Biblical Theology

The Book of Psalms

Psalms

1. What is a Psalm?

Psalms are poetic compositions, usually presented in established literary patterns with liturgical and ritual allusions. This is poetic because they are tightly woven with balanced word structure, and poetic styles such as rhythm, parallelism, refrains, chiasm, word plays etc…

The Book of Psalms

The Hebrew OT consists three divisions namely, Torah, Nebim, Ketubim and the book of Psalms belongs to the third section. Torah (Law) is the basic text of Hebrews, Nebim (Prophets) is the prophetic interpretation of Torah and Ketubim (Psalms and Wisdom books) is the meditative reflections on Torah. The book of Psalms constitutes the inspired book within the inspired books of the Bible. The book of Psalms could be said as the compendium of the whole OT theology, because it produces macroscopic picture of the OT themes like, the marvellous works of God in Creation, Judgment, Salvation, Israel’s History, the Holy City and the Presence of God in it, the once and future Davidic Messiah, Warning against the wickedness, exhortation to righteousness, the majesty and tragedy of the human condition, the present and future kingdom of God. Through Psalms man learns to communicate in God’s own language. It is the personal encounter between God and man. Psalms are education in prayer. The book of Psalms is one of the most quoted OT book in the NT. It is also the most used OT book in the Jewish synagogues and Christian churches.

Different names

The designation ‘Psalm’ is derived from the Greek usage in Septuagint (LXX) and its later references in the NT (Luke 20,42; 24,44; Acts 1,20; 13,33). In Septuagint the word ψalmoV is used which means ‘hymn of praise’ and the title that is given in Codex Vaticanus is bibloV ψalmoi (Book of Praises). Codex Alexandrianus gives a different title to the book as ψalterion which means ‘a stringed instrument’ and it is from this word another title ‘Psalter’ is achieved to the book of psalms. The Hebrew word for Greek ψalmoi is Hebrew rAmðz>mi (mizmôr) (song) which is found in the titles of 57 psalms. Actually, the title of Psalms in Hebrew canon is known as rp,se ~yLihiT. (t®hillim s¢per) i.e., the Book of Praises. In the Hebrew text we see also another name for Psalms called hL’piT. (t®pillâ) which means ‘Prayer’ (Ps 72,20).

 

5. The Division and The authorship of the Psalms

Traditionally the book of Psalms is divided into five books. It is said in Midrash, “As Moses gave five books of Law, David gave the Pentateuch of Psalms”. According to this division each section ends with a concluding doxology, “praise be to the God of Israel” (Ps 41,14; 72,19; 89,52; 106,48; 150,6).

1st Book         1-41

2nd Book        42-72

3rd Book         73-89

4th Book         90-106

5th Book         107-150.

The authorship of Psalms is mainly ascribed to the tradition of King David (1Sam 16,18-23; 2Sam 6,5; 2Sam 1,19-27). There are other groups of collection called the ‘the collection of David’ (Ps 1-41), ‘the collection of sons of Korah’ (Ps 42-49), ‘Prayers of David’ (Ps 51-72), ‘the collection of Asaph’ (Ps 50,73-83), Psalms of Solomon (72, 127); Heman the Ezrahite (88); Ethan the Ezrahite (89).

6. The origin of the Psalms

1. Liturgical Origin

The first and important explanation of the origin of the psalms is that they are collected for the various liturgical and cultic purposes. Most of the psalms have characteristic motifs of temple entry, praises, prayers and thanksgiving related to sacrifices and celebrations. There are frequent mention of God’s house and the Psalmist’s physical attitudes like ‘bow down before God’, (5,7; 138,2), ‘kneel before the Lord’ (95,6), ‘I lift up my hands up to the holy temple’ (28,2), ‘washing hands and going around the alter (26,6), clap hands (47,1), ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills’(121,1). Because of this cultic nature, it could be said that Priests and Choirs would have special role in writing them for the various liturgical purposes and might have been originated in the temple sites especially of the Jerusalem temple. There are indications that the Priests and Singers are obliged to write and read (1Chr 9,33; 15,16-17; 2Chr 20, 21-22; 23,13; 29,25-16; Neh 12,28-29; Deut 31,19).

2. Individual origin of the Psalm. Psalms also could be the product of individual piety and devotion. For eg., the song of Debora (Deut 31,22; Jud 5). The individual devotion could be evolved later into a public liturgy.

3. Some psalms could be originated in connection with various feasts related with the king and kingdom. For eg., the anniversary of king’s enthronement, his birthday, the victory in the battles etc….

4. There are also indications of the adaptations of many prayers and psalms of the neighbouring Canaanite, Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian temple cults.   

The Date

The Psalms are the collection and sub-collection spanning many centuries. It may have taken some 1000 years up to 300 BC when the book of Psalm came to be finalized. It is certain that many Psalms have an oral tradition before reaching up to a written tradition.

There are certain principles to determine the time of various Psalms

1)     Psalms refer Canaanite culture: The scholars opine that the dates of Psalms 18, 29, perhaps of 12-11 BC.

2)     The historical elements of Patriarchs, the Exodus and the Sinai events, the entrance to the Promised Land may be also hints for a pre-exilic dating (Ps 66, 68, 78, 105, 106, 114, 136).

3)     The liturgical songs related to the King David and Jerusalem, especially the event of bringing of the Ark of the Covenant (Ps 132), God selecting Zion (Ps 46, 48, 76, 78, 68, 69) as his mountain of residence would be pointing to the Pre-exilic existence.

4)     Those Psalms that portrait the individual prayers and lamenting may be mostly of exilic period.

5)     Wisdom style, Pietism towards the Law, strong influence of the language of Aramaic would be of post-exilic.

The Canonicity

The first book to accept as the inspired text in Hebrew canon is the book of Psalms. There are three reasons for its canonicity, 1) this is the shortest form of the history of Israel 2) this is the sum of the Jewish spirituality 3) this is the liturgical and meditative reflection of Yahweh’ s saving actions.

The Versions

The earliest complete Hebrew text of the book of Psalms, available today is dated to the 10th cent AD (The Leningrad Codex (1008)/ Biblia Hebraica Stuttgertenzia). The Greek original is dated of the 4th and 5th cent BC (LXX). The Syriac version is dated on 4th and 5th cent AD. In 2nd century AD other Greek translations of Aquila, Theodatian and Simmachus were appeared which could be considered as the later editions of LXX. There are versions of the book of Psalms in old Latin and later St. Jerome translated a new one in 392, which is called today the Latin Vulgate.

Psalms contain 150 psalms. In some manuscripts we see 151 psalms. The number of psalms is varied in Hebrew Masoretic text, Greek Septuagint, Latin Vulgate and Peshitha. There are some psalms, which were divided into two in the later periods (42 and 43). There are also Psalms that are repeated (14=53; Ps 18=2Sam 22; 40,13-17=70,1-5; 57,7-11=108,1-5; 60,5-12=108,6-13; 96=1Chr 16,23-33; 105,1-15=1Chr16,8-22; 106,1=1Chr16,34; 106,47-48=1Chr16,35-36; 115,4-8 = 135,15-18). There are also some psalms, which do not belong to the proper book of Psalms namely, Ex 15, 1-8; Deut 32,1-43; Judg 5,2-31; 1Sam 2,1-10; 2Sam 22; Is 38,10-20; Jonah 2,2-9; Hab 3,2-19; Tob 8, 5-6.15-17; 13, 1-18

Titles

The titles are not integral part of the Psalms. Many psalms contain a title. Though they are not theologically significant, the Massoretic text gives it often as the first verse. Mostly, it is very difficult to understand the meaning of these titles. They could be divided into various groups

1) Literary nature:

rAmz>mi (mizmôr) psalm, hymn (57 times); ryvi (shîr) song (30 times); lyKif.m; (m´kil) poem (13 times) a didactic psalm or artistic psalm; ~T’k.mi (mikt¹m) hidden or golden song, song of ‘atonement’ or ‘engraved’ song (?) (16, 56-60); hL’piT. (t®pillâ) prayer (17, 86, 90, 102, 142);  Hanna’s thanksgiving and Habakkuk’s song are both described as prayers (1Sam 2,1; Hab 3,1); !AyG”vi (shigaon) (Ps 7) lamentation or complaint song; hL’hiT. (t®hillâ) praise (145).

2) Musical annotations:

hl’s, (selâ) occurs 71 times in 39 psalms. It denotes ‘to raise voice’, ‘to raise eyes’, musical notes etc.… There are seven major musical tunes: ~yqixor>â ~l,aeä tn:Ayí-l[; (±al yônât °¢lem r¹µœqim) (the dove of far-off) (Ps 56). rx;V;ªh; tl,Y<ïa;-l[; (±al °ayyelet hashaµar) (the deer of the dawn) (Ps 22) ~yNIv;voâ-l[; (±al shoshannim) (flowers of Lilies) (Ps 45; 69). txev.T;â-la;  (°al tashµ¢t) (do not destroy) (Ps 57; 58; 59; 75) tyTiªGIh;-l[;( (±al hagtit) (Gittite music) (Ps 8; 81; 84), !Beªl; tWmïl.[; (±al mût lb¢n) (death of the son) (Ps 9), tAmïl'[]-l[;( (±al ±almot) (to the virgins) (Ps 46).

