Psalms Graphics

Vital statistics

 Purpose: To provide poetry for the expression of praise, worship, and confession to God
 Authors: David wrote 73 psalms; Asaph wrote 12; the sons of Korah wrote 9; Solomon wrote 2; Herman (with the sons of Korah), Ethan, and Moses each wrote one; 51 psalms are anonymous. The New Testament ascribes two to the anonymous psalms (Psalms 2 and 95) to David (see Acts 4:25; Hebrews 4:7).
 Original audience: The people of Israel
 Date written: Between the time of Moses (approximately 1440 B.C.) and the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.)
 Setting:  For the most part, the psalms were not intended to be narrations of historical events. However, they often parallel events in history, such as David's flight from Saul and his sin with Bathsheba. 
 Key verse: "Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! raise the Lord!" (150:6) 
 Key person: David 
 Key place: God's holy Temple

A Psalm of. . .

Asaph (1 Chr. 15:17)
     Psalms 50, 73–83
Asaph was the composer and chief musician during the reign of David and possibly of Solomon. Some of the headings with his name could refer to his descendants (see “The Sons of Asaph” at 1 Chr. 25:2).
David (1 Sam. 16:12)
     See “The Psalms of David” in this book introduction.
David was known for his musical ability even before he became king (1 Sam. 16:14–23). Scripture remembers him as a highly gifted composer and musician.
Ethan the Ezrahite
     Psalm 89
Ethan was a renowned wise man in the time of Solomon (1 Kin. 4:31). He may have been the same man as Jeduthun, a Levite appointed as a sanctuary musician under David (1 Chr. 6:44; 9:16; 16:41–42).
Heman the Ezrahite
     Psalm 88
Heman was the grandson of Samuel and one of the leading musicians in David’s court (1 Chr. 15:17; 16:41–42). Like Ethan, he was known for his wisdom (1 Kin. 4:31).
Moses (Ex. 2:10)
     Psalm 90
Moses was one of the Israelites’ greatest leaders, who brought them out of Egypt and to the Promised Land.
Solomon (1 Kin. 2:12)
     Psalms 72, 127
Apparently Solomon inherited his father David’s musical talent, for he composed 1, 005 songs (1 Kin. 4:32).
The Sons of Korah
     Psalms 42–49, 84–85, 87–88
These descendants of the rebel Korah (see Num. 16:1) were Levites assigned by David to oversee worship music (1 Chr. 6:31–37).
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Gn 1.1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Psalm of David

Psalm 3
Composed during Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam. 15:1–18).
Psalm 7
Composed in response to the words of a man named Cush, presumably an enemy.
Psalm 18
Composed when David’s kingdom was firmly established (compare 2 Sam. 22).
Psalm 23
Reflects David’s years as a shepherd for his family’s sheep (1 Sam. 16:11; 17:15; 2 Sam. 7:8).
Psalm 30
Composed for the dedication of the “house of David, ” presumably his house of cedar in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:11–12).
Psalm 34
Composed when David sought refuge with the king of Gath, a Philistine city-state (1 Sam. 21:10–22:1).
Psalm 51
A psalm of confession composed after the exposure of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband (2 Sam. 12:1–15).
Psalm 52
Composed after Saul’s spy Doeg reported on David’s presence at Nob (1 Sam. 22:9).
Psalm 54
Composed after David, who was hiding from Saul in the Wilderness of Ziph, was betrayed by the local inhabitants (1 Sam. 23:19; 26:1).
Psalm 56
Like Psalm 34, composed when David sought refuge at Gath (1 Sam. 21:10–22:1).
Psalm 57
Composed probably after David resisted the temptation to kill Saul in a cave of En Gedi (1 Sam. 24).
Psalm 59
Composed after David escaped from a death squad sent by Saul (1 Sam. 19:11–18).
Psalm 60
Composed either before or after David’s celebrated attack on the Edomites (2 Sam. 8:13–14).
Psalm 63
Probably, like Psalm 3, composed during David’s flight from his rebellious son Absalom (2 Sam. 15:1–23).
Psalm 142
Like Psalm 57, most likely composed when David was hiding from Saul in a cave in the wilderness of En Gedi (1 Sam. 24).
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Gn 1.1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Ps. 22:1).
Jesus cried out with these words while on the Cross (Matt. 27:46).
“All of those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!’ ” (Ps. 22:7–8).
Jesus’ enemies used these words as they ridiculed Him (Matt. 27:39, 43).
“I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me” (Ps. 22:14).
Crucifixion pulled the victim’s bones out of joint (see Luke 23:33); likewise, a solider pierced Jesus’ body with a spear, drawing forth blood and water (John 19:34).
“They pierced My hands and My feet” (Ps. 22:16).
The crucifixion of Jesus involved nailing His hands or wrists to a crossbeam and His feet to a vertical stake (Luke 24:39–40).
“They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots” (Ps. 22:18)
The soldiers who crucified Jesus did this with Jesus’ clothing (Matt. 27:35).
“I will declare Your name to My brethren” (Ps. 22:22).
The risen Lord calls those who believe in Him “brethren” (Heb. 2:11–12).
“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations” (Ps. 22:27–28).
Jesus left instructions for His followers to take His message to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:19–20; Acts 1:8).
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Sal 22.2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Messianic Prophecies

