Bible blog 2331

Continuing translation with comment of Psalms 90-106

PSALM 98

Sing to Yahweh a new song

For he has worked wonders.

His right hand and his holy arm

Have won him the victory.

Yahweh has revealed his victory;

He has opened his justice to the eyes of the Gentiles,

remembering his favour and faithfulness to the house of Israel:

All the ends of the earth have viewed

The victory of our God.

Applaud Yahweh, all peoples!

Burst into celebration and sing!

Sing to Yahweh on the harp,

With the harp and the whole orchestra;

With the harsh trumpets and the ram’s horn,

Applaud Yahweh as King!

Let the sea howl and all its inhabitants

The world and those who dwell there;

Let the rivers clap their hands

And the mountains celebrate in unison

Before the face of Yahweh.

For he is coming to set the earth in order:

He will judge the world with justice

And its peoples with peace.

Like Psalm 96, with which it shares some phrases, this is an eschatological hymn, that is, while dwelling on what Yahweh has done, probably in these cases, the liberation of Jewish exiles from Babylon, -an act of King Cyrus, for which Yahweh is given the credit- it looks to the “coming” of Yahweh to judge the nations. Some of the thought and poetical motifs are taken from the later chapters of Isaiah, especially chapter 55 from verse 12.

The exodus from Babylon, as from Egypt, was a political fact evident to contemporary nations. The psalmist sees this as a victory for Yahweh in world affairs, a revelation to the Gentiles. In truth, one imagines that hardly anyone noticed the return of some Jewish slaves to Israel. Except the Jews themselves. One needs to get a sense of what an odd theology is present here – God has punished the nation by sending it into exile and now he has blessed it by bringing it back! But this remarkable way of thinking about God became standard in the psalms used in the worship of the second temple. It’s a bit like Christians praising God for the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The temple represented the universe under God, and so its worship was meant to provoke “all the earth” into recognising Yahweh as the only, or at least, top God. The earth itself, by the worship,offered by its elements to their creator, encourages the nations to worship the one who is coming to set the earth in order. It will be a just order and a true peace. The last word of the psalm is usually translated “equity”, but seeing that the psalm has already promised justice, that seemed a little weak. “Meshraim” is derived from a root meaning straightness or smoothness, and sometimes means peace. (Malachi 2:6)

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