The Message Of Book III: Psalms 73-89 -- By: Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
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The Message Of Book III:
* This is the second article in the four-part series “Using the Context of the Psalms to Interpret Their Message,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 2-5, 2016.
Walter C. Kaiser Jr. is President Emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Hamilton, Massachusetts.
Book III of the Psalter has only seventeen psalms, and they have a different perspective than Books I and II. The focus of attention is no longer on King David, for only Psalm 86 is attributed to David and only a few psalms in Book III are individualistic in their form and emphases. The psalms of Book III deal more with the corporate group of the people of God and the attack made on them as a nation by foreign or international forces.
Robertson asserts that the most striking feature of Book III is the defeat of Israel by the powerful forces of foreign nations gathered against her. Surprisingly, Book III ends with David’s throne and crown being “cast into the dust” (Ps. 89:38-39, 41). Thus Robertson labels this section of the psalter as one in which “devastation” is the prominent theme.1
Book III can be divided by authorship claims into two unequal parts. Psalms 73-83 are attributed to “Asaph,” while Psalms 84, 85, 87, and 88 are said to come from the “sons of Korah,” with Psalm 88 also being assigned to one of the sons of Korah named “Heman the Ezrahite.” Psalm 89 is assigned to Ethan, also called an “Ezrahite” (perhaps meaning “a native-born person”). Interestingly enough, the usage of the names for God tends to support this division by means of authorship, for in the “Asaph” psalms (Pss. 73-83), the name “Elohim” prevails over the name “Yahweh” as the preferred name for God (Elohim is used 47 times while Yahweh is
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used only 13 times). Contrariwise, in the “sons of Korah” psalms (84-89), the use of “Yahweh” prevails over “Elohim” as the way to address and talk about God (“Yahweh” 31...
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