The Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception

By Peter W. Flint; Patrick D. Miller Jr. | Go to book overview

BIBLICAL PSALMS OUTSIDE THE PSALTER

JAMES W. WATTS


THE COMPARATIVE STUDY OF INSET HYMNS

Psalms appear irregularly in the narrative and prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible, at Exod 15:1-21, Deut 32:1-43, Jdg 5, 1 Sam 2:120, 2 Samuel 22, Isa 38:9-20, Jon 2:3-10, Habakkuk 3, Dan 2:20-23, 1 Chron 16:8-36; in the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon at Daniel 3, Jdg 16:1-17, Tobit 13; and in the New Testament at Lk 1:46-55, 67-79. More often, fragments of hymns and other poems are quoted as natural parts of story-lines (e.g. 2 Sam 1:17-27; 3:33-34) or are employed as elements in prophetic compositions (e.g. Am 4:13; 5:8; 9:5-6). Complete poetic compositions appear less frequently but more prominently. Many of these inset poems are, in form and content, “psalms” since they would fit perfectly well within the Book of Psalms. But instead of being placed in the Psalter,1 these compositions have been inserted into narrative and prophetic books for literary and religious purposes. The comparative study of these psalms inserted whole into non-hymnic contexts is the subject of this review of research.

Most of these individual psalms have been studied extensively as to their internal structure, time of origin, and original message. Before 1990, however, very little attention had been given to comparing the roles they play in their literary contexts. That situation has now changed. As I was submitting my dissertation on the subject (1990),2 Hans-Peter Mathys was completing his Habilitationsschrift (1989/90) covering the same range of texts and some others.3 Three years later, Steven Weitzman added his dissertation (1993)4 to the literature on

1 Or in addition to appearing there, in the cases of 2 Samuel 22 = Psalm 18 and
1 Chron 16:8-36 = Pss 105:1-15, 96:l-13a, 106:1, 47-48.

2 Published as James W. Watts, Psalm and Story: Inset Hymns in Hebrew Nar-
rative
(JSOTSup 139; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992).

3 Published as Hans-Peter Mathys, Dichter und Beter: Theologen aus spätalt-
testamentlichen Zeit
(OBO 132; Freiburg: Universitätsverlag, 1994).

4 Published as Steven Weitzman, Song and Story in Biblical Narrative: The
History of a Literary Convention in Ancient Israel
(Bloomington, IN: Indiana

-288-

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