Sunday School Bible Survey:      PSALMS

Theme: Worship

Key word: Hallelujah (Praise the LORD)

Key verse: "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 29:2).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

The simplest description of the five books of Psalms is that they were the inspired prayer-and-praise book of Israel. They are revelations of truth, not abstractly, but in the terms of human experience. The truth revealed is wrought into the emotions, desires, and sufferings of the people of God by the circumstances through which they pass. But those circumstances are such as to constitute an anticipation of analogous conditions through which Christ in His incarnation, and the Jewish remnant in the tribulation (10:21, refs.), should pass; so then many Psalms are prophetic of the sufferings, the faith, and the victory of both. Psalms 22 and 50 are examples. The former — the holy of holies of the Bible — reveals all that was in the mind of Christ when He uttered the desolate cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" The latter is an anticipation of what will be in the heart of Israel when she shall turn to Jehovah again (Deut. 30:1, 2). Other Psalms are directly prophetic of "the sufferings of Christ, and the glories which should follow" (Luke 24:25-27, 44). Psalm 2 is a notable instance, presenting Jehovah's Anointed as rejected and crucified (Psalm 2:1-3; Acts 4:24-28), but afterward set as King in Zion.

The great themes of the Psalms are, Christ, Jehovah, the Law, Creation, the future of Israel, and the exercises of the renewed heart in suffering, in joy, in perplexity. The promises of the Psalms are primarily Jewish, and suited to a people under the law, but are spiritually true in Christian experience also, in the sense that they disclose the mind of God, and the exercises of His heart toward those who are perplexed, afflicted, or cast down.

The imprecatory Psalms are the cry of the oppressed in Israel for justice — a cry appropriate and right in the earthly people of God, and based upon a distinct promise in the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 15:18, refs.); but a cry unsuited to the church, a heavenly people who have taken their place with a rejected and crucified Christ. (Luke 9:52-55).

The Psalms are in five books, each ending in a doxology:

  1. Psalms 1-41.
  2. Psalms 42-72.
  3. Psalms 73-89.
  4. Psalms 90-106.
  5. Psalms 107-150.

Israel's Songbook

  1. The book of Psalms was the hymnbook for Old Testament Israel. Most of the Psalms were written by David (called "the sweet psalmist of Israel" in II Samuel 23:1). Others were written by Asaph, Solomon, and Moses.
  2. About fifty of the Psalms are anonymous.
  3. The book of Psalms is divided into five parts, with each part corresponding in theme to the first five books of the Bible.
  4. Many of the psalms are Messianic (Ps. 2, 8, 16, 22, 23, 24, 31, 34, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 89, 102, 110, 118). "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" (22:1; cf. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
  5. Many are millennial (Ps. 46, 72, 89). "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" (72:8).
  6. Many are didactic (Ps. 1, 5, 7, 15, 17, 50, 73, 94, 101). "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful" (1:1).
  7. Many are devotional (Ps. 3, 16, 28, 41, 54, 61, 67, 70, 86, 122, 144). "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (16:11).
  8. Many are prophetic (Ps. 2, 16, 22, 40, 45, 68, 69, 72, 97, 109, 110, 118). "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion" (2:6).
  9. Many are imprecatory (Ps. 35, 58, 59, 69, 83, 109, 137). "Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt" (35:4).
  10. Many of the psalms are penitential (Ps. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). "I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin: (32:5).
  11. Psalms 120 through 134 are referred to as "A Song of Degrees." Merrill F. Unger says these psalms were "evidently to be chanted by the people as they went up to the feasts at Jerusalem" (Introductory Guide to the Old Testament).
  12. Hebrew history:
  • Psalm 3 — II Samuel 15—18
  • Psalm 30 — II Samuel 5:11, 12
  • Psalm 32 — II Samuel 11, 12
  • Psalm 34 — I Samuel 21:10—22:1
  • Psalm 51 — II Samuel 11, 12
  • Psalm 52 — I Samuel 21, 22
  • Psalm 54 — I Samuel 23:19; 26:1
  • Psalm 56 — I Samuel 21:10; 27:4; 29:2-11
  • Psalm 57 — I Samuel 22
  • Psalm 59 — I Samuel 19
  • Psalm 60 — II Samuel 8:13, 14
  • Psalm 63 — I Samuel 22:5; 23:14-16
  • Psalm 142 — I Samuel 22:1 or 24:3


In the preface to his commentary on the Book of Psalms, Treasury of David, Spurgeon wrote, "The delightful study of the Psalms has yielded me boundless profit and ever-growing pleasure; common gratitude constrains me to communicate to others a portion of the benefit, with the prayer that it may induce them to search further for themselves."

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —