The Cosmopolitan Character of the Korahite Musical Congregation: Evidence from Psalm 87

In: Vetus Testamentum
Nissim Amzallag Department of Bible, Archaeology and Near East Studies The Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, POB 653, Beer Sheba 84105 Israel

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Psalm 87 is generally interpreted as a song of pilgrimage praising Jerusalem as the ‘mother of nations’. This theme is, however, unknown in the Bible. Furthermore, both the structure and meaning of psalm 87 remain very obscure in this thematic context of interpretation. Alternatively, the present analysis suggests that psalm 87 evokes the diffusion abroad of the musical worship of yhwh by Korahite singers, its contribution to the fame of Zion, and of this congregation of singers. It also deals with the mutual commitment between the Jerusalemite singers and their peers living far away. A coherent articulation of these meanings emerges after setting the psalm in cross responsa fashion, a mode of complex antiphony in which distant cola are combined through the intertwinement of voices during performance. This interpretation is supported by biblical sources evoking the presence of Jerusalemite singers in foreign lands and their involvement in local musical worship of yhwh. The esoteric character of Psalm 87 and its complex mode of performance suggest that this song was specifically composed for the small congregation of Jerusalemite singers, and not for public cult.

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