Psalm 97 – “Hymnic Sermon”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist proclaims God’s supremacy and calls upon the righteous to celebrate and worship their Lord.

II. Photo
Praise for the righteous: “Light is sown for the righteous, radiance for the upright!” (v. 11)

III. Select Verses    
1: The LORD is king! Let the earth exult, the many islands rejoice!
2-5: Dense clouds are around Him, righteousness and justice are the base of His throne.  Fire is His vanguard, burning His foes on every side.  His lightnings light up the world; the earth is convulsed at the sight; mountains melt like wax at the LORD’s presence, at the presence of the Lord of all the earth.
7: All who worship images, who vaunt their idols, are dismayed; all divine beings bow down to Him.
10-12: O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He guards the lives of His loyal ones, saving them from the hand of the wicked.  Light is sown for the righteous, radiance for the upright. O you righteous, rejoice in the LORD and acclaim His holy name!

IV. Outline
1a. Kingship Proclamation
1b. Anticipated jubilation
2-6. Theophany description
7. Dominion over other gods
8a. Zion’s anticipated joy
8b-9. Rationale: God is the greatest god
10-11. Beatitude/sermon about the righteous
12. Call upon the righteous to praise

V. Comment
Psalm 97 proclaims God’s dominion over nature and the other gods. There is a strong emphasis on the human reward of happiness for living a righteous life. Indeed the Hebrew root smḥ “happiness” appears in vv. 1, 8, 11, 12. There is also a mention of enemies, and those who worship other gods will be “dried out.”

The psalm begins with the words “Yhwh is/was king.” Psalms 93 and 96-99 have very similar phrases, leading scholars to label these psalms “Yhwh Kingship Psalms.” The following verses from other books employ similar phraseology to proclaim a new king:

  • 2Sam. 15:10   But Absalom sent agents to all the tribes of Israel to say, “When you hear the blast of the horn, announce that Absalom has become king in Hebron.”
  • 1Kings 1:18 Yet now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, know nothing about it.
  • 1Kings 1:34 Let the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan anoint him there king over Israel, whereupon you shall sound the horn and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’
  • 1Kings 1:49 Thereupon, all of Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and each went his own way.
  • 2Kings 9:13 Quickly each man took his cloak and placed it under him, on the top step. They sounded the horn and proclaimed, “Jehu is king!”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Gerstenberger, Erhard. Psalms Part 2 and Lamentations (Forms of Old Testament Literature; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001).
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