300 – Psalm 15 – Introduction
With Psalm fifteen being only five verses long one might think I could get through the whole thing in one devotional post. Maybe someone would grant me two articles, the first one for the introduction, and the second one to wrap everything up. I could probably gloss over detail and get it done, but I believe I would be shorting both the word of God and the reader. I make no attempt to be exhaustive in anything I write, but I would like to notice enough detail in the passages we review to hopefully make intelligent interpretive decisions. I also wish to “prime the pump” as the saying goes hoping to stimulate your desire to study the word of God for yourself. Although I seldom know the direction a given post will take I can fairly confidently guarantee, besides some introductory remarks, we will not get much beyond verse one this time.
Psalm 15:1 (NKJV)
1 [Yahweh], who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
Typically when studying Hebrew poetry it is wise to identify the type of Hebrew parallelism. It is also a good idea to identify chiastic structures in the text.
My first observation is actually not in verse one, but actually in the title, “a Psalm of David”. Why is that noteworthy? Because it explains why the author used the word “tabernacle” instead of the word “temple”. The temple was not constructed until after David’s death. David’s son Solomon built the first temple replacing the tabernacle as the place of worship.
We’ll come back to a discussion of the word “tabernacle”. I’d like to make observations in the order in which the words appear in the sentence, which brings us to the first word, “Yahweh”. If you’ve read more than one of my posts on an Old Testament passage you probably know that I fairly consistently replace “the LORD” with the bracketed word [Yahweh] or [YHWH]. The reason is simple, it is not accurate to translate God’s personal name as “the LORD”. There is zero correlation between His holy name and the name “lord”. Putting it in all caps does not change the fact that “the LORD” is not a translation of a Hebrew word, but rather a substitution. It’s beyond the scope of this article to explain why but suffice it to say I believe we should know when God’s personal name is used in the scripture. One reason to understand that God’s actual name is being used in this Psalm is it indicates to us the very personal and intimate relationship King David had with Yahweh. Yahweh is only used twice in this Psalm, once in the first verse and once in the fourth verse.
David asks YHWH a question. “Who may abide in Your tabernacle?”
If you are just reading past the question you may dismiss it as a perfectly reasonable inquiry. However, upon further inspection, David’s question seems unreasonable and almost silly. But before we get there we need to ponder the word “abide”. According to Logos Bible Software a few glosses for the Hebrew word “abide” are: dwell as alien and dependent, sojourn (“live temporarily”), lodge, and dwell. Was David uninformed? Did he not realize that no one lived in the tabernacle? Even the Levites had their own places. Was he maybe asking an access question? something like “who has access to which parts of the tabernacle”? I don’t think so, because he uses the word “abide”. Besides, he had access to the Law (first five books of Moses) that spelled out plainly who could be where in the tabernacle.
This brings us to our next question or observation of the text. What is the tabernacle of YHWH (LORD)? If you search for the phrase “tabernacle of the LORD” in Bible software it quickly becomes obvious it is the place of sacrifice and worship God instructed Moses and the Israelites to construct. Now for a very practical consideration. This next sentence may shock you a bit, but bear with me. No one in their right might would want to dwell in the tabernacle of Yahweh! I’ll give you a moment to get over the shock of that statement before we continue. Think about it for a minute. Conservatively speaking the nation of Israel totaled north of 1.5 million people. They were commanded to make daily sacrifices! Can you imagine, even if it was one sacrifice per family for one million five hundred thousand people how long it would take to get through them all?? Try to imagine for a moment the amount of blood that would be on the ground. I’m sure they were walking in almost ankle-deep blood. Ugh! The Smell!
The place of the sacrifice was just inside the “fence” where people and priests gathered around the altar of fire. Never mind that the whole fenced-in area would reek of the smell of blood, maybe David wasn’t referring to the “uncovered” part of the tabernacle. Maybe his question referred specifically to the covered part of the tabernacle. Again, If that were true David wouldn’t have to ask God who had access, sorry who could dwell there. Only the Priests were allowed – conversation over.
So then, what is David really asking? Ah, now I believe we are asking the right question about the text! Unfortunately, we are not yet ready to answer the question. We have more observations to make before we dare broach the subject. In the meantime, let’s ask a couple more questions that we will attempt to answer next time. The last sentence of verse one asks, “Who may dwell in Your Holy hill?”
Is the word “dwell” in the second sentence the same as the word “abide” in the first sentence? If not how are they different? And what is Yahweh’s “holy hill”?
I hope you’ve found it helpful to slow down and examine the detail of this incredible five-verse Psalm. I can’t wait to dig into it further to see what can be revealed!
Psalm 4:12 (NKJV)
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The more careful we are to study the word of God the more likely we are to correctly interpret, then apply the truths contained within.
Isn’t Yahweh and His word good?