Lectionary Year B
April 27, 2003
Step III: Composition
A. Immediate Context
(JFC) Psalms 120 to 134 are Songs of Ascents. They were used by pilgrims
approaching some of the great festivals in Jerusalem. Some have referred to Psalm 133 as a "Wisdom Song", although admitting that only the first verse seems to fit that category. Nevertheless, as Weiser states, "Wisdom Psalms" feature the benefit of family unity. Previous and following Psalms seem to fit well within this type of Psalm, both 132 and 134 seem a little more theological in that they describe God's actions more. They are a little more liturgical, too, in that they address going to worship, the latter, at night. Psalm 132 has more to say about David and about Mount Zion as God's abode.
B. Organization of the Compositional Whole
(JFC) As previously stated, many refer to the Book of the 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. 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 133 instructs how God grants life forevermore, even in the Old Testament, as might have been preached last Sunday, Easter, if an Old Testament Lection were used as a basis for the sermon! 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. Book I goes from Psalm 1 through Psalm 41, Book II runs through Psalm 72, Book III goes through Psalm 89, leaving 90 through 106 to be the penultimate section 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 "Songs of Asaph", Psalms 50 and 73-83.
C. Issues of Authorship
(JFC) Psalm 133 probably comes from later, after the Exile, when unity, especially in
the home, was thought to be needed more than was currently being experienced. Such family togetherness over generations had been more naturally customary in pre-exilic times. Then, families tried to remain on the same turf for generation after generation. Following the return from Babylon, families were more scattered and separated than before the exile. We have noted previously that since different Psalms were composed by different authors in different times, in different places and under noticeably different circumstances, we can hardly find any elements common to many Psalms to date their authors and/or origins. The pericope at hand does emphasize unity/harmony/togetherness as a blessing which might lead to a climax in God's promise for eternal life. These desires and values were common throughout Israel's history, and they were more desirous in later periods. 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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