It’s old hat to observe five divisions in the book of Psalms. A rather shabby assessment is that these five books in Psalms match the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Makes sense. Five books in Psalms and Five Books in Moses. But what does it mean? Does it simply mean that the Psalms look back to the Torah? They do. Psalm 1 extols the virtue of a believer mediating on it. But is this really what’s going on?
Another possibility exists. The five books of the Psalms (1–41, 42–72, 73–89, 90–106, 107–150) could make up the story of Israel’s kingdom, exile, and hope for a future messiah. Books 1–3 highlight the rise (Ps 2) and fall of David’s empire and the captivity of Israel (Ps 89). Book 4 (90–106) looks back to this exile by reminding Israel “by pointing back to Moses, celebrating the fact that Yahweh reigns, remembering David’s path through affliction to exaltation, and recalling Yahweh’s past faithfulness to Israel” (Hamilton: 2010, 278).
Pulling down the new cap on your head means you might say that “The Psalms, then, recount the history of Israel from David to the exile, and then they look beyond the exile to the new David who will arise and lead the people back o the land” (Hamilton: 2010, 279).
You walk into your room and on the coat rack hangs two hats. The first well-worn, reliable but dark stains remind of shadows, while dust lines its edges. The other hat, new, clean and crisp, has the look of reality about it. The devil is in the choosing.