Were the Psalms Purposefully Ordered?

Scholars have debated whether there was in fact a purposeful ordering of the Psalter. Using Psalms 1-2 as an example, I want to argue that a close reading of the Psalter will demonstrate that it was purposefully ordered by redactors. If the Psalter is the result of early purposeful editorial activity (probably sometime during the second temple period), the book of Psalms should be read as one book with one message with various themes, not one-hundred and fifty distinct psalms. Consequently, the task of the interpreter of the Psalms becomes more complex. The interpreter must not only be concerned with the Psalm he or she is interpreting, but also the surrounding psalms become essential for understanding.

Psalm 1Is this task a scholar’s foolish errand? How important is this step to interpreting a psalm? A person may say, “it is the Psalms that are inspired, not the order of the Psalms.” Well, this point may be true, but even from a strictly theological viewpoint, God has remained sovereign over the preservation of His word. Though the redactor of the Psalms may not have been inspired (who knows this for certain?), God has providentially ordered the Psalter in the way it has been arranged. But someone will say, “we do not attempt to figure out God’s providence in other matters, why should we attempt to figure out his providence in the ordering of the Psalter?”. This is my answer to the interlocutor. The individual Psalms have too many connections between them, not to investigate and attempt to formulate some rational for why Psalm 150 did not become Psalm 1. Or why does Book III (Pss 73-89), the book of Psalms which struggles to find hope in God, follow Psalm 72, a prayer of Solomon, which is quite hopeful that God will prosper the King and that the glory of Yahweh will fill the earth (Ps 72:19 MT)? What is the text of the Psalter communicating by placing these psalms adjacent to one another?

Psalms 1-2: a Case Study

Psalms 1-2 are important for at least two reasons: 1) they are the only two Psalms in the LXX psalter without titles and 2) if it can be established that these two Psalms were purposefully placed adjacent to one another at the commencing of the Psalter, then Psalms 1-2 may reveal the main themes of the Psalter. How shall one prove that these two psalms were purposefully placed adjacent to one another? I suggest (others have suggested this as well) that the interpreter begin by looking for linguistic linkage between the Psalms that might indicate thematic overlap between the two psalms. “Linguistic linkage” may be anything from the two psalms sharing the same words, phrases, roots of words, and even two words that might occupy the same semantic domain.

Linguistic Linkage in Psalms 1-2

Psalms 1-2 contain examples of linguistic linkage. The following is the complete list of links (cf. David Mitchell, The Message of the Psalter, JSOT 252, 73):

1. 1:1 ashrey (“Blessed”) 2:12 ashrey
2. 1:2 torah (“Law”) 2:7 choq (“decree,” statute”)
3. 1:2 yehgeh (“Meditates”) 2:1 yehgu (“Plot”)
4. 1:6 derek . . . tobed (“the way . . . will perish”) 2:12 tobdu derek (“you perish in the way”)

Numbers 1,3, and 4 are clear links between these two psalms. The second link falls into the category of the same semantic domain, and may be less clear, although Mitchell does include it in his analysis of these psalms. The first example of linkage functions as an inclusio, bracketing the two psalms together. In the Psalm 1, the man is blessed when he does not take counsel with the wicked but he delights in the Torah of Yahweh and meditates on it day and night. In Psalm 2, all are blessed who take refuge in Yahweh’s anointed one. Psalm 1:2 says that that the man who meditates on God’s law day and night will be blessed. In Psalm 2:1, the nations are not meditating on God’s law, rather they are plotting a vain thing against Yahweh and his anointed. A common theme that these Psalms explicitly share is the destruction of the wicked. In Psalm 1:6, it is clear that the “way” of the wicked will perish. By definition, the wicked are unstable, comparable to the chaff, which the wind blows away. They have not digested the Torah of Yahweh, which would cause them to be like trees planted by streams of water. The righteous one will prosper in all he does. In Psalm 2:12, the wicked rulers and kings, who do not kiss the Son (Yahweh’s anointed one), will perish in the way. They have rebelled against Yahweh and his anointed, thus they will perish.

These two psalms should be read together in some manner. How does the interpreter arrive at his interpretation?

