ORIENTING DATA FOR PSALMS
- Content: 150 psalms of rich diversity, which in their present arrangement serve as the "hymnbook" for postexilic (Second Temple) Judaism.
- Date of Composition: the palms themselves date from the early monarchy to a time after the exile (ca. 1000 to 400 B.C.); the collection in its present from may be part of the reform movement reflected in Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah.
- Emphases: trust in and praise to Yahweh for his goodness; lament over wickedness and injustices; Yahweh as king to the universe and the nations; Israel's king as Yahweh's representative in Israel; Israel (and individual Israelites) as God's covenant people; Zion (and its temple) as the special place of Yahweh's presence on earth.
OVERVIEW OF PSALMS
The 150 pieces that make up the book of Psalms were originally 147 different psalms (one occurs twice-14 and 53; two are broken into two-9 and 10, 42 and 43). Each was originally composed independently; thus each has integrity and meaning on its own. But the psalms were not randomly collected; rather they have been ordered and grouped in such a way that the whole together carries meaning that further enhances the affirmations each makes on its own. Therefore in the Psalter you can look for meaning both in the individual psalms and in their ordered relationship with each other. The latter is what we especially emphasize in this chapter and encourage you to be aware of as you read.
Although the present arrangement of the Psalter comes from the postexilic period, it also maintains the integrity of smaller collections that were already in use as part of Israel's ongoing history. Besides three collections of Davidic psalms (3 -41; 51 -70; 138- 145), there are also two collections of "Asaph/sons of Korah" psalms (42-50;73-88), plus four topical collections (God's kingship, 93- 1 00; psalms of praise, 1 03- 107 ; songs of ascent [pilgrimage songs], 120-134; and Hallelujah psalms, 111- 113 and 146-150).
The collection in its present form was brought together as five books, probably with the Pentateuch in view (thus "David" corresponds to "Moses"):
- Book 1 Psalms 1-41: All but t,2, and 33 titled "of David"
- Book 2 Psalms 42-72: Psalms 42-50 "of the sons of Korah" or "of Asaph"; Psalms 51-70 "of David"; concluding with one "of Solomon" (72; note that 71 is untitled), with a coda at the end "This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse"
- Book 3 Psalms 73-89: All titled, mostly "of Asaph" or "of the sons of Korah"
- Book 4 Psalms 90-106: Mostly untitled except for 101 and 103 ("of David")
- Book 5 Psalms 107-150: Mostly untitled but fifteen are "of David," including Psalms 138-145; also includes fifteen "songs of ascent" (120-134) and concludes with five "Hallelujah" psalms (146-150)
You will note that each book concludes with a similar doxology (41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48; and the whole of 150). In the first four instances these are not apart of the original psalm; rather they are the work of the final compiler, and they function to conclude the books themselves. It is also important to observe that, although the vast majority of the psalms are addressed to God within many of them there are words that address the people themselves (thus assuming a corporate setting), while some of the psalms function primarily as instruction (especially the Torah-Wisdom psalms; e.g., 1; 33; 37). In this regard compare Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 (hymns about Christ sung in thanksgiving to God also function to instruct the people).
SPECIFIC ADVICE FOR READING PSALMS
The psalms were written first of all to be sung-one by one and not necessarily in their canonical order; this is also how they are most often read-as songs. Since chapter 11 in How to I is intended to help you read them this way, the contents of that chapter will be presupposed throughout this discussion, especially the information about the various kinds and forms of psalms and the nature of Hebrew poetry. The present concern is twofold: (1) to help you make some sense of the canonical arrangement of the Psalter and (2) to offer a minimal guide to reading the psalms as part of the biblical story. At the same time you should be constantly watching for their basic theological assumptions, viewed in terms of how the psalms fit into the story. (The analogy would be a Christian hymnbook, which is not intended to be read through, but is in fact carefully arranged usually along theological/church-year lines.)
It is important to be aware that, even though the majority of the psalms are themselves preexilic, the collection as we have it was the hymnbook of Second Temple (postexilic) Judaism. When you recall the emphasis in Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah on the musicians associated with the temple, you can easily imagine the present Psalter taking shape during that period and that the arrangement itself had meaning for them.
