Lectionary Year A
July 14, 2002
Step III: Composition
A. Immediate Context
(JFC) Pre - The former 104 verses of Psalm 119 begin extolling those who obey God
and rejoice at doing it. Then the author hopes he, too, might do so and he vows to praise God whose statutes he promises to learn and follow with God's help for which he repeatedly asks. He, in these verses, too, admits troubles and tempters whose taunts he expects to withstand armed with God's Word in which he delights and finds comfort, as well. He calls it "good" that his suffering humbled him because it enabled him to seek, find and trust God's Word. He finds relief from pressures and life as God intends it in divine precepts and presence. Keeping God's rules brings wisdom and insight beyond the Psalmist's years. They are "sweeter than honey in (his) mouth"!
Post - From verse 113 to the end (verse 176!) Psalm 119 reaffirms the author's intentions to remain faithfully oriented by God's Law and complains and criticizes those who disregard it and threaten to undo him, ineffectively, of course, because he relies on God's promises to sustain him which inspires more and more obedience, he assures God over and over again. He calls God's decrees and commandments "wonderful", "true", "righteous forever", loved "exceedingly", awesome and unforgettable.
B. Organization of the Compositional Whole
(JFC) As we have noted previously, even repeatedly, appropriately enough, of course,
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 victories in battles/wars, 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 stated, 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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