Shiur #39: The Difference Between Prayer And Complaint Psalm 80 (Part I)

  • Rav Elchanan Samet

SEFER TEHILLIM

 

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This shiur is dedicated in memory of Israel Koschitzky zt"l, whose yahrzeit falls on the 19th of Kislev. 
May the world-wide dissemination of Torah through the VBM be a fitting tribute
to a man whose lifetime achievements exemplified the love of Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.

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Lecture 39: Psalm 80

THe difference between prayer and complaint (part I)

 

Rav Elchanan Samet

 

              (1)     To the director of music, ­el-shoshanim. Edut.

                        A psalm of Asaf.

I

              (2)     O shepherd of Israel, listen,

                        You who tend Yosef like sheep.

                        You who sit upon the keruvim, shine forth.

              (3)     Before Efrayim, and Binyamin, and Menashe

                        stir up your might

                        and come to save us.

              (4)     O God, restore us,

                        and cause Your face to shine, and we will be saved.

II

              (5)     O Lord, God of hosts,

                        how long will You angrily reject the prayer

                        of Your people?

              (6)     You feed them bread of tears

                        and You give them to drink a cup mixed with tears.

              (7)     You have made us a strife to our neighbors,

                        and our enemies mock them.

              (8)     O God of hosts, restore us

                        and cause Your face to shine, and we will be saved.

III

              (9)     You brought a vine out of Egypt.

                        You drove out nations and planted it.

              (10)   You cleared room before it,

                        and it took deep root and filled the land.

              (11)The hills were covered with its shadow,

                        and the lofty cedars with its boughs.

              (12)It sent out its boughs to the sea,

                        and its branches to the river.

              (13)   Why have You breached its fences,

                        and all who pass by the way pluck its fruit?

              (14)   The boar from the wood ravages it

                        and the wild bird devours it.

              (15a)O God of hosts, please return.

IV

              (15b)Look down from heaven and see,

                        and be mindful of this vine.

              (16)   And the sapling that Your right hand planted,

                        and the branch that You attached strongly

                        to Yourself.

              (17)   It is burned with fire, it is cut down.

                        Let them perish at the rebuke of Your face.

              (18)   Let your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,

                        upon the man whom You have attached strongly

                        to Yourself.

              (19)   He has not turned back from You.

                        Let us live, for we call upon Your name.

              (20)   O Lord, God of hosts, restore us.

                        Cause Your face to shine, and we will be saved.

 

INTRODUCTION: THE STRUCTURE OF THE PSALM

 

            The element that determines the structure of our psalm, the likes of which we have not yet encountered in our previous studies, is the refrain. A refrain is a phrase or clause that is repeated at the end of each section of the psalm, thereby dividing it into its constituent parts in the clearest possible manner. On rare occasions, a refrain repeats itself in identical fashion every time it appears in the psalm,[1] but usually it undergoes changes along the way, and this is the case in our psalm as well. Let us examine the four appearances of the refrain in our psalm:

 

4

O God, restore us,

and cause Your face to shine, and we will be saved.

8

O God of hosts, restore us,

and cause Your face to shine, and we will be saved.

15a

O God of hosts, please return.

 

20

O Lord, God of hosts, restore us.

Cause Your face to shine, and we will be saved.

 

            In the first, second, and fourth appearances of the refrain, the beginning of the refrain expands with respect to the manner in which the psalmist addresses God: O God; O God of hosts; O Lord, God of hosts. In its third appearance, the refrain is significantly shortened: its second half, "and cause Your face to shine, and we will be saved," is entirely missing, and in its first half, the term "restore us" (hashiveinu) is replaced by the term "please return" (shuv na). Owing to these changes, as well as the fact that the second half of verse 15 is part of the body of the psalm and not its refrain, many commentators failed to identify the refrain that closes stanza III in the first half of the verse; they rather viewed it as part of the prayer that begins in this verse and continues until the end of the psalm. This led to a blurring of the structure of the psalm, a structure that will be further described below. Of course, one who claims that the first half of verse 15 is a refrain that closes what was stated prior to it must account for the various changes found in it.

 

            The refrain divides our psalm into four sections, which we will refer to as "stanzas."[2]

Stanza 1: verses 2-4

Stanza 2: verses 5-8

Stanza 3: verses 9-15a

Stanza 4: verses 15b-20

 

            It is evident that the stanzas are not equal in length. The first two stanzas are much shorter than the last two. Nevertheless, the first two stanzas are almost exactly the same length; there are 24 words in stanza 1 and 26 words in stanza 2. Similarly, the last two stanzas are equal in length; there are 42 words in stanza 3 and 43 words in stanza 4.

 

            These findings allude to what is discernible already upon an initial examination of the contents of the psalm - our psalm is divided into two main parts of unequal size. The shorter, first part is comprised of stanzas 1-2. What stands in the background seems to be a military conflict between the tribes of Israel and their Gentile neighbors. The longer, second part revolves entirely around Israel's being likened to a grapevine. The analogy of the grapevine continues from stanza 3 to stanza 4, and at the end of stanza 4, explicit mention is made of what is being likened to the grapevine, even though its identity was clear to the reader from the very beginning of the analogy's use in verse 9.

 

            As usual, we ask: How does the schematic structure presented here give expression to the psalm's idea, and what is that idea? What is the relationship between the two halves of the psalm, the differences between which are so blatant? And what is the relationship between each of the two stanzas in each part of the psalm?

 

            It may further be asked: How are we to classify this psalm? Is it a psalm of supplication, composed in a time of trouble and petitioning God to save His people, as would appear from the refrain and other parts of the psalm? Or is this psalm, perhaps, a psalm of complaint about God's treatment of His people, as would appear from the questions that are characteristic of complaint in the book of Tehillim - "how long" (v. 5) and "why" (v. 13)?

 

            In order to answer these questions in a manner that will allow us to understand the psalm's full intention and the way it realizes this intention by way of the organization of its four stanzas, we will first explain each stanza by itself.

 

I. STANZA I - FOLLOWING Y.M. GRINTZ'S ARTICLE ON OUR PSALM

 

Paraphrasing stanza 1 in a most general way, we can say that in this stanza the psalmist turns to God with a request that He reveal ("shine forth") Himself in His might and save His people. It would seem that the psalmist turns to God before a war, and that the participants in the war are the tree tribes mentioned by name, "Efrayim, and Binyamin, and Menashe."

 

Is it possible to determine the historical time of our psalm and during which period it was composed? If we can determine this, we might also be able to determine the event that took place during that period upon which our psalm is based.

 

In general, questions of this sort are not that important. There is no reason to limit the psalm and hang it on a particular event when the psalm is written in general terms, thus allowing it to be recited in situations similar to the event with respect to which it had been composed.

 

On the other hand, some psalms contain signs regarding the general period and the specific event during which they were composed, and identifying these two things can help us understand various details in the psalm, as well as the psalm's overall intent.

 

The first stanza in our psalm seems to set before the reader several historical allusions of this sort, and their decipherment will be of great exegetical significance.

 

The most striking hint is, of course, the mention of the three tribes, descendants of Rachel - Efrayim, Binyamin and Menashe – as having fought together in the same war. When was such an alliance possible?

 

A second hint that should be noted is the way that the psalmist addresses God at the beginning of the psalm with three different titles:

 

O shepherd of Israel

You who tend Yosef like sheep

You who sit upon the keruvim

 

            The first two titles parallel each other: shepherd/You who tend sheep; Israel/Yosef. When, then, were Israel called by the name of Yosef?

           

            The third title, "You who sit upon the keruvim," also draws our attention. When and under what circumstances was God called by this title in Scripture?

