This psalm celebrates two crucial elements of Israel's
religious tradition: the whole creation as the possession of Yahweh alone and
the temple as the visible symbol of God's presence within creation. Although
attributed to David in the superscription, it comes from a much later date as
evidenced by the references to the temple (vs. 3). Similarly the cosmology of
creation is typical of the ancient world-view which saw the earth set in a
three tiered universe. It would appear that the psalm had liturgical origin and
was sung in a procession on some festival occasion. Late Jewish sources regard
it as a hymn for the New Year festival when Yahweh's work of creation was
commemorated and the sovereignty of Yahweh over all creation celebrated.
There is also a strong element of holiness in vss. 3-6. Ritual purity had special meaning for entrance into the temple because the sacred precincts were regarded as the place where Yahweh dwelt.
The antiphonal song of vss. 7-9 again emphasizes the entrance of Yahweh into the holy place. The gates of the temple are personified and responsive to the approaching worshippers represented by the holy people of Yahweh.
Yet the identification of Yahweh and the people of Israel is not altogether complete. Hence the question, "Who is the King of glory?"
The poetic image used in answering this question (vs. 8) is that of a victorious monarch leading his triumphant army home. One commentator suggests that this may have been the point in the procession where the ark or some other symbol of divine presence moved into the temple. In Jewish history, the temple was the last stronghold to fall to an invading enemy. Its few remaining stones in the Western Wall still form the centre of Jewish spirituality. In the Scottish Protestant tradition, the antiphonal verses were sung to the tune of St.George's Edinburgh at the evening service in many churches on Communion Sunday.
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