cultic interpretation

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The religious history of Israel would be nothing without the cult: worship, sacrifice, ritual. Before the first king was anointed by Samuel, there existed a cult round the Ark of the Covenant which provided a unifying basis for the loose confederation or association of twelve tribes.

But much of the OT can be understood in relation to the Temple cult at Jerusalem and the festivals celebrated there, such as the blessings and cursings of Deut. 28, and it has been suggested that the book of Job was a drama based on the myth and ritual of a New Year festival, common in the ancient Near East, when there was a ritual enactment of the death and resurrection of a deity. The purpose of the ritual was to assist the well‐being of the nation. After a ritual combat in which the god was victorious over his enemies, he was acclaimed as king. The nation's king played a central part in the whole festival by representing the god himself. In Israel before the Exile there was a sense in which the king was identified with the nation; or at any rate its well‐being rested on him. This notion of the kingship of the house of David was at the root of the Messianic hope.

It is above all the psalms that reveal how central in the life of the nation the festivals in the Temple were. There was first a New Year festival, though some scholars prefer to regard it as an Enthronement festival, a liturgical reenactment of the creation myth; among Israel's neighbours the victorious saviour‐god was thought to overcome the chaos deity; for every year the lifeless earth when the chaos deity reigned sprang into fertile life as the saviour god returned to rule. Such was the myth taken over in the worship of Yahweh at Jerusalem. Such was the victory celebrated in Pss. 24: 7–10 and 47: 1.

There were also a coronation ceremony (Ps. 110), a covenant renewal festival (Ps. 114), and liturgies of petition when the king recited such psalms as 44 on behalf of the nation.

Thus the psalms were compiled for congregational worship and as such have continued in regular use in the Christian Church, relating the sovereignty of God to people's daily lives.

Subjects: Biblical Studies.

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