Summary: The book of Psalms connects us to the emotional content of the song writer and the heart of God. In this introduction we talk about how the Psalms is the most unique book in the Bible.
The Book of Psalms is one of the most unique books in the Bible. It was written over a long period of time by a large number of authors. These songs were collected and organized and eventually we get the 150 psalms that we have today. They range from the very long to the very short.
What’s unique about the Psalms?
Largest book of the Bible (just shy of 44,000 words in the NIV)
Most chapters (150)
Longest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 119 at 176 verses)
Shortest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 117 – 2 verses)
More authors (David, Moses, Asaph, sons of Korah, Solomon, Heman, Ethan…)
Longest writing project (900 to 1,000 years)
Most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament (of 360, 112 are Psalms)
More Messianic prophecies, revealing the Son of God (Ps 2), Son of Man (Ps 8), betrayal (Ps 41:9), crucifixion (Ps 22), resurrection (Ps 16), enthronement (Ps 110)
Name of the book
The ancient Hebrews called it: “Praises” from the Hebrew word Tehilim. The word Psalms means “the plucking of strings.” We get the English word from the Greek translation Psalmoi, which means “songs of praise.” It was Israel’s worship songbook; the songs were meant to be sung with musical accompaniment. But a third of the Psalms are prayers, which I think is fitting since we like to call worship “musical prayers to God.”
David, Israel’s second king, wrote 75 of the 150
Asaph wrote 12 (he was a priest and David’s worship leader)
The sons of Korah (a guild of singers and composers) wrote 10 psalms
Solomon wrote 2 psalms (72, 127)
Moses wrote Psalm 90
Heman, founder of the Korahite choir (2 Chr 5:12) was a wise man, musician, and a son of Korah, wrote Psalm 88
Ethan, probably a Levitical singer, wrote Psalm 89
Ezra the priest may have written some of the anonymous psalms.
First Psalm (Psalm 90) written around 1445 BC by Moses shortly after the escape from Egypt
Most written during the reigns of David and Solomon
Last Psalm (126) written during the Babylonian exile (500 to 430 BC)
7 types of Psalms
Wisdom – practical guidelines for godly living (Ps 1, 37, 119)
Royal Psalms – coming Messianic rule (Ps 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 47 …)
Lament Psalms – highly emotional (Ps 3-7, 12-13, 22, 25, 35 …)
Imprecatory Psalms – zeal for God’s glory and judgment (Ps 7, 35, 40, 137 …)
Thanksgiving – deep gratitude for God’s blessings (Ps 8, 18, 19, 111, 150 …)
Pilgrimage Psalms – festive psalms used as Israel travelled to Jerusalem for their annual feasts (Ps 43, 46, 48, 76, 84 …)
Enthronement Psalms – God’s majestic rule over all creation (Ps 48, 93, 96-99)
We need to understand that from first to last, this is a book of poetry—Hebrew poetry at that, so it is very symbolic and follows some poetic structures that we will explain as we go through the book. English poetry relies on meter and word rhyming. Hebrew poetry relies on parallelism and the rhyming of thoughts rather than words.
Divisions of the book
The Psalms is broken up into 5 books (which were themselves smaller collections initially). Some say they correspond with the first five books of the Bible
Book 1: Psalms 1-41: compiled by David or Solomon
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: perhaps 300 years after Book 1 by “men of Hezekiah” who also collected Solomon’s proverbs
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: collected by the “men of Hezekiah” or Josiah (640-609BC)
Book 4: 90 – 106: Added by Ezra
Book 5: 107 – 150: probably added by Ezra when Israel returned to the land after Babylon
Many times when asked for a Scripture reference, people will quote from the Psalms: “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want” from Psalm 23, for instance; “Create in me a clean heart Oh God” (Psalm 51); Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall (Psalm 55:22); You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe (Psalm 61:3) and the list goes on and on.
Why are the Psalms so popular? I think it is because they are so personal. In the books of Samuel we read of mighty King David’s many exploits and battles, but it is in the Psalms that we hear David’s heart crying out to God in weakness and trembling. The Psalms are man’s cry to God, but they are also God’s answer to our cries. That’s why I’ve called this series “Psalms, Songs from God’s Heart” because I believe this book can be a connection point between us and God like few others.
During this series in the Psalms I want us to connect with the emotion of the writers, and place ourselves in their shoes—then listen for the incredible comfort and perspective that God gives us to sooth and challenge and protect.
At times we will go more quickly, but at times we will slow way down to make sure we capture the heart of each verse and the cry of each heart to God.