Reading Psalms 1-2 as the Introduction to the Psalter

What may we glean from this reading of Psalms 1-2? I suggest that this reading of Psalms 1-2 combines the two main themes of the Psalter and combines them in a masterful way. The first theme is the Torah. The Torah was the very center of the Old Covenant. The blessed one is the one who does not take counsel with the wicked but he delights in the Torah and meditates on it day and night. This man prospers in all he does. The Torah was also God’s program for how humanity was to live. After the Fall of Adam in the garden, God set out to redeem humanity through his elected agents. In Genesis 12:1, he chose Abraham, and from Abraham Israel was chosen to be the new humanity, which would function much like God’s intention for Adam. They were to take the rule and reign of God to the ends of the earth. The Torah was the law or instruction for Israel, and Israel was to teach it to the nations. The Torah is what contained the basics of all ethics: love of God and love of neighbor.

The second theme is the Messiah and the reign of Yahweh. Time does not allow for tracing this theme back to Eden where Adam reigned as king over creation. The Davidic king has been promised an everlasting dominion (2 Sam 7:13ff). David understood that the king was the deity’s representative over whatever part of the world that particular deity controlled. However, David was a monotheist, and he understood his God to be sovereign over all of creation. Therefore it is natural that David would have understood that his dynasty would rule over the entire created order (Ps. 2:8-9). Not only would David’s dynasty rule, but it is clear from Deuteronomy 17:13-20 that the king would have a strong relationship with the Torah. He would copy it and read it so that he may continue long in his kingdom. The king would bring the Torah with him wherever he went. As the kingdom spread, so would the Torah of Yahweh for the members of the kingdom. In the OT, Israel was anticipating a time when the Torah would go out to many nations from Mt. Zion (Isaiah 2:3).

The Psalter speaks on these two issues at length in other Psalms (Ps 119 and 89 to name a couple). The Torah psalms analyse the function of the Torah, while the Davidic and Messianic Psalms speak about the sufferings and glories of the Davidic king and Messiah. I am not saying that every Psalm has one of these two themes present. Rather I am suggesting that these two Psalms encompass the ideal, Yahweh’s anointed one who rules to the ends of the earth by the instruction of the Torah. Some of the Psalms will express despair precisely because this ideal has not been realized (e.g. Book III).


In this post, I attempted to make a case for the purposeful organization of the Psalter. Although more work remains to demonstrate this organization, I took a case study of Psalms 1-2 and attempted to give some criteria for establishing inter-Psalms connections. Linguistic and thematic links became the two criteria for establishing an intentional ordering of the Psalms.

After the attempted demonstration of the connection between Psalms 1-2, I then suggested an interpretation of Psalms 1-2 based on their link to one another and also based on their placement at the commencement of the Psalter. I concluded that in these two Psalms two major themes of the Hebrew Bible, Torah and Kingship, come together in a way that suggests that the King’s dynasty will bring the Torah to the ends of the earth and the King will live according to the Torah and not according to the wicked who will perish in the way.

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17 Responses to Were the Psalms Purposefully Ordered?

  1. Annie Meade says:

    No pictures? Bummer.:)

  2. John Meade says:

    Well, Annie, it is tough to illustrate the concept of this post. Perhaps this picture will be somewhat aesthetically pleasing?

  3. OFelixCulpa says:


    Your presentation is very interesting, even without pictures (the tree is cool). However, I have to admit that I’m rather skeptical of the proposal. I’ll try to explain a few reasons why.

    The first argument you mention (divine sovereignty) is really not very helpful for proving the point, because it lacks any element of necessity. God’s sovereign control over the order of the Psalter in no way necessitates that they be read as you propose. It is possible that God ordered them as they are for some other (perhaps inscrutible) reason. For example, God is also sovereign over the order of Proverbs, but that does not mean that no single proverb can be fully understood without all the others. Further, God was also sovereign over the numbering of the verses as they appear both in the Hebrew and English versions of the Psalter, though they differ. Applying your reasoning there would necessitate either that God lost sovereignty before the English translations or that he reconsidered his numbering plan. The fact that the canon was complete long before any numbers were assigned doesn’t matter, for God’s sovereignty is still in effect.

    The next line of argument is really an elaborate red herring. Rather than answer questions you appeal to the inability of your supposed opponents to answer questions. There are at least two problems with this approach. First, your opponent’s ignorance (even if it is astounding) does not really argue your point. It would be like Al Gore saying “Well, if you don’t think I invented the internet, then who did?” The fact that none of us can identify a specific individual who “invented” the internet in no way proves that Mr. Gore (or anyone else) invented it. Second, many questions can be asked which simply defy any sort of definitive answer. It is at least possible that asking why Psalm 150 follows Psalm 1 is about as productive as asking why 1+1=2.

