The Book of Psalms

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.

The Purpose of the Book of Psalms

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 Components of the Book of Psalms

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:

  • Book One:  Psalms 1-41.
  • Book Two:  Psalm 42-72
  • Book Three:  Psalm 73-89
  • Book Four:  Psalm 90-106
  • Book Five:  Psalm 107-150

The book of Psalms can also be divided into three topical categories.

  • Psalms of Problems:  There are some psalms in which the inspired writer is expressing his pain and sorrow because of the problems that have come into his life.
  • Psalms of Prayer:   There are some psalms in which the inspired writer is offering a prayer to God, and this is a prayer that is put to music in the form of a psalm.
  • Psalms of Praise:  There are some psalms where the writer sings about all the wonderful things that God has done and all the wonderful characteristics of God.  

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...

Psalm 3:  "A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son."

Psalm 4:  "To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Psalm of David."

Psalm 22:  “To the Chief Musician. Set to  'The Deer of the Dawn.'  A Psalm of David."

Psalm 100:  “A Psalm of Thanksgiving”

The Author of the Book of Psalms

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.  

Romans 11.9:  “And David says:  ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them.'"

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.  

Acts 4.24,25:  “So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:  'Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things?’” 

In Acts 2, Peter was preaching a beautiful sermon about Jesus, and in this sermon he quotes a passage from the book of Psalms.  

Acts 1.16-20:  “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus…For it is written in the Book of Psalms:  ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, And let no one live in it’; and, ‘Let another take his office.’” 

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.  

Studying the Book of Psalms

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.

Psalm 31

Psalm 61

Psalm 91

Psalm 121

Psalm 32

Psalm 62

Psalm 92

Psalm 122

Psalm 3

Psalm 33

Psalm 63

Psalm 93

Psalm 123

Psalm 4

Psalm 34

Psalm 64

Psalm 94

Psalm 124

Psalm 5

Psalm 35

Psalm 65

Psalm 95

Psalm 125

Psalm 6

Psalm 36

Psalm 66

Psalm 96

Psalm 126

Psalm 7

Psalm 37

Psalm 67

Psalm 97

Psalm 127

Psalm 8

Psalm 38

Psalm 68

Psalm 98

Psalm 128

Psalm 9

Psalm 39

Psalm 69

Psalm 99

Psalm 129

Psalm 10

Psalm 40

Psalm 70

Psalm 130

Psalm 11

Psalm 41

Psalm 71

Psalm 101

Psalm 131

Psalm 12

Psalm 42

Psalm 72

Psalm 102

Psalm 132

Psalm 43

Psalm 73

Psalm 103

Psalm 133

Psalm 14

Psalm 44

Psalm 74

Psalm 104

Psalm 134

Psalm 15

Psalm 45

Psalm 75

Psalm 105

Psalm 135

Psalm 16

Psalm 46

Psalm 76

Psalm 106

Psalm 136

Psalm 17

Psalm 47

Psalm 77

Psalm 107

Psalm 137

Psalm 18

Psalm 48

Psalm 108

Psalm 138

Psalm 49

Psalm 79

Psalm 109

Psalm 139

Psalm 20

Psalm 50

Psalm 80

Psalm 110

Psalm 140

Psalm 21

Psalm 51

Psalm 81

Psalm 111

Psalm 141

Psalm 52

Psalm 82

Psalm 112

Psalm 142

Psalm 53

Psalm 83

Psalm 113

Psalm 143

Psalm 24

Psalm 54

Psalm 84

Psalm 114

Psalm 144

Psalm 25

Psalm 55

Psalm 85

Psalm 115

Psalm 145

Psalm 26

Psalm 56

Psalm 86

Psalm 116

Psalm 146

Psalm 27

Psalm 57

Psalm 87

Psalm 117

Psalm 147

Psalm 28

Psalm 58

Psalm 88

Psalm 118

Psalm 148

Psalm 29

Psalm 59

Psalm 89

Psalm 119

Psalm 149

Psalm 30

Psalm 60

Psalm 90

Psalm 120

Psalm 150

> > The Book of Psalms

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