Hope for a Davidic king in the Psalter's utopian vision

  • S. D. Ellison

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Despite increasing scholarly consensus that the Psalter is a carefully organised collection, there remains debate concerning the message of such a collection. This dissertation seeks to further refine the scholarly discussion concerning the shape of the Psalter, specifically by addressing the issue of its message. The message of the Psalter is one of hope: the narrative impulse sustains expectations of a better future by assuring the Psalter’s reader that one day Zion will be glorified, enemies will be vanquished and the Davidic dynasty will endure with the arrival of a new Davidic king.

The work of two scholars in particular continue to dominate the landscape of Psalter studies: Gerald H. Wilson and David C. Mitchell. In this dissertation Wilson’s work is developed by outlining more fully the evidence that the Psalter is a carefully organised collection, and arguing that this narrative trajectory may be detected across all five books of the Psalter. Mitchell’s work is refined by recognising the forward-looking impetus of the Psalter but arguing that this is best described using the category of utopian hope rather than eschatological expectation. In order to advance the scholarly conversation, the dissertation carefully examines two key psalms in Book Five (110; 132) and then details the way in which these psalms contribute to the Psalter’s narrative impulse. Subsequently, it is demonstrated that the Psalter maintains a keen interest in the Davidic dynasty, thus keeping it before the reader.

The reading of the Psalter advocated in this dissertation defends the claim that the Psalter encourages its reader to hope for a new Davidic king. It clarifies that this king will usher in a kingdom of peace by vanquishing all enemies and thus rule from Zion transformed. The utopian hope of the Psalter’s narrative impulse is not a return to what once was, but an encouragement to remain confident that YHWH will realise all of his promises in a new era of blessing to follow the exile.

Thesis embargoed until 31st December 2029
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorThomas Alexander (Supervisor)


  • Psalter
  • Davidic kingship
  • utopian hope
  • Psalms
  • Gerald H. Wilson
  • David C. Mitchell
  • Psalm 110
  • Psalm 132
  • narrative impulse

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