MENU

Where the world comes to study the Bible

Psalm 29

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Voice of the Lord in the Storm Praise to God in His Holiness and Majesty Hymn to the God of the Storm The Voice of the Lord in the Storm Hymn to the Lord of the Storm
MT Intro
A Psalm of David.
       
29:1-2  29:1-2 29:1-2 29:1-2 29:1-2
29:3-9 29:3-4 29:3-4 29:3-4 29:3-4
  29:5-7 29:5-6 29:5-6 29:5-6
    29:7-8 29:7-9 29:7-9b
  29:8-9      
    29:9   29:9c-11
29:10-11 29:10-11 29:10-11 29:10-11  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This is a psalm about natural revelation (i.e., God reveals Himself to everyone through creation).

1. Psalm 19:1-6 (silent voice in creation)

2. Romans 1:19-23 (knowledge of God from nature)

3. Romans 2:14-16 (inner moral witness)

 

B. The imagery of the psalm occurs to encompass

1. YHWH's defeat of the chaos of initial creation (i.e., water, cf. Ps. 29:3,10, the term "flood" [BDB 550] occurs only here and Genesis, chapters 6-11)

2. YHWH's power in a storm (cf. Ps. 29:3-9; cf. Ps. 18:7,15)

 

C. YHWH, not Ba'al, defeats, controls, and sends water. Many scholars note the numerous similarities to Ugaritic mythology and other ANE literature.

 

D. The UBS Handbook asserts that this psalm is a chiasm (p. 275).

1. fourfold use of YHWH in verses 1-2 and 10-11

2. "strength" (BDB 738) in Ps. 29:1 and 11

3. waters referred to in Ps. 29:3 and 10

4. YHWH's majesty referred to in Ps. 29:4 and 10

5. trees mentioned in Ps. 29:5 and 9

6. geographical places in Ps. 29:6 and 8

My problem with this is that a chiasm usually places the most significant theological statement at the middle but verse 7 does not fit this pattern.

E. This Psalm may refer to

1. a theophany as YHWH is depicted as coming in the imagery of a violent storm

2. but the thrust is a military victory (cf. Ps. 29:11)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 29:1-2
 1Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty,
 Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
 2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name;
 Worship the Lord in holy array.

29:1-2 "Ascribe" This verb (BDB 396, KB 393, Qal imperative) is repeated three times. It basically means "give glory to God (cf. Deut. 32:3). This same pattern is also in Psalm 96:7-8 and 1 Chr. 16:28-29. The threefold repetition denotes a superlative emphasis.

29:1

NASB"sons of the mighty"
NKJV"you mighty ones"
NRSV, TEV"heavenly beings"
NJB, LXX"sons of God"
JPSOA"divine beings"
REB"you angelic powers"

The MT has "sons of gods" (lit. "sons of Elim," BDB 119 construct BDB 42). It refers to the angels (cf. Gen. 6:2 ["sons of elohim"]; Ps. 103:20-21) or the heavenly angelic council (cf. Exod. 15:11; 2 Kgs. 22:19; Ps. 82:1; 86:6-8).

See Special Topic: The Sons of God below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: "the sons of God" in Genesis 6

▣ "glory and strength" These are two common terms applied to YHWH.

1. glory — BDB 458

2. strength — BDB 738

 

29:2 "Worship" This is the fourth in a series of four opening imperatives (lit. "bow down," BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishpael imperative). This is what faithful followers do as they come to His temple in holy array. This involves not just clothing but covenant obedience.

▣ "His name" This is an idiomatic way of referring to YHWH Himself. See Special Topic: The Name of YHWH at Psalm 5:11-12.

NASB"in holy array"
NKJV"in the beauty of holiness"
NRSV, NJB"in holy splendor"
JPSOA,
NASB margin"majestic in holiness"
REB, NET"in holy attire"
LXX, Peshitta"in His holy court"

The ambiguous phrase (BDB 214 construct BDB 871) also appears in three other temple worship contexts (cf. Ps. 96:9; 110:3; 1 Chr. 16:29). The TEV footnote offers three possible ways to translate the phrase.

1. when He (YHWH) appears (from Ugarit root, cf. TEV, i.e., YHWH Himself; this then would be similar to the theophany of Exodus 19-20)

2. garments of worship (Aaron's garments are described in a similar way in Exod. 28:2)

3. in His beautiful temple (seems to reflect LXX)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 29:3-9
 3The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
 The God of glory thunders,
 The Lord is over many waters.
 4The voice of the Lord is powerful,
 The voice of the Lord is majestic.
 5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
 Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
 6He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
 And Sirion like a young wild ox.
 7The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.
 8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
 The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
 9The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve
 And strips the forests bare;
 And in His temple everything says, "Glory!"

