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«I turned back my feet to your decrees» (Psalm 119, 59)

Torah in the Fifth Book of the Psalter


Michael Kodzo Mensah

Scholars have described Psalm 119 as the « crux criticorum» of the Fifth Book of the Psalter (Pss 107-150). While the length of the psalm and its insistence on the question of YHWH’s Torah are basic indices pointing to its importance in the Book, the question of its message, that is, the logical development of its theme has remained an exegetical problem. The author proposes a solution, namely, that Psalm 119 is structurally arranged to show the Psalmist’s own experience of straying and returning to YHWH’s Torah. The resolution of the problem has implications for understanding the organisation of the Fifth Book and for the place of psalms such as 111 and 147, which also reflect on the theme of Torah in the final Book of the Psalter.
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Chapter II: Psalms 111 and 147 and the Theme of Torah



I noted, in the previous chapter, the observation of Mays to the effect that beyond Pss 1, 19 and 119, the theme of Torah could equally be found in other psalms in the Psalter1. The discussion of Torah in the Fifth Book must then take into consideration, not only Ps 119, but equally other psalms, notably Pss 111; 112; 147; 148, in which the theme of Torah is of interest. Two of these psalms, 111 and 147 have been included in this study, not only for the fact that they are included in Mays’ “list”, but also due to the opportunity they present for a study of the theme of Torah beyond the individual psalm. Ps 111 is often considered a psalm-pair with Ps 1122, while Ps 147 precedes Ps 148 within the context of the Final Hallel3 (Pss 146–150). The examination of Pss 111 and 147 and their respective contexts, would thus somewhat embrace all the important texts in the Fifth Book relating to Torah, and would provide a wider context for the discussion of Torah in Ps 1194. This exigency underlies the division of the current chapter into two parts, each dedicated to either psalm.

1. Part I: The Torah Theme in Ps 111 and in the Sequence Pss 111–112

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