Collections of Psalms within the Psalter
It would be clear to any reader that the book of Psalms contains several groupings with common authorship or style, or similar themes. Many translations provide headings for the five major groups as Book 1, Book 2, etc. Within these five books there appears to be other collections such as ‘Songs of Ascent’. It is possible that some or all of these groups of psalms existed independently at some stage and were brought into the book of Psalms in the process of bringing together a larger collection.
The following table may be helpful for understanding the various “collections” within the final form of the “Book of Psalms”. The “Davidic collection” refers to psalms with the title le-David which is discussed elsewhere.
“Elohistic” psalms are those which use the title “elohim” but not the name of God (Psalms which use the divine name are often called “Yahwistic” psalms). It is possible that these psalms were written using the elohim title and never contained the divine name. It is also possible that at some stage an editor decided to replace the divine name with elohim. There is evidence in the Psalter that an ancient editor replaced the divine name in some Psalms with elohim, especially in the group of psalms 42-83. In at least one case both versions (the older “Yahwistic” psalm as well as the edited elohistic one) were kept in the final form of the Psalter. Psalms 14 and 53 are very similar, with the major difference being that Psalm 53 uses elohim while Psalm 14 uses the divine name. Psalm 82 also shows some evidence of having being altered at some stage to remove the divine name. The Elohistic psalms may have been written or compiled for the use of a group within Israel which preferred elohim over the divine name and these collections were later absorbed into the book of Psalms. This editing may have occurred in the period in which Israel began to avoid pronunciation of the divine name. (There are some hints in the book of Daniel that it was also written against a similar background as it shows a preference for adonai over the divine name.)
Structure of the Psalter
|Books (Postexilic division)||Collections||Psalms||Stage of redaction|
|Korahite collection (part of Elohistic collection)||42-49||Later preexilic|
|Asaph collection||78-83||Later preexilic|
|YHVH Enthronement||96-99||Later preexilic|
(Only in Books IV and V)
|Songs of Ascent||120-134||Exilic|
 According to Gerstenberger, Psalms Part 1, 29.