2017 · Psalms · Research · What's Happening

Poetry Month: The Poetic Structure of the Psalms

adf592fa-b632-459a-93dd-24b3a13f85aaI’ve recently begun to learn about the structural nature of the Psalms and how complex it can get! David sure didn’t just dash down whatever came to mind, he often used complex poetic structures which were traditional for his part of the world, some of which can also be seen in Ugaritic poetry.

I found a set of articles on Bible Gateway which are helpful and serve as a basic introduction to the structure of the Psalms. More information will be available online. You can read the full articles I refer to here: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/asbury-bible-commentary/Hebrew-Poetry

This is a technical area which I struggle to get my head around at times, and to be honest, I do wonder if the structure of the Psalms is being over-analysed; but if nothing else, it’s lovely to be able to appreciate how much skill was involved in writing these beautiful poetic songs.
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Features of the Psalms:

1. Acrostic: (each verse starts with a letter of the alphabet in order “A to Z,” (aleph to tau.)

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2. Parallelism: (various forms) which creates balanced repetition.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters. Psalm 24:1-2

There are several forms of parallelism: synonymous, contrasting, comparative, incomplete (which is why I wonder whether or not we are simply over-analysing, thanks to critical schools of theological thought,) and formal. Please read this excellent article on parallelism which explains it simply.

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3. Alliteration: using words which have similar sounds.

From Bible Gateway: “Assonance is the use of a series of words with the same or similar internal sounds (versus the initial sounds). The “r” (resh) line, v. 19, of the acrostic in Psalm 34 ombines these three devices (acrostic, alliteration, assonance): rabbôṯ rā’ôṯ ṩaddîq, “A righteous man may have many troubles. . . .”

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4. Chiasm: “arranges elements in an “x” or inverted pattern: abc//c’b’a’.”

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5. Inclusio: beginning and ending a section, or whole Psalm, with identical or nearly identical words.

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6. Numerical Progression, such as Psalm 62 where numbers used in the text count upwards.

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7. Repetition/Refrain: repetition is used to mark out units in the Psalm, e.g. Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5. These Psalms appear to be a set in actuality, not two separate Psalms, despite how they are separated in modern Bibles.

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istock_000009732076xsmall8. Rhyme can be used, and (in Hebrew) is found in Psalm 23:2.

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9. Meter: according to Bible Gateway, “Hebraists (Hebrew scholars) recognise that classical Hebrew poetry probably had some system of meter. What that system was remains hotly contested for lack of clear evidence, with some scholars actually denying that Hebrew poetry contains such a system. Some conclude that line length, perhaps counted in syllables, was the basis of Hebrew “metrics.” Others think Hebrew meter was counted in word or word-group units (“feet”), with some corresponding balance in line length naturally arising as a result. Whether an actual system of accent or stress was involved we do not know.

The law of—the Lord—is perfect, reviving—the soul.    (3 + 2)
The ordinances of—the Lord—are sure and righteous—altogether.   (3 + 2)
They are more precious—than gold, than pure gold—much;   (2 + 2)
they are sweeter—than honey, than honey from—the comb.   (2 + 2)
Your servant—is warned—by them; in keeping them—is reward—great.    (3 + 3)

Whether or not such designations correspond to the ancients’ understandings of their art, they serve well to indicate the relative length of lines whose balance in length (and with it one might surmise some sort of rhythm) and use of length for artistic and rhetorical purposes can scarcely have been accidental.”

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For more information on National Poetry Month, visit poets.org

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kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · David's Life · Psalms · Research

David’s Steleae: The Psalms as Public Memorials and Private Prayers

violin-and-psalm“I will tell of the marvellous things You have done.” Psalm 9:1b

“I will exalt You, Lord, because You have rescued me.” Psalm 30:1a

A stele is “an upright stone slab or pillar bearing an inscription or design and serving as a monument, marker, or the like.” [Source: Dictionary.com] They were widely used in the Near East millennia before David, and well after his time. It was standard practice for kings to have steles and statues of themselves made as positive propaganda to support their reign. However, David didn’t follow this practice. In line with the *ten commandments, he didn’t have himself pictured with a representation of YHWH behind him, neither did he carve his achievements in stone. Apart from the book of Samuel and 1 Chronicles, the only memorials we have to David are his Psalms, some of which could be likened to victory steles, and others which have an interesting function.

Roughly half of all the Psalms that are attributed to David were sent to the choir director and made public, and 50% of those Psalms were written when he was in great distress. We don’t know how the other Psalms were used, but it is possible that the ones which have not been specifically marked as “for the choir director” were in his personal collection, then organised into books after his death. His Psalms which are marked as prayers: 17, 86, and 142, were notably not sent to the choir director.

