Patterns of Movement in the Hebrew Psalter

A Holistic Thematic Approach with an Exemplar, Psalms 69–87

by Yung Hun Choi (Author)
©2021 Monographs XXIV, 280 Pages
Series: Studies in Biblical Literature, Volume 174


The author re-examines the movements in the Hebrew Psalter as a whole, "from laments to praises" and "from psalms of individual to those of community," indicated by Westermann (1977) and Gottwald (1985). In general, these movements are widely observable, however, there are some contradictory data upon closer inspection. Namely, some laments are assembled at the end and in fact many psalms of community appear in the middle. This motivated the author to launch a holistic structural study. In this book, the author demonstrates that the movements are not specified in a linear design but a progressive parallel pattern, crossing over the fivefold doxological division. The movements foreshadowed between Psalms 1 and 2 unfold in the specific psalms-groups and in the tripartite division. Each psalms-group exhibits the movements "from distress (lament) through deepest sorrow to joy (praise)," "from individual (through Israel) to nations," "from present/past to future," "from (the city of) Israel through Sheol/death to Zion," "from Mosaic covenant to Davidic one" and "from the flawed human (Davidic) kingship through Messianic to YHWH’s kingship." The "answer and certainty" of Psalms 1–2 reappear at the end of each group. A psalms-group, Pss 69–87, was selected as an exemplar to demonstrate the regularity of the movements.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Editor’s Preface
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Structural Issues and Discussion—A Review
  • Revisiting Gunkel
  • Doxologies—Are They Legitimate Structural Pointers?
  • Collections, Redaction and Structure
  • Introductory Psalm/s: 1 or 1–2?
  • Movement/s in the Psalter and Relevant Structural Considerations
  • Exploring a Narrative Schema by Intertextual Study
  • Conclusion
  • 3 Methodology
  • A Text-Centered Approach
  • Methodological Premises
  • A Holistic Structural Study
  • Methods to Examine Movements
  • Two Distinct Structural Clues
  • Definition and Specified Tools for the Literary Study
  • Other Structural Clues in Psalms
  • Structural Pattern in Psalms and an Exemplar, Psalms 69–87
  • Summary
  • 4 The Movements of the Psalms-Groups in Progressive Parallels
  • Psalms 1–2 and Movements
  • A Movement from Lament of Individuals to Praise of Nations
  • Psalms 3–10
  • Psalms 11–22
  • Psalms 23–24
  • Psalms 25–34
  • Psalms 35–50
  • Psalms 51–68
  • Psalms 69–87
  • Psalms 88–100
  • Psalms 101–117
  • Psalms 118–119
  • Psalms 120–138:5
  • Psalms 138:6–150:6
  • A Movement from Sinai–Moab Covenant to Davidic Covenant
  • A Movement from Davidic through Messianic to YHWH’s Kingship
  • A Movement according to the Prophetic Scope
  • Themes of “Certainty” and a Movement
  • Conclusion
  • 5 Structural Analysis of Movements in Psalms 69–87
  • Movements in Psalms 69–87 in Light of Previous Genre Studies
  • Psalms 69–87 Located in the Dynamic of the Psalter as a Whole
  • The Subsections of Psalms 69–87 in Question–Answer or Prayer–Praise Mode
  • Major Theme—Covenantal Issues
  • Covenantal Issues at the Beginning of Each Section
  • The Movement from Sinai–Moab to Davidic Covenant
  • The Movement between Different Kingships
  • The Movements and Storyline in the Psalter in Reference to Zechariah
  • Movements in the Division, Zechariah Chaps 1–6 and 7–14
  • Propp’s Roles and Functions in Zechariah and the Psalter
  • Theological Storyline in the Psalter and Zechariah
  • Summary and Conclusion
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Appendix An Analysis of the Arrangement of 11QPsa for Comparison with That of the Hebrew Psalter (MT)
  • Index of Biblical References
  • Index of Other Materials
  • Index of Key Words & Subjects

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Editor’s Preface

More than ever the horizons in biblical literature are being expanded beyond that which is immediately imagined; important new methodological, theological, and hermeneutical directions are being explored, often resulting in significant contributions to the world of biblical scholarship. It is an exciting time for the academy as engagement in biblical studies continues to be heightened.

This series seeks to make available to scholars and institutions, scholarship of a high order, and which will make a significant contribution to the ongoing biblical discourse. This series includes established and innovative directions, covering general and particular areas in biblical study. For every volume considered for this series, we explore the question as to whether the study will push the horizons of biblical scholarship. The answer must be yes for inclusion.

In this volume Yung Hun Choi explores methodological ways of reading the Psalter both in terms of content and structure. The author argues that there is an intrinsic connect between the two, and indeed the content cannot be properly understood and interpreted without an understanding of the structure. In developing this argument, the author provides an extensive analysis of the scholarship of the Psalter, both to underline their importance in shaping Old Testament theology, but also as a point of departure for the author’s thesis. Employing a ←xv | xvi→synchronic text-oriented methodology, the author focuses on the psalms of individual lament and the psalms of communal praise.

