Psalm 67: Blessing, Harvest and History: Talstra and Bosma

                               Calvin Theological Journal 36 (2001): 290-313

                 Copyright © 2001 by Calvin Theological Seminary, cited with permission;

                                   digitally prepared for use at Gordon College]  



        Psalm 67: Blessing, Harvest and History1

         A Proposal for Exegetical Methodology



                                    Eep Talstra and Carl J. Bosma



            In the Old Testament documents there are a number of references or allu-

sions to the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26. One can therefore conclude

that the priestly blessing plays a significant role in Old Testament literature

generally. However, echoes of this blessing are especially frequent in the book

of Psalms.2

            The obvious cross-references to Numbers 6:24-26 in the Psalter confirm the

cultic setting of the words of the blessing as is clear from the formulation of the

priestly task in Numbers 6. However, one should note an important difference

between psalms that allude to Numbers 6:24-26 and the text of Numbers 6:24-26

itself. Numbers 6:22-27 clearly distinguishes between the words to be spoken by

the priests (Num. 6:24-26) and the act of blessing itself, which is to be performed

by Yahweh. Shortly after the blessing formula is given, the text adds in verse 273:

            “Thus they [i.e. the priests] will put my

            Name on the sons of Israel,             LxerAWyi yneB;-lfa ymiw;-tx, UmWAv;

            but I am the one who will bless them."                                     :MkerEbAxE  ynixEv;


But the same clear distinction of responsibilities cannot be found in echoing

the language of the Psalms. That fact may make the reader cautious. With every

psalmic text that refers to Numbers 6:24-26, one faces the question of how the

echoes of the priestly benediction are to be understood. Are they to be taken

as a wish, a confident statement of fact (either past or present), a prayer, an

intention, an obligation--which?


            1 The authors thank Professor Emeritus John H. Stek for reading the manuscript and

for helping with matters of English style.

            2 For the request for and promise of a divine blessing see: Pss 3:8[9]; 5:12[13]; 28:9;

29:11; 109:28; 115:12-13, 15; 128:5 (hvAhya j~k;r,bAy;); 129:8; 134:3 (hvAhy; j~k;r,bAy;); etc. For the

request for and promise of divine protection see: Pss 12:7[8]; 16:1; 17:8; 25:20; 34:22; 37:28;

41:3; 86:2; 97:10; 116:6; 121:3,5, 7 (j~r;mAw;yi) and 8; 141:5; 145:20 and 146:9. For the

manifestation of the Lord's radiant countenance see: Pss 4:6[7]; 31:16[17]; 67:1[2]; 80:3[4],

7[8], 19[20]; 119:135; etc. For the request for grace and favor see: Pss 4:1[2]; 6:2[3]; 25:16;

31:9[10]10; 41:4[5],10[11]; 51:1[3].; 56:1[2]; 57:1[2]; 86:3; 119:58. For peace (MOlWA) see:

Pss 125:5 and 128:6.

            3 Cf. P.A H. De Boer, "Numbers VI 27," Vetus Testamentum 32 (1982): 3-13.


                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      291


            All these options are reflected in the treatment of Psalm 67 in commentaries

and translations. This psalm contains the strongest parallels to the sacerdotal

benediction in the Psalter. Verse 2 uses three (out of six) key verbs from

Numbers 6:24-26, but, as the following synoptic comparison shows, presents

them in a slightly different order:


            Psalm 67:2                                                     Numbers 6:24-25

                        Unn.HAy Myfilox< a              

                                    Unker;bAyvi b              hvAhy; j~k;r,bAy;  24a

                                                                                                . . .

                        UnTAxi vynAPA rxeyA c                             j~l,xe vynAPA hvAhy; rxeyA 25a

                                                                                                        j~n.,Huyvi b

God, may he be gracious to us                     May Yahweh bless you. . .

and bless us;                                                   May Yahweh cause his face to shine

may he make his face shine towards                        to you

us.                                                                   and may he be gracious to you.


Moreover, verses 7b-8a also repeat the key verb Unker;bAy; from verse 2b, but, as

will be demonstrated, interpreters and translators do not agree about the trans-

lation of this yiqtol (=imperfect) verb.4

The setting reflected in Psalm 67 may indeed be the temple cult, but, unlike

the blessing proper in Numbers 6:24-26, the words of blessing in verses 2, 7b-8a

are not on the lips of the priest(s) pronouncing blessing on the people.

Instead, the speaker is identified with the recipients of the blessing and prays

on their behalf: "May God bless us." Moreover, the context refers to "all the

nations" (v. 3b) and "all the peoples" (vv. 4b, 6b) and speaks of the land and its

harvest (v. 7a).

From the exegetical literature on Psalm 67, one can readily discern two

interrelated basic questions that a translator and exegete face here: First, in

what mood are the pertinent clauses of this psalm speaking?5 Second, how does

one combine the different expressions: Is it a prayer for a blessing for Israel,6


4 Frank Crusemann, Studien zur Formgeschichte von Hymnus und Danklied in

Israel, WMANT, 32 (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1969), 200; Hans-Joachim Kraus,

Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary, trans. Hilton C. Oswald (Minneapolis:

Fortress, 1993), 40.

5 Cf., Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100, WBC 20 (Dallas: Word, 1990), 154-55;

Beat Weber, "Psalm LXVII: Anmerkungen zum Text selbst und zur Smilie von W.

Beyerlin," Vetus Testamentum 43 (1993): 561.

6 Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 40. Cf.J. Ridderbos, De Psalmen: Vertaald en Verklaard,

14 Psalm 42-106, COT (Kampen: Kok, 1958), 177-78; A A Anderson, The Book of

Psalms, I, Psalms 1-72, NCeB (London: Oliphants, 1972),479,480; Tate, Psalms 51-100,

155; Craig C. Broyles, Psalms, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody:

Hendrickson, 1999), 277; etc.




an open invitation to the nations to join the songs of praise,7 or a communal

hymn of thanksgiving for the blessing of a good harvest?8 A survey of modern

translations shows great variation in the answers given.

To address these basic issues, we will first present the Hebrew text of the

psalm with a translation and grammatical observations. Then we will review

representative translations of vv. 2, 7, and 8. These translations will be the start-

ing point for further linguistic and exegetical analysis, undertaken to find inter-

pretive controls in the text itself. Thereafter, related exegetical and theological

matters will come under consideration.


1. Hebrew Text and Translations

1.1. Hebrew Text of Psalm 67, Translation, and Grammatical


Clause Type9

and “Actors"                         Translation                                       Text

nonverbal                  To the choir leader. With strings.  tnoygin;Bi Hcenam;la   Ps 67:1a

A Psalm. A hymn.                              :rywi rOmz;mi    Ps 67:1b

3 sg. masc. + 1 pl. suf.

X-yiqtol                      God, may he show mercy to us,       Unn.eHAy; Myhilox<       Ps 67:2a

we-yiqtol                    and may he bless us.              Unker;bAyvi            Ps 67:2b

O-yiqtol                     May he make his face shine upon us UnTAxi vynApA rxeyA Ps 67:2c

("Sela")                                                                  :hlAs,  Ps 67:2d


7 N. A. van Uchelen, Psalmen, deel II; POT (Nijkerk: Callen bach, 1977), 184. Cf.

Generale Synode der Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk, Klare Wijn. Reklenschap over

geschiedenis, geheim en gezag van de Bijbel's (Gravenhage: Boekencentrum, 1967),

93 (English translation: The Bible Speaks Again: A Guide from Holland, Commissioned

by the Netherlands Reformed Church, trans. Annebeth Mackie [Minneapolis: Augsburg,

1969], 78).