The five books are carefully arranged so that they mirror the story of Israel from the time of David until after the exile. Books 1 and 2 basically assume the time of the early monarchy, as David speaks words of lament and praise, both for himself and for the people, based on Yahweh's unending goodness and righteousness. Together they are book-ended by two coronation psalms (2 and 72) that extol the king as Yahweh's anointed one for the sake of his people. In book 2, especially in the Korahite collection inserted at the beginning, you also find a
goodly number of royal and Zion hymns, which focus on the king but now especially emphasize Jerusalem and its temple as the place of God's presence and reign. Thus both books concentrate on David as king under Yahweh's ultimate kingship.
Book 3, on the other hand has only one Davidic psalm; instead by the presence of some prominent exilic and postexilic laments, it assumes the fall of Jerusalem. Picking up the mournful note of Psalm 44, the psalmists repeatedly ask "Why?" and "How long?" regarding Yahweh's rejecting them. This book thus begins with a Wisdom psalm that wonders aloud about the "prosperity of the wicked" (73:3); it ends first with the "darkest" psalm in the Psalter (Ps 88), whose only note of hope is the opening address ("the God who saves"), and then with a poignant lament over the present (apparent) demise of the Davidic covenant (Ps 89).
In response book 4 begins by going back to Moses with a psalm that reminds Israel that God has been her dwelling place throughout all generations. Then, after two psalms of trust and thanksgiving (91-92), comes the collection of Yahweh's kingship (93-100). Despite the present
state of the Davidic monarchy, Yahweh reigns! This book then ends with psalms of praise (101-106), whose last word is an appeal for Yahweh to gather the exiles (106:47)
Book 5 begins with a psalm of praise that assumes the gathering of the exiles ( 107:2-3), followed by psalm 108, which acclaims God's rule over all the nations. The rest of this book, more heterogeneous than the others, looks forward in a variety of ways to God's great future for his people. Included are some royal psalms (110; 118) that were used in anticipation of the coming of the great future king, so one is not surprised by the significant role that these psalms played in the earliest Christians' understanding of Christ. Likewise, the psalms of ascent would have been used for present (and in anticipation of future) pilgrimages of God,s people lo Zion-while the final five "Hallelujahs" (146-150) remind them of God's ultimate sovereignty over all things' Thus in the final arrangement of things, the first three books contain predominantly laments, while the final two are predominantly praise and thanksgiving.
In light of this overall arrangement, you will want to read with an awareness of the undergirding theological bases on which these poems (songs, prayers, and teachings) were written. First, even though many of them are individual laments or hymns of praise, the collection itself assumes that even these have a "people of God" dimension to them: The individual is always aware of being part of the people who together belong to God in covenant relationship and who share the same story.
As elsewhere, Yahweh is the center of everything, and the psalmists are fully aware that their own lives are predicated on their covenant relationship to Yahweh. Thus their songs regularly remind those who sing them that Yahweh is the Creator of all that is and therefore Lord of all
the earth, including all the nations-reminders that usually also affirm Yahweh,s character, especially his love and faithfulness (cf. Exod 34:4-6), but also his mercy, goodness, and righteousness. At the same time they repeatedly echo the significant moments in their sacred history as God,s people. Indeed several psalms relate the larger story itself, either in part or in whole, and for different reasons (Pss 78;105-106; 136). So as you read be looking for these affirmations about God (including the marvelous metaphors) and for the echoes of the story itself: creation, election, deliverance, the holy war, inheritance of the land the role of Zion/Jerusalem as the place of God's presence and the abode of his vice-regent the king, and Israel's role in blessing the nations.
Finally, it is important to note that Psalms I and 2, which are untitled and framed by the expression "Blessed are . . " (1 :1 ;2:12), serve to introduce the whole Psalter. Psalm 1 (a Torah-Wisdom psalm) has pride of place because it sets out the basic theological presupposition on which everything else rests, namely, that God blesses those who delight in the law and thus commit themselves to covenant loyalty, while the opposite prevails for the wicked. This serves as grounds for most of the laments, as well as for the songs of praise and thanksgiving, since it is true even when one's experience suggests otherwise. Psalm 2 then introduces the role of the king, who as God's 'Anointed One" and "Son" (Israel as Yahweh's son [Exod 4:22-23] now focuses on its king) is Yahweh's protector of his people. Psalm 2 thus serves as the basis not only for the Zion and kingship dimensions of the Psalter-not to mention the agony of Psalm 89-but eventually becomes the key to New Testament messianism as these psalms are recognized as fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
A WALK THROUGH PSALMS
| ||BOOK 1 (1-41) |
| 1-2||Introduction of the Psalter |
Even though these two psalms .introduce the whole Psalter (see above), Psalm 1 also introduces the main thrust of book 1 in particular, while Psalm 2 introduces the main concerns of book 2.
