Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

Studies in the Bible and Antiquity


Daniel Belnap


Within the corpus of psalms in the Hebrew Bible is a group known as the communal laments. Characterized by their use of the first person common plural pronoun, some type of calamity experienced by the community, and a petition to God, these psalms incorporate similar imagery, terminology, and structure. This study explores these psalms and suggests that they relate closely to the Hittite treaty-covenant formula found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, yet differ in that they reflect an ongoing covenantal relationship rather than the establishment of such. Thus, these psalms enphasize Israel's expectation that God, as the senior covenantal party, will fulfill his covenantal obligations if Israel remained worthy. These psalms, therefore, are representative of the unique relationship that Israel had with her God, a relationship reflected in Latter-day Saint theology as well.