3) Liturgical

 x;Ceîn:m.l; (lamm®naƒƒ¢aµ) comes as the title for 50 psalms but the meaning is not clear. It may mean ‘to the leader of choir’. In 1Chr 15,21, the same word is used in reference to the direction of the singing. tAlï[]M;ñh;( ryviª(shîr hmma±alot) (Ps 120-134) are called songs of ascension. They are sung as the pilgrim music going to Jerusalem for feasts. !WtªWdy>-l[;( (±l y®d¥tûn) (confession) (Ps 39; 62; 77). tB'(V;h; ~Ayæl. (lyôm hash¹bat) (to the day of Sabbath) (Ps 92), ryKi(z>h;l. (lhaz®kir) (to remember) (Ps 38,70) hd”_Atl. (ltôdâ) (to thank) (Ps 100), tAN=[;l. (l®±annôt) (to repent) (Ps 88) dMe(l;l. (ll¹mad) (to teach) (Ps 60)

4. Historical

They contain historical events related to the life of David, like ‘when David fled from Absalom (Ps 3), David sang to the Lord concerning Cush a Benjaminate (Ps 7), When Nathan the prophet came to David, after he had gone to Bathsheba (51). Other Psalms of various historical indications seen in title are 13; 34; 52; 56; 57; 59; 60; 63; 142.

 The Studies of the Book of Psalms

The modern studies focused fundamentally on its form-critical studies. Attention was given to the type and character of each psalms and makes clues for the various exegetical interpretations. The basic schema is set forth by H. Gunkel and J. Begrich (H. Gunkel- J. Begrich, Einleitung in die Psalmen, (Göttingen, 1933) = The Psalms, (Philadelphia, 1960). H. Gunkel is the first one who successfully classified the Psalms into various literary types (Gattung). He classified them according to the contents. According him one could see the life situation (Sitz im Leben) of the author through the literary symbols, emotions, and ideas. So one should analyse various literary genres of the Psalms. According to H. Gunkel, there are mainly five different literary forms, 1) Hymns, 2) Communal complaint songs 3) Individual complaint songs 4) Individual thanksgiving songs, 5) Royal Psalms. Besides these, he also found many different small-genres like ‘Pilgrimage song’, ‘Tora songs’, ‘Sayings of Blessing and curse’ and ‘Victory Song’ etc…. The work of S. Movinckal has influenced many of the studies of the Psalms. His main work appeared in 1921-1924 (S. Mowinckel, Psalmen-Studien I-IV = The Psalms in Israel’s Worship I-II, Oxford, 1962). S. Movinckal also followed H. Gunkel but he gave importance to the cultic aspect of the Psalms and thus he denied primarily the personal dimension of the Psalms. It is his view that great majority of the Psalms do not simply derive, as a matter of form-history or literary-history, but from ancient cult poetry. They are ‘real cult psalms’ composed for and used in the actual service of the temple. Though S. Movinckal advocated the liturgical background of the Psalms, he also detected the presence of some ‘cult-free Psalms’ namely ‘Instruction Psalms’. Most important and comprehensive treatment after this perhaps would be of Clause Westermann[1]. He has argued as ‘Praise’ and ‘Lament’ as the two poles of human address to God and thus they are considered as the dominant categories in the Psalms.

There has been a number of criticisms and opinions with regard to the various literary types and genres of the psalms. Several published studies tend to multiply the literary categories of Psalms. For the study purpose, the literary structure followed in this work is of H.-J. Kraus[2] and L. Sabourin[3].

The literary forms of Psalms (Gattung)

The important literary forms of the Psalms are explained as follows:

1. Praising or Hymns

There are three types of praising:

a)     Praising or hymns Proper (8, 19, 29, 33, 100, 103, 104, 111, 113, 114, 117, 135, 136, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150).

b)     Yahweh-the King Praising (47, 93, 96, 97, 98, 99).

c)     The Praising of Zion (46, 48, 76, 84, 87, 122). 

2. Lamentation

It contains complaints against God. It speaks about the wicked and the enemies and the necessity of God’s defence.

a. laments of the Individual (5; 6; 7; 13; 17; 22; 25; 26; 28; 31; 35; 36; 38; 39; 42; 43; 51; 54; 55; 56; 57; 59; 61; 63; 64; 69; 70; 71; 86; 88; 102; 109; 120; 130; 140; 141; 142; 143).

b. Laments of the Community (12; 44; 58; 60; 74; 77; 79; 80; 82; 83; 85; 90; 94; 106; 108; 123; 126; 137)

3. Psalms of the Confidence

  1. Confidence of the Individual (3, 4, 11, 16, 23, 27, 62, 121, 131)
  2. Confidence of the Community (115, 125, 129)

4. Psalms of Thanksgivings

        They are called in Hebrew Todah. They confess God’s unlimited goodness and mercy.

a)     Thanksgiving of the Individual (Ps 9, 10, 30, 32, 34, 40, 2-12, 41, 92, 107, 116, 138)

b)     Thanksgiving the Community (Ps 65, 66, 67, 68, 118, 124)

 5. Royal-Messianic Psalms

These Psalms may be written as the praises of kings but they are later interpreted with the Messianic ideals. (Ps 2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 89; 101; 110; 132; 144)

6. Didactic Psalms

a. Wisdom Psalms (Ps 1; 37; 49; 73; 91; 112; 119; 127; 128; 133; 139).

b. Historical Songs (Ps 78; 105).

c. Prophetic Psalms (Ps 14; 50; 52; 53; 75; 81; 95).

d. Liturgies (15, 24; 134).

7. Groups of Psalms under different headings

a. Imprecatory Psalms (35; 58; 69; 109; 137; 129; 140).

b. Psalms of Blessing (121; 91; 67; 115, 9-15).

c. Pilgrim Psalms (120-134).

d. Victory Psalms (46; 48; 66; 76; 118; 149).

e. Penitential Psalms (6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143).

f. Acrostic Psalms (9-10; 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; 119; 145).

g. Creation Psalms (8, 19; 104; 139; 148).

f. Entrance Psalms (15,24).

g. Hallelujah Psalms (111-118; 135; 136; 146-150).

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Psalms of Praising

The psalms of praising are the announcement and proclamation of joy and wonder over the glory, omnipotence and the saving actions of Yahweh in the history of Israel. Praising can be understood more than a literary style. It is the basic attitude of prayer for the people of Israel. The emotions such as happiness, wonder, fear, and respect are predominantly seen in praising. The language of praise is with attributes, gracious words and exclamatory statements. The psalmist will praise seven times a day (119,164), he will praise at the midnight (119,62). The psalmist will praise not only with the words but also with the whole body, (by raising hands 29,2; 95,6; 96,9; 99,5.9; 138,2), by clapping hands 47,2; 98,8), dancing (26,6; 118,27),  kneeling, prostration (95,6).

The important life situation (sitz im Leben) would be the annual agricultural feasts, national feasts of victories or the yearly temple feasts. Thousands of devotes reach Jerusalem, with shouting of joy  and the praising songs of Yahweh. They participate in the dances, processions (42,5; 87,7; 149,3; 150,4) and in the solemn temple entry etc…

Structure

 I. Introduction: The introductory part is mostly an invitation. This part explains the intention of praising God. It is an invitation addressed to the musicians and singers (33,2), to the servants (135,2) and to all nations (117,1) and to every living being (150,6) or even to all creatures (148). Some  primitive nucleus of the hymn could have consisted of simple cultic exclamations like ‘halleluiah’, ‘praise the Lord’ etc…

There are three types of invitations

1) Imperative  (Second Person)

a) give thanks (33,2; 105,1)

b) Sing a new song (33,3; 96,1)

c)     Rejoice, bless, give thanks (47,2; 66,1)

II Jussive (third person)

a) let them rejoice (5,12; 35,27)

            b) Let them be glad (40, 17; 67,5)

            c) Let them praise (67,4; 99,3)

III Cohertative (first person)    

a) Let us exult (95,1-2)

b) Let us rejoice (95,1)

c) Let us bow down (95,2)

II. Body: It is either reason or expansion of the introduction. Why one should praise Yahweh? The reasons derive from Yahweh’s great deeds (creation, providence, redemption, legislation) or refer to God’s attributes of power, wisdom, fidelity and mercy. In hymns especially God is praised both what He has done and what He is. Yahweh is to be praised not only because he is good but also because his works of salvation to be known by the nations

The common body movements in these psalms are a) clapping hands (47,2), b) raising hands (134,2), c) Falling down before Yahweh (29,2), d) using musical instruments (57,9), e) dancing (63,5) etc….

III. Conclusion: The part contains partial or total repetition of the introduction. It is the recapitulation of motives (105,42-45), blessing formulas (29,11; 66,20, 135, 21), requests or wishes (19,13). It can be sometimes the expression of the sentiments of trust in the Lord or it can be a simple ‘hallelujah’ (148,4).

Praising Psalms can be divided into three sections 1) Hymns Proper 2) Yahweh-the King Praising, 3) The Praising of Zion. 

1) Hymns Proper (8, 18, 19, 29, 33, 100, 103, 104, 111, 113, 114, 117, 135, 136, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150).

These are the psalms of descriptive or narrative praise. This is done both by the individual or the community. These psalms praises Yahweh’s mighty deeds of creation and the salvific plan. Mostly these psalms have the liturgical background when the community gather together to worship Yahweh. God is praised for his lordship and majesty as creator and the Lord of history.

Psalm 8

This is a classical example of hymns proper. Both majesty of God and the dignity of man are praised here. This Psalm beautifully presents the relationship among God, man and nature. There is a poetic technique of inclusion in v.2 and v. 10, because of the ‘introductory and concluding phrase ‘how majestic is your name’.

Structure

The psalm forms a concentric structure.

*V. 1-2 Praising

*Vv 3-5 Nature

*V. 6 Central theme: Man and his position

*Vv. 7-9 Nature

*V. 10 Praising

Content

Vv. 1-2 The aim of these verses to praise the God’s name. OT concept is that the name is identical with the person. God’s name is majestic. The statement that the whole world is full of God’s glory (Kabod) means that he is present all over the world. He establishes his mighty power through the mouths of babes. Those who are week are appropriate to establish God’s power.

