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THE FIVE BOOKS OF PSALMS

18 Jul

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Many people won’t believe you if you say there are five books of Psalms. They will look at the contents page in their Bible and say, “I see one; where are the other four?”  But all you have to do is turn to Psalm 42, Psalm 73, Psalm 90, and Psalm 107 and look at what it says immediately above the psalm. You will find the same in any version you inspect.

Here is a short summary of each of the books:

Book One – Psalms 1 – 41

– The superscriptions identify most of these psalms with David.
– These psalms are mostly personal.
– God is almost always identified as Yahweh (the LORD).
– Key verse – Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.”

Book Two – Psalms 42 – 72

– Among these psalms, eighteen of them are identified with David and seven with Korah and his descendants.
– These psalms are mostly national.
– God is usually identified as Elohim (God).
– Key verse – Psalm 51:17: ” A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Book Three – Psalms 73 – 89

– Most of these psalms are attributed to Asaph, David’s choir-master, and some are attributed
Korah and his descendants.
– These psalms are mostly national.
– God is often identified as Elohim (God).
– Key verse – Psalm 80:3: ” Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us.”

Book Four – Psalms 90 – 106

– Aside from one psalm attributed to Moses and two to David, the others have no superscriptions.
– These psalms are mostly for worship.
– God is usually identified as Yahweh (the LORD).
– Key verse – Psalm 98:6: ” Make a joyful symphony before the LORD, the King!”

Book Five – Psalms 107 – 150

– Fifteen of these psalms are attributed to David.
– These psalms are mostly for worship and contain many hallel, or praise psalms.
– God is often identified as Yahweh (the LORD).
– Key verse – Psalm 125:1:
” Those who trust in the LORD are as secure as Mount Zion.”

        By the way, as you look up where each book starts, notice how the previous chapter closes.  The last verse in each of the five books of Psalms closes with a doxology.

        Frankly, no one knows who divided the Psalms into five smaller books, when the divisions were made, or exactly why the Psalms were put in a particular order. Ancient Jewish commentators compared the five books of the Psalms to the first five books of the Old Testament. They said, “As Moses gave five books of laws to Israel, so David gave five books of Psalms to Israel.”

        Another theory is that the Psalms were divided up for the purpose of reading them in public worship along with the books of the Law. In ancient times Jews customarily read through the five books of the Law in three-year reading cycles for public worship. They spent forty-one Sabbaths reading Genesis along with the first book of Psalms (which has forty-one psalms), thirty-one reading Exodus along with the second book of Psalms (which has thirty-one), and so on.

        However the books came to be divided up, the Psalms are now grouped much like hymns in a modern hymnal. Modern hymnals are a collection of all sorts of hymns and gospel songs, and they are usually grouped according to different subjects. Sometimes it’s obvious why one hymn follows another; sometimes it isn’t. So it is with the Psalms.

The resulting variety of moods and styles throughout the books of the Psalms makes reading them an adventure. There is hardly a mood or feeling you can experience that isn’t touched upon by one psalm or another.

Taken from:
One Year Book of Psalms, authored by William J. Petersen & Randy Petersen

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Posted by on July 18, 2015 in poetry

 

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