I find Hermeneia general a bit above Anchor usually... Some Anchor Bible Volumes may well be superior ( I find that Amos in AB a great volume that in some ways almost superior to me). Psalms for example seem superior in Hermeneia to me... Let's look at Psalm 117, and remember this is not even diving into the notes (I will include notes below).
Pierre Auffret, “Louez YHWH, toutes les Nations! Étude structurelle du Psaume 116,” OTE 10 (1997) 5–9.
Egbert Ballhorn, Zum Telos des Psalters: Der Textzusammenhang des Vierten und Fünften Psalmenbuchs (Ps 90–150), BBB 138 (Berlin: Philo, 2004) 187–93.
Elizabeth Hayes, “The Unity of the Egyptian Hallel: Psalms 113–118,” BBR 9 (1999) 145–56.
Jannie du Preez, “The Missionary Significance of Psalm 117 in the Book of Psalms and in the New Testament,” Missionalia 27 (1999) 369–76.
Hans-Peter Mathys, Dichter und Beter: Die Theologen aus spätalttestamentlicher Zeit, OBO 132 (Fribourg: Universitätsverlag; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994) 292–97.
Martin Mark, Meine Stärke und mein Schutz ist der Herr: Poetologisch-theologische Studie zu Psalm 118, FB 92 (Würzburg: Echter Verlag, 1999) 141–49.
1 aPraise YHWH, all nations,b
laud him, all peoples!
2 For/indeed his love over us was mighty,c
and the faithfulness of YHWH endures forever.
Structure and Genre
This, the shortest psalm in the Psalter (although see the similarly brief Song of Miriam in Exod 15:21*), is regarded as a model of the imperative hymn. It consists of three elements: (1) imperative exhortation to praise (v. 1*); (2) principal hymn section or corpus hymni (v. 2ab*), introduced, as is typical of the genre, with כי (giving the reason: “for,” or deictic: “yes, indeed, certainly”); as a rule (and here) the principal hymn section has as its theme God’s mighty deeds and God’s “nature” (or his deeds as corresponding to his being/nature); (3) exhortation to praise in the form of a Hallelujah acclamation (v. 2c*).
The imperative exhortation to praise in v. 1* is directed to “all nations,” whom the psalm probably does not envision as really present addressees or participants in the cult. One can explain this phenomenon, in which persons not present are exhorted to praise God (cf., for example, the long list of addressees in Psalm 148, but also the trees and rivers in Psalms 96 and 98, not to mention “heaven and earth”), as a “rhetorical imperative” that signifies no “real” exhortation but rather is an indirect speech-act with which the speakers themselves underscore that the psalm text they are reciting is their praise of God.3 Then the exhortation to praise is in a certain sense a part of the praise itself. But one can understand the imperative exhortation to the nations also as a “real” exhortation to praise YHWH in an imaginary, fictional liturgy (cf. also Psalm 118), if one reads Psalm 117 within the horizon of psalms that develop a scene showing that and how the nations praise, or ought to praise, YHWH as the God of Israel and of all nations (cf. especially Pss 47:2–4*; 67:4–5*; 96:1*; 97:1*; 98:4*; 100:1*, 4–5*, and in the immediate context Ps 114:7*; see above). In the context of Psalms 113–118, this praise to which Israel calls all the nations is then the “retort” to their mockery quoted in Ps 115:2* (cf. also Ps 79:10*): “Where is your God?”
