Holy War Ideology and
the Rapid Shift of Mood in Psalm 3
Ee Kon Kim
Professor of Old Testament
Attention has long been directed to the phenomenon of reversal from complaint to confidence in the lament psalms, but that no agreement has been reached concerning the real motivation of such a sudden change of mood in the lament psalms, in both the national laments and the individual laments, is remarkable. Explanations by the psalm-students have pointed to: (1) a postulated priestly oracle of salvation which was intervened just before the rapid and radical transition of mood (cf. F. Küchler, followed by H. Gunkel, S. Mowinckel, J. Begrich, et al.) ; (2) a psychological dynamic in which wholehearted outpouring of distress to God issues in a spontaneous surge of relief (cf. F. Heiler, followed by C. Westermann, partially H. Gunkel, et al.) ; (3) a cultic actualization (dramatization or recitation) of the tradition of the divine saving acts (cf. A. Weiser, M. Noth, et al.).
Studies to account for the sudden
shift of mood from cry of distress to assurance of salvation in the lament psalms
thus far can be classified as one of the three explanations offered above.
However, the three hypothetical conjectures above have a decisive problem in
that there are no internal evidence in the lament psalms themselves and in that
they have failed in exploring the traditio-histroical root of the motivation
to suddenly change the mood of the lament psalms. The purpose of this
study is to point out the striking inadequacy of the traditional explanations
of the shifting phenomena in the lament psalms, and to give an example which
strongly buttresses the suggested alternative.
I. Inadequate Theories Without Textual Evidences
1. In the early days of the form-critical study of the psalms, F. Küchler has already offered a very plausible and classical theory. In his theory, a priestly oracle of salvation has already gone at the head of the certainty of having been heard in the lament psalms and the expression of having been heard is introduced through the notice of an oracle. However, the inadequateness of this theory is found not only in the fact that there is no extant example of any such postulated oracles among the lament psalms, but also in the fact that the complaint expressions rather than the confident expressions are placed right after the announcement of the priestly Heilsorakel.
Remarkably, the verses such as Psalms 6:9; 12:8; 27:13; 28:6; 55:23; 56:10; 57:7; 60:14; 89:39, etc., where the priestly oracle of salvation may be expected to appear right before the verses, never suggest any postulated oracle of salvation with the exception of Psalms 12:8; 60:14 and 89:39. However, Psalm 60:14 should never be seen as being placed right after the oracle (cf. Ps 60:8-10). That is, the verses 11-13, which must be the expressions of a complicated mentality caused by complaint and petition (Klage und Bitte), are displaced right after the proclaimed oracle of salvation. Also, the contextual situations of Psalms 12:8 and 89:39 are not different from those of Psalm 60:14.
Based on the excellent works of J. Begrich and S. Mowinckel, who have sought a precise cultic setting for the priestly oracle of salvation and have also attempted to relate it clearly to a sudden change of mood in the lament psalms, we have only three Psalms, 12, 60, and 89 as the vorlage in which the exact oracular formula is preserved: the shape of the oracular passages (Pss. 12:6; 60:8; 89:20) is introduced or concluded by yo’mar YHWH, ’elohîm dibber, and ’az dibbarta.
In the case of Psalm 12, the lamenter places his citation (v. 6) from the prophetic-oracular phrase in Isaiah 33:10, “Now I will arise!” right after his lamentation (v. 5). Accordingly, the confidence expressed in vv. 7-8, which suddenly occurs, has long been recognized as a reaction from the oracle in v. 6. What matters here, however, seems to be how to interpret v. 9 (the concluding verse): “On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the sons of humanity.” This sentence must be a complaint verse. That is to say, even after a salvation oracle a complaint occurs. Most interpreters, however, want to add a conjunction (“though” or “even though”) to the head of the verse in question: “Even though the wicked prowl on every side...” This interpretation appears to serve the artificial intention of letting the psalm end not with complaint but with confidence. However, there are no grammatical or textual reasons to add a conjunction to the verse! We see in this verse evidence that even after a priestly oracle of salvation, a complaint can occur.
Psalm 60, in addition to Psalm 12, places a complaint (vv. 12-13) after the oracle (vv. 8-11). Even though the last verse (v. 14) ends with confidence in accordance with the promise of the oracle, the salvation oracle (v. 8-11) does not change the mood of lamentation (vv. 3ff.) into that of confidence (cf. complaint in vv. 12f.): “the fog [of complaint] has not all disappeared immediately.” If there is a good explanation about the complaint after a salvation oracle, it must be that “strangely enough” the psalmist is not wholly reassured by the “oracle.”