29:3-9 This strophe is dominated by "the voice of the Lord." There seem to be two ways to view it.

1. YHWH the creator, cf. Ps. 29:3,10 (cf. Genesis 1; Psalm 93)

2. YHWH the true storm God and giver of rain (cf. Ps. 29:3-9, i.e., in opposition to Ba'al's claims)

Notice the way YHWH's voice is characterized (Ps. 29:4-9).

1. powerful (BDB 470)

2. majestic (same root in Ps. 29:2b, BDB 214)

3. breaks the cedars (verb, BDB 990, KB 1402 repeated in Ps. 29:5)

4. makes Lebanon and Sirion (i.e., Mt. Hermon, cf. Deut. 3:9) jump

5. lightning (cf. Ps. 18:12,14) flames trees

6. makes the wilderness shake (verb, BDB 296, KB 297, repeated in Ps. 29:8)

7. makes deer calve

8. strips forests bare (BDB 362 I)

It is important to remember that the spoken word was a very important and pervasive theological concept to the ancient Hebrews.

1. creation by the spoken word — Genesis 1

2. power of the spoken word of God — Isa. 14:24; 25:1; 45:23; 46:10; 55:11; 59:21; Matt. 24:35

3. the Messiah is called "the Word" in John 1:1-5,14; Rev. 19:13

4. the imagery of the returning Messiah with a two-edged sword for a tongue — Rev. 1:16; 2:12

 

29:6 "Lebanon. . .Sirion" These are geographical references north of the Promised Land of Canaan. The term "Sirion" for Mt. Hermon is rare (cf. Deut. 3:9). Because of this and the obvious context or "storm" imagery, many modern scholars have seen this Psalm as a reworking of an original hymn to Ba'al (Canaanite storm god). The Ras Shamra texts are opening much of the veiled imagery of the OT in light of Canaanite mythology. Hebrew authors often took the descriptions of pagan deities and changed them to descriptions and titles of YHWH. They knew He was the one and only true God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at Psalm 2:7).

For a good brief discussion of ancient cosmology see IVP Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 169-174.

29:9a The same verb (BDB 296, KB 297) translated "shake" in verse 8 (twice) is now used of calving (cf. Job 39:1) and of Sarah giving birth in Isa. 51:2.

If one tries to keep a synonymous parallelism between 29:9b and 29:5b, then he must change "hinds" (MT, UBS Text Project gives it a "B" rating) to "oaks" (cf. TEV, NJB, same consonants, just a change of vowels). This is done to try to continue the possible chiastic pattern.

The NET Bible (p. 885 #21) suggests an emendation of "forests" to "female mountain goats" in order to maintain the synonymous parallelism between verses 9a and 6. JPSOA has a footnote, "brings ewes to early birth" as an option (BDB 362 II).

29:9c The summary of all this action (i.e., the physical results of a strong thunderstorm) is that in His temple everything says, "Glory!"

YHWH the creator is providing agricultural abundance by rain in its season. The Creator is also the Sustainer! (See a good article on "Providence" in IVP Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 681-683.)

The NJB makes Ps. 29:9c the beginning of Ps. 29:10-12.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 29:10-11
 10The Lord sat as King at the flood;
 Yes, the Lord sits as King forever.
 11The Lord will give strength to His people;
 The Lord will bless His people with peace.

29:10 The word "King" is not in line 1 but is in line 2. The flood refers (1) to Genesis 6-9 (cf. Gen. 6:17) or (1) to the original creation (cf. Gen. 1:2).

The concept of YHWH as King goes back to 1 Sam.8:7. It is stated as a theological assertion in Psalm 10:16 and here. The imagery is of YHWH sitting on a throne (cf. Ps. 2:4; 113:5 and the imagery in Isaiah 6) or having a scepter.

▣ "sat. . .sits as King" The verb "sat" or "enthroned (BDB 442, KB 444) forever" is a recurrent theme (cf. Exod. 15:18; Ps. 9:7; 10:16; 29:10; 66:7; 145:13; 146:10; Jer. 10:10; Lam. 5:19).

▣ "over the flood" The preposition implies

1. power and authority over the waters of chaos (LXX)

2. YHWH in heaven is above the upper waters (i.e., rains), above the clouds (cf. Gen. 1:6-7; Ps. 148:4)

The term "flood" (BDB 550) is found only in Genesis and here in Psalm 29:10.

29:11 Because YHWH is King, His people are secure. His promises are secure. His purposes for the future are secure!

Even amidst the "storm" when the powers of nature seem so severe, YHWH's people are at peace (cf. Matt. 8:23-27; 14:22-33)! Jesus also demonstrated this divine power over the wind and waves!