A Translation of Psalm 93

In this translation of Psalm 93, my goal is not to present a ‘literal’ translation. Rather, my goal is to demonstrate the historical context and understanding of this ancient Judean Psalm through the translation itself. Furthermore, this is primarily an attempt to provide clarity for myself in my understanding and interpretation of this Psalm. That said, some of it may be unclear. I still hope it is enjoyable.

1a. Yahweh is King!
1b. In majestic attire he is clothed,
1c. He is clothed, namely Yahweh, in mighty attire.
1d. He himself is girded [for war].

1e. Moreover, he established the world
1f. It will not be shaken (or it is immovable).

2a. Your throne was established from a time of old
2b. From eternity you are.

3a. The rivers looked up to Yahweh,
3b. The rivers raised their thunders (in the sense of a loud war cry)
3c. The rivers will grow their crashing! (in the sense of more war cries.

4a. Great than the thunders of the sea,
4b. And more majestic than the breakers of the sea,
4c. Is Yahweh, mighty in the high place.

5a. They have greatly confirmed your throne (or testimonies)
5b. Your temple is befitting for the holy ones (or holiness)

5c. Yahweh is for all days!

Although it may be difficult to detect, this Psalm contains much mythical imagery. For example. the idea of a deity girding himself in might is a common idea throughout the ancient Near East. So, Yahweh is not just putting on an idea of might; rather, Yahweh is putting on a physical thing, namely might as armour.

In 1e-f, we see that Yahweh established the world! He established the world in such a way that no other deity is able to come shake it. Importantly, the notion of establishing the world is directly related the kingship. So, when Yahweh establishes the world so that it is immovable, he is also establishing his rule over the world.

Verses 2a-b confirm this. Here, though, somebody is speaking directly to YHWH. Due to this Psalm’s affinities with language from older West Semitic compositions, some have dated this text as far back as the 10th century BCE (cf. Shenkel, 1965). This means the Psalms may have actually been used for worship in the ancient world. Here, then, the people using this Psalm may have been involved. Responding to Yahweh’s status as a divine warrior and establishment of the world, they speak directly to him. They do this by acknowledging the antiquity of Yahweh.

In 3a-c, the myth of the defeat of the sea is told. Throughout ancient myth, the waters are often times the antagonist. We see the same thing in this Psalm. The Psalm begins by recounting the account: the waters looked towards Yahweh, and they raised their thunder! Now, they will make more thunder with their crashing. The question of noise is important because throughout ancient myth, deities often turn against those who make noise. We see this in Enuma Elish and Atrahasis. So, here the waters are the antagonist because they will become louder by crashing more.

In 4a-c, Yahweh is said to be great than all the mighty and majesty of the seas. In light of the idea of noise as a form of rebellion, 4a-c shows that this rebellion of nothing for Yahweh. After all, Yahweh is mightier than the seas. His high place, namely his temple, is so far above the rebellious waters that they pose no threat to him, for he is mightier than them.

Like 2a-b, we see more speech directed towards Yahweh in 5a-b. Here, they first comment that Yahweh’s majesty over and above the waters confirms his status as divine ruler. Regarding the choice of throne as opposed to testimonies, this is a complicated argument which I will not lay out here. If you are interested let me know. Following, the speaker(s) comment that Yahweh’s temple is befitting for the holy ones, or holiness. Again, this is a complicated issue. Even so, the point is that Yahweh’s temple represents the strength of the divine warrior.

Finally, 5c concludes with a declarative statement. It is like putting the cherry on top of the McFlurry.

Pseudepigrapha Saturday: Pseudo-Phocylides

Introduction to the Text: 

Pseudo-Phocylides is a text of maxims for people in their daily lives. Written between 1st century CE and BCE, the author wrote under the name Phocylides, an Ionic poet who lived in the 6th century BCE, in order to bolster the importance and value of the text. Unlike the original Phocylides, Pseudo-Phocylides merged Jewish and Greek ideas. Consequently, Pseudo-Phocylides is now “representative of that universalistic current in ancient Judaism” (Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume II; P. W. van der Horst, “Pseudo-Phocylides”, p. 569).

The maxims within the 230 line poetry are remarkably poignant (at least from my modern perspective). As I read Pseudo-Phocylides, I considered how the ideas within the text are actually extremely valuable to our own society. Yet, I also recognized that many of my initial interpretations were very wrong. Certain ideas in the 21st century, for example, did not mean the same thing at the turn of the millennium.

The Threshold and Sacred Ritual: 

Line 24a is the perfect example of something which, in the 21st century, means something very different than it did in the 1st century.

