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Ernst Axel Knauf Salome Alexandra and the Final Redaction of Psalms


Die Versanfänge von Psalm 2 bilden ein Akrostichon: ליני אשתו ענ[ו] ‘Für Yannai einerseits und seine Frau andererseits, ein Pharisäer’. Durch das Akrostichon, das auf eine redaktionelle Bearbeitung des Psalms zwischen 76 und 67 v.u.Z. zurückgeht, werden die negativ konnotierten Herrschergestalten des Textes Yannai, die positiven seiner Witwe und Nachfolgerin Salome Alexandra zugeordnet. Die Betrachtung der Buchredaktionen des Psalters sowie literatursoziologische Überlegungen legen es gemäß der These dieses Beitrags nahe, dass der Psalter als ‘Gebetbuch und Katechismus der Anawim/Pharisäer’ unter dieser Königin abschliessend redigiert und in den Lesekanon des Zweiten Tempels aufgenommen wurde.

That Psalm (Ps) 2 contains an acrostich referring to King Alexander Yannai and his wife, Queen Salome Alexandra/Shelamzion has been proposed in the 1960s, but soon rejected (for good reasons), and is now hard to trace bibliographically.[1] However, contemporary insights into the redactional history of the book of Psalms allow to reconsider and reformulate this proposal, which is what I propose to do in this article. Basic assumptions underlying the exegetical approach taken in this contribution are: Hebrew Scriptures were intentionally produced as ‘canonical books’ by the scribes of the Second Temple school.[2] There was no other group of persons in Persian and early Hellenistic Judea who had the skill to produce such sophisticated and religiously eductated literature, and no other institution which could have guaranteed its preservation and application to elite (Prophets and Ketuvim) and popular (Torah) teaching. As part of this ideological superstructure this literature, its composition and redaction was never completely free from the interests of the ‘ruling party’ or parties in Judea. Late biblical literature, i.e. texts and redactions from the three last centuries BCE, presuppose a basic ‘canon’ of Torah and Prophets and needs to be read in dialogue with the biblical literature that these texts presuppose, quote, or modify, each generation of scribes in a constant dialogue with the work of their predecessors. In addition, and as opposed to the liberty of copyists working on the Greek Bible with the actual wording of their vorlagen, ancient Hebrew texts demand to be appreciated by the letter.

Psalms and History

Most of us, if not nearly all, will agree with E. Zenger[3] that the Psalms grew in the sequence of the five books. When the Book I (Pss 3-41, David) was combined with Book II (Korah, David, Asaph, Solomon), Ps 2 was placed at the beginning in order to create the messianic inclusio Ps 2–Ps 72. When Book III (Pss 73-89) was added, no new introduction was necessary, as Ps 2–Ps 89 form yet another kind of ‘messianic inclusio’. Book IV (Pss 90-106, ‘Exile’), may have been added together with Book V (Pss 107-145, ‘Restoration’) with the new frame consisting of Ps 1 (Torah, Prophets and the pious Reader) and Pss 146-150 (non-messianic salvation of God’s People). What is controversial is the dating of the collections and the redactional stages they underwent. Zenger (and Zenger/Hossfeld in their magnificent commentary) date the first David collections in the 6th century, and place the final redaction in the 3rd/early 2nd centuries, in any case prior to 180 BCE because of Ben Sira 47:8-10 (for this text, see infra). A scholarly minority links the ‘production of the psalter’ to the 3rd-1st centuries BCE[4] (whithout excluding the dating of individual psalms to the preceding centuries). This position is supported by further arguments in this contribution.

The Growth of Psalms

It is by no means clear that Ben Sira 47:8-10 already referred to a collection of Psalms comprising all five of the books. 4QMMT 95 (ca. 150 BCE)[5] refers to a ‘Bible’ consisting of Torah, Prophets and the ‘David’, which probably means an early version of the psalter. But the evidence from Qumran also shows that ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Qumran’ parted ways at the redactional stage of ‘Pss 2-89’ of the Psalms.[6] After Ps 89,[7] the sequence of Psalms in 11QPsa is utter chaos, if compared to the Massoretic text, adding some of the ‘Syrian apocryphal psalms’ (Pss 151-155) and omitting others, known from Hebrew Scriptures (like Ps 110).

Ben Sira 47:8-10[8] refers as much to the David of Chronicles, as it refers to Pss 2-89:

בכל מעשׂיהו נתן הודות   In all his doings he gave praise
לאל עליון [במלי] כבוד   to God the Highest[9] with words of honor.
[דוד] בכל לבו אוהב עשׂהו   David, with all his heart he loved his Maker:
ובכל [ימיו תהלתו יגיד   all his lifetime he told His praise.[10]
נגינות שׁיר [הכין לפני המזבח]   Instruments[11] of Song he established before the altar:
וקול [מזמור למשׁוררים] תירן   the voice of song for the singers he put in order.[12]
[10ab too broken for restoration]    
בהל י[לו א]ת שׁם קדשׁו   By praising the name of His holiness:
לפני בוקר ירונן מקדשׁ   he filled the sanctuary with mighty voices before morning.[13]


The David of Chronicles, patron saint of sacred music, presupposes David, the singer of Pss 3-41 as much as David, the singer, is dependent on Chronicle’s image of David. Hens and eggs coexist all the time. When the Torah was finalized, in 398 BCE,[14] work on the shape of the Prophets began in earnest; when the Prophets were more or less concluded, around the middle of the 3rd century, we might assume that the first book of Psalms was established, made up of collections mostly from the Persian period.