3-5 The heavens, moon and the stars are the work of God. This imagery may indicate that this psalm denotes evening or night prayer (Ps 130,6; 134,1). God is so powerful and at the same time he is concerned about the simple creature-man. The contrast of man’s position and God’s glory is pictured here.  Man is created little less than angels (LXX). Instead of ‘than angels’ can be read ‘than of gods’ since the reference is probably to the members of the heavenly court of God (relation to the Canaanite mythology). Man is crowned with glory and honour, which are the qualities of God himself.

v. 6 deals with the special relationship with God and man. It is a kingly role, but according to the manner of God himself. The dominion is special. It is based on the power of God, who establishes his power through babes and the week. Man should exercise his power through reverence to God.

Vv. 7-9 once again the Psalmist praises the nature and God’s imminent presence.

V. 10 Concluding praising. Human life is a gift from God.

The Praising of Zion (46, 48, 76, 84, 87,122, 132, 137)

These poems extol Zion, God’s ‘holy mountain’ (48,2), Jerusalem is chosen mountain (76,3), the city of God (46,5; 48,2), the city of Yahweh zebayoth (48,9; 84,2), and  the holy dwelling of the Most high (46,5). Non-Israelites also can find refuge there, because Zion is a mother to all (87,5). Zion was selected as the seat of eternal king and thus it has played the centre to the political, cultural and religious life of Israel. The importance of the city became historical event on the transferring of the sacred Ark from Shiloh to Jerusalem. According to G. von Rad: “The songs of Zion were based on the fact of Yahweh’s past choice of Zion, and the royal psalms on Yahweh’s past choice of David as its king.”[4]   

Psalm 46

This is the first Zion psalm in the Psalter. Jebusites were the inhabitants when David took hold of Jerusalem. Jebusites strongly believed that there God was staying with them in the city of Jerusalem. David conquered the city and he brought the arch of the covenant, the presence of Yahweh into Jerusalem. He made Jerusalem city as the dwelling place of Yahweh. Is 2,2-4 and Mica 4,1-4 describe the Zion traditions. In those prophesies there are mainly six elements

a) exaltation of Zion

b) pilgrimage of nations and peoples to Zion

c) Teaching of the ways of God

            d) Torah comes from Zion

e) Yahweh judge the world nations

f) Yahweh establishes the peace.

 Almost this tradition is seen in the ‘praising of Zion Psalms’. ‘Faith in God’ is the key note in these psalms and its particular object is expressed in the refrain ‘the Lord of the hosts is with us, our stronghold is the God of Jacob’.

Structure

I. Vv 2-4 God is our refuge and strength

II. Vv 5-8 the city of God

III. Vv 9-12 the admonition to the nations.

Content

Vv 2-4 at the very outset, the communal perspective is stressed: lanu (for us) would show that God has been/is/will be for us refuge and strength. The terms ‘refuge’, ‘help’, which are language of individual prayer, are now applied to the community. Therefore, the upheaval of rebellious powers cannot produce fear, although the rebellion is of the cosmic dimensions. Refuge is repeated three times 1.7.11.

Vv. 5-8 the river functions as the water supply of God’s city, which is the ‘holy habitation of the most high’. That means not only the temple, but also the city, as a whole is holy by the presence of God. It is the vision of God’s city in almost paradaisical state. The streams evoke the paradaisic streams in Gen 2 although they are channels (peleg), which provide water supply within an irrigation system. The city seems to have neither walls nor a temple (at least there is no mention). The cosmic uproar is a constant threat to the city. The nations and kingdoms mentioned in this Psalm represent chaos. Because of the delivering God, who is ready to rescue his city once and over again, the cosmic uproar will not achieve its purpose, namely the reign of terror performed by demonic powers. The holy city is built up in the proper name Yahweh Zebayoth (God of hosts), now interpreted as Elohai yakov (God of Jacob) a title very rare and came to use not before pre-exilic time in the Psalter. These two titles thus bring together the God of salvation history in the Pentateuch and God of the Psalter. They are the basis of the confidence of the threatened community. Due to the presence of his name the city survives all attacks. Hence, nations are admonished to have appropriate knowledge of such God. City of God a holy habitation and the enemy cannot overcome it.

Vv. 9-12 this section has double intention. The first admonition to the nations is to acknowledge the only one God who alone is entitled to bring desolation on earth. It means that one should reject all other powers pretending divine competence. The second affirmation is God’s presence in the city.  Exaltation of God. It is from Jerusalem the peace comes. When there is peace in Jerusalem the whole universe enjoys peace.

Yahweh-the King Praising (47, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99).  

This is a special kind of classification and is also called as ‘enthronement psalms’. It describes ‘the festival of the kingship of God’. The title melek (king) would closely be related to Yahweh zebayoth (The Lord of hosts). The eschatological character of these psalms cannot be denied where the Israel celebrates the enthronement of Yahweh as the universal ruler and judge. 

There are two functions with regard to the enthronement celebration: a) The ruler is anointed on a holy site by the hand of a priest and is adorned with crown, b) he ascends in a celebrative parade and seats himself on the royal throne (1Kg 1,34; 2Kg 11,12). The great personalities of the nations gather together with the king like, the ministers, head of the soldiers. The whole nations praise king’s mighty deeds, his justice and righteousness.  Yahweh is the king of the world (47,3,8; 98,6; 99,4) and His kingdom is the kingdom of peace (99,4), justice, and grace (98,2).

Psalm 47

 
Content

I) v.1 title

II) vv. 1-5 shouts of joy to God, the king

III) vv. 6-9 Praises to God, the universal ruler

1-5. It is possible that the historical context of the psalm was  a victory in war, which they attributed to Yahweh. The Israelites had the tradition that Yahweh fought their battles for them as they were liberated and brought from Egypt and led to the land of Canaan. It was natural to give glory to Yahweh on a military victory. The psalmist invites all people to shout songs of joy in honor of Yahweh, the most high.

6-9 It is almost symmetrical repetition of the first strophe, inviting people to sing praises to God, who is the universal ruler of the world. Just as they celebrate the enthronement of their earthly king, they celebrate Yahweh’s coronation as the king of all the nations and the world.   Firstly, he is the king of Israel and secondly he is the universal king.

Psalms of Lamentation

It contains complaints against God. The basic emotion is aguish, pain and sadness. The main phrases are ‘How long’ and ‘how many days’ (12, 44, 58, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 90, 94, 108, 123, 129) etc…. This is a cry for the liberation from sufferings, persecutions and persecutors. It has also the dimension of confessing sins and asking the forgiveness.

The General Structure

I) Introduction: This is generally an invocation of the name (Yahweh or Elohim), which is followed by a cry for help (51,3; 57,2; 86,3). The common way of addressing God is also reflected in the frequent use of anthropomorphisms: ‘Listen to me’, ‘open your ear’, ‘look’, ‘wake up’, ‘hurry’, ‘answer me’, ‘save me’, ‘return’ etc…

II) Main section: There are four major contents are seen in this section.

                        a) complaints. The main motive of complaint is to move God to act. This explains the distress of man in first place. The danger of death, disease, distress are always involved.  

b) supplication, request for urgent help the main words are listen, open your ear, look down, raise yourself, wake up

c) This part also explains the nature of the supplicants. He may be materially poor, the afflicted, the accused, or the persecuted in various levels.

d) expression of trust the motive of confidence.

It includes complaints, supplications, suppliants and trust in God’s saving act. The danger of death is always involved. The reason of the complaint is to move God to action. This section also speaks of the person who is asking for the help. The suppliant here is ‘poor’ (‘ani), ‘afflicted’.

III) Conclusion: It does not have a particular pattern. It will generally end with a blessing, or a renewed expression of trust, or with a thanksgiving or with prayer for God’s help.

 

Who is the afflicted in these psalms?

There are primarily three types of suffering and the sufferers in these psalms.

1. Suffering of sickness (Ps 6, 31, 38, 39, 41, 88, 102). This is one of the important situation where psalmist finds himself in suffering. It is not clear to what type of sickness that the individual is undergoing. His bones are weak (38,3), his wounds grow foul (38,5), his loins are filled with burning (38,7), his light of the eyes is gone (38,10), he is not able to eat (102,4), his health is weak (32,3). All these imageries would lead to different types of suffering, through sickness, old age or accidents etc… Rather than physical illness, the psalmist is suffering from mental anguish, he is lonely (38,11), sad (13,3; 33,3), restless (22,3; 77,5), sleeplessness (56,9), torturing memories (88,16). Moreover he is suffering from the spiritual sickness. He is in exile. He is out of Zion. He lost his land, his temple and the presence of Yahweh in it. He is in strong spiritual insecurity that Yahweh is hiding His face towards him.

2. The suffering from a common enemy (Ps 3, 7, 13, 14, 22, 25, 27, 28, 35, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 63, 64, 69, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89, 102, 109, 120, 130, 140, 141, 142, 143). Psalmist is an innocent oppressed who tries to defend the truth from the oppressor. The psalmist is standing amidst the people of false witness, idol worshipers and the wicked. The prayer of the psalmist is to get the proper justice punishing the wicked (7; 27; 35). C) suffering of the innocent (Ps 5, 17, 26, 139).

3. The prisoner: The psalmist is in the prison (88; 107 118) with or without a genuine cause. The psalmist pray for the freedom. He calls God’s urgent for immediate establishment of the truth and justice.  

 

There are two types of lamentation, i.e.,

a)     the lamentation of the individual.

b)     the lamentation of the people.

a) the Lamentation of the Individual (5, 6, 7, 13, 17, (22), 25, 26, 28, 31, 35, (36), 38, 39, 42, 43, 51, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, (63), 64, 69, 70, 71, 86, 88, 102, 109, 120, 130, 140, 141, 142, 143).

