Book Study: Psalms Overview II

Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.


We've once again reached the midpoint of the week, which means we return back to our book study of Psalms. I orignally intended to jump into Psalm 1 for this post, but I feel compelled to include a bit more detail regarding the entire book first. This post will conclude the overview, and we will indeed dive into the first chapter next week.


What i want to focus on for today's study includes the following: arrangement & style.


Arrangement

The Psalms are arranged into five books: Book 1 (Psalms 1‑41); Book 2 (Psalms 42‑72); Book 3 (Psalms 73‑89); Book 4 (Psalms 90‑106); and, Book 5 (Psalms 107‑150). Each of the five books concludes with a doxology, signifying the completion of the collection. For example, Psalm 41:13 ends Book 1: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.” The entire Psalm 150 serves as the final doxology to the entire Psalter.


No one knows for sure what theme was followed in arranging the five books. They seem to have been compiled somewhat independently and then brought together into one collection at a later date. There is some duplication: Psalm 14 in Book 1 is repeated as Psalm 53 in Book 2; a portion of Psalm 40 in Book 1 is repeated as Psalm 70 in Book 2; and the latter halves of Psalms 57 and 60 in Book 2 are combined as Psalm 108 in Book 5.


Book 1 is dominated by psalms of David and consists mostly of personal psalms that arose out of his own experiences. Book 2 was probably compiled by Solomon and exhibits more of a national interest. Book 3 was probably compiled soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., since Psalms 74, 79, and 89 all have references to this event. David may have compiled Book 4, which focuses more on corporate worship than Book 1 does. Book 5 is also liturgical, but contains several postexilic (after the exile in 586 B.C.) psalms. It probably came into being after the return of 537 B.C. Then a scribe, perhaps Ezra (444 B.C.), probably wrote Psalms 146‑50 as a conclusion and Psalm 1 as an introduction and compiled the five books into one.


In other words the Book of Psalms as we have it today was the result of a process spanning about 1000 years. It began with individual psalms, the earliest being Psalm 90 by Moses (ca. 1400 B.C.). More than half were written by David (ca. 1000 B.C.). Then the individual psalms were grouped into collections of books for corporate worship, and finally the books were arranged into the final book, probably around 444 B.C. (Ezra’s time).


Style

Hebrew poetry

The psalms are poetry, and we need to understand something about Hebrew poetry to understand and appreciate the psalms. There are three elements of Hebrew poetry to keep in mind as we read the Psalms (and other poetical books such as Job, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations):


PARALLELISM

Instead of rhyming words, as our poetry often does, the Hebrews rhymed ideas. One of the key features of Hebrew poetry is the idea of parallelism. As many have pointed out, this makes Hebrew poetry easier to translate than poetry that rhymes words. There are several main types of parallelism:


Synonymous—This occurs frequently. The second line is similar to the first. Every verse of Psalm 114 has synonymous parallelism. Note 114:1-2, “When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became His sanctuary, Israel, His dominion.”


Synthetic—The second line takes up and develops further a thought begun in the first line. For example, Psalm 95:3, “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” (See also, Ps. 19:7-9.)


Climatic—The second line takes up some words from the first line and adds to or completes them. For example, Psalm 29:1, 2, “Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array.” (See also, Ps. 22:4.)


Emblematic—One line presents an image or metaphor which the other line clarifies or applies. Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (See, also, Ps. 42:1; 44:22; 103:13).


Antithetical—The second line contrasts with the first. Psalm 1:6, “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (See also, Ps. 90:6.)


FIGURES OF SPEECH

Hebrew poetry is loaded with figures of speech, and you must recognize that fact in interpreting various passages. For example, Psalm 18:7-15 describes the power of God as seen in a thunderstorm, which apparently was sent in answer to David’s prayer in battle. It describes God in anthropomorphic terms. Literal interpretation of the Bible does not mean that you interpret such figures of speech literally.


ACROSTICS

Acrostics are alphabetical psalms, where each verse (or in Psalm 119, each verse of successive stanzas) begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (Ps. 9-10 [together = one acrostic], 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145, and Lamentations).


Keep in mind that the psalms are poetry and must be read as such. They’re full of emotion, art, beauty, and figurative language. The psalmists were trying to draw forth not just an intellectual response, but also an emotional one.


Conclusion

PRAISE IS IMPORTANT

The psalms are filled with praise and with exhortations to praise God. To praise God means essentially to extol God for His attributes and actions. Thus, to praise God we must come to know Him as revealed in His Word and we must be involved with God in our personal lives through prayer and trusting Him so that we experience His all-sufficient help. The psalmists knew God in this way. It will greatly benefit us to place an emphasis on praise in our daily lives.


PRAYER IS IMPORTANT

Many of the psalms are prayers, cried out to God from the crucible of life. The psalms show us that no experience in life is too high or low to exclude God. We are to call on Him when we are in the pits and we are to call on Him when we’re on the peaks.


CORPORATE WORSHIP IS IMPORTANT.

It’s not enough to praise God all alone, as important as that is. There's great power & reverence in worshipping God corporately and singing His praises together. It greatly satisfies Him.


BEAUTY AND CREATIVITY ARE IMPORTANT

Our God is infinitely creative and He delights in beauty. We see His handiwork in the natural world, and the psalms are full of appreciation for the beauty that God has created. As Psalm 19:1 declares, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” While inspired by the Holy Spirit, the psalms also reflect the creativity of the authors, and God is pleased with it.


I look forward to next week with great anticipation, when we'll dig into Psalm 1.


I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.


May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.


Love you much.


Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!


-Humble Servant


P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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