In Psalm 89 the mood of complaint (vv. 39ff.) after the royal oracle, which is given to the Davidic dynasty (vv. 20-38), is very strikingly presented. The studies of Sarna and Mullen on Psalm 89 come to the conclusion that the oracle (originally Nathan’s oracle in 2 Sam 7) that the Davidic dynasty will prosper, whether it is assured by the divine promise (Sarna) or by the heavenly witness (Mullen), was freely adapted by the psalmist in order to point out the contrast between the ancient oracle (the Davidic victories) and the present distress of the psalmist’s own day.
In light of the above observations, the lament psalmists are, indeed, sure to have freely adapted ancient oracles and any other salvation traditions to their new situations in distress. That is to say, it is obvious that they have not depended upon such a cultic act as the oracle of salvation. The two articles of Sarna and Mullen seem to give a reasonable answer to the question why the above three lament psalms (Pss. 12, 60, and 89) place their complaints after the salvation oracle: they do it in order to emphasize their present situation in need of salvation by contrasting the present distress with the past victories formulated in oracular form. This characteristic of the lament psalms seems to tell us that the salvation oracle as such is not a sufficient explanation of the sudden transition from complaint to confidence.
2. Heiler, who holds that the words of prayer are not borrowed from a formula but from a spontaneous creation, argues that prayer essentially goes forth through both the experience of need and trust in the divine promise. Accordingly, Heiler believes that self-forgetful surrender to the highest God, namely, the dependence upon God’s will, creates the sudden change of mood in the lament psalms. Even though Heiler comments that the effective force of prayer does not exclude the adoption of a traditional formula, he admirably emphasizes the abruptness of the order of thought in the prayer, an abruptness that springs from emotion. For Heiler, the essential nature of “biblical prayer” is the unrestricted expression of the compelling emotion.
Thus the main components of the biblical prayer such as “complaint,” “petition,” “confession of sinfulness,” “expression of trust,” “thanksgiving,” “praise,” etc., according to Heiler, are understood to spontaneously arise from the consciousness of dependence upon God, the strong will to live, and the desire of self-assurance. In result, “prayer” is recognized as a product of the ambivalence of two emotions, “fear and hope.” Consequently, the rapid change in mood in the lament psalms seems to be recognized by Heiler as a spontaneously and inwardly rising process of the soul in prayer. The sudden change of mood in the lament psalms also can be recognized as issuing from “the psychic struggle” in which hope asserts itself against all the feelings of fear, and it rises to unshakable confidence.
The repetitive language of Heiler is as follows: “A wonderful metamorphosis takes place in the prayer itself, unconsciously, involuntarily often quite suddenly .... The petitioner carries on an internal conflict between doubt and certainty, hesitation and assurance, until finally faith and trust break through with victorious power.... A great number of the psalms ... shows the same conflict between fearful uncertainty and hopeful courage, the violent alternation of feeling from trembling anxiety to bold confidence.”
In general, Heiler’s psychological approach to biblical prayer seems to be parallel to the “general” circumstances of religious prayer. However, such creation of prayer which takes place on the summit of a generalized religious experience might make possible to put the lament psalms into a category of the purely non-cultic prayer. But we must consider that the lament psalms, whether individual or national, have been transmitted through a cult, which is widely defined as a religious life of experience where the various traditions converge and diverge. Of course, it is not easy to determine whether the greater part of the Psalms were cultic (cf. Mowinckel), private imitations of old cult songs (cf. Gunkel-Begrich), or older than any cult, that is, independent of cult (cf. Heiler). It is not possible, on the other hand, to argue that the lament psalms are purely non-cultic, since we can see non-cultic imitations of the style of the cultic Psalms from Jeremiah and Deutero-Isaiah. Indeed, Israelite piety in the lament psalms must have grown under the influence of historical and cultic traditions. Accordingly, Heiler’s psychological approach to the Israelite prayers must have largely ignored the particular relationship of the Israelite prayers with their traditio-historical background.
C. Westermann, who, to his astonishment found that there are no psalms which do not progress beyond petition and lament, convincingly relates the sudden transition of mood in the lament psalms to his psychological approach to the function of the “vow of praise” in the lament psalms. The vow of praise in the lament psalms, according to Westermann, is recognized as having a psychological motivation for “continuity” in which lamenters bind together the present moment of lament with a moment, in the past, of deliverance and a moment, in the future, as is spoken in the vow of praise. Accordingly, the sudden transition from lamentation to joy in the lament psalms has been anticipated from the beginning.
