For my weekly quiet time this week, I will blog about Psalm 118. I'll focus on vv 22-23, while also bringing into my discussion other parts of Psalm 118. Psalm 118:22-23 states (in the King James Version):
stone [which] the builders refused is become the head [stone] of the
corner. This is the LORD'S doing; it [is] marvellous in our eyes."
passage is quoted often in the New Testament, in Matthew 21:24; Mark
12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; and I Peter 2:7. The implication usually
seems to be that the Jewish leaders, the builders of Israel, rejected
Jesus, but Jesus became the cornerstone in that God exalted Jesus and
demonstrated Jesus' importance.
But there are other
interpretations of what Psalm 118:22-23 is all about. Jewish
interpretations (which I gather from such sources as Artscroll, the
Targum, and the Midrash on the Psalms) include:
were David's father and brothers, who rejected David in that they did
not summon David when Samuel was looking for the son of Jesse whom he
would anoint as king (I Samuel 16:4-13). But David became the
cornerstone in that he was the one who would be king. I'd like
to expand on this interpretation a bit, adding some of my own thoughts.
David was not only rejected by his family, but also the king of Israel,
who could be likened to a builder. But David became the cornerstone,
not only in the sense that David was important, but also in the sense
that David would fulfill a role that would be necessary for the survival
and existence of Israel, as a cornerstone gives stability to a
building. David would provide this stability as king by fighting
Israel's enemies (which David did even before he became king), and also
by bringing about justice within Israel.
----The builders were Laban and Esau, and the rejected one was Jacob, whom God built into his favored nation.
builders were the Gentile rulers of the world, and the rejected one was
Israel. God would reveal Israel to be the cornerstone, which prevents
the world from falling into chaos. According to Radak, Israel
is the cornerstone in the sense that her observance of God's
commandments preserves the world, one reason being that it encourages
other nations to keep aspects of God's law. Keil-Delitzsch
disagree with applying vv 22-23 to the Gentile rejection of Israel, for
they contend that the Gentile nations used Israel as opposed to
rejecting her. For Keil-Delitzsch, the passage is about the Jewish
leaders' rejection of Christ.
Historical-critical interpretations of Psalm 118:22-23 include:
builders were Israel, whereas the rejected one was the sufferer whom
God saved and re-incorporated into the community as a valued member.
Erhard Gerstenberger offers this view.
----During a New Year's
festival, in which the world was renewed, the king was ceremonially
humiliated prior to his exaltation. Leslie Allen refers to this
interpretation, but he himself does not accept it. (Will it become the
cornerstone of biblical scholarship? :D) According to Allen, Psalm 118
is a celebration after a military victory. Allen may think that the
rejected one was Israel, which was rejected by the nations but was
exalted as the cornerstone through her military victory.
think that an important element of Psalm 118 is vv 10-12, in which the
Psalmist affirms that the hostile nations surround him, but he (the
Psalmist) will destroy them. Let's muse about how the various interpretations of Psalm 118:22-23 fit in (or don't fit in) to that:
----Let's start with the Jesus interpretation.
Did Jesus destroy his enemies? I thought that one reason that Jesus
was so admirable was that he did not fight back when the nations (in
this case, perhaps Israel and Rome) attacked him; rather, Jesus
submitted to death. And yet, there are themes within the New
Testament about Jesus overcoming the world (John 16:33) and Jesus
through the cross triumphing over principalities and powers (Colossians
2:15). Jesus also combated demons during his ministry. In addition,
according to the New Testament, was Jesus in heaven involved in the
destruction of Jerusalem, the system that had rejected him (Luke 13:35)?
about the David interpretation? Even within the Targum, David does not
appear to slaughter the builders who rejected him. Rather, David and
his family seem to celebrate through ceremony what God is doing through
David. David also did not slaughter Saul, who was pursuing him, for
Saul was God's anointed (I Samuel 24). Yet, when Absalom revolted,
David had an army that fought Absalom. In that series of events, David
was rejected in the sense that many in Israel followed Absalom (II
Samuel 15:6), but David won against Absalom and thus was reaffirmed as
the cornerstone. David also fought the enemies of Israel. Psalm
118:10-12 may not be saying that the Psalmist destroyed the builders
who had rejected him, but rather that he killed enemies to Israel.
Psalm 118 may be celebrating that David (or a descendant of David on the
throne) slaughtered aggressors against Israel, while also remembering
that God in the past had exalted David even though David was rejected.
about the Jacob interpretation? I can't think of an example of Jacob
destroying enemies who had attacked him. The Shechemites, whom Simeon
and Levi slaughtered, were not surrounding Israel with obvious
----The Israel interpretation makes some
sense. Israel is rejected by surrounding nations, but she triumphs by
slaughtering her enemies----either in the pre-exilic period, the time of
Nehemiah, the Maccabean period, or in the eschaton.
Keil-Delitzsch raise a valuable point when they argue that the nations
did not technically reject Israel, but rather made use of her. But
perhaps the nations rejected Israel in the sense that they looked down
on her and her God, seeing them as impotent.
----How about the
restored sufferer interpretation? I don't think that a sufferer who was
restored to the community slaughtered enemies who had surrounded him.
like Leslie Allen, tend to doubt the ceremonial-humiliation
interpretation, even though I cannot disprove it. I tend to agree with
Allen that Psalm 118 concerns a literal battle, since the Psalmist
destroys enemy nations.