Psalms - Lesson 27

Editorial Approach

Introduction to the Editorial Approach.

Lesson 27
Watching Now
Editorial Approach

I. The Book of Psalms and its Name

A. The Hebrew Language

B. The Greek and Latin Language

II. The Process of Composition

A. First and Second Stages

B. The Third Stage

C. Other Connections

1. Elohim verses Yahweh

2. The Number 42

3. Destruction and Hope

4. Semitic Thinking

D. Stage 4 – the Five Books of Psalms

E. Stage 5 – Concerns the Canon of the Masoretic Text

III. the Significance of Shaping of the Psalms as Canon

A. Introduction

B. Universal Rule

C. Book 3 and the Dark Psalms

D. Book 4 with the Psalm of Moses

E. Book 5 Psalm 110 and King Jesus

  • Dr. Waltke summarizes the different approaches to studying the Psalms. By understanding "how" it means, you will understand more clearly "what" it means. 

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 1

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 4

  • This is a review of the exegesis and exposition of Psalm 4, followed by a study of Hebrew Poetry and Psalm 23.

  • Knowing that there are different types of literature in the Psalms helps you interpret each Psalm more accurately. Introduction to the Hymns of Praise.

  • Some elements of the hymns of praise are the call to praise, the cause for praise and fervent praise with music.

  • We learn theology from the praise of God's people. God has both communicable and incommunicable attributes. It is incomprehensible that the laws of nature are comprehensible. 

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 100. Also some introductory remarks and a summary of Genesis 1. 

  • We learn theology from the people of God celebrating the attributes of the God of history. 

  • Dr. Bruce Waltke's lesson on Psalm 92 emphasizes gratitude for God's righteousness and faithfulness with the unique use of musical instruments. The psalm is divided into two parts, expressing gratitude and celebrating God's triumph over evil. It serves as a reminder of God's goodness and the importance of incorporating music into worship, with the Sabbath as a time for rest and reflection.
  • There are three common sub-motifs in the petition psalms.

  • The theme of imprecatory psalms is petitioning God for deliverance from distress. Some also pray that God will uphold justice by punishing the enemy. 

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 3. This is the first lament psalm.

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 22. Summary of Elohistic psalms. 

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 51. The theme of Psalm 51 is the petition for forgiveness of sin. 

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 44.

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 91 and Psalm 139, which are both examples of psalms of trust. 

  • The liturgical approach considers the setting of the psalm. 

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 73 and Psalm 15. Also a further explanation of the importance of the liturgical approach when reading and interpreting the psalms. 

  • Exegesis and exposition of psalm 2, a coronation psalm. 

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 110, a coronation psalm.

  • Introduction to the rhetorical approach.

  • Introduction to the Messianic Approach.

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 16.

  • Introduction to Wisdom Psalms.

  • Exegesis and exposition of Psalm 19.

  • Introduction to the Editorial Approach.

The book of Psalms is considered by some to be the most popular book of the Old Testament. It is also the Bible's longest and, in some ways, most complex book, containing a collection of religious Hebrew poetry written over several centuries.

This course aims to edify you by teaching you to better read, understand and meditate authentically on each of the Psalms individually, and the book as a whole. Dr. Waltke is convinced that "what" a text means cannot be understood until it is known "how" it means. This course introduces you to five approaches that have proven helpful in guiding you to understand "how" the Psalms mean what they say, and then Dr. Waltke applies each of these approaches in exegeting and reflecting on specific Psalms. 

You can view the notes that Dr. Waltke uses in the class by single-clicking on Outline Notes, or download them by right-clicking on Outline Notes then choosing the "Save Link As" option. You can do the same with the Psalms Passages. Dr. Waltke summarizes at the end of Lecture 1, but does not lecture in detail on the points in the outline, "2. Hermeneutics: Spiritual Approach," and "3. Historical Approach." We kept this information in the notes so you can better understand how Dr. Waltke uses these approaches in exegeting specific Psalms. 