8 Hermann Gunkel, Die Psalmen,4 HKAT (GOttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,

1926), 280. Cf., Rudolf Kittel, Die Psalmen: Ubersetzt und erklart (Leipzig: A Deichertsche

Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1914), 247 (Erntedanklied); Elmer A Leslie, Psalms: Translated and

 Interpreted in the Light of Hebrew Life and Worship (Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury

Press, 1949), 111; William R Taylor, 'The Book of Psalms," in Interpreter's Bible (Nashville:

Abingdon Press, 1955),4:349; Petrus Johannes Nicolaas Smal, Die Universalisme in die

Psalms (Kampen: Kok, 1956), 107; Artur Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, OTL,

trans. Herbert Hartwell (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962), 472; Sigmund Mowinckel, The

Psalms in Israel's Worship, trans. D. R. Ap-Thomas (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 1:185;

2:20 ("with a prayer for the future" [67.2]); Leopold Sabourin, The Psalms: Their Origin

and Meaning (Staten Island: Alba House, 1969), 2:195; Franz Marius Theodore de Liagre

Bohl and B. Gemser, De Psalmen:

Teksten Uitleg (Nijkerk: Uitgeverij G. F. Callenbach, 1969), 112; J. P. M. van der Ploeg,

Psalmen: uit de grondtekst vertaald en uitgelegd (Roermond: J. J. Romen &

Zonen, 1971), 1:385; etc.

9 For the abbreviations of the various clause types consult the following key:

X-yiqtol: Subject-yiqtol               W-X-yiqtol: v-subject-yiqtol

O-yiqtol: yiqtol on front position Cj.-yiqtol: any conjunction -yiqtol

X-Qatal: Subject -qatal


                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      293


3 plur. + 2 sg. masc. suf.

   l +inf cstr | so that your way is known

on earth,                                          j~K,r;r.a Cr,xABA tfadalA  Ps 67:3a

   elliptic         | (your salvation among all

the nations.                                       :j~t,fAUwy; MyiOG-lkAB;  Ps 67:3b

3 plur. + 2 sg. masc. suI.

   O-yiqtol Let the peoples praise you, God!           Myhilox< Mym>ifa j~UdOy Ps 67:4a

   O-yiqtol Let all the peoples praise you!     :Ml.AKu Mym.ifa j~UdOy Ps 67:4b


3 plur. + 2 sg. masc. suf.

   O-yiqtol      Let them rejoice                                                       UHm;w;yi  Ps 67:5a

   we-yiqtol     and shout (for joy), the nations                     Mym.ioxul; Unn.;rayvi Ps 67:5b

   Cj.-yiqtol    | for you judge the peoples

with equity                                      rOwymi Mym.ifa Fpow;ti-yKi Ps 67:5c

W-X-yiqtol     | and lead the nations on

the earth.                                              MHen;Ta Cr,xABA Mymi.xul;U Ps 67:5d

("Sela ")                                                                             :hlAs,  Ps 67:5e


3 plur. + 2 sg. masc. suf.

   O-yiqtol      Let the peoples praise you, God!          Myhilox< Mym.ifa j~UdOy Ps 67:6a

   O-yiqtol      Let all the peoples praise you!               :Ml.AKu Mymi.fa j~UdOy  Ps 67:6b


3 sg. fem + 3 sg. masc + 1 plur. suf.

   X-Qatal       The land having yielded its harvest,         h.lAUby; hnAt;nA Cr,x, Ps 67:7a

   O-yiqtol      may God, our God, bless us.          :Unynielox< Myhilox< UnkEr;bAy; Ps 67:7b


3 sg. masc. + 1 plur. + 3 plor. suf.

    O-yiqtol     May God bless us                                             Myhilox< Unker;bAy; Ps 67:8a

    we-yiqtol    so that all the ends of the

earth                                          :Cl,xA-ysep;xa-lKA Otxo Uxr;yyiv; Ps 67:8b

may revere him.

Our main reason for undertaking a close analysis of Psalm 67 springs from

the interrelatedness of the linguistic and theological questions that bear on the

translation of its last two verses. As will be demonstrated, the existing transla-

tions of Psalm 67:2, 7, and 8 show that remarkably different choices have been

made in the rendering of the verbal forms of the Hebrew text. Three different

verbal forms are at issue: the qatal (perfect) verb hnAt;nA ("it has given ") in verse

7 a; the clause initial yiqtol (imperfect; modal) verbs rxeyA ("may he make shine ")

in verse 2c and Unker;bAy; ("may he bless us") in verses 7b and 8a; and the weyiqtol

(modal) verbs Unker;bAyvi ("and may he bless us") in verse 2a and Uxr;yyiv; ("and

may they fear") in verse 8b.




1.2. Survey of Representative Translations of Psalm 67:2, 7, and 8

Both newer and older translations exhibit great variation in which they ren-

der these forms. Except for Hermann Gunkel,10 Diethelm Michel,11 Walter

Beyerlin,12 Bernardus Dirk Eerdmans13 and Elmer A Leslie,14 all translations

presented below render the verbs of verse 2 with some kind of modality.

However, their treatment of the yiqtol verbs in verses 7b and 8 differ greatly.

Apparently, most translators feel no need to translate the clause initial yiqtol

verb Unker;bAy; in verses 7b and 8a in the same manner as the clause initial short-

ened yiqtol verb rxeyA in verse 2c.


Some translations of verses 2 (yiqtol), 7 (X-qatal; yiqtol) and 8 (yiqtol):


[1] Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette15

2:         Gott sei uns gnadig, und segn' uns,

Er lasse sein Angesicht gegen uns leuchten.

. . .

7:         Die Erde gibt ihren Ertrag; Uns segnet Gott,

unser Gott.                                                                             present - present

8:         Uns segnet Gott. Und ihn furchten alle Enden

der Erde.                                                                                 present - present

[2] Franz Delitzsch16

2:         Elohim sei uns hold und segne uns,

Er lasse leuchten sein Antlitz bei uns--. . .

7:         Der Erde hat gegeben ihre Frucht--Segnen wird uns

Elohim user Gott17                                                                perfect - future

8:         Segnen wild uns Elohim, und furchten werden ihn

alle Enden der Erde.                                                  future - future


10 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 280.

11 Diethelm Michel, Tempora und Satzstellung in den Psalmen, Abhandlungen

zur Evangelischen Theologie,1 (Bonn: H. Bouvier u. CO Verlag, 1960), 115-16.

12 Walter Beyerlin, Im Licht der Traditionen: Psalm LXVII und CXV: ein

Entwicklungszusammenhang, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, 45 (Leiden: Brill,

1992), 40.

13 Bernardus Dirk Eerdmans, The Hebrew Book of Psalms, Oudtestamentische

 Studien, 4 (Leiden: Brill, 1947),21.

14 Leslie, The Psalms, 111-12.

15 Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen nebst

beigefuhrter Ubersetzung; ed. G. Baur (18111; reprint, Heidelberg: Mohr, 1856), 355.

16 Franz Delitzsch, Biblischer Commentar uber die Psalmen. Erste Halfte:

Psalm I-.LXXII3 (Leipzig: Dorffling und Franke, 1873), 459-60.

17 Francis Bolten (Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms

[Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955],2:239) translates Delitzsch's German

translation of v. 7b as a present: "Elohim our God doth bless us.”


                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      295


 [3] Hermann Gunkel18

2:         Jahve war uns gnadig und segnete uns,19

lieB leuchten sein Antlitz bei uins. . .

7:         das Land gab seinen Ertrag, uns segnete 'Jahve,'

unser Gott.                                                                             past - past

8:         'Jahve' segnete uns; so sollen ihn ehren alle Enden

der Erde!20                                                                 past -modal (obligation)

[4] Bernard us Dirk Eerdmans21

2:         Elohim is merciful unto us and blesseth us

and causeth his face to shine with us. . .

7:         The earth has yielded her increase, Elohim our God

blesseth us.                                                                            past - present

8:         Elohim blesseth us, so all the ends of the earth

fear him.                                                                     present -modal (result)

[5] Elmer A. Leslie22

2:         God has been gracious to us and blessed us,

and caused His face to shine upon us . . .

7:         The earth has yielded its produce: God, our God,

has blessed us;                                                                       past - past

8:         God blesses us, and all the ends of the earth shall

fear Him.                                                                    present -modal (obligation)

[6] Artur Weiser23

2:         May God be gracious and bless us

and make his face to shine upon us . . .