Ps. 2:7
The Messiah will be more than human; He will be the Son of God (Heb. 1:5–6).
Ps. 8:4–6
The entire world will be subject to him (Heb. 2:5–8).
Ps. 16:8–11
He will have victory over death (Acts 2:25–28).
Ps. 22
He will die an agonizing, humiliating death (Matt. 27:35–46); He will identify with His people (Heb. 2:12).
Ps. 40:6–8
He Himself will be the offering and sacrifice that takes away sins (Heb. 10:5–7).
Ps. 41:9
He will betrayed by a close friend (John 13:18).
Ps. 45:6–7
He will establish an everlasting kingdom of righteousness (Heb. 1:8–9).
Ps. 68:18
He will ascend to heaven and give gifts to people (Eph. 4:7–8).
Ps. 69
He will be hated by His enemies without cause (John 15:25); He will be zealous for God (2:17); He will be given vinegar and gall (Matt. 27:34).
Ps. 89
He will rule forever as the royal heir of David (Luke 1:31–33).
Ps. 95:7–11
He is the Lord who led Israel in the wilderness and looks for steadfast faith (Heb. 3:7–15).
Ps. 97:7
He will receive the worship of angels (“gods”; Heb. 1:6).
Ps. 102:25–27
He is the eternal God (Heb. 1:10–12).
Ps. 104:4
He commands angels (Heb. 1:7).
Ps. 110
He is David’s Lord (Matt. 22:44); justice will reign at His coming (Acts
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Gn 1.1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Painful Expressions in Psalms

Psalm 13
The plaintive cry, “How long, O Lord?” expresses David’s feelings of frustration and abandonment. He calls for attention in the midst of desperate isolation.
Psalm 49
The psalmist feels a measure of pain in reaction to the riches of others and futility of their lives.
Psalm 73
This psalm expresses the pain and impatience one can feel when life seems unfair. Yet the process leads to a fresh new view of hope.
Psalm 83
This psalm seems to cry, “God, speak up!” The writer, who feels overcome by enemies, has no sense that God either notices or cares. Nevertheless, he prays for vindication and victory.
Psalm 88
A sigh of lonely desperation can be heard in Heman’s appeal to God for help as his life seems to be slipping away, quickly and painfully. This psalm is all unhappiness; there is no expression of hope here.
Psalm 90
Moses’ psalm articulates the fear and pain of death. It reflects the dilemma in which the whole creation finds itself: intended by God for great glory and beauty, but ravaged by the crushing reality of human sin and rebellion.
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Gn 1.1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

 Who is the God of the Psalms?

