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The last eight verses of Tehillim 60 and Tehillim 108 are virtually identical. Why is this so?


Tehillim 60:7-14

לְ֭מַעַן יֵחָלְצ֣וּן יְדִידֶ֑יךָ הוֹשִׁ֖יעָה יְמִֽינְךָ֣ ועננו [וַעֲנֵֽנִי׃] אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ דִּבֶּ֥ר בְּקָדְשׁ֗וֹ אֶ֫עְלֹ֥זָה אֲחַלְּקָ֥ה שְׁכֶ֑ם וְעֵ֖מֶק סֻכּ֣וֹת אֲמַדֵּֽד׃ לִ֤י גִלְעָ֨ד ׀ וְלִ֬י מְנַשֶּׁ֗ה וְ֭אֶפְרַיִם מָע֣וֹז רֹאשִׁ֑י יְ֝הוּדָ֗ה מְחֹֽקְקִי׃ מוֹאָ֤ב ׀ סִ֬יר רַחְצִ֗י עַל־אֱ֭דוֹם אַשְׁלִ֣יךְ נַעֲלִ֑י עָ֝לַ֗י פְּלֶ֣שֶׁת הִתְרֹעָֽעִֽי׃ מִ֣י יֹ֭בִלֵנִי עִ֣יר מָצ֑וֹר מִ֖י נָחַ֣נִי עַד־אֱדֽוֹם׃ הֲלֹֽא־אַתָּ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֣ים זְנַחְתָּ֑נוּ וְֽלֹא־תֵצֵ֥א אֱ֝לֹהִ֗ים בְּצִבְאוֹתֵֽינוּ׃ הָֽבָה־לָּ֣נוּ עֶזְרָ֣ת מִצָּ֑ר וְ֝שָׁ֗וְא תְּשׁוּעַ֥ת אָדָם׃ בֵּֽאלֹהִ֥ים נַעֲשֶׂה־חָ֑יִל וְ֝ה֗וּא יָב֥וּס צָרֵֽינוּ׃‏

That those whom You love might be rescued, deliver with Your right hand and answer me. God promised in His sanctuary that I would exultingly divide up Shechem, and measure the Valley of Sukkoth; Gilead and Manasseh would be mine, Ephraim my chief stronghold, Judah my scepter; Moab would be my washbasin; on Edom I would cast my shoe; acclaim me, O Philistia! Would that I were brought to the bastion! Would that I were led to Edom! But You have rejected us, O God; God, You do not march with our armies. Grant us Your aid against the foe, for the help of man is worthless. With God we shall triumph; He will trample our foes.

Tehillim 108:7-14

לְ֭מַעַן יֵחָלְצ֣וּן יְדִידֶ֑יךָ הוֹשִׁ֖יעָה יְמִֽינְךָ֣ וַעֲנֵֽנִי׃ אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ דִּבֶּ֥ר בְּקָדְשׁ֗וֹ אֶעְלֹ֥זָה אֲחַלְּקָ֥ה שְׁכֶ֑ם וְעֵ֖מֶק סֻכּ֣וֹת אֲמַדֵּֽד׃ לִ֤י גִלְעָ֨ד ׀ לִ֤י מְנַשֶּׁ֗ה וְ֭אֶפְרַיִם מָע֣וֹז רֹאשִׁ֑י יְ֝הוּדָ֗ה מְחֹקְקִֽי׃ מוֹאָ֤ב ׀ סִ֬יר רַחְצִ֗י עַל־אֱ֭דוֹם אַשְׁלִ֣יךְ נַעֲלִ֑י עֲלֵֽי־פְ֝לֶ֗שֶׁת אֶתְרוֹעָֽע׃ מִ֣י יֹ֭בִלֵנִי עִ֣יר מִבְצָ֑ר מִ֖י נָחַ֣נִי עַד־אֱדֽוֹם׃ הֲלֹֽא־אֱלֹהִ֥ים זְנַחְתָּ֑נוּ וְֽלֹא־תֵצֵ֥א אֱ֝לֹהִ֗ים בְּצִבְאֹתֵֽינוּ׃ הָֽבָה־לָּ֣נוּ עֶזְרָ֣ת מִצָּ֑ר וְ֝שָׁ֗וְא תְּשׁוּעַ֥ת אָדָֽם׃ בֵּֽאלֹהִ֥ים נַעֲשֶׂה־חָ֑יִל וְ֝ה֗וּא יָב֥וּס צָרֵֽינוּ׃‏

That those whom You love may be rescued, deliver with Your right hand and answer me. God promised in His sanctuary that I would exultingly divide up Shechem, and measure the Valley of Sukkoth; Gilead and Manasseh would be mine, Ephraim my chief stronghold, Judah my scepter; Moab would be my washbasin; on Edom I would cast my shoe; I would raise a shout over Philistia. Would that I were brought to the bastion! Would that I were led to Edom! But You have rejected us, O God; God, You do not march with our armies. Grant us Your aid against the foe, for the help of man is worthless. With God we shall triumph; He will trample our foes.

