Thijs Booij, «Psalm 132: Zion’s Well-Being», Vol. 90 (2009) 75-83
Psalm 132, a text from the later pre-exilic time, is about the well-being of Zion and its faithful. This well-being, essentially David’s, is grounded on the presence of YHWH in Zion. It is realized when YHWH looks friendly upon the Davidic king. The first part of the psalm (vv. 1-10) asks for this favour on the strength of David’s hardships to find for his God a place to dwell. The second part (vv. 11- 18) is an answer to the first. The psalm is an introit-song, composed for the festival of Sukkoth. Expressing notions that remained important to the religious community, it was reintroduced after the exile to be used at the same festival.
See more by the same author
Psalm 132: Zionâ€™s Well-Being 81
of these texts to be post-exilic. Psalm 132, however, is by its size, language,
verse rhythm (3+3 accents) and parallelismus membrorum perfectly
It is not very plausible that Psalm 132 should stem from the early
monarchic period (26). The condition attached to YHWHâ€™s pledge to David in
v. 12 can hardly stem from an early time, because it is not found in 2 Sam 7
nor even in Ps 89 (27). Verse 12, moreover, seems to anticipate a considerable
succession of Davidic rulers. The purport of the psalm points in the same
direction. As its prayers touch matters that were vital to the kingdom of Judah,
it fits in with a time when the Judaean state was in danger (28). In the context
of a time like that, elements of the text stand out very clearly indeed. In v. 8
the phrase â€˜ark of your strengthâ€™ was chosen well. In v. 10 the appeal on
behalf of the king is urgent. And the alarming â€˜If...â€™ in v. 12 cannot be
silenced by the exuberant statements on Zion and David that will follow.
In the seventh month, at the end of the crop year, the great festival of
YHWH, Sukkoth, was celebrated in Jerusalem (29). There are two reasons to
assume that Psalm 132 originates from this festival. First, to the religious
community Sukkoth was the peak of the year, and so it suits a text dealing
with matters essential to this community. Second, in the account of the
inauguration of Solomonâ€™s temple (1 Kgs 8) the ark ritual is linked with
(25) Cf. J.M. AUWERS, â€œLe Psaume 132 parmi les graduelsâ€, RB 103 (1996) 558. With
regard to the psalmâ€™s language, it is illustrative that while the particle v is found nine times
in the Songs of Ascent, rva occurs, apart from Ps 132,2, only in Ps 127,5.
(26) See for this early dating SCHREINER, Sion-Jerusalem, 174; also H. GESE, â€œDer
Davidsbund und die ZionserwÃ¤hlungâ€, ZThK N.F. 61 (1964) 16; LAATO, â€œDevelopmentâ€,
CBQ 54 (1992) 49-66. A later pre-exilic dating is advocated in e.g. H. GUNKEL, Die
Psalmen. Ãœbersetzt und erklÃ¤rt (GÃ¶ttingen 41926) 568; W.O.E. OESTERLEY, The Psalms.
Translated with text-critical and exegetical notes (London 1955) 530; W.R. TAYLOR in The
Interpreterâ€™s Bible (New York â€“ Nashville, TN 1951-1957) IV, 685.
(27) A. LAATO, â€œPsalm 132: A Case Study in Methodologyâ€, CBQ 61 (1999) 28-29 (cf.
LAATO, â€œDevelopmentâ€, 52-54), takes the view that the Deuteronomist reformulated the
condition expressed in Ps 132,11-12 as â€œa conditional promise concerning the Davididesâ€™
rule over the whole of Israel, including the northern regionâ€; the threat implied in the
condition was thought to have been realized in the secession of northern Israel. This reading
of relevant Deuteronomistic texts is at variance with 1 Kgs 9,6-9, where the judgement on
disloyalty reaches far beyond the end of the united monarchy. In Laatoâ€™s view the
Deuteronomistic history has two versions of YHWHâ€™s promise to David, one, conditional,
regarding the throne of Israel, the other, unconditional, regarding the kingship in Jerusalem.
Indeed, obviously, there is an unconditional promise in 2 Sam 7; Jerusalem, however, is not
mentioned in it. In the book of Kings there is only a conditional promise (1 Kgs 2,4; 8,25).
The threat implied in it takes effect because of Solomonâ€™s sins (1 Kgs 11,9-11.31), but for
the sake of David and Jerusalem, and despite more disloyalty, it is carried out only in part
(1 Kgs 11,13.32.36; 15,4-5; 2 Kgs 8,19). From an historical viewpoint, it seems plausible
that after bad governance (see 2 Kgs 23,26-27; 24,3-4), in times when the Davidic reign
was in danger, an unconditional promise could be modified into a conditional one (Ps 132
etc.; cf., however, Ps 89).
(28) Thus Melody D. KNOWLES, â€œThe Flexible Rhetoric of Retelling: The Choise of
David in the Texts of the Psalmsâ€, CBQ 67 (2005) 246-247.
(29) See Lev 23,39; Deut 16,13-15; Neh 7,72-8,18; also Exod 23,16; 34,22.