Book of the Week 19: Psalms

Hebrew Name: T’hillim

Author: Multiple Authors (some individually identified)

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 150

Basic Facts

  1. Psalms is the nineteenth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Psalms is classified as poetry.
  3. The book of Psalms in Hebrew and in English has 150 independent Psalms, but the Greek Septuagint contains 151 Psalms, and the Dead Sea Scrolls contain even more.
  4. The introductory notes which are listed before verse 1 in many of the Psalms are considered to be part of the original biblical text, sometimes identifying the author.
  5. The Hebrew name for Psalms is T’hillim, meaning “praises.”

Story of the Book

Psalms is a collection of hymns or songs, poems, and prayers that were collected and preserved from Israel’s history. Each of the 150 psalms is its own independent work of poetry. As a result, Psalms is an assortment of 150 different stories, not necessarily a coherent whole that tells one story like most of the books of the Bible. The book of Psalms includes three main types of songs: psalms of thanksgiving or praise, psalms of lament, and psalms that are used as hymns. Some psalms are also titled "songs of ascent," which were sung by the assembly of the Israelites as they ascended the Temple Mount in order to worship (particularly Psalms 120-134).

Psalms has been organized and reorganized several times throughout the course of history before being settled into its final form, which divides the book into five smaller books as follows:

  • Book 1 (Psalms 1-41)
  • Book 2 (Psalms 42-72)
  • Book 3 (Psalms 73-89)
  • Book 4 (Psalms 90-106)
  • Book 5 (Psalms 107-150)

This structure to the book of Psalms is artificial and is only a means of organizing the Psalms. This organizational structure is not considered to be original to the text. Each psalm stands on its own as an independent work of literature. Nevertheless, each book contributes to the whole of Scripture in communicating meaning, truth, history, repentance, laments, and sometimes prophecy.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Psalms

Psalms is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament book. As a result, there are too many ways in which the book of Psalms foreshadows Christ to mention all of them here. The following is a small sample of the ways in which Christ is foreshadowed in Psalms:

  • Psalm 2 speaks of the anointing of king David. This description describes David as God’s chosen son and foreshadows the king to come, namely Jesus, as the Son of God (Psalm 2:7-12; Acts 4:25-26).
  • Psalm 22 speaks of the sufferings of king David, which many believe to be a foretelling of the crucifixion of Christ (especially Psalm 22:1-18; John 19:24). 
  • Jesus tells the scribes and the chief priests in the temple that the praise of children concerning him is the fulfillment of Psalm 8 (Psalm 8:2, Matthew 21:16).
  • The book of Hebrews makes extensive use of Psalms to describe the foreshadowing of Christ in the Old Testament:
    • Christ is called the "Son of God" (Psalm 2:7; Hebrews 1:5-6). 
    • Christ’s kingdom is forever (Psalm 45:6; Hebrews 1:8-9). 
    • David describes the Messiah as Lord, to whom God promises to subject the nations (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13).
    • Christ is even described as the Creator of the world (Psalm 102:25; John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:10).

There are many more examples, but these are a few of the many ways in which Jesus is foreshadowed in the book of Psalms.