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ix + 199 pp.

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Howard N. Wallace

The Book of Psalms is often seen as an anthology of prayers and hymns from which the reader may extract a selection as need or interest dictates. However, a recent development in Psalms scholarship has been a discussion of whether the collection of psalms has some overall structure. Is the whole of the Book of Psalms greater than the sum of its individual parts? This commentary argues that it is and presents a continuous reading of the Book of Psalms.

Moreover, the long-standing tradition, found within both Judaism and Christianity, of associating the psalms with David is used as a reading strategy. In this volume, the Psalms are presented sequentially. Each has its place in the collection but thirty-five are treated at greater length. They are read, at least in the first two books (Psalms 1–72), as if they were David’s words. Beyond that a more complex and developed association between David and the Psalms is demanded. David becomes a figure of hope for a different future and a new royal reign reflecting the reign of Yahweh. Throughout, David remains a model of piety for all who seek to communicate with God in prayer. It is in the light of this that later disasters in the life of Israel, especially the Babylonian Exile, can be faced. In the Book of Psalms, the past, in terms of both David’s life and the history of Israel, is the key to future well-being and faithfulness.

Howard N. Wallace is Professor of Old Testament, Centre for Theology and Ministry, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Series: Readings: A New Biblical Commentary
978-1-906055-61-5 hardback / 978-1-906055-62-2 paperback
Publication May 2009

Wallace’s commentary on the Psalter is commendable for a number of reasons. His desire to read the book of Psalms in order offers a refreshing perspective on the value of synchronic methodologies. It also deftly demonstrates that form-critical considerations, while still important, are no longer the only place to begin in Psalms study. While the metanarrative he sees in the Psalter is quite similar to that first proposed by Wilson, Wallace is to be lauded for attempting to continue the conversation and press the discussion forward by attending to issues that may remain unresolved in Wilson’s original analyses.

This summary cannot hope to capture adequately the intricacies of Wallace’s reading of the Psalter. His comments are peppered with literary and stylistic insights that underscore a deep appreciation for the artfulness of the biblical text. He does not, however, shy away from giving adequate attention to textual or translational issues where relevant.
John E. Anderson, Review of Biblical Literature.