Restoration Quarterly 17.3 (1974) 162-184.

       Copyright © 1974 by Restoration Quarterly, cited with permission.




               “Yahweh Is King over All the Earth”

                       An Exegesis of Psalm 47



                                             LEO G. PERDUE

                                               Jerusalem, Israel



            Few genres of Old Testament literature have solicited as much

attention as Enthronement Hymns. Literally hundreds of articles,

monographs, and books have been written dealing with this genre

during the past fifty years.1 This investigation will attempt to survey

the major trends of cultic studies which specifically deal with

"Enthronement Hymns" and to present an exegesis of a representative

psalm, Psalm 47.


                                         Enthronement Psalms

            Psalms 47, 93, 96, 97, 98, and 99 have been classified as

Enthronement Psalms, a Gattung which is a subdivision of the hymnic

genre and, therefore, shares the essential formal characteristics of the

Hymn.2 The basic reason for giving these psalms an independent status

is the unique content which evokes praise of Yahweh as king and the

cry of enthronement: YHWH malak.3 Enthronement Psalms present

two different concepts of the establishment of Yahweh's rule as king:

93, 96, and 97 depict Yahweh's rule as resulting from his defeat of his

divine adversaries, chaos and the abyss, in the creation event; 47, 98,

and 99 center his rule upon his activity as the Divine Warrior who

defeats the nations and establishes the Twelve Tribes in Canaan.4


            1. For a comprehensive survey, see E. Lipinski, La Royaute de Yahwe dans la

Poesie et le Cu/te de l'Ancien lsrael (Brussel: Paleis der Academien, 1968).

            2. H.-J. Kraus (Psalmen, I [BKAT 15/1, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener

Verlag, 1960] XLII) presents a succinct form critical analysis of the hymnic


            3. Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967) p. 36.

            4. J. D. W. Watts, "Yahweh Malak Psalms," TZ XXI (1965) 341.




86                                Restoration Quarterly


            Attempts to ascertain the specific 'Situation in Life' which gave rise

to these psalms have led to quite a number of theories. The following

include the more important positions taken by major scholars.

            Post-Exilic Eschatology. Efforts to reconstruct possible historical

situations reflected in 'Enthronement Hymns' have generally met with

little acceptance.5 More noteworthy has been the view of Gunkel that

such psalms belong within the framework of post-exilic eschatology

which gave expression to a future hope in the intervention of Yahweh,

an expression given formative impetus by Deutero-Isaiah,6 though such

a view has not elicited favorable response among contemporary


            Cultic Life Situations. Since Mowinckel the Enthronement Hymns

have generally been regarded as originating in the cult. Efforts to

reconstruct a specific cultic situation are complex indeed, as can be

noted by the wide divergence of scholarly opinion.

            The appearance of Sigmund Mowinckel's Psalmenstudien

revolutionized the understanding of Israel's cultus. Though anticipated

to some extent by Gressmann and, unknown to Mowinckel, Volz,7

Mowinckel's second volume, Das Thronbesteigungs fest Jahwas and der

Ursprung der Eschatologie, appearing in 1920, initiated the basic foci

around which cultic investigation in general and studies concerning

Enthronement Hymns in particular were to revolve for the next half

century. Rejecting Gunkel's view that Enthronement Hymns were the

product of the post-exilic eschatological vision, Mowinckel sought to

reconstruct an Israelite New Year's Festival as a part of which Yahweh

was annually enthroned as the universal king in a creative cultic


            5. For example, see the work of C. A. Briggs (The Books of Psalms [ICC

15/1; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906] ).

            6. H. Gunkel and J. Begrich, Einleitung in die Psalmen (Gottingen:

Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1933). Gunkel later came to accept Mowinckel's

theory of an enthronement festival in a modified form, though his ideas of the

eschatological nuance still remained. Lipinski's critique (La Royaute de Yahwe,

43-4) of a strictly eschatological interpretation is most cogent: "Rien ne permet

d'affirmer, telle est une premiere remarque, que ces psaumes se referent un

avenir lointain. Au contraire, le parfait des verbes, et notamment celui de la

formule fondamentale Yahweh Malak, semble indiquer qu'il s'agit du passe ou du


            7. H. Gressmann, Der Ursprung der israelitisch-judischen Eschatologie

(FR LANT 6; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1905) 294-301; and P.