Collections of Hymns and prayers, at Jerusalem and other (not necessarily exclusively Jewish[15]) places existed well before the Persian period and continued to exist well beyond it – we encounter (possibly) pre-Persian period material throughout Books I-IV.[16] But a hymnal or an anthology is not yet a canonical ‘Book of David’. A proto-canonical book begun to be used at the time of the conclusion of the canon of the Prophets, and must have claimed from the beginning to represent some kind of prophetic explication and application of the Torah and Prophets.[17]

With the conclusion of the prophetical canon,[18] which had absorbed the theological vigor and controversy developed in the course of composing the Torah, the unresolved disputes had to find a new home, and enhanced the production of the Ketuvim. A canon is always a fixed compromise, while theological dispute continues. A canon automatically produces its ‘deutero-canon’, which will in turn be canonized (if not by all) in the course of time. The Torah needs the ‘deuterocanonical’ book of Joshua as narrative supplement and conclusion, which then opens the prophetical canon which is further supplemented by the Ketuvim and finally, the midrash (Chronicles being the first of these[19]). As author of authoritative ‘inspired’ literature, David, who is never adressed directly, without the involvement of a seer or prophet, in the narrative of Samuel/Kings,[20] now becomes a ‘prophet’ in his own right (cf., e.g., Ps 12:6; 17:4). Book I (first half of the 3rd century BCE?), made up entirely of Psalms attributed to David, proved seminal insofar as Psalms remained the ‘Book of David’ even when augmented by works of his co-authors (according to Chronicles and the subscriptions of Psalms in Books II-V) Heman, Ethan, the Korahites and Asaphites, his sucessor Solomon and his precdeessor Moses.

The second and third books of Psalm contain in Ps 49 (in its final form) and Ps 73 responses to Qohelet.[21] This observation confirms the impression[22] that the ‘Book of David’ as read by Ben Sira comprised of Pss 2-89 only. It also appears that these two books (Psalms II and III) were added in rather rapid succession, because Hebrew Scriptures seem to dislike groups of two (and four): there is one book of David, three of Solomon, five of Moses, five Megillot.[23]

Pss 108-110 revisited

As I have claimed previously, for the dating of Book V (Pss 107-145), the ‘Hyrcanus composition’ Pss 108-110 is decisive, since it appears to legitimate the (nearly) royal, priestly and prophetic prerogatives of John Hyrcanus as high priest and political ruler by the re-arrangement of existing material (Pss 108-109) and concluding with Ps 110[24], created exactly for this purpose, after Hyrcanus had conquered Moab, Shechem and Idumaea.[25] This dating and reading of Ps 110 can be corroborated by a number of intertextual references.

נאם יהוה לאדני ‘Uttering of the Lord to my lord’ (v. 1) with ‘David’ speaking refers to 1 Kings 1:47, where David submits by proscynesis to his successor Solomon. Here, this action is repeated by the prophet ‘David’ of Psalms. A temporal reading of מרחם משׁחר לך טל ילדתיך (v. 3) renders ‘before womb and dusk,[26] was yours the dew of your youth’, which alludes both to Joseph (טל and לך Genesis 27:28; טל and הררים Deuteronomy 33:13-15) and to Wisdom-Torah in Proverbs 8:22-31 (v. 23: מעולם נסכתי מראשׁ מקדמי ארץ  ‘since creation I am made, from the beginning, before [the appearance of] earth’), with the intention of making Hyrcanus’s kingship appear as pre-ordained in Israel’s reception of the Torah, and the non-Zadokite high priest like Jacob’s second-last born the ruler of his older brothers (Genesis 27:29; Deuteronomy 33:16), and Israel’s lifeline in a time of need (Deuteronomy 33:13-15).

The last stichos of the composition, Ps 110:7 refers by ירים ראשׁ ‘he will/can raise the head’ to Ps 3:4 (hifil) and Ps 27:6 (kal) all from the Davidic Book I. In Ps 27:6 we meet David as the king, victorius in battle, and as the priest, offering sacrifices; most notably, the verse concludes with אשׁירה ואזמרה [ליהוה] ‘I will sing and play [to YHWH]’, which refers back to the beginning of the Hyrcanus composition, Ps 108:2 (and to Jdg 5:3)

For Ps 110:7,[27] one might equally point to a biblical referent first and to a historical interpretation later. מנחל נדרך ישׁתה ‘From the wadi on the way he will drink/shall drink/ is drinking’, with the stress on the first word (wadi), refers by its three words to two geographically defined intertexts: ‘He [Elisha] said: Thus decreed YHWH: turn this wadi (נחל) into terrace after terrace. For thus decreed YHWH: you will not see storm nor will you see rain, nevertheless this wadi (נחל) will be filled by water, so that you can drink (שׁתה), your pack animals and your lifestock’ (2 Kings 3:16-17). One can hardly fail to notice that Ps 110:7 alludes to the combined campaign against Moab in 2 Kings 3, where the thirsty troops indeed drank neither from a spring nor from a well but rather ‘from a wadi’ on their way to the enemy capital. The second intertext points to Edom and stresses the ‘neither from well nor spring’:‘May we march through your country. We will not march through fields[28] nor through vineyards. We will not drink (שׁתה) water from wells. We will follow the royal road (דרך). We will not depart from it to the right or left …’ (Numbers 20:17). By these allusions, Hyrcanus as the subject of ‘David’s’ prophecy in Ps 110 could claim to have kept the promise made by Moses, when he conqered Edom/Idumaea, and to have surpassed the united kings under the guidance of Elisha, when he returned victoriously from Moab. Where Joram and Jehoshafat failed, Hyrcanus was succesful. Incidentally, the second time this request of Numbers 20:17 is repeated (Numbers 21:22), it leads to a conquest. A third reference points to Elijah drinking from a wadi (1 Kings 17:4.6), identifying Hyrcan with the prophet (as some of his followers claimed he was) in hiding on the way to further distress and final triumph over his foes, as is also implied by the sequence of Pss 108 – 110. Ps 108 expresses the hope of victory over Edom and Moab, Ps 109 shows the king in distress caused by internal enemies, and Ps 110 concludes the composition with a victory song.

