Psalm 68:4,30-31,34

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BibleOld TestamentPsalms

KJV

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.
. . .
30 Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter thou the people that delight in war.
31 Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.
. . .
34 Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.

JPS Tanakh

Sing to God, chant hymns to His name;
extol Him who rides the clouds;

the LORD is His name.

Alter

5* Sing to God, hymn His name.

Pave the way for the Rider of Clouds,
for Yah is His name, and exult before Him.

. . .

31* Rebuke the beast of the marsh,

the herd of bulls among calves of the peoples—

cringing with offerings of silver.

He scattered peoples that delighted in battle.

32*  Let notables come from Egypt,

Cush raise its hands to God.

33* Kingdoms of earth, sing to God,

hymn to the Master.          selah

34* To the Rider in the utmost heavens of yore.

Look, He makes His voice ring, the voice of strength.
* Hebrew Bible verse numbering


[footnote to v.5] the Rider of Clouds. . . . An epithet for Baal in Ugaritic is rkb `rpt, "rider of clouds".

[footnote to v.31] the beast of the marsh. Literally, "beast of the reed." Most commentators take this as a symbolic image of Egypt. . . .

A Creation Text

Bible language scholar John F. Hobbins, in his Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog, writes:

. . . it is hard not to read Psalm 68 without being reminded of passages elsewhere in ancient Near Eastern literature. In particular, Psalm 68 shares a number of theological motifs with Ugaritic literature. Characteristics of Baal and Anat are transferred to the God of many names who is praised in Psalm 68.

Baal is described in Ugaritic mythology as “the Rider of the Clouds.” He is the storm god, the rainmaker. Baal as such was feared and praised. This was disputed in ancient Israel. According to 1 Kings 18:20-40, YHVH, not Baal, is lord of the rain.

It cannot be denied that Israelite worship appropriated imagery associated with Baal and other deities in praise of its God. The fact should not surprise. As Jeffrey Tigay notes, “It is natural for the Bible to appropriate [Baal] imagery for the Lord, not only because He incorporates the powers of all the pagan deities, but because Israel’s geography made it so dependent on rain that it was one of the primary media for the exercise of His providence.”[a]

To be sure, MT must be emended to yield “Rider of the Clouds” (בערבות to בערפות). But פ/ב interchanges are well-attested. A majority of post-discovery-of-Ugaritic-literature translations render accordingly (RSV, REB, NJPSV, NAB, NJB, (T)NIV, NET, HCSB, NRSV, and CEV).

Based on a phrase found later in the psalm (v 34) and in Deuteronomy 33:26, KJV in accordance with an exegetical tradition rendered ‘him that rideth upon the heavens.’ This approximates the sense the phrase is now thought to have had based on the recurrence of an equivalent epithet for Baal in Ugaritic literature.

[a] Jeffrey Tigay, Deuteronomy (JPSTC; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996) 334.

The Cloud Rider in the New Testament?

See What's Ugaritic Got to Do with Anything? by Michael S. Heiser, spelling out Jesus' allusion to Daniel 7:13-14 and the "Cloud Rider", as recorded in Matthew 26:63-64.

Another Christadelphian view

A Christadelphian who does not wish to be quoted suggests that references to the Cloud Rider in this Psalm can be interpreted as a clever allusion to Ugaritic language rather than a serious appropriation. Note, however, the direct contest in 1 Kings 18. —Bruce

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