Attention!
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Psalms 29

Psalms 29:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Voice of the Lord in the Storm Praise to God in His Holiness and Majesty Hymn to the God of the Storm The Voice of the Lord in the Storm Hymn to the Lord of the Storm
MT Intro A Psalm of David.
Psalms 29:1-2 Psalms 29:1-2 Psalms 29:1-2 Psalms 29:1-2 Psalms 29:1-2
Psalms 29:3-9 Psalms 29:3-4 Psalms 29:3-4 Psalms 29:3-4 Psalms 29:3-4
Psalms 29:5-7 Psalms 29:5-6 Psalms 29:5-6 Psalms 29:5-6
Psalms 29:7-8 Psalms 29:7-9 Psalms 29:7-9b
Psalms 29:8-9
Psalms 29:9 Psalms 29:9-11
Psalms 29:10-11 Psalms 29:10-11 Psalms 29:10-11 Psalms 29:10-11

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This is a psalm about natural revelation (i.e., God reveals Himself to everyone through creation).

Psalms 29:1. Psalms 19:1-6 (silent voice in creation)

Psalms 29:2. Romans 1:19-23 (knowledge of God from nature)

Psalms 29:3. Romans 2:14-16 (inner moral witness)

B. The imagery of the psalm occurs to encompass

1. YHWH's defeat of the chaos of initial creation (i.e., water, cf. Psalms 29:3, Psalms 29:10, the term “flood” [BDB 550] occurs only here and Genesis, chapters 6-11)

2. YHWH's power in a storm (cf. Psalms 29:3-9; cf. Psalms 18:7, Psalms 18:15)

C. YHWH, not Ba'al, defeats, controls, and sends water. Many scholars note the numerous similarities to Ugaritic mythology and other ANE literature. See Special Topic: ANE Creation and Flood Myths

D. The UBS Handbook asserts that this psalm is a chiasm (p. 275).

1. fourfold use of YHWH in Psalms 29:1-2 and 10-11

2. “strength” (BDB 738) in Psalms 29:1 and 11

3. waters referred to in Psalms 29:3 and 10

4. YHWH's majesty referred to in Psalms 29:4 and 10

5. trees mentioned in Psalms 29:5 and 9

6. geographical places in Psalms 29:6 and 8

My problem with this is that a chiasm usually places the most significant theological statement at the middle but verse Psalms 29:7 does not fit this pattern.

E. This Psalm may refer to

1. a theophany as YHWH is depicted as coming in the imagery of a violent storm

2. but the thrust is a military victory (cf. Psalms 29:11)

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 29:1-2 1Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in holy array.

Psalms 29:1-2 “Ascribe” This verb (BDB 396, KB 393, Qal imperative) is repeated three times. It basically means “give glory to God (cf. Deuteronomy 32:3). This same pattern is also in Psalms 96:7-8 and 1 Chronicles 16:28-29. The threefold repetition denotes a superlative emphasis.

Psalms 29:1

NASB“sons of the mighty” NKJV“you mighty ones” NRSV, TEV“heavenly beings” NJB, LXX“sons of God” JPSOA“divine beings” REB“you angelic powers”

The MT has “sons of gods” (lit. “sons of Elim,” BDB 119 construct BDB 42). It refers to the angels (cf. Genesis 6:2 [“sons of elohim”]; Psalms 103:20-21) or the heavenly angelic council (cf. Exodus 15:11; 2 Kings 22:19; Psalms 82:1; Psalms 86:6-8).

Genesis 6:0; Genesis 6:0

“glory and strength” These are two common terms applied to YHWH.

1. glory BDB 458

2. strength BDB 738

Psalms 29:2 “Worship” This is the fourth in a series of four opening imperatives (lit. “bow down,” BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishpael imperative). This is what faithful followers do as they come to His temple in holy array. This involves not just clothing but covenant obedience. See Special Topic: Worship

“His name” This is an idiomatic way of referring to YHWH Himself. See Special Topic: The Name of YHWH.

NASB“in holy array” NKJV“in the beauty of holiness” NRSV, NJB“in holy splendor” JPSOA, NASB margin“majestic in holiness” REB, NET“in holy attire” LXX, PESHITTA“in His holy court”

The ambiguous phrase (BDB 214 construct BDB 871) also appears in three other temple worship contexts (cf. Psalms 96:9; Psalms 110:3; 1 Chronicles 16:29). The TEV footnote offers three possible ways to translate the phrase.

1. when He (YHWH) appears (from Ugarit root, cf. TEV, i.e., YHWH Himself; this then would be similar to the theophany of Exodus 19-20)

2. garments of worship (Aaron's garments are described in a similar way in Exodus 28:2)

3. in His beautiful temple (seems to reflect LXX)

Verses 3-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 29:3-9 3The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The Lord is over many waters. 4The voice of the Lord is powerful, The voice of the Lord is majestic. 5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire. 8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”

Psalms 29:3-9 This strophe is dominated by “the voice of the Lord.” There seem to be two ways to view it.