Volz, Das Neujahrsfest Jahwes (L.aubhuttenfest) (SGV 67; Tubingen: J. C. B.

Mohr [Paul Siebeck] , 1912).


                      Perdue: Yahweh is King                               87


drama.8  His sources for such a reconstruction included the Babylonian

Akitu Festival, the Osirus-Horus complex in Egypt, late Jewish sources,

and various materials scattered throughout the Old Testament (over 40

psalms; II Sam. 6, I Kgs. 8; I Chr. 16; Neh. 8:10-12; Zech, 14; and Hos.

7:5). According to Mowinckel, the festival included two strata of

tradition: that involving an agricultural festival borrowed from Canaan

(Feast of Tabernacles-Feast of Yahweh, Ex. 23:16; 34:22) and that

concerning the royal ideology after the adoption of kingship by Israel.

The festival consisted of an ark procession led by the king to the temple

where Yahweh was to be enthroned (Pss. 24; 132; II Sam. 6); the

dramatic enactments of the myths of creation and Yahweh's battle with

the dragon, the victory over the gods, the exodus, the battle with the

nations; and theophanic judgment. Finally the enthronement of

Yahweh is announced by the cry "Yahweh has become king." As a

result, Yahweh's covenant with David is renewed, Israel's fortunes are

guaranteed for the coming year, and the reign of the new creation is

initiated. Such a festival existed during the time of the monarchy, but

after the exile disintegrated into the three major Jewish feasts of New

Year, Atonement, and Tabernacles.9

            Though such an impressive reconstruction has been accepted by

many scholars, it is subject to several criticisms. In regard to sources,

Mowinckel has been criticized for inferring too much influence from

external evidence, especially as concerns the Babylonian New Year's

Festival,10 for overstressing Rabbinical materials,11 and for piecing


            8. Sigmund Mowinckel, Psalmenstudien I I (Oslo, 1920. Reprinted by Verlag

P. Schippers, Amsterdam, 1961), 1-340. Mowinckel states: Der Kult ist nicht nur

ursprunglich, sondern uberall and immer, ein Drama ... nicht lediglich ein

gespieltes Drama, ein Spiel, sondern ein wirkliches and Wirklichkeit

hervorbringendes Drama, ein Drama, das mit realer Kraft das dramatisierte

Ereignis verwirklicht, eine Wirklichkeit, aus der reale Krafte hervorstrahlen, oder

mit anderen Worten ein Sakrament." (Psalmenstudien II, 21).

            9. Psalmenstudien II, 3-145. In his more recent study (The Psalms in Israel's

Worship I [New York: Abingdon Press, 1962], pp. 130ff.), he has placed

emphasis upon the Ugaritic materials involving Baal and Anath and has

reconstructed a New Year's Festival at Ugarit.

            10. A. R. Johnson, "The Psalms," The Old Testament and Modern Study (ed.

H. H. Rowley; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951) p. 195.

            11. L. I. Pap, Das israelitische Neujahrsfest (Kampen, 1933). For a summary of

Pap's arguments presented in his book, which was unavailable to me, see Lipinski,

"Les Psaumes de la Royaute de Yahwe dans I'Exege'se Moderne," Le Psautier

(Orientalia et Biblica Lovaniensia IV; Louvain: Publications Universitaires, 1962)

pp. 252-254.


88                                Restoration Quarterly


together too many diverse elements of the Old Testament, which never

actually mentions such a festival by name.12 Some scholars have also

questioned the translation of YHWH malak as an enthronement cry.

            Mowinckel's statements concerning external influences were too

cautious for two groups of scholars, the Myth-Ritual School of S. H.

Hooke13 and the Uppsala School of Scandinavian scholars including

Ivan Engnell, G. Widengren, and Aage Bentzen.14 These two schools

have advanced the idea of a ritual pattern common to the religions of

the ancient Near East, involving an annual New Year's Festival in which

was enacted the enthronement of the god-king who represented the

community and portrayed the role of the deity in the cultic drama.

Such a festival included the dramatic representation of the death and

resurrection of the god, the enactment of the myth of creation, the

ritual combat in which the god defeated his enemies, the hieros gamos,

and the triumphal procession of the god-king to the palace where he

was enthroned.15 Such cultic enactments symbolized ancient man's

quest for order over chaos, riches over poverty, satiety over need, in

short, life over death.

            It is quite improbable that Yahweh was ever regarded as a dying and

rising fertility god, even in the syncretistic cult of Jerusalem during the

monarchy, or that a hieros gamos was enacted.16 The idea of divine



            12. Such criticism fails to discredit Mowinckel's thesis, since he indicates that

the enthronement ceremony was only one component of the larger Feast of


            13. The views of this 'school' are presented in several volumes edited by

Hooke: Myth and Ritual, Essays on the Myth and Ritual of the Hebrews in

Relation to the Cultic Pattern of the Ancient East (London: Oxford University

Press, 1933); The Labyrinth, Further Studies in the Relation between Myth and

Ritual in the Ancient World (London: SPCK, 1935); and Myth, Ritual, and

Kingship (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958).

            14. I. Engnell, Studies in Divine Kingship in the Ancient Near East (2d ed.;

Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967); G. Widengren, Sakrales Ki nigtum im Alten Israel

and im Judentum (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1952); and A. Bentzen, "King

ldeology-'Urmensch'-'Troonsbestijgingsfeest'," StTh 111 (1950) 143-57.

            15. For a complete analysis of the Myth-Ritual School, see C. Hauret,

"L'Interpretation des Psaumes selon I'ecole 'Myth and Ritual'," RSR XXXIII

(1959) 321-342. Bernhardt's criticisms of the two schools are most cogent (Das

Problem der altorientalischen Konigs-Ideologie im Alten Testament [SVT 8;

Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1961] pp. 51-66).

            16. H. H. Rowley, Worship in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press,

1967), p. 189.


                   Perdue: Yahweh is King                               89


kingship, while having existed in Egypt, appears questionable in

Ugarit17 and improbable in Mesopotamia18 and Israel.19 The basic

problem involved in this approach is in the methodology which tries to

oversystematize the complexities of the ancient Near East cults. A basic

assumption of this approach has been that similarities of rites and ideas

could be explained only by positing one central cultic pattern and myth

in a fixed geographical and historical locus, from where it spread to

other cultures. This methodology goes back to Frazer, who took over

the common philosophical ideas of evolutionary development current

in the last part of the nineteenth century and applied them to the

development of cult and myth in the ancient world. Such a scheme is

not operative among present historians of religion, for it could not

explain, for example, comparable rituals and myths found-among such

diverse and separated cultures as those of the Incas, Chinese, Japanese,

and many others.20 A better methodology would be to utilize the Old

Testament materials which are appropriate and then seek to illuminate

with external materials.21

            One other cultic reconstruction which should be noted is that of

Artur Weiser, who places the Enthronement Hymns within the cultic

situation of a Covenant Festival, an annual autumn celebration of the

renewal of the covenant and the reaffirmation of the people to observe

the law (II Kgs. 23:1-3; cf. Deut. 31:10-13; Josh. 24:25). The festival

was highlighted by a cultic drama depicting the elements of the

Heilsgeschichte and a theophany of Yahweh who came as king and


            Conclusion. The situation in life which gave rise to these psalms

celebrating Yahweh's kingship is difficult to assess. Perhaps we may

begin by noticing the traditions reflected in the Enthronement Psalms


            17. Werner Schmidt, Konigtum Gottes in Ugarit and Israel (BZAW 80; Berlin:

Alfred Topelmann, 1966).

            18. H. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (Chicago: University of Chicago

Press, 1948).

            19. Martin Noth, "God, King, and Nation in the Old Testament," The Laws in

the Pentateuch (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1957) pp. 156-175.

            20. Bernhardt, Das Problem der altorientalischen Konigs-Ideologie, p. 62.

            21. Such a methodological point is emphasized by C. R. North, "The O. T.

Estimate of the Monarchy," AJSL XLVIII (1931-32) 1ff.

            22. Artur Weiser, The Psalms (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1962) pp.

24-35. For a critique of Weiser's theory, see Kraus, Worship in Israel (Oxford:

Basil Blackwell, 1966), p. 209.


90                                Restoration Quarterly


and then try to make our own suggestions as concerns a possible

setting. As pointed out by Gray,23 two traditions are present:

Enthronement Psalms which associate Yahweh's kingship with creation

(e.g., 93) and those which stress Heilsgeschichte (e.g., 47). Sometimes

the two traditions are bound together (e.g. 98). Leaving for the

moment the question of the date of the origin of Yahweh's designation

as king, we may postulate that each tradition points to its own unique

life situation. The recital of the Heilsgeschichte would have been most

appropriate within a covenant renewal festival which existed during the

pre-monarchial period (cf. Josh. 24; Ex. 24:3-8).24 This festival

possibly occurred within the structure of the larger Feast of

Tabernacles, a festival borrowed from Canaan after the settlement and

celebrated at the beginning of the New Year during the autumn

according to the old Israelite calendar (Ex. 23:16; 34:22). With the rise

of the monarchy a significant change was signalled in the cultus in that

elements of the old federation cultus were conflated with Canaanite

elements of the cultus practiced in Jerusalem by the Jebusites, David's

precursors. We are suggesting that within this context the salvation

history of the covenant renewal festival, the Davidic covenant, the

Jebusite traditions of the worship of the central deity as king, and the

recital of the creation story became integrated within a New Year's

Festival.25 It must be admitted that such a reconstruction is

hypothetical, but it does seem to provide some structure to a complex

problem. Therefore, it is within this context of a New Year's Festival

that the worship of Yahweh as King occurred, producing the

Enthronement Hymns.


            23. Gray, "The O.T. Estimate of the Monarchy," 1-29.

            24. Walter Harrelson, From Fertility Cult to Worship (Garden City, New York:

Doubleday, 1970), p. 60.

            25. Harrelson (Fertility Cult, p. 59) remarks: "The ancient covenant festival at

the turn of the year, then, was modified in such a way as to become a festival of

the New Year. Such modification occurred, in all probability, soon after the

building of the temple in Jerusalem in the days of Solomon. The kingship of

David probably opened the way for this change. The priesthood of Zadok,

perhaps a continuation of the Jebusite religious traditions at Jerusalem, and

David's own measures taken to add strength and prestige to Jerusalem continued

to bring Israelite worship more directly into relation with ancient Near Eastern

cultic practices."


                       Perdue: Yahweh is King                               91


                                    Exegesis of Psalm 47


            In our exegesis of Psalm 47 we shall attempt to concentrate on the

theological traditions formative in the creation of the psalm. At the

same time, an effort will be made to demonstrate how the psalm could

be utilized by the cultus in an enthronement ceremony. The translation

of the psalm is as follows:


Strophe I All ye peoples, clap your hands,

                        Shout to Elohim with a joyful cry.

            For Yahweh Most High (‘elyon) is fearful,

                        A great King over all the earth.

            He has subdued peoples under us,

                        and nations under our feet.

            He has chosen for us our inheritance,

                        The Pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah

            Elohim has gone up (‘alah) with a shout,

                        Yahweh to the sound of the ram's horn.


Strophe II Sing praises to Elohim, sing praises,

                        Sing praises to our King, sing praises.

            For he is a great King over all the earth,

                        Sing to Elohim an artistic psalm.

            Elohim has become King over all nations,

                        Elohim has taken his seat upon his holy throne.

            The princes of the peoples are gathered together,

                        With the people of the God of Abraham.

            Because to Elohim belong the shields of the earth,

                        He is greatly exalted (na’alah).26


                                                Strophe I

            In the hymnic introitus, two parallel stichoi contain the standard call

of the peoples to join in worship to Yahweh (hari’u, tiq’u). The two


            26. Muilenburg ("Psalm 47," JBL LXIII [19441, 244) makes some interesting

observations concerning the literary analysis of this psalm: "The strophes are of

equal length, five full lines, or ten stichoi. Observe the similar phrases at the close

of the first and last full lines of the first strophe. Observe that 'Pride of Jacob' and

'God of Abraham' occupy the same relative position in the strophes. Again, the

place of the Ki line, following the opening of each strophe, is exactly the same.

Finally, the most significant of all, are the key words and their position: 'Elyon,'

'is gone up,' and 'he is exalted.' "


92                                Restoration Quarterly


cultic acts which the people are to perform are the clapping of hands

(tiq’u-kap) and the cry of adulation (hari ‘u beqol rinnah), both of

which are performed during the coronation of an Israelite king, thus

demonstrating Mowinckel's contention that the imagery of the royal

ritual of Israel's kings is utilized in Enthronement Hymns.27 The

clapping of hands indicated the joyous acclamation of the people

concerning the new king who had just been proclaimed king in the

temple (II Kgs. 11:12).28 In synonymous parallelism with the clapping

of hands is the cultic shout, again indicative of joyous acclamation.

Hari ‘u is the imperative issued to the people who are to acclaim God as

King (Pss. 95:1; 98:4; Num. 23:21), more coronation language.29 The

imperative to 'shout forth a joyful cry' (rinnah) has been suggested by

Wagner to be an indication of a "creedal statement, a confession of

faith in a God who acts in the events of history" (Pss. 98:4; 105:43;

107:22).30 The universal setting for the worship is recognized in the

demand that 'all peoples' are to demonstrate their subjection to King

Yahweh by these acts of acclamation.31

            The main section of the first strophe, introduced by the hymnic ki,

states the attributes and deeds of Yahweh which are worthy of praise.

Yahweh, given the epithet 'Most High,' is to be worshipped because he

is 'fearful' (nora'), a hymnic participle describing the awe and majesty of

Yahweh which inspires the cultic adulation.32 What appears most

striking is the attributing of the divine epithet ‘elyon to Yahweh (Pss.


            27. Psalmenstudien, I I , 6.

            28. Cf. Nah. 3:19; Isa. 55:12; and Ps. 98:8. The last pictures the floods

clapping their hands (yimha'u-kap), thus indicating that the forces of chaos are

subject to Yahweh the King.

            29. Lipinski (La Royaute de Yahwe, 352) states: "De ces indices it parait

resulter que la teru’a en I'honneur de Yahwe . . . consistait en une acclamation,

dont le sens devait etre proche de celle qui marquait I'avenement au trone des rois

israelites: Yehi hammelek, 'Vive le roil' "

            30. N. E. Wagner, "hn.Ari in the Psalter," VT X (1960) 435-441.

            31. Schmidt's comment (Konigtum Gottes, 77) is important: "Der sog.

'Universalis' ist keine erst spat in Israel aufkommende Glaubensaussage, sondern

zeichnet bereits die Kanagische Religion aus."

            32. Kraus (Psalmen, XLII) indicates that such participles express Yahweh's

characteristics, power, and actions in Hymns (cf. Pss. 66:9; 114:8; 135:21).

Weiser points out that "fear for their worship is in accordance with the essential

nature of the OT God; Yahweh shall be received with shouts of joy because he is a

terrible God. Fear causes humility. Fear is prominent in almost every aspect of

OT faith "(The Psalms, p. 376).


                   Perdue: Yahweh is King                               93


7:18; 83:19; 97:9) followed by the synonymous parallel melek. In

these two stichoi the Canaanite influence is most prominent, since the

cult uses the Theologumena of the high god of the pantheon, El, who

was described as both king and 'Most High' in pointing to his place of

eminence among the council of the gods. In pre-Davidic Jerusalem,

there appears to have existed a cult of El Elyon (Gen. 14:19, 20),33

thus allowing for the later assimilation into the Davidic and Solomonic

cultus.34 In the faith of the Jerusalem cult, it is Yahweh who has

replaced El as the heavenly ruler.35 The reference to Yahweh as King

again points to the theological vocabulary of Canaan.36 Though the

problem of the date of such an ascription to Yahweh is a difficult one,

it probably should be after the establishing of the monarchy and the

official Jerusalem cultus when contact with Canaanite worship would

have been most prominent.37 As is common in Ugaritic sources,

Yahweh's kingship is 'over all the earth.'38

            The kingship of Yahweh is based upon the salvific acts he has

performed on Israel's behalf (vss. 3, 4). The two stichoi of verse 4


            33. G. Levi Della Vida, "El 'Elyon in Gen. 14:18-20," JBL LXIII (1944) 9.

            34. H. Schmid, "Jahwe and die Kulttraditionen von Jerusalem," ZAW (1955)


            35. The fact that El Elyon is worshipped as creator of heaven and earth in

Gen. 14:19, 20 may indicate Yahweh is recognized implicitly as creator in Psalm


            36. John Gray, "Hebrew Concept of the Kingship of God," VT VI (1956) 277.

He observes: "The psalms demonstrate that in the monarchic period the literature

and liturgy of Canaan had made a distinct impress on Hebrew literature and

religious thought." It should also be noted that Yahweh would probably not be

worshipped as king until his 'house' was built by Solomon, as is the case with Baal

(ANET, 129-142).

            37. The question of the date of the reference to Yahweh as king has been

debated for a long time. Martin Buber (Konigtum Gottes [Heidelberg, 1956] ) has

argued such an understanding and expression came from Israel's tribal period

when Yahweh was a Stammesfuhrer. Albrecht Alt has placed the expression in the

period between the conquest and state building ("Gedanken fiber das Konigtum

Jahwes," Kleine Schriften, I [Munchen, 19531 pp. 345-357. Eissfeldt has opted

for a period after Second Isaiah as the best time for such references to Yahweh as

world king and creator ("Jahwe als Konig," ZAW XLVI [1928] 81-95). We feel

the origin is to be found during the time of the monarchy (Isa. 6:1ff), probably

during the period of Solomon.

            38. Against Rosenbloom, who feels Yahweh's universal rule was developed by

Second Isaiah as a result of the influence of the world empires of Assyria and

Babylon which extended the domains of their respective gods ("Yahweh Becomes

King," JBL, LXXXV (1966) 297ff.).


94                                Restoration Quarterly


affirm in continuous parallelism Yahweh's defeat of the nations: "He

subdued peoples under us and nations under our feet." It is at this

point that Israel's unique traditions involving Yahweh as 'Divine

Warrior'39 are combined with the royal ideology of the Canaanite

cultus. By theological reflection, Yahweh's defeat of the other nations,

implying the defeat of their gods as well, demonstrates the legitimacy

of his claim to the titles of 'Most High' and 'King.' Verse 5 points to the

promise of the land, another important motif of Israel's salvation

history.  Bahar is the technical term for divine selection (Pss. 33:12;

78:68; 78:70; 132:13; 135:4) and has as its object nahalah, a term

referring to Israel's special inheritance, the land of Canaan (Deut. 4:38;

15:4; I Kgs. 8:36). The second stichos of verse 5 continues the idea of

its preceding stichos: 'the pride of Jacob whom he loves' (Amos 8:7;

Nah. 2:2). Yahweh's motivation for his action is his divine love

('aheb cf. Deut. 7:8; I Kgs. 10:9). Such a cultic recital of the

Heilsgeschichte points to Israel's belief that Yahweh has demonstrated

his sovereignty over all the world and thus is entitled to adoration as

the World King.40

            As is common to hymns, the conclusion in verse 6 restates the basic

elements of the introduction.41 In the midst of cultic worship God is

enthroned as universal king. The blowing of trumpets (shopar) is a

common cultic act (Lev. 23:23-25; 25:9; Ps. 81:4) and is especially

frequent in the context of the coronation of an Israelite king (II Sam.

15:10; I Kgs. 1:34ff; II Kgs. 9:13), as well as in the enthronement of

Yahweh (Ps. 98:6). The terminus technicus for an ark procession, 'alah,

points to a procession ascending Mt. Zion where Yahweh is to be

enthroned.42 That such a procession occurred is apparent from II

Samuel 6, 7, I Kings 8, and Psalms 24 and 134. Though the ark is not

specifically mentioned in Psalm 47, the reference to God's throne in the


            39. The imagery of placing the foot upon a defeated enemy's neck is common

in the ancient Near East (cf. Joh. 10:24 and "The Hymn of Victory of Thut Mose

III," ANET, 373-374). For an excellent study of Yahweh as Divine Warrior, see

Frank Cross, "The Divine Warrior in Israel's Early Cult," Biblical Motifs (ed.

Alexander Altman; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966) PP. 11-30.

            40. The depiction of a deity leading his people to military victories is a

common one in the ancient Near East (B. Albrektson, History and the Gods.

[Lund: Gleerup, 1967] ).

            41. Kraus, Psalmen, XLI I.

            42. Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, p. 106.


                    Perdue: Yahweh is King                               95


second strophe would seem to suggest the ark. While the traditions of

the ark are quite varied, it was regarded during the monarchy as the

throne of Yahweh; it indicated his presence and was placed in

Solomon's Holy of Holies (I Kgs. 8:12, 13; Ps. 99:lff.).43

            The first strophe has combined the elements of the coronation

imagery of the Hebrew kings,44 the Canaanite adulation of the 'Most

High,' the unique traditions of the Heilsgeschichte in cultic confession,

and the ark procession in order to express the cultic praise of Yahweh

as universal king. The material best fits the cultic setting of a New

Year's Festival in which Yahweh's kingship is celebrated. The direct

reference to the creation tradition is absent, though the reference to

Yahweh as elyon may demonstrate its subtle presence.


                                                Strophe II

            The second strophe, by means of external parallelism, restates the

theme of the first. This strophe is initiated by four hymnic imperatives

(zammeru) which solicit praise from the cultic community. In the first

two stichoi, 'elohim and are in parallelism. The hymnic ki again

introduces the main section, which indicates the reason Yahweh is to be

praised: "Because he is king, over all the earth." The community is

directed to "Sing to God a maskil," an obscure word, but perhaps the

best translation is 'artistic psalm' (II Chr. 30:22).45

            Verses 8, 9 continue the bases for the hymnic praise of Yahweh. God

has assumed his position as king over all the nations. The imagery

suggested is that of a cultic ceremony participated in by all the nations

of the earth, most probably those of the Solomonic empire. Malak

elohim (cf. the similar, expression in other Enthronement

Hymns—YHWH malak) is one of the most debated expressions in the

Old Testament in regard to translation and function. Mowinckel,

comparing it with the Akkadian Marduk-ma Sarru, has argued the

expression YHWH malak should be translated as a cry of

enthronement: "Yahweh has become King."46 Kohler, basing his


            43. Cf. G. Henton Davies, "The Ark in the Psalms," Promise and Fulfillment

(ed. F. F. Bruce; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1963) pp. 51-61.

            44. Gerhard von Rad, "The Royal Ritual in Judah," The Problem of the

Hexateuch (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966) pp. 222-231.

            45. Weiser (The Psalms, p. 281) points to the enigmatic nature of this


            46. Psalmenstudien, I I, 40.


96                                Restoration Quarterly


arguments upon I Kings 1:11, 18, feels the implication of the

expression is that of a polemic against other deities. This, he argues, is

indicated by the word order, subject-predicate, which places stress upon

the subject. He translates: "It is Yahweh who is (has become) King, and

no other."47 Ridderbos, on the contrary, has suggested the expression

YHWH malak describes a state of being, that is, Yahweh's royalty. The

reverse order, according to Ridderbos, is necessary if Mowinckel's

translation is possible.48 Finally, Michel has translated YHWH malak:

"Yahweh is he who exercises kingship," thus regarding the verb as

describing an action of the subject.49 As concerns Psalm 47:9 we

should stress that the word order malak 'elohim is the most typical

order for a short Hebrew sentence, thus eliminating any arguments

concerning placing stress upon the subject. In our opinion the

expression is best translated as "Elohim is king" or "Elohim has

become king." The latter is preferred if Psalm 47 is to be regarded as, an

actual enthronement liturgy that reoccurs each year in the cult (cf. I

Kgs. 1:11, 13; II Sam. 15:10).50

            The question then arises as to whether malakelohim is a formula of

investiture, a cry of acclamation, a formula of homage, a cry of

proclamation, or an enthronement cry.51 A formula of investiture

comparable to those in Mesopotamia and Egypt appears unlikely, since

God is not addressed in the second person. There is also the problem of

determining who would transfer the royal power to Yahweh!52 The

argument that the expression is a cry of acclamation can be rejected,

since the usual formula is yehi hammelek (I Sam. 10:24; II Sam.

