lyKiW;ma as a

derivative of lkW which in the hiphil can mean "cause to


with the collaboration of Helmer Ringgren (Nashville: Van-

derbilt University Press, 1969), p. 89.

            1Nahum M. Sarna, et al, “Psalms, Book of,” EJ, 16

Vols. (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 1971), Vol.

13, p. 1320.

            2Roland E. Murphy, “Psalms,” JBC, edited by Raymond

E. Brown, et al (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-

Hall, Lnc., 1968), p. 570. Several views are noted in A. F.

Kirkpatrick, ed., The Book of Psalms (Cambridge: The Uni-

versity Press, 1910), pp. xix-xx.

            3BDB, p. 968.


have insight Gn 3, 6 Ps 32, 8 Pr 16, 23 Da 9, 22."1 Carroll


            The word maskil reflects the notion of wisdom or the

            skilful handling of some matter. When used as a title

            for a psalm it indicates a poem displaying insight or

            wisdom about life in general or certain events in par-


            In his composition Ethan seems to have had a great

deal of insight concerning God's person, power, and program.

There is no doubt that the poem is artistic and instructive,

but there is something that seems to have preceded those two.

Therefore, the suggestion, at least for Psalm 89, is that

maskil here means meditation with insight.


               89:2-5 Introduction: Possession of Reality

 ypiB; j`t;nAUmx< faydiOx rdovA rdol; hrAywixA MlAOf hvAhy; ydes;Ha

   Mh,bA j~t;nAUmx< NkiTA MyimawA hn,BAyi ds,H, MlAOf yTir;maxA-yKi

             yDib;fa dvidAl; yTif;Baw;ni yriyHib;li tyrib; yTirakA

   hlAs,  j~xEs;Ki rOdvA-rdol; ytiynibAU j~f,r;za NykixA MlAOf-dfa

            This quatrain is a unity within itself and it is a

most ingenious introduction to the entire psalm. The declar-

ative phrases of verses 2-3 are a response to the realization

of the everlasting covenant in verses 4-5. God has worked;

His sovereignty has been made manifest in the behalf of David.


            1KB, p. 922.

            2R. P. Carroll, "Psalm LXXVIII: Vestiges of a Tribal

Polemic," VT, XXI:2 (April, 1971), 133.


Thus it is that verses 2-3 seem to be an introduction to

verses 6-19 because that sovereignty is a reality. And

verses 4-5 introduce verses 20-38 because the Sovereign One

had established a covenant. The author is in possession of

these truths because he is singing even though a recent judg-

ment has taken place (vss. 39-46) and he offers the prayer of

faith (vss. 47-52).

            If there is any emphasis indicated by word order,

then this psalm is a perfect-example. The words given a

prominent place are hvhy ydsH. Though not given as the first

word in the next clause, jtnvmx is a word that parallels ydsH  

in importance. These three Hebrew words not only help to

show the unity of the Psalm, they are foremost in the think-

ing of the author. The covenant name hvhy, is found in verses

2, 6, 7, 16, 19, 47, 52, 53. The reason it is not employed

in verses 20-38 is that Yahweh is the speaker. The root dsH  

is noted in verses 2, 3, 15, 20, 25, 29, 34, 50. There

would be little need to employ the word more because the

psalm is replete with Yahweh's dsH. The word hnvmx is ob-

served in verses 2, 3, 6, 9, 25, 34, 50.1

            The latter word presents no problem. Nearly all

Hebrew scholars translate it faithfulness. But dsH poses

an entirely different problem. The LXX has e]le<h which is


            1The basic root Nmx appears in verses 29, 38.


usually translated mercies.1 A favorite rendering is loving-

kindness, while Dahood and Mowinckel employ love.2 The

lexicons do not offer a great deal more.3 One would almost

agree with Rowley, “The word hesed is always untranslatable.

. . . ”4

            But of the many works devoted to a study of the word,

Glueck, for one, makes a significant comment: "Wherever

hesed appears together with 'emeth or 'emunah the quality of

loyalty inherent in the concept hesed is emphasized.”5  From

the sources which have given much study to the word and its

uses in Scripture, the present writer acknowledges the differ-

ent meanings dsH can have. However, Psalm 89 deals primarily


            1A full discussion can be found in Rudolf Bultmann.

"e@leoj, e]lee<w," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,

edited by Gerhard Kittel, translated and edited by Geoffrey

W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Com-

pany, 1964), Vol. II, pp. 477-85.

            2Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II (Garden

City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1968), p. 311.

Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, Vol. I, p. 196.

            3BDB, pp. 338-39; KB, pp. 318-19.

            4Harold H. Rowley, "The Unity of the Old Testament,"

BJRL, 29:2 (February, 1946), 344, fn. 2.

            5Nelson Glueck, Hesed in the Bible, translated by

Alfred Gottschalk (Cincinnati: The Hebrew Union College

Press, 1967), p. 72. One should read his entire work for

all usages. A few other sources to be studied are Norman

H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament (New

York; Shocken Books, 1964), pp. 94-130. Don Rembert Sorg,

Hesed and Hasid in the Psalms (Saint Louis: Pio Decimo

Press, 1953), also note listing on p. 58. Hans Joachim

Stoebe, "Die Bedeutung des Wortes Häsäd im Alten Testament,"

VT, II:3 (July, 1952), 244-54.


with the Davidic Covenant. Therefore, it seems, in recogni-

tion of different usages elsewhere and with the exception of

89:20, that dsH in the seven other verses would have the mean-

ing of covenant loyalty. Eaton translates hesed, ". . . his

active fidelity which especially fulfills his promises to the

dynasty. . . ."1 The word bears significant relationships to

other words.2

            Ethan had the utmost confidence in the covenant loyal-

ties of Yahweh. The biblical believer sees no problem in

Ethan aspiring to sing forever. The Targum has a lamed pre-

fixed to Mlf,3 but it is not unusual to omit it. Besides

some biblical texts, the famous Moabite Stone (c. 850 B.C.)

also does not have it.4  As for the word rdo, Patton5 and


            1J. H. Eaton, "The King as God's Witness, ASTI, Vol.

VII, edited by Hans Kosmala (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1970),

p. 30.

            2Cf. Robert G. Boling, "'Synonymous' Parallelism in

the Psalms," JSS, V:3 (July, 1960), 231. This article should

be consulted for many words in Psalm 89 and their parallels.