Lecture 27: Editorial Approach

I. The Book of Psalms and its Name

We now come to the last lecture of the Books of Psalms. We have been addressing different methods in understanding the Psalms. We have looked at the historical context of the Psalms; the Royal Psalms and then different forms of Psalms. In the last lecture we looked at the Wisdom Psalms that played a role in the editing of the psalter. We looked at the eschatological messianic way of looking at the Psalms. In this lecture we will see how the book fits together holistically. We will first look at the titles of the Psalms and then the process in which the Psalms were collected and came together into their final composition in the Canon. I will also discuss the significance of the way these books were put together.

A. The Hebrew Language

The Book of Psalms is actually a grouping of five books. Yet, in the Hebrew Bible, there is no title to the book as such. Normally the books of the Bible are named after the first word of the book. In the Genesis the first word is Br’eisyt and that becomes the name. In Exodus you have Aili-semot which means names and so the title Exodus comes from Semot. The first word of Leviticus is Wayiqu, the Lord calls. We see in Numbers 4, in the first verse it mentions that it was in the wilderness which is Bemidbar which becomes the title and for Deuteronomy it is Devarim. But in the Book of Psalms it doesn’t work. For the prophets, of course the book was named after the prophet such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. For the Hebrew Bible itself, there is no name as such except perhaps in Psalm 72 where it says the Prayers of David, the son of Jessi ended. It could be that there was an earlier collection that was called the Prayers of David. This seems to have been the ‘eggshell’ of an earlier stage of the book. The title of the book in the Jewish literature and rabbinic literature is Tahillim which means praises. Sometimes it is shortened down to Talim, the construct form. It got its name seemingly from the content of the book. I said that almost all the Psalms have praise within them. The only one that doesn’t have a praise section as such is Psalm 88 which is called the Black Sheep of the Psalter. I was troubled about this at one time, the psalm not having a praise section to it until one time I was so discouraged that I didn’t have the energy of pray and I realized that at the Psalm had energy to pray and that in itself was redemptive. You have whole psalms that are praise and grateful songs of praise and even the Psalms of Lament are couched in praise. So it is very fitting that the book is called the Book of Praises.

B. The Greek and Latin Language

In the Septuagint, Psalms are referred to as hymns. The title Psalms really comes from one of the major codices of the Septuagint which is the codex vaticanus (the Greek Bible) and referred to as codex b and it dates to 350-400 BC or there about. There the title of it is the Samui from the Greek Bible and that is a transliteration or translation of the Hebrew word: Samui meaning Psalms. In the Codex Alexandrinus (a fifth-century manuscript of the Greek Bible) containing the majority of the Septuagint and the New Testament, which is one of the four great uncial codices. Psalms is called Salterium in which we get the name psalter. So, due to the Greek influence, it is referred to as the Book of Psalms while at other times it is referred to as the Psalter. When Gerome translated it into Latin, he called it the Liva-samuium, the Book of Psalms, evidently from the Greek term Samui. In any case, it is called the Book of Psalms, technical speaking it means a song sung to the compliment of a stringed instrument. But sense the note of praise is so strong in the book, it denotes a song of praise. So, this is the background to the title of the Book.

II. The Process of Composition

In this part of the study we will look at how the Psalms were brought together into collections and associations. These collections and associations help to provide richer meanings to the Psalms themselves as we will see.

A. First and Second Stages

You can think of its collection as the first drops of rain forming into small streams which in turn form into brooks that flows into small rivers and then into large rivers and finally into the sea. So it started out with individual psalms which were collected into books until finally we have the canon. The first was the individual psalms for or away from the temple itself. Some were actually composed for the temple, namely the Songs of Praises; you had the word of praise along with the sacrifice of praise. Those were originally intended for the temple. But David’s lament seemed to be composed away from the temple in various experiences such as those when he was contesting with Saul and he was out in the wilderness. He didn’t particularly have the temple in view, but because David was such a charismatic figure he or someone had written the words of these poems down he composed which led to the second stage of the Psalms which were eventually handed over to the Director of Music and thus adapted for the temple use. Even the Lament Psalms were given over to the Chief Musician and they were adapted. They may have been originally referred to David and the king but they also became democratized so that all the people sang the Psalms at the Temple or least the priest could sing the Psalms at the Temple. Or the king could sing the songs at the temple, but most likely you had the priest and people singing and the king. And most likely a priest or a prophet represented God. So the first stage is the individual psalms for the temple or away from the temple and then you have the second stage where they were adapted to be used in the temple.