7:         The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God,

blesses us.                                                                              perfect -present

8:         May God bless us! Let all the ends of the earth

fear him!                                                                     modal- modal (wish)


18 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 280.

19 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 281, emends the yiqtol verb Unn.eHAy; to a qatol Unn.AHa,

and the following weyiqtol verb Unker;bAyvi to a wayyiqtol Unker;bAy;va. For a similar

position see: Taylor, “The Books of Psalms," 4:352.

20 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 281, argues that the meaning of the yiqtol verbs

 Unker;bAy; in vv. 7b-8a is determined by the qatol verb hnAt;nA in v. 7a. In his judgment,

these yiqtol verbs may be read as poetic aorists or emended to read UnkAr;Be (cf. KeBler).

21 Eerdmans, The Hebrew Book of Psalms, 21.

22 Leslie, The Psalms, 111-12.

23 Weiser, The Psalms, 472.




[7] Hans-Joachim Kraus (German edition)24

2:         'Jahwe' sei uns gnadig und segne uns,

er lasse sein Antlitz leuchten bei uns. . .

. . .

7:         Das Land gab seinen Ertrag. Es segnete uns 'Jahwe,’

unser Gott!                                                                                         past -past

8:         Es segnete uns 'Jahwe';                                                                              past

und es sollen ihn furchten alle Enden der Erde!                 modal (obligation)

[8] Hans-Joachim Kraus (German Fifth Edition; English translation)25

2:         May 'Yahweh' be gracious to us and bless us,

may he let his countenance shine among us. . .

. . .

7:         May the land yield its increase! May 'Yahweh,' our God,

bless us!                                                                                 modal- modal

8:         May 'Yahweh' bless us; Let all the ends of the earth

fear him!26                                                                                  modal- modal

[9] Jan Ridderbos27

2:         God zij ons genadig en zegene ons,

Hij doe zijn aanschijn bij ons lichten. . .

. . .

7:         Het land zal zijn opbrengst geven,                  perfect of confidence

God, onze God, zal ons zegenen,                                                     future

8:         God zal ons zegenen, en alle einden der aarde

zullen Hem vrezen!                                                               future - future(?)

[10] N. A. van Uchelen28

2:         God zij ons genadig en zegene ons,

            . . .

7:         het land geeft zijn opbrengst, God,onze God,

zegent ons.                                                                             present - present

8:         God zegene ons, opdat de einden der aarde

Hem vrezen.                                                                           modal (wish)


24 Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalmen, L Teilband, BKAT, XV/I (Neukirchen:

Neukirchener Verlag, 1960), 461.          

25 Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary, trans. Hilton

C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 39.

26 Beyerlin, Im Licht der Traditionen, 10, n 29, critiques Kraus' failure to justify

grammatically the jussive reading of v. 7a.

27 J. Ridderbos, De Psalmen, 2: 177.

28 N.A. van Ucbelen, Psalmen, deel II, POT (Nijkerk: Callenbach, 1977), 182.



                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      297


[11] J. P. M. van der Ploeg29

2:         God zij ons barmhartigen zegene ons,

Hij late zijn Aangezicht over ons lichten. . .

. . .

7:         Het land heeft zijn oogst gegeven: God, onze God,

schonk ons zegen                                                                              past -past

8:         God zegene ons; 0 mogen alle einden der aarde

Hem vrezen!                                                                    modal - modal (wish)

[12] Walter Beyerlin30

2:         Jahwe segnet uns gnadiglich,

ist uns wohlgesinnt, was unsere Pflugscharen betrifft. . .

. . .

7:         Das Land hat seinen Ertrag gegeben.                                               perfect

Es segnet uns Jahwe, unser Gott.                                                     present

8:         Es segnet uns Jahwe.                                                                         present

Also mussen ihn furchten alle Enden der Erde.                  modal (obligation)

[13] Diethelm Michel31

2:         Gott ist uns gnadig und segnet uns;

er laBt sein Angesicht bei uns leuchten. . .

. . .

7:         Das Land hat seinen Ertrag gegeben,                                               perfect

es segnet uns Gott, unser Gott.                                                        present

8:         Es segnet uns Gott,                                                                           present

furchten mussen ihn alle Enden der Erde.               modal (obligation)

[14] Mitchell Dahood32

2:         May God have pity on us and bless us;

may he cause his face to shine

may he come to us.

. . .

7:         May the earth yield her produce,33 may God, our

God, bless us.                                                            precative perfect -modal

8:         May God bless us, all the ends of the earth revere him.                modal (wish)


29 van der Ploeg, Psalmen, 1:385.

30 Beyerlin, Im Licht der Traditionen, 40.

31 Diethelm Michel, Tempora und Satzstellung in den Psalmen, Abhandlungen zur

Evangelischen Theologie, 1 (Bonn: H. Bouvier u. CO Verlag, 1960), 115-16. Cf. Crusemann,

Studien zur Formgeschimte von Hymnus und Danklied in Israel, 201.

32 Mitchell Dahood, Psalms II, 51-100: A New Translation with Introduction and

Commentary, AB, 17 (Garden City: Doubleday, 1973), 126.

33 Dahood, Psalms II; 129, reads the qatol verb hnAt;nA as a precative perfect. cf., NJPS;

Moses Buttenwieser, The Psalms: Chronologically Treated with a New Translation (New

York: KTAV Publishing House, 1969),787; Anderson, The Book of Psalms, 1:480-81.





[15] Marvin E. Tate34

2:         May God be gracious and bless us;

may he make his face to shine among us. . .

. . .

7:         The earth yields its harvest!                          perfect of experience

Continue to bless us, a God, our God.                     progressive jussive

8:         May God bless us-And all the ends of the earth

will fear him!                                                             modal - future

Bible Translations

[16] RSV

2:         May God be gracious to us

and make his face to shine upon us. . .

. . .

7:         The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God

has blessed us.                                                           perfect - perfect

8:         God has blessed us; let all the ends of the

earth fear him!                                                           perfect - modal (wish)

[17] NEB

2:         God be gracious to us and bless us,

God make his face shine upon us. . .

. . .

7:         The earth has given its increase and God, our God,

will bless us.                                                              perfect - future

8:         God grant us his blessing that all the ends of the

earth may fear rum.                                                   modal - modal (purpose)

[18] REB

2:         God be gracious to us and bless us,

God make his face shine upon us. . .

7:         The earth has yielded its harvest. May God, our

God, bless us,                                                                        perfect - modal

8:         God grant us his blessing that all the ends of the

earth may fear him.                                                   modal - modal (purpose)

[19] NIV (cf., KJV)

2:         May God be gracious to us and bless us

and make his face shine upon us. . .

            . . .

7:         Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God

will bless us,                                                              future - future

8:         God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will

fear him.                                                                     future - future


34 Tate, Psalms 51-100, 153.

                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      299


[20] NRSV (cf., NJB)

2:         May God be gracious to us and bless us

and make his face to shine upon us. . .

. . .

7:         The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God has

blessed us;                                                                              perfect -perfect

8:         May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the

earth revere him.                                                             modal- modal (wish)

[21] NAB

2:         May God be gracious to us and bless us;

may God's face shine upon us. . .

. . .

7:         The earth has yielded its harvest; God, our God,

blesses us.                                                                              past -present

8:         May God bless us still; modal (wish)

that the ends of the earth may revere our God.                   modal (purpose)

[22] NBG

2:         God zij ons genadig en zegene ons,

Hij doe zijn aanschijn bij ons lichten. . .

. . .

7:         De aarde gat haar gewas, God, onze God

zegent ons;                                                                             past - present

8:         God zegent ons opdat alle einden der aarde

Hem vrezen.                                                               present -modal (purpose)

[23] KBS 1975

2:         God zij ons genadig, Hij zegene ons, . . .

            . . .

7:         De aarde gaf haar gewas: God onze God wil

ons zegenen.                                                                          past - modal (wish)

8:         Hij wil ons zegenen, God. . . .                                              modal (intention)

[24] KBS 1995

2:         Wees ons genadig, schenk ons uw zegen, God, . . .