Some of the Psalms that were made public had national themes: Psalm 60 was written while David grappled with Israel’s failures in the battle in the Valley of Salt, and is noted as being useful for teaching; the wording of Psalm 67 is a mix of a prayer and a benediction; and Psalm 58 is an outspoken challenge to the people of Israel on justice [see the final chapter below for clarification]. David also sent Psalm 53 to the choir director, making a public statement of faith with “only fools deny God.”

Using my own classification of the Psalms (I get lost in the theological classifications, so I divided them further for my own use), these are the victory Psalms that David wanted sung before the Lord:

  • Psalm 9: I will tell of all the marvellous things You have done.
  • Psalm 18: When rescued from Saul and the enemies in that period of time.
  • Psalm 20: May the LORD answer all your prayers.
  • Psalm 21: How the king rejoices in Your strength, O LORD!
  • Psalm 30: Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

The Psalms of joy and wonder, plus David’s statements of faith that were sent to the choir director include Psalms 8, 11, 19, 62, 65, 66, 67, 53 and 58.

One thing which occurred to me when looking at which Psalms were attributed to specific events and could be considered memorials, is that there are no Psalms specifically linked to David’s most notable victories such as killing Goliath, bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, or his battle achievements. He didn’t mention God’s special covenant with Him, or his plans to build the temple; (neither did David ask for it to be named after him.) This is a testament to David’s humility, despite the moral dips which occurred with Bathsheba and the census.

The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.
The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.

God is always the focus of David’s songs, which is another significant difference between him and any other ruler. He never claims honour or victory for himself. For an example, read the **Code of Hammurabi which has massive chunks at the beginning and end, glorifying and justifying the rule of Hammurabi. For example: “Hammurabi, the prince… making riches and increase, enriching Nippur and Dur-ilu beyond compare… who conquered the four quarters of the world, made great the name of Babylon…who enriched Ur; the humble, the reverent, who brings wealth…”

David’s work shows that he was transparent in how he talked about his life in public and that he wasn’t hung up on appearances. He freely admitted his faults and struggles and the glory for his successes always went to the Lord. Psalm 51, which speaks of his correction by Nathan over Bathsheba, and how sin affected him, was made public. Whether that was to address his sin because it was public knowledge, or whether it was to be used as a teaching aid to strengthen the faith of the people and encourage righteousness, or both, I honestly don’t know.

Psalm 3, which was about when he fled from Absalom, Psalm 34 where he escaped from Philistine territory feigning madness and Psalm 52, where he was betrayed by Doeg to Saul, weren’t marked for use by the choir director either. Not using Psalm 52 appears odd, as all the other betrayal Psalms were publicly sung. Perhaps it wasn’t copied or notated correctly, or perhaps David had some private reason for not sending it on? I wish I knew.

These are the Psalms which have a definite event associated with them and could be considered a form of victory stele.

  • 7 – concerning Cush of the tribe of Benjamin
  • 18 – rescued from all enemies and Saul [PUBLIC]
  • 30 – dedication of the temple / house [PUBLIC]
  • 54 – betrayed by Ziphites [PUBLIC]
  • 56 – seized at Gath [PUBLIC]
  • 57 – when fled from Saul and went to the cave [PUBLIC]
  • 59 – soldiers watching his house [PUBLIC]

The last point of interest is David’s request that two Psalms which relate to persecution by Saul, (57 and 59,) be sung to the tune “Do Not Destroy.” Knowing the old title attached to that melody would add a clear message to the Psalm, which would be noted by anyone knowing that piece of music. Other Psalmists also requested the same for their work.

“Do Not Destroy” is also the melody which was selected for Psalm 58: “Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word?” In Bible Hub’s interlinear Bible, “ruler” is elem, or congregation. [Strongs Number 482] It is a masculine word, which is culturally correct as the assembly of believers was all male in David’s time. Some Bibles say gods, some say sons of men. There is no correct consensus. It is a source of profound frustration to me that words such as this are so poorly translated in our Bibles, and a reminder to dig deeper to find the true meaning of the Word of God.
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Notes:

*“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

**The Code of Hammurabi translated by L.W. King http://www.general-intelligence.com/library/hr.pdf  and the Louvre Museum’s page on it: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/law-code-hammurabi-king-babylon


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · David's Life · Research

How David Compares to Other Near Eastern Kings

Sumerian King List
Sumerian King List

God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will. Last year I began to dig back through ancient history to find out what the kings in David’s era and part of the world were like. I wanted to know where the corruption that comes with royalty stemmed from. The search took me back far further than I had anticipated and I was stunned to know so much of the culture was still relevant and active in David’s lifetime.