Since the great majority of the lament psalms do not refer to the “priestly oracle of salvation” as their concluding part, such a psychological approach to the lament psalms is not impossible. However, it does not seem possible to regard the sudden change of mood in the Israelite lament psalms as a purely psychological phenomenon of private prayer without any association with the influence of the cult and in defiance of their traditio-historical background.
As Weiser suggests, even the psalms that have been composed far away from the temple, such as Psalms 42, 43, 137, etc., are related inwardly to the sanctuary and its cultic tradition, because their authors long for the time when they once were privileged to be in the house of God. Indeed, the Hebrew psychology of faith, as is well known, cannot be considered as a purely psychological phenomenon without any association with the influence of its traditio-historical background. As Childs argues, Hebrew psychology with its recognition of the historical dimension of the external world did not consistently share a “mentality” that an “event” is conceived merely as a “manifestation of the soul” and is effected independently of external factors. These things considered, the “purely” psychological process of the inner soul also is not a sufficient explanation for the rapid change of mood in the lament psalms. Therefore, what is important in the study of the lament psalms is to clarify an external impulse which is over and above the purely psychological inner resources of the lament psalmists themselves.
3. A. Weiser, who believes that the lament psalms were firmly established in the cult of the covenant festival, where the renewal of the divine salvation was understood to be celebrated by the cultic actualization of the magnalia Dei in the form of a verbal representation, refuses the above two explanations of the rapid change of mood in the lament psalms. And he argues that the great majority of laments do not refer to an oracle cast into a rigid mold and that the inner certainty reached after the lamenter’s soul had passed through severe struggle does not represent the only means that will enable the petitioner to overcome every kind of suffering.
More concretely, Weiser asserts that the inner certainty of the lament psalmists belongs to an expression of thanksgiving after their participation in the traditional actualization of salvation in the cult in which the experiences of salvation were incorporated. That is to say, the change of mood in the lament psalms is understood to have taken place after the lamenter’s participation in the actualization of Heilsgeschichte tradition in the cult. In this sense, Weiser’s basic argument, even though he leans toward a cultic interpretation, seems to be based on a synthesis between the cultic and the non-cultic interpretations.
Conclusively, it must be Weiser’s argument that the rapid change of mood in the lament psalms results from the participation in the traditional actualization of salvation in the cult. What matters here, however, is that Weiser does not show how the results from participation in the actualization of Heilsgeschichte in the cult have shifted to the writing down of the lament psalms. That is, he does not present any evidence that the lament psalmists combined their cultic experiences with their lament songs. As Childs criticizes, Weiser does not present any clear indication of the shift from the psychological to the cultic.
Furthermore, the recapitulation
of Heilsgeschichte in the cult, whether it has been performed in the form of
a cult drama (Mowinckel, et al.) or in the form of a verbal representation (Noth,
von Rad, Westermann, Kraus, et al.), has its own unique function to present
“a contrast between what God had done earlier and is now doing,” and, moreover,
is followed not by an expression of confidence but of complaint! The following
passages reflect the function of the cultic reenactment of Heilsgeschichte in
the lament psalms more clearly:
Ps 22:5-6, recapitulation
Ps 22:7f., complaint (not confidence)
But I am a worm, and no man any more;
Scorned by men and despised by the people.
Ps 44:2-9, recapitulation
Ps 44:10f., complaint (not confidence)
But you have cast us off and abased us;
You do not go out with our armies.
The above examples strongly bear witness to the fact that by contrasting God’s earlier acts of salvation (Deus revelatus) with His present absence (Deus absconditus), the recapitulation of earlier history of salvation in the lament psalms has attempted to emphasize the present distress and military humiliation. Therefore, it comes to a conclusion that the re-presentation of Heilsgeschichte in the lament psalms must have been in a fundamentally different context from that of the rapid change of mood in the lament psalms: The re-telling of the past history in the lament psalms must be characterized by an exhibition of the ground of complaint through contrast between the present situation in distress with God’s earlier acts of victory.
To sum up, all the above arguments
indicate that among the lament psalms we have no evidence of the “objective
motivations” of the sudden change in mood such as “priestly (or cult prophetic)
oracle of salvation” or “cultic actualization of Heilsgeschichte.” This
means that the rapid shift of mood in the lament psalms is never schematically
limited to the cultic act. However that may be, it is not possible to
regard the sudden change of mood in the Israelite lament psalms as a purely
psychological metastasis of petitioner’s emotion without any association with
the influence of cult and in defiance of their traditio-historical background.