16:16). That the expression could be a formula of homage is a

possibility when one compares it with the expression of homage by the

gods who accept Marduk as king in the Enuma Elish.53 It is also


            47. L. Kohler, "Jahwah Malak," VT III (1953) 188-189.

            48. Ridderbos ("Jahwah Malak," VT IV [1954] 87-89) observes: "Will man in

Hebraischen den Gedanken: J. ist Konig geworden, deutlich ausdrucken, so kann

dies m.E. nur geschehen, in dem Malak voransteht."

            49. D. Michel, "Studien zu den sogenannten Thronbesteigungspsalmen," VT

VI (1956) 65.

            50. Kraus, Psalmen I, 202, 203. Kraus believes that 47:9 has the only word

order capable of the translation defended by Mowinckel.

            51. For a complete discussion, see Lipinski, La Royaute de Yahwe, pp.


            52. Lipinski, La Royaute de Yahwe, p. 347.

            53. ANET, 66-72.


                    Perdue: Yahweh is King                               97


possible to regard the expression as a proclamation of God's kingship

(cf. Isa. 52:7; II Sam. 15:10; and II Kgs. 9:13). However, in our

opinion, the expression of Psalm 47:9 is best seen as a cry of

enthronement, since an ark procession to the temple seems to be

implied. While Yahweh is confessed as eternal king in the Jerusalem

cult, Psalm 47 points to the way he has proved his kingship, i.e., by his

defeat of the nations in the conquest.

            The second stichos in verse 9 points to Yahweh's enthronement:

"God has taken his seat upon his holy throne." Kisse' best refers to the

ark of God, as indicated by Jeremiah 3:16 and Psalm 99:1. God's

ascension to the throne initiates his reign as king and judge (cf. I Kgs.


            Verse 10 points to an assembly of the nations to worship God as

universal king and perhaps also implies a judgment scene. Nedibe

ammim is an expression used to refer to the princes of the various

nations who have been subjected by Yahweh in the conquest and in the

wars of David (cf. Num. 21:18; Pss. 78:12; 107:40). An important

textual problem exists in the second stichos. The MT reads: 'am ‘elohim

'abraham ("People of the God of Abraham"), which parallels the first

stichos, thereby indicating that all the nations are now regarded as the

people of the covenant (Gen. 12:1ff.). However, the LXX and Syriac

read `im for `am, thus changing the translation to "with the God of

Abraham." BH3 conflates the two readings, arguing one should read im

am: "The princes of the peoples are gathered together with the people

of the God of Abraham." Perhaps this suggestion is preferable, pointing

to a cultic assembly of all nations together with Israel to demonstrate

their acceptance of Yahweh's rule. "The shields of the earth (maginne

'eres) belong to God" is a declaration again affirming God's universal  


            The psalm closes with the theme of the entire liturgy: "He is greatly

exalted." The word play involving the root 'lh has already been



            54. Cf. Pss. 89:19; 84:10. A striking parallel to "God has taken his seat upon

his holy throne" is found in the Baal Cycle: "Baal mounts his throne of kingship"

(Mendelsohn, Religions of the Ancient Near East [London: Luzac and Co., 1949)

p. 257).


98                                            Restoration Quarterly




            As has been emphasized in the exegesis, Psalm 47 expresses in

hymnic praise Yahweh's assumption of world rulership. Such

sovereignty is theologically based upon his defeat of the nations. This

psalm is to be regarded as arising from the cultic context of a New

Year's Festival which has as an essential component Yahweh's

enthronement as king. Such an enactment of Yahweh's enthronement

each year placed emphasis upon one of Israel's central affirmations: the

conquest of the land by the Divine Warrior. Such a victory was recited

in the cult and was climaxed by the processional enthronement of

victorious Yahweh as king. The inclusion of certain Canaanite elements

and components of the ritual of the coronation of the Israelite king

dates the Psalm in the period of the monarchy.

            The theological significance of such an affirmation of Yahweh should

not be overlooked. The conception of Yahweh as world king, an idea

influenced by Israel's Canaanite neighbors, raised the orbit of Yahweh's

power from that of a wandering desert deity of a tribal federation to

that of universal king holding the power of dominion over the earth.

This faith developed such a dynamic quality that its expression gave rise

to prophetic interpretations of the rise and fall of world empires as the

result of Yahweh's direction of history. Such a faith in Yahweh's

actions provided the basis upon which a decimated remnant could

reorientate its existence even in the wake of national destruction.





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