The Nations in the Psalms

Author:  Prof Gordon Wenham is Tutor in Old Testament at Trinity College, Bristol.


When I blithely accepted the invitation to give this lecture, I thought it would be quite an easy topic to speak about. All you need to do is to look up the mention of nations or peoples in the Psalter, then put the passages in some sort of logical order to build up a composite picture of the nations as they are depicted in the Psalms. But as I read the psalms with this in mind and what some others have written on the topic I realised there were problems I had not thought of. The nations are discussed even when the term is not used. Sometimes specific nations are mentioned, such as Egypt, Edom or Babylon. Or their leaders are mentioned, their kings, who represent the nations. Some psalms, e.g. 100, which on the face of it appear to be addressed to Israel alone, have been seen to addressing all the nations, e.g. Ps 100:1 ‘Make a joyful noise all the earth!’. Other scholars have argued that the Psalms should be read eschatologically and present a programme for future of Israel and the nations. These are some of the issues that are raised by this topic…

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