B. The Third Stage

The third stage seems to be that they were collected into groups. They were collected by author or genre or by Elohistic Psalter somehow with reference to the name Elohim. The fourth stage was a collection into five different groups or books. Finally we have the canon itself, what actually becomes the book itself in the canon of the Old Testament. Wilson said that the process of this collection occurred early judging from cuneiform parallels as early as 2334-2279 BC, if not earlier. So the evidence from Mesopotamia is that this grouping occurred very early in the history of the formation of the Psalter. One way they are grouped is by way of authorship. Chronicles talks about David and Asaph as being two principle authors. He talks about how they were under the hands of David and Asaph and this raises the question as to what this means. This probably referred to some type of hand signals for directing the singing of them. So, the whole of the first book: Psalms 3-41, except for 10 and 33 are all by David. There are two anonymous psalms: Psalms 10 and 33. Psalm 10 isn’t a particular problem because it was originally a part of Psalm 9, originally being one psalm. Psalm 33 is a little more problematic because it is an orphan psalm without an authorship. The Psalms by David also occurs in book 2 in Psalms 51-65 and again in 68-70 and then you have in Psalm 72 that closes book 2 by Solomon but it actually seems part of the Davidic collection where we have a notice, ‘The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.’ We have more Psalms by David in books 3 and 4. So, we see one of the main collections is by David. Another collection belongs to the sons of Korah which is found in books 2 and 3. In book 2 Psalms 42 and 43 were originally one Psalm and those two through 49 are by the sons of Korah. In book 3 Psalms 84, 85, 87 and 88 are by the sons of Korah. The Psalms of Asaph are 50, 73-83 and the oldest psalm is Psalm 90 is by Moses.

C. Other Connections

1. Elohim verses Yahweh

The Psalms are also collected by means of their genre. Some of those collections are the mazmwr: 3-6, 19-24; 29-31; 38-41; 47-51; 62-68; 75-77; 82-85; 108-110; and 139-141. There are also the following: the miktom: 56-60 and the masskyil: 42/3-46; 52-55; 88-89. The masskyil are smaller collections. Additionally there is the hm'lwt: Pss 120-134. The third grouping is named the Elohistic Psalter and includes Psalms 42-83 which are somewhat problematic. Now the primary name for God is in reference the God of Israel, namely Yahweh or I Am or the LORD in capital letters. This is the primary way of referring to God; he is the God of Israel and so as Murduk was the personal god of Babylon, Yahweh is the personal God of Israel, for he formed and adopted the nation as his family and became a father to them and they became a son to him. Another image would be that of a husband and bride. So you have these two different images of Israel’s relationship to their covenanting keeping God whose name is I AM. But in the Elohistic Psalter, the primary name is Elohim; this refers to God in his transcendence, the one God who is over all. So, you can refer to your mother as mother and there is no other or you can have your mother’s name. In the same way, you can refer to God as God for the essence of who he is or you can use his name Yahweh as the eternal one who makes himself known through his relationship with Israel. I give you the statistics for Psalms 1 – 41 and the Elohistic Psalter include Psalms 42 – 83. In Psalms 1 – 41 and 84 – 150 the personal name of God, Yahweh or I AM occurs 584 times and the title Elohim, simply God occurs 94 times, but in the Elohistic Psalter the name I AM occurs 45 times but the name Elohim occurs 210 times. So you have a very distinctive change of the divine name. Furthermore, the use of the alternate name mostly occurs in parallelism. In other words, the parallel to Yahweh would be Elohim. In the other books, outside of the Elohistic Psalter, Yahweh is normally in the ‘a’ verse set with Elohim being in the ‘b’ verse set. But in the Elohistic Psalter, Elohim is in the ‘a’ verse set and Yahweh is in the ‘b’ verse set. There are also synoptic psalms that occur outside the Elohistic Psalter and within the Elohistic Psalter. We have Psalm 14 and 53 where you can see Elohim is used rather than Yahweh.

