Psalms Introduction

The book of Psalms contains 150 chapters and 2,461 verses. The Psalms were written over 850 years, from the time of Moses (90) to the exile (137) and beyond (126).

The Authors

The Hebrew word for “psalms" simply means a song sung to the accompaniment of musical instrument. Each Psalm was written individually by different authors, and the determined author was usually a result of the Psalm’s title or Jewish and Christian tradition. Over one hundred of the Psalms contain a “superscription" such as Psalm 3: "A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN HE FLED FROM ABSALOM HIS SON." It is debated whether this superscription is a designation of authorship or a dedication of the Psalm to David.  

The Psalms are attributed to seven individuals:

73 attributed to David
10 attributed to Korah
12 attributed to Asaph
2 attributed to Solomon
1 attributed to Ethan, Heman, and Moses
50 are anonymous, but most of them are thought to be written by David, who was an inventor of instruments (Amos 6:5).

Psalms 1 and 150

From Walter Brueggemann comes the idea that Psalm 1 is the introduction to the entire Book of Psalms, calling for obedience to God's Word and then declaring blessings to be the outcome of an obedient life. Psalm 150 serves as the conclusion of the book, urging praise to Yahweh in all circumstances as the ultimate expression of the obedient. Between obedience and praise is suffering, which is also where God's loving-kindness is always seen intervening and sustaining.

The Five Books

The book of Psalms is grouped into five books. The exact time this took place is unclear, but the division is as follows. Each book seems to end with an editor’s doxology (41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52;106:48).

Book 1: Psalms 1-41 ... 41 psalms
Book 2: Psalms 42-72 ... 31 psalms
Book 3: Psalms 73-89 ... 17 psalms
Book 4: Psalms 90-106 ... 17 psalms
Book 5: Psalms 107-150 ... 44 psalms

Types of Psalms

The types of Psalms are broken up many different ways. Below is the way I have divided them. You will notice more than 150 listed below because some Psalms fit more than one category. The reason the list is below is to recognize over one third of the Psalms are dedicated to thanksgiving and praise.

Lament Psalms ... Songs praising and seeking God for deliverance in times of despair [47]

3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 14, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 36, 38, 41, 42, 43,  44, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 60, 61, 70, 71, 74, 77, 80, 82, 85, 86, 88, 90, 94, 102, 137, 139, 140,141, 142, 143

Thanksgiving Psalms ... Songs thanking and praising God for His gracious acts [58]

8, 18, 19, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 36, 40, 41,46, 47, 48, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 75, 76, 81, 84, 87, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 111, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 125, 133, 135, 136, 138, 139, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149  150

Pilgrimage Psalms ... Songs sung by worshipers as they traveled to Jerusalem and the temple to celebrate Yahweh [15]

120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134

Royal Psalms ... Songs declaring the reign of the early and heavenly King of Israel [13]

2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 61, 63, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, 144

Wisdom Psalms ... Songs instructing the worshiper in the wisdom and righteousness of God [10]

1, 15, 18, 24, 37, 49, 73, 78, 112, 119

Imprecatory Psalms ... Songs declaring God's wrath and judgment against enemies [13]

5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 137, 140

Confession Psalm ... Songs confessing faith in Yahweh [8]

11, 16, 23, 50, 62, 63, 64, 91

Messianic Psalms

Listed below are what are known as Messianic Psalms. They are known as such because they directly relate to the life of Jesus Christ and are quoted in portion in the New Testament.

2, 8, 16, 22, 34, 35, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 89, 102, 109, 110, 118

Purpose

The book of Psalms was an ancient hymnal written as a collection of prayers, poems, and hymns; its purpose was to provide the Old Testament saints songs through which they could express prayers and worship to Yahweh.  

The ultimate goal of Psalms is to provide an example for all the ages of effective ways to express faith to God in any circumstance.