                        . . .

7:         De aarde brengt haar vruchten op; God, onze

God zegent ons.                                                                     present - present

8:                     God regent ons;. . .                                                                present


This variety of translations is an invitation to reconsider some closely inter-

related questions in the reading of this psalm:

The linguistic question: Is Hebrew syntax really so free that almost

"anything goes"? That may be more or less the traditional point of view, but if that

is the case, it poses a real problem for translators. On what can or should

translators base a choice?



            The literary question: Is the interpretation and the translation of the psalm

a matter of literary genre or of grammar and linguistics? Those who view the

psalm as a hymn of praise or as a song of thanksgiving for a harvest tend to

slight grammar and translate the clauses that speak of blessing (w. 2, 7b-8b) in

the past or perfect tenses. This dominant form-critical approach, however,

poses a problem for linguists.

The theological question: Is the translation to be decided on the basis of the

theological point of view the translator has adopted relative to the psalm? One

may, for example, hold the view that according to the text of this psalm the

blessing of the land yielding its harvest can in and by itself be enjoyed by peo-

ple--whomever and whenever. Or one can hold the view that the blessing of

God here in focus is connected with Israel's position in the world among other

nations, her unique relationship with God, and therefore cannot be rightly,

understood apart from Israel's history--apart from Torah and prophecy, exile

and return. This approach poses a problem for the exegete since the psalm

seems to explain God's blessing by two very different themes ('you [God]

judge the peoples with equity," v. 5c, and "the land has yielded its harvest," v. 7a)

and the connection between these two is left unclarified.

It is interesting to note that already in much earlier exegetical work, for

instance in de Wette's commentary, this difference of opinion existed.

According to de Wette, Psalm 67 is a general hymn that praises God and asks

for his blessing.35 Therefore, in his comment on the verb hnAt;nA in verse 7a he adopts

a present translation, "gives," and rejects J. Hitzig's36 past translation, "gave," on

the grounds that a past translation would make the psalm a song of thanksgiv-

ing for the harvest:37

7. Gives]  Hitzig: gave, as if the Psalm were a harvest song (cf., Ps. 65, 10).38

For the purpose of this article, it is important to underscore that the only

warrant that de Wette's comment offers for the rejection of Hitzig's translation

is the observation concerning the psalm's genre: It is not a song of thanksgiv-

ing for a harvest. He presents no discussion of the verbal forms as such.

However, why would a translation of the qatol verb hnAt;nA in the past tense auto-

matically turn the psalm into a thanksgiving song for a harvest?


35 de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen. In the introduction to his commentary de Wette

mentions Ps. 67 with other hymns (p. 3): "Hymnen, in welchen Jehova gepriesen wird, . . . 3) als

VolksGott,Ps. 47. 66. 67. 75" ("Hymns, in which Jehovah is praised, . . . 3) as the God of the nations,

Ps.. 47; 66; 67; 75"). In his exposition of Ps. 67 (p. 355), he Writes: "Ein Hymnus auf Jehova, ohne

besondere Veranlassung, warscheinlich fur den Tempel bestimmt. Bitte um Gnade fur das Yolk Israel,

damit die fremden Nationen Jehova erkennen (Vs. 2.3)" ("A hymn to Jehovah, without a specific

occasion, that was apparently designed for the temple. A prayer for grace on behalf of the people

Israel, so that the foreign nations recognize Jehovah").

36 J. Hitzig, Die Psalmen. Historisch-kritische Commentar nebst Ubersetzung

(Heidelberg, 1835).

37 de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen, 356.


                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      301


In any case, de Wette's negative evaluation of Hitzig's past translation

of the qatol verb hnAt;nA clearly demonstrates that the first person to face the difficulties

of grammar and theology in Psalm 67 is the translator. Any translator who

chooses one of the renderings presented above (§ 1:2)—of which, with the

exception of the REB (# 18), in our opinion, have difficulties in handling con-

sistently the syntax of mood and tenses--runs the risk of determining the

theological understanding of the psalm before his readers have even a chance

to formulate it themselves.

In the textual analysis that follows, we will search for linguistic arguments

that support the translation already proposed above (§ 1.1). This linguistic data

will also be helpful for exegetical analysis of the text in general. In section three,

we will return to the issue concerning the relationship of blessing, harvest, and



2. Textual Analysis

For the linguistic and the exegetical analysis of Psalm 67, it is important to

give close attention to its syntax, its literary form, and the actors involved. Of

special interest is the use made of verbal forms and the clause type of verse 7a.


2.1. Linguistic Data

2.1.1. Compositional Structure

In his form-critical analysis of Psalm 67, Hermann Gunkel suggested that the

text of the psalm is incomplete. He felt that the refrain of verses 4 and 6 should

be added again at the end.39

Older and more recent rhetorical analysis, however, has observed the con-

centric structure of verses 4 through 6, with verses 4 and 6 framing verse 5.40 In


38 Ibid. "7. Gibt] Hitzig: gab, als ware der Ps. ein Emtelied (cf., Ps. 65, 10)."

39 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 281. cf. Bernhard Duhrn, Die Psalmen, KHKAT (Leipzig: Verlag

van J .C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1899), 174; de Liagre Bohl and

Gemser, DePsalmen, 33; Leslie, The Psalms, 112; Edward J. Kissane, The Book of Psalms:

Translated from a Critically Revised Hebrew Text, vol. I, Psalms 1- 72

(Dublin: Browne and Noland Ltd., 1953), 285; Taylor, 'The Book of the Psalms," 4:349.

40 Cf., Nils W. Lund, "Chiasmus in the Psalms, The American Journal of Semitic

 Languages and Literature 49 (1933): 289; idem, Chiasmus in the New Testament: A

Study in Formgeschicthe (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1942), 97-98;

Grusemann, Studien zur Formgeschichte, 199-200; R. L. Alden, "Chiastic Psalms (II): A

Study in the Mechanics of Semitic Poetry in Psalms 51-100," Journal of the Evangelical

Theological Society 19 (1976): 194-95; Peter van der Lugt, Strofische Structuren in de

Bijbels Hebreeuwse Poezie: de geschiedenis van het onderzoek en een bijdrage tot de

 theorievorming omtrent

strofenbouw van de psalmen, Dissertationes Neerlandicae Series Theologica (Kampen:

Kok, 1980), 304; Tate, Psalms 51-100, 155 (he refers to Crusemann); Beyerlin, Im Licht

der Traditionen, 10-13 and 40; Weber, "Psalm LXVII," 559-561;W. S. Prinsloo, "Psalm

67: Harvest Thanksgiving Psalm, (eschatological) Hymn, Communal Prayer, Communal

Lamentor . . .?" Old Testament Essays 7 (1994): 238; J. Clinton McCann, Jr., 'The Book

of Psalms: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections," in New Interpreter's Bible

(Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 4:939; etc.




identical words, verses 4 and 6 repeat the wish that God's praise extend to the

peoples. The reason why is given in verse 5, the pivotal verse of the psalm: The

nations should praise and shout for joy because God judges them with equity

and leads them.41 The concentric structure in the psalm can be elaborated fur-

ther. The echoes of the priestly blessing are restricted to the beginning of the

psalm (v. 2) and its end (v. 7b-8a). So these verses, in turn, frame the central

block of verses 4 through 6 to form the following concentric structure that

focuses attention on verse 5 as the centerpiece of the psalm:42

2a God, may he show mercy to us,

b and may he bless us.

A         c May he make his face shine upon us

3a | (so that your way is known on earth (Cr,x,),

b your salvation among all the nations (MyiOG).

    B                 4a Let the peoples (Mym.ifa) praise you, God!

b Let all the peoples (Mymifa) praise you!

5aLet them rejoice

C                     b and shout (for joy), the nations (Mymi.xul;)

            c    (because you judge the peoples (Mym.ifa) with equity

            d   and lead the nations (Mymi.xul;) on the earth (Cr,x,).

    B'                 6a.  Let the peoples (Mymi.fa) praise you, God!

            b     Let all the peoples (Mymi.fa) praise you!