Psalm 14

1 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. (This is used by Paul in Romans 3)
2 The LORD (Yahweh) looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God (Elohim).
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
4 Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the LORD (Yahweh).
5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God (Elohim) is present in the company of the righteous.
6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the LORD (Yahweh) is their refuge.
7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD (Yahweh) restores his people, let
Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Now the psalm in the Elohistic Psalter: Compare the differences between the two and the use of Yahweh verses Elohim. So it’s clear that there is a conscience change of names from the personal name of God to the more abstract generic term.

Psalm 53 - A Maskil of David.

1 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.
2 God (Elohim) looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
3 Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
4 Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on God (Elohim).
5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread. God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God (Elohim) despised them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God (Elohim) restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

2. The Number 42

When we look at the Elohistic Psalter, you can see that it has a Davidic core from Psalms 51-72. And it is surrounded by two Levitical collections: the Korahites in Psalms 42-49 and then Asaphic in Psalms 72-83. Interestingly, the number 42 figures prominently in ancient Near Eastern collections of poetry and in this collection there are 42 psalms and it begins with Psalm 42. Numbers have symbolic significance and we see in the Old Testament the numeral 42 is used in the contexts of judgement/premature death. Note that Elisha called down 42 bears that killed the children that were mocking him. Also it was Jehu who killed off the Judeans coming up to Samaria; he killed 42 of them in that situation. Also, for example in Judges 12:6 where the Jebda took revenge on the Ephraimites at the Jordan, there were 42,000 Ephraimites. I have already mentioned the children in 2nd Kings 2:24 and with the relatives of Ahaziah in 2nd Kings 10:14 and it may have some bearing on the scene in Revelation 13:5 where the beast rules for 42 months after which he is destroyed in the middle of the seven years. So, we can say that the number 42 has to do with premature judgement. There may be a lamenting of the destruction of the temple in 587 AD and also to express hope for renewal beyond it. The first psalm of the second book is the absent from the Temple and the first psalm of Psalm 73 of book 3 is where the prosperity of the wicked challenged his faith.

3. Destruction and Hope

Both Levitical collections begin with lament either absent from the temple or from God’s favor, followed by in both cases by communal laments of defeat and the destruction of the temple in Psalm 74. Asaph’s collection contains other communal laments in Psalms 79, 80 and 83. Psalm 83 concludes with a plea for God to deal with national enemies and to assert God’s world-encompassing sovereignty. I took this information from Burnett’s ‘Forty-two Songs for Elohim: An Organizing Principle in the Shaping of the Elohistic Psalter. In the midst of this destruction in the same collection, we have songs of Zion which are giving people hope in the midst of the death. Psalms 84 – 89, part of book 3 are actually an appendix to it. It is in that collection that we have the darker psalm, Psalm 88. In Psalm 89, we have the failure of the House of David where David’s crown is rolling in the dust as the Psalmist expresses it. But there are also Songs of Zion as in Psalm 84 and 87. This seems to represent a mixture of death and hope; of destruction of the temple, communal lament, prosperity of the wicked, exile but at the same time, we get these Songs of Zion mixed in with it. This is a restoring of hope with Zion as the City of God and it will be restored. So as I have said, the Elohistic Psalter is somewhat problematic. Years back, I really didn’t understand them but now I’m beginning to get a clearer picture of these psalms. To conclude, the combination of death and light gives it an eschatological messianic hope for Jerusalem and the temple after its destruction. This seems to be a Biblical pattern: where there is destruction, there comes hope at the end. This is true of all prophetic material. For example in Micah (which is divided into three parts) you get these series of judgements. In chapters 1 and 2 you have a series of accusations and judgement and then you have one hope at the end of chapter 12, ‘the Lord will break out of Zion.’ Then in the second part starting in chapter 3, we get three oracles against the leadership, the rulers against the priests against the prophets and finally the destruction of Jerusalem. Then you get Psalms 4 and 5 which refers to the remnant that will be restored and they will become a mighty nation and yet from Bethlehem will come forth a ruler of Israel who is from old and everlasting. The same happens in the third section with chapter 6, 7 and 8 with accusations and judgement but then it ends with a composite song of victory.

