590 BC at 570 BC, Psalm 18: The celestial chariot.

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ciel shutterstock_69817990This generation is that of the years between 590 BC to 570 BC

This generation is a hinge generation in the night of the children of Israel. Before this generation, God was in the midst of his people, after this generation God will have disappeared from the holy mountain of Jerusalem, from among his people.
This is the generation of the destruction of the first Temple.
The second Temple will continue the worship of sacrifices until its destruction but in the absence of the divine essence. It will simply close the forty-nine generations related to the curses of Leviticus, those related to the period when the service of the Temple is active.
This in contrast to the ninety-eight curses of Deuteronomy corresponding to the second exile following the destruction of the Second Temple during which the worship of Temple sacrifices is definitely replaced by prayer within the synagogues.
The psalm that is associated with this generation naturally has a place apart, in fact it is taken over entirely in the book of Samuel which takes the course of King David.
For seventeen generations, the people of Israel have returned in the night but still benefiting from the residual glow of the fading day. This generation represents for the people of Israel the entrance into the dark night.

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This is symbolized by the destruction of the Temple of Solomon by Nebuchadnezzar, in respect of the various predictions that the prophets had made to the people of Israel.
By the destruction of the Temple, it is also the departure of God from among his people. This does not mean that he does not keep a benevolent eye to avoid the worst of his people but he no longer assists his people directly.

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At the level of the prophecies, it is Ezekiel who marks this generation by his prophecies. This one will expose again the reasons which make the people of Israel is immersed in this long night.

(extract of the psalm 18 associated to this generation, verse 7  – object of Rachi’s commentary that follows )

  • When I am in distress, I call upon the Lord; yes, I cry out to my God; out of His temple He hears my voice, and my cry comes before Him in His ears.
Regarding this verse 7 of the psalm of this generation, we can refer to Rashi’s interpretation.
Recall that the psalm of this generation is included in the book of Samuel, and so here we refer to Rashi’s commentary on this same verse in the book of Samuel, verse 7 of II Samuel, Chapter 22:
  • I call upon… He hears: Heb. וישמע lit. He heard. That is the nature of the present tense, it speaks in past and future tense simultaneously.
The time used in this psalm makes it timeless: past, present and future.
The psalm is extended to the entire destiny of the people of Israel, while remaining focused on the major event of this generation: the destruction of the first Temple and especially the departure of God from among his people.
Enlargement that allows, when a loved one moves away, to comfort himself by imagining, as he moves away, his next return.
The eighteen generation is probably the most painful of the long night of the people of Israel. In exile, the people of Israel will be confronted many times with the barbarism of the nations, that is nothing beside the separation of God and his people.
This is the lot of this generation. How can David find the energy to make a psalm for this generation?
It is precisely by detaching himself from the distress of this event and by projecting himself through all the generations and more particularly to those who will see the reconciliation of God and his people, those who will see the people of Israel come out of the power of nations to regain its sovereignty and place with God.
This explains the introduction of this psalm that we will further explain later.
When it is quoted in the book of Samuel, this psalm is supposed to summarize the life of David, but in fact, by a different reading, this psalm actually retraces the life of the Jewish people by anchoring itself on the generation of destruction. of the first Temple.
So Saul is naturally quoted because he was a central figure in David’s life and destiny. If Saul is quoted it is because David nearly died in the hands of Saul, his lineage almost disappeared because of Saul’s will to exterminate David.
Unfortunately, the history of the people of Israel is marked by many persecutors who have not ceased to want to finish with him. This is why the final resurrection will be marked by the fall of all the enemies of Israel like Saul who did not reach his goals towards David.
David agrees to describe the catastrophe that must occur only because in the process, he can also evoke the resurrection of his people. He can speak of the divorce of the people of Israel with his God, because from the start he knows that there will be reconciliation before the divorce is actually pronounced.
The turbulence that reaches the eighteenth generation is perhaps the most terrible because it is the one that sees the departure of the divine presence of the Temple of Jerusalem.
This explains the beginning of Psalm 18, which reminds us that, whatever the test to be passed, God remains the only refuge that allows the people of Israel to go through trials.
David knows that the people of Israel, through the trials, will be able to count on the same support to come out except hardships despite the suffering of time.
This is what David says at the beginning of this psalm in anticipation of the terrible ordeal that awaits the people of Israel:

(extract of the psalm 18 associated to this generation, verses 1  to 4 )

  • For the conductor; of the servant of the Lord, of David, who spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day that the Lord saved him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.
  • And he said, « I love You, O Lord, my strength.
  • O Lord, my rock and my fortress and my rescuer; my God, my rock, I will take refuge in Him; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my refuge.
  • With praise I call to the Lord, and from my enemies I will be saved.
The eighteenth generation sees indeed the complete bursting of the kingdom of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. This event had been widely predicted by the prophets without changing the attitude of the people of Israel thus making divine wrath inevitable.
The fall of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah justifies the anguish of David, who may fear the premature end of the adventure of his people.
This is what he evokes in the sequel of the psalm of this generation while not missing to place himself virtually in the heart of the Temple of Jerusalem which will be destroyed:

(extract of the psalm 18 associated to this generation, verses 5  to 7 )