This study is certain to generate ongoing discourse, particular given the evidence of the the manner in which it is understood and attended to in communities of faith. This study will certainly invite further conversation.

The horizon has been expanded.

Hemchand Gossai
Series Editor

←xvi | xvii→

“How [can] I repay YHWH [for] all His benefits toward me?” (Ps 116:12) The only thing that I can do for God is to praise His name, sharing His grace with those who wait for Him.

This is a book on Psalms’ structure, a slightly revised version of my doctoral dissertation (2019). Here I would like to present a few words about my book for readers.

First, I’ve realized that Psalms (Masoretic Text) is not merely an anthology in a disorderly fashion. Rather, Psalms as a whole is an exquisitely polished work by which the editor or editorial committee wants to convey a constant message. I hope that my book can aid those who seek structuring principles within Psalms.

Second, the three psalms groups, Pss 1–2, 23–24 and 118–119, are very significant in my study. Each group includes important themes, e.g., Torah and kingship. In my Psalms classes, I usually begin with a question for my students: “Which psalm do you like most?” Many reply, Ps 23; some, Ps 1; and others, Ps 119. Every time I get these answers, I am so surprised, as the psalms they like are very significant in my study as well. In fact, my study reveals that the themes of the groups introduce three distinct parts of Psalms. I investigated how the themes make regular movements and how the themes function as conclusions.

←xvii |

Lastly, I believe that the movement pattern presented in my book aligns with the journey of a human life. The Psalmist’s heart moves from distress, falls into the point of deepest sorrow and finally reaches to joy in YHWH. Israel undergoes captivity and even experiences Sheol but finally comes to praise the Messiah (Pss 2:12; 132:17. “My Messiah” מְשִׁיחִי) and YHWH in Zion. Likewise, we live in toil, vanity (Ps 90:10. עָמָל וָאָוֶן) and other challenges, and sometimes in severest hardship, but finally will arrive at the city of God (Ps 87:3) where YHWH blesses (Ps 115:13) and rules forever (Ps 146:10. יִמְלֹךְ יְהוָה לְעוֹלָם; Rev 19:6. … ἐβασίλευσεν Κύριος, ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν, ὁ παντοκράτωρ). Again, in the near future, a great multitude will come out of the great tribulation and sing, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Rev 7:10. ‘Ἡ σωτηρία τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ καὶ τῷ ἀρνίῳ).” Hallelu-YH! (Ps 150:1, 6. הַלְלוּ-יָהּ; Rev 19:6. Ἁλληλουιά)

23 May 2020

Alphacrucis College, Sydney

Yung Hun Choi

←xviii | xix→

“Give thanks to YHWH: Truly He is good; truly His lovingkindness endures forever!” (Ps 136:1) God has been with me throughout my journey from the days of research to the process of publication. I give my highest thanks to Him.

God led me to great teachers: Dr Anthony Rees, as my principal supervisor, encouraged me with feedback which guided the completion of my thesis. Dr Jeffrey W. Aernie, as my co-supervisor, also provided insightful comments. Dr Matthew Anstey and Dr Gerard Moore also advised me during the early stage of my candidature. I sincerely express my gratitude to them.

God also supported me through leaders of Alphacrucis College for which I serve. Dr Stephen Fogarty (president), Ps Greg Cortese, Drs David Perry, Denise Austin, Kevin Hovey, Dean O’Keefe, Jim Twelves, Jacqueline Grey, Narelle Coetzee, Caroline Batchelder and Mr Johnny Kumar supported and encouraged me. Leaders and colleagues of the Korean department of Alphacrucis also prayed for me: Drs David Kwon, Oh-Young Kwon, Yong-Sun Yang, Kyoungjin Kim, Ki-Tae Song, Sung Rual Choi and Rev Jesse Kim.

Lastly, God helped me in many ways through family and friends. I cannot forget their love; they have taken part in my distress and hope throughout my study. My beloved wife, Elijah, my daughter Sharon, my son James, my mother and mother in law, Jin-Ja Jeong and Keum-Soon Kim, and my sister and brother, ←xix | xx→Myeong Ah and Choong Heon have been with me. My brothers and sisters in Jesus, Ms Hyunhee Kim, Mr Peter Beyon and Rev Isaac Min and the members of International Fellowship of Christian Churches and Multicultural Mission, Rev Heon Seok Lim, Drs Young Sun Park, Paul Lim, Rev Eun Mi Sung and others have helped me by prayer and supplication.

May God bless all!


XXIV, 280
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (March)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XXIV, 280 pp., 30 b/w ill., 11 tables.

Biographical notes

Yung Hun Choi (Author)

Yung Hun Choi (PhD, Charles Sturt University) is a Lecturer of Old Testament at Alphacrucis College, Sydney where he is also serving as the Associate Dean and Director of Coursework of the Korean Program.


Title: Patterns of Movement in the Hebrew Psalter
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