PSALM 89 AND THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
D. Wayne Knife
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Theology in
Grace Theological Seminary
Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt,
Accepted by the Faculty of the Grace Theological Seminary
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree
Doctor of Theology
John J. Davis
S. Herbert Bess
James L. Boyer
For many years the study of the Psalms has been a
fascinating and profitable discipline to the author of this
work. Psalm 89 is of captivating interest to the writer, not
only because it is a portion of the biblical corpus, but for
the reason that a large section of it is devoted to the
Davidic Covenant. It is a covenant which has tremendous
significance for the consideration of the movements of God
in the providential control of history. How the covenant and
the content of the Psalm blend together is an enriching study
and leads to a greater appreciation of all the Scripture.
Another discipline has come to the attention of the
author in recent years, namely, a study of a portion of the
vast amount of literature from the ancient Near East. A pe-
rusal of this literature reveals that all poetry of the Near
East, including Psalm 89, had much in common. And much com-
parative study has been made. However, some scholars have
seriously neglected the distinct religious thought of the
Psalm and accordingly have given unsatisfactory treatment
the application. With the inconsistencies in some of these
comparative studies, the writer felt that the relationship of
the ancient Near East to Psalm 89 should be clarified.
To achieve this goal the author gratefully acknowl-
edges the help of many, not all of whom are listed in the
Bibliography, in the writing of this dissertation. An ex-
pression of gratitude goes to the writer's graduate committee,
Dr. John J. Davis, chairman, Dr. S. Herbert Bess, and Dr.
James L. Boyer, for their study of the manuscript and their
valuable suggestions for its final form. Also, thankfulness
is extended to friends and fellow students, Donald L. Fowler
and David R. Plaster, for various forms of stimulation that
are too manifold to recount here. And a great deal of in-
debtedness is owed to the author's three daughters, Connie,
Vicki, and Ginger, for encouragement and help in countless
Special gratitude must be expressed to the writer's
wife, Janet, for her patience, love, and understandingud.uring
the many months spent in the preparation of this manuscript.
Her devotion was amplified in a most practical way--the typ-
ing of this dissertation. To her is this work affectionately
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. INTRODUCTION 1
The Raison d'Etre
The Purpose of This Study
The Contribution of Archaeology
The Presuppositions of This Study
The Method of This Study
II. ANTECEDENTS TO THE EXEGESIS 19
Date and Unity
Sitz im Leben
Type of Psalm
The Question of Structure and Meter
III. EXEGESIS OF PSALM 89 73
89:1 Meditation with Insight
89:2-5 :Introduction: Possession of Reality
89:6-19 God's Characteristics: Basis for
89:20-38 God's Covenant: Basis for Confidence
89:39-46 God's Chastisement: Basis for
89:47-52 Conclusion: Prayer for Restoration
89:53 Benediction of Book III
IV. SOME COMPARISONS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST 157
Modes of Expression
Concepts and Institutions
V. SOME PARALLELS FROM THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST 179
The Application of Parallels in the
In Terms of Vocabulary
Allusions to Ideas
Direct Application to Concepts and
The Question of Borrowing
VI. NEW TESTAMENT REFERENCES 217
VII. CONCLUSION 221
AB Analecta Biblica
AJSL The American Journal of Semitic Languages
ANET Ancient Near Eastern Texts, third edition, ed.
BDB A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament,
ed. Brown, Driver, and Briggs.
BJRL Bulletin of John Rylands Library
BS Bibliotheca Sacra
CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly
CJT Canadian Journal of Theology
EJ Encyclopaedia Judaica
ET Expository Times
ETL Ephemerides Theological Lovanienses
GJ Grace Journal
GKC Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, Gesenius, Kautzsch and
HTR Harvard Theological Review
JAOS Journal of Ancient Oriental Studies
JASTROW A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and
Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, Jastrow.
JBC The Jerome Bible Commentary
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature
JBR Journal of Bible and Religion
JETS Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
JFB A Commentary: Critical Experimental and
Practical on the old and New Testaments,
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown.
JNES Journal of Near Eastern Studies
JNSL Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages
Journal of the
JQR Jewish Quarterly Review
JSS Journal of Semitic Studies
KB Lexicon in Veteris Testimenti Libros, ed. Koehler
LXX The Septuagint
MT The Massoretic Text.
NASB New American Standard Bible
NBCR The New Bible Commentary Revised
RB Revue Biblique
RHR Revue de L'Histoire des Religions
TARGUM tvlvdg tvxrqm, “ylwm Mylht," “Fp”
TS Theological Studies
TZ Theologische Zeitschrift
UT Ugaritic Textbook, Gordon.
VT Vetus Testamentum
ZAW Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
At the present time, the battle still rages over the
relationship of Psalm 89 to the finds of the ancient Near
East. While many facets of the problem may be seen, four
areas will be considered here: treatment, textual criticism,
In terms of treatment
By treatment, it is meant how Psalm 89 as a portion
of the biblical corpus has been viewed. American scholars,
either through fear or oversight, have written very little
that offers anything exegetical in nature on Psalm 89. This
neglect may be due partly to the fact that some phrases and
doctrine in the psalm occur in Psalms one through eighty-
eight and, thus, are not treated fully. Other American
scholars just make a passing reference to Psalm 89 in their
treatment of different subjects. Few will even attempt to
show the significance of any ancient Near East connections.
But this is not so with European scholars. The fol-
lowing statement can be made by DuMortier only from his side
of the Atlantic Ocean. "Les nombreuses études dont a fait
l'objet le Ps. lxxxix témoigent amplement de la complexité
de ce psaume."1 These numerous studies are from the pens of
European writers. Besides exegetical treatment, their arti-
cles and books are replete with ancient Near Eastern compar-
isons. Although this writer could not obtain all of the
European sources, this study will bear out the European con-
tribution, one which is not by any means conservative.
In terms of textual criticism
Ap-Thomas has said:
Study of the Old Testament in general and of its Hebrew
in particular has come into greater prominence in recent
years. There are a number of reasons for this--a gener-
ation of able teachers, some exciting archeological dis-
coveries, the growth of interest in Near Eastern studies
and in biblical theology. . . .2
Dahood goes at length to defend his position that
Ugaritic has its bearing on the Bible on this subject.3 Con-
cerning Ugaritic and textual criticism, Dahood states else-
. . . Ugaritic literature remains one of the most effi-
cient instruments at the disposal of the biblical re-
1Jean-Bernard DuMortier, "Un Ritual d' Intronisation:
Le Ps. LXXXIX 2-38," VT, XXII:2 (April, 1972), 176.
2D. R. Ap-Thomas, A Primer of Old Testament Text
Criticism, Facet Books--Biblical Series 14, edited by John
Reumann (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. iii.
3Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II, 51-100
(Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1968),
pp. XVII-XXVII. For the criticism Dahood is answering, see
John L. McKenzie, a review of Psalms 1:1-50 by Mitchell
Dahood, CBQ, XXIX:l (January, 1967), 138-40 and David A.
Robertson, a review of Anchor Bible: Psalms 1, 1-50 by
Mitchell Dahood, JBL, LXXXV:IV (December, 1966), 484-86.
In some instances Ugaritic brings a peremptory
solution to a biblical verse; in others the evidence
is less direct, but does inject new elements and con-
siderations which an exegete may not overlook.1
While the statement may be true, the method by which
it is put into practice is not always valid, especially if
the text is emended in an excessive manner. This aspect of
the problem will manifest itself throughout the study.
The Targums, Old Latin Version, Septuagint, and
Peshito are employed by Kennedy for the "removal of blemishes"
in the Massoretic text.2 Many of these "corrections" in
Psalm 89 are not only unacceptable, but unnecessary. Other
works3 could be cited, but the above point out the problem
lMitchell Dahood, "The Value of Ugaritic for Textual
Criticism," AB, 10 (Roma, 1959), 26-27. The same article may
be found in Biblica, 40 (1959), 160-70. A favorable evalua-
tion of Dahood's method is given by Stanislaw Segert, "The
Ugaritic Texts and the Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible,"
Near Eastern Studies in Honor of William Foxwell Albright,
by Hans Goedicke (
1971), pp. 413-20. But a critical evaluation is noted by K.
L. Barker, a review of New Perspectives on the Old Testament,
edited by J. Barton Payne, BS, 129:514 (April-June, 1972),
154. For further study see H. L. Ginsberg, "The Ugaritic
Texts and Textual Criticism," JBL, LXII (1943), 109-15.
2James Kennedy, An Aid to the Textual Amendment of the
Old Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1928), pp. 1-255.
3Christian D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Mas-
Edition of the Hebrew Bible (
altogether favorable report, see Bruce K. Waltke, a review of
Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew
Bible by Christian D. Ginsburg, BS, 123:492 (October-December,
1966), 364-65. For further study see Nahum M. Sarna, et al,
"Psalms, Book of," Encyclopaedia Judaica, 16 Volumes (Jeru-
and Ernst Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testament, translated
by Peter R. Ackroyd (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1957), pp. 1-173.
that affects this study. Textual criticism will not be treated
as a separate topic because it is an inherent part of practi-
cally all that follows.
In terms of parallelism
Parallels from the ancient Near East are seen every-
where in Psalm 89. Verbal parallels would be expected, but
not to the extent that McKenzie saw them. "The verbal paral-
lels between the Ugaritic tablets and several Old Testament
passages make it impossible to suppose anything but direct
As some have advocated, there are parallels in thought
patterns.2 Scholars see parallels in the ancient Near East
to Psalm 89 in the realms of kingship, throne, covenant,
Rahab, and even God. Concepts of ruling, praise, and enthrone-
ment are also included.
It is recognized that there have to be some relation-
ships because various forms of ancient Near Eastern poetry
are stereotyped. But does this constitute a direct paral-
lelism? Since a whole chapter will be devoted to this portion
of the problem, there is no need of further discussion here.
1John L. McKenzie, Myths and Realities: Studies in
Biblical Theology (
1963), p. 97.
2John Hasting Patton, Canaanite Parallels in the Book
of Psalms (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1944), pp. 15-
28. Theodor Gaster, "Canaanite Parallels to the Psalms," JQR,
35:3 (January, 1945), 355-56.
In terms of theologv
Actually, the three facets of the problem above are
involved in the theological, phase of the problem. Several
scholars are named by Baumgartel as viewing the Psalms "sep-
arated from the individual and . . . understood as cultic in
character."l This concept seems definitely to imply that the
individual psalmist had no relationship to God.
Adherents of Religionsgeschichte provide another area
of the theological problem.
Quite apart from the formal parallels, it has come to
appear likely that the Canaanite religion at least ex-
erted some influence upon the content of the Old Testa-
ment psalms, although Yahwism and
of God and existence carried the day.2
Similarly, the eminent scholar W. F. Albright holds
that Psalm 89 swarms "with Canaanitisms."3 And Kapeirud
It is instructive to examine individual psalms from
the standpoint of their relationship to Ugaritic motifs,
expressions, and details of cultic practice. The psalms
are firmly rooted in the Yahwistic faith and the Jeru-
lFriedrich Bäumgartel, "The Hermeneutical Problem of
the Old Testament," translated by Murray Newman, Essays on
Old Testament Hermeneutics, edited by Claus Westermann,
translation edited by James Luther Mays (
2Ernst Sellin and Georg Fohrer, Introduction to the
Old Testament, translated by David E.
Abingdon Press, 1968), p. 259.
3William Foxwell Albright, Archaeology and the
Religion of Israel, Anchor Books edition (Garden City, New
tain many elements derived from Canaanite religion.1
What the above scholars have not considered is that
God and all His works are supernatural. This includes His
authorship of Scripture. The problem here is one of presup-
position which will be covered later.
While there are many other problems that confront
Psalm 89, these areas deal with the main corpus of this study.
On the whole the problem is much more serious than stated
above, but another problem involved in a work of this size
is the avoidance of tautology.
The Raison d'Etre
The reason for writing may be observed first of all
by cause and effect. Archaeology has brought much to light
in the area of Old Testamentt background and studies. The
findings of the ancient Near East have enriched our knowledge
of the cultural background and linguistics within the biblical
corpus. As already indicated, due to theological bias or lack
of concern for the Author of Holy Writ, some scholars have
misapplied the material from the ancient Near East to Psalm
89. As a result, passages of the psalm are misconstrued,
parallels are seen everywhere, and knowingly or unknowingly,
the Old Testament, translated by G. W.
theology itself is greatly affected.
Also, the present writer has found but few works that
offer anything exegetical in nature on Psalm 89. Since all
details in the biblical record are worthy of diligent atten-
tion, there is a need to examine this portion closely.
Special study is also warranted because of God's covenant
with David, an all important aspect in the light of God's
The Purpose of This Study
The purpose may be seen as many goals, all of which
are inherently involved and intermeshed. Psalm 89 is a rich
portion of eternal truth, therefore the first goal will be to
highlight this from the original language. Of necessity,
textual criticism will be important.
Some writers have seen parallels to Psalm 89. There-
fore it is significant that an investigation be made in the
light of biblical exegesis. The second goal is to demon-
strate whether there are valid parallels from the ancient Near
East. If there are bona fide parallels, these should be dem-
onstrated, examined, and evaluated as to their contribution
to the interpretation of the psalm. Likewise, if there are
no valid parallels, then the goal is to demonstrate such. In
essence, since archaeologists have uncovered material that
relates to biblical studies, the present author believes it
is a worthy goal to see if there is any exact relevance, as
some say there is, to Psalm 89.
The Contribution of Archaeology
The relationship of the Holy Scriptures and archae-
ology has reached paramount interest. Archer says:
For students of the Bible the last fifty years of
archaeological discovery have been more momentous than
in any previous period of comparable length in the
history of the Christian church.1
Significant discoveries too numerous to mention have
greatly aided both scholar and student in understanding the
background of many biblical passages. Briefly, the contribu-
tion will be considered in terms of sources and biblical
In terms of sources
In order to avoid needless repetition, individual
sources will not be named specifically here. Let it suffice
to say that ample material comes from the following: Akka-
dian, Babylonian, Egyptian,
Scrolls and other inscriptions. It will be apparent that
archaeology has contributed a very large portion of this
In terms of biblical studies
On the one hand there is the contribution to the
study of biblical languages. Freedman writes:
1Gleason L. Archer, Jr., "Old Testament History and
Recent Archaeology From Abraham to Moses," BS, 127:505 (Jan-
uary-March, 1970), 3.
The non-biblical materials help to give a clearer
picture of the dimensions and character of the languages
which are only partially represented in the Bible.
Since the inscriptions also come from a variety of
places and periods, they provide a basis for analyzing
the biblical languages according to a historical per-
spective, and thereby yield clues as to date and author-
On the other hand there is the contribution for the
theologian in his task of exegesis.
. . . archaeology should not be used either to prove or
to confirm the "truth" of divine revelation. The true
function of archaeology is to enable us to understand
the Bible better, insofar as it was produced by men in
given times and places. Because it pleased God to give
us the sacred record in many different forms of liter-
ature, with a great diversity of backgrounds in the
ancient Near East, it is part of the theologian's task
to use all the possible light that can be thrown on the
biblical documents from outside sources.2
Thus it is that archaeology contributes by helping to
supplement one's biblical knowledge. But it should be ac-
knowledged that this contribution is not without its problems.
While the following comment is directed mainly toward archae-
ology, it applies here quite well. According to Weddle:
Even the most objectively-minded interpreter cannot fully
escape from his cultural, religious, and philosophical
1David Noel Freedman, "Archaeology and the Future of
Biblical Studies," The Bible in Modern Scholarship, edited by
J. Philip Hyatt (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965), pp. 310-
2Alfred von Rohr Saur, "The Meaning of Archaeology
for the Exegetical Task," A Symposium on Archaeology and
Theology (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1970),
biases. The annals of archaeology are replete with ex-
amples where bias affected interpretation.1
To which Smith would reply, ". . . it is not surpris-
ing that a long series of archaeological 'confirmations of
the Bible' have turned out to be howlers."2 Some will not
agree with Sanders. He raises the question on the canon of
the Old Testament, particularly the Psalms, because of the
influence of archaeological finds.3
Wiseman refers to the issue in this study in a two-
fold manner. He concludes that archaeological discoveries
. . . do not affect our understanding of any major doc-
trine or detract from an obvious and vital interpreta-
tion of the narrative. . . . At the same time these
studies highlight the problems caused by divergent
interpretation of the text. . . .4
The contribution of archaeology is very significant,
but the application to God's Word is the basic issue. The
matter of interpretation will be highlighted in the following
1Forest Weddle, "The Limitations of Archaeology Im-
posed by Interpretation and Lack of Data," GJ, 11:3 (Fall,
1970), 6. For further study see Merrill F. Unger, "The Use
and Abuse of Biblical Archaeology," BS, 105:419 (July-Septem-
ber, 1948), 297-306 and John C. Jeske, "The Role of Archae-
ology in Bible Study," WLQ, LXVIII:4 (October, 1971), 228-36.
Studies," JBL, LXXXVIII:l (March, 1969), 31.
3James A. Sanders, "Cave 11. Surprises and the Ques-
tion of Canon," New Directions in Biblical Archaeology,
edited by David Noel Freedman and Jonas C. Greenfield,
Anchor Books edition (
and Company, Inc., 1971), pp. 122-27.
4Donald J. Wiseman, "Archaeology and Scripture," WTJ,
XXXIII:2 (May, 1971), 152.
The Presuppositions of This Study
In biblical studies today great freedom is exercised
with such terms as "cult" and "myth." It is only fair to the
reader that he know the position of the present author, es-
pecially in a study of this type. All that has been said
before and all that follows will be clarified at this point.
The purpose of this study does not include all the schools of
thought and their differences. For example, Widengren refers
to the Pan-Babylonian school, the so-called Scandinavian
school, and the British
on the differing viewpoints.l
In terms of cult
The term itself seems to have various meanings, but
the chief concern is that which speaks of ritualistic acts
or ceremonies. For example, Johnson holds that there is
ritual drama in Psalm 89.2 Mowinckel holds a very similar
1George Widengren, "Early Hebrew Myths and Their In-
terpretation," Myth, Ritual, and Kingship, edited by S. H.
Hooke (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1958) pp. 149-203. Cf.
also S. H. Hooke, "Myth and Ritual: Past and Present,"
Myth, Ritual, and
edited by S. H. Hooke (
The Clarendon Press, 1958), pp. 1-21 and Amos N. Wilder,
"Scholars, Theologians, and Ancient Rhetoric," JBL, LXXXI:I
(March, 1956), 1-11.