The place of Pss 108-110 immediately before the ‘Great Hallel’ Pss 111-118 might indicate that Pss 111-118 already formed the final composition of Psalms before Hyrcanus’ times. Ps 118, with its frequent change of speaker and speech perspective, might be called a ‘cantata’, if not an ‘oratorium’, and is a worthy predecessor of Handel’s treatment of the same subject.[29]

A Handbook of Pharisaic Theology

After Hyrcanus, probably even after Judas Aristobulus,[30] Psalms were augmented by Pss 1 and 119-150 (partially taken from pre-existing collections, partially composed for the present context). Of these, Pss 1, 119 and 146-150 are programmatic texts in strategic positions. Ps 1 and 119 are treatises ‘On Torah’. The topic of ‘Torah and Prophets’ is implicated in the opening psalm of the eschatological finale Ps 146: ‘Put not your trust in the great[31] …’ (v. 3) is the most concise summary of the Prophets (Jos–XII) possible, ‘Happy (àPs 1:1) is he who has the God of Jacob for his help … maker of heaven and earth, … who keeps faith forever’[32] (v. 5-6) opposes the two irrevocable gifts of God, creation and the Torah, to human misery. The topic is made explicit in Ps 147:15-20. Ps 1 already re-defines ‘Torah’ as ‘Torah and Prophets’: In Ps 1:2 ובתורתו יהגה יומם ולילה ‘and over his [copy of the] Torah he murmurs day and night’ we intertextually connect the first book of the former prophets (Joshua 1:8), whereas Ps 1:3 ‘He is like a tree planted close to streams of water’ refers to the second book of the latter prophets (Jeremiah 17:8). With this introduction and the addition of Ps 119, Books I-V* of Psalms became a manual of prayer (and theology[33]) for the hassidic and early Pharisee pious.[34] Ps 1 introduces us to the solitude of the study of the exemplaric, isolated ‘student of Scripture’. He reads to himself, which is a very individual enterprise. He appears in the singular, while his opponents are presented in the plural. The ‘insolent’ form a club, the wicked even a ‘counsel’. The terminology conjures up an atmosphere of persecution. Only v. 6 indicates at the end, that the isolated pious is not completely alone.

Introduced by Ps 1, Ps 2 now globalises the situation of the isolated and threatened pious insofar as it confronts them as the congregation around the – eschatological and/or present – ‘king on Zion’ with the wicked ‘rulers of the earth’. In the Grand Finale, the salvation and restoration of the entire world (without an eschalogical king other than God himself, Ps 146:10) is anticipated. The persecuted of Ps 1 and 2 turn victorious (Ps 149:5-9), but the isolated reader of Ps 1 (who reappears shortly in Ps 146:5-7) is now part and parcel of a choir and an orchestra that comprises the whole of creation (Ps 148-150), from the angels and the host of heaven down to the wind and the wheather, plants and beasts, including even the formerly hostile kings of Ps 2 (Ps 148:11). In the end, nothing remains other than everlasting praise beyond words (Ps 150).

The composition Pss 146-150 does not only describe the eschatological symphonic orchestra, the composition is polyphonic in itself. If I may still label the two dominant voices of Hebrew Scriptures P (the tradition of Torah from Sinai, in the Hellenistic period represented by the Sadducees) and D (the tradition of Torah from Mount Horeb, of ‘Torah and Prophets’, and from the second century BCE represented by the Pharisees),[35] than P is very much present in Ps 148, notably in the apokatastasis pantôn, the salvation of the former enemies in Ps 148:11, and in the concept of a salvation that reaches far beyond the human (and the spiritual) sphere. Ps 148:14 uses D-terminology (like ‘exalt the horn of his people’), but the theology is still P:Israel is the locus of the divine presence in the world. When all stand in the presence of the Lord, all have became Israel. D-theology is involved in the linking of Torah and divine election (Ps 147:19-20; 149:4), and the militant elimination of the former enemies which P wishes to integrate into the eschatological picture (Ps 148:11) in Ps 149:5-9. Ps 149’s militarism isD-based, but the suppression of a messiah of any description from the finale revokes memories of P. The Pharisees, if true to Torah and Prophets, could not pursue a single-minded D-program. Psalms in its final form represents Pharisee theology as much as Kohelet is Sadducean. The question is, how did Pharisee theology enter the biblical canon?

Intermission: On Canons, Bibles and Texts

As N. Lohfink noticed long ago, and as is quite en vogue nowadays, the rabbinic canon represents the collection of books which was taught in the Second Temple schools before its destruction.[36] Torah and Prophets are the work of temple scribes. From the 3rd BCE century on, works which originated outside the temple among temple-educated Jerusalemite aristocrats like Kohelet, Song of Songs, or Ben Sira are conceivable, and were (or were not) integrated into the temple library’s holdings with or without some redaction.

