The Psalms, an Introduction

The Psalms is unique among the books of the Bible. While there are other books of poetry (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Lamentations), the Psalms is the only book of poetry that was meant to be sung. It is the hymn book of the ancient Jewish people and the early Church.

In this post we’ll be looking at who all contributed to the Psalms, when they were written, and the various reasons for why they were written.

The authors of the Psalms

There were multiple authors behind the Psalms writing at different times throughout Israel’s history. David is by far the author who wrote the most. The psalms themselves contribute 73 to him while the New Testament adds two more (Psalm 2 in Acts 4:25 and Psalm 95 in Heb. 4:7). Besides David other authors include Moses (one: Ps. 90), Solomon (two), Asaph (twelve), and the Sons of Korah (eleven).

Many of the psalms include titles telling the reader who authored them. These titles have been passed down to us along with the Psalms. Just like the titles of the other books of the Bible they are now included with the book. So, although translation editors will include titles to sections of scripture to help the reader, the titles of the individual psalms come down to us from the earliest manuscripts.

In a way the book of Psalms reflects the rest of the canon of scripture. Just like the rest of the Bible the Psalms are a collection of individual songs written at different times by different people.

The dates

The individual psalms in the book of Psalms were written at different times in Israel’s history and range all the way from the founding of Israel to Judah’s return from the exile. Psalm 90, which was authored by Moses, was written in the 15th or 13th century depending on how you date the exodus of Israel from Egypt. Those belonging to David and Solomon were written in the 10th century. And those written during and after the exile would have been penned in the 6th century.

The purposes

The overarching purpose of the Psalms is praise to God. In fact the Hebrew name for the Psalms means “praises.” That being said the different psalms all have their own purposes they seek to accomplish. Lament psalms express a complaint, sadness, or frustration to God. Imprecatory psalms are those that ask God for revenge against the enemies of Israel. Penitential psalms seek forgiveness. The genre of the psalms determines their purpose.

In the past I’ve written a couple of posts on the different types of psalms that can be found here and here. Check them out if you’d like to learn a little more about the genres represented by the psalms.

So that’s it for another introduction to a book of the Bible. If you liked this post subscribe to the newsletter so that you’ll be able to stay up-to-date on everything that is going on here at Strong Sword, And as always feel free to let me know your thoughts on the Psalms in the comments section below.

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