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Summary: The Study Of Psalms: The Songbook Of The Old Testament

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The Study Of Psalms: The Songbook Of The Old Testament

2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV)

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

The book of Psalms is the best known and most loved part of the Old Testament. It has been a source of comfort to millions of Bible readers for three thousand years. The name for Psalms in the Hebrew Bible is “Tehillim” which means “praise.” Our English word “psalms” comes from the Greek word “psalmoi” which originally meant a song or poem sung with instrumental accompaniment. By New Testament times, however, the word simply meant to “sing a hymn; to celebrate the praises of God in song” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, page 675).

The Jews often divided the Old Testament into three sections:

1. the Law, which included the first five books;

2. the Psalms which included all the books of poetry and wisdom literature;

3. the Prophets which included the books of the prophets as well as the books of history (Luke 24:44).

The Jews sometimes called the book of Psalms simply “David” because David wrote more of them than anyone else (Hebrews. 4:7; Psalms. 95:7,8).

The Psalms were written by several different writers. They were composed during a period of about one thousand years from the time of Moses (about 1500 B.C.) to the time of Ezra (about 450 B.C.). Moses wrote one psalm (Psalm 90). Asaph wrote two. The sons of Korah are credited with eleven psalms. Solomon and Ezra are believed to have written two psalms each. David is the author of at least seventy psalms (2 Samuel 23:2; Acts 1:16; Matthew 22:41-46). We do not know who wrote about fifty of the psalms. Possibly David wrote many of them. The Jews believed Ezra was the one who collected all the psalms together into one book.

The New Testament quotes from Psalms more than from any other Old Testament book. There are at least ninety-three direct quotations from Psalms in the New Testament. There are many references to Psalms also. Many of the psalms foretold the coming of Jesus Christ.

Beginning in ancient times, the book of Psalms has been divided into five “books” or sections. Book I includes the first forty-one psalms. Book II includes Psalms 42 to 72. Book III contains Psalms 73 to 89. Book IV contains Psalms 90 to 106. Book V is made up of Psalms 107 to 150.

Psalms is the longest book in all the Bible. It has 150 chapters. Psalms also contains the longest chapter in the Bible. This is Psalm 119, which has 176 verses.

The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117, which has only two verses in it.

Some people have argued that it is acceptable to use instrumental music in our Christian worship because it is mentioned so often in the book of Psalms. They forget that Psalms is a part of the Old Testament. The Old Testament or Old Covenant was fulfilled by Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17,18; Luke 24:44). Once it was fulfilled, it was removed as a law for God’s people (Colossians 2:14; Galatians 3:23-25). Jeremiah had foretold this six hundred years before Christ was born (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Today, we live under the New Testament or New Covenant which was given by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:12; Hebrews 8:6-13). We follow the New Testament pattern for worship. This pattern commands us to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). It leaves out instrumental music. There is no more authority for us to use instrumental music in our worship today than there is for offering animal sacrifices, dancing, burning incense, or worshiping on the sabbath day (Saturday).

There are many well known psalms. One of the best known and most beautiful is Psalm 8. It praises the glory of God as seen in His creation. It also exalts man as the highest of all God’s creation. Matthew Fontaine Maury, the father of the science of oceanography discovered the “lanes of the sea” from this psalm. His son read Psalm 8 to him when he was sick. Verse 8 mentions “the paths of the seas.” Mr. Maury is reported to have said: “If God’s Word says there are paths in the seas, they must be there. I will find them.” He found the currents in the oceans which are followed by ships today. Probably the best known and best loved of all the psalms is Psalm 23. This is often called “the shepherd’s psalm.” It has likely been memorized by more people than any other chapter in the Bible. It is often read at funerals and other occasions of sadness.

Psalm 51 is believed to have been written by David after his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11, 12). It states his repentance for his sin against God. Verse 5 is wrongly translated in the New International Version in order to teach that David was born a sinner. This is a false doctrine. Sin is not inherited from one’s parents (Ezekiel 18:20). Sin is a result of transgressing (breaking) God’s law (1 John 3:4). When David wrote, “...in sin my mother conceived me...” he did not mean he received his mother’s sin. He is simply saying he was born into a world of sin, or a sinful environment.

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