The theme and content of the principal hymn section in v. 2ab* are YHWH’s “love” and “faithfulness,” that is, as is typical of the genre, not a particular one-time intervention by YHWH but his mighty deeds (verbal statement: גבר, “was mighty”), founded on his “nature” or “being” (love/faithfulness: see the exposition below). It is true that the commentators are not united about the identity of those intended by the prepositional phrase “over us,” that is, whether the praise is about YHWH’s actions only for Israel or (also) for the nations. Bernhard Duhm votes for the first alternative: “Although in v. 1* all nations are exhorted to praise YHWH, in 2* the suffix of עלינו undoubtedly refers to the Jews, to whom alone belong YHWH’s love and faithfulness.”4 In contrast, Franz Delitzsch emphasizes that Psalm 116 is followed by “this shortest of all psalms, a Hallelujah to the pagan world, in its very smallness one of the most magnificent witnesses to the power with which, in the midst of the OT, the world-calling of the revealed religion shakes the cages of the nations, marked by the apostle in Rom 15:11* as the locus classicus for the mystery of grace in the Gentiles’ participation in the promised salvation of Israel.”5 In the context of the composition in Psalms 113–118, for which Psalm 117 was created, this alternative, “YHWH’s love and faithfulness toward Israel” or “YHWH’s love and faithfulness for the nations” is, in my opinion, false. The nations are called on by Israel here to praise YHWH because he has proved his love for Israel and for the nations (see the exposition below).
On the one hand, the principal hymnic section in v. 2ab* presents (only) traditional theologoumena. On the other hand, their combination with the call to all (!) nations to give praise is by no means traditional. Certainly we should not overlook the fact that Psalm 117 is tightly bound into the composition of Psalms 113–118. The word pair “love and faithfulness” (v. 2*) is also in Ps 115:1c* (redactionally: see above)—and indeed within the horizon of “Israel—the nations.” In addition, v. 2ab* is a kind of variant (though certainly with a different accent due to the verbal statement) of the liturgical formula quoted five times in Psalm 118, “for his love endures forever” (Ps 118:1–4*, 29*). Likewise, the theme of “Israel and the world of the nations” or “YHWH as the only true God, for the nations also,” the subject of Psalm 117, is one, indeed the central, perspective of the composition made up of Psalms 113–118. In my view, all this favors the supposition that Psalm 117 was created for this composition—as a hermeneutical key to Psalm 118, which follows it, or as a “bridge psalm” between Psalms 116 and 118. This “bridge function” of Psalm 117, which, from a literary point of view, is equally conceived as an independent psalm and to begin with must be interpreted as such (even though it receives an important field of meaning from its context), also explains the uncertainty in the manuscripts and printed Bibles that wrote Psalm 117 together with Psalm 116 or Psalm 118 (see above). If this supposition is correct, Psalm 117 had no specific liturgical Sitz im Leben as an individual psalm (see the ironic remark by Hans-Peter Mathys, Dichter und Beter, 297: “It is frequently supposed that this new psalm was used in worship, but no exegete who can be taken seriously claims to know where”). Whether one can draw conclusions from the use of Aramaisms (see the notes on the translation above) about the milieu in which Psalm 117 arose or was inserted into the composition of Psalms 113–118 is a question that must remain open.
The analysis of Psalm 117 may be summarized in the following structural plan:
I. Imperative Exhortation to Praise
1a* Call to all nations to praise YHWH
1b* Call to all peoples to laud him
II. Principal Hymn Section
2a* First reason: YHWH’s proofs of love for his people
2b* Second reason: YHWH’s faithfulness toward all (his people and all nations)
III. Imperative Exhortation to Praise
2c* Call to Israel and the nations to praise YHWH
Imperative Exhortation to All Nations (v. 1*)
