Who wrote it?
The brief descriptions that introduce the psalms have David listed as author 73 times. David’s personality and identity are clearly stamped on many of these psalms. While it is clear that David wrote many of the individual psalms, he is definitely not the author of the entire collection. Two of the psalms–72 and 127–are attributed to Solomon, David’s son and successor. Psalm 90 is a prayer assigned to Moses. Another group of 12 psalms–50 and 73 to 83–is ascribed to the family of Asaph. The sons of Korah wrote 11 psalms–42, 44-49, 84-85,and 87-88. Psalm 88 is attributed to Heman, while psalm 89 is assigned to Ethan the Ezrahite. With the exception of Solomon and Moses, all these additional authors were priests or Levites who were responsible for providing music for sanctuary worship during David’s reign. Fifty of the psalms designate no specific person as author.
When(ish) was it written?
A careful examination of the authorship question, as well as the subject matter covered by the psalms themselves, reveals that they span a period of many centuries. The oldest psalm in the collection is probably the prayer of Moses (psalm 90), a reflection on the frailty of man as compared to the eternity of God. The latest psalm is probably (psalm 137), a song of lament clearly written during the days when the Hebrews were being held captive by the Babylonians, from about 586 to 538 BC.
It is clear that the 150 individual psalms were written by many different people across a period of a thousand years in Israel’s history. They must have been compiled and put together in their present form by some unknown editor shortly after the captivity ended about 537 BC.
Why was it written?
The book of Psalms is the longest book in the Bible, with 150 individual psalms. It is also one of the most diverse, since the psalms deal with such subjects as God and His creation, war, worship, wisdom, sin and evil, judgment, justice, and the coming of the Messiah. These poems and songs are reflections of individuals as they wrestle through their emotions in relation to God’s sovereign plan playing out. Much like seeing Job’s pain and suffering, it’s encouraging that the Bible records the truth and pain of human emotions rather than suppressing them.
Some Key Verses
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
– Psalms 19:1
For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
– Psalms 22:16-19
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
– Psalms 23:1
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
– Psalms 51:10
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart.
– Psalms 119:1-2
A Quick Summary
Psalms is a collection of prayers, poems, and hymns that focus the worshiper’s thoughts on God in praise and adoration. Parts of this book were used as a hymnal in the worship services of ancient Israel. The musical heritage of the psalms is demonstrated by its title. It comes from a Greek word which means “a song sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument.”
God’s provision of a savior for His people is a recurring theme in the Psalms. Prophetic pictures of the Messiah are seen in numerous psalms. Psalm 2:1-12 portrays the Messiah’s triumph and kingdom. Psalm 16:8-11 foreshadows His death and resurrection. Psalm 22 shows us the suffering Savior on the cross and presents detailed prophecies of the crucifixion, all of which were fulfilled perfectly. The glories of the Messiah and His bride are on exhibit in Psalm 45:6-7, while Psalms 72:6-17, 89:3-37, 110:1-7 and 132:12-18 present the glory and universality of His reign.
What does this mean?
One of the results of being filled with the Spirit or the Word of Christ is singing. The psalms are the “songbook” of the early church that reflected the new truth in Christ.
God is the same Lord in all the psalms, but we respond to Him in different ways, according to the specific circumstances of our lives. What a marvelous God we worship, the psalmist declares, One who is high and lifted up beyond our human experiences but also one who is close enough to touch and who walks beside us along life’s way.
We can bring all our feelings to God—no matter how negative or complaining they may be—and we can rest assured that He will hear and understand. The psalmist teaches us that the most profound prayer of all is a cry for help as we find ourselves overwhelmed by the problems of life.
Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Psalms 22 and 73. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What would you like to remember and apply to your life?
Many of us have someone in our lives we look up to spiritually. Who is someone you look up to? Why do you look up to them?
When we read the Psalms, we see the writer “exhale” their thoughts and feelings and “inhale” truth about God. Do you have a rhythm of doing this in your spiritual life? How can you grow in this area?
Review Psalm 22. In what ways do we see the Gospel message of Jesus in the psalm? What from this psalm do you need to “inhale”?
What do you find yourself “exhaling” to God in this season of your life? What spiritual truths do you need to “inhale” from the Scriptures? Take time to reflect on this question and pray as a life group.