Preparing to study Psalms - how?

Discussion in 'OT Wisdom Literature' started by Eoghan, Nov 28, 2018.

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  1. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    Having adjusted to books such as Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, how should you approach the exposition of the psalms? Is it indeed possible to expound lyric poetry?

    I am tackling the first 12 Psalms and then the next 12 using D. Ralph Davis's commentaries. What are the "adjustments" you need to make in approaching the Psalms?
  2. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    A great resource which will help in answering your question: Mark Futato, Interpreting the Psalms.
  3. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Perhaps the biggest adjustment is to step back and look at the pictures being painted by the poetry, rather than focusing on specific propositions. The psalmists will use 2 or 3 or 4 lines to say one thing rather just one line like Paul or Peter. If you only focus on one isolated phrase without the others, you will miss the message. This is basically true for any poetry.

    Also, much of the imagery is foreign to modern Westerners, so you need to immerse yourself as much as possible into OT culture to better understand the poetic points of reference.
  4. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    Would that be a book, sermon or webpage Wes?
  5. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    I have two verses of Malachi to finish then it is preping for Psalms. I have started to read Leyland Ryken's book "A literary Introduction to the Bible". Chapter ten deals specifically with the Psalms in general and then gives some examples of each type/category. I am finding it very instructive. There is a lovely quote from C S Lewis to the effect that we should be looking for "emotional rather than logical connections" (p229). They evoke emotion and feeling through the thoughts they share and the choice of words used. (p229) As readers we recreate the meditative process and share the insight attained (p234)
  6. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    That's a book, published by Kregel in 2007. Very helpful resource.
  7. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    The Psalms are about Christ, first and foremost- they are his words, and the church’s words in our travail upon the earth and in union with our Lord. They’re meant to be sung by the church of course, and we rhyme our songs with vowels and such, but the Hebrews “rhymed” by the use of parallelism. So of course just because they’re poetry, they’re no less full of doctrine and instruction than any other book of the Bible. For an overview, I’ve heard O. Palmer Robertson’s book “The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering Their Structure and Theology” is very good.
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  8. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    Found this review of Robertsons book (P&R Publishing) I must admit I was puzzled at the macro approach where I was expecting a detailed individual approach/appreciation.

    Oct 05, 2015 Nathan Moore rated it really liked it
    "The study of the structure of the Psalms is a complex study. I anticipate that scholars will continue to make progress aiding in our understanding of how the Psalms were compiled and how the structure influences our interpretation.

    Robertson suggests as most do, that the five books of the Psalms are critical in understanding the structure of the book. Where he makes a new contribution however is in his summation of each book. He offers a single word for each book (my explanations follow).

    Book 1: Confrontation. God's people are confronted by and struggle with the enemies of the Messianic Kingdom.
    Book 2: Communication. There is new communication with the Nations about the rule of Elohim.
    Book 3: Devastation. The people of God are devastated by invading international enemies, yet Suffering comes before Glory.
    Book 4: Maturation. Exile leads to maturation for God's people.
    Book 5: Consummation. - Though in the now-not-yet God's people will be gathered into his kingdom under his rule.

    I learned a tremendous amount from reading this book straight through but I think once the reader understands the author's basic argument, which can be gleaned from reading the opening chapters and the Summary chapter (10), the book will function best as a reference work. Robertson's insights are often detailed and would be traced better in the context of individual chapter study.

    Robertson's treatment on several familiar themes was extremely helpful for me. I benefited most from his discussion on the use Elohim vs. YHW, Hallelujah, the phrase "trust in the Lord," and the relationship between Torah and Messianic psalms especially.

    I'm thankful for this book and quite glad that I read it. I expect it to be referenced for sometime to come. I would probably only recommend it to readers with theological training.
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  9. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Another good one (I’ve heard) and actually just put it in my amazon cart is “War Psalms of the Prince of Peace” by James Adams.

    John Gill’s commentary on the Psalms is also very helpful.
  10. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    I struggle to understand the poetic/literary imagery used by the psalmist. They are evocative rather than logical. I think you need to appreciate what they meant to the psalmist and then appreciate how they can be applied to us.

    As I thought about this I was struck by Jonathan Edwards musings on sanctified imagination and how it can encourage us.

    What struck me like a sledgehammer however was 2Co 1:4
    "Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."

    The psalms are set forth the problems the OT saints dealt with and the solution or consolation they found. We in the NT can be comforted with that same comfort, albeit made clearer in the fullfillment of the Messianic promises.

    It sticks in the craw a bit but is this "emotional literacy"?? :offtopic:
  11. Hamalas

    Hamalas whippersnapper

  12. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for posting this info. I'm interested in getting this book. Amazon has very favorable reviews, except for one 3 star review which warns to avoid the Kindle version because of formatting problems. Here is another favorable review on the OPC website.
  13. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    What really helped me while reading and studying the Psalms was to see just how Jesus is pretty much the central focus of all of them.
  14. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    I just double checked and I didn't mention Leland Ryken's book, "Word's of Delight - a Literary Introduction to the Bible" His introduction is "Reading the Bible as Literature" which seems a better title for the book. Leland is a professor of English at Wheaton College and has a gift for explaining the literary composition of scripture. I found him particularly helpful with Song of Solomon and again with the Psalms.

    Thoroughly recommend the book, it takes a unique perspective (in my limited experience) by acknowledging Scripture as literature and making me pause to consider the medium as well as the message. Definitely enhanced my understanding and appreciation of scripture.
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