A Missional Reading of Psalm 47

Author: Tony Hughes has been a missionary in the former Soviet Union. He has an MA from Allnations, and lectures on the relationship between covenant, God’s missional programme and the Kingdom of God.
Literary Structure and Setting – A Response to the Action of God


The psalm appears to have been composed as a response to a specific salvific action by YHWH on behalf of the nation of Israel. Commentators are divided as to the sitz im leben (‘setting in life’), suggesting the need for balance between historic, cultic and eschatological interpretations. In post-exilic times the psalm was incorporated into the autumn celebration of Rosh ha-Shanah, [1] and today in the celebration of Christ’s ascension.
“From the first word to the last, this (psalm) communicates the excitement and jubilation of an enthronement; and the king is God himself.”
The literary structure consists of two divisions, each beginning with a call to praise (vv. 1, 6), followed by the ‘content of praise’ (vv. 2-5, 7-9).  The figure of speech is one of progressive parallelism, the comparison revealing “a striking progressive unfolding of the divine plan of salvation.”
According to Cohen, the use of numerical devices combines to reinforce the theme of Yahweh’s reign over the whole earth and accordingly over all nations. YHWH is found exactly in the centre of the psalm (v. 5), placing the covenantal name of God at the centre of all things; the name Elohim occurs seven times, the significant number suggesting wholeness and completeness.

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