How to deal with the Book of Psalms

(Phil) #1

Psalms speaks to our soul, but I struggle with how to handle it as an inspired text. I wish I. could just see it in black and white and look at the Psalms as straight from the mouth of God, but by definition they are from the mouth of mankind offered up to God. Of course, you then have the imprecatory Psalms to deal with.
Psalms has been noted as the book most quoted by Jesus, so they are of great value. However, it is my understanding that Jewish scholars placed them lower in a hierarchy than the Torah. And perhaps the Prophets. Any thoughts as to whether some scripture is “more inspired” than other scripture? Sticky subject.
In any case, Psalms is often used in proof texting and we seem to pull verses out of it a lot devoid of their context. Perhaps that is because the poetry speaks our heart in a way other scripture may not.
What are your thoughts? Should the Psalms be interpreted differently than other scripture?


I can relate. I really appreciate the section on Psalms in Philip Yancey’s book “The Bible Jesus Read,” because he says similar things – that he was never really sure how to deal with Psalms. I have felt similarly (though it always seemed “unChristian” to admit that you struggled with a book of the Bible that wasn’t Leviticus), and I think it might be because Psalms aren’t as “black and white” as I wanted them to be.

Also, seeing scripture as inspired makes it seem very “top down” – from God to us, whereas Psalms seem to go in the opposite direction. Yet if God inspired the Psalms, then he inspired praise to himself – which feels weird. It makes a lot more sense if he’s giving us rules.

I do think the Psalms are inspired, but are also poetic and probably should not be used for prooftexting in the same way as the epistles. As I loosen up my view of inerrancy just a little bit, I think I’m starting to appreciate them more. They certainly contain a rawness and honesty that can’t be found elsewhere in scripture.

(Shawn T Murphy) #3

The inspired texts of the Bible are not from the mouth of Mankind, but from the mouths of the Prophets sent by God. Solomon wrote the first books of the Bible and Solomon was the incarnation of the Archangel Raphael. So actually, psalms is one of the highest servants of God praising Him.

The story of the diversity is lost on modern Christianity and I find it tragic. The most powerful servants of God came to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. Solomon (Raphael), Isaiah (Gabriel) and Ezekiel (Michael) delivered the most powerful books of the OT. Isn’t it a heartening story to believe that all of God’s angels are helping Jesus in His plan of redemption?

(Luca) #4

Yesterday when i got out of school a man was standing at the gates. Handing out Small Bibles to most kids. I got given one, And the day after many gave theirs to me because they know im interested in this.
I struggle as well. Whats the best way to read it all? It’s got Psalms in it and i find it beautiful literature because i read a bit in religion class. But how do i look at it as divine relevation?

(Christy Hemphill) #5

It helps to know the context and themes of the books you are reading. Bible Project has great introductory videos for different books that help you understand what you are reading and get more out of it. Here’s the one for Psalms.

(Luca) #6

Thanks for the help again Christy!

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #7

Come on, guys. David, not Solomon, wrote most of the psalms. Many of them are autobiographical. David is a very important person in the Bible and the psalms indicate he was an excellent theologian.

You treat a psalm as you would any other part of the Bible. Fist you try to establish its context. Many give their authors. Then you try to understand their meanings in their context. Many are songs of praise. Others are songs of thanksgiving. Others are important theological statements.

(Shawn T Murphy) #8

Good catch Roger, I was think of Proverbs when I was writing Psalms. You are correct.
Best Wishes, Shawn

(Phil) #9

Makes sense, Roger. Of course, if you take a section on praise where man is reaching to God, and read it as a theological statement it can be a problem. Context is everything in determining meaning here more than elsewhere, it seems.

(GJDS) #10

I used to read psalms more than other OT sections (perhaps Isiah also) when I was younger.:smile: I always felt they show how people (we) feel as theists and enable self-expression before God. Deals a lot with us but also how we should be free to express ourselves before God. I often think that poetry and prayer are closely related.

(Tim) #11

Did David claim, “The heavens declare…” because he read and accepted the Torah, or did the heavens actually declare that to him?

The key is that David read and memorized the Torah. Then God directed David’s thoughts, and they came out into poetry written to glorify God. David is constantly addressing this fact. Did David understand that having a scribe write it down and thus preserve it would give us the Psalms? I think he at least wanted his descendants to keep what was written since these writings did have importance to him. I think he was torn between serving God, and going against the Torah and God’s will which prevented him from fully seeing the Temple of God on earth. Did he understand that he was inspired by God, or did he die feeling he had no impact because of his sin, even though he was considered a man after God’s own heart? I am sure he had his answer as as he passed into eternity.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #12

The psalms are my favourite book after Jonah and Ecclesiastes, they are beautiful poems, especially psalms 19, 24, 82, 91 and (my personal favourite) 104

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #13

The heavens declare the glory of their Creator. The Bible or Torah identifies the Creator as YHWY, but the glory and the Creator are real.

