Book Review: “Psalms,” by James M. Hamilton, Jr.

Book Review: “Psalms,” by James M. Hamilton, Jr.

Written by S.D. Ellison |
Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Hamilton has produced a landmark commentary on the Psalms. It is by no means the last word, but by placing each psalm in its canonical context Hamilton is introducing the wider Christian community into the conversation concerning the Psalter’s shape. Indeed, Hamilton models what preaching the Psalms in their canonical context might look like.

Having completed doctoral work on the Psalter, I am frequently asked to recommend a “go-to” commentary on the Psalms. My answer changes frequently and always carries qualifications. Kidner is Christ-centered but too brief (Psalms, TOTC 15–16 [London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973–1975]. Goldingay is detailed but too reticent to acknowledge messianic impetus (Psalms, BCOTWP [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006–2008]). VanGemeren provides a quality one-volume commentary but is too keen to identify chiasms (Psalms, revised ed., EBC [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008]). deClaissé-Walford, Jacobson and Tanner are helpfully provocative but too frequently suggest emending the MT (Psalms, NICOT [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015]). Hamilton, however, offers a fresh treatment of the Psalms that maximizes all that is good about the above and minimizes—for the most part—all that is not. This is now the commentary I will recommend.

Lexham’s Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary series endeavors to locate each biblical book within redemptive history and illuminate its unique theological contribution. It claims that the primary contribution of each volume is a “thorough discussion of the most important themes of the biblical book in relation to the canon as a whole” (p. xxvii). Hamilton ably accomplishes this aim. He summarizes the whole commentary this way:

Every individual psalm is a masterpiece, and these individual treasures have been carefully arranged to resonate in relationship to one another, to harmonize when heard together, to echo when their architecture is considered, to reprise and retell as they prophesy and prefigure, and the symphony not only makes its own incomparable music, it sings the story of the rest of the Scriptures as well. (p. xxix)

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