Psalms For Life
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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).


Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH or YHVH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and sometimes transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Likewise, all modern translations either translate or transliterate it. Some other options for translating it are “the Eternal,” “the Almighty,” or “the Sovereign Lord.”

While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it seems to me more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. This roots it more firmly in the biblical story as the name God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Meaning “the self-existent One who answers to no one,” the name YHWH 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. I’ve chosen to transliterate only YHWH’s consonants since the earliest Hebrew manuscripts contain only consonants, the vowels being added much later. My aim in doing so is to honor God’s name and set it apart, as unique.

One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it out of reverence. (They read Adonai instead whenever they come to YHWH in the text.) I take the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard, who advocated pronouncing it as Yahveh (Yah·vay). He favored that over the standard Yahweh since the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish. It also makes it sound more robust, period.

Finding strength in the ancient psalms

May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.