George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

8. The Formation of the Psalter

We are told directly that Hezekiah’s men copied out (and put in final form?) at least some of the proverbs of Solomon (Prov. 25:1). This ac-cords well with what we know of the overall reign of righteous Hezekiah: that he was a man — like his forefather David — consumed with a zeal for the Lord’s house and the Lord’s worship. Moreover, we are told that Hezekiah “commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer” (2 Chron. 29:30). This may mean that he authorized the use of an old collection (David’s) as well as a new collection (Asaph’s) of Temple songs.

This suggests that Hezekiah, and dedicated men under his direction, organized and reissued the older Psalms, and supplemented the collection with newer ones (including those of Hezekiah himself: see Booker, The Songs of Degrees, pp. 102-104). This arrangement was probably intended to produce a “Hymnal” to supplement the Sabbath readings of Scripture in the Temple; hence the five “Books” of the Psalms, corresponding to the five books of Moses (see Chapter 2).

And so it appears that Hezekiah was the virtual “editor” of the Psalter. In fact, the Talmud has attributed to him the final preparation of Isaiah, Proverbs (as above), the Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. This implication, that he was otherwise busily engaged in work of a similar nature, enhances the possibility of his large involvement with the Psalms (J.W. Thirtle, Old Testament Problems, pp. 88-101).

This view of the formation of the Psalter, then, brings into focus two great men, both of them kings. Only kings would have had the authority to do what was required: that is, to organize and direct scribes, Levites, priests, and musicians in the great undertaking of organizing Israel’s musical worship of the Lord. And David and Hezekiah, above all others before and after, were patrons of the worship of the Lord. It is quite possible that Hezekiah involved himself even in making inspired additions to the text of some of David’s psalms, to fit them to his own similar, though not identical, circumstances. Possible examples of this will be noted at the appropriate places in the commentary itself.
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