THE Message of the Psalter
An Eschatological Programme in the Book of Psalms
Is the Book of Psalms just an ad hoc collection of ancient lyrics? Or is there more to it?
This is the book which, in 1997, established the case for a messianic meta-narrative in the Book of Psalms.
It proposes, in ten chapters, that the Psalter has been redacted to reflect a programme of eschatological events like that of Zechariah 9-14. These events include the ingathering of exiled Israel by a bridegroom-king; his establishment of a kingdom, followed by his violent death; the scattering of Israel in the wilderness, and their subsequent regathering and further imperilment; their rescue by a king from the heavens, who establishes his kingdom from Zion, brings peace and prosperity to the earth and receives the homage of the nations.
The paperback edition omits the appendices of the 1997 hardback. The appendices can be downloaded here (6 MB; 129 pp)
Hardback (September 1997)
428 pp. 6 x 9 inches
Paperback (August 2017)
428 pp. 6 x 9 inches
The Message of the Psalter makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing study of the purposeful arrangement of the Psalter, as it points us in the direction of an eschatological agenda for the whole.Professor Mark FutatoReformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FLJournal of the Evangelical Theological Society 1999
A recent and impressive full-length treatment is David C. Mitchell, The Message of the Psalter (1997). After a thorough review of Psalms studies interpreting the Psalter as a coherent collection (pp. 15-65), he proposes his own interpretation: that the Psalter is to be interpreted eschatologically and that the Davidic kingship, far from being downplayed and viewed as "failed" in the Psalter, forms the basis for the eschatological hope in a messianic figure that is found throughout the collection. He states that "the messianic theme is central to the purpose of the collection" (p. 87), and that the Psalter "was designed by its redactors as a purposefully ordered arrangement of lyrics with an eschatological message. This message...consists of a predicted sequence of eschatological events. These include Israel in exile, the appearing of a messianic superhero, the ingathering of Israel, the attack of the nations, the hero's suffering, the scattering of Israel in the wilderness, their ingathering and further imperilment, the appearance of a superhero from the heavens to rescue them, the establishment of his malkut [kingship] from Zion, the prosperity of Israel and the homage of the nations" (p. 15). Mitchell faults Wilson and others for reading the Psalter "historically" (i.e., tying it in specifically with Israel's pre-exilic, exilic, and post-exilic situations) rather than eschatologically, whereby the vision looks far beyond these historical periods. He combines a close reading of individual psalms, section by section through the Psalter, with plausible links of these to the development of Israel's eschatological program (especially Psalms 2, 45, 69, 72, 82, 83, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 95, 109, 110, the Hallel, and the Songs of Ascents, including Psalm 132) in ways already suggested by "the ancient commentators' referring to them in connection with the same or similar events" (p. 299). The overall force and logic of his argument is impressive, and his work will surely occupy a pivotal position in future discussions of the Psalter's composition and message.Professor David M. Howard, Jr.Bethel Theological Seminary, MinnesotaFrom D.W. Baker and B.T. Arnold, (eds.), The Face of Old Testament Studies: A Survey of Contemporary Approaches (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999): 329-68.
