This collection of psalms spans over a course of 1000 years, from Moses through to David, Asaph and Solomon, to the time of the Ezrahites after the Babylonian captivity.
King David, himself a musician (1 Samuel 16:18) is the principal author, composing at least 75 of the 150 psalms (73 are ascribed to him in the superscription and 2 are specified in the New Testament Acts 4:25; Hebrews 4:7) and probably numerous others of the 50 anonymous psalms. David ordained psalms to the 4,000 singers along with their instruments to praise God in the Temple of Solomon, 1 Chronicles 23:5; 15:16-22.
Other composers were Solomon, Asaph, Heman, Ethan, the sons of Korah etc. Many psalms were regrouped by Hezekiah (Proverbs 25:1), Josiah or Ezra.
The Hebrew for psalms is sephai tehillim, meaning book of praises and corresponds to the Greek psalmoi, poems sung accompanied with musical instruments (cp 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
Composed in deserts, pastures, caves, royal courts, in Jerusalem and exile, the psalms reflect on the spectrum of life situations that all believers experience: anguish, distress, sickness, despair, but also grace, deliverance, combat of faith, hope and certainty for the future. Reading the psalms is a source of great comfort and hope, giving us a way of finding true happiness in an ever increasingly uncertain world.
Diverse Categories of the Psalms
- The Acrostic Psalms (the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet open each verse or group of verses) Psalms 9–10; 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; 119; 145.
- The Psalms of Repentance Psalms 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143.
- The Songs of Degrees (or the descent to Jerusalem) Psalms 120–134
- The Hallelujah Psalms (which commence with Praise the Lord)
- The Grand Hallel Psalms 111–113, 115–118
- The Small Hallel Psalms 146–150
- The Historic Psalms of Genesis to Deuteronomy Psalms 104–106
Christ Revealed in the Psalms
When Jesus gathered his disciples in the Upper Room he told them, These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
There are many psalms that point forward to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, in fact the New Testament writers quote from the book of Psalms more than any other Old Testament book! There are also specific Messianic psalms which are quoted directly in the New Testament and show the Lord Jesus Christ as:
- The Perfect Shephard, Psalm 23
- The Crucified, Psalms 22; 69
- The Resurrected, Psalms 16; 41; 118
- The High Priest, Psalm 110
- The Liberator of His People, Psalms 50; 97; 98
- The Son who will Rule the Nations, Psalm 2
- The King of Glory, Psalms 24; 45; 72
The book of Psalms has been divided by the Jews into five sections, paralleling the five books of Moses, because we find there the same themes:
- Section 1 Psalms 1–41 Genesis: Man
- Section 2 Psalms 42–72 Exodus: Redemption
- Section 3 Psalms 73–89 Leviticus: The Sanctuary
- Section 4 Psalms 90–106 Numbers: The Pilgrimage in the Wilderness
- Section 5 Psalms 107–150 Deuteronomy: The Word of God