The Psalms in Israel's Worship - Vol. 1

By Sigmund Mowinckel; D. R. Ap-Thomas | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
The Hymn of Praise

The first of the main types to be described is the hymn or song of praise. 1 The Psalter contains many examples of this kind, e.g. Pss.8; 19; 29; 33; 46; 47; 48; 76; 104; 135; 136; 145-150, which are all typical. To these we may add the three fragments of a hymn of praise which are now embedded in the book of Amos, as 4. 12f., 13; 5. 8f.; 9. 5f. 1a


1

The core of the hymn of praise is the consciousness of the poet and congregation that they are standing face to face with the Lord himself, meeting the almighty, holy and merciful God in his own place, and worshipping him with praise and adoration. He is in their midst, and they are his chosen people, who owe him everything. Therefore they now meet him, with awe and trembling because he is the Holy One, but also with a sure trust, love, jubilation and overflowing enthusiasm, while remembering all the great and glorious things that he has done. From the encounter with the Holy One, from the reverence and trust, the gratitude, joy and enthusiasm, the song of praise thus rises to the Lord of Hosts, to express what the congregation is seeing and feeling, and to increase his glory in the world. This is the fountain-head from which all the characteristic features of the hymn, too, all its elements of matter and form, must be conceived as taking their rise. 1b

The hymn opens with the exhortation to sing unto the Lord, to praise,

____________________
1
See Gunkel-Begrich, Einleitung, pp. 32-94, as also for the sources and evidences of the characteristic individual features of the hymn style; Gunkel gives fairly complete statistics, but Westermann's painstaking analysis (Das Loben Gottes im A.T.) does not give much of importance beyond Gunkel.
1a
These verses have no connexion whatever, either syntactically or logically, with the context of the sayings of Amos; they obviously belong to the same set and are fragments of a 'psalm' in which each stanza ended with the refrain 'Yahweh, the God of Hosts is his name'. The collectors of the book of Amos have inserted a stanza or two in such places as speak of Yahweh's appearing for judgement with the intention of underlining His majesty and power. Cf. GTMMM III, pp. 634f; H. Schmidt, D. Mythos vom wiederkehrenden König, p. 29; Thronfahrt Jahwes, p. 22.
1b
Westermann's idea ( Das Loben Gottes im A.T.) that the origin of the hymn of praise is to be found in some vague urge to praise God for the experience of His interference in history is gainsaid by the fact that this type is found in all religions, even those in which the thought of God's work and witness in history has no place. And when W. considers this urge to be the 'Sitz im Leben' of the hymn of praise, he at any rate gives to this term another meaning, quite different from the one ascribed to it by Gunkel and form-critical and cult-historical research. That the hymn of praise has its setting in the cult cannot be denied, see below, p. 136. The religio-psychological problem is a different question.

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