The Psalms: Language For All Seasons of The Soul

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Andrew J. Schmutzer and David M. Howard Jr., eds., The Psalms: Language For All Seasons of The Soul. Chicago: Moody Publishers, November 2013. 288 pp. Paperback, $26.99.

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Every few months, I focus on just the Psalms in my devotions. This exclusive psalmody usually lasts a month since I read 5 a day. I realized a while back that I didn’t know Psalms all that well. So, I decided to remedy that and immerse myself in the book several times a year.

In addition to reading the Psalms more often, I’ve found several resources helpful for understanding the book better. One such book is The Psalms: Language For All Seasons of The Soul. Edited by Andrew Schmutzer and David Howard Jr., this collection runs the full gamut of material. The collection of essays grows out the Psalms and Hebrew Poetry section of the Evangelical Theological Society (est. 2009). The present book is all the papers read in the the first three years of the section, as well as four sermons to round out the material.

The book is split into 5 parts. The first has three essays that set the context for Psalms studies in the recent past. Bruce Waltke exposes the connections to biblical theology. Willem VanGemeren explores the different routes of literary analysis. C. Hassell Bullock explores the role the book plays in our faith and traditions. These opening essays, as well as the closing sermons, are the most accessible and give readers a good understanding of where Psalms studies are situated these days.

The 2nd and 3rd parts go into detailed analysis of select psalms of praise and psalms of lament respectively. In the first, we are treated to in depth exegesis of Psalm 46 (Francis Kimmitt), 91 (Andrew Schmutzer), and the 74/89 (Robert Chisholm Jr.). The section on laments covers broader sections more so than individual Psalms, although perhaps the most technical paper is the examination of the Septuagint version of Psalm 54 (Randall Gauthier). In addition, Walt Kaiser compares the laments of Lamentation to that of the Psalter. Allen Ross looks at select “Thou” sections in lament psalms (with emphasis on their boldness). Daniel Estes goes into detail on individual laments, while Michael Travers focuses on how laments confessing sin transform into praise.

The 4th part of the book moves into considerations of canon. Robert Cole examines the opening 2 psalms and their role introducing everything that follows. David Howard Jr. traces the organizing motif of divine and human kingship. Michael Snearly looks specifically at the 5th book of the psalter and its emphasis on the returning king/Messiah. Tremper Longman then rounds out the section by focusing on the last psalm and its role in concluding the psalter.

The book closes with a section of 4 sermons. The first is on Psalms 16 and 23 (Mark Futato). This is followed by sermons on Psalm 84 (David Ridder), 88 (David Howard Jr.), and finally Psalm 117 by none other than John Piper. These concluding sermons give the book an overall nice balance between more in-depth exegetical analysis and practical applications.

Since the collection of essays springs from a section at ETS, it’s not necessarily the most practical book on Psalms coming down the pike. However, there is pretty much something for everyone in these essays. Like most essay collections, the quality is not uniform throughout. I found Chisholm, Waltke, Kaiser, and Ross most interesting. On the whole, I found parts 1 and 3 to be the most helpful for my understanding, but some of this is compared to what I already knew or had read in previous books. In the end, if you’re really serious about Psalms study, you might want to check this out, and to make that easier I’m offering you an opportunity to win a copy for yourself. Just follow the steps in the PunchTab widget (click thru if your’e in RSS).

Author: Nate

I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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