The laments of the individual deals particularly with the personal suffering and pain. It contains the pain of disease, attack of the enemies, fear of death and the depression from various life situations. Some scholars consider that they have cultic background because of four elements, found commonly in them, i.e., a) Prayer (5,7; 28,2), b) indications of sacrifice (5,3; 141,2), c) an oracle (5,4; 86,17), d) allusions to some cultic actions like washing of the hands and purifications (51,4, 96). Hence these psalms could be related to the particular liturgical functions in the temple. At the same time, there are also strong opinions of the non-cultic background of many individual lament psalms.

Psalm 22

This is an extraordinary psalm that takes us to the extremes. It develops from an individual in the dust of death (v. 15) to universal acknowledgement of the kingdom of God. In the lament we read “all who see me mock me” (v. 7) and all my bones are out of joint (v. 14), but in the praise sections we hear, “All your descendants of Jacob, honour him” (v. 23), “all the end of the earth will… turn to the Lord” (v. 27) and it even appears that all the dead will worship (v. 29).

Gattung- Mischung (Mixed form)

It is a mixture of Individual lament (1-21), an individual thanksgiving (22-26) and praising of the Yahweh-the king (27-31).

Structure
  1. Lamentation (vv. 1-21)
  2. Thanksgiving (vv. 22-26)
  3. Praising Yahweh-the king (vv. 27-31)

 

Content

1-2 These words are most familiar to the Christians and remind the salvation made possible through the Cross. Unlike most prayer psalms, this one opens with a lament pointed at God himself. Three fundamental issues are raised here. 1) God’s abandoning (ynIT”+b.z:[) (±¹zavtani = abandon me), 2) remoteness of God (qAxïr”) (r¹µœq = far away), 3) God does not respond (hn<+[]t; al{å) (lœ° ta‘¹nâ = you do not answer). These themes are developed in 3-10.

3-5 These verses sound like a praise but they serve to heighten the anomaly of God’s silence. God has always saved and delivered the fathers who put trust in God but why at this moment he is silent. The phrase ‘enthroned on the praises of Israel’ and the reference of the ‘trust of the Fathers’ would denote the tradition of the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.  

6-8 The contrast with preceding story of ‘our fathers’ is striking. The speaker acknowledges his wretched situation, ‘I am a worm and no man’. More than the physical pain the mental anguish of a sufferer is highlighted here. The painful situation is the mocking of the people.

9-10 These verses are the confession of trust in Yahweh. They serve as evidence that Yahweh has in fact, ‘delighted in him’, because he had trusted in Yahweh. So Yahweh should ‘answer’ to the cry of the faithful. These verses are not verses of consolation rather they are the arguments presented before Yahweh.  

11-21 In this section, the petitions addressing the problem of God’s remoteness enclose a lament of the deepest way ‘do not be far from me, for the trouble is near (v. 11 and 19). Concerning the foes, the animals’ descriptions like ‘strong bulls’, ‘lions’ and ‘dogs’ would be the mythical or demonic figures. In v. 16b, the imagery shifts to humans encircling the speaker either at his deathbed or execution. This lament shares the extreme situation of a man among his enemies.

22-26 It is a typical vow of praise, surrounded by thanksgiving. God is praised in the congregation. It is striking that the command is issued to ‘all you sons of Israel’. By claiming God ‘has listened to his cry for help’ in effect withdraws the allusion that God had been far from the cry for help’.

27-31 These verses have the affinity to the Yahweh-kingship, where ‘all the families of the nations’ ‘bow down’ before Yahweh and ‘all the ends of earth’ acknowledge that he ‘rules over the nations’ (v. 27). In Psalm 22, Yahweh’s worship takes on vast, universal proportions with respect to both geography and time. Remarkably, Ps 22 goes beyond any other psalm. The praising will extend across the entire globe, future generations. The phrase ‘all who go down to the dust will kneel before him’ in v. 29 should be understood as those who ‘sleep’ and not the dead because the psalms elsewhere states, ‘it is not the dead who praise the Lord (115,17; 30, 9; 88,10-12).

Psalm 22 could be an Individual lament or a national lament and a praising for the restoration from captivity. With our post-Easter vision, the psalm foreshadows both the resurrection of an individual (Christ) and of a nation (Church). 

B) Laments of the Community ((12), 44, (58), 60, 74, (77), 79, 80, (82), (83), 85, 90, (94), (106), (108), 123, (126), 137).

The literary structure of this family of psalms are similar to those of the corresponding category related to the Individual. But here the distress, trust and thanksgiving are expressed by the community. The criteria are more or less the same as that of an individual lament. Instead of ‘I’, we have ‘We’ and corresponding personal pronouns. When in an individual lament, there is an indifference to refer to the historical events, communal lament do refer them. It is to be supposed that communal laments were in use during the whole history of Israel. The individual laments are vitally interested in leading God to stand up to defend the miserable situation of the individual considering His eternal promises in the history. The topics of Israel’s official theology, namely the theology of the temple Jerusalem, the theology of Davidic dynasty, the theology of creation are clearly focused in the communal laments.

Sitz im Leben of these Psalms

The psalms of the communal lament are concerned with the days of humiliation arising from national sufferings like war, plagues, draught, pestilence, famine, flood and exile etc… The important social background for these psalms are the annual or occasional gatherings of the people of Israel to lament, to pray and to fast. The whole community is called to repentance and prayer. There are three types of ingathering for community lament.

1) lament festivals happened in every year

2) funeral banquet gatherings.

3) the days of fasting, convoked by the king or high priest on special occasion of the national catastrophes.

In all these occasions, the people come together and pray for God’s urgent help. The third occasion of gathering is most important and solemn one. In these days of fasting the whole people including gentiles and animals are to be involved. Such gatherings were organized at court yards, other common places or worshiping centers (Jud 20,23; 21,2; 1Sam 7,6; 1Kings 8,33.35). The people should cry on the roads and public places (Is 15,3; Am 5,16; Jer 14,2). The people should fast (1Kings 21,9), the people should abstain from common works and sexual relationships (Is 58,3), the people should tear the cloth (Is 32,11), they should wear sack cloth (Is 15,2; 22,12; Mic 1,16), they should spread sand and ashes on the head (Neh 9,1; Judith 4,11), they should shave the head (Is 15,2; Mic 1,16), they should prostrate and should stay on knees (Jud Is 29,4; 2 Mac 3,21). The priests should wear sack cloth (Joel 1,13), cry at the alter and at the temple premises (Joel 2,17). These activities on the days of fasting and prayer are the cry and lament towards Yahweh for his immediate and saving action in the time of misery.

The pain and anguish towards the moral decay in the society, the spreading of the lies and idols, denial of the rights of the poor and the widows, the increasing of the wicked and the murders, the flowing of the blood like waters are also the subject of these psalms. 

Psalm 74

This is a lament over national calamity, most probably the destruction or desecration of the temple is intended here. The destruction of the temple happened in exile (587), when Babylonians demolished the temple. The desecration happened to the second temple by Antiochus Epiphanes IV (175-164 BC)) who burned the doors of the temple and desecrated the holy of holies and the sanctuary.

Structure

It has a clear structure with three parts.

vv. 1-11 Complaints toward God concerning the destruction of the temple.

vv. 12-17 The Lord as ‘the king’ eternally.

vv. 18-23 Urgent pleas to God considering the present state of affaires

Content

1-11 The mood of this section is full of bitterness. The complaint against God is very harsh. At the beginning (v. 1) and at the end (v. 11) there are the why questions (Ps 22). The style is characterised by direct address that invokes the necessity of God’s intervention. God is urgently requested to perceive that his own affairs are seriously touched by the actions of the enemy. Under the cover of being concerned about God’s state of affairs an attack against God is launched who obviously neglects his duties towards his own people that calls himself with honourable names: “sheep of your pasture” (v. 1), ‘your congregation’ (v. 2), ‘tribe of your heritage’ (v. 2). God shall direct his steps to the eternal ruins (v. 3). The ‘notion of eternity’ as the characteristic for God and his temple is now perverted.

12-17 There is shift of mood from accusation to hymn. Israel proclaims what has been the basis of faith. The sequence is very interesting: God as my king, performing powerful deeds of salvation on earth (not heaven). This is typical for the theology of the temple in Jerusalem. The people of Israel proclaim God as the victor over the powers of chaos stabilizing the order of the world. They establish God’s glory. The aim of this passage: Israel would be happy, if her faith to God, who acted once in such a wonderful manner, could be re-emanated. Yahweh calls the divine saving actions. Crossing of the see of reeds is depicted here. This is not only the defeat of the Egyptians but the defeat of the cosmic enemy living in waters. By dividing it into two God shows his power over waters. This also shows the creative power because in the beginning God made heaven and order through creating. V. 13 speaks of the water dragon and leviathan (Ps 104,6; Is 27,1). This are the Canaanite mythical figure to express God’s supreme power.

18-23 This section is marked by a new sequence of urgent requests, alternating between requests and demands. Israel’s self-designations highlight the disastrous situation of the people: poor, downtrodden and needy (v. 21). God’s intervention should happen immediately as in early times. Otherwise the uproar of the adversaries continues to go up (Yoleh tamid). The phrase Yoleh tamid (continuous going up) is used commonly for offerings. The ‘uproar of God’s adversaries’ has replaced ‘the offerings’ for the psalmist. This is the climatic complaint at the end in full correspondence with the harsh questions at the beginning

 

Psalms of the Confidence of the individual (3,4,11,16,23, (27), (62), (121) 131).

They are in reality the ‘motives of confidence’ developed from the corpus of lamentation into independent psalms. Most of the factors that constitute the lament are also found in these psalms, but the confidence motive is predominant. The idea of security (4,9; 16,8; 27,1-5) and of peace, specially during sleep (3,6; 4,5.9; 16,7), is frequently mentioned. The joy which this confidence provides (4,8-9; 16,6-8; 9.11; 23,6) is often associated with the temple, where God is likely to reveal himself (11,7; 16,11) and grant the prayers of his faithful (3,5; 11,4; 23,6; 27,4).

