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Book III

Book III is comprised of Psalms 73 through 89. Many of these psalms lament the bitterness of the Israelites’ exile to Babylon in 597 BC and Jerusalem’s destruction in 587. This is the darkest collection of psalms, with Psalms 88 and 89 forming the Book of Psalms’ nadir, the former lamenting individual lostness, the latter of national lostness. Based on the Book of Psalms’ Hebrew word count, Psalm 88 is also the Psalms’ midpoint. So it’s as if the psalmists gradually lead us down into the valley of failure and tragedy and then bring us back up out into the light in Books IV and V.

Psalm 89 is especially significant as it voices the psalmist’s anguished cry that the Davidic covenant has ended in utter failure. But while the Davidic covenant failed in its traditional sense–as all merely human institutions do fail us–Isaiah predicted that “a shoot would grow out of the stump of Jesse” when God would restore his people (Isa. 11:1). And indeed, Books IV and V leave us in no doubt that the failure of David’s dynasty couldn’t stop God from fulfilling his plan to bless all the nations through Abraham’s family (Gen. 12:1-3).

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.