OVERVIEW OF THE PSALMS
The book of Psalms is one of the most widely used books of the Bible. The Greek title of this book means “songs of praises.” It is a collection of 150 sacred songs and poems that was used by the Jews of the OT and they were used by the first century Christians (Eph. 5:19). In fact, many of the songs that are in our song book come this wonderful book.
This book is the longest one in the Bible and it contains the longest chapter, chapter 119 and the shortest chapter, chapter 117. It the most comprehensive book that covers the time period from Moses to the Babylonian captivity and it also includes many prophecies about Christ. It covers all the great topics of the Bible. Psalm 23 is the most well known and loved psalm that describes how the Lord is our Shepherd and we shall not want. The Psalms are not in chorological order or else the oldest Psalm, Ps. 90, which was written by Moses, would be first.
Key Words of this book are: Worship, praise, and prayer.
There are several key verses:
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 8:1 O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
Psalm 8:3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
Psalm 90:1 LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Key Phrase: “For the Lord is good” (Ps. 100:5).
Key Psalm is 119, which is the longest Psalm and just about every verse praises the Word of God.
Authors: Most of the Psalms were written during the 300 year time span from David to Hezekiah, but some span over 1000 years.
The message of Psalms tells us of the majesty of God, the grandeur of His works, and the greatness of His Word. It tells us how powerful our God is and that He is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent (Ps. 139). It tells us that our God is near us and looks out for us and will guide us. He answers our prayers, and He is our redeemer.
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
When a person reads the beautiful words from the book of Psalms, it will produce faith his heart. The Psalms will give you confidence in the power and wisdom of God and it will cause you to have deeper love for Him.
The main theme of this book to is to worship God in prayer and in praise. The Psalms will open your eyes and make you understand mankind’s need to rely on God and that He is our Shepherd and the source of our strength and comfort.
There are five sections to the book of Psalms and each ends with a doxology such as:
Psalm 41:13 Blessed
be the LORD God of
There are different opinions on the time and significance of these five divisions. From the best I can tell:
The first book was complied by Solomon and belongs to the early period of the Jewish monarchy.
The second and third books are historical and devotional Psalms that correspond to the divided kingdom and were probably complied by the men of Hezekiah (Prov. 25:1; 2 Chr. 29:30).
The fourth and fifth books belong to the Babylonian captivity and the return of the Jews during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.
A old Jewish saying says that: “Moses gave the Israelites the five books of the Law; and corresponding with these, David gave them the five books of the Psalms.” Based on this saying, a man by the name of Robert Lee made the following outline and comparison of the five books of Psalms to the five books of the Pentateuch.
Book I (Ps. 1-41) – Corresponds with Genesis. With the exception of four, all were written by David. Subject: Man, his state of blessedness, fall and recovery (8:4; 10:18).
Book II (Ps. 42-72) –
Corresponds with Exodus. Includes 18 written by David. Subject: The nation of
Book III (Ps. 73-89) - Corresponds with Leviticus. It centers in time of Hezekiah. Subject: The Sanctuary, referred to in nearly every psalm of this book.
Book IV (Ps. 90-106) – Corresponds with Numbers. Contains two psalms of David and other psalms in the time of the exile. Subject: The earth, Ps. 90 was written by Moses during the wilderness wanderings.
Book V (Ps. 107-150) – Corresponds with Deuteronomy. Contains 15 of David’s psalms. This section may have been compiled in the time of Nehemiah and Ezra. Subject: The word of God (107:20). This is the theme of Ps. 119, the greatest Psalm.
Out of all of the books in the OT, the book of Psalms is quoted the most in the N.T. Out of the 283 direct quotes from the OT, 116 are from the Psalms. Even Jesus referred more to the book of Psalms than any other OT book. Some verses are quoted several times such as Ps. 110:1, which is quoted in Mat., Mk., Lk., Acts, 1 Cor., and Heb.
Sometime the OT is divided into three areas as seen in:
Luke 24:44 "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."
Those who want to push the use musical instruments will say that that book of Psalms is not part of the Law, therefore we should use musical instrument. We know this is not true for two reasons.
First, the Psalms talk about animal sacrifices in:
Psalm 66:13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows, 14 Which my lips have uttered And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, With the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats.
If we are going to using the instrument in our praise to God, then we also need to make burnt offerings, but we know that burnt offerings were done away with when Christ died on the cross, and passage like these show that the Psalms were part of the Law.
Second, we can know that the book of Psalms was considered as part of the law that was nailed to the cross because Jesus calls it the law in:
John 10:34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, "You are gods" '?
Jesus is talking to the Jews and is referring to their Law. He is quoting from Ps. 82:6. Jesus does this in other passages as well such as Jn. 15:25. So, the Psalms are included as being part of the OT law.
Another thing we learn about the Psalms is that is full of Hebrew poetry. We need to understand that at the heart of Hebrew poetry is parallelism and there are three different types of parallelisms that they use.
1. Synonymous parallelism, in which the thought of two members or lines express the same thought with different words. An example would be:
Psalm 21:2 You have given him his heart's desire,
And have not withheld the request of his lips.
2. Antithetic parallelism, in which the basic thought of the first line is made more clear by contrasting that thought in the second line. An example would be:
Psalm 1:6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
3. Synthetic parallelism, in which the second line explains or adds something the first one. An example would be:
Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
Another interesting technique that is used can be found in Ps. 119. in which the Psalm contains 22 stanzas consisting of 8 verses each. Each of the stanzas represents the Hebrew alphabet in an acrostic pattern. The reason some believe it was written this way was to make it easier for the Jew to memorize it.
The book of Psalms teaches us a lot about God, and there are nine names of God used in this book, but Jehovah and Elohim are the main names used. Some of the things we learn about God is that He is:
The book of Psalms has a lot to say about Jesus.
The book of Psalms also tells us about Jesus’
Manhood Ps. 8:4-5
His Sonship Ps. 2:7
His Deity Ps. 45:6
His holiness Ps. 45:7
His priesthood Ps. 110:4
His kingship Ps. 2:6
His eternity Ps. 61:6-7
His universal sovereignty Ps 72:8; 103:19
His obedience Ps. 40:6-8
His zeal Ps. 69:9
His sufferings Ps. 69:4, 9
His betrayal Ps. 41:9
His death Ps. Ps 22:1-21
His resurrection Ps. 16:10
His ascension Ps. 68:18
As you can see, this wonderful book gives us great insight to God and to the prophecies about Jesus that He fulfilled during the first century.
As I said earlier, the Psalms cover the history of the Jews and they talk about mankind, trust, thanksgiving, and prayer. We should study this book because no other book in Bible teaches us more about the majesty and glory of God or the power and necessity of God’s Word.
From this book, we gain a deeper understanding of God’s mercy, justice, the terrible nature of sin, redemption, forgiveness, worship, and hope. As we read the Psalms, we will also learn a lot about the character of God.
While much more could be said about this wonderful book, I want to end our overview by giving you the seven main subjects in the Psalms.
In conclusion, the book of Psalms is a book that we should be reading as Christians because we can learn a lot about God and ourselves. I encourage you to read this book over the course of the next month and see what treasures you can find that will increase your faith in God.
The majority of this overview was adapted from Frank J. Dunn’s book “Know Your Bible” 192-207. If your looking for excellent book that gives good overview of every book of the Bible Frank’s book is the best one I have found.