 

            According to the prevalent view among biblical scholars, our psalm is connected to a military event involving the northern kingdom of Israel shortly before its destruction. Thus, for example, writes Prof. Gershon Brin:[3]

 

If the northern character of chapter 80 is confirmed, then it must clearly precede the exile of the northern kingdom at the hand of Ashur in the year 720 BCE, for there in no atmosphere of exile in the chapter. On the contrary, the psalmist expresses the hope that God will once again lead the warriors to battle on behalf of His nation. A framework, therefore, exists that accords with an independent kingdom sitting on its soil. The psalmist expresses the difficult situation of his people during a critical hour of the northern kingdom, perhaps close to the final years of its existence, before the exile of its inhabitants at the hand of Ashur…[4] That is to say, we have before us a work that describes the years of the kingdom of Hoshea the son of Ela, or one of the kings who preceded him.[5]

 

            We prefer the view of Prof. Y.M. Grintz, who dedicated an article to psalm 80 that was posthumously included in his collection of articles, "Mechkarim Be-Mikra."[6] In his article, Grintz argues that our psalm dates to the period of the Shoftim,[7] and we find the arguments that he raises to refute the previous view and to support his own position persuasive. We will bring the gist of his arguments in our own words.

 

1.     "O SHEPHERD OF ISRAEL... YOU WHO SIT UPON THE KERUVIM"

 

At the beginning of the third section of the book of Tehillim, we find a set of eleven psalms, Tehillim 73-83, which are attributed in their headings to Asaf; our psalm is one of them.[8] A striking phenomenon in these psalms is the reference made in some of them to events that took place in various historical periods, and sometimes to events that took place in very early periods, such as the exodus from Egypt and events that took place during the period of the Shoftim.[9] This suggests that we compare the contents and style of these psalms and that we make use of the findings to interpret them.

 

For example, what does our psalm mean with its image of God as His people's shepherd and as He who tends them like sheep?[10] This analogy is found in two other psalms of Asaf:

 

77:21 – You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moshe and Aharon.

 

78:52 – And He led His people like sheep, and He guided them in the wilderness like a flock.

 

            We may conclude, then, that like in psalms 77-78, in psalm 80, the analogy of "shepherd of Israel… You who tend Yosef like sheep" alludes to the period of the exodus from Egypt, the time of Israel's wandering in the wilderness, when God guided His people like a flock of sheep.[11]

 

            Similarly, the term "Yosef" as a reference to the entire people of Israel is found in another two psalms of Asaf. In both of them, this designation is used in the context of the exodus from Egypt:

 

81:4 – Sound a shofar on the new moon, on the day of covering for our feast day.

81:5 – For this is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Yaakov.

81:6 – He ordained this in Yosef for a testimony,

when He went out over the land of Egypt.

 

            In verses 5-6, there are three parallel clauses: "statute – ordinance – testimony" which God gave to "Israel – Yaakov – Yosef" when He (God!) went out over the land of Egypt.[12]

 

77:16 – You have redeemed Your people with Your arm,

the sons of Yaakov and Yosef. Selah.[13]

 

            From this Grintz concludes:

 

We have here, then, three psalms that are attributed to Asaf, all of which deal with the early period of the nation, and all of which call the nation “Yosef.” Clearly this could not have been said at a time that a king from Yehuda (in the days of David and Shlomo) ruled over all of Israel, and all the more so in Yehuda after the split of the monarchy, and not even in the northern kingdom.

This kingdom is indeed officially called the kingdom of Israel, and during the period of the "later prophets" we find that the term "Yosef" is occasionally used to designate this kingdom… [here verses are cited to illustrate this point]. There is, however, a difference between these verses [cited in the section that we skipped] and the psalms that we brought: In these verses [the words of the later prophets] the term "Yosef" does not appear in a story from the beginning of history embracing in parallel to "Israel" the entire people. Rather, "Yosef" is used in contrast to "Yehuda," and it designates the northern kingdom… Whereas in the aforementioned psalms, and especially in our psalm, the term embraces the entire nation.[14]

[In our psalm,] we are dealing with a time and period during which the tribes still go out to war ("before Efrayim, and Binyamin, and Menashe…"), there being no king over them, and Binyamin is still appended to Yosef and counted, as in the song of Devora, immediately after Efrayim and before Menashe (Shoftim 5:14): "From Efrayim came they, but rooted in Amalek; beyond you, Binyamin with your tribes; from Makhir came down leaders…."

What this means is that our psalm was composed prior to the monarchy, and in the broad sense, in the period of the Shoftim.

 

2.     "YOU WHO SIT UPON THE KERUVIM, SHINE FORTH"

 

Grintz brings another proof in support of his dating of our psalm to the period of the Shoftim from the wording of verse 3: "You who sit upon the keruvim, shine forth." The designation "You who sit upon the keruvim" appears in four other contexts in Scripture:

 

1) I Shmuel 4:4 at the battle of Even ha-Ezer:

 

So the people sent to Shilo that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts who sits upon the keruvim.

 

2) II Shmuel 6:2 (and in the parallel passage in I Divrei Ha-yamim 13:6) in the account of the ark's transfer to Jerusalem:

 

And David arose and went with all the people that were with him from Ba'alei-Yehuda to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who dwells upon the keruvim.

 

3) II Melakhim 19:15 (and in the parallel verse in Yeshayahu 37:16) in Chizkiyahu's prayer in the house of God:

 

And Chizkiyahu prayed before the Lord and said, “O Lord God of Israel who sits upon the keruvim

 

4) Tehillim 99:1:

 

The Lord is king, let the peoples tremble.

He sits upon the keruvim, let the earth move.

 

            There is a difference between the keruvim that were on the cover of the ark before the Temple was built and the keruvim in Shlomo's Temple, which stood on the floor of the devir and covered the ark with their wings.[15] The keruvim on the cover of the ark were moved together with the ark whenever it was removed from its place (during the period of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness and in certain cases before the days of David), whereas the keruvim in the Temple were fixed in their place and could not be removed. Therefore, before the building of the Temple, the Divine designation, "Who sits upon the keruvim," could be used to refer to God when He "went out" before His people – when the ark was taken out. After the Temple was built, this designation refers perforce to God who rests His glory in the Temple between the wings of the keruvim, which are attached to the floor of the devir.

 

            To which keruvim do the aforementioned verses refer?

 

            The first two verses, which describe events that took place before the Temple was built, obviously refer to the keruvim on the cover of the ark, and the context of these verses is the removal of the ark from its place. During the war against the Pelishtim it was removed from its place in Shilo to the battleground at Even-ha-Ezer, and when it was brought up to Jerusalem by David, it was removed from its place of safekeeping in Kiryat-Ye'arim.

 

            The third verse, containing the words of Chizkiyahu, king of Yehuda, refers to the fixed keruvim in the Temple. Chizkiyahu offers his prayer in the house of God (II Melakhim 19:14), and what he means by way of his actions and prayer is that God who dwells in this place should prevent the desecration of His name by saving His people, His city, and His Temple from falling into the hands of Sancheriv.

 

            The fourth verse in Tehillim 99:1 seems also to relate to the keruvim in the Temple, for in verse 2 it says: "The Lord is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples." If so, we are dealing in this psalm with God's kingship over the peoples, which will be evident to them from Jerusalem and the Temple.

 

            We must now ask: To which keruvim does verse 2 in our psalm relate? Grintz answers as follows:

 

The term "hofi'a," "shine forth," generally denotes the appearance of God for action and judgment.[16] When, however, it comes in the way it comes here, together with the expression, "You who sit upon the keruvim," and in the continuation (verse 3) we are dealing with God's coming to save the people who had called out to Him, it is perforce connected to a Divine revelation over the ark that goes out to war…

Our psalm, which deals with the nation and the tribes going out to war and calls upon "He who sits upon the keruvim" can only be compared to the story or the period of I Shmuel 4:4 (the battle of Even-ha-Ezer), when the keruvim were still attached to the cover of the ark and the ark was still taken out to war… For this reason as well our psalm must be dated to the period of the Shoftim.[17]

Following the destruction of Shilo, the ark no longer stood in Efrayim (but rather in Kiryat-Ye'arim in Yehuda and afterwards in Jerusalem). From the time of Yerov'am the son of Nevat… there was no ark with keruvim in all of the kingdom of Efrayim, and it would have been impossible to turn to God as "He who dwells in the keruvim"… And finally, from the time of David and Shlomo, Binyamin was connected to Yehuda, and not to Efrayim.[18]

 

3.            "BEFORE EFRAYIM, AND BINYAMIN, AND MENASHE, STIR UP YOUR MIGHT"

 

Now Grintz explains the order of the tribes mentioned in verse 3: "Efrayim, and Binymain, and Menashe":

 

The tribes going out to war are all descendants of Rachel, but the order in which they appear in our psalm is not the order in which they were born (for Binyamin was born before Efrayim and Menashe, and if Efrayim and Menashe stand in place of Yosef, they should have been listed first), and not their geographical order in Eretz Yisrael, (for Binyamin was located south of Efrayim and should have been first).

The order in our psalm is the same as the order in the song of Devora; there, the tribes are mentioned in geographical order from south to north, with the exception of Efrayim, who was removed from the rest and put first. The order in both places is in accordance with seniority, and during the period of the Shoftim seniority was enjoyed by Yosef and, of Yosef's two sons, by Efrayim.

This seniority is ancient… During the generation of the wilderness, Reuven was still put first (Bamidbar 1:26), but in practice, already then Reuven did not enjoy seniority… It is more difficult to mark the point at which Efrayim overcame the firstborn Menashe. Yaakov's blessing of Yosef's sons (Bereishit 48) is still a blessing for the future, but this also made its appearance at a very early period in the blessing of Moshe: "And they are the ten thousands of Efrayim, and they are the thousands of Menashe" (Devarim 33:17) and in the appointment of Yehoshua from the tribe of Efrayim as Moshe's successor… Already during the period of the wilderness, the standard of the children of Rachel was called "the standard of the camp of Efrayim" (Bamidbar 2:18-24).

Further testimony [to the seniority of Efrayim] is of course the establishment of the Mishkan in the city of Shilo in the tribal territory of Efrayim (Yehoshua 11) – a city that had no ancient heritage (as opposed to Bet-El).

 

4.            IDENTIFICATION OF THE EVENT UPON WHICH OUR PSALM IS BASED

 

Now Grintz attempts to further narrow the time of our psalm and to match it to a particular event in that period:

 

We have said that the psalm is perforce from the period of the Shoftim; from the days when there was still no king in Israel and tribes went out to battle on their own; when Binyamin was still appended to Yosef; and when the ark was still taken out to battle. It seems, however, to be possible to pinpoint the time of the battle more precisely….[19]

It is difficult to assume that it took place in the heart of the period of the Shoftim, that is, in the period discussed in the book of Shoftim. None of the stories in the book of Shoftim mention that the ark was taken out to battle. There is also no allusion to any situation matching the event related here (the three tribes, descendants of Rachel, going out to war).

It seems, therefore, that there is only one situation that accords well with what is related or alluded to in our psalm: Israel's last battle in the days of Eli against the Pelishtim. It has already been noted that taking the ark out during this battle involved a great novelty. The Pelishtim said: "Woe to us for there has not been such a thing before now" (I Shmuel 4:7); Israel's earlier defeat was also unusual. They said (v. 3): "Why has the Lord smitten us today before the Pelishtim?" This war was fought from the tribal territory of Efrayim, and it was in Efrayim, in Shilo, that the ark stood. But it was also a "man of Binyamin" who arrived to inform Eli about the bitter end of the battle (I Shmuel 4:12). It is easy to assume that at this time of great danger to two tribes of Rachel, Menashe also participated in the battle.

Attention should be paid to the fact that the Divine name bestowed upon the ark in Shilo, "The Lord of hosts who sits upon the keruvim" (I Shmuel 4:4; II Shmuel 6:2), is the very name appearing in our psalm: in verses 5, 8, 15, 20, and 21: "[Lord], God of hosts"; and in verse 2: "He who sits upon the keruvim."

 

5.            TWO COMMENTS ON THE WORDS OF THE GRINTZ

 

Grintz's arguments are generally convincing, but they give rise to two problems that must be addressed:

 

1)            In the account of the grapevine that was brought out of Egypt, it says:

 

It sent out its boughs to the sea,

and its branches to the river. (v. 12)

 

            The "sea" is the sea situated to the west of Eretz Yisrael, and the "river" is the Euphrates River that is designated in several places in Scripture as the northeastern border of the Promised Land. Does this description of the spread of the grapevine accord with the period of the Shoftim?

 

            Grintz answers this question (on p. 120):

 

This wording is liable to be regarded as a poetic exaggeration before David's time. But the poet himself speaks only about "boughs" and "branches," that is to say about isolated soft branches. And in this sense, even if there is no proof [that there was any Israelite settlement in these areas], there is a hint to it in the spreading out of the tribes of Asher[20] and Zevulun;[21] in Otniel ben Kenaz's wars against Kushan Rish'atayim, king of Aram Naharayim (Shoftim 3:8-10); and the like.

 

2) A central element in Grintz's argument is God's designation as "He who sits on the keruvim" in verse 2. According to him, this designation is appropriate for a battle in the course of which the ark is taken out, and this was the case in the battle of Even-ha-Ezer at the end of the period of the Shoftim. Our psalm describes the results of this war as a serious national disaster, and indeed this is true about the battle at Even-ha-Ezer: in the course of this battle, Shilo was destroyed together with the Mishkan that stood in its midst, there were a great number of Israelite casualties, and in its wake began the subjugation of all the tribes of Israel to the Pelishtim.

 

            This battle is described in I Shmuel chap. 4 and in Tehilim 78:60-64. One of the most serious consequences of this war, as it is described in these two places, was the fall of the ark of God into Pelishti captivity.[22] But there is no hint to this whatsoever in our psalm!

 

            In order to answer this question, we must distinguish between two types of psalms of complaint that are found in the book of Tehillim. The first type includes complaints that God, through the acts that He performed against His people and His Temple, brought about a profanation of His name in the world. It is not only Israel's human interests that are hurt by God's actions, but primarily the interests of God Himself. Such is the complaint voiced in psalm 74, which describes the destruction that God's enemies brought to His Temple: "How long, O God, will the adversary insult, will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever" (v. 10). That psalm of complaint concludes with the prayer: "Arise, O God, plead Your case. Remember how the base ones have insulted You all the day" (v. 22). Similarly, psalm 79, whose topic is similar to that of psalm 74: "Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’" (v. 10). This psalm also concludes with the prayer: "And repay our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom their insult, with which they have insulted You, O Lord" (v. 12).

 

            The second type of psalm of complaint focuses on the unjustified offense committed against the people of Israel. In psalms of this type, the complainant does not raise the issue of the profanation of God's name resulting from His actions against Israel (even though this indeed exists), but only complains about the severe suffering of Israel. The complaining people, hurt by God's relationship with them and suffering from their calamity, are wholly focused on their own incomprehensible and unjustified pain. In this situation, it would be inappropriate to raise the issue of the profanation of God's name, for the complainant is not considering what happened to him from a broad, universal perspective, but from, and only from, his own suffering and distress.

 

            Such is psalm 44, with which we dealt in one of our previous studies, and such is also psalm 89, which complains about the breaching of the covenant between God and David through the calamity that befell one of the Davidic kings.[23]

 

            To which class of complaints does the complaint raised in our psalm belong? There is no doubt about the matter: the complaint sounded in psalm 80 is wholly focused on the bitter fate of the people of Israel, on the calamity that God brought upon them by way of the nations. Our psalm contains not a hint of the argument of the profanation of God's name.

 

            Owing to the nature of the complaint in our psalm, there is no room for a discussion regarding the ark of the Lord that had fallen into Pelishti captivity. With all of its severity, this event damages God's name among the nations, but does not relate to Israel's calamity and suffering. Therefore, the only allusion that connects our psalm to the presence of the ark at that event in reference to which the psalm was composed is found in the prayer sounded prior to the war: "You who sit upon the keruvim, shine forth!"

 

(To be continued.)

(Translated by David Strauss)



[1] So, for example, in psalm 107, where the refrain, "Let them praise the Lord for His steadfast love, and for His wonderful works to the children of men." (In that case, there is an addition to the refrain that changes from stanza to stanza.)

[2] This despite the fact that there is a certain inconsistency in the way we use the term "stanza" in our studies of the psalms of Tehillim. In the short psalms, we adopted the definition of "stanza" proposed by A.L. Strauss, who applies that term to "any rhythmic unit that is comprised of more than one line – usually a pair of parallel lines, but sometimes three of four lines, which constitute a defined rhythmic picture" (see our study of psalm 121, end of section II). We have, however, already noted in several of our earlier studies that in the longer psalms, such as our psalm, dividing the psalm into "stanzas" in this sense offers little benefit in our analysis of the structure of the psalm. These psalms are divided into larger units, each of which is comprised of several "stanzas." In order to avoid confusion, in our earlier studies we called these larger units "sections," but in our psalm, where the refrain divides up the psalm in an objective manner, we shall call each such unit a "stanza."

[3] Olam Ha-Tanakh, Tehillim, vol. II, p. 48.

[4] The fact that he dates our psalm as late as possible stems from his desire to match the psalm to the heading found in the Septuagint, "al ha-Ashuri," which he brings at the beginning of his discussion. Other scholars had already put forward this conjecture before him; see the source cited below in note 6, p. 115.

[5] Tz. P. Chajes dates the psalm to an even later period, the days of Yoshiyahu and his defeat at the hands of Par'o Nekho in Meggido. However, the "non-Yehuda" character of our psalm contradicts his hypothesis. It should be noted that the terms "king" or "kingdom" appear nowhere in our psalm, and it was only the preconceptions of these commentators that brought them to interpret "the man of Your right hand" and "the man" as alluding to the king of Israel. We will see below an entirely different suggestion as to the period of our psalm, and we will interpret verse 18 in accordance with this suggestion when we reach stanza 4.

[6] Jerusalem 5739, pp. 109-124. Yehoshua Meir Grintz (1911-1976) served as a professor of Bible at Tel Aviv University beginning in 1958. His scientific realms of interest were varied, including not only Bible, but also the history of the Second Temple period and ancient Egyptian literature. Grintz was an original scholar who did not conform to the views of his colleagues. His primary efforts were directed at shattering the assumptions of biblical criticism, especially those of Wellhausen and his followers.

[7] As Grintz himself writes in notes 3-4 in his article, this conjecture had been proposed by two scholars before him. The first was Joel Brill in his explanation of verse 3 in his commentary to the book of Tehillim, "Zemirot Yisra'el." (Brill actually dates our psalm to the period of Ish-Boshet. A similar proposal was raised by Moshe Yitzchak Ashkenazi in his explanation of our psalm in "Ho'il Moshe:" "It seems to me that the time of the composition of the psalm is following the war with the Pelishtim in the mountains of Gilboa on the northern border of Menashe"). The second to date our psalm to the period of the Shoftim was Meir Ish Shalom. In the introduction to his commentary to the book of Shoftim, "Meir Ayin" (Vienna, 5651, p. 1), he proposes this in concise fashion; in Bikkurim 2 (Vienna 5625), he expands upon this in greater detail.  

[8] Besides these 11 psalms, there is only one other psalm in the book of Tehillim, psalm 50, that is related to Asaf.

[9] Tehillim 77:12-21 – the exodus from Egypt; 78 in its entirety – from the exodus from Egypt until the days of David; 80:9-12 – the exodus from Egypt and the settlement in Eretz Yisrael; 81:5-11 – the exodus from Egypt and the revelation at Mount Sinai; 83:10-12 – the period of the Shoftim – the war of Devora and the war of Gidon; 74 and 79 apparently relate to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Tehillim 50:7-8 also alludes to the revelation of God at Mount Sinai

[10] The source of the analogy is in Yaakov's blessing to Efrayim and Menashe (Bereishit 48:15-16): "God who has been my shepherd… bless the lads." It is found a second time in Yaakov's blessing to Yosef (Bereishit 49:24): "From thence from the shepherd, the Stone of Israel." The Ibn Ezra cites the latter verse and writes: "Because Yaakov mentioned in his blessings 'from thence from the shepherd, the Stone of Israel' regarding Yosef, therefore 'You who tend Yosef like sheep.'"

