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Psalm Studies, Volume 2

Psalm Studies, Volume 2

Sigmund Mowinckel
Translated by Mark E. Biddle
  • Book Info
    Psalm Studies, Volume 2
    Book Description:

    Sigmund Mowinckel is widely recognized as one of the leading forces in Psalms research during the twentieth century. Indeed, the culmination of Mowinckel's thought and work,The Psalms in Israel's Worship, continues to play a significant role in Psalms scholarship today. Not as well known are the seminal studies that prepared the ground for Mowinckel's later work, the sixPsalmenstudienthat are translated here into English for the first time. In these studies Mowinckel explores with care and in detail such topics as: "'Awenand the Psalms of Individual Lament"; "YHWH's Enthronement Festival and the Origin of Eschatology"; "Cultic Prophecy and Prophetic Psalms"; "The Technical Terms in the Psalm Superscriptions"; "Blessing and Curse in Israel's Cult and Psalmody"; and "The Psalmists." Anyone interested in Psalms study, especially the possible role of the New Year's enthronement festival within Israel's cult and its relation to the Psalter, will find much to consider in these classic works.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-511-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  2. Psalm Studies 3: Cultic Prophecy and Prophetic Psalms

    • 1 Introduction and Foundation
      (pp. 495-522)

      Among the Old Testament psalms one finds several in which the deity is introduced as the speaker, whether YHWH’s answer follows more or less immediately after the lament and request, as in Pss 60 and 75, or whether the whole psalm is placed in YHWH’s mouth, as in Ps 82 and the first part of Ps 110. In all these cases the form and style of the divine words are largely the same as in the prophetic literature. Sometimes the words sound very oracular, as in Pss 60, 2, and 110.

      It is possible, of course, that we are dealing...

    • 2 The Individual Psalms
      (pp. 523-596)

      InPsalm Studies2 I attempted to demonstrate that New Year’s Day was celebrated in ancient Israel as the day of YHWH’s enthronement. This day was one of the grand, apparently week-long, annual celebrations out of which the three independent festivals of New Year’s, Atonement, and Booths later developed (in post-Deuteronomic times). Every New Year’s Day, YHWH repeated his accession to the throne with all its real effects. In the ecstatic and shared events of the festival that greatly moved souls, one experienced YHWH’s arrival, the bestowal of divine power, and the pledge of a blessed year bringing well-being in...

  3. Psalm Studies 4: The Technical Terms in the Psalm Superscriptions

    • Preface
      (pp. 599-600)

      This volume will present a collection of both relatively assured and entirely hypothetical and uncertain suggestions. Even if most of them should prove invalid, my submission will still have shined a beam of light on a few Israelite and Judean cultic practices that may be useful to the study of the Old Testament.

      The treatment of individual passages took place at quite different times. The manuscript was completed in November 1921. The long period both between the treatments of the individual passages and between completion and publication may excuse a certain unevenness that may result, especially in comparison with the...

    • Introduction
      (pp. 601-602)

      Previous attempts to interpret the technical expressions in the psalm superscriptions have led to few results worthy of mention. The most important reason may be the lack of firm guidelines in psalm interpretation. Smend’s theory of the “collective ego” could have been such a firm guideline—had Smend and his adherents not failed to draw the sole consequence of the theory that could have provided it with its appropriate justification, namely, an understanding of the cultic purpose and use of the psalms.

      Meanwhile, Gunkel’s definition of the genres of the psalms offers a starting point. The insights gained must, however,...

    • 1 General and Specific Designations for Psalms and Cultic Songs
      (pp. 603-608)

      (1) מִזְמוֹר and (2) שִׁיר will be treated together here. The usual understanding of these two terms is correct from an etymological perspective insofar asšîrdenotes the song as sung andmizmôr, in contrast, the song as performed to instrumental music.ZmrII (see Gesenius–Buhl) “to play, to sing, to praise,” Assyrian “to play, to sing,” is surely identical withzmrI, “to pinch off, to pluck, to cut off.” The basic meaning, therefore, was “to pick” or something similar.¹ It may be quite possible to discover some internal or external characteristics that may distinguish the psalms designated...

    • 2 Musical Terms
      (pp. 609-616)

      Comments concerning the instruments used in performing the psalms will be considered first.