    You next describe some connections between Psalms 1 and 2, and propose an explanation for those connections. I don’t object to your proposal, so long as it is understood as suggestive and not definitive. Your demonstration of the coherence and beauty of the proposal only shows that the proposal is possible, not plausible, probable, or certain. To make such a theory the key for interpreting the entirety of the Psalter would require probablity of such a high degree that it could be treated as virtually certain. If I felt more creative right now, I could come up with a dozen alternative possible explanations for the connections you mention. I suspect that at least a couple of them would have a pretty high level of plausibility. I doubt any (even the explanation you give) could acheive probability.

    At this point you might be thinking that I have moved from skepticism to impertinence. Perhaps, but I think my skepticism is justified, for such skepticism is one of our great defences against following all kinds of foolish fancy. For example, one time long ago this skepticism spared me from wasting a great deal of time pursuing numerological interpretations of scripture (e.g., every verse 3 talks about x or every verse 7 talks about y — I’m not making this one up, I really heard it on the radio). I am not saying that your proposal should be compared to such nonsense, but rather the skepticism which protected me from one makes me suspicious of the other.

    Sorry, my attempt at brevity has failed, but let me conclude by saying that for your proposal to be convincing, I think it needs to 1) Show necessity, 2) explain why possible alternatives — such as the idea that the numbering is not important — should be rejected, 3) Give us credible assurance that accepting such an approach doesn’t require us to open the floodgates of fancy, and 4) Give clear biblical and historical examples which must be understood as following this specific pattern of interpretation (not absolutely required, but it would go a long way toward accomplishing 1, 2, and 3).


    PS–Please forgive me if I sound like a jerk. I really am trying not to, but interaction with human beings is not my strong suite.

  4. John Meade says:

    KWR –

    Thanks for the response and I do not find you to be a jerk, a skeptic, yes, but not a jerk. On the contrary, you may have helped me hone in on some of my own nagging questions, which I will probably not be be able to go into in this response.

    First, the point about God’s sovereignty assumed that his sovereignty is teleological and ordered because it is in God’s nature to be ordered, not confusing. Yes, his ways are inscrutible, but I do find your demonstrative analogies to be false. The verse numbering differences between the Hebrew text and the English translations were certainly ordered by God, yet there seems a great difference in intended meaning between a mathematical series of numbers, such as the verse numbering system in the text and language and literarture. Furthermore, the Proverb is a different genre by definition, and we would not study the book of Proverbs the same way we study the Psalter. The former admits of plurality in all of its major headings, yet some people have done some good studies on the organization of Proverbs as well. If God was providentially organizing the Psalter, he did it in an orderly way. Whether the way is inscrutible or not, I think we need to leave open to more study. It is necessary that we start here when we come to all of Scripture. It is revelatory. Not simply are the individual words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, books revelatory, but the Canon has a revelation as well. Not only the language but the ordering of the language communicates something of who God is and what his plan is for his creation. This is my assumption, which in my estimation has enough evidence in the Text leading to credence and beyond initial skepticism.

    Second, the question was not meant to rely on anyone’s ignorance. The question relies on the running assumption that there is an intelligable reason why Psalm 1 opens the Psalter and not Psalm 150 (I believe there are extra-Psalter reasons for this, but it is somewhat of a separate issue). The question was not intended to make the case, but it was intended to create a bit of openness in the reader, who maybe would read Ps 150 and realize that it is a fitting conclusion to book V and also the entire Psalter.

    Third, I am left a little puzzled by your third point. I explicitely (via the last paragraph) left the proposal as suggestive and not definitive. How is it that you are able to determine what is only possible and not plausible, probable, or certain? It seems a little arrogant to make this judgment. What could have made this paragraph more useful to me and others is a listing of some Psalms that contradict the proposal or some Psalms that strengthen the proposal. I am not claiming that my proposal has withstood criticism, yet I still hold to it. Rather, I would welcome some constructive criticism, and if it defeats my proposal, then I would abandon it. However an arbitrary judgment on the plausibility or implausibility of the proposal is not too beneficial for anyone.