Most of the nations surrounding the ancient Israelites believed in numerous gods. But David declared that none of them could compare to the Lord God (Ps. 86:8). The table below shows why.
The Lord is . . .
According to Psalms . . .
Creator of the world
     The heavens, the moon, and the stars are the “work of His fingers” (8:3)
“He commanded and they were created” (
     He “laid the foundations of the earth” (104:5).
     He gives all creatures life (104:27–30).
     He laughs when human rulers conspire together against Him (2:4).
     “The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness” (29:8).
     His power causes even His enemies to submit to Him (66:3).
     In His wisdom He created the world (104:24).
     He is the starting point for wisdom (111:10).
     He knows everything we do and say (139:2–4).
     “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (90:2).
     “You are from everlasting” (93:2).
     “You are the same, and Your years will have no end” 102:27).
     “God sits on His holy throne” (47:8).
     “He is holy” (99:3, 5, 9).
     “Holy and awesome is His name” (111:9).
     “Good and upright is the Lord” (25:8).
     “The Lord is good” (100:5).
     “The Lord is righteous in all His ways” (145:17).
Merciful and forgiving
     “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth” (25:10).
     “His mercy endures forever” (136:1–26).
     He forgives all our iniquities (103:3).
     “Those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You” (9:10).
     “He who keeps you will not slumber” (121:3).
Personally and intimately involved with His creatures
     He fashions the hearts of people individually (33:15).
     “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man” (104:14).
     “You formed my inward parts” (139:13).
True and straightforward
     “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (19:9).
     He is the “Lord God of truth” (31:5).
     All His commandments are truth (119:151).
     “God is a just judge” (7:11).
     “He loves righteousness and justice” (33:5).
     He “executes justice for the oppressed” (146:7).
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Sal 88.18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Psalms That Are Acrostic in Whole or In Part

In praise of God’s power and justice.
A prayer for deliverance from enemies.
A prayer for guidance.
Thanksgiving for escape.
An exhortation to pursue patience and hope.
In praise of God’s wonderful works.
The blessings of the righteous.
In praise of God’s Word.
God is great.
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Sal 112.1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

The Many Sides of God’s Word

Of the eight terms, this is the one used most often in Ps. 119 (for example, 119:1, 18, 92). It reminds us that God’s truth is to be obeyed (compare James 1:25).
God’s Word is a witness and a warning against sin and disobedience (Ps. 119:31, 152; compare Deut. 31:26).
This word conveys the idea of an overseer looking at life and attending to it much as a shepherd does with sheep (Ps. 119:4, 15; compare Jer. 23:2).
Like statutes, God’s Word is enduring and obligatory (Ps. 119:8, 12; compare Is. 30:8).
This word reinforces the idea that God’s truth is to be obeyed (Ps. 119:10, 47). It is authoritative for all of life.
Scripture provides the standard for our dealings with each other and for our duties in life (Ps. 119:43, 91; compare 1 Sam. 10:25).
God has spoken, and we are to hear and respond (Ps. 119:11, 16–17; compare Ps. 33:4, 6).
God is the one who best discerns right from wrong and good from evil (Ps. 119:75).
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Sal 119.93). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

The Christ of the Psalms

The Son of God
Matthew 3:17
Praised by children
Matthew 21:15, 16
Ruler of all
Hebrews 2:8
rises from death
Matthew 28:7
Forsaken by God
Matthew 27:46
22:7, 8
Derided by enemies
Luke 23:35
Hands and feet pierced
John 20:27
Lots cast for clothes
Matthew 27:35, 36
Bones unbroken
John 19:32, 33, 36
Accused by false witnesses
Mark 14:57
Hated without cause
John 15:25
40:7, 8
Delights in God’s will
Hebrews 10:7
Betrayed by a friend
Luke 22:47
The eternal King
Hebrews 1:8
Ascends to heaven
Acts 1:9–11
Zealous for God’s house
John 2:17
Given vinegar and gall
Matthew 27:34
Prays for enemies
Luke 23:34
His betrayer replaced
Acts 1:20
Rules over His enemies
Matthew 22:44
A priest forever
Hebrews 5:6
The chief stone of God’s building
Matthew 21:42
Comes in the name of the Lord
Matthew 21:9
New Geneva study Bible. 1997, c1995 (electronic ed.) (Sal 1.3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.