The psalm begins, as is typical of the genre, with an imperative call to praise directed to all nations. Since these addressees do not “really” hear the appeal, inasmuch as they are not “really” present, it has been suggested that this imperative should be understood as an “indirect speech-act” or as a “rhetorical imperative.” This, it is said, is not a “real” appeal to the nations but is already part of the praise of God uttered by the speaker of the psalm, that is, Israel in this case (see the analysis above). In my opinion that would be to lose altogether the function of Psalm 117 in the context of the composition (Psalms 113–118), as well as the intended statement of Psalm 118. The particular point of Psalm 117 is precisely this: Israel exhorts all the nations to praise YHWH because of his love, realized in his saving deeds for Israel—because he has thus revealed his true Godhead or the proprium divinum itself (cf. especially Isa 52:10*; Ps 98:2–3*). To the extent that Ps 117:1* must be read within the horizon of Psalms 113–118, this exhortation to praise directed to all nations acquires a multifaceted “field of meaning.” Psalm 113 is a worldwide (!) call to praise YHWH (הלל, as in Ps 117:1a*)—because of his royal rule over “all nations” (113:4a*) and his unique divinity (113:5a*), which is concretely demonstrated in his saving care for the poor and the barren woman (113:7–9*). Psalm 115 appeals to YHWH to demonstrate his “love and faithfulness” for Israel before the forum of the nations, so that the nations may thereby come to a true knowledge of God and so be brought out of their deadly service to false gods and be led to praise YHWH as the only true and life-giving God (cf. Ps 115:17*: הלל)—together with Israel (cf. Ps 115:18*). Psalm 118:10* looks back to the past, when “all nations” were the enemies and oppressors of Israel, but in Ps 118:19–28*, 29* they, together with Israel then celebrate YHWH’s everlasting love. Against this contextual background, v. 1* must be understood as a “real” call to praise—and one with a monotheistic perspective: the nations are to praise and laud YHWH as the one true God; this “knowledge of God,” as v. 2* emphasizes, has been mediated by his actions for Israel (cf. Isa 42:1–9*; 45:22–24*). To that extent, then, the nations are, after all, included in the prepositional phrase “over us” (v. 2a*).
Principal Hymn Section (v. 2ab*)
The hymnic principal section beginning, as is typical of the genre, with כי, “for” or “indeed,” has as its theme YHWH’s “love” and “faithfulness” (v. 2ab*: chiastic parallelism). Here we have, on the one hand, the word pair חסד ואמת, which is multiply attested, especially as an allusion to its prominent appearance in the so-called formula of grace in Exod 34:6*, but our psalm gives it a specific accent. In v. 2a*, YHWH’s חסד, that is, an attitude that in its formal aspect is an act corresponding to his relationship to Israel (community-directed, loyal, responsive action),6 and in its material aspect a good, indeed a loving act of rescue or salvation (the traditional translation, “favor, loving-kindness,” is an inadequate reflection; the spectrum of meanings includes love, solidarity, mercy, friendliness, selfless generosity, readiness to help), is in a sense “historicized” by the verbal phrase גבר, “was mighty.” Thus, on the one hand, there is an allusion to the two great proofs of love to which the postexilic congregation speaking here owes its existence, namely, the first exodus from Egypt and the second exodus from Babylon, but, on the other hand, it is much more basic: it is a matter of the “magnalia Dei”7 in Israel’s history through which YHWH has revealed the nature of his Godhead, as one of rescuing out of and in love, before the forum of the world of the nations—against all the powers and principalities (v. 2a*: “was mighty/full of power over us”).
Verse 2b* then places yet another accent that is especially important for “all nations”: the noun in v. 2b*, אמת, “faithfulness, reliability,” gives the “love” of YHWH named in v. 2b* an additional quality. The divine love that has been revealed in YHWH’s saving actions on behalf of Israel is qualified by v. 2b* as a kind of promise that YHWH will fulfill—not only for Israel but also and especially for “all nations,” and “forever,” in order to bring to perfection the history of Israel and the nations “in love.” Psalm 117:2ab* thus offers a summary of the biblical witness to God, henceforth unsurpassable in its succinctness, that Israel and the nations are to proclaim: leading all to YHWH as the only God who is “rich in love and faithfulness” (cf. Exod 34:6*), as he has shown in his people Israel—as a message to “all nations” (cf. Isaiah 40–55). Above all, Psalm 100, the final psalm of the YHWH-is-king cantata (Psalms 93–100), may have been the model for Psalm 117; there, in v. 5*, the nations are called upon to celebrate YHWH’s love and faithfulness together with Israel in the Temple (!). Psalm 138:2* emphasizes that “love and faithfulness” are YHWH’s proprium divinum—in contrast to the gods. In the context of Psalms 116 and 118, this is above all about rescue, through YHWH, from the sphere of death’s power, which according to Psalm 115 is, as far as the nations are concerned, primarily their service of false gods. At the same time, this positive perspective on the nations is a contrast to Psalms 108–110 (see above).
