The book of psalms
We have been learning to translate the book of psalms, which is an intricately designed collection of poetry that recounts Israel’s history and God’s covenant promises. To fully understand what the book is about, here’s is a summary from Bible Project
The book of psalms is a collection of 150 ancient Hebrew poems, songs and prayers that come from different periods in Israel’s history. Many of these poems are connected to King David (73) who was known as a poet and a harp player.
There are, however, many different authors behind these poems. There are the poems of Asaph, or from the sons of Korah, some are from other worship leaders and the temple. Even Solomon and Moses have their own psalms.
However, nearly 1/3 of these are anonymous. Many of these poems came to be used by the choirs that sang in Israel’s temple. The book of psalms is actually not a hymn book. At some point in the period after Israel’s exile to Babylon, these ancient poems were gathered together and intentionally arranged into the book of Psalms before us.
It has a very unique design and message that you’re not going to notice unless you read it from beginning to end. To see how the book of psalms is designed it is most helpful to start at the end.
The book concludes with 5 poems of praise to the God of Israel and each one begins and ends with the word Hallelujah which is Hebrew for a command to tell a group of people to praise YAH which is short for the divine name Yahweh.
It is a really nice 5 part arrangement and it looks like someone is giving us a conclusion here to the book. This invites the question, does the book have any other signs of intentional design?
If you pay attention to the headings of the poems you’ll notice that at 5 places, Bible translators have the heading book 1, book 2, .., book 5 at various points.
These divide the book into 5 large sections. The reason for this is that the final poem in each of those sections have a very similar ending but looks like an editorial addition which reads something like, “May the Lord the God of Israel be blessed forever and ever, Amen and Amen”.
So the book has a conclusion, it has an internal organization into 5 main parts and so the natural place to go from here is now the beginning to look for an introduction where we find psalms 1 and 2.
Psalms 1 and 2
These 2 psalms stand outside of book one because most of the poems in book 1 are linked to David. Psalms 1 and 2 are anonymous. Psalm 1 celebrates how blessed the person is who meditates on the Torah, prayerfully reading it day-and-night and then obeying.
The word ‘Torah’ means teaching and more specifically it came to refer to the 5 books of Moses that begin the Old Testament. Here, the word seems to be used with both meanings in mind, which explains why it has 5 main parts.
The book of psalms is being offered as a new Torah that will teach God’s people the lifelong practice of prayer, as they strive to obey God’s commands given in the 1st Torah. Psalm 2 is the poetic reflection on God’s promise to King David from 2nd Samuel chapter 7, that 1 day a messianic king would come and establish God’s kingdom over the world, defeat evil and rebellion among the nations.
Psalm 2 concludes by saying that all those who take refuge in the messianic king will be blessed. Precisely the word used to open psalm 1 and so together these 2 poems tell us that the book of psalms is designed to be the prayer book of God’s people as they strive to be faithful to the commands of the Torah as they hope and wait for the future messianic kingdom. Now with these 2 themes introduced we can start to see how the smaller books have been designed as well around these 2 ideas.
The book of psalms, Book one.
Book one has right at the center, a collection of poems, palms 15 through 24 that opens and closes with a call to covenant faithfulness.
In psalms 16 to 18 we find the depiction of David as a model of this kind of faithfulness. He calls out to God to deliver him and God elevates him as king.
In the corresponding set of poems, psalms 20 to 23, the David of the past has become an image of the messianic king of the future who will also call out to God, He will be delivered and then given a kingdom over the nations.
Right at the center of this collection is psalm 19, dedicated to praising God for the Torah. So here we go. The 2 themes from psalm 1 and 2 are bound together tightly there.
Watch the video from Bible Project Here
Courtesy of Bible Project
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