2A. R. Johnson, "The Psalms," The Old Testament and
Modern Study, edited by H. H. Rowley
University Press, 1961), p. 196.
view.1 Woudstra mentions several definitions and then he
One of the major deficiencies in the current defini-
tions lies in the fact that cultus is defined in almost
exclusively phenomenological terms. The element of
revelation does not significantly enter into the defi-
Looking at Mowinckel's view in particular, Woudstra
goes on to say:
. . . it should not be overlooked that Mowinckel's
assertion that revelation precedes cultus is itself a
purely comparative statement. For Mowinckel makes it
clear that not only
Himself as to where He may be found, but that this idea
is "a fundamental idea in all religion." In other words,
we are not face to face with revelation. All that we do
confront is the claim to having received revelation, and
this claim is fundamental to all religions. Hence we
are not yet beyond the phenomenological and the compar-
ative. In this respect the term "cultus" has undergone
a radical transformation when it is compared with ear-
lier usages in medieval and early Reformation theology.3
Even if the concept is based upon direct revelation,
it does not guarantee that the term is interpreted correctly.
Therefore, in this study the present writer will refrain from
1Sigmund Mowinckel., The Psalms in
by D. R. Ap-Thomas (
1962), p. 176. For further reference see Sellin and Fohrer,
Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 260-62. Although
Sarna does not employ the term as a ritual act, see his dis-
cussion in Sarna, et al. "Psalms, Book of," pp. 1316-17.
2Marten H. Woudstra, "The Tabernacle in Biblical-
Theological Perspective," New Perspectives on the Old Testa-
ment, edited by J. Barton Payne
Publisher, 1970), p. 93.
any use of the word lest he be misunderstood.
In terms of myth
A perusal of the abundance of literature reveals
there is no consensus of opinion as to the meaning of myth.
There is no one definition of myth, no Platonic form of
a myth against which all actual instances can be mea-
sured. Myths, as we shall see, differ enormously in
their morphology and their social function.1
And Knox says, "The term has a variety of uses in a
variety of connections and, as we have several times had oc-
casion to observe, is notoriously difficult to define.2
Still, these and others attempt definitions.3
But, with or without definition, some see mythology
in Holy Writ. Kapelrud avers:
have already noted the tendency in
mythological material. It is primarily in the Psalms,
1G. S. Kirk, Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in A
cient and Other Cultures (
1970), p. 7.
2John Knox, Myth and Truth: An Essay on the Language
of Faith (
1964), p. 34.
3James Barr, "The Meaning of 'Mythology' in Relation
to the Old Testament," VT, IX:l (January, 1959), 1-10. John
L. McKenzie, "Myth and the Old Testament," CBQ, XXI:3 (July,
1959), 265-74. Sigmund Mowinckel, The Old Testament as Word
of God, translated by Reidar B.
don Press, 1959), pp. 99-106. As one studies Mowinckel's
views on myth, he should also note his views on revelation
and inspiration, pp. 23-24, 46, 75.
which could not easily be altered, that such material is
Goldziher definitely sees mythology in Psalm 89.2
Full discussion is not given here in order to avoid repetition
later. Dulles states:
. . . it is not surprising that the Israelites produced
no mythology of their own. They did, however, borrow
from the mythologies of the surrounding peoples, and in
some cases subjected these to a process of demythologiz-
ing which is at best relatively complete. For example,
in various references to the creation, we find allusions
to mighty struggles between Yahweh and mysterious mon-
sters such, as Leviathan and Rahab (e.g., Ps 73/74, Ps
88/89, Is 27, Job 9, Job 20).3
However, the position of the present author is quite
clear. He dogmatically holds that the Israelites did not
borrow any mythology nor is there any hint of belief in any
mythology in the biblical corpus. Anything to the contrary
immediately affects biblical revelation and inspiration, and
thus, the very character of God. The employment of the word
bhr in 89:11 (Heb.) will be discussed later.
But immediately, the liberal critic accuses the
1Kapelrud, The Ras Shamra Discoveries and the Old
Testament, p. 72.
2Ignaz Goldziher, Mythology Among the Hebrews and Its
Historical Development (
Inc., 1967), p. 424.
3Avery Dulles, "Symbol, Myth, and the Biblical Reve-
lation," TS, 27:1 (March, 1966), 16. Also see B. K. Waltke,
Themes by Harvey H. Guthrie, Jr., BS, 123:492 (October-Decem-
History," The Bible in Modern Scholarship, edited by J. Philip
Hyatt (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965), pp. 100-05.
present writer of coming to his study with basic presupposi-
tions. The thoughts and conclusions of McCown are pertinent
The problem of objectivity, of avoiding unjustifiable
assumptions and presuppositions, is a difficult one.
. . .
The line between the interpretation of ancient thought
and its evaluation and application for modern use is no
barb-wired iron curtain. It may be as easily and in-
sensibly crossed as the equator; but the navigator must
keep his bearings and know where he is. . . .
But if biblical scholarship is to retain a place of re-
spectability among modern fields of research, it must
maintain full freedom of investigation, thought, and
expression, with no claim to a preferred status or
special immunities, and with no theological presupposi-
Without going into a detailed discussion, it can be
said that McCown's conclusion is not realistic. The liberal
critic ought to be honest enough to admit that everyone comes
to a study with some presuppositions. Erlandsson has devoted
an article to this very matter. To quote him in part:
Can a scholar who believes in the Bible's reliability
do research without presuppositions? . . . We have seen
that the historical-critical scholars who claimed that
they worked without presuppositions at the same time
take as their starting point absolutely fixed presup-
Continuing on the same subject, Brown comments:
1C. C.. McCown, "The Current Plight of Biblical Schol-
arship," JBL, LXXXV:I (March, 1956), 17-18.
2Seth Erlandsson,, "Is There Ever Biblical Research
Without Presuppositions?" Themelios, 7:2-3 (1970), 28.
It may well be wondered what a scholar has to do to
get a hearing for "conservative" results. Under such
circumstances, one is tempted to conclude that much of
the current consensus against the authenticity and re-
liability of most biblical material is a presupposition
of "scientific Bible scholarship," not a result.l
And this is the crucial issue in this entire study.
Because of one's assumptions, his interpretation is greatly
affected. As a result, the viewpoints on Psalm 89 are like
the demons of
Legion, for we are many." The words of Mendenhall are all
Today, little can be said concerning Biblical history
and religion (beyond specific historical "facts") which
will receive general assent among the specialists in the
field. If the ability to command general assent among
those who are competent be the criterion of the scien-
tific, it must now be admitted that a science of Bibli-
cal studies does not exist. Certainly, each scholar
feels that the views he now holds represent a steady
progress beyond those of a past generation, but that
is not the point. A survey of the entire field shows
rather such divergence of opinion and such disagreement
on nearly every important issue that a consensus of
opinion cannot be said to exist.2
It should not be surprising, then, that controversy
will be evident in this work. If anything, this highlights
the importance of such a study.
lHarold 0. J. Brown, "Editor's Page," Themelios,
7:2-3 (1970), 30.
tion," The Bible and the Ancient Near East, essays in honor
of William Foxwell Albright, edited by G. Ernest Wright
(Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1961),
The Method of This Study
In terms of scope
The aim is to exegete the entire psalm and to treat
its related problems. But it will be virtually impossible
to deal with every word in the psalm and every theological
implication. Only those matters relevant and pertinent to
the purpose of this study will be considered. Therefore,
this dissertation will accordingly be limited to the study
of hermeneutics in this area.
As for the ancient Near East, the scope includes only
what scholars deem as parallels, extending from the life and
This does not encompass an interpretation of all ancient
Near Eastern literature cited. The concepts and beliefs of
the ancient Near East that apply to the psalm will be dis-
cussed and examined very briefly. Again, the purpose is not
to compare Psalm 89 to the ancient Near East, but to compare
aspects of the ancient Near East to Psalm 89. In other words
the principal study concerns Psalm 89; the ancient Near East
is confined entirely to its contribution or so-called par-
In terms of procedure
The first task will be to treat the antecedents of
exegesis: author, date, etc. Also, no study of this type
would be complete without an investigation of form-criticism.
In the following chapter of exegesis, the procedure
will be to follow the guidelines of normal or literal inter-
pretation. It does not exclude figurative language. The
method will be to determine the ordinary meaning and intention
of what the author sought to communicate. Only fantasy and
speculation are excluded.
Valid comparisons from the ancient
viewed in the fourth chapter. This does not necessarily
imply nor comprise parallelism because of the stereotyped
patterns of poetry.
The next chapter involves what some scholars call
parallelisms to Psalm 89. If there are valid parallels,
they will be examined as to their contribution. Of necessity,
this chapter will be somewhat extended due to the explanation
of some ancient concepts.
A brief chapter preceding the conclusion will contain
New Testament references. It is hoped that this procedure
will aid the reader's comprehension.
ANTECEDENTS TO THE EXEGESIS
It seems evident that form criticism should precede
any study on the Psalms. In one way or another it affects
most of the remaining topics in this chapter: author, date
Sitz im Leben, and types. The significance of form criticism
is stated by Alexander:
Though some have misused the results of this study, the
results themselves have opened new vistas in the under-
standing of the Old Testament. An outstanding example
of a portion of the Old Testament unlocked by this study
of literary genre is the book of Psalms and hymnic liter-
Since this subject is another large enough to be a
dissertation in itself, especially with voluminous sources
at hand, the present work will only touch it in summary
fashion.2 Briefly, consideration will be given to approach
and method, weaknesses, and contribution.
ment Apocalyptic Literature," (unpublished Doctor's disserta-
tion, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968), p. 4.
2The reader is referred to a rather exhaustive treat-
ment by Klaus Koch, The Growth of the Biblical Tradition:
The Form-Critical Method, translated from the 2nd German
by S. M. Cupitt (
1969). Especially note pp. 68-91.
In terms of approach and method
In so far as the study of the Psalter has made any
progress during the generation which has passed .
it is largely due to the influence of one man--Hermann
Gunkel is generally regarded as the scholar who first
applied the principles of form criticism to the Psalms. His-
torically speaking, he seems to be the pivotal point.
The author of it was first and foremost H. Gunkel, who
applied form-critical methods to the study of the Psalms,
classifying them into various types and studying the
Sitz im Leben from which these sprang. Gunkel's work
marked such a turning point that one may divide all
study of the Psalms into pre- and post-Gunkel phases.2
The basic approach and method of Gunkel began with
the conviction that all poetry
posed first to be sung as an accompaniment of a ritual act.
He viewed the Psalms as having their origin in various occa-
specific situation in life for each Psalm. The next step was
to take the Psalms having a common Sitz im Leben and classify
them according to types or literary forms (Gattung). Besides
having a common occasion, the Psalms must have the following
edited by H. H. Rowley (
sity Press, 1961), p. 162.
2John Bright, "Modern Study of Old Testament Litera-
ture," The Bible and the Ancient Near East, essays in honor
of William Foxwell Albright, edited by G. Ernest Wright (Gar-
characteristics to distinguish the types: common motifs,
forms of expression, and ideas.1
Another eminent scholar in this
Form criticism, "die Form-und Gattungsforshung", is
the absolutely indispensable basis of any understanding
of the Psalms. It has taught us to distinguish between
a certain number of types ("Gattungen"), easily defin-
able with regard to form and content, in which each
individual example has been composed according to the
very fixed, established rules of form and content, and
has shown that each of these types has sprung up out of
a definite "Sitz im Leben", out of its traditionally
fixed function in religious life, a situation and a
function, which have created the very elements of form
and content, which are peculiar to the type in question.2
Mowinckel does build upon the form-critical approach,
but he differs with Gunkel's view. The difference is ex-
pressed by Hohenstein in a very concise manner:
The majority of Biblical psalms are to be associated
with the Hebrew cult. They were composed for, and used
in, actual temple services. In this emphasis Mowinckel
is at odds with Gunkel. While the latter admitted that
many of the psalms were originally old cultic songs, he
hastened to point out that in the form in which we have
them they were no longer connected to the cult but were
more personal and spiritual in outlook. Mowinckel, on
the contrary, insists that there is no private poetry in
1This summary of Gunkel's basic approach and method
was extracted from Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-
Critical Introduction, translated by Thomas M. Horner, Facet
Book--Biblical Series XIX, edited by John Reumann (Phila-
delphia: Fortress Press, 1967). For another viewpoint see
James Muilenburg, "Form Criticism and Beyond, JBL, LXXXVIII:I
(March, 1969), 1-18.
2Sigmund Mowinckel, "Psalm Criticism Between 1900 and
1935," VT, V:1 (January, 1955), 15.
the Psalter, but that all of it has group-cultic associa-
Details cannot be given here, the reader is asked to
read the works cited in the footnotes. It may be simply said
that Mowinckel viewed ancient
a great New Year festival in many of the Psalms.2 Hahn says,
"But Mowinckel seems to have overshot the mark by assigning
each category of psalm to one ritual occasion exclusively."3
Although the Norwegian employs the form-critical approach,
his premise might be better entitled "the cultic approach."
There is another variation of the form-critical ap-
proach. A leading advocate is the Swedish scholar, Ivan
Engnell. "Engnell calls his approach traditio-historical."4
lHerbert E. Hohenstein, "Psalms 2 and 110: A Compar-
ison of Exegetical Methods," (unpublished Doctor's disserta-
direct study of Mowinckel's method see Sigmund Mowinckel, The
Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2 Vols., translated by D. R. Ap-
Thomas (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962). Especially note
Vol. I, pp.. 23-41. The disagreement between
winckel is also expressed by A. R. Johnson, "Divine Kingship
and the Old Testament," ET, LXII:2 (November, 1950), 36-42.
2Mowinckel, The Psalms in
pp. 106-92. A brief treatment of his position is given in
Harvey H. Guthrie, Jr.,
Dominant Themes (New York: The Seaburg Press, 1966), pp.
3Herbert F. Hahn, The Old Testament in Modern Re-
search (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 139.
4Ivan Engnell, A Rigid Scrutiny: Critical Essays on
the Old Testament, translated and edited by John T. Willis
(Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1969), p. 3. See
also J. T. Willis, "Engnell's Contributions to Old Testament
Scholarship," TZ, 26:6 (November-Dezember, 1970), 385-94.
The apparent aim of this approach is to seek to reconstruct
the occasion at which the psalm was first used. In reality,
it seems to differ very little from what the present writer
calls "the cultic approach."
In terms of weaknesses
To this present author, the first and foremost major
weakness is not of the system itself, but the hermeneutic of
those who employ the form-critical method. Coppes has writ-
ten an excellent article on the "Hermeneutic of Hermann
Gunkel."l The author shows how in Gunkel's method of re-
search "Fact and fantasy flow freely together."2 In his
biased presuppositions Gunkel's conception of God's guidance
"was thoroughly humanistic."3 "Gunkel is trapped between his
presupposed anti-supernatural humanism and his osbervation of
historical phenomena leading him to supernaturalism."4 As to
his methodology, Coppes plainly states, "It is evident that
Gunkel's hermeneutical methods are colored by his theological
Engnell's views are also elucidated in G. W. Anderson, "Some
XLII:4 (October, 1950), 239-56.
1Leonard J. Coppes, "'An Introduction to the Hermen-
eutic of Hermann Gunkel," WTJ, XXXII:2 (May, 1970), 148-78.
A major weakness in the system itself is found in the
approaches just reviewed. The Spirit of God through Scripture
has not given the slightest hint that one should reconstruct
historical incidents based upon imagination. The Bible makes
no statement of
as Mowinckel, Engnell, et al advocate. If such a festival is
a key to understanding the psalms, God would have had it re-
A third weakness is seen when one aspect of Gunkel's
Gattung is applied to the origin and composition of Scripture.
Mihelic outlines Gunkel's view:
. . . the study of these types will reveal that all of
these various categories were originally spoken and not
written. This accounts for the brevity of the ancient
compositions. Thus, wisdom literature existed originally
as single proverbs and sayings, and the same was true for
most ancient legal judgments, prophetic utterances and
Then he relates the weakness:
lIbid., 172. A contrast may be observed in R. Lansing
Hicks, "Form and Content: A Hermeneutical Application,"
Translating and Understanding the Old Testament: Essays in
Honor of Herbert Gordon May, edited by Harry Thomas Frank and
William L. Reed (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970), pp. 304-
2An answer to Mowinckel and his followers is given by
A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old
Inter-Varsity Press, 1966), pp. 102-06.
3Joseph L. Mihelic, "The Influence of Form Criticism
on the Study of the Old Testament, JBR, XIX:3 (July, 1951),
Now, even though Gunkel s sketch of literary forms has
been of great value for the smallest units, it has not
taught us anything new about the composition and origin
of our biblical books. This is especially true in re-
spect to books and collections of books which are more
than loose compilations of small units. This is due to
the fact that form criticism is inclined to look at the
typical and ignores or pushes into the background that
which is personal and individual.1
Even though there may be more, a fourth and final
weakness is set forth here. Just because it has been placed
fourth by the present writer, its importance is not diminished.
In consideration of any biblical truth, the understanding and
usage of terminology are exceedingly significant. Hals avers,
"The field of OT form-critical terminology is one in which
there exists great diversity and greater confusion."2 And
later he remarks:
It seems to me that the confusion in usage of form-
critical labels has progressed to such an extent that
it must be asked whether in some cases any standardly
acceptable technical terminology is salvable.3
Actually, all of this is just the result of divorcing
interpretation from the grammatical, historical method of
interpretation. A perfect example of this is a work on Psalm
lIbid., 127. For a refutation of Gunkel's smaller
units in the Pentateuch see Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey
of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1964),
2Ronald M. Hals, "Legend: A Case Study in OT Form-
Critical Terminology," CBQ, XXXIV:2 (April, 1972), 166.
89 by G. W. Ahlström.1 He followed Engnell in his approach
that was explained earlier in this study.2 Also, his pre-
suppositions are similar to those of his Swedish colleague
Rather than go to Ahlstrom's work and a lengthy discussion,
a quote from Moran will be sufficient for an explanation. In
a review of Ahlström's effort on Psalm 89, Moran notes:
Following the commentary there are some brief studies:
1. Dwd--David (pp. 163-173, Dwd is a vegetation deity,
and Yahweh's son); 2. Anschliessende Bemerkungen (pp.
174-185, meter, relation of TM and the versions, cult-
prophets, Ps 89 and 2 Sam 7); 3. Spezialanmerkungen (pp.
186-192, Tabor as cult-center of Tammuz, Hermon = "holy
place", date of Canaanite influence on Israelite liter-
ature, tenses in Hebrew).3
Obviously, Ahlström's work offers little or no help
in this dissertation. Weaknesses in the form-critical ap-
proach are evident everywhere. One of the latest attempts on
the subject is by Gene M. Tucker.4 In his review, Waltke
reveals the basic problem:
1G. W. Ahlström, Psalm 89: Eine Liturgie aus dem
Ritual des Leidenden Königs, translated by Hans-Karl Hacker
and Rudolf Zeitler (Lund: Hakan Ohlssons Boktryckeri, 1959).
2Joseph J. DeVault, a review of Psalm 89: Eine Litur
ie aus dem Ritual des Leidenden Königs by G. TW. Ahlstrbm, TS,
21 1960), 280.
