MICHAEL L. BARRÉ
The history of the interpretation of Psalm 101, generally classified as a royal psalm, reveals a good deal of controversy as to its original focus.1 I shall present here evidence as to what that focus was and show that this focus has shifted through a series of changes to the text, some possibly deliberate and some possibly due to scribal error. This process has not been carried through rigorously, with the result that the latest form of the text (the MT) is not altogether homogeneous. Essentially, I shall argue in favor of the frequently proposed view that the poem was composed for the occasion of the enthronement of a Judahite king.2 Specifically, its original focus was the instruction of the king's courtiers (especially his advisers) in conduct becoming to such personnel. Over time the theme of instruction has been downplayed to the point that it has all but disappeared, resulting in a text whose main concern is now the glorification of the Davidic king as the royal paragon of righteousness and virtue.
Ideally, every treatment of an ancient Hebrew poem should include a discussion of its structure. Therefore I shall begin with an overview of the structure of Psalm 101, especially since certain aspects of this bear significantly on matters of interpretation.3
One persistent question in the study of this psalm is where to mark off its second major division. It comes down to whether to include v. 2b4 as part of the first or the second stanza. Although a number of
1 For the background, see Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Commen-
tary (Minneapolis; Augsburg, 1989) 277-78; Gianfranco Ravasi, // Libro dei
Salmi: Volume III (101-150) (3 vols., Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1985)
2 See, for example, Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship (2
vols., Nashville: Abingdon, 1962) 1.65-66; Claus Westermann, The Living
Psalms (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1989) 57.
3 For the structure of Psalm 101, see John S. Kselman, “Psalm 101: Royal
Confession and Divine Oracle,” JSOT 33 (1985) 45-62, esp. 46-50.