Much attention has been given to the identity of the foes in the Psalms. Scholarly study has primarily concentrated on the “foes of the individual,” whose identity and activity are especially problematic. However the problems are attacked, the decisive issue will be whether or not the question of form criticism is faced. The various form groups must be carefully examined in reference to the specific information they provide concerning the foes. Such investigation must be kept free from any hastily imposed schema, whether it be historic in nature, or related to some “pattern” or other, or based on some convenient hypothesis.
We need no more than mention the view which Bernhard Duhm advanced in his
commentary on the Psalms, but which is hardly noted or discussed at all today. Since
Duhm dated the Psalms to the period of the Maccabees, he regarded the foes of the saints as
“members of the pro-Hellenistic party,” enlightened and contemptuous modernists, who
rejected the antiquated teachings and way of life of the pious Jews. This explanation is en-
tirely dependent on the late date to which Duhm assigned the Psalms.
If, however, we approach the problem in terms of form criticism, then in the first overview of the material we must be ready to assign specific themes to specific forms and to approach the problem in this framework. It is then unavoidable that we inquire first of all about the enemies of the nation of Israel. The royal psalms and the prayer psalms of the people are then the two categories that come into consideration. Naturally the investigation should not be limited to these two psalm categories, because the hymns (songs of praise) and other psalms also speak of Israel’s foes. First of all, we must note the way in which Israel’s foes are regarded as Yahweh’s foes. In this context the songs of praise must also receive attention, because the hymns speak in a remarkable manner about the foes who confront or work against the powerful activity of Israel’s God. Only then will it be possible to speak of the foes of the individual. Here too it is necessary to investigate the appropriate categories of the Psalter—the prayer songs of individual psalmists in Israel and the songs of thanks of the individual. It is here that the main emphasis will be placed in this investigation.
Finally, it is undeniable that the foes, whether they are the foes of Israel, of God, or of the individual, are more than human. Although they are seen as mythic