    I am not opposed to skepticism, but sometimes it can appear as an excuse for ignorance. In the case of the numbers/code of the Bible game, you knew that the verse numbers were not original to the author’s (divine or human) intent, and though you had not examined all of its claims, you had a knowledgable skepticism, which warranted the dismissal of the whole project. At least based on your comments here, I have no reason to believe that you possess an informed skepticism. The claim has more plausibility than the numbers/code game, which would require a bit more information to avoid ignorance and maintain healthy skepticism.

    As to your last paragraph, I will work on these suggestions. number one would be a cumulative case, which will be difficult to show in a blog post. It needs a complete review of the Psalter and a demonstration of all of the raw linguistic connections. Once the connections have been shown, there is then necessity for believing in an intentional order of the Psalms. Number 3 derives from number 1. Once necessity has been demonstrated, the assurance should be there, unless I really misunderstand your terms here. You will have to say more about number 4 so that I can respond. I am assuming you are looking for inner-biblical analogies to the Psalter and a similar interpretive method, but I am not sure.

    Kevin, I hope that I communicated in love here. My tone was loving all the way through this response. I am not clinging to the thesis too tightly that I would not abandon it if there was a better proposal.

    -john m

  5. OFelixCulpa says:


    I’ll address your responses in the order you gave them.

    First. I think you mean to say that you don’t think the illustrations I gave apply to the situation rather than that they are false. You yourself agreed that the numbering of the Psalms and the ordering of the Proverbs was controlled by God. The point I illustrated by those examples is that the fact that God sovereignly controls everything does not mean that every sequence or order of things has significance which we can understand. Because this is so, it is at least possible that the order of Psalms in the Psalter has little or no significance for the interpretation of individual Psalms. Since all things–not just the order of the Psalms–are subject to God’s sovereign control, and some things under God’s sovereign control have no discernable significance to their order, you cannot say that God’s sovereign control over the order of the Psalter proves that it must have a discernable order significant to the interpretation of any given Psalm.

    Also in your first point you make a giant assertion which you do not defend, except to say that it in your “estimation has enough evidence in the Text leading to credence and beyond initial skepticism.” That’s kind of unclear, but if I get your point, you are saying that all other smart people in the world would not question your assumption. Good rhetoric; bad logic. If your best defense is to call into question the intelligence of those who disagree, I would say the more skepticism the better!

    But, even if your assumption is given, that does little to prove that your understanding of the significance is correct. It would only grant that there is indeed a significance.

    Second, you state that you meant for the questions to stir up interest rather than to distract from the lack of evidence. Ok; I have to grant that you know what you meant better than I. I can say those who are trying to distract from a gross lack of evidence, etc. often ask questions which are very similar.

    Again you bring up the “assumption that there is an intelligible reason why Psalm 1 opens the Psalter and not Psalm 150”. The problem is that this is not a “running” (?) assumption. If it is an assumption, you wouldn’t need to write a post to demonstrate it. In your conclusion you say that you “attempted to make a case for the purposeful organization of the Psalter.” Assuming and making a case are very different things.

    Third; you are puzzled that I don’t object your proposal as a suggestion, because you wrote (several times) that you are making a suggestion. The reason your proposal doesn’t really look like a suggestion is that you say things like “the interpreter must not only be concerned with the Psalm he or she is interpreting, but also the surrounding Psalms [which?] become essential for understanding. Essential? That just doesn’t sound like a suggestion to me.

    Now it is my turn to be puzzled. In the same paragraph you seem offended that I dare to consider the possibility, plausibility, probability, or certainty of the ideas you propose, and you even call me “a little arrogant.” What exactly did you expect people to do with your idea? Do you not process every idea you encounter in your reading in exactly that way? Did you not consider the merits of my response before you wrote back?

    Your next to last paragraph does even more to set of my skeptic alarms. There you basically assert that I am too ignorant to doubt what you say. Apparently you believe that I should believe everything you say without question until you determine that I have gained enough intelligence to be skeptical. Aspiring cult leaders could take lessons from you, John! (Before you get all ticked off about that, consider how insulting the words you wrote would come across if I had written them to you–I think the offensiveness factor is pretty comparable)

    Finally, in your last paragraph you suggest that if you cataloged all of the linguistic connections in the Psalter that would provide the necessity which your proposal lacks. You are too optimistic about the project. Even if there are 50 million linguistic connections in the Psalms, that may mean nothing more than that the Psalmists were all using the same language–it is only natural that they would use many of the same words, especially when they were writing about similar things. Or, the connections could demonstrate any one of an infinite number of other possible explanations. Sky’s the limit! My fourth point probably should have been developed a little more. Basically what I am saying is that your proposal is quite novel (in the dubious sense). I find it a little hard to believe that that only now are we discovering the “essential” key to interpreting the Psalms.

    Sorry, I know this rejoinder is a bit curt. I hope my points are clear enough to understand.


  6. Patrick W. says:

    As much as I am not the best scholar around, I will not try to comment like one. I have to say that I agree with the fact that the Psalms were written in a purposeful order. I believe that every book of the bible should be read as a whole book. Despite chapters in a book you might read today, it is all written by the same author with one, or many, intended messages.
    I believe that interpreting the Bible can be one of the most difficult things on this earth. My point is proven by how many people out there are studying to do that now, and how many others have done it in the past. However, as much as I agree that the psalms should be read as one complete book, would you say that interpreting them one chapter at a time would take away from the overall message? I think that the messages that are given in Psalms can be grasped in one reading of the whole book, or one reading of the whole chapter. You don’t always read a book in one sitting, but you still get the point in the end. I would say the same goes with the Bible. Don’t try and tell me the ending before you read the whole thing, but once you have you get the overall message. And when you go back to read a particular Psalm you are not just interpreting from that text alone, but with input from the whole book which you have read previously.
    I hope I make sense.

  7. John Meade says:

    KWR –

    I’m skeptical about the how much further this conversation can go.

    First, I already granted that your “illustration” of God’s sovereignty (mathmatical sequencing) is inscrutable. Why does 2+2=4? I don’t know. Why are the verse numbers of the English and MT different? I don’t know. These things are under the control of God, but inscrutable to us. However, my point is that maybe not all points of God’s sovereignty are inscrutable. So we can look back on history and we can sometimes see God’s wisdom and sovereignty at work, though not completely. So for example, “in the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son . . .” We can look back and see how the Christian movement benefitted from the Roman empire with Greek as the lingua franka. Sure there could be more reasons given for why God chose to do it this way, but those reasons do not contradict the couple just given. Paul in Romans 9-11 has just discoursed on the history of Israel. He has communicated the riches of God’s sovereignty in the salvation of Jews and Gentiles. Yet, at the end, he declares that God’s ways are inscrutable. He does not know why God did it in this way, but he does know what was done. We can look back on God’s finished works of providence, and sometimes we can understand his wisdom. I do not think we can understand his providence in the present, and many times we cannot understand his providence in hind sight. I simply suggest to you to stay open on the question of the purposeful order of the Psalter because we know it is ordered, but we do not know if we can know the order at present.

    The common objection to this purposeful order is that the order of the Psalms was not specifically inspired. My response is that we do not know this for certain because we do not know how ancient the order of the Psalms is. The LXX indicates that the order is ancient, but again, no one can say with certainty how old the order is. My second point related to this one is God’s providence has ordered the Psalter and, since it is communicative (revelatory) literature, a discernible order, which indicates the message of the Psalter, may be found. Kevin, you have placed words in my mouth. No where have I said that this point “proves” the ordering of the Psalter. It is a precondition for proving order in the Psalter and the Bible generally (it is worldview question, with which atheistic OT scholars have not reckoned, thus they deny any order in the Psalter; obviously I am not comparing you with the atheist OT scholar). God did it, so it is orderly. Whether the order is discernable or not, is the question we should be discussing. This is where I said that I think there is evidence for an ordered Psalter, which pushes me past initial skepticism. Note, I did not say that you must follow me or that you or anyone else is inferior to me. Again, you are misunderstanding me and reading into the argument what you want to be there. I have not presented all of the evidence for the readers because whole books have been written on this subject, of which I have only scratched the surface. If you have time to read, I do suggest, David Mitchell’s book, which I mentioned above. Also, Robert Cole’s book, “The Third Book of the Psalter,” JSOT, 2000, is another excellent study on the ordering of the Psalter. Studies of this nature have been going at least for the past twenty years, and some have seen Calvin studying the Psalter with some of these assumptions. The skepticism of the historical critical approach to the Psalter has caved on itself because it failed to reckon with the internal evidence of the Psalter itself.

    So I am not calling the intelligence of the readers into question, which when you say it actually sounds like good rhetoric on your part. I realize the assertion was undefended, though I think the study of Psalms 1-2 is the beginning of a defence, which I hope to build on. Everything cannot be said on this venue in this short amount of space. Kevin, you have over played your accusation that I am simply relying on the ignorance of the readers. Nothing in the initial post suggests this and nothing in the later comments suggests this.

    I will also take up the cult leader comment here because there is a huge difference between me and them, and I think you are relying on your rhetoric for this point. No where have I claimed the exegetical high ground (I will come back to what you have called the “key” of the psalter’s interpretation later), or made claims that I am the only one with access into these matters. God has not spoken to me audibly, telling me to interpret the Psalter in this manner. No one is too ignorant to doubt what I say. My point was that we all have access to the same text. I perceive ignorance on your part (of the primary and secondary literarture, my claim is not as novel as you have asserted) which seems to have triggered a paralyzing skepticism. Hold on to your skepticism for the time being, but at the same time, look into the text and test the proposal. A paralyzing skepticism, which stops one from looking at and evaluating the evidence smells of fundamentalism, which certainly leads to ignorance.

    Second, I have no idea what you said in this paragraph. You are not quoting me, and you have certainly misunderstood me. There is much evidence for the project and I think that Psalm 1 and Psalm 150 are evidence for the order of the Psalter. Let’s use the phrase “working assumption.” My assumption is that the Psalms are ordered, but it still needs to be demonstrated. People make assumptions all the time, but they still have to demonstrate them. Scientific enquiry works this way. Someone proposes a halfway plausible theory, then with work the theory is either proven or disproven. However, they have assumptions on which they depend in order to get off the ground. I may have misunderstood you here, but I think that assumptions are most often in need of demonstration.

    Third, you have used the word “essential” more times than I have in the post. I never used the word “necessary” and I used the word “essential” one time in the first paragraph of the post. The sentence follows a conditional sentence. The expressed caveat was “if there was early purposeful editorial activity.” You may disagree with the premise or whether the premise was proven, but the first paragraph of the post was certainly theoretical, and had no effect on whether I was considering my own argument to be definitive rather than suggestive. All of the suggestive language in the post is over whether Psalms 1-2 are linked and then could be used for a prelimenary understanding of a unified Psalter. I also suggested that they were connected in the way they were in order to establish the themes of the Psalter from the outset. Again, I left the question open and suggestive, not definitive. If my opening condition can be satisfactorily demonstrated (I am not saying it has been yet), then I think we can work towards definition. But at this point, I agree with you that we (you and I; the scholarly community is further ahead than we are because they have done more work) simply making suggestions that should spur us on to a better and deeper study of the Psalter.

    I was puzzled not by your evaluation but by the dogmatism and absolutism, with which it was put forth. You never qualified your judgment with saying something like “at least for me, your proposal will only ever achieve possibility.” Rather, you spoke for all the readers in your evalution as if it were self-evident. Some may have considered the proposal as plausible, and not simply possible. I consider this to be arrogance.

    Your last paragraph displays your extreme skepticism. Indeed, your skepticism shows that you are absolutely certain that the project will fail. Yet, even you acknowledge that it would only be natural for the writers to use the same vocabulary because they were writing about similar things. Do not the words of Scripture, in most cases (not all), support the themes of Scripture? You disagree with the criterion of linguistic linkage. You have also misunderstood another part of the criterion, which I did not make overly clear. It is not simply the shear number of linguistic links that is important, but also the strategic and intentional placement of them. In Psalms 1 and 2, “Blessed” occurs at the beginning and at the end of the composition creating an inclusio. Most students of the text adopt this criterion. I am not sure why you are so skeptical over this point. Of course, one can say that “the Sky’s the limit” as if this solves the case, yet even the most rudimentary reading of the Psalter shows the presence of predominant themes in the book to the exclusion of other themes. So I do find your statement about “an inifinite number of other possible connections” to be empty rhetoric, not even possible of acceptance.

    Which part of the proposal are you calling novel? The order of the Psalter or the themes of Torah and Kingship as central to the Psalter? The former is not novel in any sense of the word (see the works mentioned above). The latter is actually a variation on those scholars who already see the centrality of the Davidic Kingship in the Psalter. I have added the centrality of the Torah to the idea of Kingship, which as I tried to show from other texts in the OT, is not a great stretch.

    Again, you are using the words “essential” and “key.” I have not used the latter anywhere and I have not used the former as you do. It is not a key, but rather I maintain that I am investigating whether Psalms 1-2, as purposefully ordered, should be considered as the preface to the entire Psalter. These Psalms introduce the themes that will be unpacked by the rest of the book.

    Thanks for the dialogue Kevin. You are causing me to think more about my argument, but at this point I do think we have veared from the proposal. We have ceased (not sure we really started) discussing the Psalter. No new evidence has been submitted for discussion, yet I am willing to continue discussing the points which you have raised. But from my viewpoint at least, I think we have exhausted this post with its meager objective, and we are in need of new material which will further this conversation. Let me know what you think.

  8. OFelixCulpa says:


    I agree with you that the discussion isn’t getting anywhere. In all honesty, I don’t think the problem is with me or my ability to understand and communicate ideas. Sometimes people simply aren’t able to hear one another–this seems a pretty good example.

    I am disappointed that we couldn’t make the discussion work. But if we have to give it up, let’s do so with no bad feeling.


  9. John Meade says:

    Patrick –

    Thanks for stopping in and commenting on this post. You asked, “would you say that interpreting them one chapter at a time would take away from the overall message?” I do not think so. The overall message of the Psalter is made up of its constituent parts. However, in this post (and you allude to this point as well), I am asking, what does the whole contribute to the meaning of the parts? Is there there significance to the order of the Psalter, and can we discern it? If we can understand it, what would this understanding contribute to our understanding of a particular Psalm?

    A good example of this, which is not orginal to me (though I love the Lord of the Rings and wish I had thought of using it) comes from LOR. Would not knowing the part that Golum plays in the end, make more clear why in all of the previous scenes his life is spared from death? Gollum’s life is never truly resolved until the end of the book, but the whole time, the reader is pulling his hair out, wondering why he has not been killed earlier in the book (of course I wasn’t this reader). The whole of Golum’s life can now be understood in the light of his death, and the manner of his death can now makse sense of the whole of Golum’s life.

    I think you agree with the main point of the post. Not only do the individual psalms contribute to the meaning of the whole, but the whole will contribute to the meaning of the parts, as long as unity can be demonstrated. The problem with the Psalter is that it is made up of several different authors. David, Aseph, Solomon, and Moses, just to name a few, have contributed to the Psalter. The finer question I am asking concerns whether later editors of the Psalms have arranged these Psalms in a purposeful way, which will give the Psalter one message.

    Thanks for your input.


  10. John Meade says:


    I am glad that we agree. I also agree that the problem does not rest in your abilities. I truly think the problem is the lack of relevant material for discussion, which is mostly my fault. I apologize for any offense given. As for me, no offense was taken.


  11. Patrick W. says:

    Wow I never thought of Golum that way. What an amazing illustration. Also as much as I am a Bible college student, I guess I missed the part that David was not the only author of the Psalms. Ah the endless vastness of the Bible. So yeah that would make more sense. And as far as the later editors, I would have to agree that yes there was an order, not only way it ordained by God but they had access to all of the chapters. Did they do it in a time line fashion, as in Moses, David, then Solomon, etc…? Again here showing my ignorance. Better to ask and learn than never ask at all. I’ve thought a lot about the later editors, the burden and responsibility that they had. Wow that must have been a task.

  12. Patrick W. says:

    Oops forgot, trying to add my blog link from now on…

  13. Adam Cooper says:

    Hi John,

    I realize this comment is about six months late, but I couldn’t help but notice your blogging about the connections between Psalm 1-2. I happened to write something similar on my (rarely used) blog about a month earlier: http://adamjcooper.blogspot.com/2006/03/interplay-between-first-and-second.html

    Thought you’d enjoy the read, and I’d like to know if you’ve learned anything more about the relationship of these two psalms.

    God bless,

  14. Fraiser says:


    Glad you found the blog. John Meade is the author of this post, but he is no longer an administrator on this blog. If you’re interested in contacting him you can email him: jdnannie@gmail.com

    I had a chance to look at your blog and think you’ve got a great thing going. Hopefully, you’ll be back here even though John is no longer writing.

  15. rjs1 says:

    An interesting post. Thanks for this!

  16. John Martial King says:

    I suggest you read PSALMS CODE and see how and why the book of Psalms is ordered the way it is!


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