It does not seem to have been possible to read read the ‘pre-canonical’ versions of the Prophets outside the temple library throughout the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE, simply because they did not physically exist at any other place. It is not before the 2nd century BCE that we encounter a sudden plurality of biblical texts. In the case of the Prophets, a version other than the one kept, and finally released in the 2nd half of the 2nd century BCE, by the Temple authorities, was translated into Greek. Up to five ‘text forms’ of Scriptures have been identified among the Qumran biblical manuscripts.[37] Does this mean that all these different texts held the same claim authorically to represent ‘Hebrew Scriptures’? Not at all. That Bible translations in local languages abounded from the 15th century CE onward does not imply that the canonical text of the Latin Church, the Vulgate, disappeared or lost its status. Commentaries based on the text of the Vulgate were written by catholic biblical scholars till the last century, and we might not have seen the last of them yet. A canonical text, used at the temple school, had always existed; it was paralleled, not replaced, by other text forms with other origins in the course of the 2nd century BCE, but not before. The ‘canonical’ Torah, even if ancient Hebrew has no word for ‘canon’, was fixed both in terms of content (Genesis through Deuteronomy, not through Joshua) and letter (textform, cf. Deuteronomy 4:2; 5:22; 13:1). The Tiberian families of Massoretes simply continued and finalized a task begun by the scribes at the Second Temple.[38]

The reason for this new scriptural plurality can be seen in the disintegration of the temple and city aristocracy of Jerusalem from the beginning of the 2nd century BCE. One of the high priests, Onias III or IV, thrown out of office in Jerusalem by his opponents, fled to Egypt and founded a temple of his own at Leontopolis.[39] It is inconceivable that he did not take his personal copies of the Torah and the Prophets with him, especially as Isaiah 19:18-22 might have served as the foundation legend of his new temple. Is it, then, mere coincidence that the translation of the prophets into Greek did not begin before the 2nd century BCE, and with Isaiah?

There now remains the question of how the Pharisees, embattled under John Hyrcanus, and persecuted under Alexander Yannai, managed to have their theological handbook included in the Temple library, and thus, becoming part of the canon of Hebrew Scriptures; and how they were able to transform the original Books I-IV/V* of Psalms, a collection of prayer books for individual meditation, into the ‘sum of biblical theology’ what they are now.

Alexander Yannai, the Pharisees, and Salome Alexandra

Alexander Yannai was succeeded by his widow, Salome Alexandra. She immediately switched sides. She actually formed a government of Pharisees – or, according to the historian Josephus, let the leading Pharisees govern for her.[40] We can only speculate on whether she acted out of dislike for her deceased husband, or based on her own religious preferences, on mere populism or on a mixture of all these motifs. Regardless, her move was decisive for the final shape of Hebrew Scriptures. Her pro-Pharisee son Hyrcanus was appointed high priest (an office which she, as a woman, could not fulfill in person) and thus supreme head of learning and teaching. Now Pharisaic scribes were in a position to counter Hasmonean messiansm[41] (as evidenced by Pss 108-110) by deleting the messiah from the eschaton as they did in Pss 146-150, thus reducing his figure from ‘saviour’ to ‘forerunner of salvation’. Subsequently, they laid the foundation for the canonisation of the Ketuvim; ‘Torah and Prophets’ became ‘Torah, Prophets, and Psalms’ (cf. Luke 24:44). Psalms were added to public teaching in the Temple school and in the synagogue.[42]

The Septuagint to Psalms does not contradict the proposed dating of the final redaction, since its possible reference to Judas Aristobulus in Ps 60 und 108 only provides a terminus ante quem non;[43] Aristobulus was Salomes brother-in-law and a family member less repulsive than her late husband – perhaps because he did not rule long enough to make too many enemies. It seems that Psalms was one of the very few biblical books in the LXX translated in Jerusalem, and probably finalized together with its Hebrew counterpart:[44] in which case the divergences between the two version preserve variants envisaged by the same team of scribes, who might have been able to write Greek, but remained unaffected by the Greek concept of the ‘individual’ and his ‘unity of intention’.

Quite a number of features in Ps 119-150 might refer to the political context of the 1st century BCE.[45] The ‘psalms of ascent’, sc. the pilgrims’ ascent to Jerusalem, concluded by the Zion-Torah-composition Pss 135-137 are particularly directed at the Jewish population of Galilee, who became, together with forcefully converted pagans, subjects of Jerusalem in 104/3 BCE. This propaganda was not without success, if we can trust the tales from the NT. In the 4th-2nd centuries BCE, the mood of the Jewish settlers in Galilee was much more muted, as I read in Ps 42. In my opinion, Ps 146:3-4 ‘Do not trust in the great [people], in humans, who have no means to save [you]. His breath departs, he returns to his [piece of] dust; on this day, all his machinations have become null and void’ might be read as Yannai’s epitaph. ‘The Lord sets prisoners free’ (Ps 146:7) I read as a recent experience by some of the scribes who worked on that particular psalm, repeated in Ps 147:6 ‘YHWH gives courage to the lowly/the Pharisees (ענוים), and throws the wicked (Yannai) down to earth’. Ps 149:6-8 prolongues the vengeance which the Pharisees took on their previous persecutors under Queen Salome Alexandra into the eschaton. The Psalms became the book most freqently quoted from the Scriptures in the NT for several reasons: Christianity emerged as an off-shoot of Pharisaic Judaism; Psalms is the most messianic of all biblical books; not only mentally, but also chronologically it is the closest of them all to the first half of the 1st century CE.