The roots of kingship go back to the first city states which sprung up in Mesopotamia, where people decided to group together and organise to make survival easier: and of course, someone grabbed power. We don’t know who the first “king” was. They could have been a reputed warrior, a respected priest or someone who was simply savvy enough to take the opportunity to be the guy in charge. You know the deal. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of years have gone past, (estimated to be six thousand by historians,) it’s still a man in a fancier hat with a better house, servants and loads more money than everyone else. Kingship has been synonymous with excess and abuses of power since the beginning not because people tend to be a little jealous, but because that is the way things really are.

When kings first came in society changed. The power stopped being in the hands of the people, or a democratic committee of people. Women started to be treated as lesser beings and the class system was “invented” where some had more and some had less, rather than everyone working towards survival. God gave His people a command from the beginning of time: “go forth and multiply.”[Ref. Genesis 9:7] We were never meant to be clustered together in unhealthy cities with a class and sexist divide which shoves God out of the picture. For the sake of an easier life, our ancestors gave that up and nothing has really changed. We are still suspicious of the number 13, we still exalt people into insane positions of wealth and power, and humanity leans away from the freedom that God wanted for us, creating social problems, mental illness and all manner of physical sickness.

By the time I got to David, three thousand years later, I was mortified to see the same system being maintained and concerned at the similarities between paganism and How Israel functioned. For example, the kings were always placed in power by their deity, the altars had horns, and the priests needs were catered for the same way. There were a lot of parallels where the base culture that had produced Abraham had stuck in people’s minds and had gone through very little modification; the gods were basically the same; no one had grown. The whole structure of society was essentially a corruption of what God had intended.

As I said above, God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will and He did that with David. Saul bought straight into the culturally accepted, corrupt mode of kingship, and David did follow that to a significant degree, but he was different. David had been bought up strong in the faith and he doggedly stayed on that path, despite being exiled from fellowship and access to Israel’s worship practices by Saul. [Ref. 1 Samuel 26:19-20] He followed the laws in the Torah which God had handed down through Moses, and this made him distinct from any other king. He was so distinct that it’s given historians a reason to doubt he ever existed, as he didn’t leave the usual marks of kingship behind for us to find.

The biggest thing a king did in the ancient Near East was build a temple. Now David did that, but not in the same way. Normally when a Near Eastern king came into power, they set up their own capital city regardless of what already existed (he did that); named it after them (he didn’t do that); then build yet another temple to their god to show what a devout, god-chosen leader they were. No temple existed in Israel until David decided that his living large while God dwelled in a tent was just not right. Why? Saul was not a man of religious fervour, to put it mildly. It is doubtful he would have weighed up the difference between his home and God’s and decided to put the situation right. God had asked Moses to build the tabernacle, which was a nice tent situation, so that would do. It takes a different heart to choose not to live in greater splendour than the One to whom you owe you life, your success and your future. David had that humble heart that cared about His creator.

David’s humility also kept him from following in some of the other time-worn customs of kings. Yes, he did accumulate wives like other kings, which was against the law and had consequences which he regretted deeply. He did grab the King of Rabbah’s elaborate crown for himself… but he did not sing his own praises from the palace roof. Yes, of course he would have succumbed to ego on occasion. When even your wives bow and scrape before you, the human brain is going to go places it should not venture, and you’ll have a tough time staying humble. But David was undeniably modest compared to a typical king. [Ref. Rabbah 2 Samuel 12:29-30]

Lion-men; orthostat relief from Herald's wall, Carchemish ; 850-750 BC; Late Hittite style under Aramaean influence. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey
Lion-men; orthostat relief from Herald’s wall, Carchemish ; 850-750 BC; Late Hittite style under Aramaean influence. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey

Other kings had elaborate stele (victory memorials), and/or commemorative orthostats (carved scenes on the walls) in their palace, telling everyone who visited how they had won wars, taken slaves and been the best of the best: a powerful man that you don’t mess with. David did none of this. Stele’s nearly always had their god carved into the picture in close proximity to the king to reinforce the idea that the king was chosen, blessed and victorious because of their god. It is the kind of idol imagery which is forbidden in the ten commandments and that may have been one reason why David didn’t do it. He recorded his life events through Psalms, some of which are like victory steles, others which are cries for help, but nothing else has been discovered. We have ancient Babylonian and Assyrian statues and orthostats which pre-date David, but nothing has been found of his as it appears, it just wasn’t his thing. Yes, it could have been destroyed when Jerusalem was sacked by Babylon; but there is no Biblical account of any such objects being made, even though we know which of his great-grandsons thought it would be fashionable to paint the palace walls red.

