In anticipation of the publication of Covenant Relationships and the Editing of the Hebrew Psalter, one of the latest volumes in the long running and cutting-edge Library of Hebrew and Old Testament Studies series, Dr. Adam D. Hensley delves deeper into the origins and research of his book.
- How would you describe your book in one sentence?
A direct and methodical investigation of editorial perspective in the Psalter regarding the relationship between the Davidic and premonarchic covenants.
- What drew to you writing about this subject?
Having expressed some interest in studying OT postexilic literature, one of my graduate school professors suggested I might look into the growing field of Psalter studies. While scholarly opinion varied—and still varies—on the extent to which the Psalter constitutes a “book” with a single “narrative,” it nonetheless seemed clear to me that the Psalter was new and relatively unexplored territory for examining the theology and hopes of the postexilic period.
I was especially intrigued by what the Psalter’s arrangement might reveal on the question of messianic expectation and covenant theology. Did postexilic editors see the covenants as theological alternatives or characterized by an essential unity and continuity? Was the substance of their hopes limited to the temple theocracy they already knew, or was a future king central to those hopes and to the renewal of the covenant? Was the Davidic covenant really seen as “failed” as Gerald H. Wilson contended? Did they really “democratize” the Davidic covenant by construing God’s promises to the house of David in terms of the people directly without any meaningful role for human kingship in their realization? Or did they view covenant history culminating in restored kingship after all, through which God’s covenant people might be renewed and God’s covenant promises fulfilled? To be sure, there were no shortage of opinions about such questions in the literature, but also no direct investigations of “covenant relationships” with a methodology up to the task.
- How long have you been researching it? How did you come to study it?
Early in 2010 I picked up a book titled The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter, by Gerald H. Wilson. I was amazed by Wilson’s many observations in the Psalter and parallels with ancient anthologies. But I noticed that, like many studies that have followed it, Wilson’s approach presupposed answers to questions that it failed to address directly. One of those questions was especially foundational: how those who compiled the Psalter perceived covenant history, especially how they understood the Davidic covenant in relation to the premonarchic covenants.
- What does your book focus on that hasn’t been explored elsewhere?
My book offers a fresh re-evaluation of editorial evidence in the Psalter, and in the process sheds light on some puzzling features of the Psalter. For example, it offers a new accounting of how editors understood 72:20 (“The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended”) in view of subsequent Davidic psalms. What’s more, the main thesis explored in the book offers a new perspective on why Asaph Ps 50 is separated from the main Asaph group (73–83).
By offering a thorough survey of the Psalter’s references and allusions to “covenant” that spans four chapters, it also presents a fuller picture of the covenant profile of the Psalter than previously accessible. This survey work goes beyond the term berit to include intertextual allusions to major entailments of the biblical covenants while taking account of editorial considerations.
Building on the work of Jamie A. Grant and others who have demonstrated the Psalter’s idealized depiction of kingship (cf. Deut 17:14–20), my book examines other aspects of the Psalter’s editorial perspective on kingship that have been overlooked or under-appreciated. For example, it explores David as an intercessor between YHWH and people/nations and thereby central to covenant renewal. It also examines a proposed typological relationship between Moses and David in the Psalms: David as a “New Moses” who leads the world in a “new song” of thanksgiving for YHWH’s new, exodus-like redemption of his people. In the process the book offers fresh insights on the structural and theological profiles of Books II–V.
We are very grateful to Adam D. Hensley for taking part in this interview!
Covenant Relationships and the Editing of the Hebrew Psalter is available for pre-order now, and is due for release on 17th May 2018.