| 3-7||Five Laments (Pleas for Help) |
Since book I is predominantly lament, rt is fitting that three statements of evening and morning trust (3:5; 4:8; 5:3) stand at the beginning of the collection. Typically, these laments combine prayer to Yahweh with affirmations about and trust in Yahweh, also the subject of the address to others in Psalm 4:2-5 (cf. 6:8-9). Psalms 3, 5, and 7 plead for deliverance from foes, while 4 pleads for relief in time of drought and 6 for healing. Note also the theological presuppositions (God's role in the holy war; Yahweh's presence on Zion [3:4; 4:5; 5:71; God's character [merciful, righteous]) and that each of them presupposes the basic assumptions of Psalm 1.
| 8|| Praise to the Creator|
This hymn revels in Yahweh and his majesty as Creator, and it marvels at his condescension toward humanity and their role in the created order, thus echoing Genesis 1 and 2.
| 9-13||Lament for Deliverance of the "Righteous Poor" |
Together these five (or four) psalms are of exactly equal length to the first five laments (3 -7). Psalms 9 and 10 together form an acrostic prayer for deliverance, each line beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (see Ps 119). The first half (Ps 9) is a plea for deliverance from wicked nations; the second (Ps 10) assumes the stance of the righteous poor, the helpless person who is the recipient of social injustice (see Exod 22:22-27; Amos; Isaiah; and Micah). After arr affirmation of trust in Yahweh's righteous rule (Ps 11), two further laments appeal for help and deliverance (12;13). As you read watch for the various expressed and assumed affirmations about God that mark these psalms.
| 14||The Folly of Humankind (see Psalm 53) |
Note how this psalm serves to conclude this second set of laments, as psalm g did the first, by pointing out the utter folly and wickedness of humanity that does not acknowledge God (thus echoing Genesis 3), while affirming the righteous poor.
| 15-24||On Access to the Temple |
Together this series of psalms forms a chiastic pattern. In the outer frame, psalms 15 and 24 ask the same basic question: Who has access to the temple of Yahweh (15:1;24:3)? The answer, of course, is those who are righteous in keeping with Psalm 1 (note how each affirms different aspects of the law). In the next frame, Psalms 16 and 23 express trust in Yahweh, both concluding on a note of joy for being in Yahweh's presence (16:11;23:6). Psalms 17 and 22 are then pleas for deliverance, which especially express trust in Yahweh. In the inner frame, Psalms 18 and 20-21 together express prayer and praise for the king's deliverance from his enemies (hence picking up on Ps 2). The centerpiece in this group is Psalm 19, which glories in creation (Ps 8)-especially the summer sun as it moves across the sky-and the law (Ps 1). Again, as you read be looking for the basic theological affirmations (Yahweh's love, Yahweh as Divine Warrior, etc.) and the echoes of Israel's story (the Law, inheritance of the land, election [the point of 22:22-31], their role among the nations, etc.).
|25-33||Prayer, Praise, and Trust in the King of Creation |
As with the prior grouping, one can detect a chiastic pattern here as well. In the outer frame (both acrostics), Psalm 25 offers prayer and praise for Yahweh's covenant mercies, while (the untitled) Psalm 33 is a hymn of praise for Yahweh's gracious rule. In the next frame, Psalm 26 is the prayer of one who is "blameless" before Yahweh's covenant law, while Psalm 32 expresses the blessedness of the one whom Yahweh has forgiven. Psalm s 27 and 3 1 both appeal to Yahweh against false accusers (note how they conclude with nearly identical admonitions: "Be strong and take heart"). In the next frame, Psalm 28 is the prayer of one going "down to the pit" (v.2), while Psalm 30 is praise from one spared from "going down into the pit" (v. 3). As with the preceding group, the centerpiece (Ps 29) praises the King of creation, this time in light of a thunderstorm. Again, mark the various theological affirmations expressed in these hymns.
| 34-37||Instruction in Godly Wisdom and Appeals against the Wicked |
This group of four psalms also forms a chiasm. Psalms 34 and 37 are alphabetic acrostics, both of which teach godly wisdom (again reflecting Ps 1), while the enclosed psalms appeal to Yahweh as Divine Warrior against malicious slanderers (35) and against the godless wicked (36, which has its own chiastic pattern: w. l-4, 5-9,10- 12). Note that in keeping with the Wisdom tradition (see "Overview of Proverbs,"), the "fear of the Lord" lies at the heart of Psalm 34 (see vv.7, 9,11), while this is exactly what the godless lack (36:1).