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is a favourite fro many, largely because it unveils an intensely intimate relationship with the Lord wherein he provides protection and providence. The striking images are shepherd and host while the heart of the poem is atta immadi, (you are with me).  

Structure

1-4 the Lord is shepherd

5-6 the Lord is host.

Content

1-4 For a Semite, the image ‘shepherd’ is important since it is strictly related to their occupation. It is not a simple leading of a folk to one place to other but the shepherd is perfectly aware of the places and geography where there is grass and water to the flock. At the same time the shepherd avoids all kinds of dangers. He accompanies the sheep and his timetable, his risks, his hunger, and his thirst etc… are solely depends on the sheep. This is a privileged symbol in the OT to speak of God and king (Is 44,28; Jer 3,15; 6,3; 12,10; Ez 34; Ps 78,21).

The Hebrew word for ‘still waters’ is menuhot. Its singular nuh can mean temple. It evokes the association of the contrary mithumot, which is a place of chaotic powers. The phrase ‘he restores my soul’ is Shuv nepesh and means not simple refreshment but restoration of life. The phrase ‘the paths of righteousness’ could also be read as the right path. The rod (weapon) and staff (help stick) are the instruments of protection and symbols of authority.   

5-6 The second nucleus of the poem is ‘hospitality’. God is presented as the one who takes care in small detail of a person. God is drawn as a person who is fully aware of the Oriental hospitality, perfume the head of the invited, offer a cup of vine of friendship, prepare a table (shulhan) of good food, and protect from the enemies. The table has its place in a house. God’s table is his alter. Naturally the background of the psalm could speak of a temple and a sacrificial meal in the temple. At this point the person is filled with joy of God’s presence both spiritually and materially. So he could pray as in Ps 27,4 “One thing, I have asked the Lord…that I may dwell in the house the Lord”. The temple is the secret topic of the Psalm. Ps 23 evokes the deep dimension of human existence. Human existence is dialectical between the threatening chaotic powers and the protecting love and goodness of God.  We can mark out four levels of interpretation in these psalm. a) Literally =shepherd and host, b) Allegorically = security and prosperity with the Lord, c) Symbolically = temple and eucharist c) Eschatologically = heavenly bliss and heavenly banquet.

Psalms of the Confidence of the Community ((115), 125, (129)

The confidence motive is collective where the psalmist is a member of the congregation and the favor expected for the benefit of the community. The confidence motives expressed collectively in these psalms. The biblical confidence relies only on God. This firm trust in the Lord is expressed both in urgent need and normal situation of human life. The above three psalms have almost the same pattern a) invitation to set fully trust in God (115,9; 12,1), b) Yahweh is the rock of security (125,1), c) source of blessing and peace (115,15; 129,8; 125,15).

Psalm 125

This is also one of the pilgrimage psalms and confidence psalms.

Structure

vv. 1-3 Stability to those who trust in the Lord

vv. 4-5 Prayer for reward and retribution

Content

1-3 The psalmist affirms stability of the blessings to those who trust in the Lord. Three imageries are seen there. a) Those who trust in the Lord are stable like Mount Zion. b) Just like Zion, surrounded and protected by other  mountains, the people of Israel is protected by the Lord. c) The faith of the just is exposed to great temptations like ‘the sceptre of the wicked’ (foreign dominion). But the just will reign over the land. Mount Zion is rooted on earth. Three graces and securities are given to the one who trusts in Yahweh like mount Zion a) stability, b) eternity, c) holiness.

4-5   This is a prayer. The psalmist appeal that the innocent and good heart may find peace, hope and confidence in Yahweh. At the same time pray that the wicked may be expelled from the land. The wicked will be punished and the innocent will be rewarded.

3. Psalms of Thankfulness

        They are also called in Hebrew Todah hymns. These psalms concentrates in giving thanks to God for his general favours. They confess God’s unlimited goodness and mercy. They celebrate his saving intervention on behalf of Israel or the just. According to G. Pidoux the hymns celebrate Yahweh’s interventions in Israel’s early history, while the collective thanksgiving are concerned rather with recent deeds of deliverance. It is possible that thanksgiving festivals constituted the original setting of these psalms. The votive offering of a sacrifice (65,2; 116,18) often accompanies the prayer of the thanksgiving.

The thanksgiving comes as the final act in the drama of human prayer. The prayer and petition cannot be gone unanswered. The psalmist’s request has been granted or at least help is assured. Thanksgiving is an acknowledgement that it is God who has acted and that the psalmist is entirely dependant on him. The psalmist is giving thanks because his prayer is heard. His trust has become fruitful. The request is granted. His help is assured.

There are difference between hymn and thanksgiving psalms

1)                           Hymn is a song of God’s great and majestic works. It praises the greatness of Yahweh as  creator While thanksgiving psalms concentrates on idea that Yahweh as the sole saviour.

2)                           Thanksgiving is also one way of praising God. That means every praising need not be thanksgiving but every thanksgiving is a praising.

 

The structure of the thanksgiving psalms consists normally of the following elements.

 I. Introduction: Psalmist’s intention to thank God (9,2; 138,2). This is done in vast assembly (40,10) in the assembly of elders (107,32), in the gates of the daughters of Zion (9,15), at your holy temple (138,2). The places where thanksgiving takes place are: in the vast assembly, in the assembly of the people 8107,2), in the gates of Zion (9,15), in the presence of angels (138,1), and at the holy temple (138,2).

II. Main section: It consists essentially in describing the peril from which the psalmist has been wonderfully delivered (30,12). It describes the peril which the psalmist was undergoing and how he was miraculously delivered. Psalmist narrates his experience of Yahweh’s saving love in two ways: 1) Yahweh has forgiven his sins 2) The psalmist is healed.

There are two types of acknowledgement of God’s help: One is personal. Here the psalmist is thankful because he is healed from his own sins. He was suffering from the punishment of God and God showed the mercy and the punishment is taken away. Second is social. Here psalmist is thankful for the deliverance from the misfortune happened because of the sins and wickedness of his fellow brothers. The psalmist is delivered from such perils and he is thanking Yahweh acknowledging his saving mercy. This is  negative acknowledgement.  Here he defends his innocence and he exults the justice of Yahweh. Here the psalmist is saved either by a miraculous liberation from the evil power or by destroying the wicked by the power of Yahweh.

III. Conclusion is seen for a few psalms. It is an invitation to praise or resolution to lead a thankful life.

Thanksgiving psalms principally maintain two important thoughts. First is to express joy in the favours and interventions of Yahweh. Thus basic emotion of these psalms is happiness. Second is to confess that Yahweh is the sole saviour of the nations. This is witnessing and proclamation that Yahweh is the only God in whom all people should take refuge. “Then I will thank thee in the great congregation” (35,18), “Let them extol him in the congregation of the people and praise him in the assembly of the elders (107, 32).  

Thanksgiving of the Individual (Ps 9, 10, 18, 30, 41, 92, 116, 138)

Psalm 30

This is an individual thanksgiving. The title speaks of the dedication of the temple. With regard to the background of the psalm there are various opinions.

a) It would be the dedication of the Jerusalem temple and sanctuary to Yahweh by the king Solomon (900BC).

b) It may be the dedication of the second temple in around 515 BC by Ezra and Nehemiah after the return from the exile.

c) It may be the rededication by Judas Macabeus in 164 BC after the desecration of the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes

 

Structure

I)       deliverance from the mouth of death (1-3)

II)    call to praise (4-5)

III)  account of God’s act of deliverance (6-11)

IV) Thanks and praise to God (12)

I) deliverance from the mouth of death (1-3)

He is suffering from either of the physical suffering or from the spiritual suffering because he might have sinned. In whatever the psalmist is understanding that he is in a situation of death. It is at this moment that he experiences the saving hands of Yahweh. He is healed now. The psalmist recovered from illness which had almost taken him to grave.

 

II) call to praise (4-5)

This portion recalls God’s favor. He compares and contrasts God’s wrath with his favour. In the experience of the psalmist God’s anger is for correction and once the objective is achieved, God’s anger turns into grace and that grace is for the whole life.

 

III) Account of God’s act of deliverance (6-11)

The psalmist makes a retrospection into his life. In the time of material prosperity, he thought to himself that he was firmly established for the rest of his life. But the moment God hid his face from him, he began to shake and fall. He was in the grip of mortal illness.

 

IV) Thanks and praise to God (12)

Thanksgiving of the community (Ps 65, 66, 67, 107, 118, 124)

This is the collective thanksgiving. It has all the literary features of the thanksgiving of the individual. Here psalmist is the representative of the community. The background will be national thanksgiving gatherings or feasts. There are indications of votive offering of the sacrifice in these psalms. They are a) thanksgiving liturgy b) entry into the temple c) exclamation of the faithful d) thanksgiving proper, and e) response of the choir

Psalm 67

This is a thanksgiving after harvest. The psalmist is thanking that he has received good rain, climate and good harvest. This called the psalm of Harvest. The psalmist is thanking and blessing Yahweh. So this psalm is  called the psalm of Blessing.

 

Structure

I Priestly blessing (1-3)

II praise to God (4-7)

 

I) Priestly blessing (1-3)

 It remembers the Aronic blessing Numb 6,24. There are six elements this blessing. 1) The LORD bless you, 2) and keep you, 3) The LORD make his face to shine upon you, 4) be gracious to you, 5) The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, 6) give you peace. These motives are present in these verses.

II) praise to God (4-7)

All nations be glad, God has blessed the earth, because it has yielded food in proper times. Theo-centric vision of the universe is seen in this psalm. God is the sole agent of salvation and the centre of this psalm is not the gift but the giver.

