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Significant Compositional Techniques in the Psalms: Evidence for the Use of Number as an Organizing Principle

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image of Vetus Testamentum

This article directs attention to a largely unobserved, and grossly ignored, aspect of the biblical writings in general and of the Psalms in particular: their numerical features. It shall be demonstrated that in composing their texts, the biblical writers used specific numbers as an organizing principle to shape their texts and as a means of imbuing them with symbolic significance. In doing so, they employed a variety of numerical techniques, in which 7 and 11, symbolizing 'fullness' and 'comprehensiveness', play a crucial role as ordering devices. Evidence is adduced to show that the scribes also used the divine name numbers 17 and 26 in various ways to symbolically express God's presence and to give prominence to their texts. Approaching the book of Psalms from this perspective provides us with a new key to unlock and understand the compositional architecture of the psalms and the five books of the Psalter. These claims are substantiated by a discussion of sufficient examples to illustrate that the psalms are interrelated numerical compositions and that the book of Psalms is a sophisticated, meticulously designed work of art, shaped primarily by numerical considerations.

Affiliations: 1: Haren, the Netherlands


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