Also, one should see Daniel Goldberg, "The Moral Attributes

of God in the Psalms," (unpublished Doctor's dissertation,

Grace Theological Seminary, 1971), not only note his total

discussion, pp. 108-43, but especially his chart, p. 122.

            3Targum, p. zn.

            4John C. L. Gibson, Textbook of Syrian Semitic In-

scriptions. Volume I: Hebrew and Moabite Inscriptions

(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), pp. 74, verse 7; 78, fn. 7.

            5John Hasting Patton, Canaanite Parallels in the

Book of Psalms (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1944),

p. 36.


and Tournayl are quick to point out its Ugaritic equivalent.

It is the faithfulness of Yahweh he will make known (fydvx)2

with his mouth (ypb)3 which is another way of expressing


            The expression at the beginning of verse 3 is ex-

plained by Driver:

                        At the end of the verse the Hebrew 'for; indeed',

            like the Ugaritic k 'for, indeed', has not causal but

            affirmative force when standing before a verb which is

            not at the head of the clause (e.g. . . . 89:2-3. . .).5

            In this verse where hesed and 'emunah are repeated,


            1R. Tournay, "En Marge D'une Traduction des Psaumes,"

RB 63:2 (Avril, 1956), 163.

            2See a discussion of the hiphil form of this word" in

Edward R. Dalglish, Psalm Fifty-One in the Light of Ancient

Near Eastern Patternism (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1962), pp.


            3Dahood says that "be was falsely attached to vs. 2

when the emphatic nature of ki at the beginning of vs. 3 was

forgotten. Of course, be, may also be rendered as an adverb

'explicitly,' much like Prov viii 3, le 'loudly, express-

ly."' Psalms II, p. 312. There is no evidence that one word

was attached and one forgotten.

            4G. R. Driver maintains that verse 2 is a gloss; it

is taken from verse 20. "Glosses in the Hebrew Text,"

L'Ancien Testament et L'Orient (Louvain: Publications

Universitaries, 1957), p. 142. The present writer sees no

good reason to hold that view.

            5G. R. Driver, "Another Little Drink--Isaiah 28:1-22,"

Words and Meanings: Essays Presented to David Winton Thomas

(Cambridge: The University Press, 1968), p. 61. Concerning

the word ytrmx James Kennedy claims that it ought to be read

trmx to agree with the LXX ei@paj, An Aid to the Textual Amend-

ment of the Old Testament (Edinburgh:. T. & T. Clark, 1928),

p. 10. In the light of the context and the parallelism this

change seems totally unnecessary.


Kissane, for one, sees corruption.1 Perhaps it is not smooth.

to some, but the literal content and rendering as it stands

is very clear. "For I have said, forever covenant loyalty

will be built up; Heavens, You will establish your faithful-

ness in them." As DuMortier declares:

            Quelle que soit la lecture exacte du verset 3, le

            psalmiste semble affirmer que la hèsèd divine est

            eternelle (‘ôlâm) et it met en relation cette fidélité

            avec la stabilité cosmique (sâmaîm).2

            The ytrmx-yK to the present writer simply means that

Ethan has come to a deliberate conclusion. The comment of

Mowinckel is both right and wrong:

            The poet will certainly not sing about how and when

            God's dsH and hnvmx came into existence ("were built

            up"); of course they have existed just as long as Yahweh

            himself. What was "built up" is of course the universe.3

            It is not the world, but the dsH which is "built up"

according to the text. The remarks of the Midrash on verse 3

are most interesting, although they should be understood with


            Not the heavens alone, but the throne, too, is estab-

            lished on nothing other than mercy, as is said And in

            mercy shall the throne be established (Isa. 16:5). With

            what is the throne to be compared? With a throne that

            had four legs, one of which was short so that he who sat

            upon the throne was shaken. Therefore, he took a pebble


            lEdward J. Kissane, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols. (Dub-

Browne and Nolan Limited., 1954), Vol. II, pp. 94-95.

            2DuMortier, "Un Rituel d'Intronisation: Le Ps.

LXXXIX 2-38," p. 178.

            3Sigmund Mowinckel, "Notes on the Psalms," Studia

Theologica Cura Ordinum Theologorum Scandinavorum Edita, XIII

(1959), 157.


            and propped up the throne. Thus also the throne in

            heaven was shaken--if one dare say such a thing--until

            the Holy One, blessed be He, propped it up. And where-

            with did God prop it? With mercy. . . . On what, then,

            do the heavens stand? On mercy. . . . And this refrain

            runs throughout the whole Psalm.1

            Plainly, the dsH of Yahweh will be forever built up

". . . rising ever greater and fairer . . . before the wonder-

ing eyes of men, knowing no decay, never destined to fall into


            Verses 4-5 are also two parallel lines, which are

closely connected to verses 2-3. Ward urges:

            Note the parallels: hnb and Nvk in both 3 and 5; Mlvf  

            and rdv rdl in both 2 and 5 (and Mlvf again in 3);

            hrywx and fydvx (vs. 2) // ytrmx (3) // ytfbwn (4) dsH;

            and hnvmx (2) // tyrb (4).3

            The synthetic parallelism of 4-5 is none other than

the words of Yahweh Himself, which had caused the poet to

sing in the first place. The covenant loyalty concerns the

covenant made with His chosen servant.4 David's descendants


            1"Psalm Eighty-Nine," The Midrash on Psalms, 2 Vols.

translated by William G. Braude, Yale Judaica Series, Vol.

XIII, edited by Leon Nemoy (New Haven: Yale University

Press, 1959), Vol. II, p. 82.

            2J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols.,

revised edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,

1966), Vol. II, p. 148. Also, observe the good comments of

Carl Bernard Moll, "The Psalms," translated with additions by

Charles A. Briggs, et al, Langes Commentary on the Holy

Scriptures, 12 Vols. revised edition (Grand Rapids: Zonder-

van Publishing House, 1960), Vol. 5, p. 482.

            3Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background

of Psalm LXXXIX," pp. 324-25.

            4Cf. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand

Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 174.


and thronel are described with permanence which has far-reach-

ing implications. This summary of the unconditional promise

in II Samuel 7 will be discussed inverses 20-38. It must

be said that the message of this introduction demonstrates

the author had possession of reality.