7a The land (Cr,x,) having yielded its harvest,

A'         b may God, our God, bless us.

c  May God bless us

            d  so that all the ends of the earth (Cr,x,) may revere him.

It is important to observe that within this rhetorical architecture of the

psalm a number of shifts occur. In verses 2 and 7 through 8 the same set of

actors is present. The participants are "He" (God) and "us." In verses 3 to 6, the

idiom and the set of actors is different: "You" (God) and "they" (the nations).

This change in idiom and in the set of actors makes a comparison with the text

of the Aaronic benediction of particular interest. As here, so in Numbers 6:24-26,

the blessing is located in a context of two main actors. In Numbers 6:24-26, the

actors are "Yahweh" and "you" (singular!), the individual members of the com-

munity of Israel. In Psalm 67, however, the two main actors are identified as

"God" /"He" and "us" (verses 2, 7b-8). Moreover, it is important to note astrik-


41 The concentric structure of vv. 4-6 is supported by the symmetrical sequence of

the seven-fold references to "the peoples": Mymi.fa . . . Mym.ifa (v. 4). . . Mymixul;. . . Mymif.a

. . .Mymixul; (v. 5). . . Mymi.fa . . . Mymi.fa (v. 6). Cf. Paul R Raabe, Psalm Structures: A

Study of Psalms with Refrains, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement

Series, 104 (Sheffield: jSOT Press, 1990), 200.

42 Beyerlin, Im Licht der Traditionen, 13 and 40; McCann, Jr., "The Book of

Psalms: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections," 4:939.

                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      303


ing double shift in actors in verses 3 to 6: from "God"/"He" to "you" ("God")

and from "us" (Israel) to "they" (the nations). This arresting shift means that

the dialogue of Israel and God is continued by the direct address "you," while

at the same time the role of the other actors on stage, the nations, is empha-

sized. The nations should see the blessing, understand, rejoice, and revere.

With references to "the earth," "the nations," "the peoples," and "all the ends

of the earth" in verses 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8b, the stage has been greatly enlarged.

Thus while the echo of the priestly blessing in verse 2 may suggest a

liturgical setting, the psalm neither mentions the priest, whose role it was to pro-

nounce the blessing, nor the Name to be laid on the children of Israel, as

Numbers 6:27 prescribes. Clearly, the scene is much broader than the liturgical

moment of the priestly blessing. The psalm can better be regarded as a song of

the community in response to a particular blessing experienced in history.

In view of the above observations, the importance of verse 8 becomes

known. Already in verse 7b the psalm returns to the first set of actors: May "He"

bless "us." However, in verse 8 one finds the combination of all the actors on

stage: "May God bless us, that all the ends of the earth (they) may fear Him!"

Thus while the rhetorical composition of the psalm may indeed have a con-

centric structure, the shift in the set of actors means that the concluding verses

of the psalm (vv. 7b-8) do not merely repeat its opening lines (vv. 2-3). Rather,

it ends by integrating the roles of all the actors.

That still leaves one special clause, namely, verse 7a: 'The land has yielded

its harvest." What is the meaning of this clause in this context? To whom is this

message directed? The qatol form of the verb hnAt;nA is of particular interest and

could contain the clue to the psalm's interpretation. How is it to be under-

stood? Is it to be read as referring to the past (Gunkel: expressive of thanksgiv-

ing), to the present (de Wette: expressive of present experience of blessing), to

a wish (NEB: expressive of a prayer for blessing), or to a certain future as the

NIV suggests? Before we can address that question, we need to examine the syn-

tax of the text as a whole.


2.1.2. Clause Types and Verbal Forms

The text of Psalm 67 is dominated by the use of yiqtol and weyiqtol verbal

forms (fourteen clauses out of nineteen--leaving aside two cases of hlAs,) a

majority of them (eleven) occupying the initial position in their clauses. A spe-

cial difficulty with the translation of yiqtol verbal forms is the fact that one does

not always find sufficient morphological clues to decide in a particular text

whether these are indicative or modal verbs. With first-person verbs, one may

find the form extended by a h-A, the so-called cohortative. With other verbal lex-

emes, one may meet the shortened form of the second- or third-person yiqtol

the so-called jussive (as in vynAPA rxeyA; v. 2c). However, in the case of the usual yiq-

tol verbal form, such as UHm;w;yi (v. 5b) and Unker;bAy; (vv. 7b, 8a), modality is not

morphologically marked.




Alviero Niccacci has suggested that one should search for syntactical

marker of modality in addition to the morphological ones.43 In our judgment,

two of the syntactical markers of a modal yiqtol verb that he proposes apply to the text

of Psalm 67-first, when the third-person yiqtol form occupies the initial position

in a clause (e.g. j~UdOy vv. 4 and 6), and second, when the yiqtol is continued

by a weyiqtol (as in vv. 2b, 5b and 8b). We are aware that with poetry one has to

be careful, since syntax may be overruled by a particular rhetorical design, such

as fronting or chiasm. We believe, however, that the syntactical markers

Niccacci has identified are valid for the interpretation of Psalm 67.

We have already pointed out that most translations quoted above (§ 1.2)

accept modality in their reading of verse 2. The problems are with verses 7b and

8a, where, in spite of the fact that the same yiqtol verbal form Unker;bAy; occupies

the initial position in each clause, translations differ widely. The identical verb

is rendered "has blessed," "did bless," "may X bless," "blesses," and “will bless."

This variety in translation leads to the conclusion that the lack of morphologi-

cal marking has clearly been taken as an opportunity to translate in accord with

one's exegetical preferences. In our view, that is not a valid practice. To warrant

this judgment, we will focus the reader's attention on verse 7a.

Verse 7a is a crucial clause for the translation and interpretation of Psalm 67.

Apart from it, one could read this psalm as a prayer for God's blessing and an

invitation to all nations to praise him because of his blessings. However, its

presence cannot be ignored--both what it states and its linguistic form is unexpected.

We must first consider the clause type that verse 7a represents. Here the

subject (Cr,x,, "earth," "land"), rather than the verb (hnAt;nA, "she gives") is in the

clause initial position, and this verb has a qatol form in distinction from the vast

majority of yiqtol and weyiqtol verbal forms. In fact, it is the only qatol verb

employed in Psalm 67! Why does this fronting of the subject occur, and why is

the qatol verbal form used?

Next we need to consider why the subject Cr,x, stands here without the def-

inite article such as is implied in the pointing of this noun in verses 3a (Cr,xABA,

"on the earth") and 5d (Cr,xABA). This fact, together with the combination of

"earth" and "harvest" suggest that with the word Cr,x, a new entity is being intro-

duced. Verses 3a and 5d speak of the earth as the habitation of peoples, but in

verse 7a, the noun refers to cultivated land, to soil or ground yielding its har-


45 A Niccacci, "A Neglected Point of Hebrew Syntax: Yiqtol and Position in the

Sentence," Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Liber Annuus 37 (1987): 7-19. For other

opinions see: H. Jagersma, "Some remarks on the jussive in Numbers 6:24-26" in Von

Kanaan bis Kerala (Fs. J. P.M. van der Ploeg), eds. W.C. Delsman, J. T. Nelis, J.

R T. M. Peters, W. H. Ph. Romer, A. S. van der Woude, AOAT Bd., 211 (Neukirchen-

Vluyn:NeukirchenerVerlag, 1982), 131-36; and Ch. Hatav, The Semantics of Aspect and

 Modality: Evidence from English and Biblical Hebrew, SLCS: Studies in Language

Companion Series, 34 (Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1997), 152-6.1. Cf.

Klaus Seybold, Der aaronitische Segen. Studien zu Numeri 6,22-27 (Neukirchen-

Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsvereins, 1977), 22-23.

                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      305


vest. So we have the statement about "the44 land has yielded its harvest" placed

between two exclamations, "Let all the peoples praise you!" (v. 6b) and "May

God bless us!" (v. 7b).