  • Bands of death have encompassed me, and streams of scoundrels would affright me.
  • Bands of the nether world have surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me.
  • When I am in distress, I call upon the Lord; yes, I cry out to my God; out of His temple He hears my voice, and my cry comes before Him in His ears.
The descriptions made by the prophets to announce the future destruction of Jerusalem are used in the sequel of the psalm of this generation to evoke the actual destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem:

(extract of the psalm 18 associated to this generation, verses 8  to 10 )

  • The earth shook and quaked, the foundations of the mountains did tremble; and they were shaken when He was angered.
  • Smoke went up in His nostrils, and fire out of His mouth did devour; coals flamed forth from Him.
  • And He bent the heavens, and He came down, and thick darkness was under His feet.
This last passage, in addition to evoking the evils that fall on Judah and Jerusalem evokes the flight of God from his earthly home to his heavenly abode. The fact that God could leave the Temple in this way was also part of Jeremiah’s predictions.

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However, the flight of God from his earthly residence evoked by David in his psalm is the subject of a more detailed description in a dream of Ezekiel during his exile in Babylon. Ezekiel was one of the first exiles, he was presumably deported around 597 BC, before the destruction of the first Temple. The dream of Ezekiel therefore corresponds approximately to the moment of the destruction of this one, and describes on the one hand the ascent of the divine chariot which thus abandons Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple.
16 Zurich Bible Ezechiel Vision Of God Ez 1 Emory University
The continuation of the psalm of this generation thus describes and the flight of God from his earthly residence and the destruction of the Temple by resuming the elements of the dream of Ezekiel:

(extract of the psalm 18 associated to this generation, verses 11  to 15 )

  • And He rode on a cherub and did fly; He swooped on the wings of the wind.
  • He made darkness His hiding-place about Him as His booth; the darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
  • From the brightness before Him, His thick cloud passed, hail and coals of fire.
  • The Lord thundered from Heaven; and the Most High gave forth His voice with hail and coals of fire.
  • And He sent out arrows and He scattered them; He shot lightning and He discomfited them.
This departure of God from his residence in Jerusalem was not inevitable. Before these events, God, through Jeremiah, had tried to bring the people of Israel back to the right path. These warnings were not listened to and the divine wrath was expressed.
This is illustrated by the following verse of Psalm 18:

(extract of the psalm 18 associated to this generation, verse 16 )

  • And the depths of the water appeared; the foundations of the world were laid bare by Your rebuke, O Lord, by the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
Louvre-Lens_-_L'Europe_de_Rubens_-_127_-_Le_Prophète_JérémieBut the destruction of the people of Israel is not complete. The divine wrath remains measured in order to preserve his people, and to leave the latter a chance to finally find his way so that the pronounced alliance is finally realized in a definitive way.

So when Jeremiah announces the destruction orchestrated by Nebuchadnezzar, he announces at the same time that it will not be complete. In fact, the pact between God and his people can not be broken.

Thus, a faith announced the destruction that is happening to Jerusalem and the people of Israel, as predicted by the various prophets who have unfortunately not been heard, the continuation of the psalm connects on the future resurrection of the people of Israel. With David at his head, the narrator of the psalms.
Again, the psalm echoes the predictions of the eighteenth-generation prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel:

(extract of the psalm 18 associated to this generation, verses 17  to 28 )

  • He sent forth from on high [and] He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
  • He delivered me from my mighty enemy, and from those that hated me, for they were too powerful for me.
  • They confronted me on the day of my calamity, but the Lord was a support to me.
  • And He brought me forth into a wide space; He delivered me because He took delight in me.
  • The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He recompensed me.
  • For I have kept the ways of the Lord and have not wickedly departed from [the commandments of] my God.
  • For all His ordinances were before me; and His statutes I will not remove from myself.
  • And I was single-hearted with Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity.
  • And the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands before His eyes.
  • With a kind one, You show Yourself kind, with a sincere man, You show Yourself sincere.
  • With a pure one, You show Yourself pure, but with a crooked one, You deal crookedly.
  • For You deliver a humble people, and You humble haughty eyes.
It is through these future events that David can find hope. While his people live, through the destruction of the first Temple, perhaps the most tragic event of the long night that it crosses, because it directly concerns the divine essence.
It is this future that brings a little light to the deep darkness of the long night that the people of Israel endure.
This is what David still says in the following verses of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 18 associated to this generation, verses 29  to 32 )

  • For You light my lamp; the Lord, my God, does light my darkness.
  • For by You I run upon a troop, and by my God I scale a wall.
  • [He is] the God Whose way is perfect; the word of the Lord is refined; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
  • For who is God save the Lord? And who is a Rock, save our God?
In this last passage, David again recalls the image of the rock associated with God. This rock that allows to escape the turbulence of this world or rather the inexorable march of real time. God has installed it on Jerusalem, before the destruction takes place, in order to assure to his people an ultimate protection which will assure him of being able to return one day on his ground in Jerusalem which because of this divine rock is assured of ‘Eternity.
Let us remember that Babylon did not have the same luck, her destruction was definitive, God refusing her all salvation, not endowing her with Jerusalem as her rock.
David concludes his psalm by referring to the messianic times when the people of Israel helped by God will overcome his enemies as already announced the title of the psalm.  (see the end of the psalm 18 associated to this generation)
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