Psalms

Psalms is a wonderful collection of poetry. Let's look at the history of the book and the impact it has had on us today.

Introduction

Psalms is the longest book of the Bible, boasting 150 chapters, and is a collection of songs or poems meant for worship. In English, the word psalm means hymn or song,[1] but the original Hebrew word (tehilim) means praise.[2] This is a more accurate description of the text since some of the psalms are actually prayers.
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Date and Authorship

Being a collection of works, Psalms wasn't authored by a single person, and was likely compiled over many years. Some of the songs have titles and designations which reference possible authors. Among those listed as probably authors of several psalms include David, the sons of Korah, Asaph, Solomon, and Moses. It is important to note that while Aspah is designated an author, Aspah was also the name of a group of musicians and may have applied to the group instead of the person.[2]
There are psalms without titles, as well, which are considered anonymous psalms.
Psalm 90 is identified as "A Psalm of Moses,"implying Moses was the author. This would place it's date of authorship in the fifteenth century (bc). Other psalms clearly take place after the exile, and therefore must have been written after the sixth century (bc). The final compilation of psalms for the book would have happened after the last psalm was written.

Grouping the Psalms

Psalms is divided into 5 books: Book I contains Psalms 1-41, Book II contains Psalms 42-72, Book III contains Psalms 73-89, Book IV contains Psalms 90-106, and Book V contains Psalms 107-150. Why they are divided as such is debated by scholars. Some suggest each book has a theme that links the Psalms. E.W. Grant suggests the following: Book I covers Christ as the source of blessing for Israel; Book II discusses the ruin of Israel and coming redemption; Book III proclaims the holiness of God; Book IV tells us of the failed man to be replaced by Jesus; and Book V is a moral conclusion. Others suggest the themes parallel the Pentateuch (the Books of law). In addition, the psalms can be categorized by five classifications: historical, messianic, prophetic, penitential, or imprecatory.[3]

Jesus & Psalms

If you noticed, many of the classifications include references Jesus. You have to admit it would be odd for the longest book in the Bible to never discuss the Messiah. A total of 23 Messianic prophecies can be found across 14 Psalms. I'll cover them as I get to those chapters, but for those who want to skip ahead, the chapters are Psalms 2, 8, 16, 22, 34, 35, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 109, 110, and 118.

Music and Psalms

When I realized Psalms was the next book I would read, I became curious as to how many of the hymns we sing today are actually from Psalms. I find it interesting that people argue about the "right" type of worship music, when the Bible has a whole book that's basically a hymnal.

The Psalms Project

As I was searching for hymns that are based on Psalms, I came across The Psalms Project. The Psalms Project is a band that is working to set all 150 psalms to music. Their plan is to release 15 album with 10 psalms on each album. The third album was released in November of 2016, which covers Psalms 21-30.

Other Psalms Projects

When I went to look for the album on iTunes, I was pleasantly surprised to see there are many projects to get Psalms into song! "Sing Psalms" by Psalm Project Africa was released in January 2013. It features 20 Psalms (in seemingly no particular order). While The Psalms Project has an indie feel to it, Psalm Project Africa features African inspiration and a multitude of voices. There is also an album by Hope Creative called "The Psalms Project" (if you're thinking about taking on this task, please be creative and deviate from "The Psalms Project" in your naming). Hope Creative's album is from 2015 and has 10 tracks which cover 13 Psalms.

Individual Psalms

Several artists have adapted a single psalm for their album as well. Naturally Psalm 23 is the most popularly set to music. Searching for "Psalm 23" on iTunes brings back 100 hits, "The Lord is My Shepherd" brings back another 100 hits.

There are quite a few songs inspired by Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible). Charles Villier Standford wrote "Beati quorum via integra est," which means "blessed are those whose way," in 1905. The song is based on Psalm 119:1.[4] Clara H. Scott's "Open My Eyes, That I May See" was inspired by Psalm 119:18.[5] William Byrd's "Teach Me, O Lord" is based on Psalm 119:33-38.[6] "Thy Word" by Amy Grant is based on Psalm 119:105.[7]Heinrich Sch├╝tz completed the whole song in 1671. Frederick Steinruck, Michael Misiaszek, and Michael Owens also created a complete English version of the psalm.[8] The most popular psalms are Psalm 23 and Psalm 119. Psalm 23 is popular in the sense that most people know it by heart, and those who don't know it by heart will recognize it once the hear it. Psalm 119 is popular in the sense that its "that really long psalm." Psalm 119 is 176 verses long; it's the length of some books with in the Bible. Written as an acrostic with 8 verses for each of the 22 letters of Hebrew, it is written very deliberately. This psalm is probably the most studied by scholars.

References

  1. "Psalm". Merriam-Webster; visited June 2017
  2. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 909-912. 2014
  3. William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 545-548. 1995
  4. "Beati quorum via (Stanford)". Wikipedia; visited June 2017
  5. "Open My Eyes, That I May See ". Timeless Truths; visited June 2017
  6. Teach me, O Lord". Hyperion Records; visited June 2017
  7. "Thy Word by Amy Grant". Songfacts; visited June 2017
  8. "Free Scripture Songs and Sermon MP3s". Pursing Life Ministries; visited June 2017

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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