Request an Exam Copy

Thoughts for Thanksgiving: Vows and Thank Offerings in the ANE

Categories Old Testament

"I am under vows to you, O God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life."
- Psalm 56:12-13 (NIV)

Happy Thanksgiving from the Zondervan Academic team!

The following commentary on this passage is an excerpt of John Hilber's commentary on the Psalms, found in volume 5 of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament.

Vows...thank offerings (56:12). When the psalmist feels passionately about his distress and plea, he might promise to bring an offereing to God as an act of praise after God has delivered (Gen. 28:20-22; 1 Sam. 1:11; Ps. 65:1-3). The type of offering in view is the peace offering, which featured a communal meal enjoyed by all worshipers, who then recognized that God had answered prayer (see comments on Ps. 22:26). This feature can be found in all cultures of the ancient Near East.290 A text from Ugarit (ca. 1300 BC) illustrates the dynamic in worship:

When a strong foe attacks you shall life your eyes to Baal and say:
O Baal, if you drive...the warriour from our walls,
A bull, OBaal, We shall santicy, a vow [Ugar. mdr = Heb. ndr ]
we will fulfill.291

Another Ugaritic text describes how King Kirta promises gifts to his goddess if she will grant him success in obtaining a wife to bear him children after the loss of his entire family:

He there makes a vow [Ugar. ydr = Heb. ndr ], Kirta the Noble:...
"If I take Huraya into my palace...
Her two parts I'll make silver, her third part I'll make gold!"292

290. T.W. Cartledge, Vows in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East (JSOTSup 147; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), 73-136; T.Z. Abush, "The Promise to Praise the God in Sulla Prayer," in Biblical and Oriental Essays in Memory of William L. Moran, ed. A. Gianto (BibOr 48; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institue, 2005), 1-10. For Egypt, see Miller, They Cried to the Lord, 27; ANET, 380-81.

291. Pardee, Ritual and Cult at Ugarit, no. 13, RS 24.266 lines 26'-31'; Lete, Canaanite Religion according to the Liturgical Texts of Ugarit, 292-306. CF. the victory monument of King Zakkur of Syria (ca. 800 B.C.), offering acknowledgement to his god for deliverance (COS, 2.35:155).

292. Parker, Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, 20, CAT, 1.14 iv 36-43; COS, 1.102:336.

IBR Update
IBR Update Zondervan Academic team members attended the annual Institure for Biblical Research (IBR) meeting and reception af...
Your form could not be submitted. Please check errors and resubmit.

Thank you!
Sign up complete.

Subscribe to the Blog Get expert commentary on biblical languages, fresh explorations in theology, hand-picked book excerpts, author videos, and info on limited-time sales.
By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email communications from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN 37214 USA) providing information about products and services of HCCP and its affiliates. You may unsubscribe from these email communications at any time. If you have any questions, please review our Privacy Policy or email us at This form is protected by reCAPTCHA.