Mitchell's book is a major contribution in this modern quest for a planned Psalter... much of this new approach is surely of proven worth and will remain with us.Heythrop Journal 43.1 (January 2002)
Il y a beaucoup à retirer du livre de D. Mitchell. La manière dont il lit une collection de psaumes comme «a narrative sequence» (p. 126) est toujours originale et stimulante, et c'est certainement là une piste à suivre. D. Mitchell montre également avec succès que les psaumes royaux ne figurent pas dans le Psautier en tant qu'organes-témoins d'un passé glorieux et révolu, mais en tant qu'ils sont porteurs d'espérance. On voit bein ici que le recueil fournit un «contexte» pour l'interprétation des pièces qui y sont rassemblés et que la portée eschatologique de certains psaumes tient parfois simplement à la place qui leur a été attribuée par les éditeurs.Professor Jean-Marie AuwersUniversité Catholique de LouvainRevue théologique de Louvain 32 (2001)
By using both the "future-predictive" concerns of interpreters who post-date the redactors of the Psalter and the eschatological concerns of the prophets who predate them, Mitchell has secured his argument behind and before.Professor Susan GillinghamWorcester College, OxfordReview of Biblical Literature 2 (2000)
There is little difficulty in showing that most interpreters, from the ancient versions to the Enlightenment, Jewish and Christian, read the psalms as prophetic of a greater David and the final Kingdom of God. David Mitchell illustrates this with impressive learning, and then argues that this outlook can be traced back to the redactors of the Psalter. They positioned the psalms to indicate quite an elaborate messianic scheme, including the coming of the future king, his first works and death, the final victory and universal consummation.Professor J.H. EatonUniversity of Birmingham
Undoubtedly a welcome contribution to a branch of research which some refer to as a search for the "third way" in Psalter study.Professor Martin McNamaraProfessor Emeritus of Sacred Scripture at the Milltown Institute of Theology, Dublin
Ground-breaking work! The Psalms Come Alive! I read through David Mitchell's book about 6 years ago and I refer to it very frequently. I was in a time when I was really searching out resources that brought together 3 subjects: eschatology, YHWH the Bridegroom, and worship. Mitchell's book kept hitting my search queries. Upon reading the description I was mesmerized. It was my first theology book over $100, and it has paid for itself over and over again. Mitchell's work took some time for my hungry heart to navigate through the historical and present "playing field" of the Psalms. The first chapter alone was worth the price of the book, just to know how to navigate approaches to Psalms interpretation. I appreciate this author's pain-staking time investment for so many. While this book isn't for the faint of heart, it is for the hungry of soul desiring a breakthrough in understanding the Psalms and relevance today. Thank you David Mitchell.Matt Candler, Kansas (2011), on Amazon.com
Convincing new eschatological schema for Psalms. Must read. After years of repetitive fragmentational studies of the book of Psalms, we have here at last an intelligent and persuasive look at the whole of the book.The main thesis is the possible arrangement of the psalter's contents to promote an eschatological timetable centring on the Messiah and the gathering of both Israel and the nations. Mitchell provides evidence which is not only compelling but also highly original, involving the thematic associations with Asaph and Korah, explaining the "Elohistic psalter", as well as positing a latter day timetable, for which he finds support in such diverse areas as Zechariah, Ezekiel and Thessalonians. The links to possible reconstructions of New testament eschatological doctrine based on the schema Mitchell claims are particularly interesting in their confirmation of material in Revelation pertaining to the millennium and the return of the messiah in the skies,even links with the exile metaphor used in the general epistles and gospels. Like all the best theories, Mitchell's is comprehensive and strong enough to provide a highly persuasive structure to the book of Psalms (which incidently provides massive interpretational help with individual psalms, particularly royal) while also leaving the reader gasping to fill in the dark areas it throws into contrast (e.g. are the 5 books of psalms analogous to the torah after all?!) A book which is likely to become highly influential in Psalms scholarship, especially with regard to the interpretive key to the psalter, the eschatology of the second temple period and new testament eschatology.Anonymous Amazon reviewer (2001)
In my studies and devotions I have become increasingly convinced when reading Psalms of a strong messianic/eschatological undercurrent throughout, that bubbles to the surface, for example, in Psalms such as 96–100. So when I saw David M. Howard Jr.'s review* of Dr. Mitchell's "impressive full-length treatment" proposing "that the Psalter is to be interpreted eschatologically," I rushed to get a copy out of the library. As Howard concludes his review, "The overall force and logic of his [Mitchell's] argument is impressive ... and his work will surely occupy a pivotal position in future discussions of the Psalter's composition and message." I, for one, am very grateful for Dr. Mitchell's valuable contribution to Psalms study.J.C.P. Smith, Amazon (2017)