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Book IV (Psalm 90-106)

Book IV opens with “A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God.” It is the only psalm in the Hebrew Psalter ascribed to Moses. Its words are a plea to God for mercy: “Turn [shub], O YHWH! How long? Change your mind [nakham] concerning your servants” (90:13, my trans.). Moses had asked God to shub and nakham concerning the Israelites during the golden calf incident (Exod. 32:12), and now in Psalm 90 Moses makes the same request of God. Moses’ request forms the crux, the turning point in the story of the Psalter. The Israelites are in exile in Babylon; their heartfelt desire is to return to Jerusalem. God threatened to destroy the people in the wilderness when they crafted an image of gold to worship in place of God; Moses persuaded God to change God’s mind. Perhaps Moses could persuade God once again. The Targum titles Psalm 90 “A prayer of Moses the prophet, when the people Israel sinned in the desert.” Moses is a prominent figure in Book IV of the Psalter, referred to seven times (90:1; 99:6; 103:7; 105:26; 106:16, 23, 32). The only mention of Moses in the Psalms outside of Book IV is in Psalm 77:20…

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