Tempting a Hen to Play a Chick(en)

In Matt 4:5–7; Luke 4:9–12, Jesus cites Deut 6:16 in response to his temptation at the temple. The full text there runs “you shall not test Yahweh, your God, as you tested him at Massah” (Deut 6:16; לא תנסו את־יהוה אלהיכם כאשר נסיתם במסה) and refers to Israel’s grumbling about their lack of water in Exod 17:1–7. In this narrative, Exodus reports that Moses “[] called the name of the place ‘Massah’ and ‘Meribah’ on account of the dispute of the sons of Israel and of their testing Yahweh, saying, ‘Is Yahweh in our midst or not?’” (Exod 17:7; ויקרא שם המקום מסה ומריבה על־ריב בני ישראל ועל נסתם את־יהוה לאמר היש יהוה בקרבנו אם־אין; cf. Num 20:2–13). Although this interpretation is Exodus’s own, Exodus does not directly narrate the people’s posing this question (Exod 17:1–6). Instead, they demand water from Moses and inquire whether lacking it indicates that they have been brought into the wilderness to die of thirst (Exod 17:2–3). Thus, the pericope’s interpretive conclusion seems to represent the recorded speech as tantamount to having asked the question “Is Yahweh in our midst or not?” (Exod 17:7; היש יהוה בקרבנו אם־אין).

When Jesus quotes Deut 6:16 to the devil, he quotes only the first part of the text about the inappropriateness of testing God and omits the direct reference to Massah (Matt 4:7; Luke 4:12). Yet, the connection with Massah apparently helps make Deut 6:16 an apt retort to the temptation in which the devil has taken Jesus to “the pinnacle of the temple” (Matt 4:5; Luke 4:9; τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ). Once there, the devil urges Jesus to jump and trust Yahweh’s angels to catch him, in the words of Ps 91:11–12, “lest you should strike your foot on a stone” (Matt 4:6; Luke 4:11; μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου).

Yahweh “will [indeed] command his angels” (τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται), and they will indeed minister to Jesus (Matt 4:7, 11; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:10). Yet, Yahweh is himself one who does touch foot to stone: when Israel was at Massah, Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb” (Exod 17:6; הנני עמד לפניך שם על־הצור בחרב).‭1

Thus, even as Jesus enacts what should have been Israel’s proper response of trusting Yahweh, so he also enacts Yahweh’s faithful care over his people.2 In Ps 91:4, somewhat earlier than the devil’s quotation, the psalmist says Yahweh “will cover you with his pinion, and under his wings you will seek refuge” (באברתו יסך לך ותחת־כנפיו תחסה). In one respect, though much differently than the devil now suggests, Jesus is the properly trusting recipient of his Father’s care (Matt 4:6, 11; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:11). In another, Jesus is the hen that would gather her chicks to protect them—even at the cost of his own life—if they would but come under his “wings” (Matt 23:29–39; Luke 13:31–35; πτέρυγες).3

1 Perhaps also in the background of this interchange is an exegetical tradition about Massah like that represented in Tg. Ps.-J. Exod 17:6: “Behold, I will stand before you there at the place where you saw the mark of the foot on the rock at Horeb” (Kaufman, Pseudo-Jonathan; האנא קאים קדמך תמן באתרא דתיחמי רושם ריגלא על טינרא בחורב). Thus, on the targumist’s reading, “the foot” (ריגלא) had apparently come into contact with “the rock at Horeb” (טינרא בחורב) with sufficient force to leave a “mark” (רושם).

2 Cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (Schaff, NPNF1, 8:121).

3 Cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 91.5 (ibid., 8:447); Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 570–72.

