Lectionary Year B
March 2, 2003
Psalm 50:1-6

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

(JFC) Post - The rest of the 50th Psalm finds God speaking yet again and still to "My people" and telling them to listen and to hear. The message is still and more of judgment. God discounts animal sacrifices because He owns all animals, domesticate and wild, all, even birds, too, emphasizing, "all". God requests thank offerings and invites people in trouble to ask for divine intervention which is promised to assist them. Then God chastises the wicked who fraternize with thieves and adulterers, etc., and rebukes the bad-mouths, liars? God finally retells people not to forget their God or they will be torn asunder. Rather God calls them to bring thank offerings to honor Him. It is that honor God wants and can even find in sacrifices if they are offered properly and not as ends in themselves or as bribes for God's favor or as if God really needs them. They might even be after-thoughts of worshippers' convinced of God's grace and salvation and expressing their gratitude by their gifts for such an inestimable GIFT. God says, ultimately, that such gifts "glorify Me." It is, evidently, the glorification by the people God favors most.

B. Organization

(JFC) Many commentators refer to the Book of the Psalms as "Ancient Israel's Hymnbook" and/or "Hymns of the Second Temple". 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 & personal practices of piety through time since their compositions and until now. James L. Mays, in The Lord Reigns, says, "Judged by their literary form, Psalms were composed for the most part for prayer or praise or instruction." Psalm 50, with its emphasis on God's judgment, might have been used to inform people of that topic, instructionally, as catechetical. As previously noted, an early tradition divided the Book of Psalms into three divisions, 1-41, 42-89 & 90-150. The different divisions use different names for God. Later, the Book of the Psalms is divided into five sections. Book I goes from Psalm 1 through Psalm 41, Book II runs through Psalm 72, Book III goes through Psalm 89 & 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, & to the "a Song/Psalm of Asaph", Psalms 50 and 73-83.

C. Issues of Authorship

(JFC) We have noted previously that since different Psalms were composed by different authors (some of the superscriptions refer to different authors, different persons honored by different ones named, etc.) in different times, in different places and under different circumstances, we can hardly find many elements common to many Psalms to date their origin(s). "All this leads to a recognition of the many-sided character of a psalm text, as G.W. Anderson writes: 'There can be little doubt that some, perhaps many, psalms have been altered and adapted in successive ages; and in such psalms it may well be a doubtful procedure to assume that there is one and only one consistent meaning in the text'." Most current scholars maintain that, although some Psalms might have been composed before the Exile (587 BC), some even during the sojourn in Babylon, the Book was actually compiled well thereafter.

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