The Message of the Psalter: An Eschatological Programme in the Book of Psalms. By David C. Mitchell. JSOTSup 252. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1997, 428 pp., $66.00.
The Message of the Psalter is one of several recent additions to the growing corpus of work that treats the purposeful arrangement of the Book of Psalms. Mitchell is in full accord with those who argue that the Psalter is not a random anthology but is a purposefully edited literary whole. His thesis, however, goes in a different direction from that of others who have attempted to articulate the theological agenda that guided the editorial process.
Mitchell disagrees with current theories on the editorial agenda, which are historical in orientation. In particular, he takes issue with Wilson and McCann, who argue that the Psalter is a call to trust in the Lord alone, given the rejection of the Davidic monarchy (Psalm 89). Mitchell raises several pertinent questions at this point. If there is no longer any interest in the house of David, why does David's name appear in sixteen titles and several psalms in Books 4 and 5? Why do Books 1-3 end on the note of the Lord's apparent failure to keep his promises (Ps 89:35-39 [MT 34-381), if the message of the whole is to trust the Lord? Mitchell also notes that Wilson's theory does not fit with what we know about Israel's attitude toward the house of David at any of the proposed times for the final edition of the Psalter.
Contrary to such a historical orientation, Mitchell argues that the agenda is eschatological. The opening chapter on the history of interpreting the Psalms shows that an eschatological orientation has been the dominant interpretive approach to the Psalms except for the brief period of about 1820-1970. Mitchell examines the Asaph collection and the Psalms of Ascent, arguing that each has an eschatological orientation.
Mitchell then sets this eschatological movement in the context of prophetic eschatology, which can be broadly described in terms of an ingathering of Israel, an alliance of hostile nations that attack Israel, salvation by the Lord, followed by consummate worship of the Lord by Israel and the survivors of the nations. This picture is filled in by the …