Th. Booij, «Psalm 133: "Behold, how good and how pleasant"», Vol. 83 (2002) 258-267
The opening line of Psalm 133 is, literally, about a social practice; the comparisons following it suggest that in fact a gathering of YHWH’s worshippers is meant. The latter is confirmed by the final line. V. 3a has a bridging function in that its last words ("on the mountains of Zion"), although belonging to the imagery of the comparison, are actually direct expression, relating to the statement of v. 1 (‘inversion’). The situation hinted at can hardly be other than the gathering in Jerusalem on the occasion of a religious festival. In view of the subtle structure and inner cohesion of Psalm 133, it is scarcely plausible that its present meaning is due to some form of adaptation.
Psalm 133 has been the subject of a variety of interpretations. In this article, views concerning v. 2 will first be discussed, then views concerning vv. 1 and 3. As the relationship between vv. 1b, 3a and 3b 1 is the main problem of the text, a relevant proposal will be offered. In conclusion, a translation of the psalm will be given along with a final analysis of its content.
(1) In v. 2, wytwdm yp-l( is generally understood as ‘on the collar of his robes’ (cf. Exod 28,32; 39,23). O. Keel, interpreting hdm as ‘measure’ and yp-l( as a preposition (cf. e.g. Gen 43,7; Lev 27,8.18), understands the phrase as ‘according to its/his measures’ (cf. hdm in Num 13,32; Isa 45,14; Jer 22,14). In Keel’s opinion the text means that the beard flows down in its full length, or, flows down over Aaron’s whole body; the pronominal suffix could refer to the beard or to Aaron himself. The purport of v. 2b would be to indicate special dignity2.
Keel’s interpretation, however interesting, meets with objections. The ambivalence regarding the pronominal suffix in wytwdm is somewhat strange. The fact that in v. 2a and v. 3 l(, preceded by dry (‘coming down’), means ‘on’ strongly supports the view that in v. 2b, being preceded by the same verb, it has the same meaning. Furthermore, it should be noticed that the Septuagint speaks of a ‘garment’ (e!nduma), not of ‘measures’, and that two Qumran-versions have wydm3. Keel rightly stresses that in Classical Hebrew hdm generally means ‘measure’, while the common word for ‘garment’ is *dm. Yet it is dubious whether in practice these forms (both from ddm) were strictly distinguished. While a text from Qumran has hdm as ‘garment’, and a Ugaritic text mdt as ‘clothes’4, the word *dm is used in Job 11,9 in the sense of ‘measure’. In our text wytwdm may have been chosen on account of the rhythm of the verse5.
(2) Does the relative clause of v. 2b really relate to ‘the beard of Aaron’6? The assumption, implied in it, that Nrh) Nqz is the opening of a line