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Survey of the Book of Psalms

Author: The psalms were written by many authors, which we can gather by the brief introductions before them. David is listed as the author for 73 of them, but not for the entire collection. Here are the authors we know from the chapter descriptions:
  • David — 73 psalms
  • Solomon, David's son, two psalms (72 and 127)
  • Moses — Psalm 90
  • The Family of Asaph, twelve psalms (50 and 73—83)
  • The Sons of Korah, eleven psalms (42; 44—49, 84; 85; 87; 88)
  • Heman the Ezrahite — Psalm 88
  • Ethan the Ezrahite — Psalm 89


  • Fifty of the psalms do not list a specific person as the author. Excluding David, Solomon, and Moses, the authors of the psalms were Levites or priests who were tasked with writing songs for sanctuary worship during the reign of David.

    Date of writing: For the book of Psalms, there is not one date of writing, for they were written by many authors over an extensive period of time—about one thousand years. The earliest known psalm ever written is Psalm 90, Moses' prayer, which compares man's frailty with God's eternity. The latest written psalm is, most likely, Psalm 137, a song of lament from when the Hebrews were enduring the Babylonian captivity from approximately 586 to 538 BC.

    The 150 psalms were written over a broad span of time and were most likely compiled by an unnamed editor after the Babylonian captivity ended around 537 BC.

    Purpose: The psalms are songs and poems written for the purpose of worshipping the Lord and connecting with Him.

    Key verses:

    Psalm 1:1–3: "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. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers."

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

    Psalm 22:16–18: "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."

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

    Psalm 27:1: "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"

    Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

    Psalm 119:105: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

    Themes: Being the longest book in the Bible, the book of Psalms contains psalms of many themes—praise, lament, war, creation, sin, repentance, and the coming Messiah.

    Brief summary: The name "Psalms" is descended from a Greek word meaning, "a song sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument." Some of the psalms were used in a hymnal for ancient Israel to sing during their worship services. The psalms are songs, prayers, and poems that help us, as worshipers, to focus our attention on God in every situation we face, the highs and lows.

    Application: The God being worshiped in the psalms is the same triune God we are still worshipping today. Though God remains the same, our emotions and response to Him vary based on the circumstances of our lives. In Psalm 42 we see the fluctuation between human despair—"My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, 'Where is your God?'" (verse 3)—and confident hope in God's ultimate faithfulness—"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God" (verse 11).

    The book of Psalms shows us that we can express the full spectrum of our emotions to God. He is our ultimate salvation, high and lifted up, the creator of the universe (Psalm 24:1–5); and He is also our shepherd, protector, and friend who guides and walks alongside us each step of our lives (Psalm 23; 91). There is no joy and no burden that we cannot take to God.


    Related Truth:

    What are the psalms of praise?

    What are the psalms of lament?

    What are imprecatory psalms?

    What principles are used in biblical exegesis?

    What is the basic timeline of the Old Testament?


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