Updated: Feb 5
This song of praise is selected to be sung loudly in Episcopal churches on the Sixth Sunday of Easter.
The Easter season is when all of true faith answer the call – “Come out!” – and die of Self, experience the lowest of the low, and then rise as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, married to God Almighty, going out into the world in ministry [the purpose of an Ordinary season that follows Pentecost Sunday, the end of the Easter season] leading others to God, through Christ. This song of David follows a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, where focus was placed on the Greek adoration of gods, including one whose name no one knew, as shown through idols, altars, shrines, temples, and statues. David sang a song that points out where the Greeks had gone wrong, which is why this Psalm was selected to be sung on this day. The elders who made this choice understood this connection; and the point of ministry is to amaze the disciples of Jesus with explanations that open their hearts wide and make them burn with desire to know more, falling in love with the Lord. [Note: We read about this in the story of the road to Emmaus, during the readings on the Third Sunday of Easter.]
The Israelites learned these psalms like girls today learn pop tunes.
The English translation of Psalm 66, as read or sung aloud in church, comes from the Book of Common Prayer (pages 674-675). This translation is not an exact match for the New International Version (NIV) or the New American Standard Bible (NASB), which the other readings are from (with modifications). It is important to realize that the English translations, including the one found in the Book of Common Prayer, are misleading paraphrases. They mislead by making this song of praise become as useless as a Greek statue to a Greek god.
As a human being that thirsted for open discussion about Scriptural matters, which I was not having quenched through listening to inane sermons Sunday after Sunday, I began a search for another human being who was seeing the same truths that I saw, so I could be confirmed that I was not mistaken. My attendance at Bible Study classes on Wednesdays and lectionary study classes before church on Sundays found it was the blind leading the blind, falling into one hole after another.
This led me to leap at the chance to join the program offered by larger Episcopalian churches (large enough to field twelve enrollees per year) called Education for Ministry (EfM). The program is designed to be four years long, with each year having about thirty-nine meetings (two hours each), once per week. I enrolled in a class of twelve that was for the first year students.
The first year of the EfM program focuses on the Old Testament. Right off the bat, as we were reading the course paperwork that came with the admission fee and the Book of Genesis, we were asked to believe the hypothesis of multiple writers of Hebrew Scripture. Rather than think Isaiah wrote every one of the books under his name, scholars had determined Isaiah was like Shakespeare and anyone could have written a book under that name. Those same scholars had determined the Hebrew text has four basic writers, with one of them called “the E writer,” where the “E” represents the Hebrew word “elohim” (“אֱלֹ֘הִ֥ים”).
The Hebrew word “elohim” is said by Strong’s to be “(plural) 1a. rulers, judges; 1b. divine ones; 1c. angels; 1d. gods.” While being a plural form of the word “el” (“אֵל”), Strong’s adds, “(plural intensive singular meaning) 2a. god, goddess; 2b. godlike one; 2c. works or special processions of God; 2d. the (true) God; 2e. God.” As a plural word that quickly implies “gods,” the E-writer was someone who liked writing in the plural number, while meaning the singular.
Now, as a first year student in a course asking me to believe “elohim” means “el” (and their reasoning was not “because Strong’s said so”), the course paperwork explained that belief should come because of a theory by scholars. That theory (admittedly, in the course paperwork) could not be proved, but it needed to be accepted so the students would be able to continue reading their course paperwork, which assumed everyone believed that ‘ghost writers’ hypothesis.
My question was, “Why would a writer choose to scribble four letters, when the intent meant only two were necessary?” Besides the obvious confusion such a stunt would cause, I asked my ‘mentor’ (the class leader), “What is wrong with reading “gods” every time “elohim” is written?” After all, I thought, God created everything, why not helpers?
I became a bad boy student, with thirty-eight (or so) more weeks to go.
I tell this story because the Book of Common Prayer, under the heading “Concerning the Psalter” states this:
“Three terms are used in the Psalms with reference to God: Elohim (“God”), Adonai (“Lord”) and the personal name YHWH.” (page 583)
It is with this understanding that one realizes five times in Psalm 66:7-18 (the numbering of verses differs in other publications) “God” is sung or spoken aloud, with each of those translations coming from the Hebrew word “elohim,” which means “gods.” Once, in verse 16 (some publications list this as verse 18), the word “Lord” is read, which comes from the Hebrew word “adonai.”
Here is an article on Wikipedia that lists the various names for God in Hebrew. In that article one learns that “adonai” is the plural of the singular word “adon,” which means “lord.” Amazingly (to me), the Jews also adhere to the plural versions being acceptable to read in the singular, depending on the context surrounding each use (some plural uses do means “gods”). So, a combination like “adonai elohim” is read as “Lord God,” not “lord of gods” or “lord of lords.”