I do not know if David memorized the Torah or not. I don’t think do in a formal way because it probably was not codified, scrolls would have been scarce, and he began writing songs while acting as a shepherd as a child.

David was told that he could not build the Temple because he was a man of war and he did lead a violent life, not because he want against the God’s Law. He got into real trouble because he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and tried to cover it up by having her husband murdered.

However he was forgiven when he confessed and asked for forgiveness. See Psalm 51. Please read the great story of David in 1 & 2 Samuel, ! Kings, and 1 Chronicles as well as the Psalms.

(Tom Larkin) #14

Evidence that the text is inspired comes from fulfilled prophecy. Two examples; the 22nd psalm describes the crucifixion and the 69th psalm describes Jesus life growing up in Nazareth.

(Quinn) #15

In the terms of genre yes but it is still the Word of God given to mankind. Though not from Yahweh Himself it was inspired by people who one way or another came into contact and relationship with Him,

(Randy) #16

Mr Larkin, but neither of these is any more than a type; for example, neither tells that this is of the Christ. It’s not, as Pete Enns says, that it doesn’t potentially apply, but it’s not written originally for that purpose. Right? That’s the problem with using this as a proof–and also with many of the other predictions of the Christ used in the NT from OT stories, such as “Out of Israel I have called my son”–not intended to refer to the Christ in the original setting.

My 11 year old has been asking why we accept the Bible as the word of God, and I’m trying very hard to give him examples that are clear; that’s why I’m asking about this. I don’t usually use predictions, because the NT use of the OT often follows Second Temple Judaism’s tendency to read into the OT predictions that weren’t intended originally. At least, that’s the way I take this. That’s not to say they aren’t applicable, but they aren’t generally taken as proof reliable to the original text, especially as read by someone from outside the tradition who is looking for proof.

Thanks for your thoughts.

(Mitchell W McKain) #17

I don’t think this should ever be a priori. We accept the Bible as the word of God because we hear the voice of God from it. And… if God does not speak to you from the Bible then maybe you need to look for God elsewhere. The danger of people using the Bible to teach something which is not from God is very real.


I like what Voddie Baucham says. “I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They reported supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claimed that their writing are divine rather than human in origin.”


Of the 150 psalms David wrote about half. Actually, Solomon did write two. And aside from the sons of Korah and Asaph the majority of the rest were anonymous. So when it comes to interpretation, I do see benefit in looking at them individually. I’ve found Warren Weirsbe’s two books on Psalms extremely valuable.

I also find trying to read them from different perspectives an aid to interpretation

  1. Devotional - connecting personally to the human emotion of the text
  2. Historical - against the backdrop of Israel as a nation
  3. Davidic - David’s context whether running from Saul, as King, as King in Exile, etc.
  4. Messianic - Jesus as suffering servant, kingly Messiah, and Israel “reduced to One”
  5. The Church - reading them from our corporate position “in Christ” as the Body of Christ

I find I need all those because the devotional approach falls short when I get to the royal prayers, imprecatory ones, or those that require a righteousness I don’t possess outside of Christ like “who may ascend my holy hill, he who has clean hands and a pure heart”. I can’t pray that prayer, but Jesus can and I therefore can “in Him” along with the rest of His body the church of which I am a part.


Haven’t posted much yet (but I’m reading a lot!). This topic drew me in though. :slight_smile:

I recently spent 3 months studying the Psalms in one of the adult classes at church. It was such a beneficial study for me. I do believe they are inspired, and I also believe they show the raw emotions of the psalmists. We see things like depression and how the psalmist deals with it. We see how the psalmists treat the word of God (Psalm 119, anyone?). We see the psalmists’ trust in God in dire situations. There is so much we can learn from the Psalms.

They ARE poetic and do need to be read in that light, just like Revelation is Apocalyptic literature and needs to be read in that light. I believe they are equally inspired though. I don’t see anything in the Bible suggesting that some scripture is less inspired than others. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV) The Psalms have so much about the nature of God and how we should act toward Him.

Imprecatory Psalms are a difficulty, but they do seem to be pointing to asking God to take vengeance instead of the psalmist taking personal vengeance.