Greatening Greatness

In David’s final speech (1 Chronicles 29), he offers a fivefold praise of God’s perfections (v. 11): Yours is . . . 

1. Greatness (gedolah)

2. Power (giburah, related to gibbor, “mighty man”)

3. Glory

4. Victory

5. Majesty

He adds an expansive note (6. Yours is . . . everything in heaven and earth), and then ends with two clauses: 

7. Yours is dominion (mashal)

8. You exalt yourself as head over all.

This eightfold praise is followed by a carefully arranged statement about God’s power (v. 12):

A. Riches and glory (kabod) from you

B. You rule (mashal) over all

C. In your hand

B’. Power (koach) and giburah

C’. In Your hand

D. To greaten (gadal) and strengthen all.

We ought not separate the acclamation of God’s attributes from the statement about the actions of His hand. Nor are the two simply parallel, as if God were, on the one hand, great and, on the other hand, a God who makes-great. The two are more directly connected. God doesn’t need the world to be great, powerful, etcetera. Yet, having made the world, He is great, powerful, etcetera in relation to that world. 

And the relation is a particular one: He is great, powerful, glorious, etcetera in conferring these same attributes on creatures. The linguistic parallels are close. God is great, but He doesn’t reserve greatness to Himself. He is great by “greatening” all. He is powerful, but He doesn’t reserve power to Himself but strengthens all. Everything in heaven and earth come from Him, yet He gives riches and honor. He is great by greatening, strong in His strengthening, rich in giving riches. For human beings too, greatness comes by greatening, power by empowering, wealth by dispossession.

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