      The instrument one plays or which accompanies singing is indicated in Hebrew by the prepositions(Ps 150:3, 5) and ʿal(Ps 92:4).

      The only term that appears within the superscriptions to the psalms is:

      (9) בִּנְגִינוֹת (Pss 3; 6; 54; 55; 67; Hab 3:19 LXX) and the variant עַל־נְגִינַת (read נְגִינֹת with the versions; Ps 61; Hab 3:1 LXX). It always belongs with a subsequent למנצח, as indicated by 1 Chr 15:21. This passage demonstrates that the action denoted by the verbnṣḥis...

    • 3 Indications of the Purpose of the Respective Psalm
      (pp. 617-624)

      A series of terms consist of the prepositionand a subsequent infinitive or verbal abstract. According to normal usage, they indicate the purpose of the procedure, or of the psalm, in this case.

      (12) לְתוֹדָה (Ps 100) probably should not be translated “for the thanksgiving sacrifice,” since, according to normal usage in the psalm superscriptions, this would be expressed with ʿal(see no. 4, above), but “for a thanksgiving or offering of praise.” Naturally one thinks first here of the thanksgiving associated with the thanksgiving sacrifice. Otherwise, this psalm demonstrates the randomness of the psalm superscriptions: Ps 100 is...

    • 4 Indications of the Cultic Procedures and Situations
      (pp. 625-650)

      (18) עַל־יוֹנַת אֵלֶם דְתקים (Ps 56). Probably all interpreters recognize that the vocalization אֵלֶם (“silence”) is meaningless, just as they do that the LXX pronunciation (אֵלִם) must be correct. Here, however, unanimity ceases. Most reject the LXX interpretation (gods, divine beings [τῶν ἁγίων]) and translate “terebinth,” “oak.” They are unable, however, to find any meaning in this translation. What a dove sitting in the distant oak has to do with a cultic psalm is beyond understanding. One often thinks, here as with many of the subsequent terms, of data concerning melodies in the manner of the superscriptions in our hymnals....

  4. Psalm Studies 5: Blessing and Curse in Israel’s Cult and Psalmody

    • Preface
      (pp. 653-654)

      The following investigation was presented in significantly shorter form in the 6 December 1918 session of the Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften in Kristiana (Videnskapseelelskapet I Kristiania) under the title “Salmestudier. I. Velsignelsen og forbanneisen I israelistsk-jødisk kultus og sameldiktning. En religions- og literaturehistorisk studie.” Shortly thereafter I withdrew the essay and now present it in revised form in the German language to the society and the public....

    • Introduction
      (pp. 655-658)

      Among the psalms in the Psalter, we find psalms of blessing (e.g., Ps 128), psalms of curse (e.g., Pss 109; 137), as well as psalms that exhibit the dual scheme of blessing and curse, even though in diminished form (namely, Pss 1 and 112).

      Some of these psalms (i.e., Pss 1; 112; 128; Pss. Sol. 6; 10) already purport to be psalms of blessing, or of blessing and curse, through their initial words, ʾašre hāʾîš. To be sure, at first glance this seems to be a somewhat exaggerated claim. First, in the general view, the expression does not have the...

    • 1 The Blessing in Cult and Psalmody
      (pp. 659-708)

      In the ancient Israelite view, blessing and curse are the two fundamental forces of life, the positive and the negative, the good, beneficial and the evil, harmful.

      Blessing,bĕrākâ, is, in a few words, the soul’s life force and capacity, the expressions of this force in good fortune and prosperity and in the extension of good fortune to the surroundings.¹ The Hebrewbĕrākâsignifies not only the blessing or the pronouncement of blessing but also “blessedness,” the state of being filled with blessing, as well as specific “blessings” that result, good fortune, might, and so on. It is both an...

    • 2 The Curse in Cult and Psalmody
      (pp. 709-740)

      If the blessing is the positive force of life (see §1.1), then the curse ʾālâ, qĕlālâ, taʾălâis the negative.¹ The word ʾālâappears in Ps 10:7 as a synonym formirmôt, “deceit,” and in Ps 59:13 as a synonym forkāḥas, “lie.” “Lie” and “deceit” do not come under consideration here as designations for the untrue or nonexistent, however, but designate the negative in the sense of the destructive, harmful, and unhealthful.² To this extent, ʾālâis a synonym for ʾāwen, “magic,” “evil, disaster-producing power” (see below).

