“Hear, Lord, a Righteous Cause:” Psalms 15–18, 20–21 as a Ritual for the Protection and Blessing of the King


Joel T. Hamme

Publication Date



Joel Hamme argues that Pss 15-18, 20-21 was a ritual of protection and blessing for the king. He surveys earlier scholarly approaches to the reconstruction of royal ritual in the Psalms, and argues that they have two weaknesses: 1) They are based on faulty ancient Near Eastern comparative data from the Akitu, and 2) they are too subjective, as there are no objective controls by which to decide which psalms or are to be included in the ritual reconstruction, or the order that they would occur in. He argues for a new empirical model for the reconstruction of royal ritual in the Psalter based upon the incorporation of a small DINGIR.ŠA.DIB.BA ritual prayer collection (prayers to reconcile with a personal deity) and a short maqlû ritual (an anti-witchcraft ritual) into the royal ritual bît rimki, "house of the ritual bath." By an observation of incipits in ritual tablets, and the transmission of the ritual prayers and incantations separate from them, the study discovers two things: 1) the prayers and rituals were transmitted separately from the ritual tablets in the same sequence that they occurred in the ritual. 2) The prayers and rituals were used in non-royal contexts and then secondarily used in the new royal context. Based upon the empirical model, Hamme interprets Pss 15-18, 20-21 as a royal ritual for the protection and blessing of the king. Psalms 15-17 is a protestation of righteousness in which the king argues that the LORD should protect him and destroy his enemies, because he has scrupulously observed the statutes and ordinances of the LORD. Psalm 18 is the center of the ritual, in which the king gives thanks for the LORD's deliverance and victory over his enemies in the past, based upon the king's righteousness. Psalms 20-21 is a priestly response to the king, in which the king is assured that the LORD has accepted his offerings, and will answer in the day of trouble again. Psalm 19, rather than a part of the ritual, is a later interpretive expansion to Ps 18.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Theology (PhD in Theology)

First Advisor

Allen, Leslie C.

Document Type





Bible, Psalms, Ritual in literature, Judaism, Liturgy


Missions and World Christianity


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