3W. L. Moran, a review of Psalm 89, Eine Liturgie aus
dem Ritual des Leidenden Königs by G. W. Ahlström, Biblica,
42:2 (1961), 237. Moran concludes by saying, "One can only
wish that more respect had been shown for basic tenets of
Israelite faith." 239.
4Gene M. Tucker, Form Criticism of the Old Testament
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971).
In his attempt to popularize the form critical ap-
proach as developed by H. Gunkel in the narrative
literature, by C. Westermann in the prophetic liter-
ature, by S. Mowinckel in the hymnic literature and by
Alt in the legal literature, the author has produced a
work that combines the strength and weakness of popular
literature; viz. clarity and dogmatism. But by combin-
ing this virtue with this vice he unwittingly makes it
painfully clear, to the reader that most of the practi-
tioners of this approach are humanists who regard the
Bible as only a human document and presume that the
direct intervention of God in the affairs of man exists
only in man's creative imagination and not in historical
In terms of contribution
One contribution is in the area of hermeneutics, es-
pecially literary genres. Alexander says:
It is recognized, however, that liberal scholars have
often misused this profitable hermeneutical tool in
biblical studies. But, on the contrary, conservative
scholars have often failed to take advantage of this im-
portant means of studying Scriptures, simply because
liberal scholars employ it. Recently, however, conser-
vative scholars have begun to acknowledge the usefulness
of studying the forms of literature in Scripture, and
the results have been richly rewarding.2
The Gattung of each psalm does help the scholar to see
where natural divisions fall within the psalm. Ideas or con-
cepts expressed by the author often help one to discern how
the song was organized. In another way the approach enables
the student to see the emphasis of the author within a
lBruce K. Waltke, a review of Form Criticism of the
Old Testament by Gene M. Tucker, BS, 129:514 (April-June,
2Alexander, "Hermeneutics of Old Testament Apocalyptic
Literature," p. 108.
Gunkel-type. Probably the greatest aid has come in word
studies. To observe how a word is used in a similar literary
form in one psalm greatly assists one in his study of another
Then, too, Gunkel's approach has validity that has
been employed rightly by many. He states:
To understand the literary types we must in each case
have the whole situation clearly before us and ask our-
selves, Who is speaking? Who are the listeners? What
is the mise en scene at the time? What effect is aimed
What might be seen as another contribution is
Gunkel's use of archaeology and form-criticism to prove
wrong Wellhausen's theory on
the evolution of
ligion. It is much too lengthy to discuss here.2
Though it will not be stated as such, the reader will
detect the employment of the form-critical method in this
present study, but it will be based on the grammatical, his-
torical method of interpretation and the presuppositions
already mentioned. The above discussion not only acquaints
one with what is to follow, but it also will eliminate
lCoppes, "An Introduction to the Hermeneutic of Her-
mann Gunkel," p. 161. The citation was taken from Hermann
Gunkel, "Fundamental Problems of Hebrew Literary History,"
What Remains of the Old Testament?, translated by A. K.
There is absolutely no consensus of opinion on the
authorship of Psalm 89. The issue is confusing and quite in-
volved. Date and background cannot be divorced from the dis-
cussion, although they will be dealt with under separate
The superscription in English reads, "A Maskil of
Ethan the Ezrahite."1 In the Hebrew and Greek, the super-
scription is incorporated as verse one. The MT has lyKiW;ma
yHirAz;x,hA NtAyxel;2 and the LXX has Sune<sewj Aiqan t&? Israhli<t^.3
The authenticity of the superscription has raised many ques-
tions. Kirkpatrick writes:
It is now generally acknowledged that the titles re-
lating to the authorship and occasion of the Psalms
cannot be regarded as prefixed by the authors themselves,
or as representing trustworthy traditions, and according-
ly giving reliable information.4
Partially, Perowne would disagree. "That in some
cases the authors themselves may have prefixed their names to
1All English passages quoted in this work are from
the NASB, unless otherwise rioted.
2Rudolf Kittel, ed., Biblia Hebraica (
Privileg. Württ. Bibelenstalt, 1937), p. 1053. All refer-
ences to MT in this study are taken from this source.
3Alfred Rahlfs, ed., Septuaginta, 2 Vols. (
Württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1935), Vol. II, p. 95. Psalm
89 in the MT is Psalm 88 in the LXX. All references to LXX
in this study are taken from this source.
F. Kirkpatrick, ed., The Book of Psalms
bridge: The University Press, 1910), p. xxxi. For a few
their poems may be granted."l Inherent in the problem is the
date of the headings, especially in relation to the LXX.
Rather than cite several different views, a few
quotes from Archer will set forth and clarify the problem.
The critics generally regard the Hebrew psalm titles
as very late and unreliable, usually being derived by
inference from the internal evidence of the psalms them-
selves. This conclusion is often based upon two lines
of evidence: the occasional discrepancies between the
psalm titles in the MT and those in the LXX, and the
lack of correspondence between statements of historical
background and the situation presupposed in the psalms
themselves. . . .
Mature reflection, however, should lead the investi-
gator to quite an opposite conclusion. . . .
The LXX furnishes conclusive evidence that the titles
were added to the Hebrew Psalter at a date long before
Hellenistic times. That is to say there are several
technical terms appearing in the Hebrew titles the mean-
ings of which had been completely forgotten by the time
the Alexandrian translation was made (c. 150-100 B.C.).2
That some of the headings of the Psalms are not
rash statements that have yet to be proved see Artur Weiser,
The Psalms: A Commentary, translated by Herbert Hartwell,
The Old Testament Library (
Press, 1962), pp. 95, 98-99.
1J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols.,
revised edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1966)
Vol. I, p. 95. See several arguments for and against the
authority of the superscriptions in John McClintock and James
Strong, "Psalms, Book of," Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theologi-
cal, and Ecclesiastical Literature, 12 Vols., first published
in 1879, reprint (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969),
Vol. VIII, pp. 748-49.
2Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament
Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press,. 1964), p. 428.
rendered in the LXX would indicate that the songs, in-
struments, times of circumstances to which they refer
had passed out of the memory and tradition of the Jews.
If the headings had been inserted after the Greek ver-
sion was made, it is hard to see how the later Jews who
made the Targums and Talmud, should not have understood
And later he claims:
As to the text of the headings of the Psalms, the
evidence of the manuscripts and versions goes to show
that they are not merely substantially the same as they
were in the third century B.C., but that most of them
must even then have been hoary with age.2
The age of the title is important for this Psalm be-
cause the author is actively involved in the context. The
following material and the chapter on exegesis will seek to
demonstrate the relationship of the title to the content of
The next problem relating to the above is the under-
standing of l in the MT. As Smith declares, "We have no
clear objective guide as to the meaning of the preposition
in such contexts."3 It has been translated in the titles as
"by," “of,” “about,” or "for." At least a few seem to follow
1Robert Dick Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of
the Old Testament, revisions by E. J.
Press, 1959), p. 414.
2Ibid., p. 154.
M. Powis Smith, The Psalms (
sity of Chicago Press, 1926), p. 241.
the LXX rendering and translate the lamed as "for."1 If so,
then this deprives Ethan of authorship. However, Murphy
signifies that this and the other translations above are
"The most common designations of 'authorship'. . . ."2 But
then another source says, "While it can imply authorship,
. . . more literally it means 'belonging to.'"3 And Sarna
purports, "Usually the preposition le must indicate either
authorship or a collection identified with a guild."4
A most prominent Hebrew grammarian views the lamed
as indicating authorship without any question.5 Gesenius
concludes by noting, "Moreover, the introduction of the
author, poet, etc., by this Lamed auctoris is the customary
idiom also in the other Semitic dialects, especially in
1See André Robert and André Feuillet, Introduction
to the Old Testament, 2 Vol., translated by Patrick W.
et al, Image Books edition (
Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1970), Vol. II, p. 35 and A. R.
"Psalm LXXXIX," JFB, 6
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961), Vol. III, p. 292.
2Roland E. Murphy, "Psalms," JBC, edited by Raymond
Brown, et al (Englewood Cliffs,
Hall, Inc., 1968), p. 570.
3Leslie S. M'Caw and J. A. Motyer, "The Psalms,"
edited by D. Guthrie, et al (
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970),, p. 446.
4Nahum M. Sarna, et al, "Psalms, Book of," EJ, 16
Vols. (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 1971), Vol.
13, p. 1318.
Gesenius, GKC, reprint (
Clarendon Press, 1910), p. 419.
Arabic."1 In his discussion on the subject, Engnell writes,
". . . lehêmān in Psalm 88 and le'êthān in Psalm 89 are in-
tended to provide information concerning authorship."2
One may think the last remarks sound convincing, but
they are not to some. There are a few theories that can be
dismissed rather quickly. The Talmud says of Ethan,
the name is a pseudonym for the patriarch Abraham."3 Briggs
Three pseudonyms are together in the midst of the
Psalter, doubtless of editorial design: 88 ascribed
to Heman, 89 to Ethan, 90 to Moses; all alike with
the same purpose, to compose Pss. in the name and from
the point of view of these ancient worthies.4
Plainly, he declares of the Psalm, "It came from one
of the companions of Jehoiachin in his exile."5 Another
views Psalm 89 as ". . . the work of the general-in-chief of
Zedekiah. . . ." with the facts relating to 587 B.C.6 The
lIbid., p. 420.
2Engnell, A Rigid Scrutiny, p. 80.
3Cecil Roth, ed., "Ethan the Ezrahite," The Standard
Company, Inc., 1966), p. 642.
4Charles A. Briggs, and Emilie G. Briggs, The Book
of Psalms, 2 Vols., International Critical Commentary,
edited by Samuel R. Driver and Alfred Plummer, 47 Vols.,
reprint, 1969 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1906), Vol. I, p.
5Ibid., p. lxviii. See also.Vol. II, p. 250.
6G. Castellino, a review of Die Psalmen nach dem
Hebräischen Grundtext by Bernard Bonkamp, VT, 111:2 (April,
latter view will be handled in the next section of this
. . . it is absurd to suppose that the writers of them
would have attributed so many of the Psalms to precap-
tivity authors, when their contemporaries must have
known that the whole body of Psalms had arisen after
the fall of the first temple, had such been actually
Besides late authorship, Albright postulates that
Ethan was a Canaanite.2 He does so on the basis of his in-
terpretation of Ezrahite.3 Harrison agrees with the interpre-
tation, but sees Ethan in the time of the monarchy.4 Gray
also holds the same view and adds Egyptian color to the
Canaanite influence.5 Ahlström's stand has been cited by
Italian scholars as a position of Ethan-a-Canaanite.6
1Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testa-
ment, p. 154.
2William Foxwell Albright, Archaeology and the Re-
ligion of Israel, Anchor Books edition (Garden City, New
3Ibid., p. 210, fn. 95. Also see p. 204, fn. 44.
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969),
pp. 979, 1166. Another who seems to agree is Mitchell
The Anchor Bible--Psalms II (
Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1968), pp. 308, 311.
Gray, The Legacy of
Texts and their Relevance to the Old Testament, revised
edition, Supplements to
Brill, 1965), p. 207.
6The reviewer seems to agree completely with the
statement, "Etan 1'Ezrahita a cui it salmo è attribuito è
un sapiente ei un clan cananeo." P. Giovanni Rinaldi, ed.,
According to Rowley, the meaning of Ezrahite is ob-
scure.l The LXX has it meaning Israelite (Israhli<th) .
Granted that the term may mean native-born, the present
writer holds that Ethan was an Israelite. The linguistic
study of Albright, Gray, and Ahlström may be valid to a cer-
tain extent, but they have gone too far. Just because 'ezrah
means aboriginal, it does not have to indicate Canaanite
origin. From the following comments it will be seen that
was either of the tribe of
these sons of Jacob were born
Jacob had received the land from God as a permanent estab-
lishment (Gen. 28:1-4, 13). A reading of the passages re-
veals that Jacob's seed was included. Therefore, that Ethan
was native-born means that he was a member of the original
settlers to whom the land had been given for an everlasting
possession. The humanistic approach has left out God again.
But the problem still remains as, to Ethan's identity.
Peters concludes that he was a Galilaean of the temple of
Dan, which is not convincing at all.2 Burney has brought the
"I1 Salmo 89," a review of Psalm 89 by G. W. Ahlström, Bibbia
e Oriente, Anno 4 (Milano, 1962), 197.
H. Rowley, Worship in Ancient
and Meaning (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), p. 174.
P. Peters, "A
(October, 1920), 36. His argument is based on. 89:13 (Heb.).
remaining issues to the forefront:.
Ps. 88 is ascribed in the title to yHrzxh Nmyh, Ps. 89
to yHrzxh Ntyx, Pss. 39, 62, 77 to Nvtvdy. Hence the
chronicler distinguishes Ethan and Heman, the sages of
the tribe of
who were Levites; and further, his statement that they
were sons of Zerah need not conflict with that of Kings,
'sons of Mahol,' since Zerah, as is suggested by the
title yHrzxh may have been the remoter ancestor, Mahol
the immediate father. On the other hand, the author of
Psalm titles, in naming his men Ezrahites, seems to be
introducing a confusion between Levites and the Ju-
Considering Jeduthun (II Chron. 5:12) first, May de-
clares that “. . . Jeduthan has been substituted for Ethan
because it appeared in the Psalms."2 Driver says, “. . . it
is generally allowed that Jeduthan . . . is another name of
Ethan."3 With an added feature another agrees, “. . . it is
not necessary to assume that the Ethan here (I Kings v. 11;
1C. F. Burney, "Notes on the Books of Kings, The
Book of Judges and Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of
Kings, revised, The Library of Biblical Studies, edited by
H. M. Orlinsky (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1970), p.
51. Arthur G. Clarke says, "Ezrahite = Zerahite," Analytical
Studies in the Psalms (
lishers, 1949), p. 218.
Gordon May, "'
of the Psalms, AJSL, LVIII:l (January, 1941), 83.
3S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of
the Old Testament (
1956), p. 370. For a full discussion of this and related
problems see Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the
Psalms, 3 Vols., translated by Francis Bolton, reprint (Grand
Rapids; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, [n.d.], Vol. I,
pp. 9-10; Vol. III, pp. 32-33 and John M'Clintock and James
Strong, "Ethan," (and) “Ezrahite,” Cvclopaedia of Biblical,
Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, 12 Vol., reprint
I Chron. xi. 6) is the same as the Ethan or Jeduthan (I
Chron. xv. 17), who was of the tribe of Levi and a Merarite."1
Assuming Burney is correct, the problem now revolves
around Ethan of
and Ethan of Levi (I Chron. 6:29 [
19). Perowne holds that Ethan
was of the tribe of
because of his musical skill he enrolled in the tribe of
Levi.2 One argument could be that I Kings 5:11 has Ntyx
yHrzxh which is the same as the title of Psalm 89:1.
But I Chronicles 6:29; 15:17-19 has Ethan belonging
to the tribe of Levi. In the latter passage Ethan is known
as a singer, but not called an Ezrahite. Of course, the
silence does not mean that he could not have been native-born
and still be the Ezrahite of Psalm 89. There are still too
many problems to be dogmatic one way or another.
The last part of total discussion involves the period
of his existence. Was he David's contemporary, Solomon's,
both or neither? Someone writing with Sarna views Ethan of
(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), Vol. III, pp. 317-
18; 439-40 and "Psalms, Book of," Vol. VIII, pp. 749-50.
1Carl Bernard Moll, "The Psalms," translated with
additions by C. A. Briggs, et al, Lunge's Commentary on the
Holy Scriptures, 12 Vol., revised
Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), Vol. 5, p. 482.
2J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols.,
1966), Vol. I, p. 95.
89 as a
self believes that the real author lived after 735-34 B.C.2
Bewer says that he was David's musician.3 This cannot be de-
nied in the light of the biblical statements. Dickson claims
that Ethan survived Solomon's kingdom.4 Spurgeon avers,
“. . . Ethan . . . was a musician in David's reign; was noted
for his wisdom in Solomon's days and probably survived till
the troubles of Rehoboam's period.”5 Actually, this view
ties all the passages together well, if the Ethan of I Kings
5:11 were of the tribe of Levi.
As for Barnes, he is not sure who the author was.6
lNahum M. Sarna, et al, "Psalms, Book of," EJ, 16
Vols. (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 1971), Vol.
13, p. 1318.
2Nahum M. Sarna, "Psalm 89: A Study in Inner Bibli-
cal Exegesis," Biblical and Other Studies, edited by
Alexander Altmann, Philip W. Lown Institute of Advanced
Volume I (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963), p. 45.
3Julius A. Bewer, The Literature of the Old Testa-
ment, revised edition (
1940), p. 343.
4David Dickson, The Psalms, 2 Vols., first published
in 1653, reprint (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1959),
Vol. II, p. 107.
5C. H. Spurgeon, "Psalm LXXXIX," The Treasury of
David, 6 Vols. (
1950), Vol. IV, p. 23.
6Albert Barnes, Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms,
3 Vols., reprint (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964),
Vol. II, p. 369.
The present author would conclude that Ethan the Ezrahite is
the author. It would be helpful, but Smith's remarks cannot
be easily applied to Psalm 89:
The general conclusion as to the value of the super-
scriptions that is forced upon us by the foregoing facts
is that the testimony of a superscription regarding the
origin of a biblical book or a psalm may not be accepted
as authoritative in and of itself. Only if the psalm or
writing by its spirit and content supports the claim of
the superscription may it be accepted as stating the
As much as possible, this study will seek to demon-
strate that the spirit and content support the claim of the
superscription. Even though Ethan is the author as concluded
above, he may not have placed the superscription above the
psalm. If so, the present
writer totally agrees with
when he avers, "It is hardly to be supposed that the writer
of these headings would make his work absurd by making state-
ments that his contemporaries would have known to be untrue."2
The authorship cannot be studied thoroughly without
consideration of date and historical background. The treat-
ment of these facts will not be as extensive since much of it
has been covered here.
Date and Unity
For beneficial study of the background which is to
lSmith, The Psalms, p. 243.
2Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testa-
ment, p. 154.
follow, an approximate date or time period must be estab-
lished. From the above considerations it is held that Ethan
is the author, but when did he compose the song?
Usually, date and unity could be viewed separately,
but the complexity of viewpoints does not allow a total sepa-
ration here. It is impossible in this dissertation to spell
out all the reasons why scholars hold the dates they do. The
reader is asked to complete the study by perusing the sources
in the footnotes.
In the discussion, expressions of early date and
late date will be employed. An early date is the David-
Solomon period or shortly thereafter. The time from Josiah
to the Exile or after is considered a late date.