With all this said, one comes to a point of decision. A choice has to be made. There are only two options: 1.) David wrote Psalm 66; or 2.) The E writer wrote Psalm 66.
The choice is yours. Now that you have been officially educated in scholastic reason (after the fact), do you build a temple to “E” and worship his word, or do you sing the song of David as if your own heart sings of “gods” and “lords”?
All of Genesis 1 says, “elohim” did this and “elohim” did that, only to have it translated so it reads “God” did this or “God” did that.* My EfM mentor refused to allow discussion about my proposition, “Why was God incapable of having lesser gods [which God would have created] do the work He commanded?” I asked, “Why couldn’t Creation be the work of God through His gods?
I believe God is smarter than ole Tom Sawyer. If he could get others to do his work, I’m sure God could do better.
I was told, “There is only One God, so shut up.” [I paraphrase.]
To understand “elohim” as “gods,” one has to understand Paul speaking to the Greeks as one of the “elohim” who had been filled with the Holy Spirit, reborn as God’s Son, and as such God was creating Christianity through “elohim” (then called Apostles). If one can grasp that concept, then back up the calendar to the days of David. David was also filled with God’s Holy Spirit, reborn as God’s Son, and creating a holy Israel.
The scholars who worship the E writer theory cannot even confirm that David existed. They think (but cannot prove) David was a mythical creation of the Jews, something akin to King Arthur. They will not come right out and say that, but there are few true Christians (like Paul) these days, and there are no more King Davids leading anyone anywhere in 2020.
There are no longer any Israelite “elohim” around, of whom David sang. The collapse of Israel was due to the people not wanting to become sons of God (“elohim“). They had asked Samuel to tell God to give us a King, so the Israelites could be like the Greeks and Egyptians, and build monuments to the “gods,” rather than having to make the commitment to be “gods” that did all the work of creation God commanded.
Again, the English translation of Psalm 66 hides the truth that underlies. You can follow along with this Interlinear list of Hebrew and English. If feeling a little lazy, just keep reading and ignore the link. Here are some literal translations that do not ignore the plural number words:
Verse 7 is read aloud so it says, “Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard.” It literally can translate this way [keeping in mind that Hebrew has no capital letters]: “kneel you peoples – you gods – and make be heard – the voice of his song of praise”.
Now, can that be read as if David was calling the Israelites the children of God, using “elohim” as a way of their Covenant meaning all “people” of Israel had to be married to God, reborn as His servants [i.e.: holy priests]? You tell me.
Verse 8 then says, “who places our soul among the living – and does not allow out feet to be shaken.”
This is reference (“who”) to the one “voice of his song of praise,” who has the power to give souls away – Yahweh. Still, it says the ‘one soul’ of Israel has been granted eternal life (“among the living,” versus being among the mortal dead). That grant to Israel was to place His priestly servants among the world of peoples, to stand tall because of the faith of elohim, unable to be shaken from its solid foundation that is oneness with God. Christian Saints have that solidity through the perfect cornerstone that is Jesus Christ.
Verse 9 says, “for you have tested us gods (elohim) – you have refined us as is refined silver.”
This says the test of faith means no impure hearts will ever be united in marriage to YHWH. The merger of God with a soul means one is refined and all impurities have been burned away. Having passed that test, the Israelites became “gods” who served the One God.
Verse 10 then says, “you brought us into the net – you laid afflictions around our loins”.
This says that God was the suitor in the relationship with the Israelites. The testing of their merits came from all the attacks they had to face, against the indigenous peoples of Canaan. They had to pass the test of commitment through the times of the judges, when the people cried out to God in anguish. They were not free to interbreed with others.
Verse 11 follows that by saying, “you have caused to mount mankind over our heads – we went through fire and through water – but you brought us out to abundance”.
Following “afflictions around our loins,” where the Israelites were seen as responsible for the plagues of Egypt, is was “through fire” of anger that Pharaoh pursued the Israelites, forcing them to pass “through water” parted by Moses. By God being married to Moses (an “elohim“), God took the Israelites to the Promised Land, the Land of Milk and Honey (“abundance”), with the rest of “mankind” seeking to destroy the Israelites for not being like ‘normal people’.
Verse 12 then says, “I will go into your dwelling places with burnt offerings – I will pay you my vows , which have uttered – and I have declared – in accordance I was narrowed”.
