The Psalms Book
The Psalms or the Psalms Book is the first text of the Ketuvim of the Jewish Bible Tanakh. The Psalms Book is a compilation of beautiful poems that deal with human problems and sorrows. The original name of the book was “Tehillim”, a Hebrew term that literally translates to “praise songs”. The English title “Psalms” from the Psalms Book has its roots in Psalmoi, the Greek title for Septuagint, which also means “songs of praise.” There are a total of 150 poems in the Psalms book, many of whose authorship is attributed to King David. However, most modern Biblical scholars do not accept King David as the author of these poems. As far as the date of composition of this text, there is enough to suggest that the Psalms book was written over a period of five centuries.
There are five sections that make up the entire length of the Psalms Book; each of these five sections ends with a doxology or a benediction. The five sections of the Psalms book are comprised of the following chapters: Book 1 (Psalms 1 to 41), Book 2 (Psalms 42 to 72), Book 3 (Psalms 73 to 89), Book 4 (Psalms 90 to 106) and Book 5 (Psalms 107 to 150). A lot of the Psalms have individual superscriptions or titles that range from just a single word to lengthy comments. There also seems to be present plenty of musical directions that are addressed to the “choirmaster” or “leader”. Some of them include statements like “the tune of lilies” and “with stringed instruments”.
There are themes that are covered in the psalms book. Hymns are songs of praise that are sung to admire God’s creation. They usually open with an invocation of praise, then go on to describe the motive or reason for the praise and then finally conclude with a reiteration of the invocation. The Hymns are further divided into enthronement psalms, which celebrate enthronement of Yahweh (YHWH) as the divine king and the Zion psalms which praises Mount Zion as God’s home in Jerusalem. The eschatological hymns explore ideas of a future judgment or restoration.
Some of the psalms are communal laments that discuss the lamentation of a nation due to some communal disaster. Both individual and communal laments are present but they do not always include elements like an address to the God, a description of the suffering, accusation of the people responsible for such suffering, admission of guilt or protestation of innocence, a yearning for divine assistance and guidance, faith in God’s provision, anticipation of a divine response, as well as a thanksgiving song.
The Royal Psalms focus on matters such as coronation of the king, marriages and battles. There are no mentions of any specific king, and the origins and use of these psalms remain a mystery. The individual laments focus on the sorrows of the individual person who is uttering them. These usually start by invocating Yahweh and goes on to the actual lamentation, ask for help and frequently end with a hope for a better future. Finally, the individual thanksgiving psalms show the psalmist thanking God for being relieved from personal problems and traumas.