The Book of Psalms is a collection of psalms written by various people.
One possible suggestion of the authorship of the various Psalms is as follows:
- David-#73 (3-9; 11-32; 34-41; 65; 68-70; 86; 101; 103; 108-110; 122; 124; 131; 133; 138-145);
- Moses-#1 (90);
- Solomon-#2 (92; 127);
- Asaph (David’s choir leader at Jerusalem)-#12 (50; 73-83);
- Sons of Korah (family of official musicians)-#10 (42; 44-49; 84-85; 87);
- Heman-#1 (88);
- Ethan-#1 (89);
Some of the Anonymous Psalms may, it is thought, be ascribed to the Author of the Preceding Psalm. David, no doubt, was the Author of some of the Anonymous Psalms.
The Titles are not a certain indication of Authorship; for “of,” “to,” and “for,” are the same preposition in Hebrew. A Psalm “of” David may have been one that he himself wrote, or that was written “for” David, or dedicated “to” David.
However, the Titles are very Ancient, and the most natural presumption is that they indicate Authorship. The age-old, universal and unbroken tradition is that David was the Principal Author of the Psalms…
So, we speak of the Psalms as the Psalms of David, because he was the principal writer, or compiler. It is generally accepted that a few were in existence before David’s time, forming the nucleus of a Hymnal for Worship. This was greatly enlarged by David, added to generation to generation, and, it is thought, brought to completion in its present form by Ezra.
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, pp. 245-246
Time written & time covered in history:
The Psalms thus collected into a book are by no means the production of one poet or one age. They stretch through a long period of Jewish history, certainly from the time of Moses to the time of the return from the captivity of Babylon, and probably later, and they are modified by all the varieties incident to the peculiarities of their respective authors; to individual and national history; to the times in which they were composed.
Barnes Notes on the Old and New Testaments, Psalms vol. 1, p. x, Albert Barnes
The Hebrew title of the book is “Praise,” or the “Book of Praises,” which indicates that the main contents of the book are praise, prayer, and worship. The name Psalms comes from the Greek (which means: “songs to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument”). We find that the early Christian fathers called it the Psalter.
The Psalms is the national hymnbook of Israel. It contains 150 poems to be set to music for worship. Worship is the central idea…
There are numerous quotations from this book in the New Testament. At least twenty of these are in direct reference to Christ and His life and death.
What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Meirs, pp. 187, 188
The word Psalms, as applied to the collection, we have derived from the Greek translation, the word psalmos, in the plural psalmoi. This word is derived from…psallo, to touch, to twitch, to pluck—as the hair or beard; and then, to touch or twitch a string, to twang, that is, to cause it to vibrate by touching or twitching it with the finger or with a plectrum…--an instrument for striking the strings of a lyre, as a quill…Hence the word is applied to instruments of music employed in praise, and then to acts of praise in general. The noun—…psalmos—psalm, means properly a touching, twang, as of a bowstring, or of stringed instruments; then a song, as accompanying stringed instruments; and then specifically a psalm or song of praise to God….
Barnes Notes on the Old and New Testaments, Psalms vol. 1, pp. ix-x, Albert Barnes
119 is the Longest Psalm, also Longest Chapter in the Bible. 117 is Shortest Psalm, also Shortest, and Middle, Chapter of Bible. Psalm 118:8 is the Middle Verse of the Bible.
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, p. 248
Nature of Hebrew Poetry
Unlike much Western poetry, Hebrew poetry is not based on rhyme or meter, but on rhythm and parallelism. The rhythm is not achieved by balanced numbers of accented and unaccented syllables, but by tonal stressor accent on important words.
In parallelism, the poet states an idea in the first line, then reinforces it by various means in the succeeding line or lines. The most common type is synonymous parallelism, in which the second line essentially repeats the idea of the first (Psalm 3:1). In antithetic parallelism, the second line contains an idea opposite to that in the first (Psalm 1:6). In synthetic parallelism, the second or succeeding lines add to or develop the idea of the first (Psalm 1:1-2). In emblematic parallelism, the second line elevates the thought of the first, often by using a simile (Psalm 42:1). Parallelism is not restricted to two lines, but may extend to strophes (smaller units of a few lines) and stanzas (longer UI1its). The alphabetical acrostic is also used (Psalm 119; Introduction to Lamentations).
The Ryrie Study Bible, Introduction to the Book of Psalms, p. 798
Praise is the highest duty that any creature can discharge. Man’s chief end is to glorify God. There is no heaven either here or in the world to come for people who do not praise God. If you do not enter into the spirit and worship of heaven, the spirit and joy of heaven cannot enter you!
The Psalms begin with the word “blessed.” The word is multiplied in this book. (Bless, blessed, blessing are used 99 times-NASV) The books seems to be built around this first word. There is not one “woe” in the entire Psalms.
What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Meirs, pp. 193-194
Many subjects are covered in the Psalms. These are the major types:
- INSTRUCTION OR DIDACTIC-Psalms 1,5,7,15,50,73,94,101.
- HISTORY-Psalms 78,105,106,136.
- PRAISE-Psalms 106,111-113,115-117,135,146-150.
