Psalms

These are all of the chapters of the book of Psalms. Clicking on a chapter will show you the text of that chapter of Psalms in the Bible (New International Version).

Book of Psalms surrounded by flowers

Who Wrote the Book of Psalms?

Due to the frequent designation “A Psalm of David,” many Bible scholars and translations hold to the belief that David is the author of most of the Psalms. If the Hebrew phrasing present in these superscriptions refers to authorship, then we can easily identify several additional contributors, including Solomon, Asaph, and Moses. However, there is some debate about whether the superscriptions are declarations of authorship or dedications from an unknown author to the named individual. For example, Psalm 3 might be “A Psalm for David” rather than “A Psalm of David.” To add to the confusion, some scholars challenge the veracity of the superscriptions, and some of the Psalms (called “orphan psalms”) received no designation at all.

However, two of these “fatherless” Psalms (Psalm 2 and Psalm 95) are quoted in Acts and Hebrews and attributed to David:

“You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?’” (Acts 4:25).

“God again set a certain day, calling it ‘Today.’ This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts’” (Hebrews 4:7).

While we can be sure that David played a role, it’s difficult to know with much certainty which of the Psalms he wrote besides these.

Context and Background of the Psalms

Psalms, Psalter (Greek), Tehillim (Hebrew word for “praises”)—whichever title we use, the meaning is essentially the same. These prayers and praises were written for the people of Israel. 

David introduced the use of Psalms for temple praise in 1 Chronicles 16:7-36. And the kings of Israel who followed his reign continued to use the Psalms for holy days such as Passover (2 Chronicles 35:15) and for encouragement before battle (2 Chronicles 20:20-21).

After the Babylonian exile, Zerubbabel and Nehemiah carried the Psalms into the construction of the second temple and the restoration of Jerusalem (Ezra 3:10-11; Nehemiah 12:27-47).

This is a general overview encompassing all 150 Psalms. Each one surely has its own context and background, ranging from Psalm 90 (thought to be the oldest of the Psalms) which bears the name of Moses to Psalm 137 mourning the loss of Jerusalem after Babylon took the Israelites captive.

Main Theme and Purpose of the Psalms

Composed over several centuries by various authors, the Psalms are as varied in theme as they are in context. However, in spite of subtle variations, they can be rallied beneath a single banner: “Instruction in the godly life under the reign of God.

Psalms such as 32, 78, and 142 are called maskil (or didactic—“wise”), perhaps referring to their teaching style and instructive purpose. Many of the Psalms are sincere prayers (Psalm 63, 51, and 139), offering insight and guidance in how we should pray. But the bulk of this poetic collection is a meditation on and proclamation of the greatness of God, His power, and how worthy He is of all we can offer Him.

What Can We Learn from the Psalms Today?

So many valuable things can be gleaned from one of the longest books in the Bible. The Psalms provide instruction and songs to lift our praise to God. But perhaps most importantly, as singer and songwriter, Matthew West points out, the Psalms help believers understand how their deepest and strongest emotions fit in a relationship with God.

Many believers today find themselves in churches where they are judged for displaying anything besides absolute peace and contentment—anger, fear, and even grief should be concealed behind a “brave face.” But then comes the question: if those more intimidating emotions are not appropriate to express, are they acceptable to feel? The psalmists experienced the full spectrum of human emotion and poured it all out to God with no restraint—words to flesh out the invisible and overwhelming. Dan B. Allender calls it “ruthless honesty [that] compels us to look beyond the surface of our tumult, deeper into our soul, where we expose our battle with God.”

Our Favorite Verses from Psalms

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:4,6)

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ ‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.’” (Psalm 91:1-2, 14-15)

“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” (Psalm 95:1-7)

“I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” (Psalm 119:32)

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

“The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:8-9, 14-16)

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

Sources

Amazon.com/Amplified-Study-Bible- 

Biblestudytools.com/psalms/

Biblestudytools.com/video/why-are-the-psalms-so-valuable-for-a-christian.html

fbcdavis.org/downloads/sermonresources/2011/2011-11-20-scrolls.pdf

Goodreads.com/book/show/350144.The_Cry_of_the_Soul

Wikipedia.org/wiki/Psalms

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Caroline Madison is a freelance editor and writer with a passion for the written word and a special interest in telling and reading stories that present biblical truths in fresh ways. She also enjoys writing flash fiction, drawing pencil portraits, and playing piano.