      The Hebrew ʾālâsignifies not only the word or act of cursing...

    • 3 The Bipartite Blessing and Curse Formula in Cult and Psalmody
      (pp. 741-770)

      The cultic sayings included not just independent blessing or curse formulas. The two kinds of efficacious sayings were combined into a two-sided cultic procedure, blessing and curse, or vice versa.

      The passage already mentioned above, Deut 27:1*, 4*, 5*, 6, 7, 11–13, points to such a cultic practice.

      Before we can consider the content of the passage, we must burden the reader with a source-critical analysis, however.¹ We read in verses 11–13 that before his death Moses prescribed that, when Israel entered into Canaan, six tribes were to position themselves on Gerizim for blessing (lĕbārēk) and six on...

    • 4. Conclusion: A Summary from the Perspective of the History of Religions
      (pp. 771-776)

      I will summarize the results in a picture of the history of religion. The result will not be a unified or complete picture, only a sketch.

      We have found both blessing and curse in the cult, both regularly repeated and as occasional sayings. The wish for blessing greets the festival procession before the gates of the temple or on the temple site (Pss 24:4–6; 118:26). Blessing as greeting is entwined into the songs of the festival procession (Ps 122:6–7). These songs also raise the request for blessing that finds response in the solemn tones of the priest (Pss...

    • Addenda: Some of the Texts Discussed
      (pp. 777-780)
  5. Psalm Studies 6: The Psalmists

    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 783-790)

      (1).¹ The rabbinic tradition cites the following as authors of the biblical Psalms: Moses (Ps 90), David (Pss 3–9; 11–32; 34–41; 51–63; 68–70; 86; 101; 103; 108–110; 122; 124; 131; 133; 138–145, altogether, seventy-three psalms), Solomon (Pss 72; 127), Asaph (Pss 50; 73–83; altogether twelve psalms), “the Korahites (Pss 42–43; 44–49; 84–85; 87–88; altogether, eleven psalms),” Heman the Ezrahite (Ps 88, along with the Korahites), and Etan the Ezrahite (Ps 89). In contrast, the expressionlîdûtûn(=lĕyĕdûtûn; Ps 39 along with David) which appears along with the...

    • 2 The Purpose of the Psalms: Private or Cultic Songs
      (pp. 791-816)

      (5). Given the discussion above, the first question to be clarified is whether the majority of the psalms in the Psalter are private compositions, the outpourings of the hearts of more or less beautiful souls intended only to express what they felt themselves, or whether they are really cultic psalms composed from the outset for cultic and liturgical purposes.

      I must say, first of all, that it is entirely puzzling to me, in view of the fact that the Psalter has been transmitted to us as the cultic hymnal of the Second Temple, how Gunkel, Causse (Les “Pauvres” d’Israël), and...

    • 3 The Actual Psalmists
      (pp. 817-846)

      (13). If the majority of the transmitted psalms are actually cultic psalms, the circle in which they must have originated is easily determined. The conclusion that Gunkel has already reached concerning the earliest psalmody is inevitable:the psalms originated among the temple personnel.

      However, Gunkel is hardly correct to speak of “priestly poetry.” Other scholars have already observed how rarely the psalms speak of the priests and actual priestly functions.¹ The priests in Israel apparently arose from two roots. On the one hand, they stem from the old seers and sanctuary guardians² who on occasion also officiated at the community’s...

    • 4 The Origin of the Pseudonyms
      (pp. 847-868)

      (21). In contrast to the relatively accurate attributions of authorship to Asaph, Heman, Etan, and the Korahites,¹ we have inaccurate and entirely nonhistorical information in the names Moses, David, and Solomon. These names neither denote specific individuals who really composed the pertinent psalms,² nor do they have anything to do with circles within the bureaucracy that produced these psalms.

      The conclusion is evident both from the data concerning the settings—which are secondary, however, in relation to the information concerning the names³—and from the analogous information concerning “a prayer by the prophet Habakkuk” (Hab 3:1).

      It has often been...

  6. Index of Sources
    (pp. 869-905)