Thijs Booij, «Psalms 120–136: Songs for a Great Festival.», Vol. 91 (2010) 241-255
Psalms 120–134, the 'Songs of Ascents', are a functional unity. In early rabbinical tradition concerning the Great Hallel, they seem to be linked with Psalms 135 and 136; in the texts themselves this connection is quite clear. The Songs, as a collection, and the two psalms of praise apparently stem from the later post-exilic period, when they were used during the festival of Sukkoth. The Songs were recited in processions to the sanctuary; the psalms of praise were part of the liturgy proper.
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Psalms 120â€“136: Songs for a Great Festival
Psalms 120â€“134 are a functional unity, to which Psalms 135 and
136 are closely connected. This article is intended to analyse the
relationship between the texts and to elucidate their nature and
1. Psalms 120â€“134
The title twl[mh ryv of Psalms 120â€“134 1 gives the impression
that in a sense these texts are special in the Book of Psalms. There
are several data confirming this.
In their phraseology Psalms 120â€“134 are somewhat un-
common 2. Among these texts Psalm 132 appears to be the most
traditional one, as five of its terms at least are characteristic psalm
words : twnkvm, â€œdwelling placeâ€ (of YHWH: vv. 5, 7); dysj,
â€œ faithful â€ (vv. 9, 16); Ãˆrb pi., â€œblessâ€ (v. 15) ; [vy, â€œsalvationâ€
(v. 16) ; and â€“nr pi. as â€œshout for joyâ€ (vv. 9, 16). Psalm 130 has
four elements typical of psalm language: arq, â€œcryâ€, as connected
with [mv, â€œhear, listenâ€ (vv. 1-2) ; Î¼ynwnjt, â€œsupplicationsâ€ (v. 2) ; Hy
(v. 3) ; and ljy pi., â€œhopeâ€ (v. 7). In Psalm 125 there are at least
two of them: the verb fwm ni., â€œbe movedâ€ (v. 1) ; and htlw[,
â€œ injustice â€, with the archaic ending htA (v. 3) ; to these might be
added the phrases Î¼twblb Î¼yrvy, â€œthose who are upright in their
hearts â€ (v. 4), and â€“wah yl[p, â€œthose causing mischiefâ€ (v. 5),
although their form is not the usual one. The opening line of the
collection, too, has typical psalm phraseology, as it testifies the
speakerâ€™s â€œdistressâ€ (htrx), his â€œcryingâ€ (arq), and YHWHâ€™s
â€œ answering â€ (hn[). The continuation of Psalm 120, however, is
idiomatically different. Of the fourteen texts that will follow, two
In Ps 121,1 twl[ml ryv.
For the criteria see M. TSEVAT, A Study of the Language of the Biblical
Psalms (Philadelphia, PE 1955), esp. 7-9. In the present article, as a departure
from Tsevat, late usage is left out of consideration.