By J. B. Tidell, A.M., D. D.
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.
1. Davidic Psalms. 1-41. These are not only ascribed to him but reflect much of his life and faith.
2. Historical Psalms. 42-72. These are ascribed to several authors, those of the sons of Korah being prominent and are especially full of historical facts.
3. Liturgical or Ritualistic Psalms. 73-89. Most of them are ascribed to Asaph and, besides being specially prescribed for worship, they are strongly historical.
4. Other Pre-Captivity Psalms. 90-106. Ten are anonymous, one is Moses' (Ps. 90) and the rest David's. They reflect much of the pre-captivity sentiment and history.
5. Psalms of the Captivity and Return. 107-150. Matters pertaining to the captivity and return to Jerusalem.
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?
Practical Value of the Book of Proverbs. The proverbs emphasize the external religious life. They teach how to practice religion and overcome the daily temptations. They express a belief in God and his rule over the universe and, therefore, seek to make his religion the controlling motive in life and conduct. They breathe a profound religious spirit and a lofty religious conception, but put most stress upon the doing of religion in all the relations of life. Davison says: "For the writers of Proverbs religion means good sense, religion means mastery of affairs, religion means strength and manliness and success, religion means a well furnished intellect employing the best means to accomplish the highest ends." This statement is correct as far as the side of duty emphasized is concerned.
Nature of Proverbs. (1) There is a voice of wisdom which speaks words of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, prudence, subtility, instruction, discretion and the fear of Jehovah, and furnishes us with good advice for every condition of life. (2) There is a voice of folly, which speaks words of folly, simplicity, stupidity, ignorance, brutishness and villainy, and lifts her voice wherever wisdom speaks. (3) Wisdom is contrasted with folly, which often issues in simplicity and scorning. (4) Wisdom is personified, as if it were God speaking about the practical, moral, intellectual and religious duties of men. (5) Christ finds Himself in the book, Lu. 24:27, and if Christ be substituted for wisdom, where it is found, a new and wonderful power will be seen in the book.
Scheme of the Considerations Found in Proverbs. The first sphere-the home, father and children, 1:8-9 and Chs. 2-7. Key-word here is "my son." The second sphere-friendship; companions is the important word. 1:10-19. The third sphere-the world beyond.
I. Praise of Wisdom. Chs. 1-9. This is shown by contrast with folly.
II. Practical Proverbs of Solomon. 10:1-22:16. These are separate and cannot be classified.
III. Words of the Wise. 22:17-24 end. Sometimes called commendations of justice. There are several authors, but no common topic.
IV. Proverbs of Solomon, copied by the scribes of Hezekiah, Chs. 25- 29.
V. Words of Agur. Ch. 30. From one who has tried "to find out God unto perfection and found the task above him."
VI. Words of Lemuel, Ch. 31.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Collect passages that tell of the rewards of virtue and piety. (2) Cite passages that show the evils of: sloth or indolence, of wine-drinking and drunkenness, of tale-bearing, of family contentions. (3) Make a list of the chief thoughts of the book concerning God, man, and other great religious teachings of our day. (4) What is said of a man who rules his own spirit, of a good name, of obedience to parents, of fitly spoken words, of a beautiful woman who lacks discretion, of a liberal soul, of a false balance, of a soft answer, of a wise son. Find where the answers are found (5) The Peril of following an unchaste love (woman), chapter 5. (6) Folly of yielding to the wiles of an harlot, chapter 7. (7) The description of a worthy woman, 31:10 end.