Psalm 66 – “Communal/Individual Thanksgiving”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The people praise God and give him thanks.

II. Photo
The psalmist recalls God’s kindness: “He turned the sea into dry land; They crossed the river on foot; We therefore rejoice in him!” (v. 6)

III. Select Verses
1-4: Raise a shout for God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name, make glorious His praise. Say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds, Your enemies cower before Your great strength; all the earth bows to You, and sings hymns to You; all sing hymns to Your name.” Selah.
6: He turned the sea into dry land; they crossed the river on foot; we therefore rejoice in Him.
10-12: You have tried us, O God, refining us, as one refines silver. You have caught us in a net, caught us in trammels. You have let men ride over us; we have endured fire and water, and You have brought us through to prosperity.
13-15: I enter Your house with burnt offerings, I pay my vows to You, vows that my lips pronounced, that my mouth uttered in my distress. I offer up fatlings to You, with the odor of burning rams; I sacrifice bulls and he-goats. Selah.
18-19: Had I an evil thought in my mind, the LORD would not have listened. But God did listen; He paid heed to my prayer.

IV. Outline

1a. Superscription
1b-4. Call to worship
5-7. Communal Hymn
    5. Introduction to hymn
    6-7. Hymnic praise
8-12. Communal thanksgiving
    8-9. Exhortation for foreigners to praise God
    10-12. Account of trouble and salvation (communal)
13-19. Thanksgiving of an individual
    13-15. Account of vow and sacrifice (personal)
    16-19. Account of trouble and salvation (personal)
20. Blessing of God

V. Comment
Psalm 66 contains many of the elements of the communal thanksgiving genre, i.e., a call to worship, accounts of trouble and salvation, a description of sacrifice, and a blessing. In terms of structure, the word סלה appears in verses 4, 7, and 15. Also, while the psalm begins with a plural voice, verses 13-19 have the voice of an individual. This contrast has led some scholars to suggest that the psalm was originally two individual units.

Verses 1-2 contain a call to worship with the Hebrew root רוע “to shout”: “Raise a shout for God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name, make glorious His praise!” This phraseology appears at the beginning of other psalms as well:

  • All you peoples, clap your hands, raise a joyous shout for God. (47:2)
  • Sing joyously to God, our strength; raise a shout for the God of Jacob.  (81:2)
  • Come, let us sing joyously to the LORD, raise a shout for our rock and deliverer; let us come into His presence with praise; let us raise a shout for Him in song! (95:1-2)

Verse 6 appears to link our psalm to the Pentateuch: “He turned the sea into dry land; they crossed the river on foot; we therefore rejoice in Him.” While it isn’t clear if this verse is referencing Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan (Josh 3-4) or Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 14-15), it is interesting to note that the words ים “sea,” יבשה “dry land,” and עבר “to cross” appear in Ex 14:16,22,29;15:16,19. Yet, it is also important to note that some scholars suggest that the Joshua and Moses stories were derived from our verse, not the other way around.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Photo taken from http://www.zamaanonline.com/images/drought.jpg

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