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The hope of David in Books IV & V

November 23, 2008

Book IV focuses upon the kingship of Yahweh whilst Book V explains how this rule is mediated. In this post I shall look briefly at Book IV.

Book IV
As I have just noted, the focus of Book IV is the kingship of Yahweh. From this flows the concept that he is a source of refuge. This ‘Yahweh as refuge’ becomes a second key theme in Book IV. The response to the agony of Ps. 89 of “Where is Israel’s king?” is answered in Book IV by the much-repeated affirmation that “Yahweh is king!”

Psalm 90 is a communal lament deeply intoned with the wilderness motif and it is interesting to note that Ps. 95 is an exhortation not to repeat the wilderness experience, looking back towards Numbers 14. Wilson notes that “Ps. 90 reintroduces premonarchical Mosaic themes of reliance on Yahweh. Human strength is fragile and must turn to Yahweh as refuge, while acknowledging sin as the reason for divine wrath and judgment.” (Wilson, 2005: 240) Kraus argues that this psalm “reveal[s] the hunger for mercy and goodness on the part of the people of God who have suffered a long time. Yahweh has hidden himself. All the petitions are to the effect that he may appear again, that he may show himself as the Lord of history again. Without his effective intervention, all human activity is without foundation and empty (vv. 16f.). Therefore the community prays for a new establishment of all of the work of life through Yahweh’s goodness.” (Kraus, 1989: 218)

Psalm 91 declares that there is protection through the Most High and Kraus notes that “The psalm teaches a certainty of salvation that overcomes all dangers; for him who is kept in God’s protective might, it promises a victory that brings down all enemies and demonic powers.” (Kraus, 1989: 225). Psalm 92 provides a hymn to Yahweh’s righteous rule, these three Psalms (90-92) have all been characterized by seeing Yahweh as being a refuge. The source of this then is unfolded in Pss. 93 where we find Yahweh as king over raging waters. Kraus writes that this “announces Yahweh King and Lord of the whole world. The sovereign power of the Creator and Lord of the world is unchangeable and eternal.” (Kraus, 1989: 236)

Psalm 94 is a return to thetheme of refuge in verse 22 whilst Psalm 95 takes us back to kingship, and this is a theme that continues through to Ps. 99. Psalm 95, as I noted before is an exhortation to covenant obedience linking back to Numbers 14 and so picks up the wilderness theme of Ps. 90.

Pss. 96-98 all link to the message of Deutero-Isaiah. Kraus writes, “By means of the message of Deutero-Isaiah the statements of homage of the preexilic Yahweh as King hymns are now proclaimed in an eschatological sense as active in history: Yahweh comes and appears before the eyes of all nations. The eschatological epiphany of the universal King Yahweh is prophesied by nameless prophets of the time of the exile. Motifs of the preexilic hymn in the postexilic time enter the service of an end-time message inspired by Deutero-Isaiah. This is expressed particularly in Psalms 96-98.” (Kraus, 1989: 261)

In these psalms the universality of Yahweh’s kingship is central, Psalm 96 is summed up by the imperative “Proclaim among the nations: Yahweh is king!” Psalm 97 by the imperative “Yahweh is king! Let the earth rejoice!” and Psalm 98 by the imperative, “All the ends beheld the salvation of our God” (Kraus).

Psalm 99, unlike Pss. 96-98, “does not deal with Yahweh’s coming to the nations, but with the meeting with Israel which takes place in the covenant and the justice of God…he is the covenant God who is favorable to his people with ‘justice and righteousness.’ His holiness and merciful and righteous judgment the worshipping community of Jerusalem experiences anew.” (Kraus, 1989: 271-272) The message of Pss. 90-99 forms the basis of praise that Ps. 100 calls the cultic community to give.

Psalm 101 marks the turning point in Book IV as the Davidic king comes once again into view. It is a royal psalm, a king’s vow of loyalty. The speaker is the king of Jerusalem upon whom the justice of God is transferred at the moment of his enthronement and he is made the judge of Israel. Psalm 101 “could be thought of as the ruler’s response, as a solemn vow in view of the judicial transference of power.” (Kraus, 1989: 277-278)

Psalm 102 is the prayer of the afflicted king who, whilst in the wilderness of exile, declares

But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.

And then in vv. 16-21 looks to the end of the exile and vv. 21-22 form a fitting conclusion to the imperatives of Pss. 96 and 98:

For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.
Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD :
“The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD.

From Psalm 103 the exile is at an end for we find that Yahweh is both merciful and gracious and links back to Moses and Israel’s confession of Ps. 90. Here in Ps. 103 Israel has been redeemed (vv. 2-6, 11-12)

Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Yahweh is also still upon his throne:

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

In Psalm 104 we look at God’s creation. Kraus writes that, “The conception of the heavenly king stands behind the whole psalm. But the entire creation is open to Yahweh; it is absolutely dependent upon him, it dies without him. It lives on a creative act which is constantly effective in renewal. With Yahweh’s kbvd there lies on the world as Psalm 104 sees it the brightness of the royal glory of God, the light of a new, other world, in which evildoers no longer have a place. In this world the human beings can react to the deeds and gifts of Yahweh only with daily praise that is conscious of its dependence.” (Kraus, 1989: 304)

Then in Pss. 105 and 106 we find the covenant faithfulness of Yahweh extolled the message being that Yahweh “leads all those who are his through all difficulties, fulfills his word, perpetually remembers his covenant, and in miracles and judgments reveal his power and grace.” (Kraus, 1989: 312)

So where is the hope of David in Book IV? Whilst the Davidic hope does not jump out immediately it is discernable; 1stly, Ps. 101 is a royal psalm and possesses the canonical title of ldwd; 2ndly, Ps. 103 also has the canonical title of ldwd and these are the only two in the whole of Book IV. That said, I would be tempted to add Ps. 102 to these and join with Grant (2005: 109) in saying that “we see the return of the Davidic king in Pss. 101-103”. Though I believe that the budding theme of Ps. 101 will flower in Pss. 110, 118 and 132.

Moreover Pss. 96, 106 and 106 all commemorate the coming of the Ark to Jerusalem by King David and the Chronicler uses these Psalms in the context of Yahweh being enthroned in Zion, ascending to his throne in Jerusalem and it is hard not to link to Amos 9:11-12 as being relevant.

In that day I will restore
David’s fallen tent.
I will repair its broken places,
restore its ruins,
and build it as it used to be,
so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that bear my name.

It is to Book V that I now turn.

Grant, J. (2005) “The Psalms and the King”, in Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches by David Firth and Philip Johnston (eds.). IVP
Kraus, H. J. (1989) Psalms: 60 – 150. Augsburg Fortress
Wilson, G. H. (2005) “The Structure of the Psalter”, in Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches by David Firth and Philip Johnston (eds.). IVP

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