Theology of the Psalms

By Hans-Joachim Kraus; Keith Crim | Go to book overview

4. The King

Several songs in the Psalter celebrate the king. In Ps. 45:2 they are called

(ma’aśay Imelek). Hermann Gunkel (1933, § 5) called them “royal psalms.” They include Psalms 2; (18); 20; 21; 45; 72; 89; 101; 132; 144:1–11. Concerning the group into which they fall by form, see the Comm., Intro., § 6, 3. It is not possible to identify a linguistic form common to all these psalms. The only distinctive feature of the royal psalms is the central figure of the king, which establishes the theme of kingship and sets a boundary. It is not legitimate to extend the concept of “royal songs” to psalms that contain no royal motifs or only weak allusions to such a motif. This means first of all that the title (“of David”), which refers to a king, does not justify including the psalm that follows in this category, if the figure of the (“king”) does not clearly appear at any point.

Mowinckel began by interpreting kingship in Israel in terms of the examples from the ancient Near East, especially Babylon. He described the king’s divinity as follows: “The king is holy, he is overwhelming in power. This means that he is divine, because holiness and power are specifically divine attributes. Whoever possesses them is more than human. Deification of the king is not foolishness, nor courtly flattery, but living religion” (1922, p. 302). What began with a leveling out of distinctions in terms of the history of religion was methodologically developed in the “pattern school.” A “cultic pattern” and a “ritual pattern” were developed that were assumed to be common to the ancient Near East. And since, in the opinion of those who followed this line of research, death and resurrection, suffering and exaltation were elements of such a “pattern,” a large number of psalms in the Psalter which Gunkel had designated as songs of lamentation and thanks were included under this pattern and thus regarded as “royal psalms.” Special note should be taken of the collection of essays edited by S. H. Hooke under the title Myth, Ritual and Kingship (1958). Even writers such as A age Bentzen (1948, p. 20), who considered the “ritual pattern” to be an abstraction and not something that could be positively identified, interpreted such psalms as 3; 11; 12; 13; 14, etc., as “royal psalms of lamentation.” So extensive were the effects of the suggestion of a pattern! Most scholars assumed that a “democratization” of earlier royal psalms had taken place, but they still did not doubt that royal motifs were determinative for these psalms. It is easy

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Theology of the Psalms
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 5
  • Contents 7
  • Translator’s Preface 9
  • Introduction 11
  • 1- The God of Israel 17
  • 2- The People of God 51
  • 3- The Sanctuary and Its Worship 73
  • 4- The King 107
  • 5- The Enemy Powers 125
  • 6- The Individual in the Presence of God 137
  • 7- The Psalms in the New Testament 177
  • Abbreviations 205
  • References 207
  • Index of Selected Hebrew Words 219
  • Index of Biblical References 221
  • Index of Names and Subjects 233
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