THE BOOK OF PSALMS

King David Playing the Harp.



The Psalms are beautiful poetic songs of prayer. The Psalms convey three important themes of Hebrew Scripture - that God is active in history, the necessity of human response to God through praise and prayer, and the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord and to Trust in God. The Psalms of Hebrew Scripture are composed of songs of praise sung to God in divine worship, accompanied by a musical instrument. The word Psalm in Hebrew - תְּﬣִﬥָﬣ - tehillah - actually means praise or song of praise. King David sang a song of praise to the Lord when he was delivered from the grasp of his enemies and from the hands of Saul (Second Samuel 22:1). Their time of composition was primarily pre-exilic (before 586 BC, the time of the Babylonian exile) and post-exilic (after 516 BC), but the time probably ranges over five centuries. The authorship of 73 of the Psalms is attributed to David, although it is likely that he composed one or more of the 48 anonymous Psalms. Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses and Psalms 72 and 127 to Solomon.

The Psalms begin the Writings or Hagiographa in the three-fold division of the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and Writings of Hebrew Scripture. In the four-fold division of the Greek Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, and the Christian Old Testament of the Bible, the Psalms are part of the Wisdom Literature, which includes in the following order: the Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. The Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate also included the Books of Wisdom and Sirach.

The Hebrew Psalms number 150, while the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as the Greek Septuagint Old Testament both contain Psalm 151 of David. The numbering of Psalms often differ by one, the Hebrew Psalter being one more than the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate. The numbering here follows the original Hebrew. The Psalms are generally of three types: laments, both individual and communal; hymns; and songs of thanksgiving. Others are classified as royal psalms, some wisdom psalms, and others defy classification.

At one time, the Psalms were divided into five books to correspond to the Pentateuch of Moses. Book I includes Psalms 1-41, attributed to David. Book II comprises Psalms 42-72, authored by the Sons of Korah, Asaph, David, and Solomon. Book III has Psalms 73-89, composed primarily by Asaph and the Sons of Korah, with Psalm 86 by David and Psalm 89 by Ethan. Book IV contains Psalms 90-106 without named authors except for Psalm 90 (Moses) and Psalms 101 and 103 (David). Book V covers Psalms 107-150, which include Psalm 110 by David; Psalms 113-118, the Hallel sung during Passover; Psalms 120-134, the Songs of Ascents; and 138-145 composed by David. Unifying themes include contemplation and prayer to the Lord and Love.

Placing our
trust in God is found throughout the Scriptures, especially the Psalms. The Hebrew verb to trust -
בָּטַח - baṭaḥ - or its conjugates are recorded over 40 times in the Psalms alone, and to Trust in God is the primary theme of such Psalms as 4, 27, 56, and 62. Trusting in God means both to believe in God and to place our hope in Him. Thus in Greek one sees the word trust translated both with the verbs for faith - πιστεύω - I believe, have faith in, trust; and hope - ἐλπίζω - I hope, trust. Another Greek verb that conveys the meaning of trust is πέποιθα - I depend on, trust.

The Psalms have had a profound influence on both Eastern and Western culture. The most famous Psalm is King David's Psalm 23. Christ repeats verse five of Psalm 31 on the Cross, "Into thy hands I commend my spirit." Psalm 91 offers evidence of Guardian Angels. Psalm 95 (verse 1) contains the words
Laus Deo, the Latin for Praise be to God, which is inscribed on top of the Washington Monument. Psalm 103 confirms that Angels carry out the will of God. Psalm 118 (verse 24) was the inspiration for the World War I liberation song of Jerusalem, the world-famous Hava Nagila. Psalm 119 is an alphabetical psalm that expresses love for the Word of God, each eight-verse stanza beginning with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 139 speaks of life in the womb!

The Psalms are notable for Prophecies of the Messiah, such as Psalm 2, fulfilled in Matthew 3:17, Psalm 22, fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and Psalm 110. In fact, the greatest number of Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament are from the Book of Psalms, Psalm 110 being the most quoted by New Testament writers. For example, God declared his son Jesus Christ high priest according to the order of Melchizedek in Hebrews 5:10, which fulfilled Psalm 110, a Psalm of David, in which David announced to his royal successor - "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110:4). Melchizedek, whose name is found only twice in Hebrew Scripture, was the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, who brought out bread and wine and blessed Abram (Genesis 14:18).

Following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 587 BC, when animal sacrifice could no longer be continued, a sacrifice of praise was instituted among the Jewish people during the Babylonian Exile, which included readings of the Torah, Psalms, and Hymns throughout the day. The risen Christ applied the Psalms to himself when he said to his disciples: "Everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44). This sacrifice of praise continued within Christianity as the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office, of which the Psalms remain an essential part. The Divine Office has evolved throughout the centuries, and today is said five times throughout the day: Matins or Office of Readings; the Lauds or Morning Prayer; Daytime Prayer; Vespers or Evening Prayer; and Compline or Night Prayer.