            At the conclusion of verses 5, 38, 46, 49 there is

the word hls, the meaning of which is very dubious. Lipinski

comments on the first two instances, ". . . au Ps. 89, 5 et

38, ce mot marque la fin des passages appartenant au poeme

royal primitif (Ps. 89, 2-5. 20-38)."2 This says nothing about

the last two usages, and, moreover, if Lipinski's emphasis is

on "primitif" to make the distinction, he has not taken into

account that parts of verses 6-19 are more primitive.

            An entire article on the word by Snaith adds nothing

new to Psalm 89.3 After much discussion, he concludes:

                        The tradition is strong that the word selah has some-

            thing to do with 'always, everlasting'. . . .

                        The word selah therefore is a relic of the days when

            psalms were sung in three sections. It indicates the

            place where the choir sang the couplet "Give thanks unto

            the Lord for He is good, For His mercy endureth for


            1Maxmilian Ellenbogen gives an interesting background

to kb'), see Foreign Words in the Old Testament: Their Origin

and Etymology (London: Luzae and Company, 1962), p. 89.

            2E. Lipinski, La Royauté De Yahwé Dans La Poésie Et

Le Culte De L'Ancien Israël (Brussels: Palies der Academiën-

Hertogsstreaat I, 1965), p. 394.

            3Norman H. Snaith, "Selah," VT, 11:1 (January, 1952),



            ever", and the insertion of the word into the various

            psalms dates from the beginning of the fourth century


            The connotation of "always, everlasting" would be

strange for the meaning of  hls at the conclusion of verses

46, 49. The statements of Murphy paint the true picture:

            Selah, which occurs 71 times in 39 Pss, is completely

            unknown, despite desperate efforts to give it meaning.

            It might indicate a lifting up of the tone or of the

            eyes; others think it is a sign for repetition or that

            it means bowing.2

            No further discussion would improve the subject. The  

most that can be said is that it was probably a musical term.


          89:6-19 God's Characteristics: Basis for Praise

            This portion of Scripture extols the unique character

of Yahweh. Delitzsch avers:

            In vers. 6-19 there follows a hymnic description of the

            exalted majesty of God, more especially of His omnipo-

            tence and faithfulness, because the value of the promise

            is measured by the character of the person who promises.3

            Every verse in the section holds Yahweh's person and

work as the main thought. Even when benefactors are men-

tioned, glory is still attributed to Yahweh. Nevertheless,

the passage has been twisted and perverted by many. While


            lIbid., p. 56.

            2Murphy, "Psalms," p. 570.

            3Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms,

3 Vols., translated by Francis Bolton, reprint (Grand Rapids:

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, [n.d.], III, 36.


power is ascribed to God, some have interpreted the passage

erroneously. Gray comments:

            . . . Psalm lxxxix, 6-18, definitely suggests an eschato-

            logical victory which will repeat the triumph of Cosmos

            over Chaos in the beginning, which has been sacramentally

            experienced in the cult. . . . especially in Psalm

            lxxxix, 6-18, it is possible to see a connection with

            creation, which is the result of the triumph of God over

            the forces of Chaos.1

            Later, he adds, "The theme of God's conflict with the

unruly waters resulting in his establishment as King recurs

in certain of the Psalms . . . lxxxix, 8-18. . . ."2 But the

present writer agrees with Kaufmann that none of ". . . the

ancient battles of YHWH . . . mark the beginning of his

rule."3 The answer to the first interpretation will be han-

dled in the exegesis.

            The approach will be to treat this section in qua-

trains which will facilitate the bulk of material. Since

verses 18-19 do not form a quatrain, this parallelism will

be separate.


            lJohn Gray, The Legacy of Canaan: The Ras Shamra

Texts and Their Relevance to the Old Testament, revised

edition, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Vol. V (Leiden:

E. J. Brill, 1965), p. 32.

            2Ibid., p. 33.

            3Yehezkel Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel: From

Its Beginnings to the Babylonian Exile, translated and

abridged by Moshe Greenberg (Chicago: The University of

Chicago Press, 1960), p. 118.


Verses 6-9

    Mywidoq; lhaq;Bi j~t;nAUmx<-Jxa hvAhy; j~xEl;Pi MyimawA UdOyv;

    Mylixe yneb;Bi hvAhla hm,d;yi hvAhyla j`rofEya ymi yKi

NybAybis;0-lKA-lfa xrAOnv; hBAra Mywidoq;-dOsB; CrAfEna lxe

j~yt,Obybis; j~t;nAUmx<v, h.yA NysiHE j~vmkA-ymi tOxbAc; yhelox< hvAhy;


            First of all, the unity of this quatrain is set forth

by Ward:

            Heavens (6a)// skies (7a); and this repeated round about

            thee (8b, 9b), tying the lines together from beginning

            to end. Again, holy ones (6b)// sons of God (7b)// holy

            ones (8a)// hosts (9a). Who is like Yahweh (7a, b)//

            who is like thee (9a). These four lines give a unified

            picture of the heavenly assembly praising God, and they

            close with the climactic reference to the faithfulness

            of the Lord.1

            In verse 6 the word Mymw is employed to designate the

inhabitants of heaven. But the following word jxlp poses a

little problem. Most of the scholars and translations treat

this word as plural, including the LXX and Targum. Usually

it is done on the basis of verses 10 and following. Kirk-

patrick has it singular and says it is ". . . His wonderful

course of action regarded as a whole. . . ."2 Attributing it

more to God's person, Briggs translates it Thy wonderfulness.3


            1Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background

of Psalm LXXXIX," p. 325.

            2Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms, p. 533.

            3Charles A. Briggs and Emilie G. Briggs, The Book of

Psalms, 2 Vol., International Critical Commentary, 47 Vols.,

edited by Samuel R. Driver and Alfred Plummer, reprint (Edin-

burgh: T. & T. Clark, 1906), II, 255.


And Moll claims the word "'does not here denote a work or a

deed, but the nature of God as distinct from that of all

created beings, or separated from their sphere of action.

. . . "1 Also, the word is parallel to jtnvmx.2 it seems

best to keep the MT reading as singular because the nature of

God is foremost in this quatrain. Since Mywdq occurs in

verse 8, it will be treated there.

