Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

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.


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.