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Constructing and Deconstructing Power in Psalms 107–150

Constructing and Deconstructing Power in Psalms 107–150

W. Dennis Tucker
  • Book Info
    Constructing and Deconstructing Power in Psalms 107–150
    Book Description:

    Essential research on the relationship between the Persian empire and the the formation of the book of Psalms

    In this latest entry in the Ancient Israel and Its Literature series, W. Dennis Tucker, Jr. examines the role of Persian imperial ideology in the creation of psalms in Book 5 of the Psalter and in the shaping of the book of Psalms as a whole. Although much research has been conducted on the relationship between the Persian empire and the creation of biblical texts, the book of Psalms has been largely absent from this discussion. Tucker seeks to rectify this omission by illustrating that Book 5 constructed a subtle anti-imperial ideology in response to the threats imposed from all empires both past and present.


    Close study of the psalms portrayal of human power to that of YahwehComparison of Achaemenid propaganda to the ideology found in the psalmsEvidence drawn from Persian iconography and inscriptions

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-974-8
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    W. Dennis Tucker Jr.
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Book 5 in the Psalter: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    “Whoever is among you of all his people, may Yahweh his God be with him. Let him go up!” (NRSV, modified). These hopeful words conclude the book of 2 Chronicles. Coupled with a modified version of the Cyrus decree, the narrator places this generous invitation on the lips of Cyrus. With such an invitation, the writer of Chronicles appears to imply that the suffering of exile has ended and that the joyous, even celebratory, work of restoration lies just ahead. Likewise, Deutero-Isaiah announces such a theme in the salvation oracles found in that collection. These oracles portend a future in...

  5. 2 The Achaemenid Dynasty and Imperial Ideology
    (pp. 19-54)

    In many ways, the empire created by Cyrus and the Achaemenid dynasty was unmatched by earlier iterations in Assyria and Babylon. In size alone, the enormity of the Persian Empire is without question. The empire stretched from the Indus to the Hellespont, and to the initial cataracts of the Nile, covering an area of nearly six million square miles.¹ Based on such proportions, Amélie Kuhrt claims in the opening line of her book that “the Achaemenid empire is the earliest and largest of the known empires.”² The somewhat equivocal use of the term “empire” in scholarship often does little to...

  6. 3 Constructing and Deconstructing Power: Part 1
    (pp. 55-94)

    Despite the longevity of Achaemenid rule, the imperial ideology associated with the dynasty remained consistent in its claims: the Persian Empire was a worldwide empire in which nations participated joyously because under Achaemenid rule the world was well-ordered. As indicated in the previous chapter, such an ideology began under Cyrus but was articulated most clearly under Darius and then adopted and transmitted by subsequent kings. This imperial rhetoric shaped and reshaped subsequent Achaemenid rulers, shaping as well those over whom they ruled.

    The royal oracles in Deutero-Isaiah reflect perhaps the earliest attempt in the Hebrew Bible to blend Persian imperial...

  7. 4 Constructing and Deconstructing Power: Part 2
    (pp. 95-138)

    Psalms 107–118 repeatedly make reference to nations and empires, seeking to construct a particular view of empire, while also deconstructing the need for human power in a newly configured worldview in which Yahweh alone is king. The same attempt to construct and deconstruct empires appears as well in selected psalms that comprise the remainder of book 5.

    The issue of power takes on a more nuanced perspective in the Psalms of Ascents. The prehistory of the individual psalms, as well as theSitz im Lebenof the collection as a whole, remains contested. In the present study, however, the...

  8. 5 Reconstructing Power: Images of Yahweh in Book 5
    (pp. 139-164)

    As suggested in the previous two chapters, the psalms in book 5 consistently and repeatedly cast the nations in a less than favorable light and certainly portray them in a way that is inconsistent with the imperial ideology promulgated by the Persians. Yet deconstructing and challenging the image of the nations and their presumed power is not the chief end for these psalms. In addition to discounting the power of the nations and their capacity to secure cosmic order and joyous participation by all people, the psalmists sought to reconstruct the identity of those in Yehud. Central to constructing their...

  9. 6 The Identity of the People of God: Deconstructed and Constructed Power
    (pp. 165-186)

    In response to the Persian claims of world dominance, the psalmists countered by reasserting Yahweh’s role as cosmic ruler in an effort to construct an image of power that was consonant with their covenantal commitments. In addition to constructing an idea of Yahweh as cosmic ruler, the psalms in book 5 also appear to construct, or reconstruct, the identity of the people of God. As discussed above (§2), the Persians depicted their subjects as joyous participants in the empire. The various scenes, most notably the socle figurines in selected iconography, portray the captives with outstretched arms, bearing the full weight...

  10. 7 Conclusion: Book 5 and Imperial Ideology
    (pp. 187-196)

    Throughout this study, the notion of power has remained at the fore. The psalmists have repeatedly assailed the power of the other, while concomitantly affirming the power of their covenant God. As noted in the opening chapter, Erich Zenger has suggested that the Psalter functioned in part as an anti-imperial book of sorts.¹ In explaining the rationale for such nomenclature, Zenger contends that

    One reads the book of Psalms as a mirror to the experiences of the world. It is the history of a dramatic altercation between the righteous and the evildoers, but also between the people of God and...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-216)
  12. Index of Ancient Sources
    (pp. 217-224)
  13. Index of Modern Authors
    (pp. 225-228)