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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250 TH. BOOIJ
v v. 5 - 9 the praise of YHWHâ€™s acts in nature, as found in
Ps 135,6-7, is replaced by an account of creation, in the main
according to Gen 1,1.14-19. Verses 10-15, focussing on the exodus,
replace the Egyptian episode in Ps 135,8-9. Verses 1-15 together
are made up of five strophes of three lines each 37. The loss of this
pattern after v. 15 appears to be occasioned by the insertion, in
vv. 17-22, of an adapted version of Ps. 135,10-12. The conclusion
has to be that Psalm 136 was largely based on its predecessor.
4. Date of the texts
The majority of the Songs of Ascents, as well as the Songs as a
collection and Psalms 135 and 136, seem to stem from the
somewhat later post-exilic period.
For the Songs as a collection and most of its texts this dating
is first of all justified by linguistic facts. Forms and words in the
Songs occurring elsewhere only or mainly in relatively late texts
are : a finite form of hyh (â€œ to beâ€) linked with a participle in
Ps 122,2 38 ; l introducing a direct object in Ps 122,4b 39 ; bg as
â€œ back (of a human)â€ in Ps 129,3 40 ; hjyls (â€œ forgiveness â€) in
Ps 130,4 41. Several elements show the northern Hebrew and
Aramaic influence on post-exilic Judaean Hebrew: thus v (for
rva) in Ps 122,3.4 ; 123,2; 124,1.2.6; 129,6.7; 133,2.3 42 ; the
construction v . . . ylwl (â€œ if not ... thatâ€) in Ps 124,1.2 43 ; yza
After three verses opening with wdwh (â€œ praise . . . ! â€), each of vv. 4-6 begins
with l plus participle (â€œwho ...â€); the latter form is repeated at the beginning of
three thematic units, each made up of three verses (see vv. 7, 10, 13).
See S.R. DRIVER, A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew and
Some Other Syntactical Questions (Oxford 31892) Â§ 135, 5.
See GESENIUS â€“ KAUTZSCH, Â§ 117n ; P. JOÃœON â€“ T. MURAOKA, A
Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Roma 1991) Â§ 125k.
Designating a bulge or elevation apparently, the word is used for
â€œ mound â€, â€œbrowâ€, â€œbossâ€ (of a shield). In Ezek 10,12 it denotes a cherubâ€™s
back. The usual word for â€œbackâ€ is wg or we.
It is found in Neh 9,17 and Dan 9,9.
See the dictionaries; also G.A. RENDSBURG, Linguistic Evidence for the
Northern Origin of Selected Psalms (Atlanta, GA 1990) 91-92.
See Targum Ps 27,13 (yd ylwla) and Ps.-Jonathan Deut 1,1 (d ylwlya);
cf. R. PAYNE SMITH, Thesaurus Syriacus (Oxonii 1879-1901) I, 198, s.v. â€™ell lâ€™.
A Hebrew letter from Murabbaâ€˜at, dated about 135 AD, has the construction
yza . . . Ã§ yla (DJD II, 1961, 156, text 42:5).