Posted by: religionthink | June 25, 2007

Psalm 29: Give Yahweh, O Gods, Give Yahweh Praise.

Psalm 29: Give Yahweh, O Gods, Give Yahweh Praise.

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. (Psa 29:1-8NRSV)

Psalms 29 is most interesting in that the wording is similar to that of Psalms 82. Here the Heavenly Council is addressed to worship Yahweh and proclaim his dominion. So where can we find such writings in the Ancient Near East? Psalms 82 is thought by some to be an adaptation of an old Canaanite hymn to the storm god Baal. From the research done by H.L. Ginsberg, every word in this psalm can be found duplicated in the older Canaanite texts. 1

A posting by Quartz Hill School of theology we find the following quote on the topic:

“Psalm 29 provides our final example of the potential of the Ugaritic texts for illuminating the Bible. The Psalmist praises God in powerful language, evocative of a thunderstorm; thunder, described as God’s voice, is referred to seventimes. In 1935, H.L. Ginsberg proposed that Psalm 29 was originally a Phoenician hymn which had found its way into the Psalter. In support of his hypothesis, he noted several aspects of the psalm which suggested to him that it had been composed initially in honor of the storm god, Baal; he drew upon the Ugaritic texts to substatiate his hypothesis. Theodor Gaster took the hypothesis further in a study published in the Jewish Quarterly Review in 1947. Drawing on the evidence of the Ugaritic texts, he proposed that the psalm was originally Canaanite; it had been modified for inclusion in Israel’s hymnbook simply by the replacement of the name Baal with the personal name of Israel’s God.

Today, although debate continues on the details of the hypothesis, almost all scholars agree that Psalm 29’s background is Baal worship, as portrayed in the tablets from Ugarit. The psalm in itts present form has a powerful effect; the power of nature and of the storm are not excusively the domain of Baal; all power, including that of storm and thunder, is the perogative of Israel’s God. yet the Ugaritic background of the psalm reveals its sources. “ 2

Continuing on we will look to the Canaanite texts and see if we can find an example where such praise is given to Baal in such a way. Due to the challenge of gaining access to such material the author of this essay will use examples more commonly available to the public. One such text, is known as the Baal Cycle.

In the Psalm above Yahweh is also alluded to as a storm god, thundering, ruling the floods, shaking the earth, sending fire and lightning. In the Canaanite text the mentioned Baal fights both the Sea “  ים yâm-Hebrew, Canaanite-Yam” and the god of the underworld and of death “  מוּת mûth-Hebrew,
Canaanite- Mot”. It is in this text we find a beautifully written text of praise to Baal:

Then Baal opened a slit in the clouds,
Baal sounded his holy voice,
Baal thundered from his lips. . .
the earth’s high places shook.
Baal’s enemies fled to the woods,
Hadad’s haters took to the mountains.
And Baal the Conqueror said:
“Hadad’s enemies, why are you quaking?
why are you quaking, assailers of the Valiant One?”
Baal’s eye guided his hand,
as he swung a cedar in his right hand.
So Baal was enthroned in his house.
“No other king or non-king
shall set his power over the earth.
I will send no tribute to Ers son Death,
no homage to El’s Darling, the Hero.
Let Death cry to himself,
let the Darling grumble in his heart;
for I alone will rule over the gods;
I alone will fatten gods and men;
I alone will satisfy earth’s masses.”

Also cedars of Lebanon are also mentioned when materials are gathered to build the house of Baal.

But Kothar-wa-Hasis replied: “You’ll recall my words, Baa!.” They built his house,they erected his palace;
they went to the Lebanon for wood,
to Sirion for the finest cedar;
they went to the Lebanon for wood,
to Sirion for the finest cedar.

One in closing other topics that should be pointed out is that the God El of the Canaanite pantheon at times is read addressing the Heavenly Council. Also the description of the holy mountains in both texts. It is interesting to see the influence that the Hebrews and Canaanite had on each other as they lived as neighbors. And it seems that no matter how hard the priestly, and prophet casts of Israeli society tried to purge the early Yahweh cult of such influences much slipped in and was adapted to fit the archetypes and metaphors of the people.

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

2.Quartze Hill School of Theology. Ugarit.

3. Coogan, Michael David. Stories from Ancient Canaan. The Westminster Press. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1978. p. 105

4. Coogan, pp. 103-104

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  1. […] agree that Psalm 29’s background is Baal worship, as portrayed in the tablets from Ugarit. Psalm 29: Give Yahweh, O Gods, Give Yahweh Praise. « ReligionThink Notice the part "almost all scholars agree" But in a case like this, […]

  2. Some translation say “Give Yahweh praise, sons of mighty.

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