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The Divine Warrior

June 8, 2008

Below is an extract from Tremper Longman’s “The Divine Warrior: The New Testament Use of an Old Testament Motif” in which he deals with some Psalms. I hope this taster encourages you to read the full article.

In the OT, the Divine Warrior frequently appears on his cloud war chariot. More specifically, Yahweh is described as riding a storm cloud into battle against his enemies (Ps 18:9-15):

He spread out the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him-
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
Elyon gave forth his voice.
He shot his arrows and dispersed them,
great bolts of lightning and confused them.
The channels of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

The psalmist here calls to his Lord for aid, and the Lord responds by doing battle against his enemies and by saving him. Salvation and judgment are the two halves of the same great warring activity of Yahweh.

A second example of Yahweh as the cloud rider comes in Ps 104:1-4, a section replete with Canaanite imagery. In this connection, it is appropriate to mention the well-known Canaanite background to Yahweh as cloud rider. After all, one of Baal’s main epithets is “rider on the clouds” (rkb ’rpt).

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