By Joseph Benson
Name. The Hebrew word means praises or hymns, while the Greek word means psalms. It may well be called the "Hebrew Prayer and Praise Book." The prevailing note is one of praise, though some are sad and plaintive while others are philosophical.
Authors. Of the 150 Psalms, there is no means of determining the authorship of 50. The authors named for others are David, Asaph, the sons of Korah, Herman, Ethan, Moses and Solomon. Of the 100 whose authorship is indicated, David is credited with 73, and in the New Testament he alone is referred to as the author of them. Lu. 20:42.
Relation to the Other Old Testament Books. It has been called the heart of the entire Bible, but its relation to the Old Testament is especially intimate. All divine manifestations are viewed in regard to their bearing on the inner experience. History is interpreted in the light of a passion for truth and righteousness and as showing forth the nearness of our relation to God.
The Subjects of the Psalms. It is very difficult to make any sort of classification of the Psalms and any classification is open to criticism. For this reason many groupings have been suggested. The following, taken from different sources, may be of help. (1) Hymns of praise, 8, 18, 19, 104, 145, 147, etc. (2) National hymns, 105, 106, 114, etc. (3) Temple hymns or hymns for public worship, 15, 24, 87, etc. (4) Hymns relating to trial and calamity, 9, 22, 55, 56, 109, etc. (5) Messianic Psalms, 2,16, 40, 72, 110, etc. (6) Hymns of general religious character, 89, 90, 91, 121, 127, etc.
The following classification has been given in the hope of suggesting the most prominent religious characteristics of the Psalms. (1) Those that recognize the one infinite, all-wise and omnipotent God. (2) Those that recognize the universality of his love and providence and goodness. (3) Those showing abhorrence of all idols and the rejection of all subordinate deities. (4) Those giving prophetic glimpses of the Divine Son and of his redeeming work on earth. (5) Those showing the terrible nature of sin, the divine hatred of it and judgment of God upon sinners. (6) Those teaching the doctrines of forgiveness, divine mercy, and the duty of repentance. (7) Those emphasizing the beauty of holiness, the importance of faith and the soul's privilege of communion with God.
For Study and Discussion. (1) On what occasion were the following Palms probably composed: (a) Psalm 3 (2 Sam. 15). (b) Psalm 24 (2 Sam. 6:12-17). (c) Psalm 56 (1 Sam. 21:10-15). (d) Psalms 75 and 76 (2 Kings 19:32-37). (e) Psalm 109 (1 Sam. 22:9-23). (f) Psalm 74 (2 Kings 25:2-18). (g) Psalm 60 (1 Chron. 18:11-13). (2) What is the subject of Psalms 23, 84, 103,133 and 137? (3) What doctrine of the divine character is taught in each of the following Psalms; 8, 19, 33, 46, 93, 115 and 139?