Old Testament Lesson 33 (Psalms 1-2; 8; 19-33; 40; 46)
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 POETRY OF THE PSALMS
Hebrew poetry does not rhyme the last words of one line with another line later on. Instead, it uses the following methods:
● 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.”
● 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.”
● 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.”
● 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 the 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.
WHY THE PSALMS WERE WRITTEN
● 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 2:6–8 Jesus will be the Only Begotten of God in the flesh.
Psalm 22:7–8 Jesus will be mocked (Matt. 27:39–43).
Psalm 22:16 Jesus will be crucified (Mark 15:25).
Psalm 22:18 The soldiers will cast lots for his clothes (Matt. 27:35).
Psalm 22:1 Jesus will say: “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
Psalm 31:5 Jesus will say: “Into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
THEMES IN THIS SECTION OF THE PSALMS
● Trusting in the Lord:
— Psalm 1: “Blessed are the righteous—The ungodly will perish.”
— Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
— Psalm 26: David says the he has walked in integrity and obedience.
— Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”
— Psalm 28: David asks the Lord to hear his voice; also “save thy people.”
— Psalm 33: “Rejoice in the Lord—He loves righteousness and judgment.”
● Pleading for Protection from his persecutors and enemies.
— Psalm 7 David trusts the Lord; also God is angry with the wicked.
● Mercy, Forgiveness & Love: David sorrowed because of his sins and wrote extensively about the Lord’s mercy and love:
— Psalm 24:3–4 “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart.”
● The Creation of Heaven and Earth:
— Psalm 8:4–5 “What is man that thou art mindful of him?”
— Psalm 19:1 The Lord’s creations “declare the glory of God.”
— Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.”
● The Scriptures:
— Psalm 19:7–11 The blessings that the scriptures bring to our lives.
● The Temple:
— Psalm 24:3 Question: “Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord.” (The Temple)
— Psalm 24:4 Answer: “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.”
— Psalm 26: David loves the Lord’s house.
— Psalm 27: He desires to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
● The Resurrection and Millennium:
— Psalm 30:3–5 “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”