Fingerprints of Queen Shelamzion in Psalms?

In two instances, the only ‘legitimate’ queen who sat on the throne of Jerusalem might have left a ‘gendered’ imprint. In Ps 148:12, the inclusion of all age groups (זקן and נער, as in Ps 37:25) is augmented by the inclusion of both social genders[46] – Queen Shelamtzion was both old and female. ‘Praise the Lord … young man and young women[47] too, old age and youth’ (הללו את יהוה ... בחורים וגם בתולות זקנים עם נערים) reverses the disaster described in Lamentations 2:21 (for זקן and נער,cבחורים and בתולות) and identifies the queen’s reign with the peace and prosperity announced in Jeremiah 31:13 (for זקנים ,נחרים and כתולה).

More conclusive is the acrostich[48] of Ps 2 – [ו]ליניאואשתוענ; instead of taking עײַן as an abbreviation (like עזר נשׁים ‘help from women’ in fulfillment of Gen 2:18), I prefer to add the last letter of the psalm to the acriostic, which renders [ו]ליני אשתו ענ ‘For Yannai[49] on one side and his wife on the other, [by] a “lowly”/Pharisee’. The disjunctive (aut), not inclusive (vel) או recalls the first occurence of the sequence /[noun] או [noun]/ in the Torah, which is Genesis 24:50 ‘bad or good’.


למה רגשׁו גוים ולאמים יהגו–ריק c[ל]

יתיצבו מלכי–ארץ ורזנים נוסדו–יחד על יהוה ועל משׁיחל c[י]

ננתקה את–מוסרותימו ונשׁליכה ממנו עבתימו c[נ]

יושב בשׁמים ישׁחק אדני ילעג–למו c[י]

אז ידבר אלימו באפו ובחרונו יבהלמו c[א]

ואני נסכתי מלכיעל–ציון הר–קדשׁי c[ו]

אספרה אל חק יהוה אמר אלי בני אתה אני היום ילדרילך c[א]

שׁאל ממני ואתנה גוים נכלתך ואחזרך אפסי–ארץ c[ש]

תרעם נשׁנט ברזל ככלי יוצר תנפצם c[ת]

ועתה מלכים השׂבילו הוסרו שׁפטי ארץ c[ו]

עבדו את–יהוה ניראה וגילו ברעדה c[ע]

[ו] נשׁקו בר פן יאנף ותאנדו דרך כי–יבער כמעט אפו ושׁרי כל–חוסי בו c[ו] … [נ]


The acrostich does not imply that Ps 2 was orginally composed for Queen Shelamzion, which is impossible on the basis of the inclusio formed byPs 2 and Ps 72 framing Books I + II. The acrostich only presupposes minor redactional activity like, perhaps, changing an orginal התיצבו v. 2[50] into יתיצבו; deleting the definite article[51] at the beginning of v. 4; adding ו ‘but’ at the beginning of v. 6, perhaps instead of a previous הנני; and finally, the odd placement of נשׁקו בר ‘kiss the ground’ (cf. Ps 72:16) at the beginning of v. 12 instead of at the end of v. 11.

The ‘dedication’ links the rebelious kings of the earth and YHWH’s laughter to Yannai (v. 1-4), the first speech of YHWH to the ‘or’ (v. 5-6). It applies the report of YHWH’s appointment of his ‘son’ to Queen Shelamzion, including the ‘note of caution’ to the kings and rulers (v.7-10), and directs the final admonition to the ‘Pharisee’ (v. 11-12). There is too much correspondence between the content of the acrostich and the content of the verses related to Yannai and Salome Alexandra respectively to assume that it is not intentional.

And in the case of the only ‘offspring’ of YHWH proclaimed by a contemporary voice, who actually exercised kingship in Jerusalem, this ‘king’ was a queen.


[1] The most recent quote which I could find is in David J.A. Clines, Psalm 2 and the MLF (Moabite Liberation Front), in: The Bible in Human Society. Essays in Honour of John Rogerson (1995), 158-185.

[2] In European biblical scholarship, there is a consensus that no biblical book was finalized before the Persian period. What is still disputed is the amount of pre-exilic written sources used by the Persian period redactors, the magnitude of their own impact and those of post-Persian period redactors on the final product.

[3] Cf. Erich Zenger et al., Einleitung in das Alte Testament (SBT 1.1; 31998), 321-323; Reinhard G. Kratz, Die Tora Davids. Psalm 1 und die doxologische Fünfteilung des Psalters: ZThK 93 (1996), 1-34.

[4] Cf. Peter W. Flint, The Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls and the Book of Psalms (StTDJ 17; Leiden 1997); Manfred Oeming, Das Buch der Psalmen. Psalm 1-41 (NSK-AT 13/1), Stuttgart 2000, 31-34; both argue for a final redaction in the 1st century BCE. Zenger, Einleitung, 363-367 now opts for ca. 150 BCE, which is hardly compatible with Herbert Donner, Der verlässliche Prophet. Betrachtungen zu I Makk 14:41ff und zu Ps 110, in: Prophetie und geschichtliche Wirklichkeit im alten Israel (FS S. Herrmann), Stuttgart 1991, 89-98 = ders., Aufsätze zum Alten Testament aus vier Jahrzehnten (BZAW 224), Berlin 1994, 213-223. For Konrad Schmid, Literaturgeschichte des Alten Testaments, Darmstadt 2008, 185-186, the history of the psalter as a biblical book starts with the Ptolemaic period (Pss 2-89).

