Old Testament Lesson 35 (Psalms 102-3; 110; 116-9; 127-8; 135-9; 146-50)
August 21–27


The Book of Psalms

●  The Hebrew name for Psalms was Tehillim, or songs of praise. Our title comes from the Greek psalterion, which is formed from the root pasllo, meaning “to sing”.

●  73 of the Psalms in the Bible are ascribed to David personally. Superscriptions on some of the other Psalms attribute them to various other authors.

— 70 psalms have David’s name prefixed.
— 18 psalms have no superscription.
—  2 psalms are attributed to Solomon.
— 12 psalms are attributed to Asaph (a musician in David’s court).
— 10 psalms are attributed to the sons of Korah (Levites).
—  1  psalm is attributed to Heman (a leader of the temple music).
—  1  psalm is attributed to Ethan (a leader of the temple music).
—  1  psalm is attributed to Moses.
—  4  psalms have song titles.
— 18 psalms proclaim Hallelujah (“Praise Ye Jehovah”).
— 13 psalms are Psalms of Degree.

Total Psalms: 150

●  The purpose of the psalms is to express in poetry and song the essence of the gospel and its enduring truths.

●  Psalms is one of the 11 books of the Old Testament that belong to the Hagiographa (“sacred writings”) of the Jewish canon, along with Ruth, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and Daniel.

●  Most of the psalms were written during the reign of King David (his tenure in Jerusalem was generally the third quarter of the eleventh century BC).

●  Anciently the Hebrews divided the 150 psalms into 5 separate books:

— Psalms 1–41
— Psalms 42–72
— Psalms 73–89
— Psalms 90–106
— Psalms 107–150

●  At the end of each division, the break was marked with a doxology, or formal declaration of God’s power and glory (Psalms 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; 106:48). Psalm 150 is itself a doxology, using the Hebrew Hallelujah, “praise ye the Lord,” at its beginning and end, as well as the word “praise” eleven other times. It is a fitting conclusion to the Tehillim, “songs of praise.”

●  The Psalms were frequently quoted in the New Testament: 116 of 283 direct citations of Old Testament in the New Testament are from Psalms.


Poetic Parallelism in the Psalms

●  David and other Hebrew poets used parallelism—the repetition of a thought in different words. Such repetition expands or intensifies the meaning of the original idea.

●  Four Kinds of Parallelism are used in Hebrew poetry, in which an idea in the first line is related to another line or lines:

1. Repeating the same idea as line 1 In different words:

— Psalm 19:1   “The heavens declare the glory of God;
                                     and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

— Psalm 102:1–2   The same thought is expressed in different words five times:
                                         “hear my prayer”
                                         “let my cry come unto thee”
                                         “hide not thy face from me”
                                         “incline thine ear unto me”
                                        “in the day when I call answer me speedily”

2. Contrasting an opposing idea to line 1:

— Psalm 1:6    “For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous:
                                   but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

3. Completing the idea in line 1:

— Psalm 23:4    “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
                                      for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

4. Repeating the ideas of line 1 but in reverse order. This is called chiasmus [ki-AZ-mas).

— Psalm 124:7   Our soul is escaped
                                     as a bird out of a snare of the fowlers:
                                     the snare is broken,
                                and we are escaped.

●  Figures of Speech are also used by Hebrew poets—both metaphors and similes—where comparisons are made between two ideas (e.g., “he is like a pillar).  These can be difficult to interpret since we are not always familiar with the objects used in these comparisons in Old Testament times (e.g., “they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes”).

●  The Psalms also provide specific instructions for the music and vocal arrangements to be used:

— Psalm 6   “To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith” means “in the bass range on stringed instruments.”

— Some Psalms were to be accompanied by stringed instruments (Neginah, Neginoth), others by wind instruments (Nehiloth); while such titles as “Set to Alamoth” (Ps. 46) maidens, or “Set to the Sheminith” (Ps. 6, 12) the octave, imply that there was singing in parts.

— Some of the titles indicate the character of the Psalm.  Maschil means “giving instruction” (Ps. 32, 42, 44–45, 52–55, 74, 78, 88–89, 112), while Shiggaion (Ps. 7) with Shigionoth (Hab. 3:1) may refer to the irregular erratic style of the compositions.  Gittith “belonging to Gath” (Pss. 8, 81, 84) may relate either to the melody or to the instrument used in the performance.

— The other titles are all probably names of tunes, well known at the time, to which the Psalms were appointed to be sung.


●  David says, “I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high” (Psalm 7:17).

●  Most of the Psalms are associated with acts of worship in the temple. Some may be classified as hymns, laments, songs of trust or thanksgiving, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Quite often a single psalm will include expressions from more than one of these types.

●  A number of psalms are found in other parts of the Bible and elsewhere in scripture:

— The psalm of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:10–20).
— The prayer of Jonah (Jonah 2:2–9).
— Songs recorded by Moses after the deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 15:1–21).
— The Song of Deborah and Barak (Judges 5:2–31).
— Mary’s song (Luke 1:46–55).
— The song-like prayer of Samuel’s mother, Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1–10).
— Nephi’s magnificent hymn (2 Nephi 4:16–35).
— The Prophet Joseph Smith’s moving prayer of lamentation (D&C 121:16).

●  Most of the Psalms are associated with acts of worship in the temple. Some may be classified as hymns, laments, songs of trust or thanksgiving, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Quite often a single psalm will include expressions from more than one of these types.

The Psalms as Prophecies of the Messiah

●  Luke 24:44   The resurrected Savior declared, “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”

●  In this section of the Psalms, the following prophecies of the Savior are given:

Prophecy:   Fulfillment (Scripture):                                                                                       

Psalm 107:23–30     Jesus will calm the winds and the waves (Matt. 8:23–27).
Psalm 110:4    Christ is “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Psalm 118:22    “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”


●  Praise:  Many psalms speak of praising God by “making a joyful noise unto the Lord:”

Psalm 100:1  “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.”

●  Trust:  “Trust in the Lord” is one of the most common themes in the book of Psalms:

Psalm 118:8–9  “It is better to trust in the Lord than . . . in man.”

●  Mercy, Forgiveness & Love: David sorrowed because of his sins and wrote extensively about the Lord’s mercy and love:

Psalm 136  God’s “mercy endureth forever.”

●  The Scriptures:

—  Psalm 119:97  “O how I love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (see also vv. 15–16, 33–35, 40, 47–50, 72, 92, 104, 174).

Psalm 119:105  The scriptures are “a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path.”