Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 29

God of glory, power and peace

We who serve Christ are easily seduced by greed and our culture’s other idols. Here David poetically takes on all the gods of Canaan, declaring that God alone deserves our worship.

 A David psalm.

1 Stand back, you oversized godlings!
Stand in awe before YHWH’s power and glory!
2 Acknowledge YHWH
as the unrivalled star of the show.
Bow low before YHWH’s holy splendor—
perfect in mystery, matchless in glory.

3 YHWH’s voice starts out low
rumbling over the sea’s wild roar
and crescendos in mind-numbing bursts of thunder.
So powerful is the God of glory’s voice
that it drowns out the sea.
4 YHWH’s voice is commanding
magisterial.
5 YHWH’s voice breaks the cedars
YHWH turns the cedars of Lebanon
into matchstick wrecks!
6 YHWH’s voice
makes Lebanon’s majestic mountains
frolic like spring calves
Mt. Hermon wheel and gambol
like a wild ox!
7 Then YHWH’s voice strikes terror
in the liquid fire of a lightning bolt
8 that shakes the whole land
shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 YHWH’s voice
sends the mighty oaks into a dance
so wild it strips the forest bare.
In YHWH’s cosmos-turned-temple
no one can hold back
and the whole place resounds
with cries of “Glory!”

10 YHWH sits enthroned
above the vanquished floodwaters.
YHWH sits enthroned as king forever!
11 YHWH gives strength to his people.
YHWH blesses his people with peace.


Many Israelites found Baal worship’s heady mix of religion, sex—temple prostitution—and power appealing. Baal simultaneously wore many hats, as storm god, fertility god, god of commerce, and god of war. Canaanites imagined him with a lightning bolt for a spear and a voice that shook the earth. Here David uses poetic devices and Canaanite imagery to declare all of Canaan’s gods—Baal included—frauds. And he does this without ever saying their names.

The term rendered “godlings” (beni ’elim, literally “sons of gods/God”) can refer to gods or supernatural beings. Canaanites saw Baal as Lord of all the gods, who are addressed here rhetorically. David is simply addressing all the evil beings the Canaanites worship—whether demons or other created supernatural beings—and demanding their unqualified submission to God.

The psalm’s midsection pictures the storm caused by YHWH’s approach making landfall, overwhelming everything from majestic Mount Hermon in the north, to untameable Kadesh in the south. Also, since the Canaanite myth had Baal subduing the waters, the location of YHWH’s throne, over the waters, shows him—not Baal—to be creation’s undisputed Lord. To underscore his point, David uses YHWH’s name repeatedly, with echo effect. The only reasonable response is for us to join the rest of creation in crying “Glory!”

Thus, the psalm effectively orders the whole Canaanite pantheon of deposed rival gods to join heaven’s court in bowing before YHWH. And if divine pretenders must bow, what about us mortals who seek whatever glory we can? We must yield our glory too, as the psalm implicitly calls us to do.

Being god of war, Baal supposedly made his warring followers into killing machines. By contrast, the strength YHWH brings to earth quells our love of war, blessing his people with peace.

Jesus, though our society now worships money, sex, status, and power—poor substitutes for you–you’re the one we long to worship. Help me see your matchless majesty, bow adoring, and cry, “Glory!” Let me learn from you your peace and rest of soul. Amen.

In your free moments today, declare this truth:

YHWH gives strength to his people.
YHWH blesses his people with peace.

Why YHWH?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH or YHVH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and sometimes transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Likewise, all modern translations either translate or transliterate it. Some other options for translating it are “the Eternal,” “the Almighty,” or “the Sovereign Lord.”

While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it seems to me more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. This roots it more firmly in the biblical story as the name God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Meaning “the self-existent One who answers to no one,” the name YHWH set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. I’ve chosen to transliterate only YHWH’s consonants since the earliest Hebrew manuscripts contain only consonants, the vowels being added much later. My aim in doing so is to honor God’s name and set it apart, as unique.

One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it out of reverence. (They read Adonai instead whenever they come to YHWH in the text.) I take the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard, who advocated pronouncing it as Yahveh (Yah·vay). He favored that over the standard Yahweh since the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish. It also makes it sound more robust, period.

Finding strength in the ancient psalms

May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.