1. YHWH the creator, cf. Psalms 29:3, Psalms 29:10 (cf. Genesis 1:0; Psalms 93:0)

2. YHWH the true storm God and giver of rain (cf. Psalms 29:3-9, i.e., in opposition to Ba'al's claims)

Notice the way YHWH's voice is characterized (Psalms 29:4-9).

1. powerful (BDB 470)

2. majestic (same root in Psalms 29:2b, BDB 214)

3. breaks the cedars (verb, BDB 990, KB 1402 repeated in Psalms 29:5)

4. makes Lebanon and Sirion (i.e., Mt. Hermon, cf. Deuteronomy 3:9) jump

5. lightning (cf. Psalms 18:12, Psalms 18:14) flames trees

6. makes the wilderness shake (verb, BDB 296, KB 297, repeated in Psalms 29:8)

7. makes deer calve

8. strips forests bare (BDB 362 I)

It is important to remember that the spoken word was a very important and pervasive theological concept to the ancient Hebrews.

1. creation by the spoken word Genesis 1:0

2. power of the spoken word of God Isaiah 14:24; Isaiah 25:1; Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 46:10; Isaiah 55:11; Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 24:35

3. the Messiah is called “the Word” in John 1:1-5, John 1:14; Revelation 19:13

4. the imagery of the returning Messiah with a two-edged sword for a tongue Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12

Psalms 29:6 “Lebanon. . .Sirion” These are geographical references north of the Promised Land of Canaan. The term “Sirion” for Mt. Hermon is rare (cf. Deuteronomy 3:9). Because of this and the obvious context or “storm” imagery, many modern scholars have seen this Psalm as a reworking of an original hymn to Ba'al (Canaanite storm god). The Ras Shamra texts are opening much of the veiled imagery of the OT in light of Canaanite mythology. Hebrew authors often took the descriptions of pagan deities and changed them to descriptions and titles of YHWH. They knew He was the one and only true God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM).

For a good brief discussion of ancient cosmology see IVP Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 169-174.

Psalms 29:9a The same verb (BDB 296, KB 297) translated “shake” in Psalms 29:8 (twice) is now used of calving (cf. Job 39:1) and of Sarah giving birth in Isaiah 51:2.

If one tries to keep a synonymous parallelism between Psalms 29:9b and Psalms 29:5b, then he must change “hinds” (MT, UBS Text Project gives it a “B” rating) to “oaks” (cf. TEV, NJB, same consonants, just a change of vowels). This is done to try to continue the possible chiastic pattern.

The NET Bible (p. 885 #21) suggests an emendation of “forests” to “female mountain goats” in order to maintain the synonymous parallelism between Psalms 29:9a and 6. JPSOA has a footnote, “brings ewes to early birth” as an option (BDB 362 II).

Psalms 29:9c The summary of all this action (i.e., the physical results of a strong thunderstorm) is that in His temple everything says, “Glory!” See Special Topic: glory

YHWH the creator is providing agricultural abundance by rain in its season. The Creator is also the Sustainer! (See a good article on “Providence” in IVP Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 681-683.)

The NJB makes Psalms 29:9c the beginning of Psalms 29:10-11.

Verses 10-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 29:10-11 10The Lord sat as King at the flood; Yes, the Lord sits as King forever. 11The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.

Psalms 29:10 The word “King” is not in line 1 but is in line 2. The flood refers (1) to Genesis 6-9 (cf. Genesis 6:17) or (1) to the original creation (cf. Genesis 1:2).

The concept of YHWH as King goes back to 1 Samuel 8:7. It is stated as a theological assertion in Psalms 10:16 and here. The imagery is of YHWH sitting on a throne (cf. Psalms 2:4; Psalms 113:5 and the imagery in Isaiah 6:0) or having a scepter. See Special Topic: The Kingdom of God.

“sat. . .sits as King” The verb “sat” or “enthroned (BDB 442, KB 444) forever” is a recurrent theme (cf. Exodus 15:18; Psalms 9:7; Psalms 10:16; Psalms 29:10; Psalms 66:7; Psalms 145:13; Psalms 146:10; Jeremiah 10:10; Lamentations 5:19).

“over the flood” The preposition implies

1. power and authority over the waters of chaos (LXX)

2. YHWH in heaven is above the upper waters (i.e., rains), above the clouds (cf. Genesis 1:6-7; Psalms 148:4)

The term “flood” (BDB 550) is found only in Genesis and here in Psalms 29:10.

Psalms 29:11 Because YHWH is King, His people are secure. His promises are secure. His purposes for the future are secure!

Even amidst the “storm” when the powers of nature seem so severe, YHWH's people are at peace (cf. Matthew 8:23-27; Matthew 14:22-33)! Jesus also demonstrated this divine power over the wind and waves!

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 29". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-29.html. 2021.