Introduction to Psalms



This picture is taken from canonical book of Psalms has historically been one of the most influential portions of the Old Testament. The Psalter, as it is also called, is a collection of psalms compiled and arranged over almost a thousand years. The final collection we possess was used for worship in the second temple. Significantly, like their Old Testament predecessors, New Testament saints too used the Psalms as a guide for their worship of the Triune God.While much of Scripture involves God speaking to man, the book of Psalms expresses man’s response to his Covenant Lord. The various writers of psalms provide inscripturated responses of worship to their Sovereign in the midst of the heights and depths of life. And, because the various writers of the Psalms lived in the same sin-cursed world as we New Testament believers do and worshipped the same God, the Psalms have continuing practical value for us. Further, the writers of the Psalms, while composing their religious lyric poetry from a wide spectrum of emotional heights and depths of life, intended for other believers to identify with them as they pray to and praise their Covenant Lord. Thus, by the nature of the inspired poetry found in the Psalter, the Psalms have great value for Christians.My objective is to develop a series of posts that provide an overview of the Psalms. This series of posts is an outgrowth of a class that I teach entitled “Understanding the Psalms.” My specific plan with this series of posts is to sample a number of genres and key psalms associated with each genre.A genre is a literary category. In the case of Psalms, genre functions to identify common and disparate features among the various psalms and to categorize them accordingly. That is, based upon items such as common mood, literary features and content, individual psalms are placed in groups with similar psalms. With this study, I will examine six such genres used in the Psalms: (1) lament, (2) praise, (3) thanksgiving, (4) kingship & covenant renewal, (5) trust, and (6) wisdom. Since most of these six genres are subdivided into subcategories, I will also survey these. And, for the sake of familiarity, this series will follow the canonical order of the Psalms found in the Protestant Canon. With my treatment of each psalm, I will explain the psalm’s generic classification, structure and message.With the next post, we will look at Psalm 1, the first wisdom psalm in the Psalter.


  1. Kent McCune says

    Dr. McCabe — I’m looking forward to this series. I have been reading through the Psalms lately and it has been a great blessing. I have especially liked a couple of the messianic psalms. Do I assume correctly that your “kingship & covenant renewal” genre is the same as messianic?

    I’m surprised that as a confirmed fundamentalist, you are not going to address the imprecatory psalms! :-)

  2. says

    Hi Kent, you are correct that I group the messianic psalms under the larger genre of “kingship & covenant renewal.” After I treat Psalm 1, I plan to treat Psalm 2.

    As you noted in my post, I presented six broad genres. What I did not state is that most of these larger categories of Psalms have subgroups. I will treat the imprecatory psalms as a subset of the lament psalms. When you read my treatment of an imprecatory psalm, my fundamentalist credentials should be further solidified.

  3. Kent McCune says

    Excellent! I have fond memories of hearing my dad preach on Ps. 2 when we would have opportunity to travel with him as youngsters. I look forward to that post.

    Glad to hear your fundamentalist bona fides remain intact.

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