[5] Cf. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Origin and Early History of the Qumran Sect: BA 58 (1995), 37-48.

[6] Cf. Flint, Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls; Uwe Gleßmer, Das Textwachstum von Ps 89 und ein Qumranfragment: BN 65 (1992), 55-73; aus dem 2. Jh. vC sind in Qumran nur Ps 83 und 89 belegt, cf. Heinz-Josef Fabry, Der Psalter in Qumran: E. Zenger ed., Der Psalter in Judentum und Christentum (HBS 18; 1998), 137-163, 139.

[7] Cf. Gleßmer, Textwachstum von Ps 89.

[8] Text: Wolfgang Richter, BHt-Ergänzungsband: Sirach (ATSAT 33.16; St. Ottilien 1993); the restorations are mine.

[9] In Psalms, only Ps 78:35.

[10] Only attestation of נגד תהלה in Psalms: Ps 51:17.

[11] 9 attestations between Ps 4:1 and 77:7, none in Psalms thereafter.

[12] Cf. 1 Chronicles 15:16-22; 16:4-37. 41-42; 23:5. 30; 25:1-8.

[13] Cf. Ps 46:6; 1 Chronicles 16:40-42.

[14] Assuming that the first public reading of the Torah (Nehemiah 8:1-8) fell into the year of Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem in the year Artaxerxes [III.] 7 (Ezra 7:7-8). The old controversy of Artaxerxes III. versus Artaxerxes II. seems to be settled for good.

[15] Cf. Ingo Kottsieper, Anmerkungen zu Pap. Amherst 63. I:12:11-19 – Eine aramäische Version von Ps 20: Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 100 (1988), 217-244; Gert T. M. Prinsloo, Psalm 20 and its Aramaic parallel: A reappraisal: Journal for Semitics / Tydskrif vir Semitistiek 9:1-2 (1997), 48-86; Martin Rösel, Israels Psalmen in Ägypten? Papyrus Amherst 63 und die Psalmen XX und LXXV: Vetus Testamentum 50:1 (2000), 81-99; Klaas A.D Smelik, The Origin of Psalm 20. In: Journal for the study of the Old Testament 31 (1985), 75-81; id., Een Aramese parallel voor psalm 20: Nederlands theologisch tijdschrift 37 (1983), 89-103.

[16] E.g., Ps 24; 29; Ps 48; 68; 72; 82; 85; 104; not Ps 2, because this is a reception of Pharaonic ideology in a form which it acquires not before the hieroglyphic inscriptions of the Persian kings. Ps 2:7 ‘You are My son, today I gave birth to you’ quotes the Egyptian inthronisation ritual. By ascending the throne, Pharaoh becomes the incarnation of Amun-Re. The motive of people in rebellion derives from the Assyrian royal ideology. Eckart Otto therefore assumes that these two streams of tradition were merged at the Jerusalem at the end of the 7th century, cf. Eckart Otto, Politische Theologie in den Königspsalmen zwischen Ägypten und Assyrien. Die Herrscherlegitimation in den Psalmen 2 und 18 in ihren altorientalischen Kontexten, in: id. and Erich Zenger (ed.), ‘Mein Sohn bist du’ (Ps 2:7). Studien zu den Königspsalmen (SBS 192), Stuttgart 2002, 33-65; id., Psalm 2 in neuassyrischer Zeit. Assyrische Motive in der judäischen Königsideologie, in: Klaus Kiesow and Thomas Meurer (ed.), Textarbeit. Studien zu Texten und ihrer Rezeption aus dem Alten Testament und der Umwelt Israels (FS Peter Weimar; AOAT 294), Münster 2003, 335-349. The Assyrian motive became, however, part and parcel of the hieroglyphic tradition under Persian rule (the Achaemenids rule Egypt as pharaohs), and was inherited by the Ptolemies; cf. for Pss 2–89 as an anti-Ptolemaic composition Schmid (fn. 4), and for the Egyptian Acheamenid texts, Heike Sternberg–el-Hotabi, 2000: Politische und sozio-ökonomische Strukturen im perserzeitlichen Ägypten: neue Perspektiven: ZÄS 127 (2000), 153-167; Michael Roaf et al., Cahiers de la délégation archéologique française en Iran 4 (1971-74); Muhammad A. Dandamaev, A Political History of the Achaemenid Empire, Leiden 1989, 143-146. In addition, both the orthography and the grammar of Ps 2 show various traces of ‘Late Biblical Hebrew’, excluding a pre-exilic date.

[17] Cf. Bernd Janowski, Konfliktgespräche mit Gott. Eine Anthropologie der Psalmen, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2002, 368-372; Ernst Axel Knauf, Hymnische Exegese. Der Psalter als Theologie des Alten Testaments: Fundamentale Einheit – Faszinierende Vielfalt. Jahrestagung des Vereins der Religionslehrerinnen und Religionslehrer an Gymnasien des Bistums Trier 1999 (Trier: Bischöfliches Ordinariat, 1999), [7-27]; Erich Zenger, Der Psalter als Buch. Beobachtungen zu seiner Entstehung, Komposition und Funktion: Erich Zenger ed., Der Psalter in Judentum und Christentum (HBS 18; 1998), 1-57.

