Sunday, October 19, 2008

pSunday Psalms: The Shape of the Psalter

Last time we introduced the Book of Psalms, concluding with the observation that this is an organized coherent book with an overall message, not just a random collection of poems and songs.

Today we will share some observations about how the Book of Psalms is organized.

  • The Book of Psalms is composed of 150 psalms that are divided into five “books"—Book I (1-41), Book II (42-72), Book III (73-89), Book IV (90-106), Book V (107-150)
  • The whole book has an introduction, composed of Psalms 1-2.
  • The whole book has a conclusion, composed of Psalms 146-150.
  • Each individual book ends with a benediction, by which the Lord is blessed.
  • Books I and II contain mostly individual psalms of David.
  • Book III contains mostly community songs.
  • Book IV starts with a psalm of Moses. It contains mostly royal psalms and story-telling psalms.
  • Book V returns to the psalms of David, beginning and ending the book with a collection of such psalms. This book is also dominated by praise psalms (111-118, 146-150), a giant acrostic wisdom psalm (119), and a collection known as the Songs of Ascents (120-134).
These observations (and many more could be made) show that Psalms is an organized work with patterns of authorship and psalm-types that may be discerned. It is my contention that these patterns have been arranged intentionally to tell a story and communicate a message.

We will begin unfolding that story in the next post. If you'd like to get ready for that, read Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 and ask this question: What is the message of these two psalms, and how might they serve as an introduction to the Book of Psalms?

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