Review: Shalom in Psalms

shalom in psalms

Shalom in Psalms, Jeffrey Seif, Glenn Blank, and Paul Wilbur. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017.

Summary: A devotional based on the Tree of Life Version (TLV) of the Bible, a Messianic Jewish translation of scripture.

The Psalms, or the Tehillim, have been the prayer and worship book of God’s people for thousands of years, extending before the Christian era, at very least to their post-exilic collection, and in some form, back to the temple or even tabernacle worship of King David. They have been memorized by children, set to music numerous times, used in liturgy, prayed corporately, and devotionally, giving words and voice to the deepest longings and experiences of the human heart.

This book is a new entry into a long history of devotional literature centered around the Psalms. What singles this out from others is that it is based on a new translation of the Bible, the Tree of Life Version (TLV). It includes the text of all 150 Psalms and devotional readings written by the three authors, including two of the editors of the TLV (Seif and Blank), and a career musician (Wilbur). All three are messianic Jewish Christians and the vision of this translation is to provide a Jewish-friendly translation of the Bible. This includes reverence for the four-letter unspoken name of God, always translated in this version as Adonai, transliteration of Hebrew terms like shalom, kedoshim, and shofar, speaking of Messiah as Yeshua. I understand that the whole Bible also follows the Jewish ordering of the books.

It is interesting how this is applied with the Psalms. The superscriptions at the beginning of many of the Psalms are included in the verse numberings. This can cause some confusion if this version is cited, probably requiring parenthetical citations of the standard version verses where they differ. The Psalms follow the Hebrew or Masoretic text numbering of the Psalms (followed by Protestant and modern Catholic versions) rather than the Greek Septuagint (followed by the Eastern Orthodox).

Here is a comparison of Psalm 8 in TLV and NIV translations:

Psalm 8

For the music director, upon the Gittite lyre: a psalm of David.
Adonai our Lord,
    how excellent is Your Name over all the earth!
You set Your splendor above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babies and toddlers
You established power, because of Your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You established—
what is man, that You are mindful of him?
And the son of man, that You care for him?
Yet You made him a little lower than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and majesty!
You gave him dominion over the works of Your hands.
You put all things under their feet:
all sheep and oxen,
and also beasts of the field,
birds in the air, and fish in the ocean—
all passing through the paths of the seas.

10 Adonai our Lord, how excellent is Your Name over all the earth!

Tree of Life Version (TLV)

Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society. Used by permission.

Psalm 8

For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Apart from the transliterations and use of Adonai and the verse variations, I found the translation generally tracks closely with standard translations.


The devotional readings vary depending on the authors. Those by Jeffrey Seif and Glenn Blank tend to be a bit more commentary including Jewish backgrounds of the text as well as good personal application. The latter is also true of Paul Wilbur’s contributions but he brings in much more of his experience of setting these works to music and references some of these efforts, most of which were unfamiliar to me. Except for very long Psalms, most are two to three paragraphs in length.

This book is a good devotional resource for someone who wants to get more of a Jewish perspective on the Psalms. It is also a good introduction to the Tree of Life Version for those considering purchasing the whole Bible in this translation. This seems especially to be a devotional resource that might be deeply appreciated by someone in a messianic Jewish congregation. It reminded me that when I read and pray the Psalms, I join a line of people extending back far before the Christian era who lamented, struggled with enemies from without and their own sins within, cried out for deliverance, and celebrated the God who heard them.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.