Authorship and Audience

Psalms is a unique book in that it is a compilation of poetry and songs from diverse authors. 116 of the 150 psalms have a superscription. This is a the text at the beginning of a psalm which often provides details about how the song/poem was to be presented, who wrote it, and the story behind the psalm. In the Hebrew text, these superscriptions are included as the first verse of the psalm. The direct audience of the psalms is Israel. As one writer puts it, the Psalms are Israel's "hymnbook".1

Date and Historical Context

Assuming the attribution in the superscriptions is correct, the earliest psalm to have been written is Psalm 90, a psalm of Moses. The last psalms (e.g. Psalm 126) were written during the post-exilic period. Thus, there are psalms sprinkled throughout Israel's history.

Literary Context

Because the psalms were written over such a large period of time and in such diverse contexts, they relate to most of the Old Testament. Some psalms (e.g. Psalm 110) are prophecies about the Messiah. Others (e.g. Psalm 51) record an Old Testament character's response to situations in life. The psalms provide a beautiful medium in which the history and theology of the Old Testament is captured (take a look at Psalm 106 and 107).

The psalms are frequently quoted in the New Testament. To cite a few examples: In Romans 3, Paul establishes man's complete depravity based on Psalm 51 (Romans 3:4) and Psalms 36:1 (Romans 3:18). Jesus and Peter use Psalm 110 (in Matthew 22:41-46 and Acts 2:14-36 respectively) to challenge the prevailing Jewish concept of the Messiah.


  • Parallelism) is a major, poetic element used throughout the Psalms.


1. "Psalms," Grace to You, August 18, 2016, , accessed January 14, 2018,

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