Ruth Fidler, «A Touch of Support: Ps 3,6 and the Psalmist’s Experience», Vol. 86 (2005) 192-212
Vv. 5-6 mark a turning point in Psalm 3, both structurally
and thematically, probably reflecting a significant personal experience. Due to
the mention of sleeping and waking (v. 6a) this experience is sometimes
interpreted as a dream in which the psalmist got word of his imminent
deliverance. Recently supported by a Qumran parallel that mentions dreaming
explicitly (11QPsa xxiv 16-17;B. Schroeder,
Biblica 81  243-251), this argument nevertheless
seems questionable, given e.g. the tendency of later Judaism to attribute dreams
also to biblical figures that are not characterized in such terms in the Bible.
The main thrust of this article is to examine the psalm in comparison with
theophanic reports elsewhere in the Bible and in ANE literature. This analysis
shows the language of Psalm 3 to be compatible with an incubatory ritual that
culminates in a real experience of presence with a divine gesture of support.
These findings are related to the proximity to God that finds expression in the
200 Ruth Fidler
reports have both dreamlike and wakeful traits it would perhaps be
more rewarding to look into the reasons for this duality than to provide
definitions that account for only one of its two aspects and that are
therefore bound to be somewhat arbitrary. A proper discussion of all or
even most of the scriptures listed above is beyond the scope of this
article, so the brief comments that follow are limited to one case of
(1) Gen 15: In vv. 1-6 the stars (v. 5) indicate nighttime, but taking
Abraham out (of his tent?) to look at the night sky shows that he is
thought to be awake. Comparable wakeful activities occur in two
liminal reports in the prophetic category (3): 1 Sam 3,5-10 (see below)
and 1 Kgs 19,11. Indeed, Gen 15 is not too remote from this category:
the use of the word advent formula (vv. 1.4) and the definition hzjmb
(â€œin a visionâ€, v. 1) show that Abraham is portrayed in quasi-prophetic
terms. In vv. 7-18 the twilight (vv. 12.17) and the term hmdrt (v. 12)
can be associated with dreaming, especially in view of Job 33,15; but
more often than not hmdrt denotes unusual, divinely induced sleep
(Gen 2,21; 1 Sam 26,12) or prophetic stupor (Is 29,10; Job 4,13 [?];
cp. the use of the verb in Dan 8,18. The latter two reports exhibit some
structural parallels to Gen 15). It is therefore reasonable to suppose
that Abrahamâ€™s hmdrt was introduced as a â€˜propheticâ€™ state fit for
receiving the oracle in vv. 13-16 (31).
(2) 1 Chr 1,7: This rendering of Solomonâ€™s experience in Gibeon
as a nocturnal theophany rather than as a dream (cp. 1 Kgs 3,5.15),
suggests that such liminal reports may have evolved from what were
proper dream reports in earlier stages of transmission, conditioned by
the lexical choice and religious preference of more scrupulous authors
â€” the Chronicler, in this case (32). Some interpreters refer to the
denunciation of dreams in later literature (esp. Jer 23,25-32; 27,9-10;
29,8-9; Zech 10,2; cp. also Qoh 4,17â€“5,6; Sir 31,1-8; 40,5-7) as the
ideological background of such maneuvers (33).
(31) C. WESTERMANN, Genesis 12â€“36 (Minneapolis 1985) ad loc.; note also
the rendering ekstasi" in LXX.
(32) The chronicler avoids the root Âµlj altogether, a datum already linked to
possibly negative feelings on the subject (EHRLICH, Der Traum im AT, 22).
(33) R.B. DILLARD, 2 Chronicles (WBC 15; Waco, TX 1987) 12 as a
possibility; S. JAPHET, Iâ€“II Chronicles. A Commentary (OTL; Louisville, KY
1993) 530; Cp. M. ROBINSON, Dreams in the Old Testament (Ph.D. dissertation;
The University of Manchester 1987) 233. Other explanations for the omission of
the dream terminology cited by Dillard refer to the Chroniclerâ€™s attempt to
abridge the passage or to enhance the status of Solomon.