Study questions, maps, charts, key words, history, background, outlines, and links to help you study the Old Testament book of Psalms.
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- David – 73;
- anonymous – 50;
- Asaph – 12;
- Moses – 1 (Psalm 90);
- Solomon 2 (Psalm 72; 127);
- plus other authors
- 150 Psalms in 5 books (collections); each collection ends with a concluding doxology
- Book 1: Psalms 1-41; 41:13
- Book 2: Psalms 42-72; 72:18-20
- Book 3: Psalms 79-89; 89:52
- Book 4: Psalms 90-106; 106;48
- Book 5: Psalms 107-150; 150:1-6
- Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Solomon
- General interest in humanity and universal pronouncements (as opposed to the people of Israel)
- Grounded in a theology of creation
- Fear of YHWH as proper context for wisdom, sometimes explicitly stated, but often implicit
- Questioning attitude about the basic problems of life: why is there suffering, inequality, death, why do the wicked prosper, etc.
Major Types of Psalms
Hymns of Praise
- Features: Call to Praise; Praise of the Lord’s deeds/attributes; Conclusion
- Occasion: Public worship in the temple during annual festivals and national celebrations
- Examples: Psalm 8; Psalm 29; Psalm 33; Psalm 46; Psalm 48; Psalm 65; Psalm 67; Psalm 68; Psalm 76; Psalm 100; Psalm 111; Psalm 113; Psalm 117; Psalm 135
- Features: Resolve to give praise or give thanks; description of distress faced; confession of Lord as Redeemer/deliverer; Vow of praise/assurance; Conclusion/lesson learned
- Occasion: an individual’s deliverance from acute distress
- Examples: Psalm 18; Psalm 30; Psalm 32; Psalm 34; Psalm 66; Psalm 92; Psalm 116; Psalm 118; Psalm; Psalm 136; Psalm 138.
- Features: Lamentation; petition; confession of trust; statement of praise
- Occasion: Used by the assembled congregation during national calamities or threats
- Examples: Psalm 12; Psalm 44; Psalm 58; Psalm 60; Psalm 74; Psalm 80; Psalm 83; Psalm 85; Psalm 90; Psalm 94; Psalm 123; Psalm 126; Psalm 129; Psalm 137.
- Features; Complaint/lament; confession of trust; petition; vow or statement of praise
- Occasion: Experience of distress, sickness, flight from enemies, etc.
- Examples: ; Psalm 3; Psalm 4; Psalm 5; Psalm 6; Psalm 7; Psalm 10; Psalm 17; Psalm 22; Psalm 25; Psalm 26; Psalm 27; Psalm 28; Psalm 31; Psalm 35; Psalm 28; Psalm 39; Psalm 40; Psalm 41; Psalm 51; Psalm 52; Psalm 53; Psalm 54; Psalm 55; Psalm 56 ; Psalm 57; Psalm 61; Psalm 64; Psalm 69; Psalm 70; Psalm71; Psalm 77; Psalm 86; Psalm 88; Psalm 89; Psalm 102; Psalm 109; Psalm 120; Psalm 130; Psalm 139; Psalm 141; Psalm 142; Psalm 143.
- Features: Praise and celebration of the King; praise and celebration of YHWH as king
- Occasion: coronation of king; a petition of behalf of the king; praise for King’s success; praise to YHWH as king.
- Examples: Psalm 2; Psalm 18; Psalm 20; Psalm 21; Psalm 72; Psalm 93; Psalm 101; Psalm 110; Psalm 131; Psalm 144.
Minor types of Psalms
- Wedding Psalm: Psalm 45 for the king’s wedding
- Processional hymns for entering the temple: Psalms 15; Psalm 24
- For festival to celebrate YHWH’s kingship: Psalm 93; ; Psalms 95-99
- Recitation of great historical deeds: Psalm 78; Psalm 105; Psalm 106.
- “Song of Ascents”: for pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem; Psalms 120-134.
- Zion hymns: about the temple in Jerusalem on Mt Zion; Psalms 46; Psalm 48; Psalm 76; Psalm 84; Psalm 87; Psalm 122.
- Wisdom Psalms: Psalm 1; Psalm 19; Psalm 36; Psalm 37; Psalm 49; Psalm 73; Psalm 78; Psalm 112; Psalm 119; Psalm 127; Psalm 128.
Genre: Understanding Hebrew Poetry
Background & Outlines
Biblehub: Timeline of Psalms
NIV: Wisdom Literature
James van Dine: Analysis of Psalms
Charles Swindoll: Book of Psalms Overview
Maps from Holman Bible Atlas
- varies with Psalm
Dictionaries & Encyclopedias
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary: Psalms, Theology of
American Tract Society Psalms, the Book of
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary Psalms, book of
Smith Bible Dictionary Psalms, Book of,
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Psalms, Book of
McClintock and Strong’s Bible Encyclopedia Psalms, Book Of,
The Nuttall Encyclopedia Psalms, the Book of
Easton’s Bible Dictionary Psalms
The Nuttall Encyclopedia Penitential Psalms
Alfred Edersheim – The Golden Diary of Heart Converse with Jesus in the Book of Psalms
Commentaries & Study Bibles
Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible: Psalms
Matthew Henry: Psalms
Albert Barnes Notes: Psalms
Reformation Study Bible Notes: Psalms
Geneva Study Bible: Psalms
Precept Austin Commentaries & Sermons: Psalms
Psalm 22, Psalm 41 (et al) Derek Tidball – Songs of the Crucified One: The Psalms and the Crucifixion SBJT V11 N2.4
Imprecations in the Psalms – Sam Storms
Gary Kukis: The Doctrine of the Messianic Psalms.
Gary Kukis: The Four Types of Messianic Prophecy
Paul van Gorder: OT Reflections of Christ – Psalms
Musical Terms in Psalms – To what do the various musical terms in the book of Psalms refer?
Messianic Psalms – Which psalms predict the coming of Jesus Christ?
Imprecatory Psalms – What is imprecatory prayer?
David’s Psalms – How many psalms did David write?
David’s Psalms – Why do many of the psalms of David sound so sad?
Divisions of Psalms – Why is the book of Psalms divided into five books?
Psalm 14 – Why are Psalms 14 and 53 nearly identical?
Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 – Where do the Hebrew Scriptures prophesy the death and resurrection of the Messiah?
Psalm 90 – What can we learn from the prayer of Moses?
Psalm 119 – What should we learn from Psalm 119?
Psalm 120-134 – What are the Songs of Ascent?