Remembering the Fifth Sunday of Easter, when the reading from John 14 had Jesus telling his disciples about there being many dwelling places in his Father’s household, David spoke of each Israelite as models of himself, where the “I” of his ego was a “burnt offering” so God could dwell within his flesh. That became a marriage, based on the “vows” of the Covenant being “paid” by living up to that commitment. As in a marriage ceremony, two exchange “vows,” therefore God “uttered” and David (Israel) also “declared.” With the bond set, David was then “distressed” or “narrowed,” in the sense that he became the servant of his Lord, without the freedom to do as he so pleased – the Covenant became Law.
And the ring symbolizes eternity.
Verse 13 then follows, saying “burnt sacrifices of fat animals – I will offer you with the sweet aroma of rams – I will offer bulls with goats – selah [lifted up]”.
Certainly, this speaks of the Israelite-Jewish ceremonial rites of altar sacrifices, which are parts of the Covenant. Because the first person singular is used, meaning David spoke of his marriage to God, this speaks on a broader sense of the ministry of the “elohim,” as the act of marriage is only the first step of many in submission to God’s Will. Thus, “fat animals,” “rams,” and “bulls with goats” speaks of the role of a Son of God – to “lift up” others who will give up their self-egos and serve the Lord.
Verse 14 then says, “come hear – and I will declare [to] all you who fear gods (elohim) – what he has done for my soul”.
This fully supports verse 13 being about ministry, because this is what David preached to those who “come hear.” He would speak to Israelites, but also the leaders of any other nations who met him [remember David was kept safe from angry Saul by the leader of the Philistines and welcomed to live among them]. The aspect of “fear” [from the Hebrew “yare“] is perfectly suited for all times, as fearing giving up one’s self-ego and self-identity to serve God is the same fear girls have before being given away in marriage. When David sang about “what [God] has done for my soul,” he was speaking words of encouragement – “Everything will be more than okay. It will be great!” By saying “soul” [from the Hebrew “nephesh“] the marriage is Spiritual, as is being one of the elohim.
Verse 15 then says, “to him with my language – I proclaimed and he was praised by my tongue”.
This says that David was like Jesus, who did not speak for himself but for the Father, because the Father was with him. This says being the voice of God is the role of the elohim.
And the voice of God came like tongues of fire.
Verse 16 says, “if wickedness I ponder in my inner mind – not will hear the Lord [adonai]”.
More than stating God will turn His back from the wicked, it says that one who lets wickedness rule over one [remember Cain] then one will refuse to hear God speaking words that say, “You are going the wrong way.” Human beings destroy themselves by refusing to let God into their hearts, through relinquishing their self-importance.
Verse 17 then says, “surely has heard gods (elohim) he has inclined the voice of my prayers”.
Again, this is not David singing about God hearing someone, but that one who has become married to God, as one of His elohim, they have heard the voice of God coming through their prayers. Prayer is a two-way street, such that God listens to and answers the prayers of His wives (human beings).
Finally, Verse 18 says, “kneel gods (elohim) – who not has turned away my prayer – nor his goodness to me”.
Here, David repeated the word “barak,” which is translated both times as “blessed.” The word means “kneel” also, like when a King of England would knight someone who would kneel before him. That imagery is a comparison of one of the elohim being likewise touched by the sword of God’s power. David sang that the elohim are those who pray to God and have their prayers answered, which comes in the way of “goodness,” which is also “mercy” given to their souls.
With all this said about the meaning, which centers on the concept of elohim not just being God, but being the plurality of God with another’s soul – as an Apostle or Saint – few people these days hear this song in this way. Sermons are not written about the Psalms; but then sermons are not written that tell the people not to fear submitting their egos to serve God wholeheartedly. Everyone sits in pews of the sheepfold or leans on the sheepfold fence wearing a robe of piety, becoming unsacrificed fat animals, foul smelling rams, and bull-headed ornery goats, all going nowhere beyond their mortal destructions.
Waiting for the sermon at the petting zoo?
The imagery of David’s Psalms needs to be modernized and taken to heart today, before it is too late. As a side note, in Psalm 23, read on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is commonly referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday, the first verse says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.” David did not write “adonai” where the translation is “Lord.” He wrote, “Yahweh” (or YHWH or yhwh – “יְהוָ֥ה”). No need for the E writer to be called in for that one.
* – When Genesis 2 rolls around, “elohim” is found in verses 2 and 3, but then changes to “Yahweh elohim” (“יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים”), written in verses 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, and 22. Because that clearly states “God of gods,” the EfM course paperwork said, “Oh, by the way, the E writer ended Genesis 1 with the end of that chapter being verses 1-3 of Genesis 2 really being Genesis 1. The scholars believe Moses called “Break Time!” and the E writer walked off leaving three verses at the top of a piece of parchment, but then the Genesis 2 writer came and sat at the scrib’s table and forgot to give those verses to “E.”
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”