Tell Me More About the Psalms

Before we focus on Psalm 119, it will be helpful to think about the Psalter, the grouping of selections of Hebrew poetry in the Old Testament known as the Book of Psalms. The Psalms have brought comfort to so many, including me, and as a result are cherished by Christians and Jews on every continent. I have been so blessed by the humanity of the writers that I have written three books on the Psalms exploring their relationship with God (and mine). So what can we say about the Psalms? Plenty.

The Meaning of the Word “Psalms”

The Book of Psalms bears various names in the Hebrew, Septuagint, and Vulgate texts. This is not surprising since the Hebrew texts are written in Hebrew, the Septuagint in Greek and the Vulgate in Latin. Here are these names.

  • The Hebrew name “praises” comes from the infinitive “to praise” or the noun phrase “book of praises.”
  • The name “praises” does not indicate that all the psalms in the Psalter are designed for praise. Many are not. Only Psalm 145 is entitled “praise” in the superscription.
  • In later Jewish worship, a synonymous name Hallel was given to four groups of songs of praise (Psalms 104-106, 111-117, 135-136 and 146-150).
  • While these were designated as songs of praise, the entire collection of the Psalms constituted the Jewish hymnal for temple services.
  • Since the temple services were made up of praise, the name “Praises” was given to the hymnal itself, i.e. The Psalms.
Other assorted titles

There are other assorted liturgical titles that introduce individual psalms. Here are examples:

  • Psalm 100 – “A Psalm for Giving Thanks” – a psalm for the thank-offering;
  • Psalm 38 and 70 – “For the Memorial Offering” – to remember God’s goodness;
  • Psalm 30 – “A Song at the Dedication of the Temple”;
  • Psalm 92 – “A Song for the Sabbath.” Authorship of the Psalms

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