The translations presented above (§ 1.2) show that usually not much atten-

tion is being paid to these important linguistic details. Rather, the translations

have been based on general literary or theological considerations:

As was noted above, de Wette's comments on Hitzig's translation of the

qatol verb hnAt;nA in verse 7a demonstrate that Psalm 67 was already at that

time interpreted in terms of a ceremony of thanksgiving on the occasion of the summer

harvest.45 Later Gunkel classified the psalm as a song of thanksgiving for a har-

vest festival (ErnteDanklied).46 To support this classification, Gunkel was forced

to resort to textual emendation of the yiqtol verbs of verse 2.47

A more theological variation to the concept of a grain harvest is the

idea that the psalm refers to eschatological times when all peoples will make a pilgrim-

age to Jerusalem for worship48--a "harvest" for the God of Israel.49 Now,

although one need not exclude such a reading out of hand as an option in the

psalm's later employment, it does not offer much help for linguistic analysis of

the text. Translations based on this view also render both the qatol and the yiqtol

verbal forms of verse 7 in the present tense, as if there were no difference here

both in verbal form and clause type.


2.2. "Beyond Form Criticism": Linguistic Analysis

It is clear that a premature interest in the psalm's literary genre and its loca-

tion in the history of religion or a premature conclusion as to its theological

import do not encourage close attention to language and grammar as the

source of basic clues for proper reading. Of course, most exegetes would not

deny that methodologically a linguistic analysis of a text should be given prior-

ity over theological interest. It is generally acknowledged that analytical exam-

ination of the language of a text precedes interpretation. Nevertheless, in

practice all interpreters face the difficulty of when arid how to combine analy-

sis and interpretation. We do not wish to suggest that we will provide the final

answer to this complex issue, but we do want to demonstrate one way to move

from linguistic analysis to theological interpretation.


44 In English one cannot avoid introducing the use of the definite article before "land."

45 de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen, 356.

46 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 280. For a discussion of Gunkel's position see Kraus,

Psalms 60-150, 40.

47 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 281. For a critique see: Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 40.

48 Suggested, among others, by van Uchelen, Psalmen, 2: 184. Buttenweiser,

The Psalms, 787, also reads Ps. 67 as an eschatological hymn.

49 H. A Wiersinga, Zendingsperspectief in het Oude Testament (Baarn:

Bosch & Keuning, 1954), 76.




            To that end, we will first search the Old Testament for linguistic parallels to

the text of verse 7a, using the Bible software program Quest.50 Using this com-

puter-search software, we will be concerned to find two types of parallels: (1)

texts with the same or similar idiom (analogies of a lexical type); and (2) texts

with the same or similar grammatical clause type (analogies of a syntactic type) .


2.2.1. Lexical Parallels

To discover lexical parallels to Psalm 67:7a, a "query" was composed that

requested verses that have the verb NtanA, "to give," followed by a maximum of

two words, one of which is to be yriP;, "fruit," or lUby;, "produce," "harvest."51 A

reversed order of the elements was also allowed. The result of the search was

the following collection of lexical parallels, which, for reasons of space, are

listed without their full contexts:

Then the land will yield its fruit                    h.yAr;Pi Cr,xAha hnAt;nAv; Lev 25:19

And the land will yield its harvest               h.lAUby; Cr,xAhA hnAt;nAv; Lev 26:4

And your land will not yield its

harvest                              h.lAUby;-tx, Mk,c;r;xa NTeti-xlov; Lev 26:20

And the soil will not yield its

harvest                                 h.lAUby;-tx, NTeTi xlo hmAdAxEhAv; Dt 11:17

And the land will yield its harvest                h.lAUby; NTeTi Cr,xAhAv; Ez 34:27

And the land will yield its harvest       h.lAUby;-tx, NTeTi Cr,xAhAv; Zech 8:12

(The) land has yielded its harvest                       h.lAUby; hnAt;nA Cr,x, Ps 67:7

And our land will yield its harvest                :h.lAUby; NTeTi Uncer;xav; Ps 85:13

The expression h.lAUby; hnAt;nA Cr,x, in Psalm 67:7a appears to be closely

related to two groups of texts. The first of these consists of texts from the Torah:

Leviticus 25:19 (which concerns the year of Jubilee) and Leviticus 26:4, 20 and

Deuteronomy 11:17 (which concern the blessings and curses of the covenant

that are contingent on Israel's obedience or disobedience of Yahweh's com-

mandments) .The clustering of the words earth, harvest, and blessing found here

is also present in Psalm 67, but the connection with the commandments of the

Torah is not. What, then, about the second group of texts, namely, Ezekiel 34:27,

Zechariah 8:12, and Psalm 85:12[13], texts in which a successful harvest

belongs to traditional prophetic expectations associated with the renewal of

Israel's life after their return from exile?52


50 E. Talstra, C. Hardmeier, J. A Groves, eds., Quest: Electronic Concordance

 Applications for  the Hebrew Bible (data base and retrieval software) (Haarlem:

NBG, 1992).

51 Quest applies a particular type of "queries" that the user can compose

with the help of a subroutine. For details see the manual: J. A Groves, H.J. Bosman,

J. H. Harmsen, E. Talstra, User

Manual Quest: Electronic Concordance Application for the Hebrew Bible

(Haarlem.. NBC, 1992), 1-128.

52 Cf. Hos. 2:21-22 [23-24]; Isa. 4:2; 30:23-25; Jer. 31:12; Ezek. 36:29-30.


                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      307


Ezekiel 34:20-31 announces that God will act as a judge and will appoint a

new shepherd to Israel, namely, "My servant David" (vv. 23, 24). In this way,

God will bring peace and security (vv. 25, 27) to his people. Verse 26 also makes

an explicit reference to "blessing." Rains will bring their blessings (v. 26) and,

as a result, "the trees of the field will yield their fruit and the land will yield its

harvest" (v. 27; cf., Lev. 26:4, 20).

The promise of Ezekiel 34:27 should be compared with Psalm 85:.12[13]:

Indeed, Yahweh will bestow what is good,   bOF.ha NTeyi hvAhy;-MGA a

and our land will yield its harvest.                    :h.lAUby; NTeTi Uncer;xav; b

But an even stronger analogy is present in Zechariah 8:9-13.

This portion of Zechariah's prophecy is framed bywords of encouragement

"Let your hands be strong" (v. 9) and "Do not be afraid, but let your hands be

strong" (v. 13). The new generation is summoned to reflect upon earlier

prophetic words spoken when the temple was being rebuilt (v. 9). Before that

time there were no benefits produced for humans or animals (v. 10). However,

now (v. 11) a new time will begin. God will give prosperity. Verse 12 describes

the new beginning as follows:

because a seed of peace                                                  MOlwAha fraz,-yKi a

the vine will yield its fruit,                                            h.yAr;Pi NTeTi Np,G,ha b

the ground will produce its harvest,                 h.lAUby;-tx, NTeTi Cr,xAhAv; c

and the heavens will drop their dew.                        Ml.AFa UnT;yi Myimw.hav; d

and I will cause the remnant of this

people               hl.,xe-lKA-tx, hz.,ha MfAhA tyrixew;-tx, yTil;Han;hiv; e

to possess all these things.

The opening words of this verse (MOlwA.ha fraz,-yKi, "because a seed of the

peace") are difficult. A. S. van der Woude transposes the definite article   .ha from

MOlw.Aha and attaches it as a pronominal suffix to fr,za (h.fAr;za, "her seed").53 The

result is a nonverbal clause: MOlwA h.fAr;za ("haar zaaizaad gedijt," "her seed is

fruitful"). In spite of the difficulties,54 the general thrust of the clause cannot be

missed. It is clear that "the vine will yield its fruit (h.yAr;pi NTeTi Np,G,ha), the ground

will yield its harvest (h.lAUby;-tx, NTeTi Cr,xAhAv;), and heavens will give their dew"

(v. 12). Then Judah and Israel will become a blessing to the nations (v. 13:

hkArAB; Mt,yyih;vi; cf. Hag 1:10; 2:19)-a theme elaborated in verses 20-22.

