The Book of Psalms
The book of Psalms (the Psalter) takes its English title from the LXX, Psalmoi, the plural of psalmos, which elects a song to be sung to the musical accompaniment of stringed instruments. Psalmos is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “mizmor.”
The book of Psalms was written approximately 1440 – 586 B.C. It is the longest book of the Bible for it includes 150 chapters. The ancient Israelites sung these songs in their worship accompanied by lyres, flutes, horns, and cymbals. The Psalms are beautiful poetry that uses language tools such as imagery, metaphors, personifications, similes, and hyperboles.
Eight names of different men in the superscriptions to the psalms seem to be the names of writers or contributors. The names are: David (Ps. 73), Asaph (Ps. 12), Korah (Ps. 9), Moses (Ps. 1), Heman (Ps. 1), Ethan (Ps. 1), Solomon (Ps. 2), and Jeduthun (Ps. 39).
The book of Psalms is divided to fives sections perhaps based on the books of the Torah. This five-fold division, is shown by the insertion of doxologies and “Amens” at the close of each book, except Book Five, which is a conclusion to the entire book.
Book 1 – Psalms 1-41 – Like Genesis, these Psalms describe the fall of man and God’s redemption.
Book 2 – Psalms 42-72 – Like Exodus, these Psalms describe the destruction of God’s people and His deliverance.
Book 4 – Psalms 90-106 – Like Numbers, these Palms tell of Israel’s relationship with other neighboring nations.
Book 5 – Psalms 107-150 – Like Deuteronomy, these Psalms speak of God and His Holy Word.
Within the body of the Psalms, in addition to the Davidic, Asaphic, and Korahite collections, several other collections appear as minor psalters:
- Psalms 51–72, the Prayers of David the Son of Jesse (Ps. 72:20)
- Psalms 52–55, a collection of maschils
- Psalms 56–60, a collection of michtams
- Psalms 57–59, a collection of al-taschiths
- Psalms 113–118, the Egyptian Hallel used in the Passover ritual
- Psalms 119, a collection of 22 short psalms
- Psalms 120–134, the Songs of Degrees used in pilgrim folk songs
- Psalms 145–150, the final magnificent Hallelujah Chorus
There are different classifications of the psalms according to subject and purpose:
- Messianic. Ps. 2, 22, 69, 72, 110. The Messiah is shown in His Holy character and human descent, in His meekness and glory, in His pain and triumph, in His priestly ministry and royalty, and in the final victory of His eternal kingdom. The NT picture of Christ as Prophet, Priest, Redeemer, and King is forecast in the Psalter.
- Penitential. Ps. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143. David is one of the great confessors in the Bible. He fell into sin, and he publicly forsook it. Of the seven repentant psalms, five are attributed to him, who, when admonished by the prophet’s parable of the ewe lamb, he right away confessed saying, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:1–13).
- Nature. Ps. 8, 19, 29, 104. The works of Nature pointed to God and led the Hebrews to magnify His power as the Creator.
- Historical and National. Ps. 46, 68, 79, 105, 106, 114. The Hebrew psalmists’ loyalty to God was the main point of their patriotism. It was God who gave them the courage in time of national crisis.
- Didactic. Ps. 1, 15, 34, 71. These are the psalms that dealt with moral, ethical, and religious instruction.
- Imprecatory. Ps. 35, 52, 69, 83, 109. These Psalms condemn the enemies of God and their evil against His people.
In His service,