[11] As stated at the end of the previous note, the analogy of God to a shepherd is connected in the book of Bereishit to Yosef, and in our psalm, to the entirety of the people of Israel who are called "Yosef."

[12] Grintz noted that "when He went out over the land of Egypt" relates to Shemot 11:4: "About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt." What was the "statute – ordinance – testimony" that was given to Israel at the time of the exodus? According to Grintz, this is the holiday of Pesach alluded to by v. 4. In my opinion, however, the reference is to the Torah given at Mount Sinai, as is explained in the continuation of the psalm in verses 9-11, where it repeats the beginning of the Ten Commandments.

Chazal's derasha (Rosh ha-Shana 10a) that "Yehosef" in v. 6 refers to Yosef the person, and "when he went out over the land of Egypt" refers to the day that he was appointed viceroy, is not the plain sense of the verse, as is evident from the correspondence between the clauses in verses 5-6.

[13] The entire passage, from verse 12 until the end of the psalm, deals with the miracles relating to the exodus from Egypt, and especially the splitting of the sea. The psalm concludes with v. 21, which in its style parallels v. 16, "You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moshe and Aharon."

[14] As stated in note 7, Joel Brill proposed this distinction before Grintz. In his commentary to Tehillim, he writes as follows: "Before a king ruled in Israel, the people [of Israel] were called by the name of Yosef and of his important son Efrayim for the reasons mentioned above.” (On Tehillim 78:9, on the verse: “The children of Efrayim… turned back in the day of battle,” he writes: “The name Efrayim refers to all of Israel prior to reign of the house of David, because the first Shofet, Yehoshua bin Nun, was from that tribe, and also because the Mishkan was in its tribal territory in Shilo.”) But in the days of David and Shlomo, they are called by the name of Yehuda, because they were from that tribe. After the split between Yerav'am and Rechav'am, the name Efrayim was used for all ten tribes, and the name Yehuda was used for the two tribes, Yehuda and Binyamin."

[15] A description of them is found in I Melakhim 6:23-28 and 8:6-7.

[16] Here Grintz cites the following references: Tehilim 50:2; 94:1; Iyov 10:3. In Devarim 33:2, the term "hofi'a" parallels the term "zarach" in relation to the revelation of God.

[17] The going out of the ark in the days of David in II Shmuel 6 was not connected to war, and even though in II Shmuel 11:11 mention is made of the ark that went out to war in the days of David, this was not a war involving the tribes descending from Rachel (Grintz).

[18] This last passage is taken from note 7 on page 115 in Grintz's article. The last section is meant to negate a view similar to that cited above in the name of Prof. Gershon Brin.

[19] Here Grintz rejects the view proposed by various scholars over the generations that our psalm is dealing with Shaul or Ish-Boshet (see note 7 above):

Shaul did not go to war heading three tribes specifically from the descendants of Rachel. Moreover, it should not be assumed that in the days of Shaul the ark was taken out to battle, for the ark stood during that entire period in Kiryat-Ye'arim until David brought it to Mount Zion. And it certainly does not accord with the battles of Ish-Boshet, who lived on the other side of the Jordan.

[20] Devarim 33:24; Yehoshua 19:24-31; Shoftim 1:31-32.

[21] Devarim 33:19.

[22] I Shmuel 4:11; Tehillim 78:61.

[23] The reference seems to be to the death of Yoshiyahu in the battle against Par'o Nekho in Meggido. There is a characteristic difference between the prayer that concludes this psalm (vv. 51-52): "Remember, Lord, the disgrace of Your servants… wherewith Your enemies have insulted, O Lord; wherewith they have insulted the footsteps of Your anointed," and the prayer that concludes psalms 74 and 79, which mentions the disgrace of God Himself that His enemies have caused.