Accordingly, the task that remains here in this context must be an examination
of what the distinctive Hebrew faith in the lament psalms has operated under
the influence of the aftereffect of cultic activities: the rapid change of mood
in the lament psalms can be regarded as being derived from a free combination
of two factors, that is, (1) the traditionally typical Israelite faith of the
lament psalmists and (2) the aftereffect that results from the recapitulation
of the salvation-tradition in the cult.
II. The Impetus of Holy War Ideologies as a Motivation of the Rapid Shift of Mood in Psalm 3
My arguments so far have shown that agreement has not been reached concerning the proper motivation of the abrupt change of mood in the lament psalms, nor has a comprehensive explanation been provided for it. This means that we need to explore a different, more convincing explanation.
Psalm 3, which is usually classified as an individual psalm of lament, must be a very good example to proffer a key to the mystery of the sudden shift of mood in the lament psalm:
Psalm 3 is a typical psalm of lament, which gets all the basic components such as “Anrufung” (v.2a), “Klage” (vv. 2-3), “Vetrrauen” (vv. 4-7), “Bitte” (v. 8a), “Gewissheit der Erhörung” (v. 8b), and “Bekenntnis” (v. 9).
And these components of the lament songs in Psalm 3 are well organized to mark clearly the sudden shift of mood right after “Klage” (v. 4) and “Bitte” (v. 8a): the Psalm begins with a complaint against the innumerable enemies arrayed against the lamenter, but abruptly moves to confidence of salvation.
Psalm 3 is an example in which an individual experience becomes characteristic for the national (or communal) experience, although the language is left in its individual form: the lament singer combines his personal experience of salvation with the liturgical confession of the community.
Psalm 3 is framed as follows:
Anrufung (v. 2a)
Klage (vv. 2-3)
[O Yahweh], how many are my adversaries! How many rise up against me!
How many are saying of me: “There is no salvation for him in God!” (Selah)
Rapid Change of Mood
Vertrauen (vv. 4-5, 6-7)
But you, O Yahweh, are a shield round me, my glory, and
One who holds up my head.
When I cry out my voice to Yahweh, he answers me from
His holy mountain. (Selah)
I lay down. Then I fell asleep.
I awakened, because
Yahweh sustains me.
I fear not the multitudes of people, who have deployed
against me on every side.
Bitte (v. 8a)
Rise up, O Yahweh! Give me victory, O my God!
Rapid Change of Mood
Gewissheit der Erhörung (v. 8b)
Surely you smote all my enemies on the cheek! You smashed
the teeth of the wicked!
Bekenntnis (v. 9)
Salvation belongs to Yahweh!
Your blessing is upon your people. (Selah)
Psalm 3, which is typically well structured as a psalm of lament, seems to respond to our long-pending question about the motivation of the rapid shift of mood in the lament psalms with the following three decisive indications.
1. Psalm 3 makes efficient use of abundant military terminology, as is often the case in the lament psalms where the extensive war imagery figures prominently as one of their features:
(1) The primary examples of the usage of military terminology are “magen” (shield) in verse 4, “meribbôt” (multitudes) in verse 7, and “šatû” (they deployed) in verse 7.
The word “magen” (shield) refers to a military weapon which was used for protection. And this word is parallel to “sword” in Deut 33:29 and “buckler” in Ps 91.4. Although the word “magen” in MT is translated into the term “Suzerain” (from the Punic “magon” by Dahood ), the Hebrew mgn must have a military sense since the Punic “magon” can be referred to a title of the Carthaginian generals.
The word “meribbôt” (multitudes)
also has a war imagery, although it can be translated into “shafts” by Dahood,
who attests such on the basis of a derivation from rbb, “to shoot arrows.”
It seems to me to be plausible that the psalmist here has emphasized the numerousness
of his enemies by means of employing the root rbb I (“be numerous”), since the
psalmist has already employed the same root three times in verses 2-3 with respect
to his enemies.
The term “šatû” (they deployed) refers to a military act, which indicates that an army composed of myriads is set or put in battle array. Šîtû as a more probable vocalization recurs also in Isa 22:7, and here its military sense emerges definitely.
