Survey of Psalms

Book Type: The third book of Wisdom; nineteenth book of the Old Testament; nineteenth book of the Bible.

Author: Psalms is a book consisting of works by multiple authors. David's name is connected with seventy-three of the 150 psalms. Solomon wrote Psalms 72 and 127; Moses wrote Psalm 90; the family of Asaph composed twelve psalms; the sons of Korah wrote eleven psalms; Heman wrote Psalm 88; Ethan the Ezrahite wrote Psalm 89. The remaining fifty psalms are anonymous.

Audience: Though each psalm had particular audiences at their original time of writing, the collection of the psalms was published for the benefit of all Israelites. These songs formed the musical collection of the nation, becoming of great importance during the reigns of David and Solomon when Levites often used them to lead the Jews in praise. Christians likewise find much beauty and theology in the Psalms that remain the foundation for many of the enduring songs of the church.

Date: Since the book of Psalms is a collection of songs by various authors, their dates vary greatly as well. Moses wrote the oldest psalm during his forty years in the wilderness, approximately 1440—1400 BC. Many of the psalms were written during the reigns of David and Solomon in approximately the tenth century BC. The latest psalms were completed shortly after the Jewish return from Babylon in about 537 BC.

Overview: Psalms contains 150 chapters, out of 1,189 total in Scripture, making it the longest book in the Bible. Given the large amount of material, and the poetic nature, it has also become the most frequently quoted book in the Bible.

The chapters are gathered into five "books" that each end with a doxology. Book 1 includes Psalms 1-—41, Book 2 includes Psalms 42—72, Book 3 includes Psalms 73—89, Book 4 includes Psalms 90—106, and Book 5 includes Psalms 107—150. Beyond this division into five sections, no particular outline provides a clear organization for all 150 psalms. Rather, each individual psalm should be studied in detail for further understanding and application.

The first psalm offers important insight regarding the entire collection. Its first two verses note:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. --Psalm 1:1–2 ESV

Key Verses (ESV):

Psalm 19:1: "The heavens declare the glory of God, \ and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."

Psalm 22:16–19: "For dogs encompass me; \ a company of evildoers encircles me; \ they have pierced my hands and feet— \ I can count all my bones— \ they stare and gloat over me; \ they divide my garments among them, \ and for my clothing they cast lots. \ But you, O LORD, do not be far off! \ O you my help, come quickly to my aid!"

Psalm 23:1: "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want."

Psalm 29:1–2: "Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, \ ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. \ Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; \ worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness."

Psalm 51:10: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, \ and renew a right spirit within me."

Psalm 119:1–2: "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, \ who walk in the law of the LORD! \ Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, \ who seek him with their whole heart."