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Psalm 29

God of glory, power and peace

 A David psalm.

1 Stand back, you oversized godlings!
Stand in awe before Yahveh’s power and glory!
2 Acknowledge Yahveh
as the unrivalled star of the show.
Bow low before Yahveh’s holy splendor—
perfect mystery, matchless glory.

3 Yahveh’s voice starts out low
rumbling over the sea’s wild roar
and crescendos in mind-numbing bursts of thunder.
The God of glory’s voice is so powerful
it drowns out the sea.
4 Yahveh’s voice is commanding
5 Yahveh’s voice
breaks the mighty cedars of Lebanon
turns them into matchstick wrecks!
6 Yahveh’s voice
makes Lebanon’s majestic mountains
frolic like spring calves
Mt. Hermon wheel and gambol
like a wild ox!
7 Then Yahveh’s voice strikes terror
in the liquid fire of a lightning bolt
8 that shakes the whole land
right down to the desert of Kadesh.
9 Finally, Yahveh’s voice
sends the mighty oaks into a dance
so wild it strips them bare.
At this point
no one in Yahveh’s cosmos-turned-temple
can hold back and the whole place resounds
with shouts of “Glory!”

10 Yahveh sits enthroned
above the vanquished floodwaters.
He sits enthroned as king forever!
11 Yahveh gives strength to his people.
Yahveh blesses his people with peace.

Many Israelites found Baal worship’s heady mix of religion, sex—temple prostitution—and power appealing. Baal simultaneously wore three hats, as god of storms, fertility and war. Canaanites imagined him with a lightning bolt for a spear and a voice whose thunder shook the earth. Here David uses Canaanite imagery and poetic devices to declare Baal a fraud—and all without saying his name.

Verses 3-9 picture Yahveh’s storm making landfall, overwhelming everything from majestic Hermon in the north, to untameable Kadesh in the south. Also, the location of Yahveh’s throne shows him—not Baal—to be Nature’s undisputed Lord.[1] To underscore his point, David uses Yahveh’s name repeatedly, with echo effect. Our only reasonable response is to join creation in crying “Glory!”

Thus, verses 1-2 order the whole pantheon of deposed Canaanite gods[2] to join heaven’s court in bowing before Yahveh. And if divine pretenders must bow, what about us mortals who seek what glory we can “in the marketplace of human honor and shame”? We must yield our glory too,[3] as the psalm implicitly calls us to do.

Being god of war, Baal supposedly made his followers into military killing machines. By contrast, the strength Yahveh brings to earth quells “the warring madness of the children of Adam and Eve,”[4] blessing his people with peace.

Baal is long gone, Lord, consigned to history’s rubbish heap. We now worship mainly ourselves, along with money, sex, status, power—such poor substitutes for you. Help me see your matchless beauty and majesty, bow adoring and cry, “Glory!” Help me receive your blessed peace. Amen.


[1] Before bringing creation’s order to the world, Baal was said to have subdued the chaotic waters of the sea.

[2] The term beni ’elim (literally, “sons of gods/God”) can refer to mighty men, angels, demons, other heavenly beings or gods. Canaanites saw Baal as Lord of their pantheon of gods, which I see as addressed here rhetorically. Not that David believed in a multiplicity of gods. Rather, he simply addresses whatever evil beings the Canaanites worship—whether demons or other created supernatural beings—and demands their submission to God.

[3] Jacobson (2014) 284.

[4] Jacobson (2014) 286.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.