Posted by: religionthink | April 30, 2007

Psalm 26:I did not sit with dishonest men.


Psalm 26: I did not sit with dishonest men

With in the Psalm 26 we have a protest of innocence. Here the writer has been accused of idol worship (vss. 1-2) and so makes his case before Yahweh (vss. 3-7). He says a prayer to Yahweh (8-10), then expects to be vindicated of the issue and reaffirms his innocent. For if not he could be banned from the temple. However there is much more to this Psalm then meets the eye and inorder to shed new light on the topic we will compare this text to a few others from the Ancient Near East to better understand the issue of making a case before Yahweh.

In the prayer to Yahweh we read:

I did not sit with dishonest men, neither did I go with hypocrites.I hated the congregation of the evildoers, and I did not sit with the wicked.I washed my hands with cleanliness, and I encompassed Your altar, O Lord. To proclaim thanksgiving with a loud voice and to recite all Your wonders. (Tehillim 26:4-7)

This text sounds reminiscent of the forty confessions of Matt from the Egyptian literature. Below we read some of this text listed here for comparison.

I have not plundered the offerings in the temples.
I have not defrauded the gods of their cake-offerings.
I have not carried off the fenkhu cakes [offered to] the Spirits.
I have not committed fornication.

Another topic that can be brought to light is the idea of washing the hands to clean oneself of transgressions. As mentioned before in another essay on the Psalms we find this happening elsewhere in Ancient Near Eastern literature. Below we read the text of Anet the War goddess of the Canaanite pantheon washing herself after doing battle:

She made the chairs chairs again,
the tables tables;she made the stools stools.
She drew water and washed,the heavens’ dew,
the earth’s oil,the rain of the Rider on the Clouds,
dew which the heavens pour,
rain which is poured from the stars.

Moving on possible the best example of a text that falls along these lines is the text of Job and his prayer for vindication. It is within this text that Job is wrongly accused by those who came to comfort him and his response to them can be contrasted with this Psalm. First Job entertained the idea of putting Yahweh on trial. After the speech from the whirlwind he realizes as do readers of the text that Yahweh is the ultimate judge and vindicates who he will vindicate.

Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said: Shall he that reproveth contend with the Almighty? He that argueth with God, let him answer it. Then Job answered the LORD, and said: Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer Thee? I lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer again; yea, twice, but I will proceed no further. Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: Gird up thy loins now like a man; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me. Wilt thou even make void My judgment? Wilt thou condemn Me, that thou mayest be justified? Or hast thou an arm like God? And canst thou thunder with a voice like Him?” (Job 40:1-9)

Idol worship was a serious charge. Written and was expounded on by the prophets, and in their view it was one of the main issues that was said to cause the fall of Israel to foreign enemies. Being banned from the temple as a Levite was also devastating and if one were to be accused of such a crime as idolatry in a period of religious reformation as was seen during the kingships of Hezekiah and Jeroboam then one would have every reason to worry.

Coogan, Michael David. Stories from Ancient Canaan. The Westminster Press. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1978.

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

-Judaic Press Complete Tanach

Wilson, Epiphanius. Egyptian Literature: Comprising Egyptian Tales, Hymns, Litanies, Invocations, the Book of the Dead. Colonial Press. 1901. pg 103.

*This essay was written by the author of



  1. Hey;

    I found your youtube posting and then your site. Keep up the good work. Doing my PhD in HB it was depressing to see the kind of stuff about bible on youtube, it is encouraging that a non-specialist is concerned enough to consult informed sources and share that information.

    You may note that many of your sources for ANE and Ugarit in particular are rather dated. There has actually been a decline in the use of Ugaritic literature for parallels with the HB. This is due to the divergence in date between Ugarit (14th Century) and the books of the HB, and a current trend in scholarship to date texts later and later. Yet there are some discussions still arguing for the relevance of Ugaritic material, yet with cautions about how it was used in the past. If you want to get up to date on these matters check out the most recent article on this.
    Mark S. Smith, “Biblical Narrative Between Ugaritic and Akkadian Literature Part 1: Ugaritic and the Hebrew Bible: Consideration of Comparative Research” Revue Biblique 114.1 (2007), 5-29.

    All the best in your reading.

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