Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Forms, Continued

Worship – These praise God, not for some specific act which He has done for the worshiper, but rather because who God is or what God has done. This pattern normally begins with a call to praise the Lord, continues with a statement of the reason for praise, and concludes either with a call to praise, an expression of praise, an exhortation, or a petition. This pattern may be seen in the following: Psalms 8, 16, 19, 29, 33, 36, 65, 100, 103-105, 107, 111, 113, 117, 135-36, 139, and 145-50.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Forms, Continued

Thanksgiving or Acknowledgement, Individual – These acknowledge God’s help in a time of need. The basic elements of this pattern include: a declaration of the individual’s determination to praise God, a summary statement, a report on the help received, a reconfirmation of the vow to praise God, a declaration of praise or instruction based on the psalmist’s experience. This pattern may be seen in the following: Psalms 9, 18, 30, 32, 34, 40-41, 66, 106, 107, 115, 116, 118, and 138.

Thanksgiving or Acknowledgement, National – These follow essentially the same pattern as the individual form, but they acknowledge God’s activity in favor of the nation. This pattern may be seen in the following: Psalms 65, 68, 77, 124, 126, and 129.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Forms, Continued

Songs of Zion – These praise Jerusalem, the habitation of God. Some of this type, those known as “songs of ascent,” “songs of degrees” or “pilgrimage psalms,” were apparently sung by those on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at the time of the annual feasts. These include: Psalms 42-43, 46, 48, 76, 84, 87, and 120-34.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Forms, Continued

Messianic – These psalms contain important prophecies concerning Messiah. they include: Psalms 2, 8, 16, 21, 22, 24, 40, 45, 72, 110, and 118.
Royal – These are similar to enthronement psalms in that they point to God’s sovereignty and right to rule over His people. The distinction of the royal psalm is that God’s earthly king, either the contemporary king or Messiah, is in view. These psalms draw attention to specific aspects of the reign of God’s king, such as his crowning, his fighting, or the basis of his right to rule, the Davidic covenant. This pattern may be seen in the following: Psalms 2, 18, 20-21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, and 144.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Forms, Continued

Lament, Individual – These are a plea to God for help in the midst of a difficult or dangerous situation. The basic elements of this pattern include: a direct appeal to God, a description of the problem, a confession of trust in God, a specific petition, and a concluding declaration of praise to God or a vow to praise God when the answer is received. This pattern may be seen in the following: Psalms 3-7, 10, 12-13, 14, 17, 22, 25-28, 31, 35, 38-40, 42-43, 51, 54-59, 61, 63-64, 69-71, 86, 88, 94, 102, 108-09, 120, 130, 137, and 140-43.
Lament, National – These follow essentially the same pattern as the individual form. Their only consistent difference is that they address a national problem, rather than an individual one. This pattern may be seen in the following: Psalms 44, 60, 67, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 90, and 123.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Forms, Continued

Instructional – Also called Didactic Psalms, these are designed to instruct the reader. While many psalms have an educational purpose, they are mostly of another type. These psalms have the specific purpose of instruction. The two kinds most often found are:
  • Torah – these are teachings based on the exposition of the law. These are Psalms 1, 19 and 119.
  • Wisdom – Like the Book of Proverbs, these psalms demonstrate the two alternative ways of life: the folly of the man who bases everything on the present and rejects God, the wisdom of the man who sees life from God’s perspective and seeks to follow Him. Included among these psalms are: 1, 10, 14, 15, 23, 37, 49, 50, 52, 53, 62, 73, 81, 91, 92, 95, 112, 114, 115, and 119.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Forms, Continued

Hallel – These six psalms (113 through 118) are sung or recited together verbatim. The Hallel is traditionally recited, or sung, at specific Jewish holidays including Passover, Shabuoth, Sukkoth, Hanukkah, and Rosh Hodesh.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Forms, Continued

Enthronement – These refer to Jehovah’s rule over the universe. These psalms have sometimes been misunderstood as references to an annual enthronement festival for Jehovah, similar to pagan customs. These psalms are often characterized by the presence of the phrase “Yahweh reigns” or “Jehovah reigns.” This pattern may be seen in the following: Psalms 11, 24, 29, 47, 75, 82, 93, and 96-99.

Monday, November 8, 2010


It is important to remember that each psalm has its own individual character. That being said, there appear to be some common patterns or forms in the psalms that can assist us in understanding the intent of the psalmists. The following are some of the recognized psalm forms. It should be noted that opinions may differ between scholars on the exact list of psalms which follow each form.