Praying with Jesus

To demonstrate the superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice to those previously offered under the Torah, the writer to the Hebrews quotes a version of Ps 40:6–8 (Eng; 40:7–9 HB; 39:7–9 OG; Heb 10:5–9).1 In so doing, Hebrews fairly clearly situates its rendition of this psalm’s words as Jesus’ own (cf. Heb 10:10).2 If one were to read the entire psalm in this direction however,3 problems would seemingly arise (e.g., vv. 12–17 Eng).4

Nevertheless, in looking at the whole psalm from the perspective of Hebrews’ reading, one might well consider that Jesus “sometimes speaks in the name of our Head; sometimes also He speaks of us who are His members.”5 In this way, initially problematic elements (e.g., v. 12 Eng) would follow not with respect to him who is the head but with respect to those who are his members.6 Moreover,

Of all those things which our Lord Jesus Christ has foretold, we know part to have been already accomplished, part we hope will be accomplished hereafter. All of them, however, will be fulfilled because He is “the Truth” who speaks them, and requires of us to be as “faithful,” as He Himself speaks faithfully.7

Thus, it befits the church too to join in praying this psalm alongside her Lord.8

1. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text (The New International Greek Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 488; Richard B. Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 106–7; B. F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (3rd ed.; London: Macmillan, 1906), 311. On Hebrews’ quotation and its relationship to the OG, see GS, Ps 39:7–9; Franz Delitzsch, Psalms (Commentary on the Old Testament 5; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1866; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2006), 302; Geoffrey Grogan, Prayer, Praise, and Prophecy: A Theology of the Psalms (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2001), 273; Karen H. Jobes, “The Function of Paronomasia in Hebrews 10:5–7,” TrinJ 13, no. 2 (1992): 182, 184; see also Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 48–51.

2. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 499; Jobes, “Paronomasia in Hebrews 10:5–7,” 186; Delitzsch, Psalms, 299; Westcott, Hebrews, 311; cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (NPNF1, 8:120–21); see also Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 18.1 (NPNF1, 14:451). Unless εἰσερχόμενος (Heb 10:5; entering) is both substantival and anarthrous, the text omits an explicit an explicit subject for the verb λέγει (says; Westcott, Hebrews, 311).

3. Cf. Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 18.1 (NPNF1, 451); Hays, Conversion of the Imagination, 107.

4. Delitzsch, Psalms, 299.

5. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (NPNF1, 8:121).

6. E.g., Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.22 (NPNF1, 8:126).

7. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.1 (NPNF1, 8:119).

8. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.2, 5 (NPNF1, 8:119–21); cf. Walter Brueggemann, “Psalms and the Life of Faith: A Suggested Typology of Function,” JSOT 17 (1980): 3–32; Hays, Conversion of the Imagination, 101–18; Jerry Eugene Shepherd, “The Book of Psalms as the Book of Christ: A Christo-Canonical Approach to the Book of Psalms” (Ph.D. diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1995).

My Glory

David between Wisdom and Prophecy
David between Wisdom and Prophecy (Paris Psalter [BnF MS Grec 139], folio 7v; photo credit: Wikipedia)
Psalm 7 is an individual lament,1 and the superscript situates it as “concerning the words of Cush, the Benjaminite” (Ps 7:1 HB; על־דברי־כושׁ בן־ימיני‎).2 This situation is rather difficult to pinpoint precisely in the biblical narratives of David’s life.3 The OG reading Χουσί is reflected in Augustine’s text and leads him to relate Ps 7 to 2 Sam 15:32–37.4 Yet, this rendering seems as though it may suggest a different Vorlage than is available in the MT.5

In connection with the Ps 7’s individual perspective and taking ל roughly as “by” (Ps 7:1 HB), the psalm is ostensibly “by David.” Within Ps 7’s larger lament, vv. 3–5, 8 (Eng) particularly profess David’s innocence concerning the accusations (cf. דברים; Ps 7:1 HB) leveled against him.6 As a unit, the contribution that vv. 3–5 (Eng) makes toward this profession entails some textual difficulties.7 To demonstrate his innocence, however, one of the appeals David makes is that, if his profession should prove false, his “glory” should be set in the dust (Ps 7:5 HB; כבודי לעפר ישׁכן‎; 7:6 Eng).

