Posted by: religionthink | January 20, 2007

Psalm 21: He asked you for life; you gave it to him.

Psalm 21: He asked you for life; you gave it to him.

In your strength the king rejoices, O Lord, and in your help how greatly he exults! You have given him his heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips. (Selah) For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold on his head. He asked you for life; you gave it to him— length of days forever and ever. His glory is great through your help; splendor and majesty you bestow on him. You bestow on him blessings forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved. Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them like a fiery furnace when you appear. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them. You will destroy their offspring from the earth, and their children from among humankind. If they plan evil against you, if they devise mischief, they will not succeed. For you will put them to flight; you will aim at their faces with your bows. Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power. (Psalms 21:1-13)

In the text of Psalms 21 we see that the King has returned victorious. This Psalm is possibly connected with Psalms 20 in that it praises the help of Yahweh in battle. In the Ancient near east there are a few other comparisons worth noting. One comparison to this Psalm is called “The Return of Ninurta to Nippur” and also another text is A Hymnal Prayer of Enheduanna. We will take some time and note the similarities of these three texts and their relations to Psalms 21. It is hoped at after reading one will begun to understand that not only the Hebrews boasted of their gods and of victories. It is also important to point out that Egyptian literature is also rich in such themes.

As mention above we will now examine the text of “The Return of Ninurta to Nippur”. In the text the warrior god comes to visit his father Enlil and his mother Ninlil at Nippur. As the story goes, a messenger comes from the city to tell the god/man his face is so bright that he may need to reduce some of his splendor before he enters the city. He complies and takes off most of his weapons and enters the temple of the city.

Below we read the word of the man/god boasting of himself as he answers his mother:

“My battle, like an onrushing flood, overflowed in the mountains. With a lion’s body and lion’s muscles, it rose up in the rebellious land. The gods have become worried and flee (?) to the mountain ranges. They beat their wings like a flock of small birds. They stand hiding in the grass like wild bulls ……. No one can confront my radiance, heavy as heaven.

“Because I am the lord of the terraced mountain ranges, in every direction ……. Because I have subjugated these mountain ranges of alabaster and lapis lazuli, the Anuna hide like mice.

“Now I have reestablished my heroic strength in the mountains. On my right, I bear my Mows-down-a-myriad. On my left, I bear my Crushes-a-myriad. I bear my Fifty-toothed-storm, my heavenly mace. I bear the hero who comes down from the great mountains, my No-resisting-this-storm. I bear the weapon which devours corpses like a dragon, my agasilig axe. I bear my …….

“I bear my ……. I bear the alkad net of the rebellious land, my alkad net. I bear that from which the mountains cannot escape, my cucgal net. I bear the seven-mouthed mucmah serpent, the slayer, my spike (?). I bear that which strips away the mountains, the sword, my heavenly dagger.

“I bear the deluge of battle, my fifty-headed mace. I bear the storm that attacks humans, my bow and quiver. I bear those which carry off the temples of the rebellious land, my throwing stick and shield. I bear the helper of men, my spear. I bear that which brings forth light like the day, my Obliterator-of-the-mountains. I bear the maintainer of the people in heaven and earth, my The-enemy-cannot-escape.

“I bear that whose awesome radiance covers the Land, which is grandly suited for my right hand, finished in gold and lapis lazuli, whose presence is amazing, my Object-of-trust. I bear the perfect weapon, exceedingly magnificent, trustworthy in battle, having no equal, well-suited for my wrist on the battlefield, my fifty-headed mace, I bear the weapon which consumes the rebellious land like fire, my fifty-headed club.

When compared to the text above we see here references made to interments of war. Also Like Yahweh we see the references to the god in this text using the elements of weather against his enemies and the Judgment of the evil doers. It is also proper to mention that the god Baal in the Ugaritic texts was also a warrior and storm god. Also the above could be compared to the biblical character Samson

Moving on to the next example we find the beautiful text “A Hymnal Prayer of Enheduanna” This prayer is to the warrior goddess Inanna, who also uses the elements of weather to do battle. In this case a drought against the enemy is spoken of. Below is a small section of the text however, in order for one to get the full context, the whole should be read. Again the same themes exist in the following.

Vegetation ceases, when You thunder like Ishkur,

You who bring down the Flood from the mountain,

Supreme One, who are the Inanna of Heaven (and) Earth,

Who rain flaming fire over the land,

Who have been given the me by An,

Queen Who Rides the Beasts,

Who at the holy command of An, utters the (divine) words,

Who can fathom Your great rites!

Destroyer of the Foreign Lands,

You have given wings to the storm,

Beloved of Enlil – You made it (the storm) blow over the land,

You carried out the instructions of An.

My Queen,

the foreign lands cower at Your cry,

In dread (and) fear of the South Wind, mankind

Brought You their anguished clamor,

Took before You their anguished outcry

Opened before You wailing and weeping,

Brought before You the “great” lamentations in the city streets.

From reading these small examples, we can see that hymns to gods proclaiming their powers, acts, and victories were common. Also, from these examples, we see that some of the same characteristics existed among the warrior god and goddesses. At times it is said that the Old Testament texts are ruthless and violent. But when putting the text in historical context we see their neighbors were also writing on the same subject matter.

Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., “The return of Ninurta to Nippur.”The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford 1998-.

Dahood, Mitchell. The Anchor Bible: Psalms 1-50. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York 1968.

Pritchard, James D. (1975):” “A Hymnal Prayer of Enheduanna.” The Ancient Near East, Volume II, Princeton University Press, Chichester, USA.

Quoted biblical texts are taken from the New Revised Standard Version

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