I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Monday, July 30, 2012


The first term of interest is the mountain of YHWH (Ps 24:3a).  The mountain of YHWH is Mount Zion.  To Messiah, God says, “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain” (Ps 2:6 NASBU).  Zion is a surrogate for Jerusalem, as Ps 78 makes clear, “On the holy mount stands the city he founded; the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob. Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God. Selah” (vv 1—3 ESV, italics added; cf. Ps 15:1; 132:12—14).  As the worshippers coming to Jerusalem neared the terminus of their pilgrimage, it was this mount they saw as they sang the psalm. 
Another term that catches our interest is holy place (24:3b).  This term is used only twice in the Psalms, here and 134:2; in the latter instance, its translation is even more uncertain.  Prudence dictates that we not be read this term too strictly; that is, as denoting the second section of the tripartite temple complex (e.g., 1 Kgs 8:8, 10).  The psalmists, for poetic purposes, will couple the mountain of God/Zion with the temple (in part or in whole) to highlight the worship context of the song.  For instance, Ps 20:2 has “sanctuary” translating the same word (qôdesh) as is here translated “holy place.”  “May he send you help from the sanctuary (qôdesh) and give you support from Zion!” (20:2 ESV, italics added).  This term, therefor, represents the general loci of the temple worship, from whence YHWH’s blessings overflow for his people.
Lift up and vain things of 24:4b are also worth mentioning.  “Lift up” (nâśâ' / nâsâh) represents a case of repetition in this psalm, see vv 4b, 5a, 7a, b, and 9a, b.  Because it has 659 uses in the OT, its semantic range is as far as the east is from the west.  It is an important term for various idiomatic phrases in Hebrew.  In this figurative sense, it can carry a sense of complete dependence on its object, such as in Deut 24:15, where the impoverished laborer has literally “lifted up his soul” (or “set his heart on”) to his daily wages, without which he will parish.  In the Psalter, the idiom occurs three other times (25:1; 86:4; 143:8).  In each of these occurrences, YHWH is the object of devotion for the uplifted soul of the psalmist.  Therefore, the term connotes a singularity of religious devotion in the psalter.  This is significant, granting the object of the verb in Ps 24:4, vain things. 
Vain things (shâv') in 24:4b are idols.[1]  This term is used directly in reference to idols.  For instance, Ps 31:6 says, “I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols (shâv'), but I trust in the LORD” (ESV).   Again, “Yet my people have forgotten me and offered sacrifices to worthless idols!” (Jer 18:15 NET).  Especially in Ezekiel, the idiom “lift up…eyes” is a common one, with “idols” as its object of the longing gaze (see Eze 18:6, 12, 15; 33:25), and is likely to be taken in the same sense in Ps 121:1.  Therefore, the phrase lift up his soul to vain things is a clear reference to idolatry; it is the singularity of devotion that YHWH exacts from his worshippers, but given to the utter worthlessness of idols, which are “no gods” (Jer 5:7). 
King of glory is used only here in Ps 24 (vv 7, 8, 9, and 10).  It may also be translated “glorious King” or “majestic King” (so NET). 
YHWH of Hosts is a name for YHWH that connotes his absolute power as “God of the armies of Israel” (1 Sam 17:45) and even stellar powers (Gen 2:1).  Psalm 24:10 is the first of many instances of the title in the psalter.  Interestingly, the title dos not come into usage until the Samuel literature, 1 Sam 1:3, to be precise.  If 1 and 2 Samuel provide the historical background for the psalm, then this is significant.  The exact phrase, “YHWH of Hosts,” again, is first used in 1 Sam 1:3, in reference to Eli’s worship of YHWH at Shiloh, the then-resting place of the Ark; its last occurrence is 2 Sam 7:27 in David’s response to YHWH’s gracious covenant with him, these two have eight instances between them.  Only once is this title used with any reference to the interim kingship of Saul, which was in Samuel’s instructions, concerning the battle with the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:2f).  Granting, therefore, these textual perimeters, it can be concluded that the title “YHWH of Hosts” is meant to present YHWH as Israel’s mighty Warrior, who commands the armies of Israel for the purpose of establishing the kingdom of David. 
Another point that warrants notice is the title’s peculiar connection with the Ark itself.  In 1 Sam 4:4 and 2 Sam 6:2, the title is conjoined with the Ark and its purpose as YHWH’s throne-footstool. 
YHWH of Hosts / Ark of the Covenant / Enthroned on Cherubim in 1 & 2 Samuel
So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. (1 Sam 4:4 ESV)
And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. (2 Sam 6:2 ESV)
The phrase “which is called by the name of” (2 Sam 6:2) was probably used to prevent an idolatrous view of the Ark, lest the people begin to think that YHWH was either in the Ark or confined to its presence. 
            These two threads, the connection of the title “YHWH of Hosts” with the establishment of the Davidic dynasty and with the Ark, are tightly tied up in 2 Sam 7, when both David and the Ark of God are settled in Jerusalem.  With both David’s and YHWH’s thrones established in Jerusalem, YHWH gives David “rest from all his surrounding enemies” (7:1; cf. v 9, 11).  YHWH establishes his kingly vice-regent David, who obediently leads the hosts of Israel into the subsequent battles, and YHWH “gave victory to David wherever he went” (8:6, 14).  With Israel’s enemies subdued under the rod of Jesse, and the Ark and YHWH’s king securely planted in Jerusalem, now the blessings of YHWH can flow out of Zion, “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth!” (Ps 50:2).  Thus, hereafter, the militaristic title of “YHWH of Host” fads from the purview of the Samuel narrative.  Therefore, the references to the mountain of YHWH and his holy place, his tabernacle (v 3), and YHWH being strong and mighty, mighty in battle (v 9b, c), and the unconditional identification of the King of glory as YHWH of Hosts, as a great throng moves in mighty procession toward the walls of Jerusalem, all demonstrate with a good measure of certainty that 2 Sam 6 is the historical background for Ps 24, a liturgical antiphon commemorating the Ark’s triumphal entrance into Zion!

[1] Leland Ryken, et al., “Idol, idolatry,” pp. 416—18 in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery.  Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III editors.  Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic (1998), p. 417.

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