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Psalms 29:3-9

Context

29:3 The Lord’s shout is heard over the water; 1 

the majestic God thunders, 2 

the Lord appears over the surging water. 3 

29:4 The Lord’s shout is powerful, 4 

the Lord’s shout is majestic. 5 

29:5 The Lord’s shout breaks 6  the cedars,

the Lord shatters 7  the cedars of Lebanon. 8 

29:6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf

and Sirion 9  like a young ox. 10 

29:7 The Lord’s shout strikes 11  with flaming fire. 12 

29:8 The Lord’s shout shakes 13  the wilderness,

the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 14 

29:9 The Lord’s shout bends 15  the large trees 16 

and strips 17  the leaves from the forests. 18 

Everyone in his temple says, “Majestic!” 19 

1 tn Heb “the voice of the Lord [is] over the water.” As the next line makes clear, the “voice of the Lord” is here the thunder that accompanies a violent storm. The psalm depicts the Lord in the role of a warrior-king, so the thunder is his battle cry, as it were.

2 tn The Hebrew perfect verbal form is probably descriptive. In dramatic fashion the psalmist portrays the Lord coming in the storm to do battle with his enemies and to vindicate his people.

3 tn Traditionally “many waters.” The geographical references in the psalm (Lebanon, Sirion, Kadesh) suggest this is a reference to the Mediterranean Sea (see Ezek 26:19; 27:26). The psalmist describes a powerful storm moving in from the sea and sweeping over the mountainous areas north of Israel. The “surging waters” may symbolize the hostile enemies of God who seek to destroy his people (see Pss 18:17; 32:6; 77:20; 93:4; 144:7; Isa 17:13; Jer 51:55; Ezek 26:19; Hab 3:15). In this case the Lord is depicted as elevated above and sovereign over the raging waters.

4 tn Heb “the voice of the Lord [is] accompanied by strength.”

5 tn Heb “the voice of the Lord [is] accompanied by majesty.”

6 tn The Hebrew participial form draws attention to the durative nature of the action being described.

7 tn The prefixed verbal forms with vav (ו) consecutive here and in v. 6a carry on the descriptive function of the preceding participle (see GKC 329 §111.u). The verb שָׁבַר (shavar) appears in the Qal in the first line of the verse, and in the Piel in the second line. The verb, which means “break” in the Qal, appears thirty-six times in the Piel, always with multiple objects (the object is either a collective singular or grammatically plural or dual form). The Piel may highlight the repetition of the pluralative action, or it may suggest an intensification of action, indicating repeated action comprising a whole, perhaps with the nuance “break again and again, break in pieces.” Another option is to understand the form as resultative: “make broken” (see IBHS 404-7 §24.3).

8 sn The cedars of the Lebanon forest were well-known in ancient Israel for their immense size. Here they may symbolize the arrogant enemies of God (see Isa 2:12-13).

9 sn Sirion is another name for Mount Hermon (Deut 3:9).

10 sn Lebanon and Sirion are compared to frisky young animals (a calf…a young ox) who skip and jump. The thunderous shout of the Lord is so powerful, one can see the very mountains shake on the horizon.

11 tn The verb normally means “to hew [stone or wood],” or “to hew out.” In Hos 6:5 it seems to mean “cut in pieces,” “knock down,” or perhaps “hack” (see F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Hosea [AB], 428). The Ugaritic cognate can mean “assault.” In v. 7 the verb seems to have a similar meaning, perhaps “attack, strike.” The phrase “flames of fire” is an adverbial accusative; the Lord’s shout is accompanied by “flames of fire,” that is, lightning bolts.

12 sn The Lord’s shout strikes with flaming fire. The short line has invited textual emendation, but its distinct, brief form may highlight the statement, which serves as the axis of a chiastic structure encompassing vv. 5-9: (A) the Lord’s shout destroys the forest (v. 5); (B) the Lord’s shout shakes the terrain (v. 6); (C) the Lord’s shout is accompanied by destructive lightning (v. 7); (B´) the Lord’s shout shakes the terrain (v. 8); (A´) the Lord’s shout destroys the forest (v. 9).

13 tn The Hebrew imperfect verbal forms are descriptive in function; the psalmist depicts the action as underway.

14 sn Kadesh. The references to Lebanon and Sirion in v. 6 suggest this is a reference to the northern Kadesh, located north of Damascus, not the southern Kadesh mentioned so often in the OT. See M. Dahood, Psalms (AB), 1:178.

15 tn The Hebrew imperfect verbal form is descriptive in function; the psalmist depicts the action as underway.

16 tc Heb “the deer.” Preserving this reading, some translate the preceding verb, “causes [the deer] to give premature birth” (cf. NEB, NASB). But the Polel of חוּל/חִיל (khul/khil) means “give birth,” not “cause to give birth,” and the statement “the Lord’s shout gives birth to deer” is absurd. In light of the parallelism (note “forests” in the next line) and v. 5, it is preferable to emend אַיָּלוֹת (’ayyalot, “deer”) to אֵילוֹת (’elot, “large trees”) understanding the latter as an alternate form of the usual plural form אַיָּלִים (’ayyalim).

17 tn The verb is used in Joel 1:7 of locusts stripping the leaves from a tree. The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive here carries the descriptive function of the preceding imperfect. See GKC 329 §111.t.

18 tn The usual form of the plural of יַעַר (yaar, “forest”) is יְעָרִים (yÿarim). For this reason some propose an emendation to יְעָלוֹת (yÿalot, “female mountain goats”) which would fit nicely in the parallelism with “deer” (cf. NEB “brings kids early to birth”). In this case one would have to understand the verb חָשַׂף (khasaf) to mean “cause premature birth,” an otherwise unattested homonym of the more common חָשַׂף (“strip bare”).

sn The Lord’s thunderous shout is accompanied by high winds which damage the trees of the forest.

19 tn Heb “In his temple, all of it says, ‘Glory.’”



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