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Vos on the enthronement psalms

May 8, 2008

The following is taken from Geerhardus Vos’ The Eschatology of the Psalter:

The theocentric character of Psalter-eschatology appears also in this that it is prevailingly kingdom-eschatology. By this is meant a form of statement representing Jehovah as becoming, or revealing, Himself in the last crisis the victorious King of Israel. Certain Psalms may be called specific kingdom-Psalms. Pss. xciii, xcvii, xcix, open with the words “Jehovah is King.” The context shows that this is declared from the standpoint of the eschatological future, when, after the judgment, his universal dominion shall be established. Into this future the Psalmist projects himself. The situation is the same in Ps. xcvi. 10, “Say among the nations, Jehovah is King; the world also is established, and it cannot be moved.” It will be remembered that the shout “Absalom is King” was the shout of acclaim at his assumption of the kingship….The ascension-feature might be explained from the elevation of the throne-seat, to which the king mounts by steps, or from the going up to the height of Zion, after a victorious return from war, in which Jehovah, as present in the ark, would participate and lead. Pss. lxviii. 18 and xxiv. 7-10 suggest the possibility of another explanation. In the former passage we read: “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led away captives.” The Psalm is at its opening escatologically-prospective, but vss. 7-20 seem to be historically-retrospective, so that the statement about Jehovah’s ascent is not directly eschatological. It does, however, describe a real ascent into heaven,, and not a mere going up unto the earthly sanctuary. In Ps. xxiv the language might more easily remind of the earthly dwelling-place of Jehovah (cfr. vs. 3), but even here in the second part of the Psalm the “everlasting doors” point to the higher habitation. The idea of Jehovah’s glorious return into heaven after accomplished victory, must have existed, and if so, would influence directly-eschatological representations, like that of Ps. xlvii. 5-8. In Ps. xxiv. this seems to be actually the case.

It is obvious that a representation which thus throws the emphasis on the future enthronement of Jehovah intends to magnify what the end means for God and for Israel in relation to its God. The core of the belief is that there must come and will come a time, when God will visibly take his place as the end and focus of all the glory of the world process. As the antique idea makes the state subserve the glory of the king, so the ripened ages will be made to yield their accumulated fruit to Him who is their King. Although the kingdom-idea has also its soteric aspect, the Psalter shows that side by side with this, and as even in a sense superior, the manifestation of the glory of Jehovah is expressed by it. The thought is not merely that Jehovah becomes King in order to save, but that through the salvation, as well as in other acts, He arrives at the acme of his royal splendor.

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