The date of Psalm 89 is tossed in contrary directions
with the unity or disunity of the composition not held con-
sistently with either. Buttenweiser holds a late date and
no unity.1 Others such as Crim,2 Kissane,3 McCullough,4
lMoses Buttenweiser, The Psalms: Chronologically
with a New Translation (
2Keith R. Crim, The Royal Psalms (
John Knox Press, 1962), pp. 104-09.
3Edward J. Kissane, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols.
(Dublin: Browne and Nolan Limited, 1954), Vol. II, p. 90.
4W. Stewart McCullough, Exegesis of Psalm "89," The
Interpreter's Bible, 12 Vols. (
1955), Vol. IV, pp. 478-79.
and Roddl view the psalm as late but having unity. Both
Leslie2 and Sarna3 see it composed in the eighth century,
but the former says with disunity and the latter claims
unity. DeQueker4 agrees with Gunkel5 on the disunity, and
both discern that one portion of Psalm 89 is pre-exilic and
another is exilic.
On the disunity, Buttenweiser writes dogmatically
that it is two Psalms and "The two pieces differ so radically
in tone and content that they cannot possibly be considered
an organic whole."6 As for Cheyne, he goes a step farther by
suggesting, . . . if we admit the vv. 4 and 5 were inserted
later as a link between the two psalms, it is surely most
natural to assume that originally they had no connexion
lCyril S. Rodd, Psalms 73-150, Epworth Preacher's
Commentaries, edited by Greville P. Lewis (
Epworth Press, 1964), p. 34.
A. Leslie, The Psalms (
Press, 1949), pp. 273-79.
3Sarna, "Psalm 89: A Study in Inner Biblical Exe-
gesis," p. 45.
4DeQueker, "Les Qedôsîm du Ps. lxxxix à la Lumiére
des Croyances Semitiques," ETL, 39 (1963), 474-75, 482.
5Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction,
pp. 24-25. A similar view is held by J. T. Milik in E. M.
Laperrousaz, "Chronique," RHR, 171 (Nouvelle Serie, 1966),
6Buttenweiser, The Psalms: Chronologically Treated
with a New Translation, p. 239. On the basis of "Selah,"
Snaith sees three psalms but does not admit unity nor dis-
unity: Norman H. Snaith, "Selah," VT, II:1 (January, 1952),
whatever."1 In reference to the same two verses, Crim
replies that they ". . . form an excellent introduction to
the whole, and any rearrangement of verse order would mar
the literary perfection of the Psalm."2
Elsewhere, Crim affirms:
Psalm 89 contains material characteristic of several
different Psalm categories, but they are united in a
harmonious whole in which each part contributes to the
petition to God to fulfill his promises to King David.3
Ward says, "Turning to the pattern of ideas in the
poem, we find, I believe, a beautifully articulated unity.”4
Another source states:
The unity of this psalm is seen by the recurrence of the
words faithfulness, mercy, and lovingkindness (vs. 1, 2,
5, 8, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49), and the word covenant (vs. 3,
28, 34, 39).5
According to Hillers:
Hebrew poems are ordinarily not notable for logical
organization, but this is exceptional, for it follows
1T. K. Cheyne, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols. (
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Company, Ltd., 1904), Vol.
II, p. 63.
2Crim, The Royal Psalms, p. 105.
3Keith R. Crim, "Translating the Poetry of the Bible,"
The Bible Translator, 23:1 (January, 1972), 104.
4J. M. Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Back-
ground of Psalm LXXXIX," VT, XI (1961), 322. A little later
in his work Ward is correct in asserting ". . . that Ps.
lxxxix is in its present form an 'original' composition." p.
5Francis D. Nichol, ed., "Psalm 89," The Seventh-day
Adventist Bible Commentary, 7 Vols. (Washington, D. C.: Re-
view and Herald Publishing Association, 1954), Vol. 3, p. 837.
a carefully conceived plan and the fundamental unity of.
theme and imagery becomes even more apparent with study.1
To sum it up, the present writer thoroughly concurs
The assumption is often made that this psalm does not
present an original unity. It seems to me, however,
that such a thought is insufficiently motivated, and
that this psalm, as it stands before us, is an example
of complete unity.2
Tables by Sarna emphasize the unity by words and
phrases.3 Should anyone carefully study these tables, he
would be convinced of the unity.
Besides those already mentioned, several other
scholars take the late date. Usually, the reason given is
that 89:39-52 are looked upon as the end of David's dynasty
a brief discussion writes, "The question of this psalm's
date invariably sparks lively debate, but the language and
conception comport well with a dating in the post-Davidic
monarchic period."4 Some scholars who hold this position
lDelbert R. Hillers, Covenant: The History of a Bib-
lical Idea (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1969), p.
2N. H. Ridderbos, "The Psalms: Style-Figures and
Structure," Studies on Psalms, Deel XIII, Oudtestamentische
Studiën, edited by P. A. H.
1963), p. 58..
3Sarna, "Psalm 89: A Study in Inner Biblical Exe-
gesis," TABLE I, p. 31; TABLE II, p. 32. Explanation of
headings are on pp. 30-31.
4Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II, p. 311.
with no firm conviction and those who unquestionably advocate
an exilic date or after are Perowne,l Driver,2 Tournay,3
Kirkpatrick,4 Russell,5 Westermann,6 Eissfeldt,7 Zimmerli,8
lPerowne, The Book of Psalms, Vol. II, p. 146.
2Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old
Testament, pp. 381, 385.
3R. Tournay, "En Marge D'une Traduction des Psaumes,"
RB, 63:2 (Avril, 1956), 176-77.
4Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms, p. 531.
5D. S. Russell, The Jews From Alexander to Herod
(London: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 289. On the
same page Russell assigns a number of the psalms to the
late date. This is somewhat significant since he is a
6Claus Westermann, The Old Testament and Jesus Christ,
by Omar Kaste (
House, 1968), p. 50.
70tto Eissfeldt, "Die Psalmen als Geschichtsquelle,"
Near Eastern Studies in Honor of William Foxwell Albright,
by Hans Goedicke (
1971), p. 103.
8Walthe:r Zimmerli, "Promise and Fulfillment," trans-
lated by James Wharton, Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics,
edited by Claus Westermann, English translation edited by
Luther Mays (
1963), p. 111. Zimmerli is a good example of one using the
latter part of the psalm to determine a date. He writes,
" . . . at a time when the Davidic monarchy has disappeared,
one can hear the passionate questioning of Yahweh about the
fulfillment of the promise which still tarries."
Gray,l Toy,2 Clarke,3
A slightly different position is advocated by Box who regards
“ . . . the psalm as based upon a pre-exilic one."7
McKenzie dates it near the fall of the Kingdom of
it in the days of Josiah or Zedekiah. Crenshaw writes,
1G. Buchanan Gray, "The References to the 'King' in
the Psalter, in Their Bearing on Questions of Date and Messi-
anic Belief," JQR, 7 (July, 1895), 665. See also by the same
A Critical Introduction to the Old
Gerald Duckworth and Company, Limited, 1913), pp. 135, 141.
2C. H. Toy, "Rise of Hebrew Psalm Writing," Journal
of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, VII
(June, 1887), 53.
3Clarke, Analytical Studies in the Psalms, p. 189;
yet, there seems to be a contradictory suggestion on p. 221.
(October, 1960), 433. See also by the same author "The Reign
of God in the 0. T.," VT, XIX:2 (April, 1969), 233.
5Robert H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament
(New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1948), pp. 373, 630.
R. North, "The Religious Aspects of Hebrew King-
ship," ZAW, Neunter Band:l (1932), 26.
7G. H. Box, Judaism in the Greek Period, Old Testament
Volume V, The Clarendon Bible, edited by Thomas Strong, et al
(Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1932), p. 182.
8John L. McKenzie, "Royal Messianism," CBQ, XIX:l
(January, 1957), 29.
9Albert Barnes, Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms,
3 Vols. (Grand.Rapids: Baker Book House, 1950), Vol. II, p.
10H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand
Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 632.
“. . .
psalm 89 may be
Josiah."1 And Mowinckel also agrees by noting that the psalm
is ". . . in all probability from the later part of the period
of the monarchy."2
Several other scholars do not commit themselves other
than saying it is pre-exilic: Archer,3 John Gray,4 Engnell,5
and Wright.6 Basing his argument by comparisons to Ugaritic
poetry, Hummel avers,
In general, the upshot is that there is no longer any
reason to question the pre-exilic date of many of the
psalms--or, for that matter, of the Davidic or even pre-
Davidic substance of many of them.7
1J. L. Crenshaw, "Popular Questioning of the Justice
God in Ancient
2Mowinckel, "Psalm Criticism Between 1900 and 1935,"
p. 32. See also John Paterson, review of Psalmen by Hans-
Joachim Kraus, JSS, V:3 (July, 1960), 291.
3Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p.
4John Gray, "The Hebrew Conception of the Kingship of
God: Its Origin and Development," VT, VI:3 (July, 1956), 277.
5Ivan Engnell, Studies in Divine Kingship in the
Ancient Near East, revised edition (
1967), p. 176.
6G. Ernest Wright, The Old Testament Against Its
Environment, Studies in
No. 2 (
Press, Ltd., 1950), pp. 33-34. Other views on psalm dating
can be found in Matitiahu Tsevat, A Study of the Language of
the Biblical Psalms, Journal of Biblical Literature Monograph
Series, Vol. IX (
ture, 1955), pp: 61-72.
7Horace D. Hummel, "The Influence of Archaeological
Evidence on the Reconstruction of Religion in Monarchical
Sarna declares that the psalm ". . . was inspired by
the Aramean-Israelite invasion
Eerdmans2 and Moll3 claim that it was composed in the days of
Rehoboam. And Delitzsch adheres to the time of Rehoboam with
not mentioning Psalm 89,
Finally, a striking and almost convincing testimony
for the early date of most of the psalms lies in the
fact that, except in a very few cases, we find no defi-
nite allusions in them to events or persons later than
the time of Solomon.5
Although a few of the late-date scholars are of re-
cent time, Bright comments,
The fashion of regarding the Psalms as largely post-
exilic has all but vanished; to date any of them in the
Maccabean period seems little short of impossible. The
bulk of them are of pre-exilic origin, and some of them
are very archaic indeed.6
Concordia Publishing House, 1970), p. 43.
1Sarna, "Psalm 89: A Study in Inner Biblical Exe-
gesis," p. 45. For arguments against post-exilic dating see
Sarna, et al, "Psalms, Book of," p. 1312.
2B. D. Eerdmans, "The Hebrew Book of Psalms,"
Oudtestamentische Studiën, Deel IV, edited by P. A. H. DeBoer
(Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1947), p. 22.
3Moll, "The Psalms," pp. 481-82.
4Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, Vol.
III, pp. 33-340.
5Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testa-
ment, p. 156.
6Bright, "Modern Study of Old Testament Literature,"
There are at least three reasons why the present
author must hold to an early date. One is rather obvious from
the discussion on authorship. The psalm was composed by Ethan
the Ezrahite. Since he was contemporary with the United Mon-
archy, it is best to view the origin of the psalm in the days
of David or Solomon or Rehoboam.
Secondly, the discoveries at Ras Shamra have greatly
influenced the dating of
Psalms. The people of
on clay tablets before 1200 B.C. The writing was done by
“ . . . using a stylus on soft clay which was subsequently
baked and thus rendered hard as stone."1 These clay tablets
“. . . have survived unchanged till our own day."2 What has
been learned is that the Hebrew psalms have much of the same
style, poetic imagery, and vocabulary as Ugaritic. This
would not likely have occurred if the psalms were of late
origin. In Psalm 89, in particular, the features of Ugaritic
poetry are very noticeable. As it will be demonstrated in
the coming chapters, there is really nothing that compares to
Psalm 89 in demonstrably late sources, but there is much from
very early sources.
Finally, there is no valid reason to commit this
lArvid S. Kapelrud, The Ras Shamra Discoveries and
the Old Testament, translated by G. W.
psalm to a late date. Previously it was shown that the major-
ity of those who hold to the late date do so on the grounds
that the psalm is a result of
Exile, or as some see it, the Davidic reign has ceased and
the psalm is a product of the Exile. This seems to be a good
case of eisegesis. There is nothing in Psalm 89 that indi-
cates a reigning monarch has
died or that
be.1 An event such
as the destruction of
temple was definitely a momentous occasion in the history of
seem to this writer that a vital matter, as this is, would
surely be mentioned specifically by the author, or at least
alluded to in such a way as to leave no doubt. Upon further
consideration, to hold the fall
one would almost have to agree with Albright that Ethan was a
Canaanite, because it is certain that no Jew would pass over
The date is an all-important issue because Psalm 89
refers to some historical situation, which is to be covered
in the next section. An exegesis of the psalm will help to
support the conclusions above.
Sitz im Leben
The historical situation of Psalm 89 is not easily
1For a similar view see Weiser, The Psalms: A Com-
mentary, p. 591.
discerned, as the previous discussion indicated. A setting
in the tenth century B.C. seems to fit best.
But before a choice is considered, another problem
must be handled. A number of scholars usually take it for
granted that II Samuel 7:8-16 is the source for Psalm 89:20-
38, but others do not. And the issue should be dealt with,
if this work is to be free from the accusation implied in
McKenzie's remark, "Some writers have quoted it without any
Priority of II Samuel 7
The priority and date of II Samuel 7 is important to
the setting of Psalm 89. If the origin of the Davidic Cove-
nant is not established, then the historical situation of
Psalm 89 is open to complete conjecture. A few illustrations
will convey this.
Another passage involved in the problem is I Chron-
icles 17:7-14. After a couple of lengthy paragraphs,
These facts do not exhaust the evidence, but they
suffice to prove that II Sam. 7 cannot antedate Ps. 89.
Since the Psalm is explicitly dated after the Exile of
586, and II Sam. 7 comes earlier than about 250, when
the Chronicler copied it in his book, II Sam. 7 was
1John L. McKenzie , Myths and Realities: Studies in
Biblical Theology (
1963), p. 205. See his view of the problem in this work just
cited, pp. 205-08.
undoubtedly written somewhere between those dates. The
character of the language places it closer to the later
than to the earlier period, probably in the late fourth
North argues the situation from the Deuteronomists'
standpoint.2 With his position on the disunity of the psalm,
The prevailing view to the contrary, II Samuel,
chapter 7, cannot be considered as the source of God's
promise to David in Ps. 89B:3a, 4-5, 20-38, for, first
of all, in these verses God is described as speaking to
David directly in a vision and not through the medium
of a prophet as in Samuel.3
A different interpretation is given by McKenzie:
The question has not been properly proposed by critics.
It is not, which came first, Samuel or the Psalm? I
submit that an examination of the passages will show
that neither came first; that the original oracle was
first; that the divergences of the three recensions can
only be some kind of reconstruction of the original
oracle. . . .4
1Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 373.
Later, Pfeiffer calls II Samuel 7 a late midrash, p. 630.
2Christopher R. North, The Old Testament Interpreta-
tion of History (London: The Epworth Press, 1946), p. 99.
For other views given on II Samuel 7 or Psalm 89 see Gerhard
von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2 Vols., translated by D.
M. G. Stakler (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1962),
I, p. 310, Mowinckel, The Psalms in
Vol. I, p. 63 and Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods
(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1948), p. 341.
3Buttenweiser, The Psalms: Chronologically Treated
with a New Translation, p. 250.
4John L. McKenzie, "The Dynastic Oracle: II Samuel
7," TS, VIII:2 (June, 1947), 195. Also see his discussion
in "Royal Messianism," pp. 27-31.
According to Cooke, "Indeed, both might be seen as
drawing upon a source which originated in the united monarchy
period."1 And Weiser's claim is ". . . a common cultic tra-
Since these scholars deny the objective historicity
of the covenant promise to David (II Sam. 7), they enter
into all manner of speculation on the date of origin of II
Samuel 7. But the present writer fully agrees with Clements:
The origin of the idea of such a covenant between
Yahweh and the house of David is found in the prophecy
of Nathan recorded in II Samuel ch. 7. This oracle
gives an account of how this covenant originated, and
what is promised.3
All the judgments prior to this lack evidence to sup-
port their assertions; only Clements' view has validity. As
Glueck says, "In Ps. 89 the contents of II Sam. 7:14-16 are
repeated almost verbatim in poetic form."4 It is the word
almost that some scholars take as a loophole to see no con-
nection. However, it must be realized that Psalm 89 is a
poetic version of II Samuel 7. Therefore, some of the
1Gerald Cooke, "The Israelite King as Son of God,"
ZAW, 73 (1961), 203.
2Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, p. 591.
Biblical Theology, No. 43 (London: SCM Press, Ltd., 1965),
4Nelson Glueck, Hesed in the Bible, translated by
Press, 1967), p. 76. See also Crim, The Royal Psalms, p.
variations are due to style and ". . . many of the differ-
ences reflect the distinct viewpoint of the writer."1
There are other opinions that might be considered,2
but those who hold to a late date of the original covenant
promise must be answered. The date of II Samuel 7 can be
fairly well established. Thiele has done a remarkable work
on the chronological problem of the Hebrew kings. After
nearly fifty pages of dealing with the problems and facts,
he concludes, ". . . we thus secure the date of 931 B.C. as
the year of Jeroboam's accession and the schism between
would then place the beginning of Solomon's reign at 971 B.C.;
according to II Samuel 5:4-5 and I Kings 2:11, the start of
David's reign would be near 1011 B.C. There is clear indica-
tion that the oracle of Nathan was given after David ruled
shortly after 1004 B.C. or very early in the tenth century.
1Norman Habel, Literary Criticism of the Old Testa-
ment (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), p. 9.
2George Widengren, "King and Covenant," JSS, II:l
(January, 1957), 21-26. Joseph A. Alexander, The Psalms:
Translated and Explained, reprint of 1864 edition (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, [n.d.], p. 369. Jean-
Bernard DuMortier, "Un Rituel d'Intronisation:' Le Ps.
LXXXIX 2-38,", VT, XXII:2 (April, 1972), 193-96.
3Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the
Hebrew Kings, revised edition (
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), p. 52.
And Psalm 89 would be subsequent to this date.
Mowinckel accepts Psalm 89 as one of the Royal Psalms,
but then says:
They contain therefore no realistic description of the
individual historical king and his particular situation.
They present the royal ideal, the typical king as he
exists in religious theory and in the people's mind and
imagination, and as he should be when he appears before
God in the cult. The psalms presuppose and describe
typical, constantly recurring situations, e.g. the sit-
uation at the death of the old king who is represented
as a universal king. Before the enthronement of his
successor, the vassals might be preparing insurrection
(Ps. 2) or the enemies have overrun the country (Ps.
89), but the deity arises to save his royal son (Ps.
Neither does Johnson hold to a historical situation.2
These are certainly unwarranted assumptions. Kapelrud ob-
Aubrey R. Johnson's interpretation of the "nations" in
Psalms 2, 18, 89, and 118 as mythological beings is a
natural consequence of MOWINCKEL's view. MOWINCKEL's
criticism of JOHNSON's opinion is in reality also a
criticism of his own interpretation of the mythical
combat in the Psalms of Enthronement.3
1Mowinckel, The Psalms in
p. 75. Faw is not certain of his position. See Charles
Ernest Faw, "Royal Motifs in the Hebrew Psalter," (unpub-
2Aubrey R. Johnson, Sacral Kingship in Ancient
3Arvid Kapelrud, "Scandinavian Research in the
Kosmala (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1965), p. 78.
Including II Samuel 7 in his discussion, Sarna's con-
viction is completely contrary to these assumptions:
Psalm 89, verses 4-5, 20-38, accordingly, do not repre-
sent a different, independent recension of Nathan's
oracle to David, and there is no question of deciding
upon the relationship of the prose to a supposed poetic
version. These verses constitute, rather, an exegetical
adaption of the oracle by the psalmist to fit a specific
The very nature of Psalm 89 points to some particular
historical circumstance. The exegesis will help bear this
out. But the task remains to determine, if possible, that
specific event. It appears that 89:31-46 is referring to a
descendant of David. As a result of the previous discussion
in this dissertation, the late date is out of the question.
Therefore, the following material is narrowed down to those
who adhere to the early date, that is, to a descendant not
too far removed from the united monarchy.
A closer look at verses 39-46 bring out several more
requirements that must match the situation. To name a few,
there is mention of strongholds being brought to ruin,
enemies are involved, the clear indication of an invasion,
etc. In much the same vein, Sarna commences the exposition
of his view:
Bearing in mind all the foregoing, it is possible to
reconstruct the nature of the events which produced the
lament. This latter must reflect an invasion of
1Sarna, "Psalm 89: A Study in Inner Biblical Exe-
gesis," p. 39.
but it must have been one that did not have as its pri-
mary goal the conquest of
real target was the reigning monarch, whom the invaders
wished to depose and replace by an outsider, not of
Then Sarna goes on to discuss and argue for the days
of Ahaz and the anti-Assyrian coalition which desired to dis-
pose of Ahaz in favor of a non-Davidic king (Isa. 7).2 Sev-
eral of his arguments are rather convincing, but there are
one or two matters that can be seriously questioned. For
instance, there is not a hint in the psalm of an attempt to
replace the king; it seems that Sarna read a little too much
into it. Also, he makes mention of verse one in the MT (i.e.
the psalm title) but has to settle for some type of editor-
psalmist. Thus the 735-34 B.C. date is no problem to him.
Clarke takes a much earlier date. He says that Ethan
. . . must have known the divine declaration recorded I
Kings xi.9-13. This would come as a shock to all who
had rejoiced in the covenant which God had made with
David, 2 Sam. vii. With that covenant in mind Ethan
here utters his impassioned acknowledgment and appeal
to Jehovah. It is possible that Ethan outlived Solomon
and saw the break-up of the kingdom.3
This view does not have enough sufficient evidence to
satisfy the psalm passages. In an interesting allusion to
89:11 (Heb.) Moll suggests a different event:
lIbid., p. 43.
2Ibid.; pp. 44-45.
3Clarke, Analytical Studies in the Psalms, pp. 220-
The occasion of the composition was most probably the
defeat of Rehoboam I Kings xiv.25ff. 2 Chron. xii.lff.
by Shishak, that is, Sheshonk I. From this is perhaps
to be explained the preminence [sic] given here to
under the name Rahab . . . in allusion to the former
overthrow of this presumptuous and defiant enemy by the
judgment of God. At that time the Ezrahite Ethan could
have been still living.1
Holding the same occasion, Delitzsch has additional
remarks of interest:
During this very period Ps. lxxxix. took its rise.
The young Davidic king, whom loss and disgrace make pre-
maturely old, is Rehoboam, that man of Jewish appearance
whom Pharoah Sheshonk is bringing among other captives
before God Anun in the monumental
who bears before him in his embattled ring the words
Judhmelek (King of Judah)--one of the finest and most
reliable discoveries of Champollion, and one of the
greatest triumphs of his system of hieroglyphics.2
The latter view expressed by Moll and Delitzsch seems
best to fit the language of Psalm 89. This is not to say the
view has no problems. In light of the exegesis in the next
chapter, the thoughts here will be brief to prevent needless
The proposed setting, then, for the composition of
Psalm 89 is found in I Kings 14:21-28 and II Chronicles 12:1-
12. Comparing these passages with Psalm 89:31-46 (Heb.) and
II Samuel 7:12-16 offers the most plausible explanation.
The covenant is unconditional; it rests solely on the
1Moll, "The Psalms," p. 482.
2Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, Vol.
III, p. 34.
promises of Yahweh. But, if David and his descendants were
to enjoy the promises, they had to be obedient (II Sam. 7:4;
Ps. 89:31-33). That Rehoboam sinned is not open to question.
took place when the
and strong that he and all
the Lord" (II Chron. 12:1).
The content of 89:41-43 (Heb.) can be understood from
the facts in I Kings 14:25-28 and II Chronicles 12:9-11. In
his quote above, Delitzsch has given a valid explanation for
89:46 (Heb.). The remaining verses of 89:39-46 are not too
difficult to meet the description in the historical passages.
Also, this opinion allows for the direct authorship
of Ethan. And he, who was close to the Davidic line and the
freshness of the covenant, would be most likely for the peti-
tion at the close of the psalm. The date, then, of the com-
position would be shortly after or in Tishri, 926, to Tishri,
925 B.C. Someone may argue that this would make Ethan too
old. The present writer can see no reason why Ethan could
not have been eighty to ninety years old. It may be why he
considers King Rehoboam as in the days of his youth.
Type of Psalm
Reference to the matter of type has already been men-
tioned in the first section of this chapter. The task here
is to see where Psalm 89 fits best in the classifications. As
stated before, Gunkel is responsible for the pioneer work in
this area. Guthrie explains the four basic principles upon
which Gunkel erected his work,l but they will not be delin-
By combining the works of Gunkel2 and Guthrie,3 the
present writer has attempted to present the classification of
types in chart form. The works themselves should be read for
a full explanation. "Proceeding from his four principles,
Gunkel identified . . . six major types of poetry, six minor
types, and two special types."4
A. MAJOR TYPES
1. The Hymn
2. Songs of Yahweh's Enthronement
3. The Community Lament
4. The Royal Psalm
5. The Individual Lament
6. The Individual Thanksgiving
B. MINOR TYPES
1. Pronouncements of Blessing or Curse
2. Pilgrimage Songs
3. Victory Songs
4. Community Thanksgivings
5. Sacred Legends
6. Torah Songs
Themes, pp. 8-9.
2Gunkel, The Psalm A Form-Critical Introduction,
Themes, pp. 10-14.
4Ibid., p. 9.
C. SPECIAL TYPES
1. Prophetic Psalms
2. Wisdom Poetry
Of course, no man's work goes without criticism. For
example, there are no legends in the psalms. Also, many
would point out that Gunkel omitted Messianic Psalms and
Enthronement" and entitles them "Yahweh Malak Psalms." He
then establishes his own characteristics or categories and
says that Psalm 89 has all five of them.1 Murphy evaluates
Westermann's challenge to Gunkel and expresses his own views.2
The psalm is considered a national lamentation by
Eissfeldt3 and Leslie,4 the former on the basis of a late
date and the latter on the basis of the closing verses in the
psalm. A reading of these sources reveals that there are
obvious reasons for rejecting these views.
(Juli-August, 1965), 343-48. Faw says, "Few melek psalms
have received a wider variety of treatment at the hands of
commentators than this one." Faw, "Royal Motifs in the
Hebrew Psalter," p. 40.
2Roland E. Murphy, "A New Classification of Literary
Forms in the Psalms," CBQ, XXI:l (January, 1959), 83-87.
3Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction,
by Peter R. Ackroyd (
1966), pp. 111-12. His view of a late date had been referred
to earlier in this work.
4Leslie, The Psalms, pp. 259, 273.
Gunkell and Anderson2 advocate that the first part of
the psalm is a hymn and the second part is a lament, but
Gunkel does so on the basis of date and disunity. And Murphy
sees it as a mixed composition.3
Probably the most widely held position is that Psalm
89 is a royal psalm. But even within this realm, there is no
consensus of opinion. Commencing with definitions, differ-
ences are revealed. Mowinckel asks and answers:
Now, what do we mean by the expression 'royal psalms'?
These psalms are not a special 'kind' or 'type'
(Gattung) from the point of view of the history of
style or literature or liturgy. They comprise nearly
all kinds of psalms, both hymns of praise and lamenta-
tions, thanksgivings and prophetic sayings, and several
other types. Common to them is the circumstance that
the king is in the foreground. He is the one who prays
or the one who is spoken of, or who is prayed for.
They include Pss. 2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 101; 110; 132;
28; 61; 63; 89; and quite a number of others.4
Much of what Mowinckel has said is true of Psalm 89.
Yet elsewhere in his work, Mowinckel calls the psalm a na-
tional lamentation.5 Robert and Feuillet have a similar
1Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction,
ment, second edition
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966), p. 480.
3Murphy, "Psalms," pp. 571, 592.
4Mowinckel, The Psalms in
5Ibid., pp. 219, 236.
definition with this emphasis, "But the important place occu-
pied in these psalms by the king gives them a special char-
acter which should be noted."1 Dahood gives a number of
“. . . verbal clues that help to identify these psalms as
royal. . . ."2 But prior to this, his statements manifest an
added feature to the type:
Scholars generally classify eleven psalms as royal,
that is, psalms sung on festive occasions for or in
honor of the king and the royal house. These are ii,
xviii, xx, xxi, xlv, lxxii, lxxxix, ci, cx, cxxxii,
The festival concept has some serious ramifications.
Rowley refers to Psalm 89 in connection with "ritual combat."4
Weiser relates the psalm to festive occasion,5 Weaver to cere-
monies,6 and Ward to a national rite and ". . . a ritual set-
ting that bears the marks of a pilgrimage festival."7 To all
of which Leupold would reply:
1Robert and Feuillet, Introduction to the Old Testa-
ment, Vol. II, p. 56.
2Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms III, p. XXXVIII.
3Ibid. For further study of the type, scholars, and
views see Leopold Sabourin, The Psalms: Their Origin and
Meaning, 2 Vols. (Staten Island, New York: Alba House, 1969),
Vol. 2, pp. 209-12.
Worship in Ancient
Meaning, p. 198.
5Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, p. 63.
6Horace R. Weaver, The Everlasting Covenant (Nash-
ville; Graded Press, 1965), p. 186.
7Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background
of Psalm LXXXIX," p. 328.
But why the "rituals" should be made so prominent is far
from obvious, except for the fact that one strong trend
of the present is to include everything in the psalms
under the category of the liturgical.1
After expressing practically the same thought, Robert
and Feuillet rightly comment:
With few exceptions (Ps 24 is one) the data of internal
criticism, such as allusions to sacrifices and liturgical
actions, references to processions and dialogue recita-
tions, are usually vague. These items call for close
attention, but they simply do not tell us very much. We
have already pointed out that there is no solid reason
for imagining the existence of liturgical feasts when
tradition tells us nothing about them.2
Another problem relative to this is the speaker in
the psalm. In connection with his cultic-ritual view,
Mowinckel devotes much to an "I" and "We" concept in the
royal psalms. By this method he determines the speaker.
Thus, he writes, “In Ps. 89 the king laments about the defeat
he has suffered in the fight against his enemies . . . .”3
Dahood also purports that the king is the speaker.4 In answer-
ing Mowinckel's Conviction, Sabourin argues:
It can be recalled here that unless the king is men-
tioned explicitly or implicitly it is usually difficult
to prove that the "I"-speaker is a royal figure, when
1Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms, p. 228.
2Robert and Feuillet, Introduction to the Old Testa-
ment, Vol. II, p. 61.
3Mowinckel, The Psalms in
48. Another discussion of the problem is found in George W.
Anderson, "Enemies and Evildoers in the Book of Psalms, BJRL,
48:1 (Autumn, 1965) 18-29.
4Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II, p. 311.
the context points to the interests of a private
Bewer just simply states that Psalm 89 is a prayer
for the king.2 There are too many others to quote who plain-
ly see the psalmist as the speaker. Having discussed the
related problems, the type can once again be brought to the
The predominant conclusion, even with those who
differ in related matters, is that Psalm 89 is a royal psalm.
The constant references to king and covenant support this.
But there is the lament which cannot be neglected. As Driver
says, it is a royal psalm with ". . . a supplication on ac-
count of the humbled dynasty of David. . . “3 Guthrie con-
curs.4 But Dentan puts it specifically that ". . . Ps. 89,
a royal lament . . . has more to say about God's faithfulness
than any other psalm."5
If the present writer has a choice, he would combine
a couple terms of Gunkel and type Psalm 89 as a Royal Lament.
1Sabourin, The Psalms: Their Origin and Meaning, Vol.
2, p. 210.
2Bewer, The Literature of the Old Testament, p. 371.
3Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old
Testament, p. 369.
nant Themes, p. 140.
5Robert C. Dentan, The Knowledge of God in Ancient
The speaker is Ethan, who with no ritualistic aspect, extolls
God through it all. This does not say the psalm may not have
been used in temple singing later, but it does mean that it
was not originated in a cultic setting, nor was it designed
primarily for liturgical worship. The exegesis will support
as well as highlight this.
The Question of Structure and Meter
Thus far, every division of this chapter has been
highly controversial, and the structure and meter of the
psalm are no exception. Since the problem is so detailed
and involved, the present discussion will be characterized
by brevity because of limited space. Therefore, the reader
is asked to read all sources cited for details.
The question of structure
According to some scholars the structure of poetry is
made up of strophes. Briggs explains:
The simple strophes are of few lines of one kind of
parallelism. The complex strophes have more lines and
two or more kinds of parallelism. In this case the
connection of thought is usually clear. The strophical
divisions may be determined by a more decided separation
in the thought of the poem.1
In applying his method to Psalm 89, the outcome as
given in his work is verses 47-52, a pair of strophes (3
lines each); verses 4-5; 18-46, sixteen strophes (2 lines
1Briggs, The Book of Psalms, Vol. I, p. xlv.
each); and verses 16-17 are omitted.1 The conclusion is far
too choppy. It seems that Briggs could have applied the
separation of thought to a much better advantage.
With no explanation, Kissane declares, "The poem con-
sists of five strophes of eight verses each, with an intro-
duction and a conclusion of six verses each."2 This is a
simple arrangement, but it is forced. The value is lost be-
cause it disrupts thought patterns, and, like Briggs, he has
employed no grammatical features.
On the basis of an elaborate approach, and the English
numbering system, Forbes first divides the psalm into three
parts: verses 1-18; verses 19-37; verses 38-51; each having
four strophes. Several of his strophes are combined and are
viewed as strophe and antistrophe.3 Some aspects of this
arrangement are commendable, but the analysis is so burden-
some; and it surely adds nothing to the content. Moreover,
there is the danger of causing some students to dwell on the
structure and miss the meaning and flow of thought.
The comments of Ward are by far the most realistic:
Is it possible to divide the psalm into strophes? If
we define a strophe in terms of the poetic canons of
1Ibid. p. xlvi.
2Kissahe, The Book of Psalms, Vol. II, p. 89.
3John Forbes, Studies on the Book of Psalms (Edin-
burgh: T. and T. Clark, 1888), pp. 87-91.
some other literature than that of
surely no. Attempts have been made to analyze the psalm
on the basis of such definitions. They are arbitrary,
artificial, and unconvincing. There is no precise,
fixed pattern of strophic arrangement in the psalm.
There are discernable groups of lines, however, which
can be called strophes in a broad sense.1
He forms the psalm into quatrains: the introduction
(vss. 2-5); the praise portion (vss. 6-19) consisting of
three quatrains with verses 18-19 as a climax; the oracle
(vss. 20-38) consisting of five quatrains; the judgment (vss.
39-46) made up of two quatrains; and the prayer (vss. 47-52)
cast into an eight-stress rhythm of six lines.2 (Italics
This approach certainly seems valid. If the term may
be used, there are four-line strophes composed of paired
couplets. The grammatical features, the thought patterns,
the parallelism, and the continuity concur with this type of
structure. Although some will disagree, the present writer
will follow an indentical structure because of internal evi-
dence, whereas, the other arrangements have little or no
internal evidence or are overdone.
The question of meter
The words of Byington are most appropriate for a look
at the problem:
1Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background
of Psalm LXXXIX," p. 324.
2Ibid., pp. 324-26.
It would be hard to discover a possible theory of
meter that has not been applied to Hebrew poetry. . . .
Those who profess the same principles will disagree as
to the number of feet per line in a given psalm.1
But he offers a very tedious mathematical approach
which is not convincing.2 In an answer to Byington, only a
small part of Gottwald's total argument is cited here:
It is a matter of debate whether longer words require or
permit a second stress. It is also problematic whether
on occasion two short terms may receive a single stress,
while terms joined by the "binder" may be permitted
New problems have arisen with the discoveries of Ras
Shamra. Young concludes his article on "Ugaritic Prosody" by
saying, "That regular meter can be found in such poetry is an
illusion."4 But Albright interprets the facts differently,
naming Gordon and Young as his opponents.5 However, to ob-
tain his regular meter Albright admittedly has to do some
reconstruction.6 While Gordon does not name Albright, he
seems to be replying to him directly:
1Steven T. Byington, "A Mathematical Approach to
Hebrew Meters," JBL, LXVI (1947), 63.
2Ibid., pp. 64-77.
3N. K. Gottwald, "Poetry, Hebrew," The Interpreters
Dictionary of the Bible, 4 Vols. (
Vol. K-Q, p. 834.
4G. Douglas Young, "Ugaritic Prosody, JNES, 9:3
(July, 1950), 133.
5W. F. Albright, "A Catalogue of Early Hebrew Lyric
Poems (Psalm LXVIII)," HUCA, XXIII: Part I (1950-1951), 6.
6Ibid., pp. 5ff., 9ff.
Structually different verses and strophes occur con-
stantly within the same poem in Ugaritic. It is there-
fore unsound to attribute similar variety in the Bible
to the blending of different poems. Perhaps the most
important fact to bear in mind is that the poets of the
ancient Near East (e.g., Acc., Ug., Heb., Eg.) did not
know of exact meter. Therefore emendations metri causa
are pure whimsy. The evidence can be found in G. D.
Young's treatment of the subject in JNES 9 1950 124-133.
All that is asked of those who maintain metric hypotheses
is to state their metric formulae and to demonstrate that
the formulae fit the texts. Instead they emend the texts
to fit their hypotheses. A sure sign of error is the
constant need to prop up a hypothesis with more hypoth-
Gottwald also states it very plainly:
These Canaanite discoveries in particular, dating from
the fourteenth century B.C. and in a tongue dialectically
related to biblical Hebrew, argue strongly the futility
of seeking metrical exactness in the poetry of the OT.
Emendation of the text for metrical reasons and without
syntactic or versional support, is a dubious practice.2
It is usually agreed that Ugaritic has a 3+3 pattern,3
“. . . but there are innumerable variations."4 According to
some, the same holds true for Hebrew poetry basically.5 When
Biblicum, 1965), p. 131, fn. 2.
2Gottwald, "Poetry, Hebrew," p. 834. For further
study on the futility of metrical exactness in Hebrew and
Ugaritic poetry see
1963), pp. 12-13 and
the Old Testament, pp. 175-76.
3John Hasting Patton, Canaanite Parallels in the Book
of Psalms (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1944), p. 6.
4Gottwald, "Poetry, Hebrew," p. 834.
5Ibid. Also see Robert G. Boling, "'Synonymous'
Parallelism in the Psalms," JSS, V:3 (July, 1960), 222.
it comes to Psalm 89, McKenzie points out that Hanel has ob-
tained a 3:3 meter for the psalm on the basis of reconstruc-
With some variations, the following scholars see Psalm
89 in a 4:4 and 3:3 meter: Ward,2 Cheyne,3 Podechard,4
Briggs,5 McCullough,6 and Faw.7 Their arrangements and dis-
cussion are much too lengthy to quote here. Other studies on
meter are available, but also too large for consideration.8
Another controversy related to this concerns formulaic
technique. Gevirtz writes:
. . . the Hebrew poet structured his verses not with
whole formulaic phrases (though on occasion as we shall
indicate, this technique also was employed) but with
fixed pairs of parallel terms. If these pairs were,
fitted into the lines in accordance with some principle
of meter, it has yet to be discovered.9
1McKenzie, "The Dynastic Oracle: II Samuel 7," p. 196.
2Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background of
Psalm LXXXIX," pp. 322-23.
3Cheyne, The Book of Psalms, Vol. II, pp. 63, 68.
4E. Podechard, Le Psautier, 2 Vols. (
Catholiques, 1949), pp. 108-11.
5Briggs, The Book of Psalms, Vol. I, pp. xli, xlii;
Vol. II, p. 250.
6McCullough, Exegesis of'Psalm "89," p. 479.
7Faw, "Royal Motifs in the Hebrew Psalter," pp. 41-42.
8Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, Vol. 1,
pp. 28-30. Koch, The Growth of the Biblical Tradition: The
Form-Critical Method, pp. 91-100.
9Gevirtz, Patterns in the Early Poetry of
His arguments immediately following this quote are
rather convincing and should be consulted. But, as always,
there must be opposition. Culley has written an entire work
on formulaic language. He recognizes that Gevirtz sees meter
involved, however, he does not accept Gevirtz's proposal
cited above.1 After some discussion, Culley surmises:
Then again, while parallelism is dominant in Hebrew
poetry, it is not necessary that every line show this
characteristic. In other words, there is something
more fundamental to Hebrew poetry than parallelism,
and this probably has to do with metre, which although
we cannot as yet say precisely how, restricts the cola
within certain limits.2
In the light of evidence, internal and external,
Culley is certainly in error in assuming meter to be more
fundamental than parallelism. There is just no question
about parallelism being the chief characteristic of Hebrew
poetry. In conclusion, the present writer solely agrees with
the balanced and sound statements of Gevirtz:
. . . while the existence of meter in biblical Hebrew
poetry is highly probable and certainly cannot as yet
be categorically denied, it has yet to be convincingly
demonstrated. Metrical analysis, still dubious in the
extreme, can add little to our understanding of a poem's
This controversial chapter has dealt with what the
lRobert C. Culley, Oral Formulaic Language in the
Biblical Psalms (
1967), pp. 117-19.
2Ibid., p. 119.
in the Early Poetry of
writer feels are necessary antecedents to the following exe-
gesis. It must be said that the exegesis will not be forced
to meet the conclusions in this chapter, but rather, it will
be a privilege to allow the Scripture to speak for itself.
EXEGESIS OF PSALM 89
In consideration of the psalm's form and content, the
complexity is quite significant when understood properly. As
an integral portion of God's Word, Psalm 89 manifests its own
contribution. The opening words of Ward are very appropriate:
Ps. lxxxix is in many ways the most interesting and
important of the royal psalms. Taken as a whole it is
a lamentation (vss. 39-52) over the frustration of God's
promises to the Davidic dynasty (vss. 20-38), which were
made possible by his cosmic sovereignty (6-15). The
first part of the psalm recalls the hymns of Yahweh's
enthronement (xlvii, xciii, xcv-c), the second, the
oracle of Nathan (2 Sam. vii; Ps. cxxxii), and the third,
the individual lamentations of the Psalter.l
Thus, there is the need to exegete this enriching
revelation. Also, the need can be exaggerated, for the aim
later is to judge the ancient Near Eastern parallels. The
exegesis will not be as broad and deep as the present author
would like. Though there be limitations, the exegesis will
still be sufficient to see the revealed truth.
The form will be to follow the Hebrew text. Verse
one in the MT is verse two in the NASB. Since commentators
are not unified, confusion could result and space wasted if
1J. M. Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Back-
ground of LXXXIX, "' VT, XI (1961), 321.
no definite scheme is employed. Therefore, the present writer
must establish a system. Since the Hebrew text is followed
here, all verse citations from other sources also following
the Hebrew text: will remain as they are. But the liberty
will be taken in all other quotes to put the Hebrew verse
reference in brackets .
The pattern for verses 1-19 will be to place the
Hebrew verse or verses at the beginning of each main section
or subsection. This easy access prevents the flipping of
pages to reach an entire presentation.
89:1 Meditation with Insight
yHirAz;x,hA NtAyxel; lyKiW;ma
The chief concern here is the word lyKiW;ma. It is
almost unbelievable that some should tie this word with a
ritualistic connotation. Ahlström practically interprets the
entire psalm in the light of this one word. He claims that
it is a psalm employed in renewal rites.1 His concept is
summarized well by DeVault:
What, then, is A.'s view of Ps 89? As a maskil, the
Psalm belongs to those rites in which joy over the re-
newal of life is expressed, but to which are to be added
also rites which represent suffering and death, drama-
1G. W. Ahlström, Psalm 89: Eine Liturgie aus dem
Ritual des Leidenden Königs, translated by Hans-Karl Hacker
and Rudolf Zeitler (Lund: Hakan Ohlssons Boktryckeri, 1959),
tizing the (temporary) victory of the forces of chaos
and the humiliation of the king.1
In his review, Mowinckel says, ". . . . on the negative
side, Ahlström's treatment of maskil is good . . . .”2 How-
ever, Mowinckel does not agree totally. A portion of his
view is cited by DuMortier, who then expresses his own inter-
Le mot maskîl est d'interprétation difficile; on re-
tiendra l'explication de S. MOWINCKEL qui volt dans la
racine skl "la capacité de comprehension et d'énergie
qui permet de réussir quelque chose, d'obtenir un
resultat positif". Dans la mesure ou cette racine
est bien en rapport avec la notion d'efficacité, de
sagesse efficiente, on pourra voir dans le culte le
"Sitz im Leben" probable de ces maskîlîm (au sens de
As Engnell construes the word, he states:
Maskîl . . . is undoubtedly the technical term for a
particular kind of "Enthronement Psalm" belonging to
the central part of the ritual of the annual festival
which describes the act of atonement of the king
[catchwords ransom and covenant] both in its negative
and especially in its positive aspects, and refers to
the result of the atonement and the hymnic motif asso-
ciated with it.4
1Joseph J. DeVault, a review of Psalm 89: Eine
Liturgie aus dem Ritual des Leidenden Königs by G. W. Ahl-
ström, TS, XXI (1960), 281.
2Sigmund Mowinckel, a review of Psalm 89. Eine
Liturgie aus den Ritual des Leidenden Königs by G. W.
Ahlström, JSS, V:3 (July, 1960), 295-96.
3Jean-Bernard DuMortier, "Un Rituel d'Intronisation:
Le Ps. LXXXIX 2-38," VT, XXII:2 (April, 1972), 177. A full
understanding of Sigmund Mowinckel's view can be observed in
The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2 Vols., translated by D. R.
Ap-Thomas (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), Vol. II, p. 209.
4Ivan Engnell, A Rigid Scrutiny: Critical Essays
on the Old Testament, translated and edited by John T. Willis,
There is absolutely no evidence that the word can be
designated as referring to any kind of rites. Data and opin-
ion are offered by another:
Featured in the headings to 13 psalms, maskil never ap-
pears without a proper name with a prepositional lamed
(Ps. 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, 142). The
LXX understood it to mean "instruction" (cf. Ps. 32:8).
It must be assumed to refer to some special skill re-
quired in the manner of musical performance (cf. Ps.
47:8). From the context of Amos 5:13 and the contrast
between the maskil and the mourning rites (5:16-17),
the term might well indicate some type of song.1
It may be some type of song, but nothing indicates a
ritual setting. Another view says:
Maskîl (13 times), on the basis of the vb. skl, has been
taken to mean a didactic poem, but it is found also with
those that are not didactic. Another possibility is
"artistic poem," i.e., one executed with art.2
But most scholars, too many to mention, agree with a
standard lexicon definition, "contemplative poem."3 To this
the present writer concurs and would like to add an addi-
tional explanation. Another lexicon places lyKiW;ma as a
derivative of lkW which in the hiphil can mean "cause to
the collaboration of Helmer Ringgren (
derbilt University Press, 1969), p. 89.
1Nahum M. Sarna, et al, “Psalms, Book of,” EJ, 16
Vols. (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 1971), Vol.
13, p. 1320.
2Roland E. Murphy, “Psalms,” JBC, edited by Raymond
Brown, et al (Englewood Cliffs,
Hall, Lnc., 1968), p. 570. Several views are noted in A. F.
Kirkpatrick, ed., The Book of Psalms (
versity Press, 1910), pp. xix-xx.
3BDB, p. 968.
have insight Gn 3, 6 Ps 32, 8 Pr 16, 23 Da 9, 22."1 Carroll
The word maskil reflects the notion of wisdom or the
skilful handling of some matter. When used as a title
for a psalm it indicates a poem displaying insight or
wisdom about life in general or certain events in par-
In his composition Ethan seems to have had a great
deal of insight concerning God's person, power, and program.
There is no doubt that the poem is artistic and instructive,
but there is something that seems to have preceded those two.
Therefore, the suggestion, at least for Psalm 89, is that
maskil here means meditation with insight.
89:2-5 Introduction: Possession of Reality
ypiB; j`t;nAUmx< faydiOx rdovA rdol; hrAywixA MlAOf hvAhy; ydes;Ha
Mh,bA j~t;nAUmx< NkiTA MyimawA hn,BAyi ds,H, MlAOf yTir;maxA-yKi
yDib;fa dvidAl; yTif;Baw;ni yriyHib;li tyrib; yTirakA
hlAs, j~xEs;Ki rOdvA-rdol; ytiynibAU j~f,r;za NykixA MlAOf-dfa
This quatrain is a unity within itself and it is a
most ingenious introduction to the entire psalm. The declar-
ative phrases of verses 2-3 are a response to the realization
of the everlasting covenant in verses 4-5. God has worked;
His sovereignty has been made manifest in the behalf of David.
1KB, p. 922.
2R. P. Carroll, "Psalm LXXVIII: Vestiges of a Tribal
Polemic," VT, XXI:2 (April, 1971), 133.
Thus it is that verses 2-3 seem to be an introduction to
verses 6-19 because that sovereignty is a reality. And
verses 4-5 introduce verses 20-38 because the Sovereign One
had established a covenant. The author is in possession of
these truths because he is singing even though a recent judg-
ment has taken place (vss. 39-46) and he offers the prayer of
faith (vss. 47-52).
If there is any emphasis indicated by word order,
then this psalm is a perfect-example. The words given a
prominent place are hvhy ydsH. Though not given as the first
word in the next clause, jtnvmx is a word that parallels ydsH
in importance. These three Hebrew words not only help to
show the unity of the Psalm, they are foremost in the think-
ing of the author. The covenant name hvhy, is found in verses
2, 6, 7, 16, 19, 47, 52, 53. The reason it is not employed
in verses 20-38 is that Yahweh is the speaker. The root dsH
is noted in verses 2, 3, 15, 20, 25, 29, 34, 50. There
would be little need to employ the word more because the
psalm is replete with Yahweh's dsH. The word hnvmx is ob-
served in verses 2, 3, 6, 9, 25, 34, 50.1
The latter word presents no problem. Nearly all
Hebrew scholars translate it faithfulness. But dsH poses
an entirely different problem. The LXX has e]le<h which is
1The basic root Nmx appears in verses 29, 38.
usually translated mercies.1 A favorite rendering is loving-
kindness, while Dahood and Mowinckel employ love.2 The
lexicons do not offer a great deal more.3 One would almost
agree with Rowley, “The word hesed is always untranslatable.
. . . ”4
But of the many works devoted to a study of the word,
Glueck, for one, makes a significant comment: "Wherever
hesed appears together with 'emeth or 'emunah the quality of
loyalty inherent in the concept hesed is emphasized.”5 From
the sources which have given much study to the word and its
uses in Scripture, the present writer acknowledges the differ-
ent meanings dsH can have. However, Psalm 89 deals primarily
1A full discussion can be found in Rudolf Bultmann.
"e@leoj, e]lee<w," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,
edited by Gerhard Kittel, translated and edited by Geoffrey
W. Bromiley (
pany, 1964), Vol. II, pp. 477-85.
2Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II (Garden
The Psalms in
3BDB, pp. 338-39; KB, pp. 318-19.
4Harold H. Rowley, "The Unity of the Old Testament,"
BJRL, 29:2 (February, 1946), 344, fn. 2.
5Nelson Glueck, Hesed in the Bible, translated by
Press, 1967), p. 72. One should read his entire work for
usages. A few other sources to be studied are
H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament (New
Hasid in the Psalms
Press, 1953), also note listing on p. 58. Hans Joachim
Stoebe, "Die Bedeutung des Wortes Häsäd im Alten Testament,"
VT, II:3 (July, 1952), 244-54.
with the Davidic Covenant. Therefore, it seems, in recogni-
tion of different usages elsewhere and with the exception of
89:20, that dsH in the seven other verses would have the mean-
ing of covenant loyalty. Eaton translates hesed, ". . . his
active fidelity which especially fulfills his promises to the
dynasty. . . ."1 The word bears significant relationships to
Ethan had the utmost confidence in the covenant loyal-
ties of Yahweh. The biblical believer sees no problem in
Ethan aspiring to sing forever. The Targum has a lamed pre-
fixed to Mlf,3 but it is not unusual to omit it. Besides
some biblical texts, the famous Moabite Stone (c. 850 B.C.)
also does not have it.4 As for the word rdo, Patton5 and
1J. H. Eaton, "The
King as God's Witness,
VII, edited by Hans Kosmala (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1970),
2Cf. Robert G. Boling, "'Synonymous' Parallelism in
the Psalms," JSS, V:3 (July, 1960), 231. This article should
be consulted for many words in Psalm 89 and their parallels.
Also, one should see Daniel Goldberg, "The Moral Attributes
of God in the Psalms," (unpublished Doctor's dissertation,
Grace Theological Seminary, 1971), not only note his total
discussion, pp. 108-43, but especially his chart, p. 122.
3Targum, p. zn.
4John C. L. Gibson, Textbook of Syrian Semitic In-
scriptions. Volume I: Hebrew and Moabite Inscriptions
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), pp. 74, verse 7; 78, fn. 7.
5John Hasting Patton, Canaanite Parallels in the
Book of Psalms (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1944),
and Tournayl are quick to point out its Ugaritic equivalent.
It is the faithfulness of Yahweh he will make known (fydvx)2
with his mouth (ypb)3 which is another way of expressing
The expression at the beginning of verse 3 is ex-
plained by Driver:
At the end of the verse the Hebrew kî 'for; indeed',
like the Ugaritic k 'for, indeed', has not causal but
affirmative force when standing before a verb which is
not at the head of the clause (e.g. . . . 89:2-3. . .).5
In this verse where hesed and 'emunah are repeated,
1R. Tournay, "En Marge D'une Traduction des Psaumes,"
RB 63:2 (Avril, 1956), 163.
2See a discussion of the hiphil form of this word" in
Edward R. Dalglish, Psalm Fifty-One in the Light of Ancient
Near Eastern Patternism (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1962), pp.
3Dahood says that "bepī was falsely attached to vs. 2
when the emphatic nature of ki at the beginning of vs. 3 was
forgotten. Of course, bepī, may also be rendered as an adverb
'explicitly,' much like Prov viii 3, lepī 'loudly, express-
ly."' Psalms II, p. 312. There is no evidence that one word
was attached and one forgotten.
4G. R. Driver maintains that verse 2 is a gloss; it
is taken from verse 20. "Glosses in the Hebrew Text,"
L'Ancien Testament et L'Orient (Louvain: Publications
Universitaries, 1957), p. 142. The present writer sees no
good reason to hold that view.
5G. R. Driver, "Another Little Drink--Isaiah 28:1-22,"
Words and Meanings: Essays Presented to David Winton Thomas
(Cambridge: The University Press, 1968), p. 61. Concerning
the word ytrmx James Kennedy claims that it ought to be read
trmx to agree with the LXX ei@paj, An Aid to the Textual Amend-
ment of the Old
p. 10. In the light of the context and the parallelism this
change seems totally unnecessary.
Kissane, for one, sees corruption.1 Perhaps it is not smooth.
to some, but the literal content and rendering as it stands
is very clear. "For I have said, forever covenant loyalty
will be built up; Heavens, You will establish your faithful-
ness in them." As DuMortier declares:
Quelle que soit la lecture exacte du verset 3, le
psalmiste semble affirmer que la hèsèd divine est
eternelle (‘ôlâm) et it met en relation cette fidélité
avec la stabilité cosmique (sâmaîm).2
The ytrmx-yK to the present writer simply means that
Ethan has come to a deliberate conclusion. The comment of
Mowinckel is both right and wrong:
The poet will certainly not sing about how and when
God's dsH and hnvmx came into existence ("were built
up"); of course they have existed just as long as Yahweh
himself. What was "built up" is of course the universe.3
It is not the world, but the dsH which is "built up"
according to the text. The remarks of the Midrash on verse 3
are most interesting, although they should be understood with
Not the heavens alone, but the throne, too, is estab-
lished on nothing other than mercy, as is said And in
mercy shall the throne be established (Isa. 16:5). With
what is the throne to be compared? With a throne that
had four legs, one of which was short so that he who sat
upon the throne was shaken. Therefore, he took a pebble
lEdward J. Kissane, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols. (Dub-
Browne and Nolan Limited., 1954), Vol. II, pp. 94-95.
2DuMortier, "Un Rituel d'Intronisation: Le Ps.
LXXXIX 2-38," p. 178.
3Sigmund Mowinckel, "Notes on the Psalms," Studia
Theologica Cura Ordinum Theologorum Scandinavorum Edita, XIII
and propped up the throne. Thus also the throne in
heaven was shaken--if one dare say such a thing--until
the Holy One, blessed be He, propped it up. And where-
with did God prop it? With mercy. . . . On what, then,
do the heavens stand? On mercy. . . . And this refrain
runs throughout the whole Psalm.1
Plainly, the dsH of Yahweh will be forever built up
". . . rising ever greater and fairer . . . before the wonder-
ing eyes of men, knowing no decay, never destined to fall into
Verses 4-5 are also two parallel lines, which are
closely connected to verses 2-3. Ward urges:
Note the parallels: hnb and Nvk in both 3 and 5; Mlvf
and rdv rdl in both 2 and 5 (and Mlvf again in 3);
hrywx and fydvx (vs. 2) // ytrmx (3) // ytfbwn (4) dsH;
and hnvmx (2) // tyrb (4).3
The synthetic parallelism of 4-5 is none other than
the words of Yahweh Himself, which had caused the poet to
sing in the first place. The covenant loyalty concerns the
covenant made with His chosen servant.4 David's descendants
1"Psalm Eighty-Nine," The Midrash on Psalms, 2 Vols.
translated by William G. Braude, Yale Judaica Series, Vol.
XIII, edited by Leon Nemoy (
Press, 1959), Vol. II, p. 82.
2J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms, 2 Vols.,
1966), Vol. II, p. 148. Also, observe the good comments of
Carl Bernard Moll, "The Psalms," translated with additions by
Charles A. Briggs, et al, Langes Commentary on the Holy
Scriptures, 12 Vols. revised
van Publishing House, 1960), Vol. 5, p. 482.
3Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background
of Psalm LXXXIX," pp. 324-25.
4Cf. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand
Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 174.
and thronel are described with permanence which has far-reach-
ing implications. This summary of the unconditional promise
in II Samuel 7 will be discussed inverses 20-38. It must
be said that the message of this introduction demonstrates
the author had possession of reality.
At the conclusion of verses 5, 38, 46, 49 there is
the word hls, the meaning of which is very dubious. Lipinski
comments on the first two instances, ". . . au Ps. 89, 5 et
38, ce mot marque la fin des passages appartenant au poeme
royal primitif (Ps. 89, 2-5. 20-38)."2 This says nothing about
the last two usages, and, moreover, if Lipinski's emphasis is
on "primitif" to make the distinction, he has not taken into
account that parts of verses 6-19 are more primitive.
An entire article on the word by Snaith adds nothing
new to Psalm 89.3 After much discussion, he concludes:
The tradition is strong that the word selah has some-
thing to do with 'always, everlasting'. . . .
The word selah therefore is a relic of the days when
psalms were sung in three sections. It indicates the
place where the choir sang the couplet "Give thanks unto
the Lord for He is good, For His mercy endureth for
1Maxmilian Ellenbogen gives an interesting background
to kb'), see Foreign Words in the Old Testament: Their Origin
and Etymology (London: Luzae and Company, 1962), p. 89.
2E. Lipinski, La Royauté De Yahwé Dans La Poésie Et
Le Culte De L'Ancien Israël (Brussels: Palies der Academiën-
Hertogsstreaat I, 1965), p. 394.
3Norman H. Snaith, "Selah," VT, 11:1 (January, 1952),
ever", and the insertion of the word into the various
psalms dates from the beginning of the fourth century
The connotation of "always, everlasting" would be
strange for the meaning of hls at the conclusion of verses
46, 49. The statements of Murphy paint the true picture:
Selah, which occurs 71 times in 39 Pss, is completely
unknown, despite desperate efforts to give it meaning.
It might indicate a lifting up of the tone or of the
eyes; others think it is a sign for repetition or that
it means bowing.2
No further discussion would improve the subject. The
most that can be said is that it was probably a musical term.
89:6-19 God's Characteristics: Basis for Praise
This portion of Scripture extols the unique character
of Yahweh. Delitzsch avers:
In vers. 6-19 there follows a hymnic description of the
exalted majesty of God, more especially of His omnipo-
tence and faithfulness, because the value of the promise
is measured by the character of the person who promises.3
Every verse in the section holds Yahweh's person and
work as the main thought. Even when benefactors are men-
tioned, glory is still attributed to Yahweh. Nevertheless,
the passage has been twisted and perverted by many. While
lIbid., p. 56.
2Murphy, "Psalms," p. 570.
3Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms,
Vols., translated by Francis Bolton, reprint (
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, [n.d.], III, 36.
power is ascribed to God, some have interpreted the passage
erroneously. Gray comments:
. . . Psalm lxxxix, 6-18, definitely suggests an eschato-
logical victory which will repeat the triumph of Cosmos
over Chaos in the beginning, which has been sacramentally
experienced in the cult. . . . especially in Psalm
lxxxix, 6-18, it is possible to see a connection with
creation, which is the result of the triumph of God over
the forces of Chaos.1
Later, he adds, "The theme of God's conflict with the
unruly waters resulting in his establishment as King recurs
in certain of the Psalms . . . lxxxix, 8-18. . . ."2 But the
present writer agrees with Kaufmann that none of ". . . the
ancient battles of YHWH . . . mark the beginning of his
rule."3 The answer to the first interpretation will be han-
dled in the exegesis.
The approach will be to treat this section in qua-
trains which will facilitate the bulk of material. Since
verses 18-19 do not form a quatrain, this parallelism will
lJohn Gray, The Legacy of
Texts and Their Relevance to the Old Testament, revised
Supplements to Vetus Testamentum,
Vol. V (
E. J. Brill, 1965), p. 32.
2Ibid., p. 33.
Kaufmann, The Religion of
Its Beginnings to the Babylonian Exile, translated and
by Moshe Greenberg (
Mywidoq; lhaq;Bi j~t;nAUmx<-Jxa hvAhy; j~xEl;Pi MyimawA UdOyv;
Mylixe yneb;Bi hvAhla hm,d;yi hvAhyla j`rofEya qHawa.ba ymi yKi
NybAybis;0-lKA-lfa xrAOnv; hBAra Mywidoq;-dOsB; CrAfEna lxe
j~yt,Obybis; j~t;nAUmx<v, h.yA NysiHE j~vmkA-ymi tOxbAc; yhelox< hvAhy;
First of all, the unity of this quatrain is set forth
Heavens (6a)// skies (7a); and this repeated round about
thee (8b, 9b), tying the lines together from beginning
to end. Again, holy ones (6b)// sons of God (7b)// holy
ones (8a)// hosts (9a). Who is like Yahweh (7a, b)//
who is like thee (9a). These four lines give a unified
picture of the heavenly assembly praising God, and they
close with the climactic reference to the faithfulness
of the Lord.1
In verse 6 the word Mymw is employed to designate the
inhabitants of heaven. But the following word jxlp poses a
little problem. Most of the scholars and translations treat
this word as plural, including the LXX and Targum. Usually
it is done on the basis of verses 10 and following. Kirk-
patrick has it singular and says it is ". . . His wonderful
course of action regarded as a whole. . . ."2 Attributing it
more to God's person, Briggs translates it Thy wonderfulness.3
1Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background
of Psalm LXXXIX," p. 325.
2Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms, p. 533.
3Charles A. Briggs and Emilie G. Briggs, The Book of
Psalms, 2 Vol., International Critical Commentary, 47 Vols.,
edited by Samuel R. Driver and Alfred Plummer, reprint (Edin-
burgh: T. & T. Clark, 1906), II, 255.
And Moll claims the word "'does not here denote a work or a
deed, but the nature of God as distinct from that of all
created beings, or separated from their sphere of action.
. . . "1 Also, the word is parallel to jtnvmx.2 it seems
best to keep the MT reading as singular because the nature of
God is foremost in this quatrain. Since Mywdq occurs in
verse 8, it will be treated there.
Lipinski goes to great length in discussing the yKi
that introduces verse 7.3 It is much too lengthy for review
here. His basic concern is the switch of persons in verses
6-8, which does not contribute to the purpose of this disser-
tation. With ymi it introduces a rhetorical question that
expresses the unique character of God. It reminds one imme-
diately of Exodus 15:11 in its entirety and the first part
of Micah 7:18, NOfA xWeno j~vmKA lxe-ymi.
qHw occurs both in verse 7 and verse 38. It means
clouds or clouds of fine dust and so has the meaning of
1Moll, "The Psalms," p. 483.
2Cf. B. D. Eerdmans, "The Hebrew Book of Psalms,"
Oudtestamentische Studiën, Deel IV, edited by P. A. H.
DeBoer (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1947), p. 422.
3Lipinski, La Royauté De Yahwé Dans La Poésie Et Le
Culte De L'Ancien Israël, pp. 235-37. For other discussions
see Walter Brueggemann, "Amos' Intercessory Formula," VT,
XIX:4 (October, 1969), 394 and C. J. Labuschagne, The Incom-
parability of Yahweh in
the Old Testament,
Oriental Series, edited by A. Van Selms
Brill, 1966), pp. 81, 85-86.
sky.1 Innes2 and Stadelmann3 point out that this word desig-
nates the abode of celestial beings. The thought being empha-
sized is that God is above the Mymw and qHw in verses 6-7.
Thus, His superiority to all creatures is the thrust here.
The verbs jrf and hmd are employed together also in Isaiah
The construct Mylx ynbb is a matter of debate among
the scholars. Space can only permit a brief treatment. The
present writer sees no relationship to Genesis 6; other
sources can be observed for the problem.5 For the use of
lRobert Baker Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testa-
ment, second edition,
Publishing Company, 1897), p. 265. BDB, p. 1007. KB, p. 961.
The LXX has nefe<liaj. E. W. Hengstenberg says the word ". . .
is employed poetically for the heavens, Commentary on the
Psalms, 3 Vols. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1860), III, 100.
Jastrow states it is the "name of one of the seven heavens,"
2D. K. Innes, "Heaven and Sky in the Old Testament,"
The Evangelical Quarterly, XLIII:3 (July-September, 1971),
World, Analecta Biblica, 39 (
1970), p. 55. See also pp. 93, 100.
4Hillers wants to see the same usage in Lamentations
2:13, but he amends the text to do so. See Delbert R.
Hillers, The Anchor Bible: Lamentations (Garden City, New
5Leroy Birney, "An Exegetical Study of Genesis 6:1-
4," JETS, XIII:I (Winter, 1970), 45. Meredith G. Kline,
"Divine Kingship and Genesis 6:1-4, WTJ, XXIV:2 (May, 1962),
the phrase in apocalyptic see Russell,l and for the use in
Ugaritic see Held.2 The Targum has xykxlm ysvlkvx, "army of
angels,"3 while the LXX has ui[oi?j qeou?. Most scholars view
the construct as "angels" and/or "sons of God."4 However,
Gesenius and Jouon hold that the expression does not mean
"sons of god(s)" but "beings of a class," that is, "an indi-
vidual being part of a divine being."5 It seems that KB
carries the same thought by translating it "(individual)
gods."6 One receives the impression that the last three
sources are speaking of false gods. Girdlestone concurs,
1D. S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish
Apocalyptic (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1964),
pp. 168, 202, 236.
2Moshe Held, "The Action-Result (Factitive-Passive
Sequence of Identical Verbs in Biblical Hebrew and Ugaritic,"
JBL, LXXXIX:III (September, 1965), 280, fn. 37. Also see UT,
3See Jastrow, Vol. I, p. 25; Vol. II, p. 786. See
the view expressed in P. S. Alexander, "The Targumin and Early
Exegesis of 'Sons of God' in Genesis 6, Journal of Jewish
Studies, 23:1 (Spring, 1972), 65-66.
4BDB, p. 42. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms, p. 534.
Moll, "The Psalms," p. 483. Leupold, Exposition of the
Psalms, p. 250. Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testa-
ment, 2 Vols., translated by J. A. Baker (Philadelphia: The
Westminster Press, 1961), II, 194. Paul van Imschoot, Theol-
ogy of the Old Testament. Vol. I: God, translated by
Kathryn Sullivan and Fidelis Buck (New York: Desclee Company,
1954), pp. 12, 48, 108.
5GKC, pp. 401, 418. P. Paul Joüon, Grammaire de
l'Hebreu Biblique, second edition (Rome: Pontificium Insti
tutum Bibli,cum, 1947), unpublished English translation by
Bruce K. Waltke, Dallas, Texas, p. 117.
6KB, p. 46.
"Elim is never used of the true God."l And Allis writes:
El has two plurals in Hebrew Elim and Elohim. The
former, which we may call the normal plural, is very
rare, occurring only four times in the Old Testament
(Exod. 15:11; Ps. 29:1; 89:7; Dan. 11:36) and whether
in any of the four it is used of God is not certain.2
Then he goes on to demonstrate that in Psalm 29:1
they are "sons of God."3 But DeQueker, who parallels Psalm
29 with 89:6-15, claims that 89:7 is speaking of the angels
of Yahweh, and the expression Mylx ynbb is a direct parallel
to Mywdq in verses 6, 8.4 Cross also states they are par-
allel terms and indicates the LXX and Peshitta agree.5
1Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 31.
2Oswald T. Allis, The Old Testament: Its Claims and
Its Critics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), p. 334.
Cf. Frank M. Cross, Jr. and David Noel Freedman, "The Song
of Miriam," JNES, XIV:4 (October, 1955), 242, 247 and
Labuschagne, The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testa-
ment, pp. 77-80. In his discussion on these pages Labuschagne
attempts to solve the issue by emendations, but he admits,
“. . . this method of solving problems is undesirable." p. 80.
3Allis, The Old Testament: Its Claims and Its
Critics, pp. 334-35.
4L. DeQueker, "Les Qedôsîm du Ps. lxxxix a la Lumiere
des Croyances Semitiques," ETL, 39 (1963), 476, 480. Also
see I. L. Seeligmann, "A Psalm From Pre-regal Times," VT,
XIV:l (January, 1964), 81.
5Frank Moore Cross, Jr., Studies in Ancient Yahwistic
Poetry (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1950), pp. 205-06.
DuMortier,1 U. S. Leupold,2 and Pope3 view the creatures in
verses 6, 7, 8 as all one group. The construct may be ex-
pressed as "sons of the mighty" which would still be a refer-
ence to Yahweh. Although there are differences among those
cited, the present writer feels it is designating angels
because of the parallelism and the general sense of the con-
text. One cannot say for sure, but the poet may also have
had in mind the MybiruK;. Indeed, the fact is that Yahweh is
far superior (incomparable) to angels, whether good or bad.
The incomparable superiority of Yahweh is carried on
in verse 8. Here the Mywdq have reverential awe for His
unapproachable majesty. Rankin believes the concept here was
emphasized after second Isaiah.4 This view of Rankin is
without evidence. Girdlestone seems to apply the term to
earthly persons.5 As already stated, the Mywdq are celestial
beings, preferably angels. DeQueker, who has written an
lDuMortier, "Un Rituel d'Intronisation: Le Ps.
LXXXIX 2-38," p. 180.
2Ulrich S. Leupold, "Worship Music in Ancient Israel:
Its Meaning and Purpose," Canadian Journal of Theology, XV:3-4
3Marvin H. Pope, The Anchor Bible--Job (Garden City,
New York; Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1965), pp. 9, 41, 109.
40. S. Rankin, Israel's Wisdom Literature: Its Bear-
ing on Theology and the History of Religion (New York:
Shocken Books, 1969), pp. 222-23.
5Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 176.
entire article on the subject, states strongly, “. . . Ps.
LXXXIX vise manifestement les anges. . . .”1
For some reason Driver says that xrvnv hbr is abbre-
viated and should have xUh inserted between the two words.2
The present author fails to see the necessity. This second
part of verse 8 is a pattern that compares with several other
portions of Scripture. See Culley for the total picture.3
Snijders states that vybybs is peculiar and ". . . means
those who are within his sphere of authority."4 This is
really not the sense of the context, and, besides, Yahweh's
authority is universal.
The initial expression of verse 9 seems to be a repeat
in concept of verse 7 and also Exodus 11:15. Culley has
pointed out the parallels to portions of other psalm passages:
1DeQueker, "Les Qedôsîm du Ps. lxxxix à la Lumière
des Croyances Semitiques," p. 469. See also Lipinski, La
Royauté De Yahwe Dans La Poésie Et Le Culte De L'Anciën-
Israel, pp. 281-82.
2G. R. Driver, "Abbreviations in the Massoretic Text,"
Textus: Annual of the Hebrew University Bible Project, Vol. I,
edited by C. Rabin (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1960), p. 123.
3Robert C. Culley, Oral Formulaic Language in the
Biblical Psalms (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967),
4L. A. Snijders, "The Adjective rz in the Ketubim,"
Oudtestamentische Studiën, edited by P. A. H. DeBoer (Leiden:
E. J. Brill, 1954), p. 63, fn. 8. For another discussion on
the word vybybs see M. H. Goshen-Gottstein, "Theory -and Prac-
tice of Textual Criticism, Textus: Annual of the Hebrew
University Bible Project, Vol. III, edited by C. Rabin (Jeru-
salem: Magnes Press, 1963), p. 143, fn. 43.
jvmk ym hvhy Ps. 35:10
jvmk ym Myhlx Ps. 71:19
jvmk ym (tvxbc yhlx) hvhy Ps. 89:91
For the different views on tvxbc yhlx see Jacob.2
In this context the tvxbc seems to refer to the Mywdq and
The form NysH is found only here in the Old Testament.3
Briggs4 and Kennedy5 want to change the word to jdsH, and in
doing so, Briggs keeps h.y and Kennedy appears to drop it. The
basis of their thinking has some validity, since dsH is often
used with hnvmx. Most keep the form in the text and translate
it "strength," "strong," "might," or "mighty."6 A closer
examination of the word and the context seem to retain the
latter view. Besides the form in the text, KB gives another
1Culley, Oral Formulaic Language in the Biblical
Psalms, p. 54.
2Edmond Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, trans-
lated by A. W. Heathcote and P. J. Allock (New York: Harper
and Row, Publishers, 1958), pp. 54-55.
3BDB, p. 340.
4Briggs, The Book of Psalms, II, 255-56.
5Kennedy, An Aid to the Textual Amendment of the Old
Testament, p. 57.
6The LXX has dunato>j. The Targum has xnysH. Cf.
Jastrow, I, 437, 488-89.
word and assigns it to 89:9, Ns,Ho.1 The lexicon also places
a root above (NsH) with the meaning of "strength."2 Delitzsch
claims it ". . . is a Syriasm; for the verbal stem is
native to the Aramaic, in which =yDawa."3 Although
Gordon is not exactly sure of the meaning, there is a Ugaritic
word of comparative interest, . He says that hsn is
“. . . a kind of (military?) personnel. . . .”4 If it were
so, then h.y NysH would be an expression parallel to yhlx
tvxbc in meaning at least.
Contextually, the present writer believes that Ethan
employed this word deliberately. This will be emphasized in
the exegesis of verses 10-13, at the end of which the rela-
tionship of verses 6-9, especially verse 9, will be handled.
h.y is another word that merits brief discussion.5 it
is found thirty-five times in the Psalms.6 There is no doubt
that it is a shortened form of hvhy. The question revolves
1KB, p. 319.
3Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, III,
36. Cf. BDB, p. 340.
4UT, p. 403.
5For an interesting discussion see Christian D.
Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition
of the Hebrew Bible (New York: Ktav Publishing House, Inc.
1966), pp. 374-94.
6Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 36.
around whether it is a superlative or not. Some have claimed
it is a superlative, others deny it.1 Thomas lists 89:9 with
other passages and declares that the examples “. . . are too
unsound textually to permit any view to be based upon them."2
While it cannot be dogmatically stated, the present writer
can see a superlative force here. This also will be empha-
sized at the conclusion of the next quatrain.
The 'Athnah and the waw are important to the transla-
tion. With the 'Athnah in its present position, the waw has
to be translated something like also because of the plural
form jytvbybs. It is possible that NysH is an adjective used
as a substantive in juxtaposition to h.y and translated,
"strong or mighty is Jah." If the ‘Athnah remains where it
is, this expression belongs to the first part of the verse.
But if the 'Athnah were moved to jvmk, the expression makes
good sense with the second part. It could be an exclamatory
sentence, "Mighty is Jah, also your faithfulness surrounds
you!" This is only a suggestion of the possibility as the
construction is difficult.3
1D. Winton Thomas, "A Consideration of Some Unusual
Ways of Expressing the Superlative in Hebrew, VT, 111:3
(July, 1953) , 214.
3A slightly different rendering can be seen in
Labuschagne, The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testa-
ment, p. 105
Thus, two attributes of Yahweh that are so pertinent
to the following verses are set forth, might and faithful-
ness. Though Briggs does not agree on one point with the
present writer, his words are appropriate, "The divine attri-
butes are here personified, as often, and are regarded as
constantly in His company, attending upon Him and ready to
execute His pleasure."1 It is just as Podechard writes,
"Sans rival et tout-puisant, it pent tenir toutes ses
MHeB;wat; hTAxa vyl.Aga xOWB; My.Aha tUxgeB; lweOm hTAxa
j~ybiy;Ox TAr;z.aPi j~z.;fu faOrz;Bi bharA llAHAk, tAxKidi hTAxa
MTAd;say; hTAxa h.xAlom;U lbeTe Cr,xA j~l;-Jxa MyimawA j`l;
Unne.ray; j~m;wiB; NOmr;H,v; rObTA MtAxrAb; hTAxa NymiyAv; NOpcA
In this quatrain it is Yahweh again who is preeminent.
. . . vss. 10-13, also treat a single theme. . . . They
are bound together by the constant repetition of the
second person pronoun. The recurring htx (10a, 10b, 11a,
12b, 13a) and j~ (twice in 11b, twice in 12a, once in
13b) produce a staccato that sounds consistently through
the whole unit.3
1Briggs, The Book of Psalms, II, 256.
2E. Podechard, Le Psautier, 2 Vols. (Lyons: Facultes
Catholicques, 1949), II, 113.
3Ward, "The Literary Form and Liturgical Background of
Psalm LXXXIX," p. 325. Cf. Pius Drijvers, The Psalms: Their
Structure and Meaning (Frieburg, West Germany: Herder KG,
1965), pp. 62-63.
The emphasis here is different. In verses 6-9 the
stress was upon the utmost supremacy of Yahweh in His person
in the heavenly realm. Verses 10-13 now reveal His unpar-
alleled work in the earthly realm. It is not as Gaster pur-
ports, ". . . this action is taken to evince the supremacy of
Yahweh over the benê elim and the qedoshim. . . ."1 Yahweh's
supremacy was already noted in verses 6-9; Gaster has grossly
misunderstood the poet here.
Probably more than any other portion of this psalm,
verses 10-13 have been perverted to a great extent by many
scholars.2 Even more so than verses 6-9, this present qua-
train is compared to the findings of the ancient Near East by
scholars. Thus, a deliberate discussion of length is enter-
tained here in order that the context and the issues may be
ascertained clearly. There will be allusions to some matters
which will be fully dealt with in the next two chapters.
Verses 10-11 are a synthetic parallelism. God's
absolute control of the sea is declared in verse 10. The
lTheodore H. Gaster, Thespis: Ritual, Myth and Drama
in the Ancient Near East, revised edition, Harper Torchbooks
(New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1966), p. 447. For
an evaluation see R. T. O'Callaghan, "Ritual, Myth and Drama
in Ancient Literature," Orientalia, 22 (Nova Series, 1953),
2Cf. Aubrey R. Johnson, Sacral Kingship in Ancient
Israel (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1967), p. 108.
Johnson assigns vss. 6-13 to a cultic festival, a matter
which will be treated in chapter five.
main problem is the word xOWB;. Gesenius says that it is
"perhaps only a scribal error."1 Driver changes it to Nvxw;.2
But Hengstenberg plainly views it as ". . . a noun abbreviated
from the infinitive of xWn. . . ."3 And Delitzsch postulates,
“. . . xOW is . . . so far as language is concerned, either
as an infinitive . . . or as an infinitival noun, like xyWi,
loftiness, Job xx.6, with a likewise rejected Nun."4 The
form is best construed as an infinitive.
Kennedy wants to alter MHeB;wat; to MteyBiw;Ta.5 Dahood ren-
ders the word as "muzzle"; he takes it from the Ugaritic root
Verse 11 is treated in the most abused manner. Re-
search bears out that most of it revolves around three words
that are combined together some way or another, My.Aha (vs. 10),
bharA (vs. 11), MtAxrAb; (vs. 13). All of the following quotes
are said in reference to verses 10-13. According to
Mowinckel, "bhr is another name for the primeval monster
1GKC, p. 217.
2Driver, "Abbreviations in the Massoretic Text," p.
3Hengstenberg, Commentary on the Psalms, III, 102.
4Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, III,
37. Cf. BDB, p. 670 and KB, p. 635. For the LXX and
Peshitta see Ahlström, Psalm 89, p. 67.
5Kennedy, An Aid to the Textual Amendment of the Old
Testament, p. 76.
6Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms II, pp. 314, 112-13.
of the sea, which Yahweh conquered before the creation.
. . . "1 Ruprecht claims, "Ps. lxxiv 13 f. and lxxxix 11
liegt dieser Kampf von der Weltschöpfung. . . “2 Clay puts
it a little differently, "In this conflict the hostile crea-
ture and its helpers are overthrown, after which the heavens
and earth are created."3 And Dahood concurs, "Having dis-
posed of his foes Rahab, Leviathan, et al., Yahweh set about
fashioning and arranging heaven and earth."4 Pedersen plainly
affirms, "And the creation he performed by defeating the
dragon, tannīn, Rahab or Leviathan and his helpers. . . .”5
And Weiser admits similar thoughts.6
While the above place a battle before creation, others
place it at creation. For example, Stuhlmueller writes,
1Sigmund Mowinckel, “lHawa,” Hebrew and Semitic Studies
Presented to Godfrey Rolles Driver, edited by D. Winton Thomas
and W. D. McHardy (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1963), p. 97.
2Eberhard Ruprecht, "Das Nilpferd im Hiobbuch," VT,
XXI:2 (April, 1971), 228.
3Albert T. Clay, Light on the Old Testament from
Babel (Philadelphia: The Sunday School Times Company, 1907),
4Dahood, The Anchor Bible--Psalms I, p. 51.
5Johs Pedersen, "Canaanite and Israelite Cultus,"
Acta Orientalia, 18:1 (1939), 9. Also see his discussion
in Israel: Its Life and Culture (
Press, 1940), III, 443-44.
6Artur Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, translated
Herbert Hartwell, The Old Testament Library (
"Present in some biblical texts is the Semitic notion that
creation was a struggle against the forces of chaos."1 Those
with corresponding views are Brandon,2 Crim,3 Imschoot,4
Kidner,5 Lipinski,6 and Podechard.7 One answer to all these
misinterpretations might simply be that the biblical account
of creation is silent on the matter. Hasel states, "The
battle myth which is a key motif in Enuma elish is completely
absent in Gn l."8 Another answer will be given below in a
1Carroll Stuhlmueller, "The Theology of Creation in
Second Isaiah, CBQ, XXI:4 (October, 1959), 432.
2S. G. F. Brandon, Creation Legends of the Ancient
Near East (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1963), pp. 154-55.
3Keith R. Crim, The Royal Psalms (
John Knox Press, 1962), p. 106.
4Imschoot, Theology of the Old Testament. Vol. I:
God, p. 91.
5Derek Kidner, Genesis, Tyndale Old Testament Commen-
edited by D. J. Wiseman (
Press, 1967), p. 45.
6Edward Lipinski, "Yahweh Malak, Biblica, 44:4
7Podechard, Le Psautier, II, 113. Cf. DuMortier, "Un
Rituel d'Intronisation: Le Ps. LXXXIX 2-38, 180-81. Though
W. F. Albright does not refer to psalm 89, his view is in
From the Stone Age to Christianity, second edition, Anchor
Inc., 1957), p. 271.
8Gerhard F. Hasel, "The Significance of the Cosmology
in Genesis I in Relation to Ancient Near Eastern Parallels,"
Andrews University Seminary Studies, X:l (January, 1972), 19.
Returning to. verse 11, Yahweh utterly subdued the
opposition with telling force.l Shunary points out how the
Targum omits fvrz in order to avoid anthropomorphism.2 But
the big question remains, who or what is bhr?3 The two op-
posing camps are clearly identified by Robinson:
The ancient enemy is identified with the sea--always an
element of mystery and fear to the Hebrew--and has a
name of its own--Rahab, identified by older commentators
parative religion shown to be the analogue of Tiamat.4
Many, many scholars advocate that Rahab of 89:11 is a
"monster," "evil monster," "abyss monster," "dragon," etc.
Besides those mentioned above, a few others holding this view
1Nicholas J. Tromp has a very interesting study on
destruction which involves 89:10-11, but it is much too
lengthy to employ here. Cf. Primitive Conceptions of Death
and the Nether World in the Old Testament, Biblica et Orien-
talia, N. 21 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1969),
2Jonathan Shunary, "Avoidance of Anthropomorphism in
the Targum of Psalms," Textus: Annual of the Hebrew Univer-
sity Bible Project, Vol. V, edited by S.
Magnes Press, 1966), p. 141. For some usages of the word see
Anton Jirku, "Kana 'anaische Psalmenfragmente im der Vor-
israelitischen Zeit Palastinas and Syriens," JBL, LII (1933),
3For Greek and Syriac variants see J. Frederic Berg,
The Influence of the Septuagint upon the Pe Sitta Psalter
(Leipzig: W. Drugulin, 1895), p. 120.
4Theodore H. Robinson, "The God of the Psalmists," The
Psalmists, edited by D. C. Simpson (London: Oxford University
Press, 1926), p. 28. Robinson also belongs to the group that
connects a battle with creation, pp. 28-29.
are Barr,1 Barth,2 Childs,3 Fishbane,4 Herbert,5 Kiessling,6
Kline,7 and Pritchard.8 Almost all of them relate 89:11 to
Psalm 74:14. There are many passages that other scholars
with the "sea monster" concept relate to 89:11. A few se-
lected ones will be cited: Pope connects Job 9:13 with verse
eleven,9 Ginsburg--Isaiah 51:9,10 May--Habakkuk 3:13-15,11
1Wayne E. Barr, "A Comparison and Contrast of the
Canaanite World View and the Old Testament World View" (un-
published Doctor's dissertation, Divinity School, University
of Chicago, 1963), p. 175.
2Christoph F. Barth, Introduction to the Psalms,
translated by R. A. Wilson (New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1966), p. 54.
3Brevard S. Childs, "A Traditio-Historical Study of
the Reed Sea Tradition," VT, XX:4 (October, 1970), 413.
4Michael Fishbane, "Jeremiah IV 23-26 and Job III 3-
13: A Recovered Use of the Creation Pattern," VT, XXI:2
(April, 1971), 159.
5A. S. Herbert, Worship in Ancient Israel, Ecumenical
Studies in Worship, No. 5 (Richmond, Virginia: John Knox
Press, 1959), p. 25.
6Nicolas K. Kiessling, "Antecedents of the Medieval
Dragon in Sacred History," JBL, LXXXIX:II (June, 1970), 168.
7Meredith G. Kline, By Oath Consigned (Grand Rapids:
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1968), p. 60.
8James B. Pritchard, Archaeology and the Old Testament
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), pp. 189-90.
9Pope, The Anchor Bible--Job, p. 70.
10H. L. Ginsburg, "The Arm of Yhwh in Isaiah 51-63 and
the Text of Isaiah 53:10-11," JBL, LXXXVII:II (June, 1958),
11Herbert G. May, "Some Cosmic Connotations of Mayim
Rabbîm, 'Many Waters,'" JBL, LXXIV:I (March, 1955), 9-11.
Vriezen--Amos 9:3,1 Graham and May--Isaiah 27:1.2 In con-
trast Gordon3 and Wakeman4 discuss these and other verses and
concepts and never mention 89:11. Gray dogmatically asserts:
In the Hymn of Praise which precedes the royal plaint
in Ps. lxxxix the supremacy of God among the gods (vv.
6-7), and his victory over the waters, and over the
monster of the deep, Rahab (vv. 9-10 [10-11]), are com-
bined with the motif of God's covenant with David (vv.
3, 4, 19 ff. 14-5, 20 ff.]). Here, however, there is
no reference to the Exodus. . . .5
A direct conflict takes place on the same page in The
Interpreter's Bible. McCullough states that Rahab is not a
name for Egypt, Poteat says it is.6 In agreement with Poteat
1Th. C. Vriezen, The Religion of Ancient Israel
(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1967), pp. 44, 165.
2William Creighton Graham and Herbert Gordon May,
Culture and Conscience: An Archaeological Study of the New
Religious Past in Ancient Israel (Chicago: The University
of Chicago Press, 1936), p. 135.
3Cyrus H. Gordon, "Leviathan: Symbol of Evil,"
Biblical Motifs, Origins and Transformations, P. W. Lown
Institute of Advanced Jewish Studies, Brandeis University,
Studies and Texts: Vol. III (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press, 1966), pp. 1-9.
4Mary K. Wakeman, "The Biblical Earth Monster in the
Cosmogonic Combat Myth," JBL, LXXXVIII:III (September, 1969),
5John Gray, "The Kingship of God in the Prophets and
Psalms, VT, IV (1954), 9.
6W. Stewart McCullough, Edwin McNeill Poteat, "89,"
The Interpreter's Bible, 12 Vols. (New York: Abingdon Press,
1955), IV, 481.
are Brucel and Clarke2 and a score of others.
Considering the words in the text, the context itself,
and analogies, the exodus and Egypt are the emphasis of Ethan.
tvxg in verse 10 refers to the "swelling of the sea," but it
also has the connotation of "smoke rising up" (Isa. 9:17) and
"pride" (Ps. 17:10).3 In the same verse xvW speaks of the
"rising or roaring of the waves," but it (xWn) too has a
meaning of "exalting oneself in arrogance" (Prov. 30:13; Num.
16:3; I Kings 1:5).4 And the word bhr (vs. 11) has a similar
meaning, "proud," "defiant," "arrogance."5 It appears that
the poet's words and parallelism were well-chosen, and their
significance will enter the discussion below.
The context of verses 10-11 matches the revelation in
song in Exodus 15. Verse 10 summarizes perfectly the expres-
sions in Exodus 15:7-8; verse 11 does the same with Exodus
15:4-6, 9-10.6 How does bhr fit in? The present writer
1F. F. Bruce, "Rahab," The New Bible Dictionary,
edited by J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans,
1962), p. 1074.
2Arthur G. Clarke, Analytical Studies in the Psalms
(Kansas City, Kansas; Walterick Publishers, 1949), p. 222.
3BDB, p. 145. KB, p. 162.
4BDB, p. 672. KB, p. 637.
5BDB, p. 923. KB, p. 876.
6For a discussion of the word jzf see Samuel E'.
Loewenstamm, "The Lord is My Strength and My Glory," VT,
XIX:4 (October, 1969), 466-68.
concurs with Habel that "In Ps. 87:4 and Isa. 30:7 Rahab is
clearly identified with Egypt which would support the identi-
fication of the same in Ps. 89:11."1 This quote from a foot-
note stems from a large discussion of which a small portion
Tannin, for example, is used as a metaphor to describe
Pharaoh who is given the "scattering treatment" applied
to Yam (Ezek. 29:3-5) and made a torrent of blood. . . .
Not only is the "battle for kingship" imagery applied to
the exodus event, but Pharaoh, the foe par excellence,
is described in terms of the mythological dragons enu-
merated among the mighty acts in Baal's rise to king-
ship. Yet the enemy of Yahweh is still Pharaoh! This
fact becomes even clearer in Isa. 51:9-11 where the same
victorious arm of Yahweh, who once divided the sea,
hewed Rahab, and pierced Tannin for the redeemed to pass
over. . . In the context Tannin and Rahab logically
refer to Pharaoh, the mightiest of Yahweh's historical
Habel moves on to point out that Tannin and Leviathan
in Ps. 74:12-14 are Pharaoh.3 A similar thought is expressed
differently by Eerdmans. In commenting on 89:11, he writes:
Ps. lxxxvii4 and Is. xxx7 Rahab was a name for Egypt
where the yearly inundations made the land like a great
sea, and the Pharao life a Tannin living in the water
(Ezek.. xxix3, xxxii2).4
1Norman C. Habel, Yahweh Versus Baal: A Conflict of
Religious Cultures (New York: Bookman Associates, 1964), p.
70, fn. 59.
2Ibid., pp. 64-65.
3Ibid., p. 65. Cf. pp. 83-84. Though Habel holds
these views, he seems to relate 89:6-11 to the creation ac-
counts in Scripture. See Norman C. Habel, "'Yahweh, Maker of
Heaven and Earth': A Study in Tradition Criticism," JBL,
XCI:III (September, 1972), 334-35.
4Eerdmans, "The Hebrew Book of Psalms," p. 423.
Harrelson plainly says, "The real monster slain by
Yahweh was the Pharaoh and his forces."1 Therefore, Pharaoh
the monarch of Egypt is Rahab. But is there an enemy behind
an enemy? Pharaoh is called Nyn.iTa which means "serpent,"
"dragon," "sea-monster,"2 and is called bhr meaning "proud,"
"defiant," "arrogant."3 May suggests:
The enemy defeated by Yahweh is something more than just
the enemy of Israel or of an individual Israelite; he is