What You Might Not Know About The Book of Psalms

Most of the Psalms are very personal and deal with everyday life but did you ever consider reading the Psalms for their historical or theological value? They tell us information about the creation of the world. The writers are all Jewish; God's chosen people who are to proclaim Him before the world. The Psalms reveal the character of their God, His sovereignty, why He is to be worshipped, as well as how.. “It's history instructs, the Law teaches, prophecy announces, rebuke chastens, morality persuades; in the Book of Psalms we have the fruit of all these, and a kind of medicine for salvation of man.”
(St. Ambrose) “The Psalms contain a perfect theology.” (St. Basil)


Ancient Hebrew scholars divided them into 5 books. The Midrash says, “Moses gave to the Israelites the five books of the Law, and as a counterpart to these, David gave them the Psalms which consists of 5 books.” Book 1 has 41 psalms, book 2 has 31, book 3 and 4 have 17 each, and book 5 has 44. Each section ends with a doxology. Their Hebrew title is the “Book of Praises.” Some added “and Prayers.” For 3,000yrs. Jewish worshipers on their Sabbath and their holy days and for 2,000yrs. Christian worshipers in their Sunday services have read, recited, and sung the Psalms.

The main author is David whose son, Solomon, is thought to have collected his father's writings after his father's death. Much of it is like a journal or diary of his life and his thoughts. Many of the songs written for temple worship were by David, some with Asaph, the chief temple musician, who wrote many himself, and a few by the Korahite Levites. Many are anonymous, at least to us. It is thought by some that Solomon wrote Psalm 1 as a preface to the collection.

David's psalms are written by a man of great passion with whom most believers identify at some point in their lives. We go to his psalms for comfort in times of distress, we go to them in times of worship and praise, we go to them in those times when we need understanding and assurance of God's grace and mercy. The God who loved David and led him through a tumultuous life and forgave him when he repented, including his lapses into deep sin, surely will do the same for us.

One of his passions was God who said of David that he was a man after his own heart or as a Hebrew translation puts it; “a man in harmony with Him.” He was what we call “a man for all seasons.” He was a prolific writer and musician and called the “sweet singer of Israel.” He was a courageous warrior and as king organized the 12 tribes into a cohesive nation. But David was also a prophet-teacher. His psalms are full of teaching about God as sovereign creator and law-giver, and contain prophecy concerning the coming Messiah. It is an instruction manual on trusting God in every circumstance.

Hebrew scholars have divided his writings into 5 sections of his life: 1. his early life, 2. his early reign, 3. the time of his “great sin” to his flight from Jerusalem, 4. his exile, 5. the last years of his reign. His psalms are filled with honest emotion including that of loneliness. He did not hesitate to acknowledge his fears and sins but did not let his fears guide his actions nor did he let his sin fester but repented with his whole heart and accepted the consequences. The word “awesome” gets overused but truly David was a unique servant of God! His psalms are spiritual jewels and beautifully written.

In conclusion I believe that if we understood the blessing of this treasure called the Book of Psalms we might enter into our worship services more eagerly and joyfully realizing that we are following a tradition in the steps of David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, as well as Jesus, Mary, Peter, James, and John, Paul, Aquila and Priscilla, Lydia, Timothy and millions more before us. We cannot help but rejoice and say with David; “I will magnify the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth...O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”