Thoughts for Thanksgiving: Vows and Thank Offerings in the ANE
"I am under vows to you, O God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life."
- Psalm 56:12-13 (NIV)
Happy Thanksgiving from the Zondervan Academic team!
The following commentary on this passage is an excerpt of John Hilber's commentary on the Psalms, found in volume 5 of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament.
Vows...thank offerings (56:12). When the psalmist feels passionately about his distress and plea, he might promise to bring an offereing to God as an act of praise after God has delivered (Gen. 28:20-22; 1 Sam. 1:11; Ps. 65:1-3). The type of offering in view is the peace offering, which featured a communal meal enjoyed by all worshipers, who then recognized that God had answered prayer (see comments on Ps. 22:26). This feature can be found in all cultures of the ancient Near East.290 A text from Ugarit (ca. 1300 BC) illustrates the dynamic in worship:
When a strong foe attacks you gate...you shall life your eyes to Baal and say:
O Baal, if you drive...the warriour from our walls,
A bull, OBaal, We shall santicy, a vow [Ugar. mdr = Heb. ndr ]
we will fulfill.291
Another Ugaritic text describes how King Kirta promises gifts to his goddess if she will grant him success in obtaining a wife to bear him children after the loss of his entire family:
He there makes a vow [Ugar. ydr = Heb. ndr ], Kirta the Noble:...
"If I take Huraya into my palace...
Her two parts I'll make silver, her third part I'll make gold!"292
290. T.W. Cartledge, Vows in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East (JSOTSup 147; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), 73-136; T.Z. Abush, "The Promise to Praise the God in Sulla Prayer," in Biblical and Oriental Essays in Memory of William L. Moran, ed. A. Gianto (BibOr 48; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institue, 2005), 1-10. For Egypt, see Miller, They Cried to the Lord, 27; ANET, 380-81.
291. Pardee, Ritual and Cult at Ugarit, no. 13, RS 24.266 lines 26'-31'; Lete, Canaanite Religion according to the Liturgical Texts of Ugarit, 292-306. CF. the victory monument of King Zakkur of Syria (ca. 800 B.C.), offering acknowledgement to his god for deliverance (COS, 2.35:155).
292. Parker, Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, 20, CAT, 1.14 iv 36-43; COS, 1.102:336.
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