Lectionary Year A
October 6, 2002
Step III: Composition
A. Immediate Context
(JFC) Pre - Psalm 18 sings to God for having given the monarch victory over
formidable enemies. It is addressed with love declared for the God who has sustained the singer of it. It describes repeatedly the distress the enemies had over the author/singer. The earth was devastated by the enemies' attacks. Yet, God reigned and brought the faithful through the fray to a victory now celebrated. God's delivery was the result of the Psalmist's righteousness, he thought and proclaimed! Then it extols God gratefully.
Post - Psalm 20 declares God's customarily bringing victory in battles and claims that these people rely not on chariots and horses, but turn to God for deliverance. Could this Psalm try to convince President Bush to withhold war and have negotiations with Saddam Hussein?
B. Organization of the Compositional Whole
(JFC) As previously noted, 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 styles. 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 stated before, an early tradition divided the Book of Psalms into three divisions, 1-41, 42-89 and 90-150. These 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 has been noted on these pages in the past, different Psalms were composed by different authors in different times, in different places & under different states of affairs. 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 BCE), 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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