Psalm 122 is about going to Jerusalem, as well as desiring Jerusalem's prosperity and peace. Last week, I shared songs about Psalm 121. This week, allow me to share this song, which is about the first line of Psalm 122: "I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the LORD" (KJV).
I'd like to focus on in this post is Psalm 122:5: " For there are set
thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David." Patrick Miller
in the HarperCollins Study Bible says the following:
"Jerusalem is praised...as a place where just judgment may be found (cf.
Deut 17.8-13; Isa 2.2-4; Mic 4.1-4)...See 1 Kings 7.7. On the
responsibility of kings for rendering justice and judgment in Jerusalem,
see 2 Sam 15.1-6; 1 Kings 3.16-28; Jer 21.12; 22.15-16."
cites a lot of passages there. In Deuteronomy 17:8-13, the levitical
priests are the ones at the central sanctuary who pass judgment in
difficult cases. In some of those other passages, however, such as
Jeremiah 21:12 and 22:15-16, God appears to want the Davidic monarch to
The reason that this whole issue stood out to me
when I was reading and studying Psalm 122 was that I had recently
listened to a podcast on I Kings.
The podcasts are done by Matthew Ryan Hauge and Craig Evan Anderson,
both of whom have Ph.Ds. They're excellent, in my opinion, for they go
into I Kings in depth, explaining why people are acting as they are in
the text. In the podcast on I Kings 3:4-15, in which Solomon asks God
for wisdom so that he could judge the people, one of the hosts was
saying that Solomon here was trying to usurp power that did not belong
to him. The host noted that Deuteronomy 17:8-13 says that the levitical
priests are to be the ones who are to judge, but here Solomon was,
wanting to be the judge himself. (UPDATE: Looney under my blogger post notes that Deuteronomy 17:9
mentions a judge who was not a Levite. As I look again at Hauge and
Evans' notes about their podcast, they, too, seem to acknowledge the
existence of non-Levite judges. Still, their argument appears to be
that kings, according to Deuteronomy, were not the ones who were to
I think that the host is raising
important issues, but I am not entirely convinced by his interpretation,
for a variety of reasons. For one, how do we know that either Solomon
or the narrator of I Kings 3:4-15 was aware of the law in Deuteronomy
17:8-13? My impression is that there are many scholars who date
Deuteronomy later than King Solomon. Moreover, while the Deuteronomist
indeed added things to I Kings, my understanding (based on what a number
of scholars have said) is that he did not write all of the narrative in
I Kings himself. Couldn't the part of the story about Solomon asking
God for wisdom so that he could judge the people be prior to the time of
the Deuteronomist? If so, then maybe the narrator is not portraying
Solomon as doing something wrong in wanting wisdom so that he could
judge; rather, the narrator may assume that Solomon's request is
reasonable, since kings in those days judged.
Second, God in I
Kings 3:4-15 approved of Solomon's request for wisdom. There is no
indication in the text that Solomon was illegitimately seeking to usurp
power that belonged to someone else.
Third, I do not know how
Hauge and Anderson approach the diversity of Scripture----if they
believe that the Bible contains different voices with different
ideologies, or if they believe that all of the Bible is the viewpoint of
God. The thing is, the Hebrew Bible strikes me as rather diverse on
the issue of who should judge. Deuteronomy 17:8-13 says that the
Levitical priests should, but there are other passages that are either
okay with the Davidic king judging, or that encourage the Davidic king
to do so. How do we know that I Kings 3:4-15 is not one of the voices
that presumes that the Davidic king should judge?
But things may
be messier than I have implied so far in this post. The reason is that,
while Psalm 122 appears to be okay with the Davidic king judging, it
appears to have been influenced by Deuteronomic thought. Psalm 122:4
mentions giving thanks to the name of the LORD. That is a Deuteronomic concept: that the house of God is a place where God has put God's name,
not a home that God himself inhabits. Psalm 122 may adopt some aspects
of Deuteronomic ideology, but not other aspects. Or could the
Deuteronomistic School have changed its mind by coming to accept the
role of the Davidic king as judge over Israel?