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Book V

Comprised of Psalms 107-50, the Psalter’s final book appears to have been compiled after Israel’s return from exile. Beginning by affirming God’s unfailing love and faithfulness and calling Israel to thank and praise God for his greatness and love, this book covers a whole range of topics related to the life of faith. It contains a majesterial A-to-Z prayer of someone focused on hearing and obeying God’s word in Psalm 119, plus 15 psalms of ascent, sung by pilgrims to Jerusalem. It includes lament, imprecation, royal, and Zion psalms. However, worship predominates, as the book closes with five psalms of praise that build to a crescendo.

Its compiler(s) organized the Psalter into five books, making it correspond to the five books of Moses’ law. Among other things, this was meant to give the Psalms the same sort of gravity in ancient Israel that the Torah held.

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.