[18] Odil Hannes Steck, Der Abschluss der Prophetie im Alten Testament. Ein Versuch zur Frage der Vorgeschichte des Kanons (BTS 17; 1991). Isaiah and XII are most decisive for the determination of the finalization of the redactional process, cf. Erich Bosshard-Nepustil, Rezeptionen von Jesaja 1-39 im Zwölfprophetenbuch (OBO 154; 1997). The question which books were counted as ‘Prophets’ seem to have been settled by the beginning the 3rd century. When the ‘prophets’ were elevated to canonical rank (‘Torah and Prophets’) in the second half of the 2nd century, a minor redaction covered all 13 books of the ‘Hasmonean canon’, cf. Ernst Axel Knauf, Josua (ZBK-AT 6), Zürich 2008, 22.

[19] Cf. Thomas Willi, Die Chronik als Auslegung (FRLANT 106; 1972); Georg Steins, Die Chronik als kanonisches Abschlussphänomen (BBB 93; 1995); id., Die Bücher der Chronik als Schule der Bibellektüre: Bibel und Liturgie 69 (1996), 36-40; 105-109; 166-170; 247-251.

[20] As opposed to Solomon in 1 Kings 2 and 9.

[21] Thomas Krüger, Kohelet (Prediger; BK 19 Sonderband), Neukirchen-Vluyn 2000, 50.

[22] Gained from the intertextual relations of Sirach 47:8-10 with Pss 2-89; cf. fn. 9-13.

[23] The explicit attribution of Lamentations to Jeremiah is only found in the Hellenistic Scriptures/Christian Bible, where it is supplemented by Baruch.

[24] Cf. Ernst Axel Knauf, Psalm xl und Psalm cviii: Vetus Testamentum 50 (2000), 55-65; the following observations concerning Ps 110 partially react to the rejection of this proposal by Erich Zenger, Psalmen 101-150 (HThKAT), Freiburg 2008, 167; 202-204; for Miriam von Nordheim, Geboren von der Morgenröte? Psalm 110 in Tradition, Redaktion und Rezeption (WMANT 117), Neukirchen-Vluyn 2008, cf. Zenger, 202-3 and my review in Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9/2009 [2 pp.]. Cf. for the historical background Lester L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, I-II (Minneapolis 1992); Aryeh Kasher, Jews, Idumaeans and Ancient Arabs (TSAJ 18; 1988).

[25] Forecast in Ps 108:8.10-11, accomplished in Ps 110:7 (see infra for the intertextual connotations of this verse). In between, Ps 109, originally a prayer of a person (falsely?) accused in court, functions as a prayer for vindication of the royal persona (ימין Ps 109:31 à Ps 110:1) vis-à-vis his critics at home.

[26] מן … מן is either coordinating ‘from x and y’ (Exodus 8:27; Jos 11:21) or the second preposition starts an apposition ‘from x, the y’ (Exodus 13:3.14; Jos 4:3).

[27] A verse, as yet lacking a convincing explanation. Cf. Klaus Seybold, Die Psalmen (HAT I/15; 1996) 439f; even Zenger, HThKAT, 212-13 does proceed beyond the rather far-fetched metaphors of Miriam von Nordheim.

[28] Late Biblical Hebrew; the classical notion of שׂדה is ‘cultivable land which is not cultivated’.

[29] Georg Friedrich Handel, Judas Maccabæus (1747).

[30] Cf. Joachim Schaper, Der Septuaginta-Psalter. Interpretation, Aktualisierung und liturgische Verwendung der biblischen Psalmen im hellenistischen Judentum: Erich Zenger ed., Der Psalter in Judentum und Christentum (HBS 18; Freiburg 1998), 165-183, 170f zu Ps 108:8/y 107:9 ioudas basileus mou.

[31] Cf. Jeremiah 7:4; 9:3; Micah 7:5 (אל תבטחו); 1 Samuel 2.8; Isaiah 13:2; 32:5-8 (נדיבים); Isaiah 51:12; Joel 1:12; Micah 5:7 and Ezekiel throughout (בן אדם); 2 Samuel 19:2; Isaiah 45:17; 46:13; Jeremiah 3:23 (תשׁואה) – nor did the ‘victories’ of Samson (Judges 15:18), Saul (1 Samuel 11:9, 13), David (1 Samuel 19:5; 2 Samuel 23:10.12) or Joash (2 Kings 13:17) last.

[32] Cf. for עשׂה שׁמים וארץ Genesis 1:26; 2:4; Exodus 20:21; 31:17; for אמת Genesis 24:27; Exodus 34:6; for שׁמר Deuteronomy 7:8 (+ שׁבועה); 7:12 (ברית +); for לעולם (of an action or attitude of God) Exodus 15:18; 31:17; Deuteronomy 32:40.

[33] Lex credendi lex orandi. I personally do not know a better summa theologiæ than one of the classical ‘books of common prayer’; cf. also Janowski, Konfliktgespräche, 372-376; Andreas Wagner, Beten und Bekennen. Über Psalmen, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2008, 3-19.

[34] Cf. Ch. Levin, Das Gebetbuch der Gerechten. Literargeschichtliche Beobachtungen am Psalter: ZThK 90 (1993), 355-381.

[35] Cf. Ernst Axel Knauf, Die Mitte des Alten Testaments: Manfred Weippert – Stefan Timm ed., Meilenstein (FS Herbert Donner; ÄAT 30) Wiesbaden 1995, 79-86; id., Audiatur et altera pars: zur Logik der Pentateuch-Redaktion: BiKi 53 (1998), 118-126.

