Part 2 in a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

In order to properly understand the Psalms and sing them with saints of old, we must employ the right strategy. In other words, we need to have a proper biblical and theological hermeneutic (i.e. interpretive grid). As I mentioned in the last post, I propose that the Davidic covenant (see 2 Sam. 7:12-16) is the lens through which the entire book of Psalms should be read. For the most part, the Psalms are a collection of royal prayers and petitions.[1] Because covenants in the OT are based on the vassal treaty model, it makes sense for “kingship” to be a major theme in the Psalter.[2]  Indeed, “David and the Davidic kings were…the vehicles through which [Yahweh] would bless Israel and the nations.”[3]

The primary reason to use the Davidic covenant as the framework for the whole book is due to the fact that the Davidic covenant is a partial fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.[4] Yahweh’s original commitment to creation was first articulated in covenant form to Abraham (see Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-5). Through Abraham’s line, Yahweh would bless all the families of the earth. Later, as a nation, Israel’s duty was to be an overflowing reservoir of blessing to all people. This would come to fruition through Israel’s kingly line, for the king is ultimately the one upon whom this responsibility falls. The focus of Yahweh’s covenants with Abraham and David is not with the men themselves, but a yet-to-be-born son (cf. Gen. 15:4; 2 Sam. 7:12).[5] In his covenant with David, Yahweh confirms his promises of “seed” and “land” to Abraham, but he goes beyond a mere confirmation. Yahweh partially fulfills his promises to Abraham when he promises to give David a great name and give Israel a secure land.[6] Moreover, the Davidic covenant supplements the Abrahamic covenant in that the promise of David’s dynasty mediates the kings whom Yahweh promised through Abraham’s seed.[7] What we are seeing, then, is that Yahweh will fulfill his promise to Abraham through David’s royal line!

Additionally, it is helpful to note that the Davidic covenant as unifying thread is aided by the structure of Psalms. The five books within the Psalms were organized “in such a way as to focus on the king.”[8] We’ll talk more about this in the upcoming posts. This gives us a solid framework for how to understand Israel’s theology of kingship in the Psalms. Namely, it begins with the Davidic king.


[1] Bruce K. Waltke, with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 692.
[2] Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 230. The vassal treaty was a political relationship between a powerful king of a superior state and a less powerful king of an inferior state who subordinated himself to the more powerful king.
[3] David M. Howard, Jr., “A Case for Kingship in the Old Testament Narratives and the Psalms,” Trinity Journal 9, no. 1 (Spring 1988): 35.
[4] Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, 700.
[5] Ibid., 692, notes, “It is important to remember that the covenants are unconditional, yet the blessings of the covenant are conditioned on obedience to the Mosaic covenant. Their descendants will inherit the enjoyment of these rewards only to the extent that they are loyal to I AM and obey the stipulations and commandments of the Mosaic covenant.”
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., 693.
[8] Ibid., 884.

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