Psalm 29

Notes (NET Translation)

A psalm of David.

The LXX adds an additional comment in the superscription associating the psalm with the Feast of Tabernacles. In rabbinic tradition, it belonged to the Feast of Weeks instead.1

1 Acknowledge the LORD, you heavenly beings, acknowledge the LORD’s majesty and power!

The Hebrew translated “heavenly beings” literally means “sons of gods”.

The use of the word corresponds to that in other Middle Eastern languages. There it can connote “not only major deities but also a wide variety of other phenomena: monstrous cosmic enemies; demons; some living kings; dead kings or the dead more generally; deities’ images and standards as well as standing stones; and other cultic items and places” — in fact, anything that is not regular humanity. We therefore need to distinguish between English use of the word “god” and Middle Eastern use of terms such as these. The OT does not tell us how these divine beings came into existence and in what sense they are “children of gods/children of God,” though Ps. 82:7 does assert that despite this status they can “die like human beings.” Hence, as well as being subordinate to Yhwh, they are metaphysically different from Yhwh, who is the sole God with no possible beginning and no possible end.

Although Ps. 29 formally addresses these divine beings, its real audience may rather be Israelites inclined to worship other deities, as most Israelites were for much of OT times. In urging the divine beings to give honor to Yhwh, it is placing this exhortation before such Israelites.2

2 Acknowledge the majesty of the LORD’s reputation! Worship the LORD in holy attire!

The Hebrew translated “reputation” literally means “name”. It may be that the heavenly beings are to dress in holy attire.

3 The LORD’s shout is heard over the water; the majestic God thunders, the LORD appears over the surging water.

Baal, the Canaanite weather god, was associated with the storm and his voice (shout) was identified with thunder. The psalmist adopts this language in his description of the true God. The forces of nature commonly attributed to Baal really belong to Yahweh.

4 The LORD’s shout is powerful, the LORD’s shout is majestic.

In stories told by Israel’s contemporaries, the divine beings often had trouble asserting authority over such primordial entities [such as the sea]. The psalm urges the divine beings to recognize Yhwh’s authority because Yhwh had no such difficulty. Like an authoritative teacher entering an unruly classroom, Yhwh spoke, and the forces that were so brave and outspoken hushed.3

5 The LORD’s shout breaks the cedars, the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf and Sirion like a young ox.

Sirion is Mt. Hermon (Deut 3:9). Relative to the psalmist, Lebanon and Sirion are located to the north.

[The psalmist] has taken two symbols of power and strength — “cedars” (v 5) and the mountainous area of “Lebanon/Sirion” — and illustrated in his poetry the weakness of those great symbols of strength in relationship to the Lord’s strength (cf. עז, “strength,” v 1). The famous cedars of Lebanon are easily broken by the Lord’s voice; the immobile mountains of Lebanon skip like calves frightened at the sound of a voice. The language here is not drawn from Canaanite (Phoenician or Ugaritic) texts, but takes Canaanite symbols of stability and mocks them through a demonstration of their instability in the context of the Lord’s thundering voice.4

7 The LORD’s shout strikes with flaming fire.

This verse alludes to lightning.5

8 The LORD’s shout shakes the wilderness, the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

Relative to the psalmist, Kadesh in Sinai is located to the south. But this might be a reference to Kadesh on the Orontes to the north.

9 The LORD’s shout bends the large trees and strips the leaves from the forests. Everyone in his temple says, “Majestic!”

In this psalm the preceding images point to God’s majesty more than to his judgment. None of this activity is directed towards human sinners. The “everyone” of this verse would seem to be the heavenly beings of v 1.

10 The LORD sits enthroned over the engulfing waters, the LORD sits enthroned as the eternal king.

The only other biblical usage of the Hebrew term mabbuwl (“engulfing waters”) is in the story of Noah’s flood.

The allusion to the Genesis narrative is a part of the transformation of mythological language in Ps 29:10; the deified flood or sea of Canaanite tradition has become merely the inanimate tool of the Lord. Nevertheless, the enthronement of the Lord, expressed in the powerful imagery of v 10, conveys clearly the concept of the Lord as victorious, not only over chaotic forces in general, but over Baal, the conqueror of chaos, in particular; God’s power is greater than the greatest power known to the Canaanite foes.6

11 The LORD gives his people strength; the LORD grants his people security.

“There is quietness within the storm for those who belong to the people of God.”7

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. VanGemeren 2008, p. 292 
  2. Goldingay 2006, loc. 8321-8330 
  3. Goldingay 2006, loc. 8359-8361 
  4. Craigie 2004, p. 247 
  5. Kidner 2008, p. 143 
  6. Craigie 2004, p. 249 
  7. VanGemeren 2008, p. 296 
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