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                       "PSALMS AND THE CHRISTIAN"

                    Background Material On The Psalms

INTRODUCTION

1. We discussed earlier some of the uniqueness of Hebrew poetry in
   general

2. Now let's focus on the Book of Psalms itself...

I. THE ORIGIN OF THE WORD "PSALM"

   A. THE GREEK WORD IS "PSALMOS"...
      1. From the Hebrew word zmr, meaning "to pluck"; i.e., taking
         hold of the strings of an instrument with the fingers
      2. Implies that the psalms were originally composed to be
         accompanyied by a stringed instrument
      3. "Psalms are songs for the lyre, and therefore lyric poems
         in the strictest sense." - (Delitzsch, PSALMS, Vol. I, p. 7)
      4. David and others originally wrote the Psalms to be sung to the
         accompaniment of the "harp"

   B. IN NEW TESTAMENT WORSHIP, WE ARE TOLD TO SING THE PSALMS TO THE
      ACCOMPANIMENT OF THE "HEART"...
      1. "...singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord"
         - Ep 5:19
      2. The phrase, "making melody" comes from the Greek word
         psallontes (literally, plucking the strings of)
      3. Thus, we are to "pluck the strings of our heart" as we sing
         psalms, not the strings of a harp

II. THE HISTORY OF THE PSALMS

   A. THE OLDEST OF THE PSALMS ORIGINATE FROM MOSES (ca. 1300 B.C.)
      1. Ex 15:1-15 - a song of triumph following the crossing of the
         Red Sea
      2. Deut 32, 33 - a song of exhortation to keep the Law after
         entering Canaan
      3. Ps 90 - a song of meditation, reflection, and prayer

   B. AFTER MOSES, THE WRITING OF PSALMS HAD ITS "PEAKS" AND "VALLEYS"...
      1. In David (ca. 1000 B.C.), the sacred lyric attained to its
         full maturity
      2. Under Solomon, the creation of psalms began to decline; this
         was "the age of the proverb"
      3. Only twice after this did the creation of psalms rise to any
         height, and then only for a short period
         a. Under Jehoshaphat (ca. 875 B.C.)
         b. And again under Hezekiah (ca. 725 B.C.)

III. THE AUTHORS, OR WRITERS, OF THE PSALMS

   A. DAVID...
      1. Commonly thought to be the author of ALL the psalms, but he
         was not
      2. He wrote at least seventy-three (73) of the Psalms

   B. ASAPH...
      1. The music director during the reigns of David and Solomon
      2. He wrote twelve (12) of the Psalms

   C. THE SONS OF KORAH...
      1. These were Levites who served in the Temple
      2. They wrote twelve (12) psalms

   D. SOLOMON...
      1. At least two (2) psalms are attributed to him (Ps 72, 127)
      2. But that he wrote many more is stated in 1Ki 4:29-32

   E. MOSES...
      1. As stated above, he wrote the earliest psalms
      2. One is found in the Book of Psalms (Ps 90)

   F. HEMEN...
      1. He was contemporary with David and Asaph, and is known as "the
         singer"
      2. He wrote one (Ps 88)

   G. ETHAN...
      1. A companion with Asaph and Hemen in the Temple worship
      2. He wrote one (Ps 89)

   H. ANONYMOUS - Forty-Eight (48) Of The Psalms Name No Author

IV. ARRANGING THE PSALMS

   A. THEY ORIGINALLY WERE COLLECTED INTO "FIVE BOOKS"...
      1. Book I (Ps 1-41)
      2. Book II (Ps 42-72)
      3. Book III (Ps 73-89)
      4. Book IV (Ps 90-106)
      5. Book V (Ps 107-150)
      -- This arrangement appears to be according to material found
         within them

   B. THE PSALMS CAN ALSO BE ARRANGED INTO CHIEF "GROUPS"...
      1. Alphabetic or Acrostic
         a. These psalms have lines which in Hebrew start with words
            whose first letters follow a certain pattern
         b. For example, Ps 119, where the first eight lines start
            with words beginning with the Hebrew letter ALEPH, the
            second eight lines with words beginning with BETH, etc.
      2. Ethical
         a. These are psalms teaching moral principles
         b. A good example is Ps 15
      3. Hallejuah
         a. These are psalms of praise, beginning and\or ending with
            "hallelujah" or "praise Jehovah"
         b. Ps 103 is one such example
      4. Historical
         a. Psalms which review the history of God's dealings with His
            people
         b. A good illustration would be Ps 106
      5. Imprecatory
         a. These are psalms which invoke God to bring evil upon one's
            enemies
         b. Consider Ps 69 as an example
      6. Messianic
         a. Those psalms pertaining to the coming Messiah
         b. For example, Ps 2
      7. Penitential
         a. Psalms expressing sorrow for sins committed
         b. A classic one is Ps 51
      8. Songs Of Ascent (or Songs Of Degrees)
         1. Scholars are not sure, but these are possibly psalms sung
            by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem to observe the feasts
         2. They are grouped together as Ps 120-134
      9. Suffering
         1. These psalms are cries of those suffering affliction
         2. Ps 102 is typical
     10. Thanksgiving
         1. These are psalms of grateful praise to Jehovah for blessings
            received
         2. For example, consider Ps 100

   C. THE VARIOUS STYLES OF THE PSALMS CAN BE DESCRIBED AS:
      1. Didactic:  psalms of teaching and instruction
      2. Liturgical:  responsive readings, for use in special services
         (e.g., Ps 136)
      3. Meditation:  the ancient Hebrews were given to meditation,
         which spirit finds expression in many of the psalms
      4. Praise & Devotion:  psalms of joyful praise
      5. Prayer & Petition:  psalms which are sung in an attitude of
         prayer

CONCLUSION

1. Hopefully, this brief background of the Book Of Psalms will help one
   gain a better feel for this type of Scripture

2. Our next study will begin to look at how the Psalms can be of
   particular value to the Christian
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