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
A Touch of Support: Ps 3,6 and the Psalmistâ€™s Experience 205
through dreams. How do these general observations affect our
understanding of the experience reflected in Ps 3,5-6?
It could still be argued that a reference to sleeping, waking, and
divine support in the midst of a crisis (Ps 3,6) subsequent to a report
of a successful invocation of YHWH (v. 5) is compatible with a
sought theophany or with incubation. It seems however, that the
theophany ensuing from such procedures was not necessarily
expected to occur in a dream. The possibility that an incubation
leading to a real theophany was reflected in a psalm has already been
raised in the case of Ps 17 (47). In its general course this shift from the
suggestion of dream theophany or incubation towards a real encounter
is similar to the one recognizable in some prophetic liminal reports:
What appears like an incipient incubation scene culminates with a
divine message addressed to a wakeful recipient (1 Sam 3,11-14; 1
Kgs 19,15-18). Although originally it was not offered for psalm 3 (48),
such a theory could help explain not only the absence of explicit
dream terms in this psalm (an absence that it shares with other liminal
reports), but also â€” as shown below â€” the connection between
ynkmsy â€˜y (â€œYHWH supports meâ€) and the emphatically positioned
reference to the psalmistâ€™s waking in v. 6b (III and IV in the statement
of the problem, above).
As often in the Psalms and unlike the above-mentioned prophetic
narratives, Psalm 3 does not cite a divine message, but the statement of
YHWHâ€™s support (ynkmsy Ã²y) is hardly less expressive. The link between
this element and the psalmistâ€™s waking is expressed by yk in v. 6b.
Although this particle sometimes serves as an emphatic introduction
to an expression of confidence (Ps 38,16) or of Godâ€™s protective
intervention (PS 22,10; 31,4), its most natural sense here would be
causal, as indeed recognized by many interpreters (49). Often these
interpreters represent the â€˜spiritualâ€™ approach, taking ynkmsy to express
(47) See above, note 38.
(48) Lindblom (â€œTheophanies in Holy Placesâ€, 104-105) concluded that in
Psalm 3 it would be natural â€œto think of an incubation-oracle imparted in an
incubation-dreamâ€: The psalmist received a propitious answer during his sleep in
the courtyard of the temple, and recited the psalm in the following morning.
(49) See note 19. For a discussion of yk as an emphatic introductory particle in
the passages mentioned above see A. BARUCQ, Lâ€™Expression de la louange divine
et de la priÃ¨re dans la Bible et en Ã‰gypte (Institut franÃ§ais dâ€™archÃ©ologie orientale,
bibliothÃ¨que dâ€™etude 32) (Cairo 1962) 338-339. I am grateful to my colleague
Prof. Nili Shupak for this reference.