- CONFESSION-Psalms 6,32,38,51,102,130,143.
- SUPPLICATION-Psalm 86
- THANKSGIVING-Psalms 16,18
- MESSIANIC-Psalms 2,8,16,20,21,22-24,31,35,40,41, 50,55,61,68,69,72,89,96-98,102,109,110,118,132
- ACROSTIC-Psalms 9,10,25,34,37,111,112,119,145
- ASCENT-Psalms 120-134
- IMPRECATORY (means to call down harm)-Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, 139) Invoke judgment or curses on one's enemies perplex many. Consider, however, that the purposes of these imprecations are (1) to demonstrate God's just and righteous judgment toward the wicked (58:11); (2) to show the authority of God over the wicked (59:13); (3) to lead the wicked to seek the Lord (83:16); (4) to cause the righteous to praise God (7:17). Therefore, out of zeal for God and abhorrence of sin, the psalmist calls on God to punish the wicked and to vindicate His righteousness.
Additional Information about the Book of Psalms:
The Psalms were Written to be Sung
- Moses Sang, and taught the People to Sing (Exod. 15; Deut. 32).
- Israel Sang along the Journey to the Promised Land (Num. 21: 17).
- Deborah and Barak Sang praise to God (Judges 5). David Sang with All His Heart (Psalm 104: 33).
- Hezekiah's Singers Sang the Words of David (II Chron. 29:28-30).
- Nehemiah's Singers Sang Loud (Nehemiah 12:42).
- Jesus and the Disciples Sang at the Last Supper (Matthew 26: 30).
- Paul and Silas Sang in Prison (Acts 16: 25).
- At the dawn of Creation "The morning stars Sang Together, and all the Sons of God Shouted for Joy" (Job 38:7).
- In Heaven 10,000 times 10,000 Angels Sing, and the Whole Redeemed Creation joins in the Chorus (Revelation 5:11-13). In Heaven Everybody will Sing, and Never Tire of Singing.
Liturgical and Musical Titles
The meaning of some of the Titles is not certain. They are very ancient, being prior to the Septuagint. Here is an alphabetic list of these Titles, with their possible meanings.
- Aije-lcth-Shahar (Psalm 22): Time Note? Or, Name of Melody?
- Alamoth (Psalm 46): Chorus of Young Women?
- Al-tash-hith (Psalms 57, 58, 59, 75): Destroy Not.
- Gittith (Psalms 8, 81, 84): Musical Instrument, or Melody, of Gath.
- Hig-gai-on (Psalm 9: 16): A Meditation? Or, Interlude?
- Je-du-thun (Psalms 39, 62, 77): One of David's Music Leaders.
- Jonath-elem-rechokim (Psalm 56): Name of a Melody?
- Ma-ha-lath (Psalm 53): A Melancholy Tune?
- Ma-ha-Iath-Lean-noth (Psalm 88): A Song for Sickness.
- Mas-chil (Psalm 32), and other Psalms: Didactic or Reflective.
- Mich-tam (Psalms 16, 56-60): A Jewel, or Golden Poem?
- Muth-lab-ben (Psalm 9): Probably the Name of a Melody?
- Negi-noth (Psalms 4, 6, 61): A Stringed Instrument.
- Ne-hil-oth (Psalm 5): Probably a Flute?
- Selah (Psalm 3:2): 71 times: Probably an Interlude?
- Shem-in-ith (Psalms 6, 12): Probably a Male Choir?
- Shig-gai-on (Psalm 7): Wild and Mournful Melody?
- Sho-shan-nim (Psalms 45, 69, 80): Lilies: Bridal-Song?
- Shu-shan-eduth (Psalms 60, 80): Lily of Testimony: A Melody?
- For the Chief Musician: Heading of 55 Psalms.
They had Stringed Instruments, mainly the Harp and Psaltery: and Wind Instruments, Flute, Pipe, Horn, Trumpet: and Instruments to be Beaten, Timbrel and Cymbal. David had an Orchestra of 4,000, for which he made the Instruments (1 Chronicles 23: 5).
Leading Ideas in the Psalms
- "Trust" is the foremost idea in all the book, repeated over and over.
- Whatever the occasion, joyous or terrifying, it drove David straight to God. Whatever his weaknesses, David literally LIVED IN GOD.
- "Praise" was always on his lips. David was always Asking God for something, and always Thanking Him with his whole soul for tilt' answers to his Prayers.
- "Rejoice" is another favorite word. David's unceasing troubles could never dim his Joy in God. Over and over he cries, "Sing," "Shout for Joy." Psalms is a book of Devotion to God.
- "Mercy" occurs hundreds of times. David often spoke of the Justice, Righteousness and Wrath of God. But God's Mercy was the thing in which he Gloried.
Many Psalms, written a thousand years before Christ, contain references to Christ, that are wholly inapplicable to Any Other Per son in history. Some references to David seem to point forward to the Coming King in David's Family. Besides passages that are clearly Messianic, there are many expressions which seem to be veiled Fore-shadowings of the Messiah.
Psalms most obviously Messianic are:
Psalm 2: Deity and Universal Reign of the Messiah.