Book 1(1–41)

Book 2(42–72)

Book 3(73–89)

Book 4(90–106)

Book 5(107–150)

Chief Author






Number of







Basic Content

Songs of


Hymns of National


Anthems of Praise



To Pentateuch


Man and
















and Praise











Hezekiah or Josiah

Ezra or Nehemiah

Possible Dates

of Compilation

c. 1020–970 b.c.

970–610 b.c.

Until c. 430 b.c.

Span of


About 1000 Years (c. 1410–430 b.c.)

The Blueprint

PSALMS 1:1-41:13

   While the psalms are not organized by topic, it is helpful to compare the dominant themes in each section of the Psalms to the five books of Moses. This first collection of palms, mainly written by David, is similar to the book of Genesis. Just as Genesis tells how mankind was created, fell into sin, and was then promised redemption, many of these psalms discuss human as blesses, fallen, and redeemed by God.

PSALMS 42:1-72:20

  This  collection of psalms, mainly written by David and the sons of Korah, is similar to the book of Exodus. Just as Exodus describes the nation of Israel, many of these psalms describe the nation as ruined and then recovered. As God rescued the nation of Israel, he also rescues us. We do nos have to work out solutions first, but we can go to God with our problems and ask him to help.   

PSALMS 7:31-89:52

   This collection of psalms mainly written by Asaph or Asaph's descendants, is similar to the book of Leviticus. Just as Leviticus discusses the Tabernacle and God's holiness, many of these psalms discuss the Temple and God's enthronement. Because God is almighty, we can turn to him for deliverance. These psalms praise God because he is holy, and his perfect holiness deserves our worship and reverence.  

PSALMS 90:1-106:48

   This collections of psalms, mainly written by unknown authors, is similar to the book of Numbers. Just as Numbers discusses the relationship of the nation of Israel to surrounding nations, these psalms often mention the relationship of God's overruling kingdom to the other nations. Because we are citizen of the kingdom of God, we can keep the events and troubles of earth in their proper perspective.

PSALMS 107:1-150:6

  This collection of psalms, mainly written by David, is similar to the book of Deuteronomy. Just as Deuteronomy was concerned with God and his World, these psalms are anthems of praise and thanksgiving for God and his Word. Most of the psalms were originally set to music and used in worship. We can use these psalms today as they were used in the past, as a hymnbook of praise and worship. This is a book that ought to make our hearts sing.

Psalms Overview

Types of Psalms

 TypePsalms  Act of Worship
 Individual and Communal Lament 3-7; 12; 13; 22; 25-28; 35; 38-40; 42-44; 51; 54-57; 59-61; 63; 64; 69-71; 74; 79; 80; 83; 85 ; 86; 88; 90; 102; 109; 120; 123; 130; 140-143 Express need for God's deliverance
 Thanksgiving  8; 18; 19; 29; 30; 32-34; 36; 40; 41; 66; 103-106; 111; 113; 116; 117; 124; 129; 135; 136; 138; 139; 146-148; 150 Make aware of God's blessings Express thanks
 Enthronement 47; 93; 96-99 Describe God's sovereign rule
 Pilgrimage 43; 46; 48; 76; 84; 87; 120-134 Establish a mood of worship
 Royal 2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 89; 101; 110; 132; 144 Portray Christ the sovereign ruler
 Wisdom  1; 37; 119 Instruct as to God's will
 Imprecatory 7; 35; 40; 55; 58; 59; 69; 79; 109; 137; 139; 144 Invoke God's wrath and judgment against His enemies