The Costly Loss of Lament
RECENT STUDY of the lament psalms has indicated their enormous theological significance in the faith and liturgy of Israel and in their subsequent use by the church. There is no doubt that the lament psalms had an important function in the community of faith. In this chapter, I will explore the loss of life and faith incurred when the lament psalms are no longer used for their specific social function.
We may begin with a summary of the current scholarly consensus. Claus Westermann has done the most to help our understanding of the Psalms, and his work is surely normative for all other discussions.1 Indeed, his work now has importance that ranks with that of Hermann Gunkel and Sigmund Mowinckel for our understanding of this literature.2
1. Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms (see chap. 1, n. 4), and
also idem, The Psalms: Structure, Content, and Message (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1980).
2. On the contributions of Hermann Gunkel and Sigmund Mowinckel, see A. R.
Johnson, "The Psalms" (see chap. 1, n. 6), 162–209; John H. Hayes, An Introduction to
Old Testament Study (Nashville: Abingdon, 1979), 285–317; and Ronald E. Clements,
One Hundred Years of Old Testament Interpretation (see chap. 1, n. 3), 76–98.