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 209
subject but whose recipients are remote â€” are mediated through
(3) The cylinders of Gudea, 21st century BCE Ruler of Lagash,
present a graded continuum from dream to incubated vision that can
be linked to the growing proximity â€” both personal and spatial â€”
between Gudea and his god, Ningirsu (65). The first encounter in which
Ningirsu commands Gudea to build his temple, Enninu, occurs in a
symbolic theophanic dream that requires interpretation (A i:17 â€“ vi:14)
and it is repeatedly referred to as â€œdreamâ€ (ma-mÃº) (66). The location
of the dream is not stated. The second dream is incubated in the temple
site (A ix:5 â€“ xii:11), has Ningirsu step up to the head of the sleeping
Gudea, â€œbriefly touching himâ€ (67), and consists of a long speech in
which this god grants the temple builder further information and
blessings. This encounter is named â€œa dreamâ€ (ma-mÃº) only in
retrospect, when Gudea awakes (A xii:12-13). On a third occasion
Gudea is shown the complete temple reaching heaven (A xx:5-12).
This vision is also incubated in the temple site, occurring while Gudea
sleeps there, and it is not called â€œa dreamâ€.
(4) A status of personal closeness to the divine distinguishing
between dreamers and other visionaries emerges from the Mari letters.
It has been observed that Mari dreamers â€œbear no particular title of
diviner. They are referred to merely as â€˜youthâ€™ [â€¦] and â€˜(free)manâ€™
[â€¦]â€, whereas most cases of Mari prophecy â€œemploy a specific title of
b) Hand gestures
Hand gestures by deities are reported of several theophany
recipients. Only in the case of Adda-guppi, elderly mother of the Neo-
(65) See V. HUROWITZ, I Have Built You an Exalted House. Temple Building
in the Bible in Light of Mesopotamian and Northwest Semitic Writings (JSOTSS
115; Sheffield 1992) 49-54. Hurowitz shows how the dreams contribute to
reading Gudeaâ€™s plot as a voyage towards the removal of uncertainty. For the full
text (translation with transliteration) see E.J. WILSON, The Cylinders of Gudea
(Neukirchen-Vluyn 1996) 9-196; D.O. EDZARD, Gudea and His Dynasty (The
Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Early Periods, 3/1; Toronto 1997) 68-101.
(66) As also noted by R.E. AVERBECK in his translation, The Context of
Scripture (eds. W. HALLO â€“ K.L. YOUNGER, Jr.) (Leiden 2000) II, 419, n. 7.
(67) A ix:6 as translated by EDZARD, Gudea and His Dynasty, 74.
(68) A. MALAMAT, Mari and the Bible (Studies in the History and Culture of
the Ancient Near East 12; Leiden 1998) 97. Malamat takes this distribution to
reflect â€œa phenomenological delineation between the professional oracle,
privileged with direct revelation, and the dreamer of dreamsâ€.