Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 47

HYMN TO THE LORD AS KING OF THE WORLD

THE people of Israel salute the Lord as their King, and as the King of the world. The heathen nations are called on to join in the jubilee with which the accession of the Great King is acclaimed. For the psalmist, therefore, Yahweh of Hosts is not Lord of Israel merely (though Israel is still His special possession); He is King of all lands and peoples. The spirit of Messianic universalism breathes, thus, through the poem. The series of Psalms 91-98 is also associated with the idea of God taking anew His throne as King over Israel and the world. The popular religious mind of Israel interpreted national defeat as a sign that the Lord was no longer interested in His people—was, in effect, no longer their actual King. But when any great victory was won by Israel, or the national hopes and ambitions of Israel receivedencouragement, then it was felt that the Lord had again resumed His rule as King of Israel. Inasmuch, moreover, as the reality of Yahweh’s rule over Israel was shown in practice by the defeat of Israel’s national foes, by the exercise of power, therefore, over those who were not of the House of Israel, the lordship of Yahweh over Israel came to be associated inevitably with the idea of a universal lordship of the God of Israel.

It is likely that the occasion of this poem was some great national victory. But it is not possible to determine the exact date or precise occasion of the poem (see footnote below).  It must be said in regard to this poem, as was said in regard to Ps 43, that the imagery of the poem goes beyond the possibilities of any known historical situation. Here, as there, we have at work a method of composition, a tradition of literary creation, which was intimately associated with the phenomena of the Messianic outlook in ancient Israel.

Footnote by Fr. Boylan: This psalm, like the following, has been often associated by criticism with the defeat of Sanherib (i.e., Sennacherib, 701 B.C.). It has been maintained also that Ps66, Ps 74, Ps 94, Ps 96, Ps 96, Ps 97, and, possibly, Ps 91, were composed to commemorate the overthrow of the Assyrians on that occasion. The Ark may have been taken out from its shrine during the celebration of victory, carried around in a triumphal procession, and, finally, borne back amidst tumultuous rejoicing to its resting place in the Temple. The return of the Ark to its shrine would symbolise the return of Yahweh to His throne as King of Israel. The ceremonies of rejoicing over the Assyrian defeat would, in the circumstances, inevitably resemble the ceremonies of the coronation of Hebrew kings; and if, as is not improbable, a great triumph of Israel would naturally be looked on by the people as a sort of prelude to, or foretaste of, the victories of the Messias, we should expect to find in this psalm that interweaving of the historical and the ideal, that overshadowing of the actual King (Ezechias, i.e., Hezekiah) and his victory by the Messianic King and his victories, which the psalm shows.

For the carrying of the Ark in a procession of victory compare Psalm 24.

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One Response to Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 47

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord | stjoeofoblog

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