Line 24a: Receive the homeless in (your) house…

Initially the maxim seems straight forward. If a homeless person needs a place to briefly stay or a place to eat, invite them in for a meal. In my interpretation, the focus is on the concept and action of inviting somebody into my house, a relatively simple and mundane act, albeit significant from a social perspective. Reception of this text in my own mind draws out the social emphasis, not any concrete, spatial reality.

In the ancient world, though, receiving the homeless was an incredibly significant act. In order to be received into a household, the homeless person had to cross a threshold, namely the entrance of the household. The threshold “defines a basic opposition between people who own a dwelling place and people who don’t”, a boundary which marks distinction between those with a dwelling place and those without. Now, in religious Greek thought, beggars all come from Zeus. To receive a beggar beyond the threshold (door) and into the dwelling place was a sacred, ritual act (Pietro Giammellaro 2013, 162). So, by receiving a beggar and permitting him/her to cross the threshold, they performed a sacred, ritual act of worship.

Because Pseudo-Phocylides was written within a Hellenistic context, namely a Jewish and Greek context, we should assume that a similar conceptual framework informed the reality of the author. The maxim “receive the homeless in (your) house” is not merely a maxim calling for good deeds; rather, it calls for sanctified and sacred ritual act within a physical space, which results in direct worship Yahweh. In terms of Judaism, it was an act which sanctified the name of God, as the homeless were implicitly sent from Yahweh.

As these two interpretations demonstrate, the conceptual framework of the origin of the text is incredibly valuable. My original interpretation highlighted how it was a good deed and socially beneficial to receive the homeless. My interpretation informed by historical and textual studies of Greek culture highlighted how it was a sacred, ritual act to receive the homeless. These two interpretations are both valid; however, the latter allows us to more fully engage with the mind, context, and intentions of the author of Pseudo-Phocylides. For this reason, it is always important to consider the original conceptual environment of any text.

Exodus and Leviticus: A Parallel Reading (Part VII)

The following is part of series exploring the narrative of P material and its explanation of why Nadab and Abihu are killed in Leviticus 10. Such a study is important because theology often misuses verse like Leviticus 10:1-3 to demonstrate the un-malleability and impossibility of keeping Torah, resulting in antinomianism. In order to demonstrate the true focus of Nadab and Abihu’s death, I will compare two passages of P material, Leviticus 8:1 – 10:3 and Exodus 29 – 30:10. These pericopes, with a close reading, provide a reasonable explanation for the death of Aaron’s son.

As mentioned in the previous post, Leviticus 9 and Exodus 29:38-46 are both concerned with consecrating the altar. The consecration is means for the glory of Yahweh to appear. This trajectory also carries a notable difference between the two books. Exodus 29:38-46 focuses on the establishment of God’s consecration of the altar and his appearance to the people. Verses 38, 42, and 45 indicate that the appearance of Yahweh is a continual occurrence in Israel as they perform the sacrifices and offerings in verse 38-41. Verses 38 and 42 use tāmîd, a term for continuance and unceasingness (Holladay). Partnered with the dwelling of Yahweh in verse 45, it is clear that the focus is on the continual presence of him and ritual which purifies the Tent of Meeting to enabling him consecrate and dwell.

Leviticus 9, though, takes place during a narrative sequence and is more focused on the present completion of the consecration of the altar through Yahweh’s appearance. Unlike Exodus 29:38-46, which focuses on the future and continual instructions for a consecrated altar, Leviticus 9 focuses on the initial consecration of the altar. Although the long term rituals of consecration may be in view, they are periphery. Leviticus 9 consistently uses the waw consecutive imperfect, indicating the narrative nature of the passage. And while the glory of Yahweh appears, the moment is in view rather than Yahweh’s continual presence.

As this brief analysis of Leviticus 9 and Exodus 29:38-46 demonstrates, both passages are focuses on Yahweh’s glory appearing and the ritual therein. Exodus focuses more on the future issues with his continual presence while Leviticus focuses on the monumental moment of Yahweh’s appearance.

The next post will discuss Exodus 30:1-10 and Leviticus 10:1-3.

 

 

Exodus and Leviticus: A Parallel Reading (Part VI)

The following is part of series exploring the narrative of P material and its explanation of why Nadab and Abihu are killed in Leviticus 10. Such a study is important because theology often misuses verse like Leviticus 10:1-3 to demonstrate the un-malleability and impossibility of keeping Torah, resulting in antinomianism. In order to demonstrate the true focus of Nadab and Abihu’s death, I will compare two passages of P material, Leviticus 8:1 – 10:3 and Exodus 29 – 30:10. These pericopes, with a close reading, provide a reasonable explanation for the death of Aaron’s son.

