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 211
judicial procedure) by his brother Muwatalli, Ishtar appeared to him in
a dream saying: â€œTo the deity (of the process) I will leave you so do not
fear!â€. The text continues to report Hattushiliâ€™s subsequent acquittal,
concluding that â€œSince the goddess, My Lady, held me by the hand she
never exposed me to an evil deity or to an evil lawsuit, never did she
let an enemy weapon sway over me [â€¦] Whenever illness befell me
[â€¦] My Lady held me by the hand in every respectâ€. Connected only
indirectly to Ishtarâ€™s dream appearance to the king, the goddessâ€™ hand
gesture assumes here a motto significance of general support in many
types of crisis, illustrated further both textually and pictographically
on reliefs and seal impressions. Remarkably Hattushili III himself is
depicted as the recipient of such a gesture only on the silver tablet
containing the peace treaty with Ramesses II, another king who had
ample use for this gesture in his royal undertaking (74).
(6) Ramesses II: In the literary record of the battle of Qadesh the
Egyptian king relates how the god Amun responded to his call: â€œThe
moment I called to him I found Amun came, he gave me his hand and
I was happy. As (close as) face to face, he spoke out (from) behind me:
Forward! I am with you, I am your father, my hand is with you! I am
more useful to you than hundred-thousands of men, I am the Lord of
Victory who loves braveryâ€ (75). The passage and its context echo Psalm
3 in several typical motifs of the petition prayer and the response, such
as complaint about numerous enemies, invocation of oneâ€™s god and
reliance on his support. Remarkably it renders the appearance of Amun
with a phrase used also of a dream theophany (â€œAmun cameâ€) (76) but
the context clearly excludes such an understanding.
To summarize, divine gestures of support are not uncommon in
HattuÏ€ili IIIâ€ (forthcoming). I am grateful to Dr. Mouton for an advance copy of
her article. In earlier renditions the words of the deity in the kingâ€™s dream were
taken as a negative question e.g. â€œWould I leave you to (some other) deity?â€. See
The Context of Scripture, I, 200, n. 11.
(74) As observed by Th.P.J. van den Hout (The Context of Scripture, I, 199 n.
5) apropos the first occurrence of the phrase in the Apology of Hattushili (Â§3).
(75) Quoted from K.A. Kitchenâ€™s translation in The Context of Scripture, II,
35. Cf. also P.D. MILLER, They Cried to the Lord. The Form and Theology of
Biblical Prayer (Minneapolis 1994) 149.
(76) Thus it is reported of Amenhotep II on the Memphis Stella that Amun
came before him in his dream â€œto give [him] valorâ€. See OPPENHEIM, The
Interpretation of Dreams, 190-191; S. SAUNERON, â€œLes songes et leur
interprÃ©tation dans lâ€™Ã‰gypte ancienneâ€, Les songes et leur interprÃ©tation, 22;