(2) This short psalm, which comprises only eight verses without a superscription verse, seems to exhibit that the military imagery plays an important role in the formation of the poetic spirit. The secondary examples of the usage of military terminology can carry more conviction to the role of military imagery in the formation of the lament psalms: (a) the frequent mention of the “enemy” (and its synonyms) whose identity in the Book of Psalms is always uncertain (vv. 2, 7, 8), (b) the expression of confidence such as “I fear not” which seems to be a poetic adaptation of the priestly oracular formula “’al-tîrâ’” (Fear not!, v. 7), and (c) the sudden appearance of the expression “Rise up! O Yahweh!” (v. 8), which is parallel to a war-cry spoken when the Ark is carried into war (Num. 10:35; cf. Judg 5:12; 7:15). This extensive war imagery used in the lament psalms seems to indicate that the definite impact of holy-war ideology on Israelite faith has also had an important influence upon the formation of the lament psalms.
2. In this context, the appropriate placement of the holy-war ideologies in Psalm 3 must help us to understand the faith-motivation of the abrupt shift of mood in the lament psalms:
(1) The hyperbolic contrast of number and strength between the pious lamenter (prayer) and his numerous enemies in verses 2-3 seems to be stimulated by the Israelite basic ideology of holy war armed with a faith that Yahweh saves His people, not by sword and spear, great army and strong warrior, and warhorses and its great strength, but by [calling] the name of Yahweh of hosts (cf. 1 Sam 17:47a; Ps 33:16-17). A good example of such a holy war ideology is provided by the holy war led by Gideon where the hyperbolic contrast between the small number of Israelite troops “like a barley cake rolling through the Midianite camp” and the many Midianite soldiers “like a swarm of locusts lying along the valley” is very highly dramatized (cf. Judg 7). So it is natural for Psalm 3 to be concluded with a Bekenntnis, “salvation belongs to Yahweh” (v. 9).
(2) It is the most important ideology of holy war that only the strong “fearless trust” in Yahweh the Divine Warrior is requested for the one who hopes for salvation. Such an ideology has explicit overtones in Psalm 3:4-5, 6-7. The striking parallels occur in the earlier source of the Pentateuchal traditions (J; Ex 14:13-14), the prophets of eighth century B. C. (Isa 7:4; 30:15; 31:1ff.; Hos. 14:3), the Deuteronomic law of war (Deut 20:1-9), and in the historico-theological statements of later historians (dtr & chr) concerning holy wars led by Gideon (Judg 7), David (1 Sam 17), and Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 20).
(3) Another important motif of the holy war tradition in Psalm 3 is found in an urgent petition (shout), which is followed immediately by a “sudden” statement of victory over the enemies, as is shown in verse 8: at the very moment when the psalmist shouted “Rise up, O Yahweh!” (v. 8a) the enemies have already been destroyed (v. 8b).
v. 8a: Urgent Short Petition
Rise up, O Yahweh! Deliver me, O God!
v. 8b: Abrupt Confidence
Surely you have smitten (cf. perfect tense) all my enemies on the cheek!
You have smashed (cf. perfect tense) the teeth of the wicked!
The expression “Rise up, O Yahweh!” right before the abrupt confidence in victory surely is parallel to the “war-cry” (terû‘â) shouted on the departure of the Ark for war (cf. Num. 10:35 ), where Yahweh as a “Warrior” is addressed directly (cf. Ex 15:3), as is Deborah in the Song of Deborah in Judg 5:12. The lament psalmist’s confidence in the sudden defeat of enemies (vv. 8a & 8b), therefore, must be derived from a tradition of holy war faith that assumes that at the very moment of war-cry (terû‘â) the enemies will be struck down suddenly with God’s terror and dread. This suddenness of confidence must be related to an ideology of holy war that has its origins in a faith in the divine intervention eliminating any human accomplishment and effort. Accordingly, such confidence expressed in the form of terû‘â can be argued to provide a possible explanation for the rapid change of mood in the lament psalms whose patterned expression is seen in the following structure, “war-cry?victory shout.”
In addition to this verse-structure, there also appears an expression “Salvation (or Victory) belongs to Yahweh” (v. 9) right after the above verse (v. 8), which also sounds like a war-cry (terû‘â), and with which the whole Psalm 3 ends. This expression is closely related to the holy war ideology that the defeat of the enemy by Yahweh means the very salvation of Yahweh, as evidenced by such songs as Judg 5:31, Ex 15:1b-2a, and Ex 14:13(J). Also, this expression, as is shown in 1 Sam 17:47 and 2 Chr. 20:15, 17, must be tied closely to the expression, “The war is Yahweh’s,” which also sounds like a war-cry signaling victory.
In concluding my above argument about the motivation of the sudden shift of mood in the lament psalms, I cannot close without noting the fact that the lamenters very strikingly tend to stress a complaint against the “enemy” and a petition for the destruction of the “enemy.” As is well-known, the concept of enemy in the war-narrative of the Old Testament seems to be best understood from within the framework of the ideology of the holy war, in which the enemy of the “oppressed” (Israel) always and monotonously coincides with that of “Yahweh.” Although the concept of the “enemy” in the lament psalms cannot be pressed into such a single narrow conception as “sorcerer,” “gentile,” “political opponent,” “accuser,” a metaphor of “death” or “disease,” etc., it is noteworthy that all the concepts of enemy in the lament psalms are monotonously stylized in the conformity to the strict dichotomy between the afflicted (the lament psalmist) and the wicked (reša‘îm), whose framework are strongly imprinted upon the literature of the holy war narratives. Accordingly, the dichotomized concept of enemy in the lament psalms can be argued to be derived from that of the holy war tradition, since the dichotomized antagonism between the lament psalmist as the afflicted and the enemy as the one who afflicts is imbued in all parts of the lament psalms. Psalm 3 must be an exemplary lament psalm, in which the idea of Yahweh’s warfare against enemies forms a basic framework of the process of sudden shift in mood.
3. The more striking evidence to solving the great
riddle of the abrupt change in mood in the lament psalms is that the holy war
ideologies accompanied with war imagery are placed almost everywhere that the
mood-transition occurs. Psalm 3 is a good example of this.
(1) The first abrupt change of mood in Psalm 3 occurs in verse 4, right after complaints in verses 2 and 3, whose overtone is characterized by the complaint against the numerousness and the mockery of enemies. Remarkably, the expression in verse 4 that changes the mood of complaint into confidence in Yahweh’s protection is introduced by the confessional faith in Yahweh as a shield, a metaphorical term of the military: A faith of holy war tradition carries the lament psalmist over the obstacles which have been deployed against him. This dimension of trust in God the Warrior armed with the shield must have its root in the tradition of the holy war. The faith of Abraham in his confession of God as a shield in Genesis 15:1 also seems to have its root in the holy war tradition in view of the fact that Abraham was concerned with the ideology of the war of Yahweh (pace P. D. Miller, Jr.). This idea is also found in Deut 33:29; Pss. 18:3, 31; 28:7; 33:20; 84:10; 144:2.
The mood transition by the confessional
faith in Yahweh as a shield in verses 4-5 is more importantly extended to the
“fearless trust” of the lamenter in Yahweh in verses 6-7, whose faith-motif
is spread throughout the holy war tradition: the exhortative address “Fear not!”
at the beginning of the holy war is shown in Ex 14:13(J), Deut 20:3, Josh 8:1
and 10:8ff., Judg 7:3, 1 Sam 23:16, 17; 2 Sam 10:12, etc.
(2) The second abrupt change of mood in Psalm 3 occurs in verse 8b right after petition in verse 8a. The phenomenon, in which the petitionary shout (v. 8a), spoken in the form of war-cry (terû‘â) abruptly transfers to the confidence (v. 8b) of victory over the enemies, appears very often at the conclusion of all the holy wars where the terror (hamam, mehûmâ, or haradâ) of God happens suddenly in the enemies’ encampment. The emphasis upon the abrupt defeat of enemy right after the shout of short petition in Psalm 3, therefore, is to bear witness to the holy war ideology that the salvation (victory) is Yahweh’s alone, debarring human merit. Accordingly, confidences preceded by the short petitions (cf. war-cries) such as “Rise up, O Yahweh!” (cf. “Awake, Deborah!” in Judg 5:12) in the lament psalms can be understood as resulting from the influence of the holy war faith in which Yahweh’s military intervention itself is the very assurance of salvation (victory).
In conclusion, as far as there appear the expressions of complaint right after both the announcements of the priestly (or cultic prophet’s) oracle of salvation and the recollections of Yahweh’s past acts of salvation in history in the lament psalms, and since the purely psychological metamorphosis of the prayer’s inner soul is not a proper explanation for the sudden shift of mood in the lament psalms, we are sure to have no alternative but to yield to a proposal that the rapid change of mood in the lament psalms is best accounted for in the context of the holy war faith in Yahweh as a Warrior.
Indeed, the discovery of this function
of holy war ideologies in the lament psalms is sure to produce an excellent
matrix for the establishment of an Old Testament theology where we can hope
to develop the hermeneutical task whose main aim is the witnessing of the heilsgeschichtliche
kerygma in the Old Testament.
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