As noted in the pervious post, the trajectories go in different directions after Leviticus 8:36 and Exodus 29:37. Prior to these verses, aside from differences regarding when the altar is to be consecrated, they are quite similar. How, though, do the trajectories of the remainder of these sections relate to each other?

Milgrom notes an important relationship between Leviticus 8’s narrative and Exodus 29: “there is a good ancient Near Eastern precedent for the Israelite writer to have inserted his own choice of words and idioms when he described the fulfillment of a command. Indeed, were it not for the other deviations adduced here, which show that Lev 8 represents a viewpoint different from that of Exod 29, it would even be possible to argue… that Exod 29 and Lev 8 could have been written by the same author” (547-548). So just as Milgrom recognizes the nearness of the two portions of text, I do. And as he notes, they are from different perspectives.

While the narrative in Leviticus 9:1-24 and Exodus 29:38-46 are the paramount example of differing perspectives, they operate on parallel trajectories. First, both perspectives reflect cultic service after the consecration of the altar. Leviticus places the consecration in 8:15, and Exodus 29:36-37 makes official a consecrated altar. Second, both perspectives find their climax in Yahweh appearing to the people.

…the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. – Lev 9:23b

“And I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory.” – Exod 29:43

 

 

Establishing that the glory of Yahweh will appear as the two sections parallel each other raises an important question. How do the unique perspectives on the consecration of the Tent of Meeting actually parallel and interact with each other?

In the next post, I will analyze the two perspectives, how they are similar, and how they differ.

Exodus and Leviticus: A Parallel Reading (Part II)

The following is part of series exploring the narrative of P material and its explanation of why Nadab and Abihu are killed in Leviticus 10. Such a study is important because theology often misuses verse like Leviticus 10:1-3 to demonstrate the un-malleability and impossibility of keeping Torah, resulting in antinomianism. In order to demonstrate the true focus of Nadab and Abihu’s death, I will compare two passages of P material, Leviticus 8:1 – 10:3 and Exodus 29 – 30:10. These pericopes, with a close reading, provide a reasonable explanation for the death of Aaron’s son.

In the previous post, after posing two basic assumption, I traced the parallel nature of Leviticus 8:1-13 and Exodus 29:1-9. I will now continue in tracing how they parallel each in Leviticus 8:14-30 and Exodus 29:10-30. The following chart summarizes the parallel nature of these portions of text:

Lev Leviticus Ex Exodus
8:14 Bull for sin offering before tent of meeting, Aaron and sons lay hands upon head of bull. 29:10 Bull before tent of meeting, Aaron and sons lay hands on head of bull.
8:15 Moses slaughters bull, puts blood on horns of altar and purifies altar, pours blood out at base of altar to consecrate and atone for it. 29:11-12 Slaughter bull before the LORD at tent of meeting, blood onto the horns of the altar with finger, and pour blood at base of altar.
8:16-17 Fat on the entrails, lobe of liver, two kidneys, and kidney fat are offered as smoke offering. Bull, hide, and flesh is burned outside camp, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 29:13-14 Fat that covers entrails, lobe of liver, two kidneys, and fat on kidneys offered up in smoke on altar. Bull’s flesh and hide burned outside the camp as a sin offering.
8:18-19 Ram of burn offering presented, Aaron and his sons lay hands on head of ram. Moses slaughters ram and sprinkles blood around altar. 29:15-16 A certain ram is taken, and Aaron and his sons lay hand on head of read. Moses slaughters ram and sprinkles blood around on the altar.
8:20-21 Ram cut into pieces and head/pieces/suet offered in smoke. Entrails and legs washed and offered in smoke. Burnt offering is a soothing Aroma and offering by fire to the LORD, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 29:17-18 Ram cut into pieces and head/pieces/legs/entrails washed. Offer up the whole ram on altar, a burnt offering to the LORD, a soothing aroma, an offering by fire.
8:22 Second ram of ordination, and Aaron and sons lay hands on head of ram. 29:19 Another ram, and Aaron and sons lay hands of head of ram.
8:23-24 Moses slaughters ram, puts some blood on lobe of Aaron’s right ear, thumb of right hand, and big toe of right foot. Moses puts blood on Aaron’s sons: lobe of right ear, thumb of right hand, and big toe of right foot. Sprinkle remaining blood around on altar. 29:20 Moses slaughters ram, takes blood and puts it on lobe of Aaron’s right ear and his sons’ right ears, thumbs of their right hands, and big toes of right feet. Sprinkle remaining blood around on altar.
29:21 Take blood and altar and anointing oil, sprinkle on Aaron and his garments, on sons and sons’ garments, so Aaron, his sons, and the garments are consecrated.
8:25-26 Moses takes fat, fat tail, and entrails fat, lobe of liver, two kidneys, fat on kidneys, right thigh, and places one unleavened cake and one cake of bread, mixed with oil and wafer, places them on portions of fat and the right thigh. 29:22-23 Moses takes fat from ram, fat tail, fat that covers entrails, lobe of the liver, two kidneys, kidney fat, and right thigh (for it is a ram of ordination). Also, one cake of bread, one cake of bread with oil, one wafer.
8:27 Moses places previous items in hands of Aaron and his sons as wave offering before the LORD. 29:24 Moses places previous items in hands of Aaron and his sons to wave as a wave offering before the LORD.
8:28 Moses takes wave offerings and offers them as smoke, an ordination offering and soothing aroma, and offering by fire to the LORD. 29:25 Moses takes wave offerings and offers them as smoke on the altar, a burnt offering and soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD.
8:29 Moses takes breast of ram and presents it as wave offering, Moses’ portion of the ram ordination, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. 29:26 Moses takes breast of Aaron’s ram of ordination, waves it as wave offering before the LORD as his portion.
8:30 Moses takes anointing oil and blood from altar, sprinkles on Aaron, his garments, his sons, their garments, and consecrates Aaron, his garments, his sons, and his sons’ garments.
29:27 It is made clear that Moses consecrated the breast of wave offering, thigh of heave offering, which was offered from ram of ordination, one for Aaron and the other for his sons. This verse is a description of what happened in 29:26.
29:28-30 This portion describes the future of the Aaronic priesthood and will be discussed in a latter blog post.

