Gilbert House Fellowship #372: Psalms 89, 96

DAVID KNEW that God had a divine council comprised of supernatural beings. We see more confirmation of that in this week’s study. 

Psalm 89 mentions the “holy ones” (Hebrew qedoshim) and “heavenly beings” (bene elim, literally “sons of God”) who are in his assembly. The psalmist goes on to praise God for His power in mastering the sea (Ps. 89:9–10). In Hebrew, that’s yam, the Canaanite name for the chaos-dragon of the sea—their version of Leviathan. Given the reference to Rahab in verse 10, this is more than just picturesque language describing God as more powerful than the ocean; the psalmist is referring to the chaoskampf, the conflict between God and Chaos (Leviathan). 

We also discuss the references to “the north and the south… Tabor and Hermon” in Psalm 89:12. The mountains mentioned were sites of cult worship in the ancient world, so we think the compass points north (tsaphon) and south (yamin) have spiritual significance as well. Zaphon was the mountain of Baal in what is today southern Turkey. “South” may be a scribal gloss (change) at some point in history, because the Septuagint translation renders verse 12: 

You created the north and the west [or, “the north wind and seas”]… 

Psalm 89:12a (Lexham English Septuagint)

The point being that west, the direction of the Great Sea, the Mediterranean, was the direction associated with death. Thus, “the north and the [west]”, in a pairing with two cult centers (especially since one of them is Mount Hermon, a sort of Canaanite Mount Olympus), is a polemic against spiritual evil (north, the direction of Baal’s palace) and death (west). 

In Psalm 96 we find another song of praise for God, comparing Him and His power against that of “all gods” (Hebrew elohim) which are “worthless idols” (ĕlîlim; Ps. 96:5). We’ve encountered that word before, which some scholars connect to the chief god of Mesopotamia, Enlil, whose name was spelled Ellil in Akkadian. The ĕlîlim, then, were demons—spirits of the Nephilim destroyed in the Flood. The Septuagint translators certainly connect the ideas, translating the verse this way: 

For all the gods of the peoples are demons… 

Psalm 96:5a (LES), emphasis added

For a deeper dive into the ĕlîlim and Enlil, see our previous study on 1 Chronicles 16 here

And you can read the chapter of The Second Coming of Saturn where Derek cites the research on “Isaiah’s ‘Worthless Idols'” here

If you’re coming with us to Israel, we can’t wait to share the adventure with you! Here’s a link to some helpful tips to prepare from Lipkin Tours

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  1. I’m been learning a lot from you, skywatch tv , LA Marzulli, Trey Smith an so on.

    Thank you and may the Lord be with all of you.

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