Psalm 122 as the Song Performed at the Ceremony of Dedication of the City Wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12, 27-43)

Nissim Amzallag, Mikhal Avriel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Abstract: The text of Psalm 122 displays strong affinities with the ceremony of dedication to the city wall of Jerusalem (Neh 12,27-43). Further parallels even suggest that the two parts of Psalm 122 (vv. 1-5 and vv. 6-9) were the texts sung by the two choirs participating in the ceremony. According to the description related in Neh 12,27-43, it is likely that the claims of the two choirs, first sung separately on the city wall, progressively mixed in antiphonal fashion when the two processions joined at the temple. This mode of performance is defined as shifting responsa because the mixing of the two dialoging voices induces a gradual shift, at each round of the performance, between the verses paired from the two choirs. In Psalm 122, this process generates a coherent composite text of 40 verselines displaying emergent structural properties and coherent literary meanings ignored by the linear reading. These findings reveal that Psalm 122 is not a naive song of pilgrimage but a skillfully composed piece of poetry devoted to the reconstruction of the city wall of Jerusalem and its consequences. They confirm that the apparent simplicity of the text of psalms may conceal a subtle reality revealed through setting the psalm in a complex antiphonal fashion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-64
Number of pages21
JournalScandinavian Journal of the Old Testament
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2016


  • Complex antiphony
  • Nehemiah dedication ceremony
  • Psalm 122
  • Songs of Ascents
  • shifting responsa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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