|38-41 ||Four Laments: Prayer and Confession of Sin |
These final laments in book t have a fourfold common denominator: (1) The psalmist is in deep trouble (illness in three cases), which he perceives as the result of sin (again, Ps 1); (2) he is mocked by enemies; (3) while appealing for mercy he confesses his sin; and (a) the appeal is based on his trust in Yahweh. It is of some interest that in the original Davidic collection, Psalm 51 would be the next in order, which carries on the theme of confession of sin.
| || BOOK 2 (42-72|
This book feature s Zion, the temple, and the king-all of them in relation to Yahweh, who dwells in the temple on Zion and whose kingship over Israel is represented by the human king-although you will note in this book that the generic name "God" (Elohim) occurs with greater frequency than Yahweh ("Lord"). It begins and ends with a series of three prayers followed by a royal psalm (42-44 and 45; 69-71 and 12),whose inner frame is a collection of Zion psalms (46-48) and the marvelous psalm celebrating Yahweh's own enthronement in the temple on Zion (68).
| 42-45||Thee Prayer and a Royal Psalm |
You will observe that Psalm s 42 and 43 belong together as one (note the thrice-repeated refrain in 42:5; 42:1 1; 43:5). Their place at the head of book 2 lies with the psalmist's longing to join in the pilgrimage to Zion (42:4; 43:3-4), while Psalm 44 anticipates book 3 by mourning over a national defeat of considerable proportions (but with no mention of the devastation of Jerusalem as in Ps 74). Note especially the appeals to Israel,s history and covenant loyalty. The royal psalm that comes next (45) was composed to celebrate the king's wedding.
| 46-48||In Celebration of Zion |
This trio of Zion psalms is central to book 2, celebrating the people's security in Zion (46 and 48) and Yahweh's kingship over all the earth (47). No matter how they may have felt about the Davidic dynasty, the singers of Israel well remembered that the real "palace" on Zion was the temple of Yahweh Almighty.
|49-53 ||On the Proper Stance before God |
Watch for the echoes of Yahweh's rule from Zion in this group of psalms (50: 1- 15; 51:18- 19; 52:8-9; 53:6), even as they focus on other matters. As a group they contrast proper and improper approaches to God-not to trust in wealth (49), but to bring sacrifices based on covenant loyalty (50), especially a penitent spirit (51), because God rejects the wicked (52) and exposes their folly (53).
|54-59 ||Six Laments: Prayers for Help |
Note what is common to these laments, namely, that they assume the king's presence in Jerusalem, that they assume Yahweh's presence in Jerusalem, that they are all complaints against enemies, and that the chief weapon of their attacks is the mouth (slander, lies, etc.).
| 60-64||Five Prayers with Common Themes |
These five psalms are enclosed by a community lament (60) and an individual lament against enemies (64). Watch how they all continue some of the previous themes: They are spoken by the king; Yahweh's presence on Zion lies at the heart of both prayer and praise; they look to Yahweh for protection or deliverance from enemies.
| 65-68||In Praise of God's Awesome Deeds |
The main theme of book 2 comes into full focus with this group of hymns and thanksgivings that exalt Yahweh's kingship by recalling his "awesome" deeds, first on behalf of the whole earth (65 and 67) and then on behalf of Israel (66 and 68). Psalm 68 is especially crucial, both to book 2 and to the whole Psalter, as it celebrates Yahweh's enthronement on Zion-note how he has moved from Sinai to Zion, and thus is King over Israel and the nations, not to mention the whole earth. Psalm 72, which concludes book 2, must be read in light of this psalm.
| 69-72||Three Prayers and a Royal Psalm |
Book 2 now concludes in a way similar to how it began-with three pleas for help that conclude with a royal psalm. Note how the plea in Psalm 69 especially assumes David's role as king in relation to the people. Note further that Psalms 70 and 71 rework/restate portions of Psalms 40:13-17 and 31:1-5. The final psalm (72) is crucial to the larger concerns of the Psalter: An enthronement psalm attributed to David's son, Solomon, it functions with Psalm 2 to frame the royal dimension of books 1 and 2; at the same time, it stands in bold relief to the conclusion of book 3 (89), which mourns the present demise of the Davidic dynasty.
