The Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception

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

THE SOCIAL SETTING OF BOOK II OF THE PSALTER

MICHAEL GOULDER

Book II of the Psalter is particularly provoking. It is in some sense a real unity because, alone of the Books, ' it shows a strong preference throughout for

over .But it is riven in two by its earliest commentators' ascriptions: Α2-Λ9 are psalms “of the Sons of Korah,”2 while 51-72 are said to be “for David”3 or “for Solomon” (72), and 72 is followed by the note, “The Prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.” Besides this, someone has taken one of the Asaph psalms, and inserted it between these two collections as Psalm 50. There are also some obscure indications of a relation to the shrine of Dan. The Korah psalmist speaks of remembering God from the land of Jordan, from the Hermons (42:7), and in the uttermost part of the north (48:3), and Psalm 68, which is clearly loyal to Zion, warns the high mountains of Bashan — again the Hermon range — not to look with envy at God's mountain (68:16-17). At the same time 48:3, 12-13 also speak unambiguously of Zion and Judah.

I propose a solution to these apparent contradictions in three steps. First, I will argue that the Korah psalms in the Book presuppose a series of public rituals, each of which might be expected to occupy most of a day. This will suggest that the social setting of Psalms 42-19 is of a national festival lasting a number of days, perhaps with Tabernacles as “the Feast” (1 Kgs 8:2). Second, I will make inferences from the David psalms, both their general ascription to David and their particular structure; they, too, are an ordered collection of public psalms, not personal laments and thanksgivings. Finally, I will draw the argument together, as implying given places and times.


THE KORAH COLLECTION

The psalmist of 42 is on the move. He asks, “Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (42:10, 43:2), and the en-

1 Book III also shows the same preference overall, but not in the last few of its
psalms, 84-89.

2 More exactly, Psalms 42, 44-49; but 43 is in some way a second part of 42.

3 Psalms 66, 67 and 71 lack David's name; several terms are used for psalm.

-349-

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