Read the Psalms: “I will tell of the marvellous things You have done.” Psalm 9:1b and “I will exalt You Lord, because You have rescued me.” Psalm 30 David never takes the glory for himself, he always gives it to God. It would be completely incongruent to his character to build memorials to himself for what God had done.

David was also humble in the empire department. When kings traditionally went on campaign each spring to expand their control, we find David staying at home in Jerusalem while Joab gets on with the security-related tasks. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11:1, Joab was dealing with the aftermath of 2 Samuel 10.] He dealt with the enemies of Israel, but he didn’t get ambitious beyond that. It was common for kings to start expanding their territory just because they could. David didn’t. It’s that simple. The Lord had said, “I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more.” 2 Samuel 12:8  It looks like David simply did not ask God for me. He was satisfied with a secure nation and the blessing he had. Psalm 34:14 …. says “seek peace and work to maintain it.” Taking this general attitude and his habit of not joining Joab on the battlefield unless it was absolutely necessary, it appears David was simply not a war-mongering conquerer.

He didn’t give himself a grandiose title or nickname either. King Lugal-zaggisi of Sumer claimed that he ruled the four quarters of the world, even though he was only the ruler of the neighbouring regions of Sumer and Akkad. Etana, King of Kish, called himself “the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries.” En-me-barage-si, also of Kish, referred to himself as the one: “who made the land of Elam submit,” and Kubaba, the only female king, called herself: “the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish.” David once referred to himself as the “sweet singer of Israel,” but it was it.

I have often called David the anti-king because of his humility, but the glory doesn’t even go to him for achieving that. While it was his choice to be open to the leading and correction of the Holy Spirit, at the end of the day, it was God’s work in David which turned him into the awesome man he became. As many have said, David was the start of an era and the end of that era… and that era was planned and put into place by his God, YHWH, who did this not just for David, He did it for all of His people. God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will.


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · Research · Video Resources

Studying Ancient History to Understand the Bible

The Oriental Institute's Youtube Page
The Oriental Institute’s Youtube Page

As I have studied King David, questions have come up which can’t be answered by my Bible. For example, where did the first kings appear from and what were they like? Why wasn’t Egypt a problem in David’s life time? What kind of trade ran through Isra’el in the Old Testament and many, many more.

Not only has studying ancient history answered those questions, I have found that it has helped me to correctly understand and portray Isra’el and her neighbouring cultures. The influences I read Moses warning the people against, now have faces, a story, and details attached to them; and I can understand God’s point of view and the struggles the Hebrew people had, clearly. With this kind of knowledge, the Old Testament is far less confusing.

Articles that have directly come out of this research include: What You Need to Know About Isra’el in David’s TimeThe Poison of Old Testament Idol Worship and How It Compares to Occult Worship Today .

So keeping in mind the humbling fact that that dates are highly debatable and that new discoveries are still to be made, which will change timelines and our interpretation of these ancient cultures, may I recommend these two resources which are my staples.

berkThe Center for Middle Eastern Studies, from the University of California Berkeley, approaches history from a non-religious, non-political standpoint which is very helpful. Their Near East Studies lecture series on iTunes has pulled more pieces of the Old Testament puzzle together for me, than anywhere else. It stretches back from before Abraham and Noah, then goes into later history which is far more familiar, such as the Roman Empire. If you have ever wanted to know what studying archaeology is like, this is the course for you!

Web site: http://cmes.berkeley.edu/category/videos/
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-XXv-cvA_iBIm79tkbWrFKg9rwMVDytI

orinst

The Oriental Institute, which is attached to the University of Chicago, has brilliant lectures which cover topics such as ancient economics, record keeping and “lost” civilisations, as well as the general history you would expect to discover. I believe they fund archaeological enterprises and the talks are professional, fascinating and well worth your time.

Web site: http://oi.uchicago.edu
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/JamesHenryBreasted/videos

podcast-logo

Podcasts

The Maritime History Podcast
This great series covers useful topics such as 001 Boating with the Ubaid People (earliest discovered ancestors of Israel); 003 Trade and Turmoil in Ancient Mesopotamia (Noah to Abraham’s time); 004 Mesopotamian Merchants; 005 Meanwhile, in Egypt (Moses); 020 The Sea Peoples Sail South (early Philistines); and 022 Rise of the Phoenicians (trading partners and palace builders of King David.)

The Hidden History of Business Podcast
Believe it or not, in Mesopotamia and many parts of the Near East (Israel’s area), beer was a staple food because it didn’t spoil. Discover how it’s so closely related to bread, the Egyptians called it bread too, the surprising birth of the tavern and more. Episode 9b: Beer in Mesopotamia and 29: Minicast Beer in Israel and Egypt.