| ||BOOK 3 (73-89)|
The several prominent exilic and postexilic laments in this collection (including several community laments) reflect the time after Zion had been laid waste, the temple desecrated, and the Davidic dynasty with its "everlasting covenant" (see 2 Sam 7:14-16),was now without a king. Thus, even the several preexilic psalms (e.g.,76;78; 83; 84; 87) are best understood in this light; namely, that they contain the memory that the
surrounding psalms now lament.
| 73-78||On Rejection and Hope for Zion |
As in book 1, a Wisdom psalm opens book 3, pondering the puzzle of the prosperity of the wicked and thus setting the tone for what follows. Along with Psalm 78 (another wisdom psalm), it frames two prayers (74; 77) that cry out the basic question of book 3 (Why have you rejected us? / Will the Lord reject us forever?). These in turn frame a thanksgiving and a Zion psalm (75/76), which highlight the reasons for the laments. Note that Psalm 78 is one of four psalms that retell Israel's story in some detail (cf. 105; I06; I36), in this case recalling past rebellions and their dire consequences as a warning to what could-and did-happen again, on an even larger scale.
|79-83 ||On Rejection and Hope for Zion, Again |
This group of five is framed by two sets of psalms that again express the basic theme of book 3. Although Psalms 79 and 80 reflect two different times (after and before the fall of Jerusalem), they have in common the basic question "How long?" (79:5; 80:4). Likewise Psalms 82 and 83 have in common the plea that concludes the first one (82:8) and begins the second (83:1): "Rise up" and "do not keep silent"' Together these enclose an exhortation to Israel that suggests the reason for her fall (81).
| 84-89||In Celebration of Zion, and Lament over Its Demise |
This final group is in two sets of three, each set having a similar pattern.
They begin (84) with a celebration of, and yearning for, the courts of Yahweh. This is followed by another psalm that asks the theme question ("Will you be angry with us forever?" 85:5), which is followed in turn by the only Davidic psalm in book 3 (Ps 86)-a plea for mercy based on the great revelation of Yahweh on Sinai, that he is a "compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness" (v. 15; cf. Exod 34:4-6).
The second set follows the same pattern-beginning with a celebration of Zion (Ps 87), followed by the dark lament of Psalm 88, and concluding with a three -part psalm (89) that echoes concerns from psalm 86. The first part (89: 1- 18) celebrates Yahweh's love and faithfulness to his people, especially evidenced by the covenant with David (w. 19-37); together these become the basis for the lament over the present demise of the Davidic dynasty (w. 38-51). Note that the concluding section of Psalm 89 contains the theme question: "How long, O Lord?" (v. 46).
| ||BOOK 4 (90-106) |
In direct response to the devastation of Jerusalem and the present void in the Davidic dynasty, book 4 begins with the reminder that Yahweh has been Israel's "dwelling place" throughout all generations. The heart of this collection, therefore, is the series of psalms that celebrate Yahweh's kingship-over both Israel and all the nations. The book ends with a series of responses to Yahweh's reign, concluding with two that retell Israel's story from two different perspectives.
| 90-92||Yahweh Our Dwelling Place |
Reaching back to the one psalm that is titled "of Moses," the collector placed this psalm at the head of book 4, with its opening assurance that God has been Israel's "dwelling place throughout all generations." This is followed by a psalm of trust, which has making "the Most High your dwelling" as its centerpiece (91:9), and by a psalm of praise to "O Most High" (92:1) for his many benefits, including the defeat of adversaries.
|93-99 ||Yahweh Reigns, Let People Rejoice |
The common theme of this group of psalms is their celebration-in a variety of ways and for a variety of reason -that Yahweh reigns over Israel, the nations, and the whole earth. The one apparent exception (94) nonetheless assumes Yahweh's reign as it calls for justice on those who reject Yahweh's law. Note also the inherent warning in 95:7-11, which picks up the concerns of Psalm 78 and anticipates the concluding psalm of this book (106), and is the basis for the exhortation in Hebrews 3:7 -4:11.
| 100-106|| In Praise of Yahweh and in Hope of Restoration |
This final group in book 4 forms a kind of mini-Psalter, as these psalms reflect various responses to Yahweh's reign: celebration (100); a pledge to live faithfully ( 101); a prayer for the future rebuilding of Zion (102; note especially v. 12, which assumes Yahweh's reign but pleads for him also to return to Zion); praise for Yahweh's great love (103); and praise of Yahweh as Creator (104). The concluding two psalms retell Israel's story from two points of view: a call to remember all his mercies in that story (105) and a warning not to repeat the rebellion side of the story (106). Note how book 4 ends with a prayer of deliverance from exile (106:47 , reflecting Deut 30:1 -10).