            Lipinski goes to great length in discussing the yKi  

that introduces verse 7.3 It is much too lengthy for review

here. His basic concern is the switch of persons in verses

6-8, which does not contribute to the purpose of this disser-

tation. With ymi it introduces a rhetorical question that

expresses the unique character of God. It reminds one imme-

diately of Exodus 15:11 in its entirety and the first part

of Micah 7:18, NOfA xWeno j~vmKA lxe-ymi.

            qHw occurs both in verse 7 and verse 38. It means

clouds or clouds of fine dust and so has the meaning of


            1Moll, "The Psalms," p. 483.

            2Cf. B. D. Eerdmans, "The Hebrew Book of Psalms,"

Oudtestamentische Studiën, Deel IV, edited by P. A. H.

DeBoer (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1947), p. 422.

            3Lipinski, La Royauté De Yahwé Dans La Poésie Et Le

Culte De L'Ancien Israël, pp. 235-37. For other discussions

see Walter Brueggemann, "Amos' Intercessory Formula," VT,

XIX:4 (October, 1969), 394 and C. J. Labuschagne, The Incom-

parability of Yahweh in the Old Testament, Vol. V, Pretoria

Oriental Series, edited by A. Van Selms (Leiden: E. J.

Brill, 1966), pp. 81, 85-86.


sky.1 Innes2 and Stadelmann3 point out that this word desig-

nates the abode of celestial beings. The thought being empha-

sized is that God is above the Mymw and qHw in verses 6-7.

Thus, His superiority to all creatures is the thrust here.

The verbs jrf and hmd are employed together also in Isaiah


            The construct Mylx ynbb is a matter of debate among

the scholars. Space can only permit a brief treatment. The

present writer sees no relationship to Genesis 6; other

sources can be observed for the problem.5 For the use of


            lRobert Baker Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testa-

ment, second edition, reprint (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans

Publishing Company, 1897), p. 265. BDB, p. 1007. KB, p. 961.

The LXX has nefe<liaj. E. W. Hengstenberg says the word ". . .  

is employed poetically for the heavens, Commentary on the

Psalms, 3 Vols. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1860), III, 100.

Jastrow states it is the "name of one of the seven heavens,"

II, 1551.

            2D. K. Innes, "Heaven and Sky in the Old Testament,"

The Evangelical Quarterly, XLIII:3 (July-September, 1971),


            3Luis I. J. Stadelmann, The Hebrew Conception of the

World, Analecta Biblica, 39 (Rome: Biblical Institute Press,

1970), p. 55. See also pp. 93, 100.

            4Hillers wants to see the same usage in Lamentations

2:13, but he amends the text to do so. See Delbert R.

Hillers, The Anchor Bible: Lamentations (Garden City, New

York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1972), p. 39.

            5Leroy Birney, "An Exegetical Study of Genesis 6:1-

4," JETS, XIII:I (Winter, 1970), 45. Meredith G. Kline,

"Divine Kingship and Genesis 6:1-4, WTJ, XXIV:2 (May, 1962),



the phrase in apocalyptic see Russell,l and for the use in

Ugaritic see Held.2 The Targum has xykxlm ysvlkvx, "army of

angels,"3 while the LXX has ui[oi?j qeou?. Most scholars view

the construct as "angels" and/or "sons of God."4 However,

Gesenius and Jouon hold that the expression does not mean

"sons of god(s)" but "beings of a class," that is, "an indi-

vidual being part of a divine being."5 It seems that KB

carries the same thought by translating it "(individual)

gods."6 One receives the impression that the last three

sources are speaking of false gods. Girdlestone concurs,


            1D. S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish

Apocalyptic (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1964),

pp. 168, 202, 236.

            2Moshe Held, "The Action-Result (Factitive-Passive

Sequence of Identical Verbs in Biblical Hebrew and Ugaritic,"

JBL, LXXXIX:III (September, 1965), 280, fn. 37. Also see UT,

pp. 357-58.

            3See Jastrow, Vol. I, p. 25; Vol. II, p. 786. See

the view expressed in P. S. Alexander, "The Targumin and Early

Exegesis of 'Sons of God' in Genesis 6, Journal of Jewish

Studies, 23:1 (Spring, 1972), 65-66.

            4BDB, p. 42. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms, p. 534.

Moll, "The Psalms," p. 483. Leupold, Exposition of the

Psalms, p. 250. Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testa-

ment, 2 Vols., translated by J. A. Baker (Philadelphia: The

Westminster Press, 1961), II, 194. Paul van Imschoot, Theol-

ogy of the Old Testament. Vol. I: God, translated by

Kathryn Sullivan and Fidelis Buck (New York: Desclee Company,

1954), pp. 12, 48, 108.

            5GKC, pp. 401, 418. P. Paul Joüon, Grammaire de

l'Hebreu Biblique, second edition (Rome: Pontificium Insti

tutum Bibli,cum, 1947), unpublished English translation by

Bruce K. Waltke, Dallas, Texas, p. 117.

            6KB, p. 46.


"Elim is never used of the true God."l And Allis writes:

            El has two plurals in Hebrew Elim and Elohim. The

            former, which we may call the normal plural, is very

            rare, occurring only four times in the Old Testament

            (Exod. 15:11; Ps. 29:1; 89:7; Dan. 11:36) and whether

            in any of the four it is used of God is not certain.2

            Then he goes on to demonstrate that in Psalm 29:1

they are "sons of God."3 But DeQueker, who parallels Psalm

29 with 89:6-15, claims that 89:7 is speaking of the angels

of Yahweh, and the expression Mylx ynbb is a direct parallel

to Mywdq in verses 6, 8.4 Cross also states they are par-

allel terms and indicates the LXX and Peshitta agree.5


            1Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 31.

            2Oswald T. Allis, The Old Testament: Its Claims and

Its Critics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), p. 334.

Cf. Frank M. Cross, Jr. and David Noel Freedman, "The Song

of Miriam," JNES, XIV:4 (October, 1955), 242, 247 and

Labuschagne, The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testa-

ment, pp. 77-80. In his discussion on these pages Labuschagne

attempts to solve the issue by emendations, but he admits,

“. . . this method of solving problems is undesirable." p. 80.

            3Allis, The Old Testament: Its Claims and Its

Critics, pp. 334-35.