[36] Norbert Lohfink, Kohelet (NEB), Würzburg 1980, 12f (note, however, that the idea of a biblical canon never ‘aufkam’, certainly not ‘100 years after Kohelet’ (ibid.). There was a canon since 515 BCE in the guise of the temple school’s syllabus, cf. now Philipp R. Davies, In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’ (JSOT.S 148), Sheffield 1992, 94-133; id., Scribes and Schools. The Canonization of Hebrew Scriptures (Library of Ancient Israel), Louisville 1998; Karel van der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible, Cambrige MA 2007 (Review: Frank H. Polak, RBL 04/2009). The production of scripture was an elite phenomenon guided by politics, as already pointed out by Robert B. Coote – Mary P. Coote, Power, Politics, and the Making of the Bible. An Introduction (Minneapolis 1990).

[37] Cf. Emanuel Tov, Der Text der Hebräischen Bibel, Stuttgart 1997, 95-97 (chapter 2.IC.7; I regret that I presently have no access to the Hebrew edition of 1989, or the English version of 1992).

[38] That is, Hubert Frankemölle, Schrift/Schriftverständnis: HGANT (2006), [42-48] 43 got it all wrong. Textual variants only attest to sectarian positions (seeking, e.g., scriptures that are ‘clear’ and ‘unambiguous’). The Temple or rabbinic text does not need variants: its variants are all in the text.

[39] Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, 266-7.

[40] Cf. Tal Ilan, Silencing the Queen. The Literary History of Shelanzion and Other Jewish Women (TSAJ 115), Tübingen 2006, 35-72; Kenneth Atkinson, The Salome No One Knows: long-time ruler of a prosperous and peaceful Judea mentioned in the Dead Sea scrolls: BAR 34 (2008), 60-65, 72; Marvin A. Sweeney, A reassessment of the Masoretic and Septuagint versions of the Jeroboam narratives in 1 Kings/3 Kingdoms 11-14: JSJ 38 (2007), 165-195.

[41] Cf. Martin Hengel, Judentum und Hellenismus (WUNT 10; 31988), 559f; Stephanie v. Dobbeler, Die Bücher 1/2 Makkabäer (NSK-AT 11; 1997) 46.

[42] The canonical process was not the business of ‘independent’ scholars or priests, it was in the domain of politics and was shaped by them; cf. Cf. Robert B. Coote – Mary P. Coote, Power, Politics and the Making of the Bible (Minneapolis 1990).

[43] Cf. Joachim Schaper, Der Septuaginta-Psalter. Interpretation, Aktualisierung und liturgische Verwendung der biblischen Psalmen im hellenistischen Judentum: Zenger, HTS 18, [165-183] 170f.

[44] Cf. also the case of Esther according to Tal Ilan, Integrating Women into Second Temple History (TSAJ 76), Tübingen 1999, 133-35.

[45] Also preferred by Manfred Oeming, Das Buch der Psalmen. Psalm 1-41 (NSK-AT 13/1), Stuttgart 2000, 31-34.

[46] Ouside Psalms, ‘gendered’ age groups occur 12 times; ‘ungendered’ in Deuteronomy 28:50; 1 Samuel 5:9; Lamentations 5:14; 2 Chronicles 31:15; ‘male only’ in Genesis 19:4; 44:20.

[47] The orthography is ‘Late Biblical Hebrew’; Classical Hebrew shuns the occurence of two matres lectionis in one word.

[48] Disregarded by Zenger, Psalmen 101-150, 216-218. The acrostic was ‘discovered’ by Robert Henry Pfeiffer, The Books of the Old Testament, New York 1957, 198, who saw ליני א[לכסנדרוס] ואשתו, with no solution for the last two lines. Marco Treves, Two Acrostic Psalms: VT 15 (1965), 81-85, proposed ליני א ואשתו ענו ‘sing to Jannaeus the First and his wife’, a proposal which made it easy for Barnabas Lindars, Is Psalm ii an Acrostic Poem? VT 15 (1967), 60-67 to silence it together with Pfeiffer’s earlier attempt. Lindar’s critique does not apply to the reading proposed here.

[49] The rabbinical form ינאי is not yet recorded in 1st century BCE Hebrew. On his coins, Yannai signs as αλεξανδρου βασιλεωσ, מכלא אלכסנדרוס or יהונרן המלך; cf. Siegfried Ostermann, Die Münzen der Hasmonäer (NTOA 55), Fribourg & Göttingen 2005.

[50] Unfortunately, nearly all the beginnings of verses are either missing or damaged in 3QPs (Ps 2:6-7) and 11QPsc (Ps 2:2-8). The latter has the first word of v. 3 and 7 (=MT), at the begining of v. 2 the editor restores יֹת[יצבו] – acccording to the published photograph of PAM 43.980 (DJD XXIII, pl. VI), the ת is clear; the trace preceeding it fits neither י nor ה very well.

[51] As in Ps 123:1.

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Ernst Axel Knauf,

is professor of Old Testament and Biblical Archeology at the Faculty of Theology, University of Berne – Switzerland (since 1997) and Senior Staff Field Archeologist of the Meggido Expedition (since 1999). Latest book publications: Josua, Zürcher Bibelkommentare AT 6, Zürich 2008; together with Othmar Keel, Thomas Staubli: Salomons Tempel, Fribourg Schweiz, 2004.

© Ernst Axel Knauf, 2009,, ISSN 1661-3317


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