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
208 Ruth Fidler
(2) Ashurbanipal: Concerned about the Elamites marching against
his land, the Assyrian king comes to the temple of Ishtar and crouches
before the image of the goddess in tearful prayer (59). Subsequently, he
reports, Ishtar heard his distressful sighs and told him â€œdo not fearâ€.
She had seen his hands raised in prayer and his eyes filled with tears
and had mercy upon him. This is another example of a theophany
invoked in a time of crisis (60) and not entitled dream. Nevertheless
some relation to the dream emerges in the immediate sequel that
describes an experience from â€œthat same nightâ€ involving a priest of
Ishtar (â€œLÃšÏ€abrÃ»â€) (61). The Ï€abrÃ»-priest went to bed and had a dream.
He awoke and repeated to the king the nocturnal vision (â€œtabrÃ®t mÃ»Ï€iâ€)
which Ishtar caused him to see (62). In it the goddess enters, her
weapons ready for battle, and speaks with Ashurbanipal like a mother,
assuring him of her steadfast support. The scene ends with Ishtar
wrapping the king in her baby sling, protecting his whole body. The
priestâ€™s night vision is probably recounted to corroborate the preceding
report of the kingâ€™s encounter with the goddess, to which he was the
sole human witness, perhaps focusing on elements that the king
presumably could not see while crouching before Ishtarâ€™s image (63).
Recently it was suggested that the priest had his dream or night vision
â€œat homeâ€ (64). If this is correct then the relation between the
experience reported by the priest and that of Ashurbanipal himself is
comparable to the relation between Elâ€™s appearance in Kirtaâ€™s dream
and his encounter with Danâ€™el: Those who visit a sacred precinct
(Ashurbanipal, Danâ€™el) experience a more direct encounter with the
gods invoked, whereas other theophanies â€” related or similar in
(59) The whole episode: Cylinder B, V:16-76. M. STRECK, Assurbanipal und
die letzten assyrischen KÃ¶nige bis zum Untergange Ninivehâ€™s (Vorderasiatische
Bibliothek 7; Leipzig 1916) II, 112-119; cf. also 190-193 (K2652); English
translation: D.D. LUCKENBILL, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia
(Chicago 1926-1927) II, Â§Â§ 858-861.
(60) OPPENHEIM, The Interpretation of Dreams, 200.
(61) Ibid., Â§Â§860-861; ANET, 451.
(62) Here I followed the translation offered by S.A.L. BUTLER, Mesopotamian
Conceptions of Dreams and Dream Rituals (AOAT 258; MÃ¼nster 1998) 31-32.
According to other translations the night vision seems to be a separate experience
that followed the waking of the Ï€abrÃ»-priest. See LUCKENBILL, Ancient Records
II, Â§861; OPPENHEIM, The Interpretation of Dream, 249 #10.
(63) Oppenheim (The interpretation of Dreams, 201) argued convincingly that
the two reports â€” the priestâ€™s and Ashurbanipalâ€™s â€” referred to one and the same
(64) HUSSER, Dreams and Dream Narratives, 40.