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NLT Study Bible on the Psalter

September 9, 2008

Today I received my copy of the NLT Study Bible that I won in a competition on the NLT blog. The notes on the Psalms are written by Willem VanGemeren and come from a (conservative) evangelical position although it is clear that a great deal of scholarship underpins the comments and analysis.

In this post the way that the Psalter is explained by the NLTSB is my focus rather than its analysis of individual Psalms. The introduction to the Book of Psalms runs to six pages and this is divided up by looking that the background to the Psalms, a summary of the Psalter, an explanation of how the Psalter came to its present form, a discussion of authorship, a discussion of literary issues, the place of the Psalms in the worship of Israel and the meaning and message of the Psalms. A list of six books is supplied for further reading. These are (1) James Montgomery Boice’s Psalms, (2) Derek Kidner’s volumes on the Psalms in TOTC, (3) Gerard Wilson’s volume on the Psalms in NIVAC, and (4) the three volumes on the Psalms in the Word Biblical Commentary series.

I was glad to find Pss. 1 & 2 being explained as “an introduction to the whole book of Psalms”. It was also encouraging to find VanGemeren pointing out that some Psalms appear to have been edited and including Ps. 51:18-19 and Ps. 69:34-36 as examples of this. This demonstrates that VanGemeren is seeking to present his notes in an objecive fashion and that he is happy to make use of critical insights without where they have something to offer the reader. Another example of this arises in the section on the heading of ledawid. He points out that “It is possible…that ledawid should be understood in many cases as meaning ‘for/dedicated to/concerning David’ rather than ‘by David’” however he also points out that “there are many psalms that could have been authored by David himself.”

I was somewhat disappointed by the section on “The Psalms in Israel’s Worship” not least because it is very brief (only 7 lines in length) and concludes saying “psalms played a role in the life of the community; however, the exact nature of that role is uncertain.” I would have liked some examples of how the psalms were used in the worship of Israel. I would refer those who are interested in the Sitz im Leben of the Psalms to Sigmund Mowinckel’s volume entitled, almost ironically, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship.

VanGemeren introduces each book of the Psalter, specific units of Psalms as well as every individual Psalm and this is very helpful especially for those who are new to the Psalms. So on the fourth book he writes:

Book Four (Pss 90-106) Book Four can be understood as a poetic response to the problem of the Exile and the apparent suspension of David’s royal line (see Ps 89). The response is that the Lord rules over the created order; his kingdom overcomes all chaos, anarchy, and confusion.

On Psalms 93-100 he writes

Pss 93-100 These psalms challenge the doubts created by the Exile (see Ps 89) and answer the questions asked in Ps 90:11, 13. The Lord has established a kingdom (Ps 93) that is characterized [sic] by the punishment of the wicked (Ps 94), reverent obedience among his people (Ps 95), justice for the poor (Ps 96), celebration in Zion (Ps 97), salvation for Israel (98), holiness (Ps 99), and praise (Ps 100).

On Psalm 93 he writes

Ps 93 The everlasting Lord gloriously establishes his kingship (cp. Pss 47, 99-100)

There are also a number of brief articles sprinkled through the Psalms expanding upon key themes. These include “Royal Psalms”, “The Poor and Needy”, “Salvation in the Psalms”, “Psalms of Suffering”, “God’s Presence”, “Wisdom Psalms”, “Questions and Doubt”, “Mount Zion, the city of God”, “Trust in the Lord”, “Music in Ancient Israel”, “God’s Anger”, “The Exile in the Psalms”, “The Creator-King”, “Praise Psalms”, “Prayers for Vengeance” and “The Heart”.

I was greatly impressed by the article on Royal Psalms for the careful way it refers to Psalms that can be considered messianic. In too many articles we read about “messianic psalms” which is (as far as I am concerned at least) a wholly inappropriate term, for strictly speaking they do not exist. Hence VanGemeren’s judicious comments are most welcome.

Overall I have been very impressed with the notes on the Book of Psalms and if time permits I may look at how it interprets some individual psalms.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2008 6:27 pm

    Thanks, Richard, for your intial thoughts on the Psalms materials in the NLT Study Bible, and please do keep us posted as you spend more time with it.

  2. September 10, 2008 7:10 pm

    Overall I have been very impressed with the notes on the Book of Psalms and if time permits I may look at how it interprets some individual psalms.

    And overall I have been very impressed with your review. Good stuff.

    Yes, the information about Ps 1-2 and some of the Psalms being editing is quite welcoming to me.

  3. September 11, 2008 12:05 pm

    Sean: Will do.

    TC: Two things; 1stly, if you want to know more about editing of the Psalter you would do best to start with The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter and 2ndly, on Pss. 1-2 check out the quote below!

    “Psalms 1 and 2 were not read as two disparate Torah and royal psalms respectively in the final redaction of the Psalter; rather, both depict the ideal Joshua-like warrior and king who through divinely given authority vanquishes his enemies. From this eschatological perspective the Psalter opens and sets the tone for all subsequent psalms.” – Cole, R. (2002) “An Integrated Reading of Psalms 1 and 2”, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, pp. 75-88

  4. October 21, 2008 6:06 pm

    Are those notes available for a better translation.

  5. October 21, 2008 8:10 pm

    As far as I am aware they are not, but the NLT translation of the Psalms is pretty good in my opinion.

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