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The Case For Kingship in the Psalms

March 4, 2008

“The Case For Kingship in The Narrative Books And The Psalms” by David M. Howard, Jr can be read in full here

Extract concerning the Psalms:

In the Psalter, the idea of kingship is viewed very favorably. An obvious sign of this is the prominent place David the king occupies as author of approximately half of the psalms.

This also is evidenced very clearly by the royal psalms. These were first identified as such by Gunkel as Psalms 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 101, 110, 132, 144:1-11 (and 89:47-52). In them, David and the Davidic king, and the office of kingship itself, are consistently seen as chosen and favored by God, as exalted and to be prayed for, as central to God’s purposes in history. Several of these are quoted in the NT as messianic.

Among those who have expanded upon Gunkel’s work in this area, Eaton’s is the most comprehensive in extending the category of royal psalms, which he did by paying attention to royal motifs. He identified 31 additional psalms that were clearly royal in his view, and 21 that were arguably so. This is along the same lines taken earlier by many pre-critical and post-critical conservative scholars, who have seen messianic overtones in many more than just the 13-15 quoted in the NT. The effect of these approaches is obvious with respect to displaying the psalmists’ attitudes toward the kingship.

A further evidence for the high view of the monarchy in the Psalter is provided by B. S. Childs and his student, G. H. Wilson, in their studies of the placement of royal psalms. They have shown that these are found at critical junctures throughout the Psalter, and that this pattern functions to highlight their importance and provides a hermeneutic for reading the entire book. The Davidic kingship is especially prominent in Books I-III; it gives way to an emphasis in Books IV-V on YHWH’s kingship. As Israel’s history progressed, the eschatological aspect of its king and kingdom became more clearly understood. Israel’s kingdom was a symbol of God’s reign on earth; its king was God’s vice-regent. It was in the later OT and intertestamental periods, and then in the NT period, that the eschatological understanding of the royal and other psalms attained its height.

The net effect of the work on royal/messianic psalms for the purposes of this study is to confirm the importance of the office of king in Israel, including as it was seen in God’s eyes. The psalms reflect the high view of the monarchy found particularly in Chronicles: David and the Davidic kings were chosen and blessed by God, the vehicles through which he would bless Israel and the nations.

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