Naked Archaeology has a radio-like mix of topics, many of which pertain to the Old Testament time period. I am still working my way through them, but am fascinated that horses were first domesticated for war purposes, not transport. See 18 March 2009 for that one.

itunesuI am still discovering Theology in the Raw and Theology Nerd Throwdown, as part of my formal studies on Old Testament Theology. There are dozens of Christian podcasts and specialists topics on any area you can think of. Tweet me and let me know what goodies you found. @octopusreinked

Don’t forget to try the iTunes University app for formal lectures from many Universities and professional people, which may also be a great help to you. I have found dozens of Bible Colleges through that app, plus Berkeley’s Near East Studies is on there too.
REBLOGS WELCOMED

2017 · Research · Scripture

How YHWH is Unique: Differences Between Him and Mesopotamian Gods

high_priest_offering_incense_on_the_altarOver the last few months I have been studying the ancient history of the Near East to get a handle on how the surrounding nations impacted King David’s life. This is impossible to do without running into dozens and dozens and dozens of pagan deities, who went on to become the gods of Canaan, Babylon and Assyria. One thing that has struck me time and time again, is how radically different our God, YHWH, is compared to the other gods. Moses agrees with me: “For what great nation has a god as near to them as the LORD our God is near to us whenever we call on Him? And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today?” Deuteronomy 4:7-8

Studying ancient history has shown me similarities between Biblical stories (*the flood) and how YHWH was worshipped, so how do I know that YHWH is the one true god? Because He is so distinctively unique.

Firstly, how do I account for the similarities in worship between Mesopotamia and Israel, which include blood sacrifice, the system for supporting priests; incense, music used in worship, the altars having horns, and the similarities in spiritual language? Scott Aniol from Answers in Genesis sums up what I was thinking beautifully: “All nations had a common ancestry in Adam, and God’s self-revelation was part of their heritage, thus accounting for any similarities in worship practice that exist.” Worship stemmed from one God and one original system which was corrupted for man-made divinities. This form of corrupted worship in the Mesopotamian world remained in vogue for over four thousand years, and some practices (such as the fear of the number 13) still affect many world cultures today.

“When comparing the psalms of Israel with those of Ugarit people, important distinctions emerge as well. According to Walton, “the category of declarative praise is unique to Israel”. Oswalt argues that although Psalm 29 may resemble Ugarit references to Baal as god of thunderstorms, “nowhere in the psalm is Yahweh identified with the thunderstorm. . . . Yahweh sits above the flood” (Oswalt 2009, 105–06. Emphasis original). Likewise, Currid observes that even “the style of writing of the cosmological texts from the ancient Near East is best described as ‘mythic narrative,’” while the biblical record “bears all the markings of Hebrew historical narrative.” (Currid 2013, 43)… Biblical history and pagan myth have very different purposes, functions, and literary forms and therefore must not be interpreted in the same manner.

The key elements of worship that appear in most religions are instituted in the first few chapters of Genesis. God places Adam and Eve in his sanctuary as priests who serve him and commune with him. After they disobey him, God institutes the idea of substitutionary sacrifice and atonement, establishing a covenant with them. Each of these elements characterises the worship of all religions since they are part of the religious heritage of all children of Adam. As Rodríguez notes, “those religious expressions belong to the common human experience of God” (Rodríguez 2001, 47). Romans 1:19–20 testifies to this when it says that God has revealed himself to all people through “the things that have been made.” 
[Source: Worldview Bias and the Origin of Hebrew Worship by Scott Aniol https://answersingenesis.org/presuppositions/bias-and-origin-of-hebrew-worship/]

What is also interesting, is how the Laws that God gave through Moses seem to be put in place to stop the Israelites from copying many of the pagan practices of other religions. For example, the Israelites were told: “A woman must not put on men’s clothing, and a man must not wear women’s clothing. Anyone who does this is detestable in the sight of the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 22:5 In some Mesopotamian ritual processions, the participants dressed half as men, half as women to worship their god. The more I study, the more I realise how much cultural information is lost to us, which sheds an entirely new light on Biblical precepts.
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foster_bible_pictures_0073-1_offering_up_a_burnt_sacrifice_to_godI could write a book on everything I have learned, but the main point I want to leave you with is how YHWH is a distinctive deity:

1. The Israelites could only have one religious relic/artefact, which was the Ark of the Covenant which had the manifest Presence of God upon it. Unlike polytheism, where there are many statues of a god made for every temple and need, there was no limit to the number. YHWH specifically banned the making of such images to represent Him. [Ref. Exodus 34:17]
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2. YHWH is way above the average intelligence of other gods
Some Mesopotamians created statues of themselves praying that they could place in their temples to make theirs gods think they were being prayed to all the time, and the gods knew no difference. According to the Jewish Virtual Library: “An idol, in the pagan mind, was a living and feeling being… The god’s spirit dwelt within the idol and was identified with it. The god was not confined to a single idol or a single shape; rather his spirit dwelt within many idols of varied shapes. The god perceived and sensed whatever happened to its idol…  The argument offered by the Psalmist (Ps. 106:36; 115:9), “they have eyes but they do not see” should be taken literally… The Biblical description of idolatry as “sacrifices to the dead,” (Ps. 106:28) and of idols as “wood and stone,” (Deut. 28:36, 64), and similar descriptions, challenge the pagan claim that the images they worshiped were in fact “living idols.”” 
[Source: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0009_0_09475.html]
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3. YHWH has exceptional moral character
“And Jehovah (YHWH) came down in the cloud. And he placed himself there with Him, and he called on the name of Jehovah. And Jehovah passed by before his face and called out: Jehovah! Jehovah God! Merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and great in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and not leaving entirely unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on sons, and on sons of sons, to the third and to the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7

God’s were prone to the human traits of bitterness, revenge, theft, deception and basically, behaviour which is “fleshly.” [Ref. Galatians 5:16-25] Pagan gods are recorded as viciously punishing their followers over hurt feelings, regardless of who was responsible. This was a way to account for the tragedies and baffling ups and downs of life.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, King Gilgamesh refuses to marry the goddess Ishtar and reminds her of how she has abused the affection of her past lovers. In vengeance, she complains to her father, who at first says, “serves you right,” but then: “Ishtar opened her mouth and said again, ‘My father, give me the Bull of Heaven to destroy Gilgamesh. Fill Gilgamesh, I say, with arrogance to his destruction; but if you refuse to give me the Bull of Heaven I will break in the doors of hell and smash the bolts; there will be confusion of people, those above with those from the lower depths. I shall bring up the dead to eat food like the living; and the hosts of dead will outnumber the living.’ Anusa said to great Ishtar, ‘If I do what you desire there will be seven years of drought throughout Uruk when corn will be seedless husks. Have you saved grain enough for the people and grass for the cattle? Ishtar replied. ‘I have saved grain for the people, grass for the cattle; for seven years of seedless husks, there is grain and there is grass enough.’ “ 

“She stirs confusion and chaos against those who are disobedient to her, speeding carnage and inciting the devastating flood, clothed in terrifying radiance. It is her game to speed conflict and battle, untiring, strapping on her sandals.” Battle itself is sometimes referred to as “the dance of Inanna.” [Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inanna]

YHWH is not prone to such human faults and appalling acts of retribution. As we read in Exodus 34:5-7, He is open to reconciliation rather than murder. His people have to completely turn their back on Him before they are cursed.
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4. YHWH is not dependent upon us to provide any of His needs According to Mesopotamian mythology, human beings were created so the gods would have servants. “Man shall be charged with the service of the gods, that they might be at ease.” Babylonian Creation myth.

While the Hebrews (later Israel,) served YHWH, it was by obedience and through worship, they didn’t provide for His physical needs or were used and abused for His pleasure. To please Anu, you had to do the following (plus meet all the other requirements): “Several times a day in an elaborate ritual the god was served a sumptuous meal. The courses were set out before the statue of the god or goddess, music was played, and incense was sprinkled. Here is a daily menu for the god Anu at Uruk: 12 vessels of wine 2 vessels of milk, 108 vessels of beer, 243 loaves of bread, 29 bushels of dates, 21 rams, 2 bulls, 1 bullock, 8 lambs, 60 birds, 3 cranes, 7 ducks, 4 wild boars, 3 ostrich eggs, 3 duck eggs.”
[Source: http://www.dl.ket.org/humanities/connections/class/ancient/mesopreligion.htm]

Instead, He meets ours! “And He will love you, and bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your land, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your oxen and the wealth of your flock, in the land which He has sworn to your fathers, to give it to you. You shall be blessed above all people; there shall not be a barren man or a barren woman among you, nor among your livestock. And Jehovah shall turn aside every sickness from you; and He will not put on you any of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you have known, but He will put them on all who hate you.” Deuteronomy 7:13-15 Literal Translation of the Holy Bible
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557px-the_ark_of_the_covenant5. YHWH is accessible to all of His followers, not just the elite or the priests. “The higher-echelon did all the preparation, and private individuals only came into contact with the gods when statues of deities were brought out of the temple and carried through the streets.” [Source: http://www.dl.ket.org/humanities/connections/class/ancient/mesopreligion.htm]
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6. YHWH cannot be controlled by man
Since the god fully identified with its idol, whoever controlled the idol also controlled the god. When the king of Elam saw that he was about to be defeated by Sennacherib, he took his idols and fled in order that they [the idols] should not fall captive… The custom of taking captive the idols of the vanquished was ancient and widespread… Rab-Shakeh wanted to impress upon the people of Judah the fact that the gods of the neighbouring nations failed to protect them from the armies of Sennacherib .(Isa. 36:18–20; 37:10–12) [Source:
https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0009_0_09475.html]