This collection of 12 Psalms includes the Messianic Psalms 2, 22, and 110; Psalm 23, which is ingrained in the American conscience; Psalm 31, referenced by Jesus on the Cross; and the Seven Penitential Psalms, which bring comfort to a repentant heart (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). The most famous of the seven is Psalm 51, which is called the Miserere after its first word in Latin and is said every Friday at Lauds in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Psalms 2, 23, 31, and 110 are from the 1611 Authorized King James Version of The Holy Bible, now in the public domain. Psalm 22 and the Seven Penitential Psalms are from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of the International Bible Society.



PSALM 2

1 Why do the heathen rage,
and the people imagine a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,
3 Let us break their bands asunder,
and cast away their cords from us.
4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh:
the Lord shall have them in derision.
5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath,
and vex them in his sore displeasure.
6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me,
Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,
and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;
thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings:
be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry,
and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.



PSALM 6

A Psalm of David.
For the leader, with stringed instruments, "upon the eighth"

1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
3 My soul is in anguish.
How long, O LORD, how long?

4 Turn, O LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
5 No one remembers you when he is dead.
Who praises you from the grave ?
6 I am worn out from groaning;
all night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.

8 Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the LORD has heard my weeping.
9 The LORD has heard my cry for mercy;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed;
they will turn back in sudden disgrace.



PSALM 22

For the director of music. A Psalm of David.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him —
may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!



PSALM 23

A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
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.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.



PSALM 31

To the chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

1 In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed:
deliver me in thy righteousness.
2 Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily:
be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.
3 For thou art my rock and my fortress;
therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.
4 Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me:
for thou art my strength.
5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit:
thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

6 I have hated them that regard lying vanities:
but I trust in the Lord.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy:
for thou hast considered my trouble;
thou hast known my soul in adversities;
8 and hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy:
thou hast set my feet in a large room.
9 Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble:
mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly.
10 For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing:
my strength faileth because of mine iniquity,
and my bones are consumed.

11 I was a reproach among all mine enemies,
but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance:
they that did see me without fled from me.
12 I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind:
I am like a broken vessel.
13 For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side:
while they took counsel together against me,
they devised to take away my life.

14 But I trusted in thee, O Lord:
I said, Thou art my God.
15 My times are in thy hand:
deliver me from the hand of mine enemies,
and from them that persecute me.
16 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant:
save me for thy mercies’ sake.
17 Let me not be ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon thee:
let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.
18 Let the lying lips be put to silence;
which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.

19 Oh how great is thy goodness,
which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee;
which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!
20 Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man:
thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.
21 Blessed be the Lord:
for he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city.
22 For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes:
nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.
23 O love the Lord, all ye his saints:
for the Lord preserveth the faithful,
and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.
24 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart,
all ye that hope in the Lord.



PSALM 32

A Psalm of David.
A Maskil

1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Selah

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, "I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Selah

6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you
while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.
7 You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Selah

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD's unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!



PSALM 38

A Psalm of David.
For remembrance

1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 For your arrows have pierced me,
and your hand has come down upon me.

3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
my bones have no soundness because of my sin.
4 My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.
5 My wounds fester and are loathsome
because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
8 I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.

9 All my longings lie open before you, O Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
12 Those who seek my life set their traps,
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they plot deception.
13 I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear,
like a mute, who cannot open his mouth;
14 I have become like a man who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply.

15 I wait for you, O LORD;
you will answer, O Lord my God.
16 For I said, "Do not let them gloat
or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips."
17 For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
19 Many are those who are my vigorous enemies;
those who hate me without reason are numerous.
20 Those who repay my good with evil
slander me when I pursue what is good.

21 O LORD, do not forsake me;
be not far from me, O my God.
22 Come quickly to help me,
O Lord my Savior.



PSALM 51

A Psalm of David, when Nathan the Prophet
came to him after his affair with Bathsheba.
For the leader. Miserere.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.



PSALM 102

The prayer of one afflicted and wasting away
whose anguish is poured out before the Lord.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 Because of my loud groaning
I am reduced to skin and bones.
6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.
8 All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
9 For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears
10 because of your great wrath,
for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
11 My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD:
19 "The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death."
21 So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD.

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
he cut short my days.
24 So I said:
"Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you."



PSALM 110

A Song of David

1 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand,
until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2 The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion:
rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,
in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning:
thou hast the dew of thy youth.
4 The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent,
Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
6 He shall judge among the heathen,
he shall fill the places with the dead bodies;
he shall wound the heads over many countries.
7 He shall drink of the brook in the way:
therefore shall he lift up the head.



PSALM 130

A Song of Ascents

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
2 O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.

5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
Yes, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.



PSALM 143

A Prayer of David, when he was in the cave.
A Maskil.

1 O LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.

3 The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
6 I spread out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
Selah

7 Answer me quickly, O LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD,
for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

11 For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.



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