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  • Quick, quick, non-sourced reason - the transmission history of those two psalms. Biblical scholars have theorized that the Psalms were distributed in collections of either 5 batches of 30, or 3 batches of 50, due to....whatever the linguistic experts have determined the reasons are - Israeli and Judean collections circulating, etc. So there was some duplication among the collections--look at the similarity between Psalms 14 and 53. as well as the one you're asking about. When they were finally all collected during Second Temple days, the 150 were basically "canonized", ignoring an extra 4.
    – Gary
    Jan 5, 2019 at 20:42
  • 1
    Also check Psalms 57:8-12 Jan 5, 2019 at 21:42

1 Answer 1

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R' Moshe Yitzchak Ashkenazi in his commentary on Tehillim, Ho'il Moshe, wrote on ch. 108:

"מזמור זה הוא מקצת סי' נ"ז ומקצת סי' ס' מחוברות יחד, ונראה ברור שאיננו עיקר, רק חוברו יחד שני חלקיו לסבה לא נודעה לנו...וכמו שגם אנו נחבר יחד פסוקים ממזמורים הרבה ונעשה מהם שיר או תחנה..."

Translation: "This psalm is part of ch. 57 and part of ch. 60 connected together, and it seems clear that it is not central, but that its two sections were connected together for an unknown reason...and also as we connect together verses from many psalms and make from them a song or a plea..."

Daat Mikra on ch. 108 note that unlike commentators such as the Ho'il Moshe (they mention him specifically), they believe that there's a special intent in the way the chapter was written, and as such, one should explain the chapter as a standalone, not as a combination of different chapters.

Dr. Benny Gesundheit in his video on chapter 108 explains that 108 comes as a continuation of, or an answer to the end of chapter 107, which according to him, was written by Shavei Tzion, and ends with the question:

"Who is wise and will take note of these, and will consider the kindness of Hashem?"

And then comes the answer in 108: "A song. A psalm of David." - King David is the person who was wise truly knew to take note of the greatness of Hashem, and so his writings are now to be applied to this later generation.

I recommend watching the video, where he also explains the reasoning for the slight differences between the similar verses in the chapters.


Edit:

I heard a class by Rabbi Uzi Bienenfeld (head of Midreshet Orot Etzion in Israel) on this topic yesterday. Here's a short summary:

Ch. 60 is a chapter explaining a severe tactical setback during David's war against Amon, Aram and Edom (Shmuel 2:8:13-14; ibid. 10:1-19; Melachim 1:11:15-16; Divrei Hayamim 1:18:12-13).

One of the contradictions in these descriptions of the battle is the number of fallen. Some verses say 12,000, others say 18,000. And who exactly fell? And why is ch. 60 apparently a criticism of Hashem?

Targum Yonatan on Tehillim 60:2 explains that when Yoav and Avishai brought their forces to the fortified capital of Amon, the battleplan was to lure Bnei Amon out with two units and have a third unit surprise them from behind. But the third unit never showed up, and so the army was caught between a kind of pincer movement: Amonites on one side and Arameans on the other. Yoav had to think quickly and decided to battle his way out and hope that Hashem would be with them (Shmuel 2:10:11-12). They succeeded, and then Yoav rushed his forces to Yerushalayim to warn David that a third of their military manpower was gone- having disappeared somewhere around Gei Melach, Edomite territory. David assembled the rest of the reservist manpower to launch an attack on Aram (10:17-18). Meanwhile, Yoav took his forces to Gei Melach to see what happened to the third unit. What happened there is explained in Tehillim 60:3-4:

"O God, You have rejected us, You have made a breach in us; You have been angry; restore us! You have made the land quake; You have torn it open. Mend its fissures, for it is collapsing."

It seems that as the unit was heading out of the valley (gei = valley), a massive earthquake occurred (it's in the area of the Red Sea Rift, so tectonic shifts make sense) and everyone died. The 12,000 fallen men were Israelites! A massive blow to Israelite morale, a horrific tragedy. Thanks to Yoav's quick decision-making and David managing to gather more forces quickly, they were able to turn the loss into a decisive victory. And that's how they eventually felled 18,000 Edomites, who were allied with Aram and Amon.

Ch. 60 opens by stating that this psalm comes to testify and teach. What it comes to testify is regarding the terrible tragedy that occurred, and this only a short time after the Ark was brought to Yerushalayim in a parade that included all of Am Yisrael (Shmuel 2:6:15-19). Yisrael was at its peak: David was a beloved ruler, everyone was unified behind him, he was ready to build the Mikdash - yet, nevertheless, tragedy struck. What the chapter comes to teach is that we don't always understand the ways of Hashem.

Ch. 108 is a kind of version B of ch. 60. After David cried out in shock and despair in ch. 60, asking Hashem rhetorically whether He had left Yisrael and noting that nonetheless, Yisrael will continue on with the battle, otherwise they will be overrun and destroyed, ch. 108 was composed after the tremendous victory. David replaced the tragic opening with an opening talking about singing and playing music and praising Hashem, and left the last verses as a reminder of what happened.

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