4. Semitic Thinking

So, we have talked about groupings by author, by genre and by the use of Elohim in contrast to Yahweh. Another one is by thematic grouping. It is a way within Semitic thinking to put material together that is somewhat homogeneousness in regards to arranging things. For example in our alphabet, we have the letter h, i, j, k; the ‘I’ comes from the Hebrew word yodh and the ‘k’ comes from the Hebrew word Kaph. Yodh refers to the hand which is from the elbow to the fingertip. The ‘k’ is the Hebrew word Kaph and that refers to the palm of the hand and the two are put together for example. When you get to the letters m and n, the Hebrew word is mem which means water and then the nun means fish. The q and the r: the ‘q’ comes from the Hebrew word qoph, the back of the head where the hair is, and the ‘r’ comes from resh, the front of the head. You can see that there is a grouping of thought and so it seems that collections of materials by the rabbi is in some way consists of homogeneousness materials. You can also see the alternation of morning prayers and evening prayers in Psalms 3 – 6. We looked at Psalm 3 where it says, ‘I awake in the morning’ and then in Psalm 4, ‘I go to sleep at night.’ And so you have morning and night, morning and night. It may have been intended for the morning sacrifice and the evening sacrifice; this is purely speculation. It is a way of grouping the material. Notice how Psalms 7, 8 and 9 go together. The end of Psalm 7:17, I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord, most high. That is the last verse of Psalm 7. Psalm 8 begins, ‘Oh Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth.’ That is an inclusio and repeated at the end of verse 8 which leads us into Psalm 9, ‘I will give thanks to you Lord with all my heart and will tell of all your wonderful deeds; I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name on most high.’ This is similar to 7:17 above.

We have already looked at Psalm 93 – 99 which are called Enthronement Psalms because they refer to God’s reign and victory in establishing the creation. They also speak of his coming judgement. There are other ways and techniques by which they are put together. We also have juxtaposition by the same or similar incipit where Psalms begin and end with identical phrases such as Psalms 103 and 104. Then, Psalms 105, 106 and 107 share identical initial terms with 106 and 107 having completely identical first lines. There are also unique titles such as the Song of Ascent, Psalms 120 – 134 because they all begin with ‘Ascent’. There is some debate about what that means but the general consensus says that they were written for pilgrims who travelled to Jerusalem three times a year. We have already mentioned the linking together through catch phrases. Psalms 3:6 and 4:8 are together because of the phrase, ‘I like down and I sleep.’ These catch phrases are known as concatenations is another ways of grouping material. There are also four groups of halleluiah psalms, all of which mark the conclusion to the psalter segments: 104-106; 111-117; 135; 146-150. These segments are the conclusions of the books themselves.

D. Stage 4 – The Five Books of Psalms

The first book includes Psalms 1 – 41, the second book is made up of Psalms 42-72, the third book include the Psalms 73-89 and the fourth book are Psalms 90-106 and finally the fifth book includes 107-150. Evidence for this arrangement ends with doxologies in Psalm 41, 72, 89, and 106. But each doxology is different; for example in Psalm 41, we read: ‘Praise be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.’ I think the priest would have said this and the people would respond, ‘Amen and Amen,’ which means true and true. You have something similar at the end of Psalm 72: ‘Praise be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things, Praise be to his glorious name forever, may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!’ For Psalm 89 in verse 52, we have: ‘Praise be to the LORD forever!’ and the people responded ‘Amen and Amen.’ And finally, in book 4, Psalm 106, we have, ‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, Amen! Praise the LORD!’ It is quite clear that the congregation responded to these doxologies and praise. These doxologies were most likely an original part of the Psalm and they were chosen because of the doxology to conclude the different books of the Psalms. You will notice that book 5 doesn’t have that kind of doxology because the last five psalms are only praises to God: 146-150. The Rabbis recognized that they had five books and as Moses gave the give books of laws to Israel, so David gave five Books of Psalms to Israel. Therefore these books are named after their first words. Book 1 is entitled ‘Blessed is the Man’, book 2 is entitled ‘For the Leader: Maschil’ and book 3 is called ‘The Song of Asaph.’ For book 4, it is named, ‘A Prayer of Moses,’ and book 5 is called ‘Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.’ These names come from Psalms 1:1, 42:1, 73:1, 90:1 and 107:2. We have these doxologies preserved in one book from the Qumran literature. Another indication of these five books has a change of author as the seams. For example, the first book after the introduction, we see that the author is David which extends almost through the entire first book. The second book that begins with Psalm 42 belongs to the sons of Korah. The 3rd book is by Asaph and the fourth book is by Moses. The fifth book seems to be more of an artificial division as we are not given an author in Psalm 107.