            4L. DeQueker, "Les Qedôsîm du Ps. lxxxix a la Lumiere

des Croyances Semitiques," ETL, 39 (1963), 476, 480. Also

see I. L. Seeligmann, "A Psalm From Pre-regal Times," VT,

XIV:l (January, 1964), 81.

            5Frank Moore Cross, Jr., Studies in Ancient Yahwistic

Poetry (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1950), pp. 205-06.


DuMortier,1 U. S. Leupold,2 and Pope3 view the creatures in

verses 6, 7, 8 as all one group. The construct may be ex-

pressed as "sons of the mighty" which would still be a refer-

ence to Yahweh. Although there are differences among those

cited, the present writer feels it is designating angels

because of the parallelism and the general sense of the con-

text. One cannot say for sure, but the poet may also have

had in mind the MybiruK;.  Indeed, the fact is that Yahweh is

far superior (incomparable) to angels, whether good or bad.

            The incomparable superiority of Yahweh is carried on

in verse 8. Here the Mywdq have reverential awe for His

unapproachable majesty. Rankin believes the concept here was

emphasized after second Isaiah.4 This view of Rankin is

without evidence. Girdlestone seems to apply the term to

earthly persons.5 As already stated, the Mywdq are celestial

beings, preferably angels. DeQueker, who has written an


            lDuMortier, "Un Rituel d'Intronisation: Le Ps.

LXXXIX 2-38," p. 180.

            2Ulrich S. Leupold, "Worship Music in Ancient Israel:

Its Meaning and Purpose," Canadian Journal of Theology, XV:3-4

(1969), 177.

            3Marvin H. Pope, The Anchor Bible--Job (Garden City,

New York; Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1965), pp. 9, 41, 109.

            40. S. Rankin, Israel's Wisdom Literature: Its Bear-

ing on Theology and the History of Religion (New York:

Shocken Books, 1969), pp. 222-23.

            5Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 176.


entire article on the subject, states strongly, “. . . Ps.

LXXXIX vise manifestement les anges. . . .”1

            For some reason Driver says that xrvnv hbr is abbre-

viated and should have xUh inserted between the two words.2

The present author fails to see the necessity. This second

part of verse 8 is a pattern that compares with several other

portions of Scripture. See Culley for the total picture.3

Snijders states that vybybs is peculiar and ". . . means

those who are within his sphere of authority."4 This is

really not the sense of the context, and, besides, Yahweh's

authority is universal.

            The initial expression of verse 9 seems to be a repeat

in concept of verse 7 and also Exodus 11:15. Culley has

pointed out the parallels to portions of other psalm passages:


            1DeQueker, "Les Qedôsîm du Ps. lxxxix à la Lumière

des Croyances Semitiques," p. 469. See also Lipinski, La

Royauté De Yahwe Dans La Poésie Et Le Culte De L'Anciën-

Israel, pp. 281-82.

            2G. R. Driver, "Abbreviations in the Massoretic Text,"

Textus: Annual of the Hebrew University Bible Project, Vol. I,

edited by C. Rabin (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1960), p. 123.

            3Robert C. Culley, Oral Formulaic Language in the

Biblical Psalms (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967),

p. 63.

            4L. A. Snijders, "The Adjective rz in the Ketubim,"

Oudtestamentische Studiën, edited by P. A. H. DeBoer (Leiden:

E. J. Brill, 1954), p. 63, fn. 8. For another discussion on

the word vybybs see M. H. Goshen-Gottstein, "Theory -and Prac-

tice of Textual Criticism, Textus: Annual of the Hebrew

University Bible Project, Vol. III, edited by C. Rabin (Jeru-

salem: Magnes Press, 1963), p. 143, fn. 43.


                           jvmk ym hvhy Ps. 35:10

                         jvmk ym Myhlx Ps. 71:19

               jvmk ym (tvxbc yhlx) hvhy Ps. 89:91

            For the different views on tvxbc yhlx see Jacob.2

In this context the tvxbc seems to refer to the Mywdq and

Mylx ynb.

            The form NysH is found only here in the Old Testament.3

Briggs4 and Kennedy5 want to change the word to jdsH, and in

doing so, Briggs keeps  h.y and Kennedy appears to drop it. The

basis of their thinking has some validity, since dsH is often

used with hnvmx. Most keep the form in the text and translate

it "strength," "strong," "might," or "mighty."6 A closer

examination of the word and the context seem to retain the

latter view. Besides the form in the text, KB gives another


            1Culley, Oral Formulaic Language in the Biblical

Psalms, p. 54.

            2Edmond Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, trans-

lated by A. W. Heathcote and P. J. Allock (New York: Harper

and Row, Publishers, 1958), pp. 54-55.

            3BDB, p. 340.

            4Briggs, The Book of Psalms, II, 255-56.

            5Kennedy, An Aid to the Textual Amendment of the Old

Testament, p. 57.

            6The LXX has dunato>j. The Targum has xnysH. Cf.

Jastrow, I, 437, 488-89.


word and assigns it to 89:9, Ns,Ho.1 The lexicon also places

a root above (NsH) with the meaning of "strength."2 Delitzsch

claims it ". . . is a Syriasm; for the verbal stem                is

native to the Aramaic, in which          =yDawa."3 Although

Gordon is not exactly sure of the meaning, there is a Ugaritic

word of comparative interest,            . He says that hsn is

“. . . a kind of (military?) personnel. . . .”4  If it were

so, then h.y NysH would be an expression parallel to yhlx

tvxbc in meaning at least.

            Contextually, the present writer believes that Ethan

employed this word deliberately. This will be emphasized in

the exegesis of verses 10-13, at the end of which the rela-

tionship of verses 6-9, especially verse 9, will be handled.

            h.y is another word that merits brief discussion.5 it

is found thirty-five times in the Psalms.6 There is no doubt

that it is a shortened form of hvhy. The question revolves


            1KB, p. 319.


            3Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, III,

36. Cf. BDB, p. 340.

            4UT, p. 403.

            5For an interesting discussion see Christian D.

Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition

of the Hebrew Bible (New York: Ktav Publishing House, Inc.

1966), pp. 374-94.

            6Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 36.


around whether it is a superlative or not. Some have claimed

it is a superlative, others deny it.1 Thomas lists 89:9 with

other passages and declares that the examples “. . . are too

unsound textually to permit any view to be based upon them."2

While it cannot be dogmatically stated, the present writer

can see a superlative force here. This also will be empha-

sized at the conclusion of the next quatrain.

