From Learning to Love the Psalms
The last five psalms of the Psalter form a concluding group to Book Five. All five of these psalms begin and end with the same word: “Hallelujah,” (praise the Lord). Also, in contrast to the preceding eight psalms, (138–145), which are all ascribed to David, these last five psalms are untitled. These psalms, united and highlighted at the end of the collection, invite the reader to explore their meaning and function in the Book of Psalms as a whole.
The fact that there are five psalms in this group does not seem to represent a symbolic number in any way. The only significance to the number five in the Psalter is the division of the Psalter into five books. Are the last five psalms, then, a conclusion of some sort to the whole Psalter? This possibility is strengthened by comparing these last five psalms with the first two psalms of the Psalter, which appear to be an introduction to the Psalter. Those first two psalms are also untitled and unascribed and they are followed by seven psalms of David. These formal considerations, then, do support the idea that the five last psalms may serve as a conclusion to the Five Books of the Psalter.
These formal considerations are strongly supported by the actual content, language, and themes of these psalms. Each of these five psalms recapitulates and fulfills the themes of the book of the Psalter to which it corresponds:
As Book One concerns “The King’s Confidence in God’s Care,” so Psalm 146:5–6 declares: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob who keeps faith forever.” Here is praise for God’s care.
As Book Two concerns “The King’s Commitment to God’s Kingdom,” so Psalm 147:12, 14, 15 declares: “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! He makes peace in your borders; he sends out his command to the Earth.” Here is praise for God’s Kingdom.
As Book Three concerns “The King’s Crisis over God’s Promises,” so Psalm 148:6b declares: “He gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.” Here is praise for God’s promises.
As Book Four concerns “The King’s Comfort in God’s Faithfulness,” so Psalm 149:2 declares: “Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!” Here is praise for God’s faithfulness as Creator and Redeemer.
As Book Five concerns “The King’s Celebration of God’s Salvation,” so Psalm 150:2 declares: “Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!” Here is praise for God’s salvation.
In the chapters that follow, we will examine each of these psalms to see the extensive correspondence between each psalm and its related book of the Psalter. Here we should recall again that Jesus is in a unique way the fulfillment of the great praise of this section of the Psalter. He is the Lord and King who cares for his people, giving justice to the oppressed, food to the hungry, freedom to the prisoner, and sight to the blind, (Psalm 146:5-7). He establishes God’s Kingdom as he gathers the outcasts, heals the brokenhearted, and blesses his people, (Psalm 147:2-3, 13-14). He leads his people in praise that God has kept his promise to give them a king, (Psalm 148:14). He is the victorious king who comforts his people by adorning the humble with salvation, (Psalm 149:4, 7). He is the true temple, the focus of the praise of God’s people for all their experiences of God’s salvation, (Psalm 150: 1-2).
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- Considering their content, language, and themes, are the last five psalms a conclusion of some sort to the whole Psalter?
- How do these five psalms recapitulate and fulfill the themes of the book of the Psalter to which they correspond?
- How should Jesus be viewed in a unique way as the fulfillment of the great praise of this section of the Psalter?