Psalm 8: Man through Messiah to become Lord of Creation.
Psalm 16: His Resurrection: from the Dead.
Psalm 22: His Suffering: Psalm 69: His Suffering.
Psalm 45: His Royal Bride, and Eternal Throne.
Psalm 72: Glory and Eternity of His Reign.
Psalm 89: God's Oath for Endlessness of Messiah's Throne.
Psalm 110: Eternal King and Priest.
Psalm 118: To be Rejected by His Nation's Leaders.
Psalm 132: Eternal Inheritor of David's Throne.
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, pp. 248-250
Titles of the Psalms:
A single, individual Psalm is referred to as a “Psalm”…while a group of two or more Psalms is referred to in the plural, “Psalms”. For example: “Psalm 4 expresses David’s trust in God.” And, “The book of Psalms offers great encouragement.” Or, “Psalms 2, 8, and 16 are Messianic Psalms.”
All but 34 of the Psalms have titles or superscriptions which normally compromise the first verse of the Hebrew text. These are editorial titles that were added later, some time after the Psalms were originally written. While they are not original to the Psalm, they are historically accurate and provide helpful context for both interpretation and application. For instance, the following words comprise the editorial title, or explanation of Psalm 3: “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son”.
The 150 Psalms were divided into five divisions from the time of Ezra. The “Midrashim” meaning “interpretation” was the “commentary” of that day, explaining the Scriptures. The Midrash, or Jewish Comment, on the first Psalm states, “Moses gave to the Israelites the five Books of the Law, and as a counterpart to these, David gave the Psalms which consists of five Books.” It is the “fivefold Book of the Congregation to Jehovah, as the Pentateuch is the fivefold Book of Jehovah to the Congregation.”
Through the Bible in One Year, Dr. Alan B. Stringfellow, pp. 68-69
This book is not named in the O.T. The Jews referred to it as "The Book of Praises," while the Septuagint entitled it, "The Book of Psalms" (from a Greek word indicating songs sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments). The book was the hymnal of the Jewish people. The majority were written during the times of David and Solomon (10th century B.C.). The psalms are divided into 5 books, each ending with a doxology.
Book #1: 1-41
Book #2: 42-72
Book #3: 73-89
Book #4: 90-106
Book #5: 107-150
Book #1: 1-41
Psalm 1:1-3-A man who diligently seeks God through His law and does not follow the direction of the wicked, the sinners, or the scoffers, is blessed. He will be like a tree whose roots are securely planted in good soil, that produces fruit, that never lacks for nourishment, and he is successful in his endeavors.
Psalm 1:4-6-On the other hand, the wicked have no firm footing and are easily uprooted and disturbed. They will not have any excuse when they stand before God, and will not be in the company of the righteous. The LORD knows their actions and it leads to death.
This is called a “royal psalm” because its theme is the supreme King of kings. Other psalms do the same thing (18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, 144).
Psalm 2:1-3-The nations of the world stand in opposition to God and His Anointed King.
Psalm 2:4-6-God laughs at their vain efforts and declares that He has determined that the one that He has installed shall rule.
Psalm 2:7-12-The anointed King speaks here and says that God had told Him, "Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee" (:7). God says that His Anointed King will rule over all other kings. Notice that God gives His Anointed King a name by which to rule (:7), a kingdom to rule over (:8), and power through which to rule (:9). In response, the kings of the earth are told to "Worship the LORD with reverence...Do homage to the Son..." (:11,12).
Psalm 3:1-In this psalm of lament, David is encouraged by God’s protection when his son, Absalom, rebels against him. David cries out to God about those who are attacking him (:1-2,4). But God is a shield of protection for him (:3). Consequently, he will sleep well and not be afraid (:5-6). He calls upon God to save him from his enemies (:7-8).
Lament. †A general term encompassing various literary forms whereby the speaker appeals to God for aid in overcoming present calamity.
The designation lament is perhaps best associated with the dirge (Heb. qînâ, from its metric form), a funeral song bewailing the loss (generally introduced by the question ˒êḵâ “How …?”; cf. 2 Sam. 1:19–27; Lam. 1–2, 4), recounting the attributes of the deceased, and inviting further mourning (e.g., 2 Sam. 1:19–27; Ezek. 19:2–14). Often accompanied by music, the dirge was sung by friends and family (e.g., 2 Sam. 1:17) or by professional mourners (e.g., Jer. 9:17). The form was adapted by the prophets, who applied it to the fall of mighty rulers (e.g., Isa. 14:4–21) and nations (e.g., Ezek. 27:32–36).
More frequently form critics label as lament the “complaint,” wherein an individual (e.g., Job 3; Pss. 5, 7, 38, 140–143) or group (e.g., Pss. 44, 74, 79; Jer. 14:1–15:4) voice distress and implore God’s deliverance. The book of Lamentations contains both the individual (ch. 3) and communal (ch. 5) forms.
Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (p. 638). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmansk, Logos Bible Software
Prayer: Lord, I want to be a man who delights in You. Plant me deep and let the roots of my faith find firm ground in You. Help the testimony of my life to bring praise and glory to You.