Mizmor 29: Hashem's Voice


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Metaphoric or Literal Storm?

The majority of Mizmor 29 describes a fierce storm and the awesome forces of nature within which "God's voice" is heard. This description is prefaced by a call to ascribe glory to God and followed by the promise (or prayer) that Hashem give both strength and peace to His people.

What is the ultimate message of the hymn? Does it describe an actual historic storm that occurred in the time of the psalmist or does it speak more generally of harsh natural phenomena, perhaps to highlight Hashem's immense power?1  Might the images in the hymn be metaphoric, with the surging waters, quaking mountains, and broken trees each representing something else?  If so, to what are they alluding?  Finally, how does the chapter's concluding mention of both power and peace, words associated with war and its aftermath, relate to the rest of the psalm?  Do they imply that the preceding verses, too, might refer to war?

Additional Questions

The individual verses of the psalm raise further questions which might shed light on the meaning of the psalm as a whole:

  • הָבוּ לַי״י בְּנֵי אֵלִים – The phrase "בְּנֵי אֵלִים" literally means "sons of God" but can also be translated as: "mighty ones". Which is referred to here?  Whom is the psalmist calling upon to ascribe glory to Hashem and why this group specifically?
  • קוֹל י״י – This phrase repeats seven times in the psalm; what is the significance of the repetition? Why is it specifically God's voice that is emphasized throughout?
  • חֹצֵב לַהֲבוֹת אֵשׁ – To what does this image of "hewing fire" refer?
  • Place names – The psalm mentions three places by name, Lebanon, Siryon and the wilderness of Kadesh.  What is the significance of these? Are they simply examples of mountains and deserts with no intrinsic import to the specific choices or are they singled out for a reason?
  •  י״י לַמַּבּוּל יָשָׁב – Outside the story of the Flood in Parashat Noach, this verse is the only place in Tanakh where the word "מַּבּוּל" appears.  Is the verse intentionally referencing the Deluge of Sefer Bereshit or does it refer to a common flood? If the former, why is the Flood being mentioned and what does it mean that "Hashem sat enthroned" at it?