Gordon Wenham’s ebook, The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms is free this month (November 2021).
I’ve learned heaps from Wenham about understanding the Old Testament in context. Particularly, his commentaries on Genesis (2 volumes, WBC) and Leviticus (NICOT) and Numbers (TCOT) are so insightful, and Story as Torah: Reading Old Testament Narrative Ethically (T&T Clark, 2000) makes sense of difficult passages.
In this book, he guides us to the Psalms, showing us how to:
- celebrate the God revealed in the Psalms
- present our needs to him
- read Psalms in the context of the whole story of Scripture
- understand Psalms in light of the Messiah
- apply the ethics of the Psalms
- handle the imprecatory Psalms
He then pulls it all together with a specific example from Psalm 103, before the final chapter on how the other nations fit with the Psalms.
Do you treat the Psalms as stand-alone songs? Or were they assembled in a meaningful way, so that one Psalm relates to the others around it? How do you read them in context?
Chapter 7 shows how. From Psalm 103: The Song of Steadfast Love:
So in this exposition of Psalm 103, I want to read it as the editors of the Psalter understood it. This will involve looking at its place in the Psalter, its connections with other psalms (especially those close to it), and its title.
The first thing to note is that it begins and ends with the exhortation, “Bless the LORD, O my soul.” This links Psalm 103 to the immediately following Psalm 104, which also begins and ends with those words. Psalm 104 praises the perfection of God’s creation; it is a poetic paraphrase of Genesis 1. Psalm 105 sums up the story of Israel from the patriarchs to the exodus. And, finally, Psalm 106 concludes book 4 of the Psalter by recounting Israel’s sins in the wilderness, that is, the stories found in Exodus to Deuteronomy. In other words, Psalms 104 to 106 are a poetic recapitulation of the Pentateuch, Genesis to Deuteronomy.
— Gordon Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).
The link above works with Logos Bible Software. Like Kindle, the software is free and you pay for the books you want. You can read it on your phone or tablet (iOS or Android) or computer (PC or Mac). There are free books each month from Logos, Faithlife and Verbum. Wenham’s book is the one Faithlife one.