The book of Psalms is an Old Testament book comprised of 150 different psalms. If you were to walk into your church building and pick up a hymn book, you would find a number of songs that are sung during the worship service. This is the hymnbook of the Old Testament times. This is the book that was used for their Jewish temple worship.
When you study Psalms, here are some things to keep in mind.
If you were to open up a Hebrew Bible and turn to the Book of Psalms, you would find the title that reads, “The Book of Praise.” The word “praise” is found 263 times in the Old Testament. More than half of those appearances are found in the book of Psalms. The word “praise” is found more times in the Book of Psalms than in any other book of the Bible.
What is even more fascinating is that more than twenty percent of the word “praise” is found in the last three Psalms. When you study Psalm 148,149, and 150, you will repeatedly read the word “praise.”
If you opened up the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, this book would be called “Poems to be Sung.” When you study Psalms, you are studying an Old Testament book that contains poetry to be sung in praise to God.
The book of Psalms is actually a compilation of five different books. If you look at the beginning of Psalm 1, for example, you will find the words, “Book One.” The division of the five books are as follows:
The book of Psalms can also be divided into three topical categories.
Then you have psalms which contain a combination of these three elements. You might have a song in which the writer is praying to God asking for help for the problems he is facing, and then offers thanksgiving for God taking the problems out of the way.
If you look closer at each psalm, you will notice that most of them begin with a subscript just above the first verse. The subscript is a title or description of the psalm. It is important to be aware that the subscript is not part of the inspired scriptures. These were added most likely by scholar, translators, and scribes, and date all the way back to the 2 century B.C. As scholars were translating or copying the Old Testament Scriptures from one book to another, they would use their knowledge and expertise determine the author, the purpose of the psalm, and even give instructions on how the psalm is to be used.
For example, they may read a psalm and determine that it was written by David. So they would add the words at the beginning of the Psalm, “A Psalm of David.” They might read a psalm and conclude that it was a written about a particular point in history, so they would refer to the historical event in the subscript. Sometimes you will find as a subscript, instructions given to the chief musician. The chief musician would use a Psalm to lead the worship. In doing so, he would find instructions about how to lead it, what kind of instrument to use, or the tune that the Psalm was to be sung to. For example...
Most of the Psalms were written by David. As mentioned above, the scholars are very reliable in their description of the Psalms in the subscripts. Yet they were not inspired and cannot be viewed as infallible.
There is someone who is absolutely reliable in his description of the Psalms. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit directed individuals to quote the psalms. We can know that their descriptions are reliable because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
For example, the apostle Paul was guided by the Holy Spirit when he wrote the following.
This verse is a quote of Psalm 69.22,23, and it says that David was the author.
In Acts 4, you can read about the disciples of Jesus offering a prayer to God, and in that prayer, they quoted a passage from Psalm 2.
In Acts 2, Peter was preaching a beautiful sermon about Jesus, and in this sermon he quotes a passage from the book of Psalms.
In reference to who wrote the book of Psalms, most of them were written by David. All of them were written by the Holy Spirit.
Each of the links below lead to a study of that particular Psalm. Over time, I'll be adding more studies, so check back as more links will become available.