Introduction to Psalms

The Book of Psalms is a collection of poetry — songs that express the deepest passions of humanity. In them you will find every kind of emotion that a human being can have: quiet contentment, troubled heart, confused mind, desperation, joy, ecstasy, and thanksgiving.

You’ll find the writers crying out when in despair but then raising ecstatic praise in his joy of The Lord’s provision and comfort. He pours out his soul in confession and bubbles over with joy. In short, the Psalms lead us through the valleys and peaks of human experience, but they always guide us back to praise of our loving Creator.

Psalms is grouped into five sections:

 

  • Book I: Ps 1 through 41
  • Book II: Ps 42 through 72
  • Book III: Ps.73 through 89
  • Book IV: Ps. 90 through 106
  • Book V: Ps. 107 through 150

Each book ends with an affirmation of praise to God, usually found in the last verse or two of the concluding Psalm of that Book. In other words, Psalms 41, 72, 89, and 106 would each have verses of affirmation and praise. The exception is that of Ps 150, which is in its entirety a Psalm of praise. These affirmations are called doxologies.

  • Books I & II are primarily made up of the Davidic Psalms — songs written by King David.
  • Book III is made up of the Psalms of Asaph, a temple worship leader, if you will, and of the Psalms of Korah, who were a group of priests during the time of Moses.
  • Books IV and V include anonymous Psalms as well as some by David. The contributors include women, two of whom are Hannah (the mother of Samuel) and Deborah (a Judge of Israel).

These are further broken down into categories derived from the content or theme of the Psalm:

  • Hallel Psalms: songs of praise.
  • Royal Psalms: emphasize God as King, Creator, Savior of Israel, and the Coming One.
  • Psalms of Zion: focus on Jerusalem — God’s choice for the site of His holy temple.
  • Penitential Psalms and the Wisdom Psalms: present sharp contrast between the righteous and the wicked, address God’s blessing and cursing and focus on righteous living.
  • The Wisdom Psalms are further broken down into subcategories of the Torah Psalms, the Creation Psalms and the History Psalms.
  • Imprecatory Psalms are those that ask God to curse the wicked.
  • Passover Psalms celebrate the the acts of God in delivering his people from Egypt.
A few things to know about Psalms:

They were written for singing in the setting of public worship, although most people turn to them quietly and in private.  The Psalms were written over a period of a thousand years — from the 15th Century B.C. to the 5th Century B.C., so it was over a long period of time that they were collected and arranged. The words used in the Psalms are written in the language of the human spirit — using language that is full of passion. The Psalms were a part of the ordinary life of the Israelites.

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