Psalms the Fourth Book

The fourth book within the Book of Psalms contains #90 to 106. I am going on the idea that they may have been organized to reflect the Five Books of Moses. If that is factual Book IV corresponds to Numbers. It may be that David started this organization, but I feel that Hezekiah could have authored Psalm 102. So, we do not know who did the final editing of Psalms, but it has been this way for a very long time. More mysteries that we get to search out.

As I muse on the Books of Moses, I see them this way:

  1. Genesis is the creation of the world and the Hebrew people.
  2. Exodus is about freeing the people from Egypt and introducing how to be in the presence of God.
  3. Leviticus is for the priest to be able to help the people.
  4. Numbers, well, is numbers about the people and the numbers in the history of the trip.
  5. Deuteronomy is the second telling of the Laws and the trip.

Psalms 90 to 100 are thought to be from Moses and reflect what the former slaves needed to learn and remember. Psalm 100: 6 includes the name Samuel, which throws people into a tizzy. If Moses wrote these, Samuel could be one of many leaders that are not named in the Exodus.  Psalm 101 is written by David. Psalm 102 is a prayer of an afflicted man; I think it was written by Hezekiah during /after he was healed. Psalm 103 is by David. Psalms 104 to 106 are unnamed, but they tell the history of creation (104) and 105 and 106 are very good recaps of the Exodus. Psalm 106 adds details that seem to be written after David, verses 40 to 48. I can hear this coming after Jeremiah, more likely it was written by Ezra or Nehemiah or beyond. The fourth book of Psalms does a good job of covering the history of Israel.

Book Three in Psalms 

“Book Three in Psalms” may be a new concept for some people depending on your personal Bible and the translation you read. At some point in the distant past someone gathered psalms and organized them into five separate books (It may have been under King David’s watch and could have been his praise team.) There are theories that the five books shadow the Five Books of Moses. I personally have been exploring this idea by trying to match the content of the books in Psalms by content, ideas, or themes with what is in the books of Moses. I am still working on that.  

Book Three (# 73 to 89) is an easy match on one level. Leviticus contains many of the 613 laws you always hear about, but it is for the Levites (priests) to do their ministry. I will take a different approach in my matching. Most of the psalms in Book Three are attributed to Asaph, followed by the sons of Korah, then individually named Levities. Psalm 86 begins with “A prayer of David” and is the only psalm written by a non-Levite. Please see my Sons of Korah post here on WordPress. Asaph and Korah are descended from Levi, thus the association. 

An idea I am still working with is many of these psalms carry the thought in 74:1, “Why have You rejected us”. Psalm 74 does not place well in the life of David, so I am not sure why this idea is repeated several times in this collection of Psalms. I know that there are scholars who think there may have been two Asaphs. One is with David and the other one is after Jeremiah, but I have not found the second one in the Scriptures. I have no doubt that he may have existed because repeating names within a family was/is a big deal. (PS, I like and use the NIV.) This thought of rejection may come from the sin/judgments mentioned in Deuteronomy 28: 15 – 68; it could be a reminder to follow the Law. 

Because the sons of Korah are musicians (and gatekeepers), it is not surprising that many psalms in Book Three have titles with directions for who and how they are to be played. Terms like maskil and selah are unknown to us today but were important then. Psalm 75 is a “cover” for another tune, probably with words, but it does say “tune”. 

David’s music team in 1 Chronicles 15: 19, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan have several jobs and are highlighted to play certain instruments. There are other names like Jeduthun that appear as leaders; a study to hunt them down in Scripture is always good.   

My study to link the Five Books of Psalms with the Five Books of Moses is on-going but Book Three is a nice start for me. 

Bible 911-Psalm 91:1

Psalm 91:1 (KJV) He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

This Psalm and verse has been a comfort to people in trouble for a long time. It took on a new roll when the terrorist attacked New York on 9/11. I know, I say a version of verse 5 and 6 when I go out in public because of the pandemic.

I view Psalms 90-100 (Book IV) as having been written by Moses. I can see teaching and encouragement in these psalms for a people who have come out of Egypt and years of bondage. Putting a psalm into a scriptural context helps me see the Father better and how He deals with us. This psalm could have been written after the Amalekite attack in Exodus 17.

For this Bible 911 series I focused on the “secret place” and the “shadow of the Almighty”. I believe the “shadow” refers to the pillar of cloud that shaded the Children during their forty years of wandering in a very hot desert. The secret place of the Most High God could be His Mercy Seat, that is part of the Ark. It was here that Aaron would put the blood of the sacrifice to roll back judgment for another year. The heavenly one is where Jesus put His blood when He finished His work and went to the Father.

Psalm 130

Psalm 130 is a song of ascent. This probably means that pilgrims sang them as they traveled to Jerusalem to go to the Temple/festivals. It is becoming clear that each has its own tone or voice. This one seems about contrition and waiting on God. I imagine it had a mellow or easy listening tune.

An element of this psalm is its use of Lord and LORD. Many English translations use this technique to distinguish between Adonai and YHWH (Jehovah). I am going to wander a bit here and talk about different names that are used for lord and how God is referred to in more casual conversation. The Chosen highlights some of this and many people may miss it.

Lord-This is the word Adon (Strong’s H113) or Adonai (y) (H136). This is more of a title than an attribute. They also used lord for humans-Ex. Sari called Abram adonay. My NIV Concordance has some form of this word used over 900 times in the Scriptures. Americans do not use lord, unless we are talking about an important person in the UK, so I know I don’t really appreciate this title.  

LORD-Christians know this word as Jehovah, but Hebrews/Jews do not say this name out of reverence, so they may use Adonai or Hashem (The Name). We can replace it with the Eternal (I like this.) This is an attribute of who God is. It is a shame that we have reduced it to slang and cussing.

Back to Psalm 130-This is one of thirty-five Psalms that use Adonai (Lord). This has a pattern of using Jehovah (H3068) and then Adonai. We see this in 1+2, 3 (has both), and 5+6. Verse seven has two Jehovah in it. Verse three uses Yah for LORD. Waiting and hope seem to be the main ideas for this song of ascent, with forgiveness and redemption being the reason for waiting and hoping.

Psalm 126

Psalm 126 is a joyous song. You can almost hear the up-tempo beat and see everyone dancing, jumping, and skipping to this musical delight as they went to Jerusalem and the Temple for the pilgrimage festivals. It has a classic statement/response style and would have had everyone in the group singing along. (I will italicize the response parts below.)

If I could pick a writer or when it was written, it has to be Ezra the priest in the time of Cyrus of Persia. This comes at the end of the seventy years of exile predicted by Jeremiah. This book rightfully follows 2 Chronicles 36:22-23. Jeremiah was dead. Ezekiel probably was dead, but Daniel was an old man (Daniel 10:1) and I can imagine the joy he had in seeing the captives returning to Jerusalem. (Reference Daniel 9:1-3) I forget these three prophets lived and spoke during the time in Babylon and the fall of Jerusalem.

My NIV has, in its footnotes, that verses one and four could be different, so I will use the KJV and change those two verses.

1When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. (When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like men restored to health.)

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.

The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south. (Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev.) NIV

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.