Concluding Exhortation to Praise (v. 2c*)
In terms of the overall course of the psalm, the concluding Hallelujah is a call to praise directed to the nations and to Israel and bringing them together in common praise of YHWH. In the conception of Psalms 113–118, the following Psalm 118 should be understood as the “carrying out” of this exhortation.
Context, Reception, and Significance
Relationship to the Neighboring Psalms
Psalm 117 has an important function in the dramaturgy of the composition made up of Psalms 113–118. This psalm is linked back to Ps 115:1–2* by the keyword pair “love” and “faithfulness” (of YHWH): The nations, who according to Ps 115:2* ask mockingly about the ability of the God of Israel to act, are here exhorted to praise YHWH because of the love and faithfulness he has shown for Israel before the forum of the world of the nations (cf. Ps 117:2* with Ps 116:1*)—and so to be themselves delivered from the death of their service to idols (cf. Ps 115:17–18*). With Psalm 117 the nations are invited to participate, as YHWH-fearers (cf. Pss 115:11*, 13*; 118:4*), in the great YHWH-liturgy on Zion (cf. the keyword link from Ps 117:2* to Ps 118:1*, 29*). Compositionally, Psalm 117, as the middle psalm of the triad 116–118, corresponds to Psalm 114, the middle psalm of the triad 113–115 (see the excursus above, “The Composition of the Egyptian Hallel or Passover Hallel, Psalms 113–118”); to that extent it is an explication of the exhortation in Ps 114:7*.
The LXX adds to v. 2b* the additional predicate μένει, “remains, endures,” and so resolves the indeterminacy of the noun clause in the MT (see above): v. 2a* is a perspective on the past and v. 2b* looks to the present and future (see our exposition above).
Reception in Romans 15:11*
In urging the community in Rome, where apparently there were tensions and conflicts between Jewish and Gentile Christians, to accept one another, Paul reflects briefly on the different callings of “the circumcised” and “the Gentiles.” With regard to the Gentile Christians he presents four (!) quotations from the Old Testament; these include, besides Ps 18:50*; Deut 32:43* LXX; and Isa 11:1*, 10* LXX, the hymnic exhortation to the nations to praise YHWH in Ps 117:1*. The first keyword of the hymn mentioned in Ps 117:2a*, namely, “the love” (חסד) or “the mercy” (ἔλεος) of God is presented first in Rom 15:9* as the hermeneutical horizon for the four scriptural quotations applied to the “Gentiles.” Paul thus sees in the community of Jewish and Gentile Christians in the young church the realization of the Old Testament vision of the community of Israel and the nations. On the other hand, Paul cites the second keyword in Ps 117:2b*, namely “faithfulness/truth” (אמת or ἀλήθεια) in Rom 15:8* with regard to the Jewish Christians: “Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.”
Psalm 117 is not only a universally beloved liturgical song (especially in its Latin version, “Laudate dominum …”), but is a central text on the theme of “Israel and the nations,” or the relationship between “Jews and Christians.” It puts forth the vision that the nations will allow themselves to be inspired by Israel to worship the one true God—and so overcome the misunderstandings/enmity between them (cf. Pss 115:2*; 118:10–12*). This psalm is the hymnic anticipation of that reality, which God’s love and faithfulness will bring about.
Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 3: A Commentary on Psalms 101–150, ed. Klaus Baltzer, trans. Linda M. Maloney, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2011), 222–226.
a) The LXX takes the “Hallelujah” that concludes the preceding Psalm 116 as the beginning of Psalm 117, and moves the “Hallelujah” that ends Psalm 117 MT to the beginning of Psalm 118. This transposition is based on a decision of the LXX that affects the psalm composition 113–118, 119 as a whole. Deviating from the MT, the LXX has all these psalms begin with “Hallelujah.” (See the excursus “The Composition of the Egyptian Hallel or Passover Hallel, Psalms 113–118.”) The textual form in the MT is to be retained here (against the LXX). The same is true of the evaluation of Ps 117:1–2* as a psalm that is textually complete and independent, even though the Hebrew and Latin textual tradition sometimes writes or reads Ps 117:1–2* as the conclusion of Psalm 116 or the beginning of Psalm 118. According to Dominique Barthélemy (CTAT 4:xxxiii–iv), Psalms 116 and 117 are offered as a single psalm in thirty-six Hebrew manuscripts and two important medieval printed Bibles (even in the editio princeps of the Masoretic Bible in Venice, 1525). The uncertainty of the tradition is evident in the work of Felix de Prato, who presented Psalm 117 as an independent psalm in the editio princeps of the Rabbinic Bible of Venice (1516–17); five years later, in his Latin translation of the Psalter, he combined Psalms 117 and 116 as a single psalm and numbered Ps 117:1–2* as Ps 118:20–21*. Augustine also, in his commentary on the Psalms, attests that the Latin tradition regarded Psalms 116 and 117 as a single psalm. However, that is not affirmed by Augustine himself—especially not in the Greek tradition. In any case, the judgment of modern exegesis is that Psalms 116 and 117 are to be read as two separate texts to be interpreted independently: each psalm has its own complete structure. This assertion holds also with regard to the “readings,” which are likewise attested by manuscript evidence, according to which Psalm 117 should be written and understood with Psalm 118, or at least Ps 118:1–4*, as a textual unit (CTAT refers to twenty-six manuscripts). So the conclusion: Psalm 117 is a text complete in itself. The uncertainty or oscillation in the tradition, however, in my opinion has a foundation in the origins or function of Psalm 117: This psalm was created by the redaction as a “link” between Psalms 116 and 118 and serves the “perspective on the nations” that characterizes Psalms 113–118 as a whole (see below).
The correction of אמים to לאמים in v. 1b* suggested by a number of exegetes1 is neither necessary nor allowed by the textual tradition:
h’mym could be an Aramaism. The noun ’mh (in the masculine plural) is frequently used in Aramaic. This interpretation seems all the more likely in that šbḥ pi. is certainly an Aramaism (cf. Dan 2:23*; 4:31*, 34*; 5:4*, 23*). The verb is not part of the common vocabulary of the Psalter’s language (in comparison to related expressions; it appears in Pss 63:4*; 106:47* = 1 Chr 16:35*; Pss 145:4*; 147:12*; Qoh 4:2*; 8:15*).2
c)The question whether the predicate גבר in v. 2a* also applies to v. 2b* has received differing answers from scholars. If one understands the suffix conjugation in v. 2a* as a present of assertion (“is mighty”), it can be extended to v. 2b* (“double duty”). If (and this is our option) one takes it as a statement about the past (“was mighty”), it must be limited to v. 2a*, since a statement about the past in combination with a future perspective (“forever,” v. 2b*) is impossible. It follows from this that v. 2b* is a noun clause analogous to Ps 118:1–4*, and we translate it like Ps 118:1–4*: “Yhwh’s faithfulness endures forever.” As to the controversial question of the reference of the prepositional phrase “over us” (Israel, the nations, or both?), see the analysis and exposition below.
1. For example, Kraus, 2:974.
2. Mathys, Dichter und Beter, 292 n. 1.
(notes 1 +2 refer to notes in note
3. On this, see Andreas Wagner, “Der Lobaufruf im israelitischen Hymnus als indirekter Sprechakt,” in idem, Studien zur hebräischen Grammatik, OBO 156 (Fribourg: Universitätsverlag; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997) 143–54.
4. Duhm, 411.
5. Delitzsch, 662.
6. On this, see Diethelm Michel, Ḥesed we’emet, in Wagner, Studien zur hebräischen Grammatik, 73–82.
Edited by Dan Francis, Yesterday, 09:38 PM.