Psalm 29

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2006-04-17 10:46.

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This psalm is ascribed to David. In the superscription, the Septuagint adds, exodíou skenés ([for the] finale of [the] tent), which may designate the final day of the festival of booths. This suggests that Psalm 29 may have been one of the compositions sung at that time.

The imperative to ascribe or attribute glory and strength to YHWH is directed to “sons of mighty ones.” According to the rendering of the Septuagint, they are “sons of God,” or angels. Possibly the Hebrew plural is to be understood as a plural of excellence, designating the Almighty. Accordingly, the angels are invited to acknowledge the glory, splendor, dignity, or majesty that rightfully belongs to YHWH, and that he is the possessor of the ultimate in strength or power.

The name is representative of the person, YHWH himself. This name is linked to a matchless reputation of glory or splendor.

When humbly bowing down before YHWH in reverential worship, they are directed to do so in “holy adornment.” This would suggest that they would appear before him in a manner befitting his majesty as the Supreme Sovereign. Seemingly, the psalmist envisioned a heavenly throng magnificently arrayed in a state of adoration before YHWH.

The “voice of YHWH” apparently refers to impressive thunder, as indicated by the reference to thundering in verse 3. Using vivid imagery to describe the effects of a tremendous storm, the psalmist conveyed the greatness of YHWH’s power.

In being over the waters, the voice of YHWH or the mighty thunder may here be represented as resounding over the Mediterranean Sea, because the storm would be coming from the west. As a huge body of water, the sea could appropriately be described as “many waters.”

Like the loud roaring of thunder, the voice of YHWH is powerful. For the ancients whose lives were not bombarded by the din characteristic of our industrial and technological age, thunder must have been especially impressive and would, therefore, have been described as “splendid” or “majestic.”

Evidently because of regarding the thunder as the dominant part of a storm, the psalmist portrayed the “voice of YHWH” as responsible for the effects produced by the strong wind. The storm would break the magnificent cedars, uprooting them and tearing off their limbs. Whipped by strong winds, Lebanon and Sirion, possibly designating the cedar-covered Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges, would be made to skip like a calf or like the “son of wild bulls” (a young bull). As the trees would sway in the wind and branches would be ripped from the trees and blown about, the mountainous region would appear to be in a state of intense agitation, comparable to the skipping about of young bovines. The psalmist attributed this development to YHWH.

Lightning accompanied the storm. Therefore, the “voice of YHWH” is linked to “hewing” with “flames of fire.” This has been rendered to mean that the voice of YHWH “kindles flames of fire” (Tanakh), “makes lightning flash” (CEV), “strikes with fiery flame” (NAB), or “strikes with flashes of lightning” (NIV).

As the powerful storm rushed southward from the mountain ranges to the wilderness region around Kadesh, the “voice of YHWH” would cause the wilderness to “writhe.” The wind would whip up the sand in the arid region, making the entire area appear to be in a state of agitation.

Animals, too, would be affected. Frightened by the powerful storm, hinds would go into premature labor.

The lightning and wind would break branches and trees, thus stripping the forests. According to the psalmist’s words, YHWH’s voice would cause this to happen.

The psalmist evidently perceived the outcry “glory” to result from the impressive manifestation of power. In view of the celestial setting in the opening of this psalm, seemingly it is in the heavenly temple that all attribute glory or splendor to YHWH.

Stirred by the evidence of tremendous power that he attributed to YHWH, the psalmist depicted YHWH as enthroned over the flood (in full control over the mighty waters) and seated as king for time without limit or for eternity.

The psalm concludes with the prayerful request that YHWH grant strength to his people and bless them with peace, indicative of a state of security and well-being. In the Septuagint, this is expressed as a positive assurance. “The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.”

Notes:

In verse 1, the Septuagint adds, “bring to the Lord sons of rams.” The Israelites did so when offering young rams as sacrifices. According to the Septuagint rendering, therefore, both angels and humans are involved in bringing glory to YHWH.

Instead of “glory and strength,” the Septuagint (in verse 1) refers to bringing “glory and honor.”

The Septuagint (in verse 2) uses the expression “holy court,” not “holy adornment.”

In the Septuagint (verse 6), the point about skipping like a calf and like a young wild bull is not recognizable. It reads, “He will crush them like the calf, [even] the Lebanon, and the beloved one like a son of unicorns.” Perhaps the crushing of the calf alludes to the destruction of the golden calf in the wilderness, and this is being used to illustrate the effect of the devastating storm on Lebanon. The rest of the verse, however, does not convey a discernible meaning.

Although the Septuagint (in verse 9) uses a word for “hinds,” a number of translations do not follow this significance for the Hebrew text. “The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl.” (NRSV) “The voice of the LORD twists the oaks.” (NAB) The Hebrew word designating a “lofty tree” and the term for “hind” are similar, the difference in consonants being a final taw (T) or he (H). In Hebrew manuscripts, the letters are similar and could have been misread. Apparently, because of the mention of “forests” in this verse, a number of translators have chosen the rendering “oaks.”

Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.