4. Royal Psalms (2, (18), 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, 144)

The king is the representative of the community. S. Mowinkel asserts the significance of Davidic kingship, “The covenant between Yahweh and Israel and between Yahweh and David is one and the same”. The king “is the charismatic officer, the successor of the judges… To the king is attributed superhuman strength and wisdom and the possession of the spirit of Yahweh… He is the incorporation of his people and in him are recapitulated the covenant of Israel and the promises and obligations which flow from the covenant” (J. De. Fraine). The king is the delegate of Yahweh, the eternal king (Ex 15,18; Num 23,21, Jud 8,23, 1Sm 8,7; 12,12; 1King 22,19; s 6,5).

There are six different background to these psalms.

a)     Royal enthronement (2,72,101,110)

b)     Royal wedding (18, 20, 21)

c)     Royal lament (89)

d)     Founding of the Royal house and royal sanctuary. The commemoration of the bringing the arch of the covenant to Jerusalem by the king David.

e)     The victory of the king in the battle.

f)      Royal sanctuary on Mount Zion

 

These psalms contain important themes like, ‘the messages to the kings’ (Ps 2,72, 110); ‘prayers for the king’ (Ps 20, 21,45,132), ‘the prayer of the king’ (Ps 18, 101, 144), praises of the princes majesty, oracles of prosperity, presentation of the righteousness and piety of the king, stability of Davidic throne, divine adoption etc…

These Psalms are later interpreted with the Messianic ideals. Because the successor of David was considered later especially in the exilic and post exilic period as a new sign of the national hope of a Historical or an eschatological future on whom the blessing of Yahweh rested upon (J.L. McKenzie). Often in these psalms we meet a royal figure and this figure was later interpreted as a personification of the people of Israel.

Psalm 2

Like Ps 1, but unlike almost every psalm of book I (Ps 1-41) this has no superscription. Ps 1 opens with a blessing and Ps 2 ends with a blessing, which may indicate that this pair is meant to be read together as an introduction to the first book.

Structure
  1. vv. 1-3 Rebellion of nations against God and his anointed
  2. vv. 4-6 God’s counter attack-installation of his king on Zion
  3. vv. 7-9 King’s dominion under God’s direction
  4. vv. 10-12 Warning against the rebellious
Gattung

It is considered as Royal Psalm and because of that it may also have a messianic nature.  

Content

vv. 1-3 The nations’ conspiracy of rebellion is not merely described but the logical sense of it is questioned greatly. It is useless to gather and conspire against the Lord’s anointed one. It speaks of the Davidic enthronement. Like Ps 110 it can also refer to Yahweh’s installation of the king (Messiah) on Zion.

Vv. 4-6 take us to a heavenly vision. V. 6 leads to a divine oracle. It has a prophetic tone. The nations plot rebellion simply against Jerusalem’s king but actually they are doing against the Lord and his Anointed. The central point is that the enthronement of Jerusalem’s king (the anointed) is not stemmed from earthly military power but by the power of a heavenly king. The divine oracle cuts two ways: it serves as a warning to the nation’s kings and it is a reminder to Jerusalem’s king. God guarantees the perpetuation of the dynasty.   

Vv. 7-9 Jerusalem’s king is Yahweh’s agent. The king himself now speaks publishing God’s decree, “you are my son and today I have begotten you”. This shows some kind of genetic relationship. It deals with the installation of a king on Zion. This ceremony reminds one of the Egyptian coronation rituals. The Pharaoh is called son of God-Amun. The king, in Egyptian ritual, tells that God asked him to wish something. He must ask certain things. This motive is incorporated in Ps. 2. Another meaning is that it recalls Davidic covenant, “I will become to him a father and he will become my son” (2Sam 7,14). Yahweh simply demands a wish. There are no conditions to this offer. In Ps 72,8 also we see similar kind of promises of worldwide dominion. Israelite king has al role to play as a mediator of the covenant. The king on his throne was accepting the covenant of Yahweh, which had as its visible sing the decree which he was declaring. In proclaiming the decree of Yahweh the king on his enthronement was accepting the Covenant of Yahweh. According to the ancient enthronement ritual the king has to read out the ritual decree of the kingship. The decree of the edict is in a way a confirmation of the covenant with David. Divine adoption is one of the features of ancient coronation rites. This is also seen in 87,27. Nathan’s prophecy is also declared: I will be a father to him and he a son to me (2Sm 7,14; 1Chr 22,10; 28,6).The result of the divine adoption is the entitlement of the universal dominion. The role of the Isralite king then reflects in a way as the universal dominion of the Lord over the nations.

Vv. 10-12 The psalm as whole is a warning, containing both threats and promises. If the king does not serve (‘bd) Yahweh, they will be destroyed (’bd). Kissing of king’s feet is considered as an act of homage, which is a custom well known in Babylonian and Egyptian culture. To survive and to obtain God’s blessing, these kings must change their attitude and should take refuge under the appointed Messiah. In this stanza, the Israelite king is out of place. All rulers of the earth acknowledge with awe and serve with fear God as the universal Lord of the earthly kingdoms. There is a new dimension of the eschatological one. Davidic kingship is prototype of the expected messianic kingship at the end of times. The new testament has applied to the messiah-ship and the divine son-ship of Jesus the statements (Acts 4,25; 13,33; Heb 1,5; 5,5).  

In the last stanza, the Israelite king is out of the picture and the real intent of the psalm is explained that all rulers of the earth acknowledge with awe and serve with fear God as the universal Lord of the earthly kingdoms. This is quoted in NT Acts 4,15; 13,33; Heb 1,5; 5,5)

Liturgical Psalms (15,  24, 134)

Liturgical fragments can be found scattered throughout the Psalter. It contains the elements of solemn procession and entry into the temple and sanctuary, a priestly blessing and an invitation to praise the Lord.

These are the hymns that insist on the priestly duties and its cultic administration. The main characteristics of psalms of liturgies are 1) promulgation of torah, 2) pronouncement of Oracle, 3) singing with alternative voices.

The structure of these psalms could be generally

1) Introductory petition for the right attitude for the celebration

2) salvation oracle that promises Yahweh’s hearing and help

3) concluding petition.

The historical context of these psalms would be various liturgical occasions like the liturgy performed before the king of Judah who went for battle, recurring festivals in which the holy ark was the centre etc….   

Psalm 24

This Psalm is particularly popular among the first Christians. They were singing this psalm in order to enter solemnly to their community meetings. It is symbolically understood as the victorious entrance of Christ to ‘Sheol’ defeating death.

Structure

1-2 The Lord is the creator of the world.

3-6 Pre-requisites to enter the temple of Yahweh

7-10 Solemn entrance

Content

1-2 The poem employs the ancient Near eastern motif of the divine warrior who becomes king by virtue of his victory over the chaotic waters. This background helps us to understand the claim ‘he founded it upon the waters and established upon the rivers’. The earth belongs to Yahweh and not to the Chaos. The stress is not on the possession but on the one who possess it. Yahweh’s kingship is not a static statue but a dynamic victory. This is the way God’s creation is understood in the Psalms. It is more a conserving act (creation continua) than a constitutive act (prima creatio). The idea of prima creatio is formulated in v. 2. God has formed the earth like a building (temple). The creation of the world is conceived as a huge temple founded on seas and rivers. Yamim and Nuhrot are allusions to Canaanite myth known from Ugarit. The kingship among the gods is the central topic of the myth. Yam is god of the chaotic waters. Tpt nhr (judge river) is the epithet of Yam. Baal, the god of weather and fertility, Yam and Mot (gods of the underworld) are struggling for kingship. 

3-6 Here we have quite different scenery. From the world as a huge temple, the psalm moves to the temple proper, presumably the Jerusalem temple. God is present in the abundance of the earth due to his presence in the temple. All can experience the presence of God in the world, but to experience the abiding presence of Yahweh in the temple one demands certain requirements. The victory of Yahweh should be worshiped but only by those who are morally fit. The worshipers are expected to have certain religious and moral integrity. Clean hands, pure heart, good tongue represent ‘acting’, ‘thinking’ and ‘speaking’ respectively. These verses explain the character of Yahweh’s kingship and the society over which he is the king. More than a material victory or kingship, it is a spiritual victory, a victory over death and decay, a victory over chaos and corruption. The people of moral rectitude will be blessed and saved.

7-10 This section has the structure of a ritual. Ps 24,7-10 was sung by two choirs when the ark entered the temple. The scene plays out before the closed gates. Outside the priest and choir waits with the ark upon which Yahweh is invisibly enthroned. Inside other choir stands in the courtyard. It makes sense in the light of a procession. The doors of the temple are requested to lift up their heads as a gesture of reverence. It could be translated as ‘ancient doors’ (Jerusalem temple) or ‘eternal doors’ (heaven). The procession issues the command for the gates to open that the king of glory may come in. The repetition of the request and the question is the dramatic presentation of the royal sovereignty of Yahweh. One of the most common names of God is melek haKavod (the king of Glory). Kavod (glory) originally combined with the Canaanite supreme God El, is assumed here as Yahweh. This name includes everything, which has been said in the Psalm concerning the being and acting of Israel’s God. Knowing this proper name means knowing the name by which this God can be praised, evoking everything he has done and goes on doing.

Wisdom Psalms (1; 37; 49; 73; 91; 112; 119; 127; 128; 133; 139)

Wisdom psalms specially include the characteristics of wisdom traditions. The important characteristics are two

  1. anthropocentrism. A) Wisdom tradition gives particular attention to the life situations of man, his happiness, love, anxiety, fear and problems. It is man and not God who is the centre of narration. B) Wisdom tradition is least bothered about the cultic and liturgical aspects of Israel. So wisdom literature is primarily non-cultic. C) It does not give importance to the history of the people of Israel and its special traditions. The sages are
  2. Torah Pietism: Torah has become an ideal and absolute entity. Ten commandments has been changed from the principles to be practised but ideals to be adored and worshiped.