There is a contrast between Biblical poetry and the Qumran poems that are created centuries later. There is a difference in that poetry. The Davidic material of Book 1 is basically Davidic. And the Elohistic Psalter from Psalm 42 to 83; those 42 psalms; interestingly Book 3 starts in the middle of it which suggests to me that the division into the five books is later than the Elohisitc Psalter formation because it is now split up. You also have Davidic Psalms in book 2. There is a contrast between books 1 and 3 and book 4 and 5 and seemingly books 1 and 3 were formed earlier than books 4 and 5. There also seems to be something of a chronological development, especially book 1 by David is probably the earlier book. But this is quite speculative.

E. Stage 5 - Concerns the Canon of the Masoretic Text

They were all given over to the temple and the Levites who were responsible for the collection, sorting them according to Genre. The Qumran has a somewhat different arrangement of the Psalms in scroll 11QP (Cave 11): Psalm 143 comes before 133 which come before 144. This raises the question to whether the Qumran group had a more inclusive canon with different theological motives than rabbinic canon with eight more psalms. Skethan/Talmon thinks that it is a more liturgical adaptation of the canonical text stabilized by 400 BC; it was not trying to be the Bible as it was created to be used within the liturgy. Others, like Peter Flint, thinks some favor James sanders and Gerald Wilson, who regard the Qumran scroll as reflecting a different canon at Qumran. We must remember that Qumran was a distinctive religious sect in Judaism and did not represent the temple and the rabbinic Judaism. So it is possible that they would have had a slightly different Canon.

III. The Significance of Shaping of the Psalms as Canon

A. Introduction

Delitzsch says that the collection bears the impress of one ordering mind. The evidence is within the two introduction psalms: Psalm 1 and 2. In addition this evidence also bears witness from the last five Psalms of Praise. It seems that there was one editor that gave it an introduction and a conclusion and arranged them into their final form. So, what started out with Words to God now comes back to us as the community of faith. The Psalms celebrate the mighty acts of God but in the doxology, they are celebrating the might words of God. So the priestly editors transformed the psalms used in Israel’s temple liturgy to reflective meditation in the synagogue. According to Jenni, the people’s Amen no longer responds to the deeds of God but to the mighty Words of God. And as perhaps as early as 520 BC, the psalms were edited in such a way as to focus upon the king; this editing significantly affects both the Psalter’s interpretation and theology. When we use the psalms for preaching, this is totally consistent with the final editor who wants us to reflect on and preach the Word of God. It also seems as though, the psalms were edited with a focus upon the king. The evidence of that is where Psalm 1 is concerned for justice and Psalm 2 shows that the king dispenses that justice. Psalm 2 is also the coronation liturgy for the king. Psalm 2 escalates the wickedness of Psalm 1 to a cabal of nations and narrows the righteous individual to the Davidic king. Psalm 1 also profiles the cause and consequence of the righteous individual against that of the wicked; Psalm 2 profiles the cause and consequence of the rebels against God and his king. The way of the wicked is at war against God’s rule in Psalm 1 and against his ruler in Psalm 2. Psalm 1 also theologically declares I AM will destroy the way of the wicked; Psalm 2 politically declares I AM’s king will destroy their way. Book 1 is all by David except for Psalm 33 which is an anomaly. This psalm, even though included in the prayers of David was by Solomon. But even in book 2, we have a Davidic core.

