Answering the Psalmist's Perplexity: New-Covenant Newness in the Book of Psalms, By James Hely Hutchinson alt

Answering the Psalmist's Perplexity

New-Covenant Newness in the Book of Psalms

New Studies in Biblical Theology


by James Hely Hutchinson
Series edited by D. A. Carson and Benjamin L. Gladd

Answering the Psalmist's Perplexity
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Published: January 09, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0887
  • ISBN: 9781514008874

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"Give thanks to YHWH, for he is good, for his covenant faithfulness endures for ever" (Ps 136:1).

There are now numerous models that seek to explain how the biblical covenants relate to one another. In an attempt to evaluate these models, James Hely Hutchinson mines the rich seams of the book of Psalms in this New Studies in Biblical Theology volume.

After covering the key data on covenant relationships in Books 1–3 of the psalter, Hutchinson considers the perplexity expressed in the pivotal Psalm 89: in the face of the exile, the promises to David appear to be null and void. The building blocks of the solution lie with the first five books of the Bible, chiefly with the inviolable character of the promises to Abraham. However, if the Abrahamic covenant is to reach fulfilment, the problem of sin must be dealt with once and for all, and a glorious new-covenant regime must be established in which a host of covenants converge in their fulfilment. Central to this regime, which lies beyond the exile, is the eternal rule of David's superior, righteous seed and son who is also a perpetual priest and a suffering servant.

Identifying new-covenant newness as "eschatological satisfaction (fulfilment)" and "transcendent inauguration," Hutchinson tackles a range of matters that contribute to our understanding of the contours of redemptive history, with the overall aim to enhance readers' grasp of God's breathtaking salvation plan, ability to handle Scripture aright, and worship of the Master.

Addressing key issues in biblical theology, the works comprising New Studies in Biblical Theology are creative attempts to help Christians better understand their Bibles. The NSBT series is edited by D. A. Carson and Benjamin L. Gladd, aiming to simultaneously instruct and to edify, to interact with current scholarship and to point the way ahead.

"James Hely Hutchinson carefully traces the place of the biblical covenants within the book of Psalms, demonstrating both their importance for the canonical shape of the book and also why this matters for us today. Widely read and closely attentive to the text, this is a vital treatment of this important topic."

David G. Firth, Trinity College Bristol

"My resonance with this book is deep and wide, methodological and exegetical. James Hely Hutchinson serves as a sure-footed guide (in English! at your desk!) through the highest mountain passes of the Psalter: its editorial arrangement, its contribution to our understanding of the covenants, and its typological presentation of the coming King. Here is a book whose author has meditatively studied the Psalms, and reading this book is the next best thing to undertaking exegesis through the Psalter with him in class. So if you can't get to Belgium to take his class in French, avail yourself of what he has provided for you in this book."

James M. Hamilton, professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky

"James Hely Hutchinson has dared to address some large, perpetually debated questions about the relationships between the biblical covenants through a new lens: the book of Psalms. In a creative interweaving of the messages of the different parts of the Psalter, understanding the Psalter as a unified collection in its final form, he shows how the major covenants—Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Levitical, Davidic, and new covenants—are addressed in the book of Psalms. He also highlights the continuities, discontinuities, and complementary elements among them. An intriguing read that I recommend with pleasure."

David M. Howard Jr., professor of Old Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota

"In this fascinating study, James Hely Hutchinson deftly and meticulously explores several key issues within a single volume. Not only does he present a robust, holistic interpretation of the Psalter but he also demonstrates how the relationship between various divine-human covenants informs and is informed by the Psalter's arrangement. As such, this is a must-read for all those interested in the Psalter's biblical-theological significance or the contrasting theological systems in which the relationship between various divine covenants is of key importance."

Paul R. Williamson, lecturer in Old Testament, Hebrew, and Aramaic at Moore College, Sydney

"Here is an up-to-date, broad-sweeping engagement with the book of Psalms and its contribution to the question of the relationship between the different biblical covenants. The reader finds here innovative interaction between Psalm 89 and the Psalter in its totality, set in the context of biblical theology and working with sound exegesis. Many studies dealing with editorial criticism on the Psalter have been published in the past few decades. This one not only carefully locates the discussion in the Psalter itself but also includes insights from the different covenants progressively revealed in Scripture. Answering the Psalmist's Perplexity is a refreshing and challenging study, and it is also a model of biblical theology."

Pierre Constant, chair of New Testament studies at Toronto Baptist Seminary

"In this book, James Hely Hutchinson offers an outstanding model for studies on biblical theology, exemplifying careful biblical exegesis and showing awareness of relevant scholarly issues involved, but also keeping in view the whole story line of the Bible. He carefully traces from the book of Psalms how, even in the Old Testament, all the biblical covenants point beyond themselves to something new, bigger, and better in fulfillment of the new covenant. Both pastors and students will benefit from the perceptively laid out argument of this book. It will be an invaluable source of information for years to come on covenant theology discussions and Psalms study."

Ma'afu Palu, director of Graphe Bible College, Sydney, and senior pastor of Tongan Evangelical Wesleyan Church

"Answering the Psalmist's Perplexity stands as an indispensable resource for scholars delving into the Psalter, providing clarity on its relationship with biblical covenants, particularly the new covenant. James Hely Hutchinson's meticulous analysis of the psalms' composition unravels the enigma that the psalmist ponders, shedding light on God's unwavering covenant faithfulness. In this scholarly work, Hely Hutchinson's insights not only enhance our understanding of the Psalter but also contribute to a deeper grasp of its pivotal role within the broader scope of redemptive history."

Angie Velasquez Thornton, director of women's ministry with SOLA (The Gospel Coalition, Quebec)

"James Hely Hutchinson has spent more than two decades studying the arrangement of the psalms in the Psalter. His book provides a compelling account of the way in which this arrangement reflects God's salvation plan. By analyzing the relationships between the different covenants mentioned across the Psalter, Hely Hutchinson provides fascinating insights into the way that the psalms work as a collection to give hope for the future ideal Davidic king who will bless and be blessed by a new-covenant people from all nations. He also explains and evaluates a spectrum of seven different positions on covenant relationships and irenically charts a way forward in the light of his findings in the Psalter. His book richly rewards careful reading."

Anthony R. Petterson, lecturer in Old Testament and biblical Hebrew at Morling College, Sydney

Read an Excerpt


Series preface
Author’s preface

1. This study’s viability and method
2. The covenant-relationships spectrum
3. Scene-setting for the psalmist’s perplexity (Psalms 1–89)
4. The building blocks of the answer in book 4
5. The outworking of the answer in book 5
6. The law and the new-covenant believer’s ethical life
7. Summary and conclusions

Appendix 1: Hierarchy of key indicators of Psalter shape/shaping
Appendix 2: A second example of ambiguity between YHWH and his king in a prophecy concerning the new covenant
Appendix 3: Second possible explanation of the relationship between Psalm 106 and 1 Chronicles 16
Appendix 4: Meaning of ‘Of David’ after Psalm 72:20
Appendix 5: Referent of the first-person plural in Psalm 117:2


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