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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248 TH. BOOIJ
granted in Zion 31; it is likely to have been recited after entering the
city. In Psalm 134, the use of hnh in v. 1 (â€œ lo â€, â€œcome onâ€) suits a
situation that calls for â€œblessing YHWHâ€ (cf. hnh in Gen 19,2; Judg
20,7) : the procession has entered the sanctuary now 32.
3. The Great Hallel
In early rabbinical tradition a Great Hallel is known besides the
Egyptian Hallel. In the Babylonian Talmud rabbi Tarphon takes the
view that at the Passover meal, after completing the Egyptian
Hallel over the fourth cup of wine, the Great Hallel is to be
recited 33. The question is asked, lwdgh llh â€“kyhm, â€œFrom where the
Great Hallel?â€ There are three answers. The first answer is,
lbb twrhn d[ wdwhm, â€œFrom O praise until the rivers of Babylonâ€. The
second is, lbb twrhn d[ twl[mh ryÃ§m, â€œFrom A Song of Ascents until
the rivers of Babylonâ€. The third is, lbb twrhn d[ hy wl rjb bq[y ykm,
â€œ From for YHWH has chosen Jacob for himself until the rivers of
Babylon â€. The third answer is unequivocal: Ps 135,4â€“136,26 must
be meant. The first answer is generally assumed to refer to Psalm
136 ; this indeed is the text in the Passover Haggadah. The second
answer, however, appears to be problematic. By twl[mh ryv either
the title of Psalm 134 is supposed to be intended, or that of Psalm
120. It is in favour of the former opinion that Psalm 134, as a call
for â€œblessingâ€ YHWH, is related to the calls for praise that will
follow. In favour of the latter opinion it can be argued that, just as
in the first answer wdwh, â€œPraise!â€, logically refers to the first
occurrence of this call in Psalm 136, twl[mh ryv in the second
answer is likely to intend the first occurrence of that phrase in the
collection. In my view, for understanding the Talmudic passage, it
is important to include considerations regarding the content of the
psalm texts in question. The reason why in the third answer the
recitation of Psalm 135 starts with v. 4 must be that a text recited
26,2, and see D. HAMIDOVIC, â€œâ€˜Les portes de justiceâ€™ et â€˜la porte de YHWHâ€™
dans la Psaume 118,19-20â€, Bib 81 (2000) 542-550.
See Th. BOOIJ, â€œPsalm 133: â€˜Behold, how good and how pleasantâ€™â€, Bib
83 (2002) 258-267.
The phrase hwhy ydb[ refers to the members of the cultic community. Cf.
e.g. Ps 34,23 ; 113,1; 135,1; Deut 32,36.43. See also Lev 9,5; Jer 7,10.