Psalms

Author:  Psalms is a collection of songs that was likely completed by Ezra around the time that the temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem.  David is responsible for writing at least half of the psalms.  73 psalms identify King David as the author while Hebrews makes reference to two more by David.  There are another 27 that have identified authors.  Of the remaining 48 psalms, it is suspected David likely wrote many of these but they are not attributed to him so we don’t know for certain.

The other known authors of the psalms are: Asaph with 12, Songs of Koreh with 10, Solomon (2), Heman (1), Ethan (1), Moses (1).

Date:  Because the psalms are a collection, they were written over a long period of time.  Its ultimate collection into a book took place around 400 BC.  However, its writing began with Psalm 90 by Moses around 1440 BC and the last psalm, Psalm 126, was written after the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple around 400 BC.  Because David wrote as least half of the psalms, the majority of the book was written around 1000 BC.

 Structure of Psalms: A psalm is written as an individual song.  Each psalm stands alone; it is not a chapter of the overall book.  Just as a hymnal is written today, we would refer to the song number, so the psalms are numbered.

Because each psalm is independent, there is no continuation between psalms.  For instance, Psalm 25 is not continued in Psalm 26.  There is some method of grouping within the psalms (see outline of Psalms for more info) but ultimately there is no guarantee that two psalms in a row are even written by the same person let alone have the same specific theme.

Parts of a Psalm

There are numerous parts to a psalm.  Not every psalm has all of these parts but it is useful to note what these parts are.  A good example to see these parts would be Psalm 51.

  1. The number – the psalm number is not a part of the original song but was added at a later date when they were finally collected.  It is meant for identification as psalms do not go by titles.
  2. The purpose – some psalms offer an explanation as to why they were written.  Other psalms may just say that it is “for the director of music.”
  3. The author – 100 of the psalms have an author listed.
  4. The setting – this is similar to the purpose in that it gives an explanation for its writing.  Psalm 51 identifies that it was written after David’s sin with Bathsheba.

Purpose of Psalms

While it may seem as though Psalms is just a songbook, there are three underlying purposes to Psalms.

  1. Praise – many psalms direct our praise and worship directly to God where it belongs
  2. Prayers – the psalms teach us how to pray and create an attitude of prayer
  3. Singing – the psalms are meant to be sung but there is a purpose even behind the singing.  Lessons that are taught in song are easier to remember than lessons that are just memorized.

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