It was believed that once you had the idol, you controlled the god who would do your bidding if you appeased them. From there, any success would be possible. YHWH is completely resistant to manipulation. This is shown in Numbers 22 with Balaam who was ordered by the Moabite King, Balak, to curse the Israelites. “But Balaam responded to Balak’s messengers, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD [YHWH] my God.”
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7. YHWH is not a God who has to retreat
When in enemies’ hands, the power of the idol vanished. The vanquished kings would come and beg for the return of the idols; to return an idol to his temple was considered an act of mercy. Because of his fear of the enemy, the god would leave the idol “and fly to the heavens” Jeremiah 50:1–3 makes reference to this belief). [Source: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0009_0_09475.html]

Our God rules over all and has no need of retreat, and no fear of man as He showed when He delivered His people from Pharaoh in Exodus, which David acknowledged when he said: “O LORD, there is no one like You. We have never even heard of another God like You! What other nation on earth is like Your people Israel? What other nation, O God, have You redeemed from slavery to be Your own people? You made a great name for Yourself when You redeemed Your people from Egypt. You performed awesome miracles and drove out the nations that stood in their way. You chose Israel to be Your very own people forever, and You, O LORD, became their God.” 1 Chronicles 17:20-22

Conclusion: “For who in all of heaven can compare with the LORD? What mightiest angel is anything like the LORD?” Psalm 89:6 How blessed we are.

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Notes:
*Flood stories were recorded well after the event, so pagan cultures associated what occurred with their cultural beliefs at the time.


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Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

The images in this post come from Wikimedia Commons and are CC BY-SA 4.0

2017 · David's Life · Psalms · Research · Scripture

Why King David Taught Through Psalms / Songs

roniMusic is an essential part of the life of nearly every culture on earth. The first thing a baby hears in the womb is the rhythm of their mother’s heartbeat, then as children grow they respond to lullabies and rhymes. In every form of celebration and life event we have music; from Christmas carols, to the birthday song, to funerals. Melody is part of the way we learn about and relate to our culture and it helps us to feel part of our community, as it reinforces our values and identity. Is it any wonder then, that many spiritual principles in the Bible were communicated through the Psalms, which were sung?

The first Psalm song was written not by David, but by Moses as a song of joy, when God had delivered Israel from Egypt.

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD:
“I will sing to the LORD,
for He has triumphed gloriously;
He has hurled both horse and rider
into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song;
He has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise Him—
my Father’s God, and I will exalt Him!
The LORD is a warrior;
Yahweh is His Name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army
He has hurled into the sea.
The finest of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters gushed over them;
they sank to the bottom like a stone…” Exodus 15

That song is still sung as a testimony of God’s love, power and deliverance, today. I first learned a version of it in church twenty years ago.

The second Psalm Moses wrote was on God’s instruction. It’s purpose was sad.

“The LORD said to Moses, “You are about to die and join your ancestors. After you are gone, these people will begin to worship foreign gods, the gods of the land where they are going. They will abandon Me and break My covenant that I have made with them. Then My anger will blaze forth against them. I will abandon them, hiding My Face from them, and they will be devoured. Terrible trouble will come down on them, and on that day they will say, ‘These disasters have come down on us because God is no longer among us!’ At that time I will hide My Face from them on account of all the evil they commit by worshiping other gods.

So write down the words of this song, and teach it to the people of Israel. Help them learn it, so it may serve as a witness for Me against them…” So that very day Moses wrote down the words of the song and taught it to the Israelites.” (Deuteronomy chapters 31-32 contain the song.)

These Psalms built on a wider cultural tradition which started centuries before Abraham lived in Mesopotamia, and which probably reaches back to the dawn of mankind. There are a number of pagan hymns to gods such as Ishtar, which have been found in the Mesopotamian area (modern Iraq.) Some use similar literary devices and strength imagery that David used in the Psalms, which further shows that the Israelites were connected to and influenced by a larger cultural community which thrived on music, as we do today.

