From Lament to Praise through Wisdom: Groups of Psalms in Book 1 of the Psalter

Psalms 3-41 contain nine groups indicated by their ancient classifications. Groups start with lament or move to lament and end with a Psalm containing instruction or wisdom. This is similar to the trajectory of Psalms 3-41 as a whole and coincides trajectories in the Psalter of lament changing to praise and wisdom.
After the introductory Psalms 1-2, Book One of the Psalter contains nine sets of Psalms as indicated by their ancient classifications: 3-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-24, 25-28, 29-32, 33-37, 38-41. These are generally groups of the same type (e.g., mizmor) which may end with a Psalm of a different type or lack of classification (although Psalms 15-18 are a group in which each Psalm is different). Each set should be read against Psalms 1-2. Viewing the Psalms in groups by their classification provides boundaries for where to give attention to similar vocabulary or themes. Connections between Psalms in sets do not have to be of the same type or always strictly lexical. Sets have a certain pattern, though not a strict order. Groups start with lament or with some element of confidence followed by lament. Sets end with Psalms that include an element of instruction or wisdom (but not excluding instructional elements elsewhere). Similarly (and again after the introductory Psalms 1-2) Book One starts with lament at Psalm 3 and ends with a wisdom perspective, as Psalm 41 is of mixed genre applying a wisdom heading over a lament Psalm. This is consistent with two of the three overarching trajectories in the Psalter identified by Crutchfield, wisdom (cp. Sheppard, Creach, and Brueggemann) and transforming lament into praise (cp. Brueggemann). Each grouping is briefly surveyed, with extra attention given to Psalms 3-7, 15-18, and 38-41. Each set works the king through issues of trust and loyalty which must be maintained in both good times and bad.

4 thoughts on “From Lament to Praise through Wisdom: Groups of Psalms in Book 1 of the Psalter”

  1. An interesting approach
    it would be interesting to see Webster’s approach compares with other approaches to Psalms 3-41, and I think many in our group would welcome his focus.


Leave a Comment