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Ps. cxiv & the cultic tradition of Gilgal

November 23, 2008

In Worship in Israel Kraus writes:

The main theme in the tradition, however, is the journey of the Israelites behind the Ark. The presence of the Ark as the central shrine of the tribal confederacy and also the emphatic reference to the ‘twelve’ stones in the Jordan and at Gilgal show that this cultic event must have been a very significant act of worship of the Yahweh amphictyony. There is a remarkable echo of the cultic rehersal of the miraculous exodus from Egypt at the Jordan in Ps. cxiv.

When Israel went forth out of Egypt, The house of Jacob from a people of strange language;
Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
The sea saw it, and fled; The Jordan was driven back.
The mountains skipped like rams, The little hills like lambs.
What aileth thee, O thou sea, that thou fleest? Thou Jordan, that thou turnest back?
Ye mountains, that ye skip like rams; Ye little hills, like lambs?
Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the God of Jacob,
Who turned the rock into a pool of water, The flint into a fountain of waters.

This cultic hymn mentions ‘sea’ and ‘Jordan’ in direct connection with one another. This combination is so unusual that we can assume that the Psalmist is basing his hymn on the cultic tradition of Gilgal.

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