OF ISRAEL: INTERPRETING
THE BIBLICAL HYMNS
While neither the text of Ps. 22:3 nor the translation given in the title above is secure, the Old Testament gives ample testimony to the fact that the glory of God is primarily reflected and declared in the praise of Israel (though not in Israel's praise alone, as we shall see below). The most exuberant, extensive, and expansive indicators of who and what God is, and what God is about, are found and elaborated in the hymns and songs of thanksgiving that the people of Israel and individuals in that community uttered again and again in the course of Israel's history. There the sovereignty of God is given language and structure. There the power and majesty of the Lord are uncovered and made visible. In the hymns of Israel the most elemental structure of Old Testament faith is set forth. So in the praises of this people the foundation stones of both theology and piety in the Judeo-Christian tradition are laid down. In what is said we learn of the one we call Lord. In the way it is said—both shape and tone—we are given a model for our own response to God.
The task of the interpreter, therefore, is less a matter of concretizing the situation and uncovering its correlation with past experiences and present experience, as is the case with the laments, and more a matter of discerning the shape and content of the faith expressed and seeing if our piety can issue in the same doxology. Praise is language to God and about God, elicited out of the human experience of God. What are the central theological claims and themes of the biblical hymns that the interpreter will seek to uncover in the communication of individual hymns as well as the Psalter as a whole?
Form-critical study of the psalms over the past fifty years shows the