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This essay offers a comparison between two passages in Psalm and 2 Kings, with a view to finding both common and divergent elements in their writing style and content. Both philological and historical context of the passages are examined.
Keywords: Biblical scholarship, Old Testament, Psalm, 2 Kings, Moab, Ancient Israel
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Psalm and 2 Kings: Writing Style and Content Comparison
The presentation of historical and political aspirations of Ancient Israelites was carried out directly through their religious Scriptures. In this essay, the respective passages from the Book of Psalms and the Second Book of Kings are compared, in order to present a glimpse of political-historical aspects of the Old Testament.
The Ancient Israelites are known to have viewed the neighboring peoples, ranging from the Moabites to the Hittites, with suspicion caused by the deep-entrenched legacy of mutual hostility (Fritz & Davies, 1996). Accordingly, references to foreign peoples and their kings in Old Testament are almost always disparaging, if not outright mocking. Both the Book of Psalm and the Second Book of Kings contain plentiful evidece to this hostility, including the passages chosen for the analysis here.
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In Psalm 2, the foreign ‘nations’ (i.e. tribes) are viewed as ‘conspiring’ against the people of Israel and its rulers anointed by God. The Psalm depicts “the kings of the earth” and “the rulers” entering into makeshift grand coalition against the Israelites and preparing to destroy their state and the people (Psalm 2:2 New International Version). Nevertheless, “the One enthroned in heaven laughs; / the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:4); the foreign peoples and their rulers are promised to be taken down by “the Lord’s decree” and are advised to “serve the Lord with fear” (Psalm 2:7; 2:11).
The same narrative is used in the Second Book of Kings, in the passages relating to Israelites’ victory over the Arameans of Damascus. When the king of Aram is reported to have started a war against Israel, God notifies His prophet Elisha, and the latter tells the Israeli king of Arameans’ military preparations. When the king of Arameans wonders who gives his enemy the most secret information on his military plans, his officers tell him that “Elisha, the prophet who iss in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom” (2 Kings 6:12 New International Version). The enraged king of Aram sends “horses and chariots and a strong force” to capture Elisha in his home town (2 Kings 6:14).
Nevertheless, this attempt is thwarted when God sends Elisha “horses and chariots of fire”, while the Aramean army is struck by supernatural blindness and led by Elisha to Samaria, the Israeli capital (2 Kings 6:17-20). However, Elisha is lenient, as he advises the Israeli king to “set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master” (2 Kings 6:22). In the end, the Arameans cease their hostilities.
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Therefore, it is evident that Ancient Israelites paid great attention to the theme of their victories over foreign kings and tribes, as shown in the aforementioned passages from Book of Psalms and Second Book of Kings. At the same time, the manner of presentation in these two books is diverse. While the passage in Psalms uses a typical heroic hymnal form, the Second Book of Kings is built on the principle of legendary prosaic chronicle. This factor stipulates the respective differences in their writing style.
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