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A Literary Analysis on the Book of Psalms

Brett Nichols

Posted on May 25, 2020 01:31

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A brief literary background on the text found in Psalms within the lens of Judeo-Christian scholarship.

The book of Psalms is one of the most cited books found within the Old Testament. Most people are intrigued by its presentation of hopeful and gripping Hebrew poems that leave the reader with interest and delight. Where many of the psalms within the book present various forms of genre, the overall book is typically considered educational in scope. It is its elements of teaching and familiar narrative ringing from 1 and 2 Kings that lead most scholars to believe David as its dominant author. 

The Hebrew culture is historically known to have embraced art in their writings. This was accentuated by the fact that the Massoretes (6-10th century Hebrew scholars) added accents to the writings further to emphasize the metric and rhythm of the Psalms.

The Psalms are all very musical in style, and some pour into a more poetic tone, although most lean in the direction of what you may call 'wisdom literature.' Some are lyrical in form, as they speak whimsical praises to the Lord and others are in the context of lamenting, however, before we get into those, lets first check into the Messianic psalms. The Bible Knowledge commentary claims that are five types of Messianic psalms: first being "purely prophetic" concerning David's future kingship or Christ's Lordship. The second being "eschatological psalms," containing the prophecy of Christ's future consummation of His kingdom. The third is the "typological-prophetic" as it describes the psalmist's experiences that would be a fulfillment of Christ. The fourth being "indirectly Messianic," intended for an earthly king but ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Lastly, the fifth is known as "typically Messianic" where the psalms are interpreted as if the psalmist is a type of anointed one but not in every aspect of them.

Other psalms carry other forms of identification that reside with the emotional state of the writer. The psalms of lament describe the psalmist when he is enduring some sort of emotional affliction, whether it be from his own troubles or the troubles of others. The psalms of thanksgiving are relatively self-explanatory in topic, but are usually directed to the Lord as the subject. The psalms of trust are at times related to individuals enduring hard times yet they rely on the Lord despite their circumstance. The context is not always negative, as when trusting in the Lord, one must lean on him in the good and the bad. The next are the royal Psalms, they are titled "royal" due to the authorship being by one of the Davidic Kings. A category of Psalms somewhat similar to the Torah are the Imprecatory Psalms. Within these psalms, the writer brings their frustration towards their enemy to God so that it is lifted off of their conscience and so that God may provide them justice. 

The book of Psalms is overall quite varied in its literature, but if you are seeking timeless wisdom from some of Israel's greatest minds about the providence of God, it's a definite must-read!

Brett Nichols

Posted on May 25, 2020 01:31

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