Regardless of which time period you live in, it is normal for spiritual activities to be accompanied by music, which build a unified spiritual community and teach devotees their core ideas and values. David followed Moses in using this powerful medium, not just because it was the way things were done and because he liked music, but also as King David knew the impact it had upon people.  The introduction to Psalm 60 says, “… A psalm of David useful for teaching, regarding the time David fought Aram-naharaim and Aram-zobah…” Psalms enabled David to *teach the people his testimony of God’s deliverance, reiterate the history of Israel and remind them of the principles of God’s Laws which were handed down through Moses.  [Ref. Psalms 114 and 132]

Consider these factors which make music an effective teaching method:

  • A catchy tune will be remembered and enables messages from a leader to be passed on across any distance.
  • Every age is open to hearing and learning musically. Small children will remember and repeat lyrics whether they understand the message or not. There is no age where enjoying music stops.
  • Popular tunes survive time, no matter what circumstances change.
  • Agrarian lives make study impractical as labourers work from dawn to dusk to survive; include literacy issues and singing becomes more effective than reading.
  • If you learn a song, if your house burns down, war comes, or some other calamity arises, you haven’t lost a book.

David has not only taught me how to worship through his Psalms, he has been a strong foundational teacher of who and how wonderful God is. The Psalms pick me up in hard times, as they remind me of God’s faithfulness and delivering power; and in times of joy, they accompany how good I feel. Take the time to learn them and you’ll never be short of the power of God’s Word in your life.
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Notes:

* In ages past, the Psalms themselves were sung in church and officials, such as Bishops, were not allowed to take office unless they knew the Psalms by heart. If you know the Psalms, you know all about God, His nature, His plan for His people and have a solid moral compass in life. It saddened me to learn that this was replaced in the church by the Book of Common Prayer, forcing the Psalms into a backseat which reduced their powerful role.

Psalms where David is clearly teaching include 36,37,53 and 119.

I have heard it stated that the first music was only used for spiritual purposes, and I have tried to research that claim and found it inconclusive. It seems illogical to me, that something which brings us so much enjoyment would only be used in such a limited manner; though I am open to being corrected. The precious can be sacred.


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Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · David's Life · Research · Scripture

Bible Geek: Getting Your Facts Straight

bible-geek-logo

If you ever try and learn a topic – any topic – from just one point of view, you are in trouble. You will make mistakes that you don’t even know you have made, and that can lead to you looking somewhat silly.

One of the pleasures of formal study is that I get to raid University libraries and access information I don’t usually find anywhere else. However, I am often surprised at how badly the Bible is represented, whether it be by secular institutions or theological colleges. I have found the only way to understand David is to read, read, read and read: and that best includes studying archaeology, psychology, secular history, Jewish thought and customs and reading multiple Bible versions.

Here are a few one sided blunders which have made me go, “wow, you need to research more!” I am NOT putting them in to belittle the sources, but to remind you to study and be careful. The mistakes I have to go back and fix constantly humble me. We have to be responsible with the word of God. Differences in opinions are one thing, but bad research is quite another.

1. A particular version of the Bible, which paraphrases rather than going for a literal translation, likes to translate “David commanded” rather than “David said,” as all the others do. When you read “David commanded” several times in a chapter, he begins to look like a tyrant, throwing his weight around. I double checked the Hebrew. The correct translation was ‘said.’ Use a service like Bible Hub which allows you to check word use from many translations on one page.

davidic_dinasty
The House of David

2. A secular university, which will also remain nameless for reasons pertaining to slander and legalities, did a series on the Old Testament where they treated the Bible as they would treat any piece of literature: as an isolated, stand alone work. They had no understanding of the culture of ancient Israel or tribal values; they had no spiritual interest or interpretation, which was to be expected. The result was they took two pieces of Scripture with “the house of David” in them and came to conclusions which were so crazy off the bat, I was stunned. Had it been a lecture on physics, psychology or any discipline, facts would have been checked to ensure accuracy. But hey, it’s a mystical book, so no background research was done.

3. A Bible College principal on Youtube preached that Absalom’s hair was so heavy, because he sprinkled gold dust in it every day. This information came from the Roman “historian” Flavius Josephus, who was not an accurate source of information and the principal should have known that. Josephus has been accused of “exaggeration, inconsistency and sloppiness and corrupt transmission of names and numbers,” and the information he does get correct seems to be sourced from research he did with Roman archival data. Even books which publish his work directly address his errors in their introductions. [Sources: Century One and if you search for Josephus and error, you will get many, many results. He has a terrible reputation for anti-semitic bias as well.]

20150109_105710The cost of sprinkling gold in your hair (and the itch) does not appear to be practical. It seems that this is an area where you need to use some common sense. He also claimed that King David had an Egyptian like burial, which David simply would not have done. It was not in line with his beliefs, which are apparent in the Psalms, but that is a topic for another day… Orthodox Jewish women do wear wigs as a sign of modesty, but the Torah forbids men to dress as women, as that was undertaken in strange, pagan rituals, where processing worshippers dressed as half men, half women.


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.