The psalm has been variously dated to either the 8th century BC, the time of the prophets Hosea and Micah, or to a time after the Babylonian captivity. The latter date is supported by the reference to "gathering" in vs. 5, but is problematic because vs. 2 describes Zion (another name for Jerusalem) as "the perfection of beauty," even though Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 BC.
The psalm can be divided into an introduction (vss. 1-6), two separate orations in which God testifies against the Jews (vvs. 7-15 and 16-21), and a conclusion. The imagery of the introduction evokes the revelation of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, where God's appearance was accompanied by thunder and lightning. God summons the heavens and the earth to act as witnesses, and the rest of the psalm takes the form of a legal proceeding, with God acting as both plaintiff and judge. The same metaphor of a divine tribunal occurs in chapter 1 of the Book of Isaiah and chapter 6 of the Book of Micah.
In God's first oration, he tells the people that he is not satisfied with material sacrifices alone, since he does not require food or drink. Rather, he desires his people to worship him with thanksgiving and sincere prayer. Verse 13, "Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?" may be an allusion to the goddess Anat, since in one fragmentary text Anat eats the flesh and drinks the blood of her brother Baal, who sometimes appears as a bull.
God's second oration is warning against hypocrisy. Though the hypocrites often recite God's commandments, they inwardly hate them and make no effort to live by them, and God will surely bring them to judgment.
The psalm closes with a final warning against iniquity and a promise that God will bless the righteous and make them "drink deeply of the salvation of God." This last is an appearance of the common Biblical theme of the "Messianic banquet," which also occurs in Psalm 23, Psalm 16, and Luke 14, among other places.
- Kirkpatrick 277
- Rhodes 84
- Kirkpatrick 276
- Dahood 306; Rhodes 84
- Rhodes 85
- Dahood 308
- Dahood 305
- Dahood 311
- The Artscroll Tehillim page 329
- Dahood, Mitchell (1966). Psalms I: 1-50. Anchor Bible Series. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company.
- Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge University Press.
- Rhodes, Arnold B. (1960). The Book of Psalms. The Layman's Bible Commentary. Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press.