Within the life of David, the setting of David’s glory “in the dust” doubtless refers to the denigration of his “personal and official dignity.”8 Even so, Yahweh’s own dignity is, to some extent, at stake in David’s experience of oppression despite his innocence.9 Yahweh is righteous, and in his righteousness, he saves the upright (Ps 7:11–12, 18 HB; 7:10–11, 17 Eng). Indeed, in delivering David, Yahweh himself becomes David’s glory (Ps 3:4 HB; 3:3 Eng),10 and failing to deliver David would lay in the dust also Yahweh’s promise to David of a perpetual kingdom (e.g., 2 Sam 7:16). Yet, in faithfulness to his servant, Yahweh is he who lifts David’s head (Ps 3:4 HB; מרים ראשׁי‎; 3:3 Eng). In so doing, he has raised David’s countenance to be sure, but still more has he raised from the dust he who is both David’s son and the perpetual head of the house from which he comes (e.g., Matt 22:41–46; Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:41–44; Acts 2:22–36).

1. Jeffrey H. Tigay, “Psalm 7:5 and Ancient Near Eastern Treaties,” JBL 89, no. 2 (1970): 178; see also David G. Firth and Philip Johnston, Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2005), 295–300, for a survey of form-critical categorizations for the traditional Psalter.

2. The Psalms targum reads this portion of the superscript as “concerning the slaughter of Saul, the son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin” (Tg. Ket. Ps 7:1; על תברא דשאול בר קיש דמן שבט בנימן).

3. Franz Delitzsch, Psalms (Commentary on the Old Testament 5; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1866; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2006), 84; see also S. E. Gillingham, “The Messiah in the Psalms: A Question of Reception History and the Psalter,” in King and Messiah in Israel and the Ancient Near East (ed. John Day; Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 270; Sheffield: Sheffield, 1998), 226–27.

4. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 7.1 (NPNF 1, 8:20).

5. Cf. Delitzsch, Psalms, 84.

6. Tigay, “Psalm 7:5,” 178.

7. For a discussion, see Jacob Leveen, “Textual Problems of Psalm 7,” VT 16, no. 4 (1966): 440; Tigay, “Psalm 7:5.”

8. Delitzsch, Psalms, 86.

9. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 7.4 (NPNF 1, 8:21–22).

10. On reading the Psalter as a unified collection, see Jamie A. Grant, The King as Exemplar: The Function of Deuteronomy’s Kingship Law in the Shaping of the Book of Psalms (Academica Biblica; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004), 11–19.

On the Web (July 24, 2012)

On the web:

  • Tommy Wasserman notes a new iOS app for New Testament manuscripts.
  • E. K. McFall has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism: “Are Dionysos and Oedipus Name Variatnios for Satan and Antichrist?”
  • Dan Wallace recounts an experience of reading a manuscript that “doesn’t exist.”
  • Alin Suciu highlights Lorenzo Perrone’s lecture on recently-discovered texts of Origen’s homilies on the Psalms. For a selection of previous background posts, see here.

David, the Man of God

In contemporary English parlance, to call someone a “man” or “woman of God” substantially means that individual is “godly” or “pious.” As such, the phrase is a descriptor of a person’s moral or religious standing in relation to some perceived measure.

In the Hebrew Bible, however, אישׁ (ה)אלהים ([the] man of God) regularly designates a “prophet.” To be sure, these prophets were often “godly” or “pious,” but even here, there were occasional exceptions to this behavior (e.g., 1 Kgs 13). Rather, when the Hebrew Bible applies this same phrase to David, it fits him into the framework of the broader tradition of the prophet as Yahweh’s representative (Neh 12:24, 36; 2 Chron 8:14). In these particular texts, David’s status as an אישׁ אלהים (man of God) revolves around his plans for the temple’s administration. Even so, scarcely can at least the Davidic psalms be separated from vocation as a royal אישׁ אלהים (man of God).1

1. Cf. 11QPsalmsa 27; Augustine, Civ., 17.14 (NPNF1, 2:352–53).