Ascent, Degrees, or Pilgrimage – These Songs of Zion psalms were apparently sung by those on pilgrimages to Jerusalem. The pilgrims would ascend from the lower terrain, gradually by degrees, to the high geography of Jerusalem. These include Psalms 120-34.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hebrew Poetry

Unlike much Western poetry, Hebrew poetry is not based on rhyme or meter, but on rhythm and parallelism. The rhythm is not achieved by balanced numbers of accented and unaccented syllables, but by tonal stress or accent on important words.
In parallelism, the poet states an idea in the first line and then reinforces it by various means in the succeeding line or lines. The most common type is synonymous parallelism, in which the second line essentially repeats the idea of the first.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


The organization and numbering of the Psalms differs slightly between the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint manuscripts. The following chart provides a comparison of the two.
Masoretic Text   Septuagint

1-8              1-8
9                9, part 1
10               9, part 2
11-113           10-112
114              113, part 1
115              113, part 2
116, part 1      114
116, part 2      115
117-146          116-145
147, part 1      146
147, part 2      147
148-150          148-150
In addition to the 150, most of the Septuagint manuscripts also include a Psalm 151. A Hebrew version of this song was found in the Psalm Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls. For the purposes of this book we will confine ourselves to the 150 psalms that appear in both the Masoretic and Septuagint texts.
The choice of numbering for the psalms differ within Christian traditions. For the purposes of this book we will primarily reference each psalm using the Masoretic (Hebrew) numbering, which is also the numbering method used in the Protestant translations of the Bible.

Friday, November 5, 2010


The psalms have several composers, or psalmists. Based upon the titles and other references in the Old Testament and New Testament, the psalmists are as follows:
• David 73 (at least)
• Asaph 12 (Psalms 50, 73-83)
• Sons of Korah 11 (Psalms 42, 44-49, 84, 85, 87, 88)
• Solomon 2 (Psalms 72, 127)
• Moses 1 (Psalm 90)
• Ethan the Ezrahite 1 (Psalm 89)
• Heman the Ezrahite 1 (Psalm 88)
• Anonymous 49
This breakdown of psalmists should be taken with a grain of salt. While the superscription of the psalms support these designations, it must be noted that in some cases the superscriptions may actually be referring to those who arranged or performed a given psalm, or even to those for whom a particular psalm was written. The majority of the psalms appear to have been written during the times of David and Solomon. And one or more of the “Anonymous” psalms may have been written during the time of Elijah or perhaps by Elijah himself.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


All but 34 of the psalms have superscriptions at their beginning. These are editorial titles that either provide information to the performers or explain the reason for the psalm. Not all Bible translations include the psalm superscriptions.
It should be noted that there are those who, for various reasons, think that portions or all of some superscriptions are actually subscriptions that should apply to the preceding psalm. However, for the purposes of this book, those texts will be presented in their traditional form as superscriptions. For this publication the superscriptions are presented in brackets at the beginning of the psalm.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Five Books within One

The psalms are arranged in Five Books: Psalms 1-41; Psalms 42-72; Psalms 73-89; Psalms 90-106; Psalms 107-150. These divisions are indicated in both the Masoretic and Septuagint texts. Each of the books concludes with a doxology of praise to God (41:13; 72:19-20; 89:52; 106:48; 150:1-6). Within the Five Books of the psalms there are sub-groups, including the Psalms of the Sons of Korah, 42-49; the Psalms of Asaph, 73-83; the Michtam Psalms, 56-60; and the Songs of Degrees, or Pilgrimage Psalms, 120-134.
With regard to the divisions, one thought is that these divisions are in honor of the Pentateuch—the Five Books of Moses—though the content of the Books themselves actually does not parallel the content of the Pentateuch.
Another, more likely thought regarding the divisions is that they or the result of the collection process. Most of the psalms probably began as individual songs, except for those that many have been written together for a common purpose. As the psalms became better known, they were gathered into collections of “song books” that were circulated together. The smaller collections were probably combined over time into the larger Five Books, and these were eventually combined into one Book and organized under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Book of Psalms

The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 religious songs and chants. The Masoretic Texts, the Hebrew version of the Jewish Bible, refer to the book as Tehillim—a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “Praises.” The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew text, referred to the book as Psalmoi—a transliteration of the Greek word, meaning to sing to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. It is from the Septuagint title that the English translation gets its name of The Book of Psalms. This book was the hymnal of the Jewish people.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Volume One is Now Available

Ruminating on the Psalms, Volume 1 is now available in trade paperback, PDF download, and ebook, this is the first of five volumes on the Book of Psalms as presented in the Old Testament of the Bible. These volumes grew out of a series of personal Bible devotions on the psalms. Each volume contains thirty psalms entries. Each psalm entry is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of a psalm. Rather, it is an attempt to peal away some of its layers in order to better understand the psalm and its purpose. Each entry begins with the full text of the psalm. This is followed by study notes and then closes with a short prayer, asking God to apply the lessons of the psalm. Ruminating on the Psalms, Volume 1 explores Psalm 1 through Psalm 30.