Psalm 2 and the Disinheritance of Earthly Rulers: New Light from the Ugaritic Legal Text RS 94.2168

in Vetus Testamentum
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This paper offers a fresh reading of Psalm 2 with special attention to the presence of legal motifs in the poem, including that of inheritance rights as a metaphor for YHWH’s delegation of earthly authority. A new impetus for such a reading comes from the recently published Ugaritic legal text RS 94.2168, which provides the first attestation in Ugaritic of a transitive verb BHL denoting the exclusion of a biological heir from the inheritance of his father’s estate. In light of this technical usage, it will be proposed that the Piel form יְבַהֲלֵמוֹ in Psa 2:5 is best understood, not as an act of terrifying the rulers of the earth, but as YHWH’s (metaphorical) disinheritance of them, a declaration that is naturally followed by the designation of his anointed one as the exclusive heir of the nations (2:8).

Psalm 2 and the Disinheritance of Earthly Rulers: New Light from the Ugaritic Legal Text RS 94.2168

in Vetus Testamentum




See inter alia B. Becking“‘Wie Töpfe Sollst Du Sie Zerschmeißen:’ Mesopotamische Parallelen zu Psalm 2,9b”ZAW 102 (1990) pp. 59-79; K. Koch “Der König als Sohn Gottes in Ägypten und Israel” in E. Otto and E. Zenger (eds.) ‘Mein Sohn bist du’ (Ps 27): Studien zu den Königspsalmen (Stuttgarter Bibelstudien 192; Stuttgart 2002) pp. 1-32; E. Otto “Politische Theologie in den Königspsalmen zwischen Ägypten und Assyrien. Die Herrscherlegitimation in den Psalmen 2 und 18 in ihren altorientalischen Kontexten” in E. Otto and E. Zenger (eds.) ‘Mein Sohn bist du’ pp. 33-65; G. Granerød “A Forgotten Reference to Divine Procreation? Psalm 2:6 in Light of Egyptian Royal Ideology” VT 60 (2010) pp. 323-336.


As argued by G. von Rad“Das judäische Königsritual”Theologische Literaturzeitung 72/4 (1947) pp. 211-216. On the origins of this interpretive line and its subsequent critique see J. J. M. Roberts “Whose Child is This? Reflections on the Speaking Voice in Isaiah 9:5” HTR 90 (1997) pp. 115-118.


See N. Habel“The Narrative Art of Job: Applying the Principles of Robert Alter”JSOT 27 (1983) p. 105; idem The Book of Job: A Commentary (The Old Testament Library; Philadelphia 1985) pp. 32-33 56 461 571. Marvin Pope appears conflicted between the legal and military interpretations (i.e. a “battle array”) here ( Job [AB 15; New York 1965] p. 247).


Von Rad“Königsritual” pp. 213-215; Roberts “Whose Child is This?” pp. 115-116.


Reproduced from Pardee“Firstborn” pp. 98-99.


For details see Pardee“Firstborn” pp. 95-106 with the relevant Akkadian texts presented in transliteration and translation.


Pardee“Firstborn” p. 96; cf. Tropper’s interpretation of the verb as denoting simply ‘dismissal’ with clearly negative connotations (“Zehn neue Texte aus Ugarit” UF 36 [2004] p. 517) as well as H. Gzella’s rather neutral assessment (“Some Penciled Notes on Ugaritic Lexicography” BiOr 64 [2007] p. 538).


See Pardee“Firstborn” p. 100 esp. n. 7.


Pardee“Firstborn” p. 96.


Frandsen“Aspects of Kingship” p. 63.


Roberts“Whose Child is This?” pp. 115-129; see also Nicolas Wyatt’s assertion of the “divine birth” interpretation over against the “adoption” one (‘There’s Such Divinity Doth Hedge a King’: Selected Essays of Nicolas Wyatt on Royal Ideology in Ugaritic and Old Testament Literature [SOTS Monograph Series; Aldershot 2005] p. 212 n. 67). On adoption in the Hebrew Bible see J. H. Tigay “Adoption” in F. Skolnik and M. Berenbaum (eds.) Encyclopaedia Judaica 2nd edition (Detroit 2007) 1:415-417; S. Paul “Adoption Formulae: A Study of Cuneiform and Biblical Legal Clauses” MAARAV 2/2 (1979-1980) pp. 173-185.


Roberts“Whose Child is This?” p. 126. The importance of Egyptian motifs for the understanding of Psa 2:7 has also been emphasized recently by Koch (“Der König als Sohn Gottes” pp. 2-15) and Otto (“Politische Theologie in den Königspsalmen” pp. 34-38). For the recent argument that נָסַכְתִּי in 2:6 refers to the concept of divine procreation of the human king see Granerød “A Forgotten Reference to Divine Procreation?” pp. 323-336.

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