*In making this chart, I did consider the fact that , in Exodus, Moses is being commanded. In Leviticus, the narrative is actually occurring. That said, when reading this chart, please assume that the Exodus side of the chart, the right side, recognizes that God was commanding Moses.

In many places, the wording is different, yet the concepts remains consistent: consecration of Aaron and his sons. Aside from Exodus 29:28-30, a passage absent in Leviticus for good reason (this will be the subject of a later blog post), the only significant difference is the placement of Aaron and his son’s actual consecration. Leviticus places their consecration in 8:30, while Exodus does so in 29:21, the middle of the consecration ritual.

There are a few possible explanations for the differing locations of Aaron and his sons’ consecrations. First, it may simply be an issue of redaction. Perhaps the redactor failed to fully synchronize the P source and any contradictions within it. Second, it may be an intentional result to suggest that Moses intentionally consecrated them at a different time than God commanded. Third, perhaps the different is not significant because the consecration ritual was not as set in stone and people make it out to be. In other words, the ritual has a certain amount of flexibility to it because they are not directly interacting with God’s kabod.

The next post will discuss this difference further and explore why Exodus 29:28-30 is not included in Leviticus’ narrative.


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Secondary Application of the Conflict Myth in Joshua 6-7 (Part III)

This is Part III of a series analyzing Joshua, especially chapters 6-7, and how the conflict myth in utilized. If you have not read the first posts, click here for Part I and Part II.

Having determined, in Part II, Gods power and strength to direct Israel into Canaan was proclaimed in Joshua 2 by Rahab, who references traditions of the exodus in the Psalms with a conflict myth spin, this particular post will explore how Israel is legitimized and the ideological implications.

The author does so via means of secondary application and legitimizes Israel within two contexts: literary and social. In other words, because God is legitimized to act as he is, Israelites in the book of Joshua are justified to hold such great confidence in God, one dimension of many. Additionally, because God is legitimized to act as he is, the author justifies political action within his own context. The following will go into greater detail as to how the two are active and utilize the conflict myth.

First, the literary context justifies Israel to take Jericho in Joshua 6. Because God is legitimized by the conflict myth, the power represented by God’s defeat of the Sea, the conflict myth proclaimed by Rahab, is applied to the Israelites. Israel in and of itself has no power apart from God, an idea also presented from the outlook of Joshua 1-2. Their power is explained, at least through Rahab, by God as their support, the one who defeated the Sea. The secondary application of the conflict myth enables and encourages Israelites to take Jericho in full confidence. Beyond Israel, secondary application shows the weakness deities foreign to Israel, hence showing the weakness of other gods and thereby those who worship them.

Second, the social context justifies Israel to fight against foreign political entities, though this is complicated. David Howard notes “that portions of the book were written in Joshua’s day and that it was substantially complete by the time of David at the latest” , with much other scholarship dating composition to the time of Josiah or later (1998, 30). Regardless of the specific date, it is clear that secondary application of the conflict motif to legitimize Israel would have provided confidence for the Judeans/Israelites of the historian’s social context. it is apparent that Joshua’s rhetoric legitimizes Israel’s actions and obedience to God’s commands via the application of the conflict motif to God.

