In addition to reading a few more Psalms this morning to catch up so that I can finish on April 30th, I was able to spend an extended time on this project.
Here is what I found as I scanned through the entire book of Psalms, looking for references to key elements in Israel’s history:
- Ps. 8: Creation (vv. 3-8).
- Ps. 66: Exodus (vv. 5-6).
- Ps. 77: God’s miracles in general (vv. 10-15), Exodus (vv. 16-20).
- *Ps. 78: God’s teachings from the past (vv. 1-8), Law (v. 6), Exodus (vv. 12-13), cloud and fire (v. 14), water from the rock (vv. 15-16, 20; Ex. 17), manna (vv. 23-25; Ex. 16), quail (vv. 26-29; Ex. 16), and Egypt (vv. 42-54).
- Ps. 80: Egypt (v. 8).
- Ps. 81: Egypt (vv. 5-6, 10).
- Ps. 89: Creation (v. 11).
- Ps. 95: Creation (v. 5), Meribah (v. 8; Num. 20:13).
- Ps. 99: Moses and Aaron (v. 6), Samuel (v. 6).
- Ps. 103: Moses (v. 7).
- Ps. 104: Creation (vv. 5-6), the flood (vv. 7-9).
- *Ps. 106: Egypt (vv. 7-12, 21-22), God’s judgment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (vv. 17-18; Num. 16), golden calf (vv. 19-20, 23), Meribah (vv. 32-33).
- Ps. 114: Egypt (v. 1), crossing the Red Sea and the River Jordan (vv. 3, 5), water from the rock (v. 8).
- Ps. 135: Egypt (vv. 8-9).
- Ps. 136: Creation (vv. 5-9), Egypt (vv. 10-15), the desert (v. 16-22).
- Ps. 146: Creation (v. 6).
What a great exercise this was! I felt like I hit the jackpot with Ps. 78 and 106. I am off to a good start.
However, I was somewhat surprised there were fewer Psalms with OT references than I expected. With Psalm 105, I only have 17 total. I thought I would find more between Psalm 8 and 66.
I did notice that there were cross-references in the margin – “p.p.” for parallel passages. This was helpful for me to capture the original source of these direct references or allusions to these OT themes. Most of the ones I found this morning came out of Exodus and Numbers. I intend to go back and see what I missed. Perhaps my list will grow.
Knowing that there are a finite number (not sure how big yet) of Psalms that take the reader back to Israel’s corporate history, in contrast with the writer’s personal history, and a finite number of recurring OT themes, I can begin to make a table linking them together. The list of Psalms will be on the left side, and the OT reference will go across the top. I think this will be a helpful tool.
I also need to mention that there are a lot of things I learned in my independent study of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament that I did in the fall of 2014 can be of use here as well. When we see an allusion to or a direct quotation of the OT in the NT, we have to try to figure out the writer’s point. Why is he bringing this up in the context of the argument? What is the purpose of the reference? I learned that when an OT reference is used, you have to understand the meaning of the OT reference before you can see how it was applied in the NT.
It occurs to me that I need to better understand the meaning of all of these key OT persons, places, events, and things. I can then see how they are applied in the Psalms. What do they teach us about God’s attributes? What do they teach us about us? How do they point us to Christ?
I do have some good resources available to me to assist in my research, adding depth to my own observations. I have three textbooks from the seminary class I took on the Psalms: The Book of Psalms by Robert Alter, Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches, edited by Philip S. Johnston and David G. Firth, and Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor, by William P. Brown. I need to see what they say about these allusions to the major themes of the OT, specifically the Pentateuch. I have some textbooks from the OT Biblical Theology class I took. Some of the papers I wrote for these classes may provide some additional insights. I also have some one- and two-volume Bible commentaries that may highlight these OT themes in the Psalms. If needed, I can always order another commentary on just the Psalms.
I am so excited about this project!
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.