Psalm 114 is recited by Jews at Passover, commemorating the departure of God's people from Egypt. This year (2021) it falls on the evening of Sunday 28 March. Verse 1 recalls God's great redemptive work in bringing his people out of Egypt. Then verse 2 says:

Judah became God's sanctuary, Israel his dominion

What is the meaning in verse 2 of Judah becoming God's sanctuary, and Israel becoming God's dominion?


To expound a bit on Tony's answer, the temple was built in Jerusalem which was in Judah. "Sanctuary" for qadosh is a bit unusual and most likely included for brevity -- a better translation would be "holy place". NICOT has a better translation:

    Judah was his holy place,
    Israel his dominion.

From the NICOT commentary:

The two cola of vv. 1 and 2 are parallel expressions: Israel and house of Jacob, Egypt and a people of a different language in v. 1; Judah and Israel, holy place and dominion in v. 2. The word translated here as holy place is qād̠ôš, from a root which means “to be devoted, set apart.” The word translated as dominion is from the root māšal, meaning “to rule over, to reign.” The two cola summarize two important aspects of God’s role in the life of ancient Israel: the holy one in the midst of the people (see Hos. 11:9); and the one ruling over the people (see Deut. 33:5). Interestingly, neither of the names for Israel’s God, ʿelōhîm and YHWH, appears in the first verses of Psalm 114, perhaps giving further strength to the idea that Psalm 113 is to be read as a prelude to Psalm 114. deClaissé-Walford, N. (2014). Book Five of the Psalter: Psalms 107–150. In E. J. Young, R. K. Harrison, & R. L. Hubbard Jr. (Eds.), The Book of Psalms (p. 851). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

The reason why Judah is the holy place is because that is where the Temple is, in the land populated by the tribe of Judah. But Israel here does not refer to the norther kingdom, but rather to the entire community, as can be seen from the first verse:

When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of a strange language,

Thus all the tribes are the dominion of God, and the land of Judah is the place where God dwells (in the temple).


Let's see the parallelism:

Judah became      God's    sanctuary, 
Israel            his      dominion

יְהוּדָ֣ה (yə·hū·ḏāh)
Noun - proper - masculine singular

הָיְתָ֣ה (hā·yə·ṯāh)
Verb - Qal - Perfect - third person feminine singular

Judah is masculine yet the verb is feminine, so this is a figure of speech to mean the land (feminine) of Judah. God's sanctuary would be in the land of Judah while the greater Israel became God's nation.

Exodus 19:6

you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

  • Good, simple, straight-forward answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Mar 6 at 21:17

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