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Psalms and the Autumnal Festival (3)

September 20, 2008
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Below are some more of the highlights of chapter 2 of John Eaton’s Festal Drama in Deutero-Isaiah:

6. Yahweh’s kingship as an event in the festival

The many depictions in the festal texts of Yahweh as supreme are by no means statements of static theology enlivened with pictoral form. They are excited responses to the divine action in the festival. the festal hour is a concentration of all the moments of creative salvation which gave the world and this society their origin and healthy order. In the festal hour the divine work of salvation is re-experienced. Yahweh overpowers chaos, takes his kingship, makes right order, send forth life, and enters into intimate communion with his liberated people. The triumphant proclamation ‘Yahweh has become king’ or ‘Yahweh is now king’ expressed the heart of this exciting experience (93.1; 96.10; 97.1; 99.1; similarly 10.16; 47; 9; 146.10; cf 22.29; 29.10…).

8. Yahweh’s victorious procession into Zion

As Yahweh came back into his city and Temple, good tidings of his victory were brought by messengers (68.12…) and celebrated by the singers and players who were part of the column (68.25-6). Perhaps also birds were sent flying over the city with the message of triumphant kingship…somewhat as in Egypt…The idea that Yahweh himself marched or was borne enthroned in the procession was vividly held, and the Ark was probably used for this purpose (68.2; 132; 24.7f).

From 68.8-9 it seems that the procession could be brought into relation with the Exodus journey. A pre-monarchy use of processional worship to relive the ancient journey into Canaan has been traced in Josh. 2-6 and Ps. 114 (Kraus, pp. 152-65). The equation of the Exodus-Invasion journey with the festal procession of Yahweh as King into his chief sanctuary is indicated also by the hymn in Exod. 15, where the Exodus leads straight to Yahweh’s mountain sanctuary in the settled land and to declaration of his kingship. The fusion of the relived Exodus and the universialist Zion worship is also discernable in Ps. 66. 1-12.

The great procession into Zion was not just a preliminary to the manifestation of Yahweh’s glory in the Temple. From Pss. 24, 68, and 47 we can see that it was an impressive public display of his main festal action. As the jubilant procession ascends, the achievements of his newly taken kingship are already projected: his enemies are defeated, the world is secured, the rains are prepared, the oppressed are relieved, salvation is bestowed on all his loyal people; in short, Yahweh enters as already dominant king over all.

10. Yahweh’s speech as Covenant-Lord

From Pss. 50, 81, 85, 95 it appears that when God has so come to Zion and manifested his glory, he spoke through a prophetic minister to his people as their Covenant-Lord.

12. Yahweh regulates the elements

In Ps. 104 contemplation of Yahweh as enthroned master above the waters, resplendent in light and destroyer of the wicked, is connected with praise of all his work through the clouds, winds, lightning, sweet waters, provision for man and beast, the moon, sun sea, creatures, etc. Ps. 29 looks to the God who has dominated the waters by his thunder-word to give life and provision to his people. Ps. 65 declares that the God now praised in Zion is he who can decree a bountiful year and make the preparation for fertile growth; soon at his command the parched hills may flow with the winter rains and verdure and crops begin to spring; all nature will rejoice (cf. Pss. 85; 126-8).

18. Ideas combined in the festival

In Ps. 68…Yahweh is a warrior defeating enemies, the destroyer of the wicked, gladdener of the righteous, rider on the clouds, champion of the defenceless, settler of the homeless, releaser of prisoners, punisher of the rebellious, leader of his people through the desert, lord of Sinai, God of Israel, giver of rain, fertilizer of his land, victor over an alliance of kings, he who ascends his chosen mountain-residence with armed train, captives and spoil, saviour of his people, their rescuer from death and the water-powers, he who utters is thurnder-roar against the marsh-monster, who splits the skull of his arch-foe, who enters in holy procession as King with leaders and squadrons of his covenant-people and male and female musicians, who receives tribute and praise from the kings of the earth, who rides in the heavens and is glorious in the clouds, who reveals his dread godhead from his sanctuary and, finally, gives life and power to Israel. The theory that this psalms is but a catalogue of psalms, which quotes their beginnings, is testimony to the fact that it is indeed and incomprehensible mixture, until it is related to the festival.

I am conscious of copyright and so I shall stop there. I hope this has whet your appetites to go and read the book in full for yourselves.

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