A Canonical Exegesis of Psalm 132

Since Gerald H. Wilson’s landmark work on The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter was published in 1985, scholars have been divided on how to interpret the appearances of the king in book V (Pss 107–150). Many have supported Wilson’s argument for competing redactional frames between Psalms 1–89 and 90–150, with Psalm 89 representing the apparent failure of the Davidic covenant, and signalling a transition to hope in the direct intervention of YHWH apart from a Davidic king. Although others have countered that book V marks a return of the king, with appearances of David representing renewed hope in the Davidic covenant, in both cases scholars have interacted with the question as it was framed by Wilson.

A 2019 monograph by Vaillancourt sought to move the discussion forward by broadening the question to the portrayal of the figure of salvation in the latter portion of the book of Psalms, and by narrowing the scope to detailed canonical exegesis on two extremely salient psalms in book V. In that work, canonical exegesis on Psalm 110 turned up a cosmic king at the right hand of YHWH (v. 1), who had a willing army at his disposal (vv. 2–3), who would mediate as priest between his people and YHWH (v. 4), and who would also accomplish a definitive victory for the people of God (vv. 5–7). Canonical exegesis on Psalm 118 turned up a suffering and conquering king who led the victory procession from the battle-field (vv. 5–18), and who exhibited resonances with a prophetic figure in the light of Moses (cf. Deut 18.18), as he echoed the songs of the first (Exod 15) and a second exodus (Isa 12) in his responsive song of thanks (vv. 19–28). In the final form of the book of Psalms, the Saviour from these psalms emerged as an eschatological figure of salvation who encompassed many hoped-for figures from across the Old Testament in one person, and as the one who will bring about full-scale deliverance for the people of God.

This paper will continue along this same line of inquiry, with a canonical exegesis of Psalm 132. Since this psalm was included in the final form of the book of Psalms when Israel had no king, and since it calls for hope in the Davidic covenant, its compositional message of celebrating the then-reigning Davidic king was transformed into a song of eschatological hope in the Psalter’s final form. Therefore, the positive portrayal of the eschatological figure of salvation from Psalms 110 and 118 at the beginning of book V is continued in Psalm 132 near the end of the same book. However, as a complement to the multifaceted portrayal from those early psalms from book V, Psalm 132 taught exilic readers to anticipate an eschatologically stable Zion under the blessing of YHWH because of the perpetual reign of a faithful son of David to come.