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Psalm 29

Context of the text

Some have considered Psalm 29 to be oldest of the Psalms. The use of repetition highlights the poetic function of the Psalm. Also it is likely “an adaptation of an ancient Canaanite hymn to Baal, a god of weather and fertility.”[1] This Psalm is often categorized as an enthronement psalm, with some similarities to Psalm 47; 93; and 95-99.[2] McCann points out that what is unique to this psalm is that it is addressed to “heavenly beings” while other enthronement Psalms are addressed to “families of the peoples.” It is likely that these beings are the “deposed gods of the Canaanite pantheon.”[3]

Theology of the text

Whether or not this is the oldest Psalm or whether or not this was written against a Canaanite hymn to Baal, it is clear this Psalm declares in full voice the Yahweh alone is the one true God. It is striking how many of the pagan gods celebrated through recorded history were gods who had power and responsibility over parts of nature. However, this pagan worship was not one of joy, but really a form of manipulation. The god of the sun, rain, or fertility would be worshipped not simply for the honor and glory that was due such a god, but worship was a really a form of manipulation. I worshipped the god of rain so that rain would come to me. In some sense then to worship the gods of nature, was really a form of self-worship to make sure my life was taken care of. This is why this Psalm’s beginning with words of praise for who God is, before and beyond what God can do for me is essential for Christian worship.

Yahweh’s name occurs with prominence in the text over eighteen times, often connected to the term glory. This Psalm is making a political claim that Yahweh is the only one and true sovereign God above any other imagined gods.

Notes on the text

1-2: These verses celebrate a praise of God, not for things God has done, but for who God is. More time and attention in worship should be given to the celebration and adoration for who God is. While certainly celebrating what God has done in thanksgiving is essential, the celebration and affirmation for who God is helps to group worship in doxology.

3: The idea of the voice of the Lord over the waters connects to several images. Perhaps one of the most powerful is in the Genesis creation narrative as God’s Spirit hovered over the waters.

-“The God of Glory thunders” This phrase reminds the reader of the “whirlwind speech” in Job 38. As Job has asked God to be present, God responds with a reminder of how God is the power over all creation. For Job this provides both assurance and a healthy dose of fear and awe.

-One also notes that in verses 3-9 the “voice of the Lord” is named seven times, with seven serving as a number of fullness and completion. The strength and power of God are celebrated, praised, and recognized to have no equal.

5-9: The strength of Yahweh as Lord over creation is again illustrative of a God who is not simply Lord over nature, but over all imagined other human invented gods of nature. Through the narrative of a violent thunderstorm, the power of God is declared to be king over creation.

It is noteworthy that in the ancient world, thunder would have been the loudest noise in the ancient Near East, and as such thunderstorms were connected to divine appearances.

9-10: These verses celebrate that Ya