Lectionary Year A
June 16, 2002
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

(JFC) Psalm 116 is in Book 5, Psalms 107-150, before the Psalms of Ascents beginning with Psalm 120. Pre - Psalm 115 contrasts the power of the God in heaven with the lack thereof of the idolaters who worship silver and gold and human crafted idols. It calls Israel to trust in the Lord who is their help and shield. Interlude - Verses 3-11 describe the bondage in which the one reciting has been bound. They express to the gracious and merciful God his prayer for release and they report his freedom from the affliction, the consternation through which he has suffered. Post - Psalm 117 briefly calls the peoples and the nations to praise God who is declared to have been steadfastly loving them and faithful to them forever.

B. Organization of the Compositional Whole

(JFC) As these pages have noted previously, many commentators refer to the Book of Psalms as "Ancient Israel's Hymnbook". It contains lyrical & liturgical statements of various literary types or classes. They include praises, thanksgivings, lamentations, historical recollections, inaugurations, recitations of royalties' characters and hope for just reigns and victory in battle/war, etc. These elements arose out of and were used in worship experiences in Temple, synagogues and personal practices of piety through time since their compositions and until now. As previously noted, an early tradition divided the Book of Psalms into three divisions, 1-41, 42-89 and 90-150. The different divisions use different names for God. Later, the Book of the Psalms is divided into five sections imitating the Pentateuch. Book I goes from Psalm 1 through Psalm 41, Book II runs through Psalm 72, Book III goes through Psalm 89 and the last section goes from Psalm 107 and concludes with the last, Psalm 150. Some groupings of Psalms have ancient titles, or headings, such as "of David", most of Psalms 3-41, 51-65, 68-70, "Songs of Ascents", Psalms 120-134, attributed to the "Sons of Korah", several from Psalms 42-88, and to the "Son of Asaph", Psalms 50 and 73-83.

C. Issues of Authorship

(JFC) As noted on these pages in the past, different Psalms were composed by different authors in different times, in different places & under different circumstances. Consequently, we can rarely find any elements in them to date their origin. Most Psalms appear to have been used in worship during the monarchy and they might well have been changed from use to use or at least from season to season or year to year. Current scholars maintain that many Psalms were likely composed before the Exile (587 BC), some, possibly, even during it, and that the Book was most likely compiled well thereafter, perhaps by the staff in the Second Temple.

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