The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: P-Q

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Psalms and Pentateuch

The Psalms are divisible into 5 books, answering to the 5 books of Moses:

Book 1
Genesis: concerning man and his relationship to God. All blessing is bound up in obedience. Closes with a Benediction and a double Amen.
Book 2
Exodus: concerning Israel as a nation. The counsels of God concerning Israel's ruin, redeemer, and redemption. Closes with a Benediction and a double Amen.
Book 3
Leviticus: concerning God's sanctuary. Closes with a Benediction and a double Amen.
Book 4
Numbers: concerning Israel in relation to the nations. Closes with a Benediction, Amen, and Hallelujah.
Book 5
Deuteronomy: concerning God and His Word. Closes with 5 psalms, each beginning and ending with "Hallelujah".

The last 5 psalms may be seen as an echo of the whole of the five books:

The ancient Jewish Sabbath worship incorporated the reading of a portion of the Pentateuch, so that over a 3-year period the whole was covered. A related psalm at the close of each Sabbath service?

It is said that the reading of Gen ended on the 41st Sabbath, Exodus on the 72nd, Lev on the 89th, Num on the 116th, and Deut on the 144th. The 12 extra Sabbaths in a 3-year period [(3 x 52) - 144] were possibly related to the intercalary month (a sort of "leap-year" arrangement by which a 13th month was added periodically to the Jewish calendar). Possible special readings (the final 5 psalms, perhaps) occupied those Sabbaths.

There is then a remarkable association between the Pentateuch and the Psalms, suggesting a plausible reason for the division of the Psalms into 5 books. A reason, also, for the inclusion in the Psalms of almost identical psalms (14 and 53, for example): the same psalm was only very slightly modified for use in 2 different collections.

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