Introduction to the Second Book of Psalms

Almost three years ago I researched and studied an overview of the entire book of Psalms and one of the questions I sought to answer in that introduction was

“What are the main themes of the five books of Psalms?”

On book two I wrote:

Book 2.  Psalms 42 – 72 :   THE STRUGGLES OF THE ANOINTED KING

                                              AND HIS FOLLOWERS PART 2

The struggle of book 1 continues and intensifies in the second collection or book of Psalms. A big change in this book is that the covenant name for God “Yahweh” in book 1 changes to “Elohim” in book two. “Yahweh features 272 times to Elohim 15 times in book 1 while “Yehweh is only used 15 times and Elohim 207 times in book 2. “Elohim seems to be a more personal name for God. It indicates that the heavy emphasis on the covenant God (Yahweh) in the first book is moving towards a more personal relationship with God (Elohim) as the struggle to uphold the true King of God intensifies.

This I now believe is only partially correct and my new version of this will now be:

Book 2.  Psalms 42 – 72 :   THE STRUGGLES OF THE ANOINTED KING

                                              AND HIS FOLLOWERS PART 2

The struggle of book 1 continues and intensifies in the second collection or book of Psalms. A big change in this book is that the covenant name for God “Yahweh” in book 1 changes to “Elohim” in book two. “Yahweh features 272 times to Elohim 15 times in book 1 while “Yehweh is only used 15 times and Elohim 207 times in book 2.

“Elohim” is the more general name or term for God, which we first come across in Genesis 1: 1

“In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heaven and the earth”

So if Elohim is the general name or term for God Yehweh is his special covenant name that was given to Moses who was told it means “I am who I am” and became such a Holy and special name for the Jews that they did not write down the vowels and we only have the Hebrew consonants YHWH which has the Greek technical name “The Tetragrammaton” which means “The four letters”

Michal Hunt wrote this about YHWH in 2003,

“Throughout history, God’s Old Covenant people treated God’s name with great reverence, declaring it too holy to be spoken aloud.

Speaking God’s divine name was restricted to the priests worshipping in God’s Temple in Jerusalem, and so with the destruction of the Temple His holy covenant name was no longer spoken and correct pronunciation of the name was lost.

The dramatic move away from Yehweh to Elohim in the second book could be partially explained by the problem of speaking the covenant name of God out loud as the heavy emphasis on the covenant God (Yahweh) in the first book is moving towards a more personal private and public pleading with God (Elohim) as the struggle to uphold the true King of God intensifies.

The other interesting question I also discussed in my introduction the Psalms three years ago was :

HOW AND WHEN WERE THE FIVE BOOKS OF PSALMS COMPOSED (OR COMPILED

I now have some new insights into this process concerning the compilation of five books of Psalm that sheds light on this second book of Psalms.

Many Bible Scalars note that Psalms 42 – 72 and some say 42 – 89 (covering books 2 and 3) seem to be a separate collection they call “The Elohistic Psalter” because of the heavy emphasis on the Elohim name for God over Yehweh. The breakdown of Elohim to Yaweh in book three is Elohim 63 to Yahweh 44.

It seems that this Elohistic Psalter features the Psalms of “The Sons of Korah”, Psalms 42 – 49, Asaph Psalm 50, another collection of David Psalms 51 – 65, 68 – 70, two Psalms simply said to be “for the director of music” Psalms 66 and 67, one unknown authored Psalm, 71 and the final Psalm by Solomon, Psalm 72.

It has been speculated that part of the Elohistic Psalter (Psalms 42 – 71) existed around the same time as Book 1 of Psalms and Solomon decided to pull it together as the second book of Psalms, which explains his writing of the final Psalm and his final words of that Psalm: 72: 20,

“This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse”

Which he believed to be true at the time of the second books compilation this was all of the Psalms of David that was known. Of course there are 17 more Psalms of David spread out in book 3, 4 and 5.

Book three also contain another set of Sons of Korah Psalms, Psalms 84 – 85, 87 – 88, and Asaph Psalms 50 and 73- 83, David Psalm 86 and Psalm 89 written by Etham the Ezrahite.

Interestingly The Sons of Korah and Asaph were Levites and worked as part of the priestly team in the Tabernacle in David’s time and the Temple in Solomon time and would have been aware of the restrictions on pronouncing the covenant name of God Yaweh outside of the Temple. We will learn more about each of these men’s roles in the Temple when we look at their Psalms. Maybe they sought to help the people say and or sing their prayers and songs outside of the Temple by using the more general name for God Elohim.

One final fact is the repeat of Psalm 14 in the first book of Psalms in Psalm 53, which differs by the change of the name of God from Yaweh in Psalm 14 and Elohim in Psalm 53. There is a slight changing of words in verse 5 of Psalm 53.

Why is Psalm 14 in the first book repeated in Psalm 53 in the second book?

One explanation for this is that Psalm 53 was originally part of a separate book of Psalms we call the Elohistic Psalter.

This means Psalm 53 is an Elohim Psalm and was able to be recited or sung outside of the Temple. Maybe as time went along Psalm 14 was the version recited or sung in the Temple and Psalm 53 was the one recited or sung outside of the Temple.

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