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Psalm 1 & 2 as Vision of Tree of Life

J Green

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For several years I've thought that Psalm 1 & 2 are telling us pretty much the same story as the Tree of Life vision in the BoM:

-These two psalms were originally one hymn. Many early manuscripts showed them as one psalm and key manuscript variants for a citation of Psalm 2:7 in Acts 3 gives us the reading that this is the first Psalm (proto psalmo). They were separated later to create a double introduction to the first book of the Psalter (1-39) that focused separately on Torah/Wisdom and divine kingship.

-This one hymn was a coronation psalm for the divine shepherd-king who was anointed as the Son of God on the day of his coronation and given an oracle and shepherd staff or scepter (a composite-scepter made of iron--hence 'rod of iron') to legitimize his authority to rule on God's behalf.

- This combined psalm most likely had at its heart the ideas represented in Deut 17:18-20, which warned the anointed kings of Israel to study the law so as not to stray from the path. (Another reference that likens studying the word of God to following a path.)

- This one Psalm was framed at its beginning (Ps 1:1) and end (Ps 2:12) with the concept of happiness. The opening words are 'ashery ha-ish, or "happy is the man."

- The now separated Ps 1 focuses on two paths: the path of the wicked and the path of the righteous. The wicked mock and scorn the righteous, while the righteous walk along the path that is characterized by delight in torah, or studying the word of God (written or oral). This is then compared to a tree with fruit by a river. According to tradition (modern and ancient) and intertextual allusion, this tree reprents the Messiah. Those who choose this path are zaddiqim, or "holy ones," which is also the word underlying Nephi's use of "saints" in 1 Ne 15 to refer to those who are associated with the tree in his vision. The wicked perish, based on a Hebrew root that means destruction, contains allusions to sheol, and can also mean to stray from the path or get lost.

- What is now Ps 2 focuses on the coronation of the divine king amidst a conspiracy against the Lord's anointed. The divine king is begotten on the very day of his coronation, just as in other ancient Near Eastern coronation ceremonies, where the coronation represents their birth on that day as a Son of God. G. von Rad and others tied this directly to Isaiah's oracle in 9:6 about the birth of the Messianic divine king ("unto us a child is born") and point to 9:6 as the coronation oracle (ala Ps 2) for Hezekiah. Others nominate Josiah or other kings as the candidate. The divine king of Ps 2 has a long tradition of representing the actual Messiah, thus the coronation ceremony of being fathered on that day represents the birth of the Messiah.

- The divine Shepherd-King in Ps 2 uses his rod of iron to "shepherd" his people (Ps 2:9). Instead of the Aramaic loan-word ra'a here (the "break" of the KJV), the LXX translators appeared to read the Heb roots ra'ah, to shepherd or rule, as they used the Greek poimaneis (rule or shepherd) in their translation. So did the NT authors who cited Ps 2:9 with the same word. Rev 12 gives us a Nephi-like imagery of the Mother giving birth to the Savior while citing the "rod of iron" passage from Psalm 2:9, also using poimaneis. It is a shepherd's staff used to lead the flock. And there are many allusions throughout the entire text where people are led through the wilderness by the rod that symbolizes the shepherd's staff of the divine leader. See Psalm 23:4 (walking through a valley of gloom or darkness comforted and led by His staff or rod), Moses leading Israel through the wilderness with the rod, etc.

Taken together, these psalms originally formed one coronation hym that gives us key images that are at the heart of the BoM Tree of Life vision. It's about happiness, following the path that represents studying the word of God. It's the tree of life that represents the messiah, who is the divine king who will be the begotten son of God and anointed as the Shepherd-King to shepherd and lead his people with the rod of iron.

Details, sources, and more analysis on my blog (see link in sig line).


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Personally, I suspect that the water is actually the Messiah.

Would this link to the river flowing from the heavenly throne in Rev 22 and the river of life flowing from the temple in Ez 47?

Unless, of course, you are saying that the righteous man is the messiah.

The most consistent interpretations point to both the righteous man and the tree as Messianic in nature.


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Sorry I missed commenting on this earlier, but what a fantastic insight! Seriously. I actually have a bit I wanted to comment on, but alas, have and will continue to be busy for the next day or two, but I did read the full version on your website and really appreciate the great observation.

More later.

In the meantime, major props!


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