            The 'Athnah and the waw are important to the transla-

tion. With the 'Athnah in its present position, the waw has

to be translated something like also because of the plural

form jytvbybs. It is possible that NysH is an adjective used

as a substantive in juxtaposition to h.y and translated,

"strong or mighty is Jah." If the ‘Athnah remains where it

is, this expression belongs to the first part of the verse.

But if the 'Athnah were moved to jvmk, the expression makes

good sense with the second part. It could be an exclamatory

sentence, "Mighty is Jah, also your faithfulness surrounds

you!" This is only a suggestion of the possibility as the

construction is difficult.3


            1D. Winton Thomas, "A Consideration of Some Unusual

Ways of Expressing the Superlative in Hebrew, VT, 111:3

(July, 1953) , 214.


            3A slightly different rendering can be seen in

Labuschagne, The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testa-

ment, p. 105


            Thus, two attributes of Yahweh that are so pertinent

to the following verses are set forth, might and faithful-

ness. Though Briggs does not agree on one point with the

present writer, his words are appropriate, "The divine attri-

butes are here personified, as often, and are regarded as

constantly in His company, attending upon Him and ready to

execute His pleasure."1 It is just as Podechard writes,

"Sans rival et tout-puisant, it pent tenir toutes ses


Verses 10-13

     MHeB;wat; hTAxa vyl.Aga xOWB; My.Aha tUxgeB; lweOm hTAxa

     j~ybiy;Ox TAr;z.aPi j~z.;fu faOrz;Bi bharA llAHAk, tAxKidi hTAxa

     MTAd;say; hTAxa h.xAlom;U lbeTe Cr,xA j~l;-Jxa MyimawA j`l;

     Unne.ray; j~m;wiB; NOmr;H,v; rObTA MtAxrAb; hTAxa NymiyAv; NOpcA

            In this quatrain it is Yahweh again who is preeminent.

Ward explains:

            . . . vss. 10-13, also treat a single theme. . . . They

            are bound together by the constant repetition of the

            second person pronoun. The recurring htx (10a, 10b, 11a,

            12b, 13a) and j~ (twice in 11b, twice in 12a, once in

            13b) produce a staccato that sounds consistently through

            the whole unit.3


            1Briggs, The Book of Psalms, II, 256.

            2E. Podechard, Le Psautier, 2 Vols. (Lyons: Facultes

Catholicques, 1949), II, 113.

            3Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background of

Psalm LXXXIX," p. 325. Cf. Pius Drijvers, The Psalms: Their

Structure and Meaning (Frieburg, West Germany: Herder KG,

1965), pp. 62-63.


            The emphasis here is different. In verses 6-9 the

stress was upon the utmost supremacy of Yahweh in His person

in the heavenly realm. Verses 10-13 now reveal His unpar-

alleled work in the earthly realm. It is not as Gaster pur-

ports, ". . . this action is taken to evince the supremacy of

Yahweh over the benê elim and the qedoshim. . . ."1 Yahweh's

supremacy was already noted in verses 6-9; Gaster has grossly

misunderstood the poet here.

            Probably more than any other portion of this psalm,

verses 10-13 have been perverted to a great extent by many

scholars.2 Even more so than verses 6-9, this present qua-

train is compared to the findings of the ancient Near East by

scholars. Thus, a deliberate discussion of length is enter-

tained here in order that the context and the issues may be

ascertained clearly. There will be allusions to some matters

which will be fully dealt with in the next two chapters.

            Verses 10-11 are a synthetic parallelism. God's

absolute control of the sea is declared in verse 10. The


            lTheodore H. Gaster, Thespis: Ritual, Myth and Drama

in the Ancient Near East, revised edition, Harper Torchbooks

(New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1966), p. 447. For

an evaluation see R. T. O'Callaghan, "Ritual, Myth and Drama

in Ancient Literature," Orientalia, 22 (Nova Series, 1953),


            2Cf. Aubrey R. Johnson, Sacral Kingship in Ancient

Israel (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1967), p. 108.

Johnson assigns vss. 6-13 to a cultic festival, a matter

which will be treated in chapter five.


main problem is the word  xOWB;.  Gesenius says that it is

"perhaps only a scribal error."1 Driver changes it to Nvxw;.2

But Hengstenberg plainly views it as ". . . a noun abbreviated

from the infinitive of xWn. . . ."3 And Delitzsch postulates,

“. . . xOW is . . . so far as language is concerned, either

as an infinitive . . . or as an infinitival noun, like xyWi,

loftiness, Job xx.6, with a likewise rejected Nun."4 The

form is best construed as an infinitive.

            Kennedy wants to alter MHeB;wat; to MteyBiw;Ta.5 Dahood ren-

ders the word as "muzzle"; he takes it from the Ugaritic root


            Verse 11 is treated in the most abused manner. Re-

search bears out that most of it revolves around three words

that are combined together some way or another, My.Aha (vs. 10),

bharA (vs. 11), MtAxrAb; (vs. 13). All of the following quotes

are said in reference to verses 10-13. According to

Mowinckel, "bhr is another name for the primeval monster


            1GKC, p. 217.

            2Driver, "Abbreviations in the Massoretic Text," p.


            3Hengstenberg, Commentary on the Psalms, III, 102.

            4Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, III,

37. Cf. BDB, p. 670 and KB, p. 635. For the LXX and

Peshitta see Ahlström, Psalm 89, p. 67.

            5Kennedy, An Aid to the Textual Amendment of the Old

Testament, p. 76.

            6Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II, pp. 314, 112-13.


of the sea, which Yahweh conquered before the creation.

. . . "1 Ruprecht claims, "Ps. lxxiv 13 f. and lxxxix 11

liegt dieser Kampf von der Weltschöpfung. . . “2 Clay puts

it a little differently, "In this conflict the hostile crea-

ture and its helpers are overthrown, after which the heavens

and earth are created."3 And Dahood concurs, "Having dis-

posed of his foes Rahab, Leviathan, et al., Yahweh set about

fashioning and arranging heaven and earth."4 Pedersen plainly

affirms, "And the creation he performed by defeating the

dragon, tannīn, Rahab or Leviathan and his helpers. . . .”5

And Weiser admits similar thoughts.6

            While the above place a battle before creation, others

place it at creation. For example, Stuhlmueller writes,


            1Sigmund Mowinckel, “lHawa,” Hebrew and Semitic Studies

Presented to Godfrey Rolles Driver, edited by D. Winton Thomas

and W. D. McHardy (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1963), p. 97.

