We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

Psalms - Introduction

The Psalms is a collection of 150 songs of praise, prayers, and spiritual poems. All or parts of the book may have served as the hymnbook or prayerbook of the First Temple * (952–587 BCE) or Second Temple (515 BCE–70 CE), as well as the synagogues * that emerged in the Persian era. * The five-book arrangement of the Psalms (1–41, 42–72, 73–89, 90–106, 107–150 ) parallels the five books of the Torah. * It is likely that Books I–III received their final form earlier than IV–V, since three psalms dealing with the Davidic monarchy appear in crucial positions in Books I–III ( 2, 72, 89 ). The sequence seems to be intentional, and the probable purpose was to highlight the apparent failure of the Davidic covenant * with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 587 BCE ( 89.38–51 ). Book IV provides an immediate and effective response at the beginning of Ps 90 by calling attention to Moses, who led the people of God before the existence of monarchy, Temple, or land. Furthermore, Ps 93–99 then provide what many scholars identify as the central theme of the Psalms: the proclamation of God's cosmic and eternal reign (as opposed to the transient Davidic monarchy).

Book V continues to affirm the universal sovereignty of God ( 107, 145–150 ), but its more complex structure suggests different nuances. The appearance of Davidic collections ( 108–110, 138–145 ) redirects attention toward the Davidic monarchy, but the whole people of God now appears to fulfill the royal function of serving as God's earthly agents (see 144, 149 ). At the heart of the book, two collections featuring the Exodus ( 113–118 ) and Zion * ( 120–137 ) surround Ps 119 , which upholds the central significance of the Torah. Because it no longer possessed either a land or a monarchy, the post-exilic community reorganized itself around the Torah. The prominence of the Torah in the final shape of the Psalms suggests that the character of the collection shifted as it grew to final form. What started out primarily as a hymnbook or prayerbook took on the additional character of something like a catechism or book of instruction, which is what the word “Torah” essentially means.

The English word “psalm” is derived from a Greek word, which in turn translates a Hebrew word meaning “musical praise.” This etymology suggests that the original context of most of the psalms was in Israel's and Judah's worship of God. This probability is reinforced by frequent references to singing, shouting, dancing, and musical instruments. In addition, the Temple is often in view, along with its gates, courts, and altar. Exactly how, where, and when the psalms were used is not known. Undoubtedly the songs of praise were sung as part of worship when the people gathered at the three annual pilgrimage feasts, and they may have been used in daily Temple services and on special occasions and celebrations. The prayers may also have been used at these times. In later times, the psalms would have been used in the synagogues. The prayers may have been used in smaller group settings, possibly even in homes.

Further specificity is difficult to attain. The superscriptions, or headings, of many psalms associate them with particular individuals, especially David, but not with the implication that he was their author. “Of David,” for instance, could mean “inspired by David” or “in memory of David.” The thirteen instances in which the superscriptions associate the psalm with a specific episode in David's life should be understood as later attempts to provide an imagined narrative * context for the psalm. In this translation, these superscriptions appear in smaller italic type before the first verse of some of the psalms. Psalm 3 gives an example of a superscription linking that Psalm to an event in David's life.

The Psalms are difficult to date. The safest conclusion is that they originated in various periods and had a long and varied history of use, even within the biblical period. The collection in its present form shows signs of having been shaped in response to the crisis of the Exile * and its aftermath. The Psalms as a book of scripture made it especially suited for teaching persons about God, humankind, and the life of faith.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2014. All Rights Reserved. Privacy policy and legal notice