Denise Dombkowski HOPKINS. Psalms Books 2-3. Wisdom Commentary 21. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2016. Pp. 410. $39.95 Hebrew Bible. ISBN 978-0-8146-8120-6. Reviewed by Nicholas R. WERSE, Baylor University, Waco, TX 76706.


Denise Dombkowski Hopkins’s volume on Psalms 42-89 (Books Two-Three) serves as the first published Psalms commentary with the Wisdom Commentary series (the commentaries on Books One, and Four-Five are forthcoming). The Foreword and Editor’s Introduction frames the method and goals of the Wisdom Commentary series as the first complete commentary series on every book of the Bible (including the Apocrypha) from a feminist perspective. The ensuing author’s introduction briefly introduces Hopkins’s intertextual methodology to reading the Psalms from a feminist perspective. Although the Psalmic prayers frequently express the masculine voice, Hopkins reads these Psalms alongside the prayers of fourteen women from the Hebrew Bible and Apocrypha as intertexts. The dialogical space between these intertexts allows for an abundance of possible meanings from which the reader engages in the task of interpretation. Hopkins creatively applies these intertexts along with postcolonial, ideological, and rhetorical methodologies to arrive at insightful theological reflections.

The commentary treats each Psalm individually with minimal attention to the larger collections. This omission was surprising since the Elohistic Psalter (Pss 42-83) forms a prominent part of Books Two and Three. The introduction to Book Two (Pss 42-72) briefly discusses the five book structure of the Psalter. Though labeled an introduction to Book Two, this section serves more as a brief introduction to the scholarly interest in the shape and shaping of the Psalter as a whole.

One of the many strengths of this volume is found in Hopkins’s rhetorical focus on the structures and literary patterns of these psalms. The commentary exposition displays careful attention to form-critical genres of these Psalms. While she recognizes a general macrostructural movement across the Psalter from a “preponderance of laments” to “hymns of praise” (pp.1-2), Hopkins admirably resists the common practice of resolving the Psalter’s laments too quickly by appealing to their common transition to praise. She devotes a nuanced eye toward considering the form and function of juxtaposing various metaphors in these psalms.

Following the Wisdom Commentary series commitment to a “Symphony of Diverse Voices” (p. xxii), this volume incorporates brief sidebar discussions on several topics and texts from eight additional contributors. These contributions complement Hopkins’s commentary admirably. This volume is a welcomed addition to Psalms scholarship, especially for those who approach the biblical text with an eye toward literary-theological reflections.