            2Eberhard Ruprecht, "Das Nilpferd im Hiobbuch," VT,

XXI:2 (April, 1971), 228.

            3Albert T. Clay, Light on the Old Testament from

Babel (Philadelphia: The Sunday School Times Company, 1907),

pp. 69-70.

            4Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms I, p. 51.

            5Johs Pedersen, "Canaanite and Israelite Cultus,"

Acta Orientalia, 18:1 (1939), 9. Also see his discussion

in Israel: Its Life and Culture (London: Oxford University

Press, 1940), III, 443-44.

            6Artur Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, translated

by Herbert Hartwell, The Old Testament Library (Philadelphia:

The Westminster Press, 1962), p. 592.


"Present in some biblical texts is the Semitic notion that

creation was a struggle against the forces of chaos."1 Those

with corresponding views are Brandon,2 Crim,3 Imschoot,4

Kidner,5 Lipinski,6 and Podechard.7 One answer to all these

misinterpretations might simply be that the biblical account

of creation is silent on the matter. Hasel states, "The

battle myth which is a key motif in Enuma elish is completely

absent in Gn l."8 Another answer will be given below in a

positive way.


            1Carroll Stuhlmueller, "The Theology of Creation in

Second Isaiah, CBQ, XXI:4 (October, 1959), 432.

            2S. G. F. Brandon, Creation Legends of the Ancient

Near East (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1963), pp. 154-55.

            3Keith R. Crim, The Royal Psalms (Richmond, Virginia:

John Knox Press, 1962), p. 106.

            4Imschoot, Theology of the Old Testament. Vol. I:

God, p. 91.

            5Derek Kidner, Genesis, Tyndale Old Testament Commen-

taries, edited by D. J. Wiseman (Chicago: Inter-Varsity

Press, 1967), p. 45.

            6Edward Lipinski, "Yahweh Malak, Biblica, 44:4

(1963), 434-35.

            7Podechard, Le Psautier, II, 113. Cf. DuMortier, "Un

Rituel d'Intronisation: Le Ps. LXXXIX 2-38, 180-81. Though

W. F. Albright does not refer to psalm 89, his view is in

From the Stone Age to Christianity, second edition, Anchor

Books edition, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company,

Inc., 1957), p. 271.

            8Gerhard F. Hasel, "The Significance of the Cosmology

in Genesis I in Relation to Ancient Near Eastern Parallels,"

Andrews University Seminary Studies, X:l (January, 1972), 19.


            Returning to. verse 11, Yahweh utterly subdued the

opposition with telling force.l Shunary points out how the

Targum omits fvrz in order to avoid anthropomorphism.2 But

the big question remains, who or what is bhr?3 The two op-

posing camps are clearly identified by Robinson:

            The ancient enemy is identified with the sea--always an

            element of mystery and fear to the Hebrew--and has a

            name of its own--Rahab, identified by older commentators

            with Egypt, but by the newer school of students of com-

            parative religion shown to be the analogue of Tiamat.4

            Many, many scholars advocate that Rahab of 89:11 is a

"monster," "evil monster," "abyss monster," "dragon," etc.

Besides those mentioned above, a few others holding this view


            1Nicholas J. Tromp has a very interesting study on

destruction which involves 89:10-11, but it is much too

lengthy to employ here. Cf. Primitive Conceptions of Death

and the Nether World in the Old Testament, Biblica et Orien-

talia, N. 21 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1969),

pp. 80-83.

            2Jonathan Shunary, "Avoidance of Anthropomorphism in

the Targum of Psalms," Textus: Annual of the Hebrew Univer-

sity Bible Project, Vol. V, edited by S. Talmon (Jerusalem:

Magnes Press, 1966), p. 141. For some usages of the word see

Anton Jirku, "Kana 'anaische Psalmenfragmente im der Vor-

israelitischen Zeit Palastinas and Syriens," JBL, LII (1933),


            3For Greek and Syriac variants see J. Frederic Berg,

The Influence of the Septuagint upon the Pe Sitta Psalter

(Leipzig: W. Drugulin, 1895), p. 120.

            4Theodore H. Robinson, "The God of the Psalmists," The

Psalmists, edited by D. C. Simpson (London: Oxford University

Press, 1926), p. 28. Robinson also belongs to the group that

connects a battle with creation, pp. 28-29.


are Barr,1 Barth,2 Childs,3 Fishbane,4 Herbert,5 Kiessling,6

Kline,7 and Pritchard.8 Almost all of them relate 89:11 to

Psalm 74:14. There are many passages that other scholars

with the "sea monster" concept relate to 89:11. A few se-

lected ones will be cited: Pope connects Job 9:13 with verse

eleven,9 Ginsburg--Isaiah 51:9,10 May--Habakkuk 3:13-15,11


            1Wayne E. Barr, "A Comparison and Contrast of the

Canaanite World View and the Old Testament World View" (un-

published Doctor's dissertation, Divinity School, University

of Chicago, 1963), p. 175.

            2Christoph F. Barth, Introduction to the Psalms,

translated by R. A. Wilson (New York: Charles Scribner's

Sons, 1966), p. 54.

            3Brevard S. Childs, "A Traditio-Historical Study of

the Reed Sea Tradition," VT, XX:4 (October, 1970), 413.

            4Michael Fishbane, "Jeremiah IV 23-26 and Job III 3-

13: A Recovered Use of the Creation Pattern," VT, XXI:2

(April, 1971), 159.

            5A. S. Herbert, Worship in Ancient Israel, Ecumenical

Studies in Worship, No. 5 (Richmond, Virginia: John Knox

Press, 1959), p. 25.

            6Nicolas K. Kiessling, "Antecedents of the Medieval

Dragon in Sacred History," JBL, LXXXIX:II (June, 1970), 168.

            7Meredith G. Kline, By Oath Consigned (Grand Rapids:

Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1968), p. 60.

            8James B. Pritchard, Archaeology and the Old Testament

(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), pp. 189-90.

            9Pope, The Anchor Bible--Job, p. 70.