At least in Joshua’s final composition, the conflict myth is utilized to legitimize Israel’s actions and the Torah commandments. This is important because the Torah, although multi-faceted, contains an ideology of obeying God. Thus the historian and compiler of Joshua, by legitimizing God, is able to legitimize Torah for his socio-political and literary context.

I suggest that this legitimization of God as the ruler explains why Israel was defeated at Ai and victorious at Jericho. While both draw emphasis towards obedience of God, the obedience and legitimization of the people via secondary application is rooted in the conflict myth presented by Rahab (Josh 2:10). The conflict myth is also utilized to show why Israel should create a memorial to God (Josh 4:23) and circumcise the new generation (5:1). When the people disobey God, as at Ai, they are opposing the god who defeated the Sea and established his kingdom. In contrast, when the people obey God, as at Jericho, they are supporting the god who defeated the Sea and established his kingdom.

Part IV will explore the implications of such a reading for the modern context.


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Evidence for the Conflict Myth in Joshua 6-7 (Part II)

This is Part II of a series about the presence of the conflict myth in Joshua 6-7. If you have not read the introductory post, click here to read.

Joshua 6-7 contains a few passages that seem to employ similar tactics to the conflict, albeit in a unique fashion. Unlike many of the texts which Debra Ballentine analyzes, texts which legitimize certain ideologies directly via allusion to conflict myth for primary or secondary application, the book of Joshua utilizes the conflict myth through two methods. First of all, there is an assumption that God is greater than the land, an idea clear throughout Joshua 1:2-9. Verses 1:2-3 and 1:5-9 assume God will give the land to Israel under the conditions that Israel obeys Torah. Such an assumption, though without use of the conflict myth, assumes that God is greater than the other nation’s deities. Hence Israel is presented with far more political prowess and power than nations across the Jordan.

The book of Joshua, rather, past actions to speak the deeds of God. Within the words of the foreigner, namely Rahab, the conflict myth is present. In Joshua 2:10, Rahab is the first to note a specific and unique element of the Exodus account:

For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt (Joshua 2:10, NASB).

Importantly, Rahab did not mention the death of Pharaoh’s army, although it is being alluded to. Her focus, rather, is on the act of God drying the sea. Exodus 14:21 says the strong east wind “turned the sea into dry land”. The interesting thing about Exodus 14:21 is that it does not relate the drying of the sea directly to God’s actions. And the Song of Moses, while referencing God as a divine warrior (15:3), an important part of the conflict myth, does show God acting against the waters. Yet Rahab directly connects the sea to God’s actions. This may be explained by Psalms 106:7-12, an example of the conflict myth within the exodus motif (Ballentine 2015, 94):

    7            Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;

They did not remember

Your abundant kindnesses,

But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.

8            Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name,

That He might make His power known.

9            Thus He rebuked the Red Sea and it dried up,

And He led them through the deeps, as through the wilderness.

10            So He saved them from the hand of the one who hated them,

And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

11            The waters covered their adversaries;

Not one of them was left.

12            Then they believed His words;

They sang His praise.

(Psalm 106:7-12, NASB)

As Ballentine notes, “the way in which Yahweh rebukes and dries the sea indicates an adversarial manipulation and command of the sea/deep/waters. Such an adversarial relationship is consistent with instances of the conflict motif” (2015, 94). Because Exodus is not directly illustrating God’s power through the lens of the conflict motif, but Psalm 106:7-12 does so, Rahab’s reference, from a literary aspect, is more akin the exodus tradition as redacted through the Psalms than the book of Exodus. In effect, Rahab’s words conjure images of God as the divine warrior who defeats the sea. Rhetorically this establishes God as superior to the gods of her own people. Such a point is reinforced as well through Psalm 77:16, a Psalm placed in context of the exodus:

The waters saw You, O God;

The waters saw You, they writhed;

The deeps also trembled.

(Psalm 77:16)

Again the exodus motif in Psalm 77:16 is synchronized with the conflict motif to legitimize God’s rule (Ballentine 2015, 93). This is another example of the traditions of which Rahab, as a literary character, speaks. Both Psalm 77:16 and 106:7-12 illustrate the conflict motif. And Rahab’s reference to God drying up the water of the Red Sea indicates that the author is utilizing the conflict tradition to legitimize God’s ability and power to lead Israel to capture Jericho as a greater nation, an example of the secondary application of the conflict myth in Joshua.

The secondary application is the second method utilized by the author of the book of Joshua and will be explored further in Part III.