“Blessed Is He Who Comes”: Psalm 118 And Jesus’s Triumphal Entry -- By: Kenneth E. Guenter
BSac 173:692 (October-December 2016) p. 425
“Blessed Is He Who Comes”:
Psalm 118 And Jesus’s Triumphal Entry
Kenneth E. Guenter is associate professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History, Briercrest College and Seminary, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Psalm 118 was apparently so commonly associated with welcoming a Davidic king that people spontaneously hailed Jesus with cheers from it. But why remains unclear. As the psalm offers no title, author, or references to David or a king, few scholars have suggested its historical setting and even fewer have linked it with David. Nevertheless, details within Psalm 118 explain how first-century Jews would reasonably have attributed it to David upon his triumphal return from Absalom’s revolt, and their traditions for welcoming conquerors explain why they employed it to greet Jesus.
In all four Gospels the crowd fused quotations from Psalm 118 with royal or Davidic titles as they escorted Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the temple courts. Their “hosannas” were to “the Son of David” (Matt. 21:8-9),1 and they blessed not simply the “one who comes” in the name of the Lord, but the “king who comes” (Luke 19:38) and “the coming kingdom of our father David” (Mark 11:10). To “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” they added “even the King of Israel” (John 12:13).
The crowd’s intention to promote Jesus as their Davidic king and Messiah is evident in their citation of Zechariah 9:9 and in
BSac 173:692 (October-December 2016) p. 426
their gestures.2 The precedents of coats strewn for Jehu, Israel’s judges riding on donkeys, David’s mule used in Solomon’s coronation, and Zechariah’s prediction of Zion’s king riding on a donkey’s colt have been appreciated in recent studies by Catchpole, Kinman, Blomberg, and France.3 However, none of these has explained why the crowds spontaneously adapted Psalm 118 to laud Jesus as their king. The setting the crowd presumed for Psalm 118 ...
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