Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Five Books within One

The psalms are arranged in Five Books: Psalms 1-41; Psalms 42-72; Psalms 73-89; Psalms 90-106; Psalms 107-150. These divisions are indicated in both the Masoretic and Septuagint texts. Each of the books concludes with a doxology of praise to God (41:13; 72:19-20; 89:52; 106:48; 150:1-6). Within the Five Books of the psalms there are sub-groups, including the Psalms of the Sons of Korah, 42-49; the Psalms of Asaph, 73-83; the Michtam Psalms, 56-60; and the Songs of Degrees, or Pilgrimage Psalms, 120-134.
With regard to the divisions, one thought is that these divisions are in honor of the Pentateuch—the Five Books of Moses—though the content of the Books themselves actually does not parallel the content of the Pentateuch.
Another, more likely thought regarding the divisions is that they or the result of the collection process. Most of the psalms probably began as individual songs, except for those that many have been written together for a common purpose. As the psalms became better known, they were gathered into collections of “song books” that were circulated together. The smaller collections were probably combined over time into the larger Five Books, and these were eventually combined into one Book and organized under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

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