B. Universal Rule

Notice that in Psalm 72:1, it expands it to a universal rule of the king, both in time and in space. ‘Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness and you poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!’ See how it immediately begins with the king. ‘May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! In his days may the righteous flourish and peace abound, till the moon be no more!’ This deals with his universal rule in time and now it shifts to his universal rule in space. ‘May he rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth! May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!’ The final prayer is to establish a kingdom that is everlasting in time and space. So Book 1 David seems always in distress, yet he emerges in triumph and praise at the end.

C. Book 3 and the Dark Psalms

For Book 3, we come into the darkest book of the Psalter. This begins with ‘surly God is good to Israel. But, as for me, my feet almost slipped when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.’ Psalm 74 begins with the destruction of the temple. ‘O God, why do you reject us forever? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? Remember the people of you inheritance, which you purchased long ago, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt. Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins; the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary! Your foes roared in the midst of your meeting place; they set up their standards as sings. They behaved like people swinging axes in a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved wood with hatchets and hammers. They burned your sanctuary to the ground.’ So Psalm 74 laments the destruction of the temple. There are others that lament the destruction of the temple. Psalm 88 is the darkest book in the Psalms and Psalm 89 seemingly ends with the failure of the Davidic Covenant. It ends with reference to the king, arguing that the book is arranged around the king. So Psalm 2 and Psalm 72 are all about the king. A case can be made for Psalm 41 as it is concerned for the cause of justice. Whereas Psalm 72 ended with prayer for a universal kingdom, yet in Psalm 89, it is a failure.

Psalm 89: ‘I will sing of the love of the LORD, forever, with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. I would declare that your love stands firm forever, in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.’ This abandonment is surrounded in praise. ‘You have said that I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.’ So he recites here the Davidic Covenant and God’s Covenant to the House of David. ‘You have spoken of your Godly one and granted him help to the one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David, my servant, with my holy oil I have anointed him, so that my hand shall be established with him; my arm also shall strengthen him.’ In verse 30, he gives the stipulations of his covenant. ‘If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgressions with the rod and their iniquity with stripes.’ And then in verse 36, ‘his offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me, like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.’ Now comes the lament, ‘but you rejected the covenant with you servant; you have defiled his crown in the dust. You have breached all his walls; you have laid his strongholds in ruins.’ So he ends with the Davidic Covenant seemingly to have failed. This is where Book 3 ends.

D. Book 4 With the Psalm of Moses

Something happens here as we immediately go to Psalm 90, a psalm of Moses. We see here that God does not fail. ‘Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’ And it is within this context that we get the Enthronement Psalm; that God reigns. Even though the House of David failed, God doesn’t fail. He still reigns and he is the one who will ultimately bring judgement to the earth. Now, it seems that Book 3 was written in light of the exile and book 4 seems to have been written during the exile and they are looking back to God who founded the nation. Moses was only mentioned once in Books 1 through 3, in Psalm 77. In Book 4, he is mentioned seven times; in other words, it went back to the beginning again and God transcends the House of David. Their existence doesn’t depend on the House of David; rather it depends upon the living God. Psalm 106 that ends the Book 4, asks God to redeem them from exile. Psalm 106:47 ‘Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.’ Book 5 picks up on that point.

E. Book 5 Psalm 110 and King Jesus

The first verse of Psalm 107 matches the last verse of Psalm 106. Psalm 107:1 ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.’ You see that Book 4 ended with a prayer to gather us from the nations and then Book 5 starts out saying that they are gathered from the world.’ And so within this context, we get more messianic psalms and especially the great Psalm 110 that there is to be a king that will rule the earth. The king plays a very important role in the psalms and I think as we said that the messianic psalms ultimately speak about Jesus, our Lord.

Now, this ends the course on Psalms.

Transcribed by BT Ambassador Phil Smith