            10H. L. Ginsburg, "The Arm of Yhwh in Isaiah 51-63 and

the Text of Isaiah 53:10-11," JBL, LXXXVII:II (June, 1958),


            11Herbert G. May, "Some Cosmic Connotations of Mayim

Rabbîm, 'Many Waters,'" JBL, LXXIV:I (March, 1955), 9-11.


Vriezen--Amos 9:3,1 Graham and May--Isaiah 27:1.2  In con-

trast Gordon3 and Wakeman4 discuss these and other verses and

concepts and never mention 89:11. Gray dogmatically asserts:

                        In the Hymn of Praise which precedes the royal plaint

            in Ps. lxxxix the supremacy of God among the gods (vv.

            6-7), and his victory over the waters, and over the

            monster of the deep, Rahab (vv. 9-10 [10-11]), are com-

            bined with the motif of God's covenant with David (vv.

            3, 4, 19 ff. 14-5, 20 ff.]). Here, however, there is

            no reference to the Exodus. . . .5

            A direct conflict takes place on the same page in The

Interpreter's Bible. McCullough states that Rahab is not a

name for Egypt, Poteat says it is.6 In agreement with Poteat


            1Th. C. Vriezen, The Religion of Ancient Israel

(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1967), pp. 44, 165.

            2William Creighton Graham and Herbert Gordon May,

Culture and Conscience: An Archaeological Study of the New

Religious Past in Ancient Israel (Chicago: The University

of Chicago Press, 1936), p. 135.

            3Cyrus H. Gordon, "Leviathan: Symbol of Evil,"

Biblical Motifs, Origins and Transformations, P. W. Lown

Institute of Advanced Jewish Studies, Brandeis University,

Studies and Texts: Vol. III (Cambridge, Massachusetts:

Harvard University Press, 1966), pp. 1-9.

            4Mary K. Wakeman, "The Biblical Earth Monster in the

Cosmogonic Combat Myth," JBL, LXXXVIII:III (September, 1969),


            5John Gray, "The Kingship of God in the Prophets and

Psalms, VT, IV (1954), 9.

            6W. Stewart McCullough, Edwin McNeill Poteat, "89,"

The Interpreter's Bible, 12 Vols. (New York: Abingdon Press,

1955), IV, 481.


are Brucel and Clarke2 and a score of others.

            Considering the words in the text, the context itself,

and analogies, the exodus and Egypt are the emphasis of Ethan.

tvxg in verse 10 refers to the "swelling of the sea," but it

also has the connotation of "smoke rising up" (Isa. 9:17) and

"pride" (Ps. 17:10).3 In the same verse xvW speaks of the

"rising or roaring of the waves," but it (xWn) too has a

meaning of "exalting oneself in arrogance" (Prov. 30:13; Num.

16:3; I Kings 1:5).4 And the word bhr (vs. 11) has a similar

meaning, "proud," "defiant," "arrogance."5 It appears that

the poet's words and parallelism were well-chosen, and their

significance will enter the discussion below.

            The context of verses 10-11 matches the revelation in

song in Exodus 15. Verse 10 summarizes perfectly the expres-

sions in Exodus 15:7-8; verse 11 does the same with Exodus

15:4-6, 9-10.6 How does bhr fit in? The present writer


            1F. F. Bruce, "Rahab," The New Bible Dictionary,

edited by J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans,

1962), p. 1074.

            2Arthur G. Clarke, Analytical Studies in the Psalms

(Kansas City, Kansas; Walterick Publishers, 1949), p. 222.

            3BDB, p. 145. KB, p. 162.

            4BDB, p. 672. KB, p. 637.

            5BDB, p. 923. KB, p. 876.

            6For a discussion of the word jzf see Samuel E'.

Loewenstamm, "The Lord is My Strength and My Glory," VT,

XIX:4 (October, 1969), 466-68.



concurs with Habel that "In Ps. 87:4 and Isa. 30:7 Rahab is

clearly identified with Egypt which would support the identi-

fication of the same in Ps. 89:11."1 This quote from a foot-

note stems from a large discussion of which a small portion

is taken:

            Tannin, for example, is used as a metaphor to describe

            Pharaoh who is given the "scattering treatment" applied

            to Yam (Ezek. 29:3-5) and made a torrent of blood. . . .

            Not only is the "battle for kingship" imagery applied to

            the exodus event, but Pharaoh, the foe par excellence,

            is described in terms of the mythological dragons enu-

            merated among the mighty acts in Baal's rise to king-

            ship. Yet the enemy of Yahweh is still Pharaoh! This

            fact becomes even clearer in Isa. 51:9-11 where the same

            victorious arm of Yahweh, who once divided the sea,

            hewed Rahab, and pierced Tannin for the redeemed to pass

            over. . . In the context Tannin and Rahab logically

            refer to Pharaoh, the mightiest of Yahweh's historical


            Habel moves on to point out that Tannin and Leviathan

in Ps. 74:12-14 are Pharaoh.3 A similar thought is expressed

differently by Eerdmans. In commenting on 89:11, he writes:

            Ps. lxxxvii4 and Is. xxx7 Rahab was a name for Egypt

            where the yearly inundations made the land like a great

            sea, and the Pharao life a Tannin living in the water

            (Ezek.. xxix3, xxxii2).4


            1Norman C. Habel, Yahweh Versus Baal: A Conflict of

Religious Cultures (New York: Bookman Associates, 1964), p.

70, fn. 59.

            2Ibid., pp. 64-65.

            3Ibid., p. 65. Cf. pp. 83-84. Though Habel holds

these views, he seems to relate 89:6-11 to the creation ac-

counts in Scripture. See Norman C. Habel, "'Yahweh, Maker of

Heaven and Earth':  A Study in Tradition Criticism," JBL,

XCI:III (September, 1972), 334-35.

            4Eerdmans, "The Hebrew Book of Psalms," p. 423.


            Harrelson plainly says, "The real monster slain by

Yahweh was the Pharaoh and his forces."1 Therefore, Pharaoh

the monarch of Egypt is Rahab. But is there an enemy behind

an enemy? Pharaoh is called Nyn.iTa which means "serpent,"

"dragon," "sea-monster,"2 and is called bhr meaning "proud,"

"defiant," "arrogant."3 May suggests:

            The enemy defeated by Y