The analogies with postexilic prophecy in terms of both lexical data and the

actors involved suggest another reading of Psalm 67 than that it is just a general

liturgical text expressing the community's gratitude for a good harvest. The

prophetic words speak of a new beginning. After the return from exile and the


53 A.S. van der Woude, Zachariah, POT (Nijkerk: Callenbach, 1984), 142.

54 For a defense of the Massoretic Text, See: R Hanhart, Sacharja, BKAT

Dodekapropheton, 7.1 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1998), 517, 525, 535.

Hanhart translates MOlwAha fraz, as "Same des Friedens" ("seed of peace").




restoration of the temple, a good harvest is a sign of hope, confirming that,

indeed, a new time has begun. It may well be, therefore, that we have in Psalm

67 an echo of this prophetic word: “The land has yielded its harvest," now may

God bless us (cf. Zech. 8:13), and may it be visible to all the nations. It should

be recalled that Leviticus 26:42 also promised that after the devastation and

exile God would remember the land.

If the analogy of Psalm 67 to the prophetic word in Zechariah 8:12,

based on lexical and syntactical comparison, is accepted as plausible, we must return to

the question of how to read the qatol verbal form of Psalm 67:7a and how this

reading would influence the analysis of the yiqtol verbal forms in verses 7b and

8a. The question is: Are they to be translated as past, as present, or as jussives in

accordance with the same verbal forms in verse 2?


2.2.2. Syntactical Parallels

To propose a solution to this question, it is necessary to find other instances

of clauses in the Old Testament that have a syntactical structure similar to Psalm

67:7: a fronted noun followed by a qatol verb in the first clause and a yiqtol verb

in the next clause. For that, a computer search was made based on the follow-

ing query: a noun, a qatol verbal form, a maximum of two words, and a yiqtol ver-

bal form. This search, under the constraint of a noun in the initial position,

yielded only a small number of texts: but some were found. Comparing them

appears to warrant the conclusion that a qatol-->yiqtol sequence constitutes

a syntactical pattern to be rendered: "when A has happened, B will or should


Two examples suffice to illustrate this sequence. The first example is Amos 3:8:

Has a lion roared,                                                                gxAwA hyer;xa a qatol

who would not be afraid?                                               xrAyyi xlo ymi b yiqtol

Has the Sovereign LORD spoken,              rB,Di hvihy; ynAdoxE c qatol

who would not prophesy?                                            :xben.Ayi xlo ymi d yiqtol

The second example is Ezekiel 33:16:

Has he done right and justice;                           hWAfA hqAdAc;U FPAw;mi c qatol

he shall surely live.                                                                hy,hyi OyHA d yiqtol

If one removes the constraint of the fronted noun, one finds more instances of

the qatol-->yiqtol type. A few examples are: Psalms 46:7; 56:5; and 77:17.


55 Cf., Delitzsch, Biblischer Commtmtar uber die Psalmen, 1:461; Weber, "Psalm LXVII,

"561. Weber reject Beyerlin's present-tense translation ofvv. 2, 7b-8a because it is based on the

textual emendation of the yiqtol verb rxeyA in v. 2c (p. 8) and, in line with the interpretation of the

qatol - yiqtol sequence proposed in this article, renders v. 7 as: "Das Land hat seinen Ertrag

gegeben-Jahwe, unser Gott, moge uns wiederum/weiterhin segnen" ("The land has yielded its

harvest-may Yahweh, our God, bless us once more/again").


                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      309


The examples found in Amos 3:8 and Ezekiel 33:16 demonstrate the dis-

tinct possibility that a yiqtol clause following a qatol clause can express a modal-

ity. That means that also in Psalm 67:7 and 8 it is possible to translate according

to the syntactical rule proposed by Niccacci, namely, that a modal use of a

clause initial yiqtol verb (v. 8a) is corroborated by the weyiqtol following it (v. 8b). 

Therefore, the yiqtol verbs in verses 7 and 8 can be translated modally in a way similar

to verse 2.

7a The land having yielded its harvest,                                 perfect

 b may God, our God, bless us.                                             modal

8a May God bless us                                                  modal

 b so that all the ends of the earth may revere him.             modal (purpose)

The fronting of the indefinite noun Cr,x,,. implies the introduction of a new

actor in the text or-in case the actor is known already-an explicit turn to the

actor's role.57 As was noted above (§ 2.1.2), it is "earth" as land that God causes

to yield a harvest. This explicit reference is reflected in the proposed transla-

tion: "The land having yielded. . . ."

It seems to us that the lexical and the syntactical data can be joined to assist

in the interpretation of Psalm 67. A clear analogy to the text of Zechariah 8 is

present. The new times, the time of renewal has begun, as is signaled by the fact

that a new harvest has been given. May God now continue to bless his people,

and may the nations see it and understand what is happening.

We find it of considerable interest that a similar explanation is already men-

tioned in de Wette's commentary. In his introduction to Psalm 67, de Wette58

refers to the work of Heinrich Ewald.59 And Ewald translates verses 7 through

8 with modality:

The earth already gives its fruit: may God, our God, bless us!

May God bless us, so that all earth's bounds may fear him.60

and he comments61:

From the close ver. 7 it is further clear that such high wishes were formed

precisely in a time when the new settlement was snatched from imminent


56 Cf, REB; J.J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms: A New Translation with

explanatory notes for English readers, 9th ed. rev. (London: George Bell and Sons, 1901), 279.

57 C. H. J. van der Merwe, J. A Naude, J. H. Kroeze, A Biblical Hebrew Reference

Grammar; Biblical Languages: Hebrew 3 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), § 47.2.b

(p. 347).

58 de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen, 335.

59 Heinrich Ewald, Die poetischen Bucher des Allen Bundes. Erster Theil.

Algemeines uber die hebraische Poesie und uber das Psalmenbuch (Gottingen: VandenHoeck

 und Ruprecht, 1839). English translation: G. Heinrich A. v. Ewald, Commentary on the Psalms,

trans. E. Johnson (London: WillIams and Norgate,1880).

60 Ewald Die poetischen Bucher: 372 (translation mine) The German reads: "Erde gibt

schon ihre Frucht: segne Gott uns, unser Gott! segne Gott uns, dass ihn furchten alle Erdengrenzen.

61 Ewald, Commentary on the Psalms, 2:199.





distress by an unexpectedly rich harvest, (therefore plainly enough at the

time of Haggai, see above on Ps. cxxvi) and this first blessing might serve as

pledge for the further greater ones.

As noted earlier, de Wette himself assigns a rather broad cultic function to

Psalm 67, even while mentioning some other views, including that of Ewald. His

comments on Ewald's views are too short, however, to know precisely what he

thinks of them. He writes:

Ewald considers the Psalm to be a pronouncement of the priestly blessing

from the postexilic time of restoration, with a view to the expectations of

the new colony, on the occasion of a plentiful harvest."62

As should be clear from the preceding discussion, it is our view that Ewald's

understanding of the text can be supported. We would emphasize, however, that the

focus is not just on a particular harvest in and by itself. The connection with the

prophetic texts makes clear that the important theme is a harvest experienced as

a sign for Israel's new future among the nations.


3. Interpretation: Text, Methodology and Theology

3.1. Linguistic Data

Relating Psalm 67:7 to postexilic prophecies of renewal, especially to the

text of Zechariah 8, helps to find a theological position for the psalm where

"blessing," "harvest" and "history" are connected in a meaningful way. Our pro-

posal is to view the psalm in a theological frame of reference similar to the sit-

uation found in postexilic prophecy. There one finds the same extended set of

actors as in Psalm 67:8 interacting on one stage in relationship to God's bless-

ing, namely, God, Israel, the peoples, the earth, the harvest.

When one takes account of what has been observed concerning the syntacti-

cal and lexical relationships of Psalm 67:7 with the texts of Ezekiel 34:27 and

Zechariah 8:12, the first conclusion to be drawn is methodological. It becomes

apparent that translators and exegetes "do not live by assumptions about literary

genre alone." We emphasize not alone. It is a matter of priority. Analysis of the

linguistic features of a text should be done first--both lexical and grammatical.