Wisdom’s subject is human life. It also has a universalistic aspect that deals with humanity. These psalms are originated mostly above cult-friendly piety. It contains beatitudes to the righteous, admonitions to confession, advices for insights.. The content f the teaching would be fear of God. Introductions and conclusions do not have a clear structure. There are positive admonitions to do good, to avid sins, to fear God and negative warnings. Against idol worshipers, wealthy godless, trusting in wealth and material prosperity.  

 

Psalm 1

Psalm 1 has clear structure. It is divided into three parts:

  1. 1-2 the path to be avoided and the way to be followed. The way of the wicked is the most popular theme of wisdom literature.
  2. 3-4 two images to illustrate the theme of the righteous and the wicked
  3. 5-6 two fundamental theological statements regarding the future and present of the two types.

1-2 happy is the man is directed not to God but to man. Ashre haish (makarios), which is usually rendered happy is the man, blissful man. One is made happy because he has made a fundamental option fro the Lord and his torah. It is the decision that constitutes one’s life. The theme of torah is not very common in the Psalter. The psalms are response of man to God and Torah is God’s will for man. However there are late texts that deal with torah to bind the psalms with torah. The torah motive in the psalms gives a programmatic idea how to use the psalms. Though they originated as prayer, now they are instruction. The decision for torah is designated as a decision of love. Hepez is a language of love. Since it is a matter of love to meditate day and night means unceasingly.

3-4 The theological decision is further elaborated in v. 3. The tree is planted in a fertile place. The passive shathul indicates that there is somebody who looks after it. The channels of water are constructed so the tree has very conducive conditions to grow steadily. The result is given at due times. On the contrary the life of the wicked is short. They are like chaff, unsteady and light.

5-6 it speaks of the final judgement. God knows the way of the righteous and the wicked. The wicked will not prosper. If you have decided to opt for torah one is welcome to the life.

The psalms speaks of two types of people; two types of way of life; two types of comparison of prosperity; two types of judgement.

 

Prophetical Psalms (14; 50; 52; 53; 75; 81; 95)

These are the psalms which contain the elements and characteristics of the prophetical literature. Prophetical literature is characterised by a linguistic style of oracles of threats and promises. It speaks of Yahweh’s punishment to those who deny the commandments of Yahweh and follow the pagan gods and the idol worships. It has the prophetical style of exposition

Like the prophets the psalmist is also convinced that the time is near. (85,10) or more strongly the hour has already come (75,3; 102,14). The prophetical elements are mostly seen in eschatological psalms (98,149), in eschatological Zion songs (46; 48; 76) and in eschatological enthronement psalms (47; 93). The phrase, “Yahweh says ,now I will raise” (12,6; 43,19) means that it is the time that Yahweh should act or intervene (119,126). This is the time when God will liberate the prisoners and gather Israel’s scattered ones from all over the world.

Anther aspect is the over-through of the rule of the nations. God has scattered the sceptre of the proud. God’s battle against the roaring ocean is combined with Yahweh’s victory over the attacking nations as in the prophetical motives. With the unconquerable faith, the psalmist affirms that all of these terrible deeds will not horrify Zion becasue Yahweh has selected the city of Jerusalem as his abode. Prophets often present the appearance of Yahweh in dazzling images. He comes with the earthquakes and with laud noise, in thunderstorm and fire. Mountains melt like wax. Ps 97 utilizes these imageries eschatologically. Terrifying wrath of Yahweh dominates them over. All these passages treat Yahweh as the one to act.

The prophets and psalmist frequently depict how the world rule rise against Yahweh. The enemies are the idol worshipers and proud-hearted who deny God.

The word of rebuke often seen in these psalms. The rebuke is closely related with the idea of threat. It mocks foreign gods (115, 3; 135,15). The cultic demands are less or even sometimes there are anti-sacrificial utterances. Instead of them moral demands are raised.  

 

Psalm 52

It is one of the prophetical psalms. It has strong words of words of curse to the wicked.

The person who is spoken is proud wealthy. He looks contemptuously the psalmists and the community.  Actually this person is the one who recited once Yahweh’s great love and the one who lived in the house of the Lord. He was one of the members of the worshiping community. But now he has a tongue of cheating and fraud. This person has fallen into idol worship. The psalmist in contrary is a person who does the activities of justice. He finds satisfaction in the house the Lord.

 

Structure

It can be divided into three units.

I) 1-4 The activity of the wicked

II) 5-7 the fall of the wicked

III) 8-9 the response of the pious

 

1-4 The wicked never depends on God. He is proud. This is seen in thought, plans and activities. These are against the graces of God. ‘you love all words that devour’ means the influence of the idol worship.

5-7 The person who does not depend on God will be cut of the from the assembly of worshipers. ‘Tent’ means a) temple=presence of Yahweh, b) security= protection of Yahweh. It also means that he will be expelled form the elected community. ‘The land of the living’ means the great presence of Yahweh. He will be going to sheol. At the same time the righteous will have happy life  as a reward.

8-9  This is the personal witness. The righteous depends on God. The house of God is Zeon. The righteous is the green Olive tree in the house of the Lord. Olive leaves are the fresh plants to decorate the alter. The psalmist is thanking and praising Yahweh for all his favours      

 

Historical Psalms (78; 105)

These psalms give historical facts of the life of the people of Israel. More than the liturgical dimension it conveys more the historical one. It is the praising of Yahweh proclaiming the past activities  and the saving interventions of Yahweh.

 

7. Groups of Psalms under different headings

1. Imprecatory Psalms

‘Blessing’ and ‘curse’ are the two prevalent themes of the Old Testament which is closely related to the idea of covenant. The intermediary of blessing and curses could be priest, prophet or kings. There are a number of psalms that contain the elements of blessing. “His descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed”(112,2). “Yea, thou dost make him most blessed for ever; thou dost make him glad with the joy of thy presence” (21,6). “Let them curse, but do thou bless Let my assailants be put to shame; may thy servant be glad!” (109,28). “The LORD has been mindful of us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron” (115,12).

It is easy to understand the words of blessing but it is difficult to understand the words of curse. Actually, this curse could be understood as the development of the prophetic threat of the divine wrath or its actual visitation. There are a number of occurrences of curses in the psalms  especially 1) against wicked (5,10; 31, 17; 58,6, 139,19; 59,5), 2) against enemies of the Psalmist (4,5; 35,5; 59,13), and 3) against the enemies of Israel (83,13; 79,12; 69,23; 109). There is no 100% imprecatory psalm. It could be noted that Ps 109 contains comparatively rich elements of curse words.

“Appoint a wicked man against him….and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!” (109, 6-14).Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (137,9). 

We have to understand the religious and historical background of these psalms.

  1. The psalmist is speaking on the bitter and terrible experiences of God’s abandoning and of social alienations.
  2. Many formulas are in optative tense, it is a wish or command or prophetic prediction. The curse, “May their camp be a desolation, let no one dwell in their tents” (69,25) is perfected in the life Judas (Acts 1,20).
  3. It is marked with God’s love and national fervour.
  4. All imprecatory psalm are with the aim that the wicked should tern their heart and convert to the true God. The psalmist proclaims his own conviction of the true God and at the same time he strongly insists the wicked to turn their wicked life in harsh words. 
  5. No personal data of the wicked or enemies are given in the psalms. What is stressed is the treacherous and malicious activities of the wicked. The imprecation is not basically against the sinner but against the sin and wickedness.
  6. Psalmists consider the adversary as the wicked as the enemies of Yahweh. These psalms expresses the strong conviction of the Psalmist on the justice (Mishapath) of God. God’s basic nature is that he is a Just God. He wants that the divine justice should be implemented and will win over the wicked. That is why these psalms are also called ‘the psalms of divine Justice’.

2. Penitential Psalms

The psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143 are considered to be the seven psalms of repentance in the church traditions. Penitential rites of various kinds would accompany the national prayer for deliverance. These calls to repentance and prayer were specially intended to temper God’s wrath aroused by grievous sins, to atone for them, to remove impurity from the midst of Israel or to move God to intervene for his people.

Psalm 51

Structure

It contains 20 forms that are imperative and thereby it has got a lot of pleas.

Vv. 1-2 Thirst for conversion

Vv. 3-6 man’s sin and confession

Vv. 7-14 Renewed life

Vv. 15-18 Proclamation

V 19 Sacrifice.

Content

In addition to the usual title (v. 1) there is a biographical allusion in v. 2 to the fundamental sin of David (2Sam 11-12). The function of this allusion as heading is to invite persons not only of the venial sins but also of grave sins. The heading converges with two fundamental aspects of the Psalm (1) the burden of sin and (2) the abundance of God’s faithful love and mercy.

1-2 there are three terms for sin, (hatha, avon and pesha) and side by side there are three terms for God mercy (rahmim, hesed and hannan). From the very outset of the psalm, man’s sin in devastating measure is only conceivable in the light of God’s mercy that is to be invoked. The essential theological insight is that one cannot realize human guilt appropriately apart from God’s self-determination towards grace.

3-6 only in the light of God’s grace, a radical realization of a man’s guilt is possible. V. 6 is crucial, ‘against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in thy sight so that thou are justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgement’. God’s grace and mercy lead man to realize the full extent of his sin and fairness of Gods judgement. God alone is righteous but righteousness of the judging God is at the same time the manifestation of his mercy. Thus, Psalm 51 presents a radical insight in the relation between God’s benevolent love (grace) and man’s sin in the OT.

7-14 the realization of sin does not lead into depression but into a way of life, which expects everything of praying and receiving. The psalmist is praying for a clean heart and steadfast spirit. He uses the word bara (to create) (v. 12), the most significant term for God’s act. Only God can be the subject of this verb. What the psalmist is praying for is ‘creation’ or ‘recreation’. Only God can create a new heart out of this sinful man. ‘Deliverance’ for man is ‘recreation’ in Ps.51. The notion of v. 12 is combined with God’s bestowal of the Holy Spirit (very seldom in the OT) that he has never revoked.

15-18 The recreated Psalmist concludes the prayer with a vow and a plea. The vow (v. 15): he will be a teacher of the sinners i.e., he will help them to realize what already has come to know man’s sinful existence in the light of the judging and merciful God. The plea in v. 17 is even God’s praises depend upon God himself. He must open man’s lips, so that he can sing aloud of God’s righteousness (v. 16), which is nothing else than his fair judgement in inseparable unity with his abundant mercy. His delivered existence rests on God. Even the praises of God come as a result of plea. Ps 51 provides a fundamental perception that human existence is a ‘praying existence’.

v.19. It shows a life that is centred on sacrifice.

The Ps 51 as a penitential psalm stresses what man has to do to be capable of receiving God’s deliverance.  

4. Hallelujah Psalms (111-118; 135-136; 146-150).

They are called Hallelujah psalms because most of them begin or end with the expression ‘Hallelujah’ (Praise the Lord). Pass 113-118 were considered as hallel songs and were sung for the three great pilgrimage feasts of Passover, Pentecost and of Booths. Ps 136 is the ‘great hallel’ for Sabbath services.

5. Pilgrim Psalms or Psalms of going-up or Psalms of the Ascent (120-134)

From antiquity, pilgrimages to the holy site were among the worship obligations for the Israelites. Every male Israelite was commanded to go three times a year to the great festival to look upon Yahweh’s countenance. If this is not possible because of the distance at least once in an year. Many were again difficult to go to Jerusalem every year because of the distance and many other reasons. So such less frequently pious individual would be carrying the burning desire to visit the holy site. He would have felt fortunate when his desire to see Yahweh sanctuary was fulfilled (H. Gunkel). One sang these pilgrimage songs at the beginning of the pilgrimage when fellow travelers had gathered (122,1b), at the journey’s destination after they entered the city of their common desire (122,2).

Strictly speaking 122 is considered as the pilgrimage psalm. The first two verses of this psalm speak of the departure and arrival of the pilgrims. Verses 3-5 are an expanded salutation directed at the holy city, which at the same time justify the pilgrimage. Verses 6-9 greet the city in the form of a wish that Zion may be blessed. When Christians recite this psalm, they recall Jesus pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Lk 2,29; 9,51; 19,41).

6. Acrostic Psalms (9-10; 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; 119; 145).

The word ‘acrostic’ means a series of lines are started with the letters of the alphabet in an orderly manner. We have only four completely acrostic psalm having all the Hebrew alphabets (37;11;112; 119). Pss 9 and 10 form a single acrostic psalm. So they can be considered as one Psalm. Ps 9 is a thanksgiving psalm. While 10 is a an individual lament.

7. Entrance psalms

Psalm 24 and 15 are main entrance Psalms. These psalms give importance to solemn entrance into the sanctuary and reception of the blessings.

 

8. Halleluiah Psalsm (11-18; 135-136; 145-150)

They begin with the expression Halleluiah which means ‘Yahweh be Praised’. The major part of the fifth book is psalms of ascent and Halleluiah Psalms.113-118 are called Egyptian Hallels and were sung for the three great pilgrimage feasts of Passover, Pentecost and the feast of booths. 136 is called Great Hallel for Sabbath services and it has the refrain hesed.

9. Creation Psalms (8, 19; 104; 139; 148).

           An elaboration of the motif of ‘praise Yahweh the creator’. Psalmist recalls the marvellous works in creation and the creative activity that continues even in present.

 

The God of Israel In the Psalter

It is in the Psalms the nature of God is most colourfully expressed. It could be seen in the names and adjectives used for God.

1. God’s names

 The psalms praise and pray to the God whose name is primarily Yahweh (adonai=my Lord). It is used 615 times in the Psalms. Yahweh is the God of Israel (41,13; 59,5; 68,8; 106,48). He is the God of Abraham (47,9), Jacob (20,1; 24,6; 46,7; 75,9; 76,6; 81,1; 84,8).

Secondly, Yahweh is called Yahweh Zebayoth (God of Hosts) because Israel always believed that He is their mighty warrior who fought for them against enemies (59,5). The presence of Yahweh in the Ark of the Covenant led Israel into many victories (132,8). He is seated on the Kerubs (Ps 80). The name Yahweh Zebayoth provides the basic conviction that God is the guard, protector and saviour.

Thirdly, God is called as hshem (the name) Psalmist uses no special title but uses simply ‘name’. By ‘the name’ the psalms point to the God of Israel and the rest of the Old Testament. Name is always related to the identity of a person in the Old Testament. In the psalms, God is never just god, but always one whose identity is as particular as that of an individual. It shows not only that God is an Individual person but also a person who acts perfectly according to the identity of ‘the name’. That is why the people of Israel always prayed ‘for thy name’s sake” (25,11; 31,3; 79,9; 109,21; 143,11). This ‘name is to be praised (7,17), exulted (5,11), majestic (8,1), holy (105,3), fearful (86,11; 111,9) and eternal (45,17; 135,13).

Fourthly, God is titles as El, Eloha and Elohim. All these are titles of the Canaanite supreme God applied many times to the God of Israel. They appear more than 400 times. The usage of this title shows that the people of Israel is not a separate entity of clearly separated cultural heritage but a community, which positively inculturated with the neighbouring peoples and nations. 

Fifthly, God is called as Elijon (Most high). This word is seen 19 times in the Psalms. This title is antique and has the non-Israelite cultural background like the title El (Gen 14,18). The Non-Israelites commonly had their places of worship upon the high hills and mountains (2Kg 15,35). . The prime meaning is that Yahweh is the God of all gods and highest to all other gods. The Semites believed of God’s dwelling in the heaven, which is located high above in the shy. These associations of God’s abode perhaps inspired the people to call Yahweh as ‘Most High’Elijon is the king of the whole earth (47,2) and his dwelling is in Zion (46,4; 87,5) and heaven (18,13).

Fifthly, God is called as Melek (King). It is considered that calling God, as the king is a typical Israelite tradition. The God of Israel is ‘the great King’ (48,2), ‘the king of glory’ (24,7), ‘the king forever’ (29,10), ‘great king above all gods’ (95,3; 96,4; 97,9), great king over all earth (47,2). This mighty king is enthroned upon the cherubim (80,1; 99,1), on the flood (29,10), on the praises of Israel (22,3), and in the heavens (103,19; 123,1).

In short there are a number of particular expression to the Israel’s God such as, ‘salvation’ (17,7; 18,2, 106,21; 140,7), ‘rock’ (18,2; 31,46; 19,24; 28,1), ‘fortress’ (18,2; 31,2; 71,3; 91,2; 144,2), ‘strength’ (24,8; 28,7; 59,9), ‘refuge’ (2,12; 5,11, 7,1; 11,1; 14,6), ‘shield’ (3,3; 7,10; 18,2, 28,7).

2. God’s attributes 

Kadosh (holy) is one of the prime attributes to God in the Psalter (22,3; 71,22; 78,41; 89,18). This is also used as the synonym to God and His name (33,21; 103,1; 111,9; 145,21). It denotes the perfection of Israel’s God. Kadosh also denotes ‘purity’. The holiness is attributed to ‘the words of God’ (105,42), ‘hand’ (98,1), way (77,13), ‘Zion’ (2,6; 3,4), ‘temple’ (5,7; 11,4).

Another attribute is that he is kabod (glory). This has almost the same connotation of Kadosh. The glory of God is filled in the universe (19,1; 57,5).

Zedeck (just) is considered as the fundamental attribute of God. This is the basic requirement to them who enter in a covenantal relationship. Yahweh is the one who loves justice (11,7; 33,5), establishes the righteous (7,9), and he is just in all his ways (145,17). Along with this attribute there is also another attribute mishpath (judgment). Yahweh shows zedeck to his people through saving actions in the course of history but he also the God who judges (shapath) his people on the basis of the covenantal agreements.             

  Another important attribute is hesed. Out of the 245 occurrences of this word, 127 times are used in the Psalms. It has the wide range of meanings. It is the ‘goodness’, ‘grace’, ‘mercy’ and ‘love’. This is the emotional attachment of a believer who receives the infinite mercy of God. This terminology also has the connotations of the covenantal relationship. God’s infinite mercy is given to one who enters into a relationship with God. Most often in the psalms, the initiative is taken from the part of Yahweh himself. God’s mercy is saving, helping and healing.

Close to hesed there is also another attribute that he is emeth (truth). Mostly this word is used in relation with hesed. In 69,13 it has synonymously used. Yahweh is God of truth (31,5), His words and actions are full of truth (19,9), and it is because of his truthfulness the people find hope in Him. Those who believe in torah (law) and those who walk in the truth will be shown Yahweh’s loving kindness (25,5; 26,3; 86,11). Those who go after the false gods and words are the wicked in the psalms (7,14; 27,12; 31,18; 109,2).

 


[1] C. Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms, (Atlanda, 1981).

[2] H.-J. Kraus, Psalms 1-59, A Commentary, (Mineapolis, Augsburg 1988).

[3] L. Sabourin, The Psalms: Their Origin and Meaning, (Banglore 1971). Other useful bibliographies, Briggs, C.A., & E.G. Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms I-II, (ICC; Edinburgh 1906-1907); Kraus, H.-J., Theology of Psalms, (Minneapolis 1986); Allen, L.C., Psalms 101-150, (WBC 21; Waco 1983); Craigie, P.C., Psalms 1-50, (WBC 19; Waco 1983); Tate, M.E., Psalms 51-100, (WBC 20; Waco 1990); Pezhumkattil, A., Sankirthanangal Padavum Vyakianaum, (Palarivattam 1991); Broyles, C.C., Psalms, (Peabody, 1999).

 

[4] G. Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, II, 175.

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