| || BOOK 5 (107-150)|
This final book in the Psalter is much more varied, both in form and content, than the first four. It begins with a thanksgiving psalm that opens (107:1-3) in direct response to the prayer in Psalm 106:47; it ends with the five Hallelujah psalms. Besides the central role of Psalm 119, which echoes the concerns of Psalm 1, the major part is composed of three sets of psalms: (1) 110-118, which begin and end with psalms that, in this setting at least, look forward to the renewal of the Davidic kingship; (2) 120-134, the songs of ascent-now sung in the context of the second temple, but also with a future orientation; and (3) 138-145, a Davidic collection that functions as a kind of reprise, looking back to books 1 and 2, and concluding on the note of the eternal nature of God's kingdom and his faithfulness to his promises (145:11- 13). Thus, on the whole, this book contains psalms that reflect the current situation and the future longings of postexilic Judaism.
|107-109 ||In Praise of God's Rescue of His People, and Two Davidic Laments |
Although not written with the return of the exiled community in mind, the opening hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance begins with the "gathering" motif (107:1-3) and thus serves to introduce book 5. Note how readily Psalm 108 responds to this, combining praise (w. 1-5) with an appeal for Yahweh to give aid against Israel's enemies (w. 6-13)- a psalm constructed from 57:7-11 and 60:5 -12-while Psalm 109 picks up that plea, spelling out the enemy's sins in great detail and asking the divine Judge for justice in kind.
| 110-118||The Coming King, and Festival Psalms |
This group of psalms is framed by two royal psalms ( 110; 118) that in postexilic Judaism were recognized as messianic, which explains why
together they played such an important role in Jesus' own ministry (Mark 11:4-12:12, 35-37) and in the early church (Ps 110 in particular; Acts 2:34-35; Rom 8:34;1 Cor 15:25; Col 3:1; Heb 1:13). They enclose a series of psalms (excepting I 14) that either begin or end with "Hallelujah," which were used in Israel's great festivals. Psalm 114 is one of Israel's great celebrations of the exodus-with marvelous imagery (the sea "looked and fled" Mount Sinai "skipped like rams").
| 119||In Celebration of the Law, Yahweh's Faithful Word |
This great poem in celebration of the Law forms the centerpiece of book 5, thus taking us back to the introductory Psalm 1. An alphabetic acrostic (eight lines of poetry for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet), it was composed by someone who recognized the benefits of, and gloried in, God's covenantal gift to his people.
| 120-134||Song of Ascent |
This collection, all titled, belongs to the tradition of making the pilgrimage
to Zion for the three annual feasts. In the setting of postexilic Judaism, they almost certainly also carry a forward-looking dimension. Be looking for the many different theological and "story of Israel" themes that are found in these psalms.
| 135-137||In Response to the Ascents |
Psalms 135 and 136, as different as they are, both assume the pilgrims' arrival at Yahweh's sanctuary for worship. Note how the first one praises him for creation and election (over against those whose gods are idols), and the second is another retelling of Israel's story, with antiphonal response. The final one (137) bemoans the reality of the exile when pilgrimage was not possible.
|138-145 ||The Final Davidic Collection |
The main body of the Psalter appropriately concludes with a final collection of psalms attributed to David. They begin with praise (138), move to an acknowledgment of Yahweh's greatness as the all-knowing, ever-present God-expressed in wonder, not fear (139)-followed by five prayers for deliverance (140- 144). They conclude with another alphabetic acrostic (145) praising Yahweh for his awesome works and his character (goodness, compassion, faithfulness, righteousness). Note especially verses 11-13, which anticipate God's everlasting kingdom.
| 146-150||Fivefold Hallelujah |
These concluding "Hallelujahs" punctuate the main point of the Psalter: God is to be praised-for his being the Helper of the helpless (la6); as creator and Restorer of his people (147; note how these two themes are interwoven); from heaven above and earth below (148); with dancing, with the mouth , and with sword in hand (149); and with calls to praise with all manner of music and dancing (150).This last psalm seems to have been composed deliberately to conclude both book 5 and the entire Psalter. we do well to heed this call on a continuing basis' God is worthy. Hallelujah!
The collection of psalms, which is the voice of Yahweh's people
singing to him in praise and prayer, functions also to remind them-and
us-of the central role of worship in the biblical story, worship that
focuses on the living God by recalling his essential goodness and love
and his wondrous deeds on their behalf.