If one reads Psalm 67 bringing immediately to bear certain assumptions

about the history of religion and cult, one may end up missing the point of

what the composition as a whole is expressing. Of course, with the linguistic

approach we are arguing for one is making assumptions as well. The basic

assumption is that related texts exhibit related idiom, grammar, and actors.


62 de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen, 356. "Ewald halt den Ps. fur eine

Ausfuhrung des priesterlichen Segensspruchs aus der Zeit der Wiederherstellung nach

dem Exil, mit Rucksicht auf die Hoffnungen der neuen Colonie, auf Anlass einer reichen

Ernte (Vs. 7)."


                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      311


The combination of these elements is important. It is not enough merely to be

able to register a number of identical words. In combination, however, these

linguistic data provide an effective starting point in textual analysis.


3.2. Discourse and History of Religion

By locating Psalm 67 in a recurring cultic ceremony and explaining it as a

song of praise on the occasion of a harvest, one turns the contents of the text

into a general one. Then it merely says: God did bless us; may all nations see it

and be impressed. From this presupposed cultic setting one proceeds immedi-

ately to interpretation. The text's setting is then the interaction of cult and har-

vest season.

A more formal linguistic and syntactical comparison of Psalm 67 with other

texts in the biblical corpus follows a reverse path. First, one undertakes an

analysis of the text and a comparison with other texts. That makes it possible to

analyze the text as one that participates in a discourse, as a text that takes a

stand in a particular theological dialogue. The psalm's text can be analyzed in

the theological context of postexilic prophecy in Ezekiel, Haggai, and

Zechariah. One can also compare parallels of Psalm 67:5 and 8 with Isaiah

52:10, Psalms 96:13 and Psalm 98:8. Such comparisons produce what one could

call a literary-theological setting of the text.

Assigning the text to a particular time and place, if possible at all, is much

more a matter of hypothesis. For a complete interpretation, that needs to be

tried also,63 but it is a second step in the exegetical procedure. One could, for

example, assume a cultic setting in the second temple where the priestly bless-

ing was pronounced, as is described in the book of Ben Sirah, chapter 50:20-21.

The high priest Simon blessed the community using the Name of God in accor-

dance with the text of the priestly blessing. The Septuagint version of Sirah

speaks of the Name, but refers to God with the word ku<rioj ("Lord"). Simon

"gave the blessing of the LORD (dou?nai eu]logi<an kuri<on) using the name of

the LORD (e]n o]no<mati au]tou?).64 Psalm 67 may have been sung at a similar

occasion, but, of course, this cannot be more than a hypothesis.

However, the exegetical task should properly begin by locating a text

first in the biblical corpus, rather than first in the context of religio-historical assump-

tions. As we see it, the exegetical procedure chosen determines whether one

reads Psalm 67 in terms of a "harvest" as the occasion for an annual harvest fes-

tival or a particularly significant "harvest" in Israel's history.


63 Cf., H. G. Jefferson, 'The Date of Psalm LXVII," Vetus Testamentum 12 (1962): 201-5.

64 Cf. Seybold, Der aaronitische Segen, 15.

312                             CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL



3.3. Reading in Canonical Context: Interpretation and Theology

A positioning of the text in terms of theological discourse, rather than an

assignment of the text to a cultic setting of ancient religion, will allow modern

readers to interact with the text and to address questions of theological impor-

tance. The main questions the text of Psalm 67 evokes are about the relationship

of Israel and the nations and about the nature of God's blessing. What kind of

blessing is expressed by the successful harvest referred to in verse 7a: a blessing

in accordance with the creation order or a blessing of historical significance?

The empirical referent of the declarative statement in Psalm 67:7a is clear:

The land has yielded its harvest. The question is: How does one interpret the

meaning of this successful harvest?

In their interpretation, exegetes may decide to concentrate on a blessing of

God that is experienced as part of the regular pattern of creation (Gen 1:11; cf.

8:22). That is how Kraus reads Psalm 67 in his commentary.65 According to him,

verses 7 and 8 refer to the experience of the ground yielding its fruits, and this

should give reason for a universal recognition of the God of Israel among the

nations.66 Since the setting of this text is a cultic ceremony, Psalm 67 is to be

sung as a response of the community to the priest's pronouncement of the

Aaronic blessing.

Kraus' interpretation implies that the emphasis is on God as creator and as

judge and as ruler of the world (verse 5). The nations are dependent on the

same creator as Israel. They will see the salvation and blessing by God and be

joyful and reverently acknowledge him.67

Two arguments can be raised against this view. First, it would be the only

case in the list of harvest texts (§ 2.2.1.) with such a direct focus on creation.

The other texts all belong to the idiom of covenantal blessing and curse or the

prophetic idiom of renewal after the exile. Second, as the translations pre-

sented above (§ 1.2) demonstrate, this theological view requires a nonmodal

reading of the yiqtol verbal forms of verses 7 and 8. However, this disturbs the

composition of the psalm, since in verse 2 most translators continue to accept

modality expressed by the yiqtol forms.

The linguistic data discussed above call for an interpretation of Psalm 67

that concentrates on the experience of blessing in a specific historical setting.

The prayer for God's blessing and the wish that God's praise extend to the peo-

ples belong together based on experienced history--a new beginning made

after the exile. The prophetic words of Zechariah 8:12 provide the theological


65 Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 41-42. To be fair to him, however, one should note that,

like Delitzsch, he (p. 42) also claims that every harvest is a fulfillment of the promise in Lev 26.4.

            66 Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 42.

67 Ibid.

68 Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute,

Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 500.


                        PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY      313


framework for arriving at an interpretation of life in a new situation. That the

"land has yielded its fruits" is a signal. Dearly God still cares, so may he continue

to give his blessing.

How would the nations fit into this history? Walter Brueggemann, in his

Theology of the Old Testament, offers a proposal.68 He assumes a certain shift

in the actors of the psalm. In verse 2, "May he bless us" refers to Israel, but in

verses 7 through 8, "may he bless us" includes the "the peoples" as well.

This extension of "us" is an interesting suggestion. One might suppose that

when Psalm 67 is sung in a Christian church the congregation is actually per-

forming the reading suggested by Brueggemann. In our judgment, however, this

extension belongs to the reception of the text rather than to its interpretation.

To be sure, as regards the nations, Psalm 67 comes close to statements that

can be found in Zechariah 8. There, in verse 23, we are told that other peoples

will address members of the restored Jewish community and say to them, "Let

us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you." But they still say

"you" and not "us."

However, even if we are not prepared to follow Brueggemann and read the

nations into the psalm as part of the "us," the moment does come when we get

involved. Even so, we are not involved as participants in the text but as its new

readers. Also, as modern readers, our main challenge in the psalm's interpreta-

tion remains for us to find the proper balance among blessing, harvest, and his-

tory. Reading and singing requires awareness of our full tradition. Singing Psalm

67 implies that one cannot call a successful harvest a blessing without knowing

one's history--the history of Israel and the history of the Christian community.

We should not mistake success in and by itself for salvation or blessing.

Experience with history and prophecy helps to explain the harvest as a sign. It

is a sign that God's history with his people goes on. Equally importantly, it is a

sign that God's history goes on not exclusively with his own people. The func-

tion of this signally important harvest is to catch the attention of the nations and

move them to recognize and praise God. The particular history of God and Israel

is meant to become a blessing for all--as the prophecy of Zechariah 8 announces.

The words of Psalm 67 about God's blessing constitute the point were crea-

tion and history are in touch.69 The sphere of human experience is not just an

arena of daily competition and of good luck or bad luck. It is the area wherein

God gives his signs as an invitation to participate in his particular history with

Israel, the church, and all mankind.

69 Cf. the interesting paper on "blessing" as a theological theme on the edge of “nature” and

"history" by H.-P. Muller: "Segen im Alten Testament. Theologische Implikationen eines halb

vergessenen Themas," Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche 87 (1990): 1-32.


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

           Calvin Theological Seminary
3233 Burton St SE
                        Grand Rapids
, MI  49546


Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: