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OT Survey 113 Seminar 13 David and Solomon and their Literature

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 Andrew Hodge                                                                                                   August 2nd 2006

Old Testament Survey OTE 113

Seminar 13

David and Solomon and their Literature

Jensen, Irving L. Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament 1978, Moody Press, Chicago pp 272-304

Discuss the various genres of Psalms and demonstrate each through a Psalm of your choice:

            Classification of the Psalms takes a number of forms. According to Craigie in the Word Biblical Commentary, Hermann Gunkel commenced the modern era in 1926 by classifying the Psalms according to their ‘form’ or ‘basic literary type’ (using the term “form criticism”) providing the modern basis for ‘genre’: “With respect to psalm types, Gunkel identified five principal types ([i] Hymn; [ii] Communal Lament; [iii] Royal Psalms; [iv] Individual Lament; [v] Individual Song of Thanksgiving) and a number of minor categories (e.g., [i] Pilgrimage Songs; [ii] Wisdom Poetry; [iii] Communal Thanksgiving; [iv] Liturgy). Some psalms were identified as “mixed” types, which were said to be of a later date than the “pure” types.”[1]

            Having such a classification helps to describe the psalm in its literal historic-grammatical context, assisting exegesis and understanding especially when appreciating the use of Hebrew poetical forms. At this point in my appreciation of Psalms I am wary of placing a Psalm into a pigeon hole that emphasises a primary quality but minimises other legitimate scriptural truths that will be missed if a particular mindset is established at the beginning. It could be argued that any system of classification could detract from the value to be gained from a study of this Book.

This view has also been expressed by Matthew Henry eg “Some have endeavoured to reduce the psalms to proper heads, according to the matter of them, but there is often such a variety of matter in one and the same psalm that this cannot be done with any certainty.”[2] Henry’s reason for division is therefore either good advice or laissez faire: “Let good Christians divide them for themselves, so as may best increase their acquaintance with them, that they may have them at hand upon all occasions and may sing them in the spirit and with the understanding.”[3]

 If all Psalms were classifiable in a particular genre, then Gunkel should not have had to postulate “mixed” types.

            There are probably a very large number of lists, divisions, categories or styles of Psalms. The bottom line is that the Psalms are intensely personal and therefore the outstanding subject is God and His relationships with mankind in all of man’s situations. Hence the predominant use of Jehovah as the preferred Name of God (Jensen Chart 69 p 278).

Jensen lists ten types (pp 275-276):

            Didactic: formal instruction eg Psalm 101: verse 3 “I will set no wickeda thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” [4] David is writing of his personal commitment to righteous living and we project this into our own time and for our own teaching. Ps 101 also contains praise (v 1), and is imprecatory (vv 5-8). There is a good deal of variety in these eight verses.

            History: the Psalter as a whole contains a summary of practically all the highlights of Israel’s national history. Jensen cites Ps 136 as one of these. Verses 5-24 cover the period from Creation through Israel’s slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, the Eisodus, emphasising God’s care for His People throughout. There is also thanksgiving (vv 1-4, 26); but the main thought of the Psalm is the mercy of God cited in every one of the 26 verses. Why not place this Psalm into the Hallelujah, Penitential or Thanksgiving categories? I must have missed something. No wonder Gunkel wanted “mixed”.

            Hallelujah: praise eg Ps 150. No problem with this one which is the “last summit of the mountain chain of Psalms” (Spurgeon).5

            Penitential: confession of sin eg the ‘classic’ Ps 51 where David confesses his sin with Bathsheba to God: verse 4 :”Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight”. In addition there is didactic teaching (vv 4, 5, 6, 13, 16-19), supplication (vv 7-12) and praise (v 19) within these 19 verses.

            Supplication: A good definition of this is from Evans and Coder: “It is a form of intensified prayer by which God’s help is fervently implored in a time of special need. It is to prayer what fire is to incense.”[5]a  Jensen gives one example of a supplicatory Psalm - 86 - but there is much supplication in Scripture (eg the cry of David when he threw himself under the protection of God with the oppression of Saul [Ps 34:15], the persistence of Jacob when wrestling with God, and the highest of them all, Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane). Other Psalms which might be included are 28 (an individual lament), 40 (a royal liturgy of supplication), 67 (vv 2, 7-8), 69, 79 (vv 6-13), 85 (vv 5-8).[6]

            Thanksgiving: Jensen gives Pss 16 and 18 but notes that “praise and thanksgiving pervades the whole book of Psalms”.

            Messianic: this is an important category for the NT Christian. Jensen lists 9 in this category as examples. The most well known of these are Pss 20-24, especially 22. The Psalms prophesy regarding Israel’s and mankind’s Messiah to come, in both first (in humiliation) and second (in glory) advents. These Psalms testify to the omniscience and omnipotence of God in His ‘prearrangement’ of history, the plenary truth of the whole of Scripture and His capacity to give to holy men the exact words He moved them to write (2 Peter 1:21). The Psalms contain some of the most detailed prophecies concerning Jesus: 110:4 - a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek; 41:9 - betrayed by a friend; 109:7-8 - Judas’ office to be taken by another; 69:4 - hated without a cause; 22:16 - hands and feet pierced; 22:6-8 - mocked and insulted; 69:21 - given gall and vinegar; 22:8 - prophecy repeated in mockery; 109:4 - prays for His enemies; 22:18 - soldiers cast lots for His coat; 34:20 - not a bone to be broken; 16:10 - the resurrection; 68:18 - His ascension (prophecies from the Thompson Chain Reference).6a

                Nature: the inspiration from General Revelation eg 104. This Psalm is also strongly didactic throughout, contains praise (vv 1, 24, 31, 33), history (vv 3-9), thanksgiving (v 35) and imprecation (v 35).

            Pilgrim: Pss 120-134 a single group of Psalms bearing the non-inspired title of “Song of Degrees”. Jensen describes these as ‘probably a hymnbook used by the Jews on their pilgrimage up to the Temple on the occasions of the national feasts’ (p 276). In my view this category is an example of classification which is entirely arbitrary, bearing little relationship to any of the others, demonstrating that it is remarkably difficult to compare the extreme variety of the Psalms by a system that is not ‘apples with apples’.

            Imprecatory: the “cursing” Psalms, eg 140. Verse 10 (expressing David’s thoughts about what he would like to happen to his enemies): “Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again”. Such sentiments would be common with the thoughts of most people today, if they would admit to it, and testify to the deeply personal nature of this category of Psalms. There are much worse sentiments expressed (137:9; 109:9-15, 18-19; 83:9-17 which is a Psalm particularly relevant to the Middle East today; 69:22-28; etc). Generally speaking these imprecations are expressed by men, especially David, when they are feeling burdened by enemies that are either threatening death and destruction, or have successfully achieved that and they want revenge.

It must be remembered that the historical context allowed for such practices in politics and war, and in any case, although revenge should be left only to God Who is properly merciful, He is also holy and righteous and as sinners all men deserve death and righteous judgment.

            It should be noted that Jensen does not include a category that might appear to be self-evident eg Prophetical. However, the blurred margins between categories would allow prophecy to be distributed amongst Didactic and Messianic, for example.

Today, it might be helpful to include the category of Scientific, drawing on Jensen’s genres of Nature and History.

Choose a passage from Proverbs and relate it to the message of Ecclesiastes:

            Jensen defines the message of Ecclesiastes as “to show the futility of pursuing materialistic, earthly goals as an end in themselves, and to point to God as the source of all that is truly good” (p 301). The Preacher defines his writing as “Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13b-14).

            My own personal life verse is Proverbs 22:4:  “Byb humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.”[7]

This verse points out the necessity of looking to God for the important goals in life, and even for life itself, which helped greatly during my professional career when death was often just around my patient’s corner. The negative corollary of the verse shows that nothing important can be gained solely by the use of one’s own effort, for everything of benefit - physical, moral, social, mental, spiritual -  comes from God, not through the knowledge or effort of man (which also comes from God in any case).

            Furthermore, this verse defines what is important in God’s plan - first comes humility and reverence, then comes all the things that man wishes to have in the first place, including riches and recognition. The NT Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you ([8]) is nowhere near as all-encompassing as Proverbs 22:4 for it only refers to the ‘things’ of food, drink and clothing (Matthew 6:28-32).

            The proverb also shows that a man should not be afraid of having his deepest secrets known to God - the aspect of humility requires this - and that his reverential fear of his personal Jehovah places him in the right position to receive His triple blessing.


Explain the relationship between the command of Deuteronomy 6:1-25 and the book of Proverbs for parents today:

            The purpose of the command of Deuteronomy 6:1-25 is given in v 2:  “That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.”[9]

The context is Moses reiteration of the Sinaiatic Covenant/Laws to the Nation immediately before the Eisodus in order to remind them of the obedience God expects them to show so that they will experience His promised blessings (listed in vv 3, 10-11, 18-19).

            It should be noted that this purpose is intended to carry through to at least the third generation, additionally resulting in long life, and that the result is reciprocal with the children ie when they are properly instructed they should be able to ask the important questions about their God and receive proper answers (vv 20-25).

            Deuteronomy 6 leaves parents in no doubt how they should go about to teach their children (vv 7-8), with the important proviso that this cannot be done unless the laws of God are first in the hearts of the parents (v 6) with the proper attitude of respect (v2). Godly relationships promote Godly relationships.

            The purpose of the Book of Proverbs is given in 1:2-4:  “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equitya; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretionb.“[10]

Clearly if a parent is to do his/her job a close appreciation of Proverbs is mandatory. What parent would not want their child to have wisdom, understanding, knowledge and discretion, and senses of justice, right judgment, impartiality and prudence? Or for themselves for that matter?

            The connection between Deuteronomy and Proverbs is the parent. If the qualities that the parent wishes for the child are not already resident in the parents’ hearts, then they cannot be transmitted as Moses commands. If the parent has these qualities but refuses to communicate them, then they are not appreciating their importance and both the parent and the child are disadvantaged.

If the parent does not have the qualities and is aware of this, God’s grace will provide abundantly (Matthew 7:7), and most Christian parents today should be in this position. The Age of Grace is remarkable in that although the OT commandments such as this are commanded to be kept, God in His grace gives wisdom and power to complete them exactly as He would wish, if He is asked.


Appreciate the hermeneutic approaches to Messianic Psalms:

            There is no reason why the literal historic-grammatical approach cannot be maintained, bearing in mind that the ‘grammatical’ must include the uniqueness of Hebrew poetry (see CMI NTE 323 Hermeneutics Seminar 13 “Hebrew Poetry”).

            The Messianic Psalms are themselves unique in that they point toward a future Person and an Event that was completed in full detail in the NT, so that the Scripture offers its own commentary. Guesswork is minimised and in many instances completely abolished. This may be illustrated by Ps 2 where in historical context it was originally written as a royal psalm (a type not specified by Jensen) but later transformed into a messianic psalm by NT revelation (Acts 4:25-28, 13:33).[11] See also Pss 16, 22, 31 and 45.12


Recognise the practical spiritual value of Wisdom Literature:

            Wisdom Literature includes Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes (Jensen p 283). Possibly a misnomer in that it cannot be said that the remainder of Scripture contains no wisdom. Await Seminar.



Understand the different hermeneutical aspects of Wisdom Literature:

            Not sure what is required here. Await Seminar.


[1]Craigie, P. C. (2002). Vol. 19: Word Biblical Commentary : Psalms 1-50. Word Biblical Commentary (p45). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[2]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Ps 1:1 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991).


a  wicked...: Heb. thing of Belial

[4]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995

5C.H.Spurgeon The Treasury of David  Hendrickson Publishers  Peabody, Massachusetts ISBN 0-91 7006-25-9  III, 463

[5]a William Evans and S. Maxwell Coder, The Great Doctrines of the Bible, Includes index., Enl. ed., 319 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998, c1974).

[6]Marvin E. Tate, vol. 20, Word Biblical Commentary : Psalms 51-100, Word Biblical Commentary, 155 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002).

6a Thompson Chain Reference Bible  Fifth Improved Edition B.B.Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc.  Indianapolis, Indiana 1988 4306-b Prophecies concerning Jesus and their fulfillment

b  By...: or, The reward of humility, etc

[7]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[8]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[9] ibid

a  equity: Heb. equities

b  discretion: or, advisement

[10] ibid

[11]Peter C. Craigie, vol. 19, Word Biblical Commentary : Psalms 1-50, Word Biblical Commentary, p 41 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002).

12ibid pp 158, 201, 262, 339

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