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Psalms: Genres, Authorship, Themes, Structure, and Chapter Headings

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Written by Patti Greene

I hate to admit it, but there was a time I was not particularly eager to read the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. I found myself just wanting to be learning something “more substantial and productive.” Fortunately, in time, I saw the benefits of reading this 150-chapter book of the Bible. It came about when I realized I just needed to be still before the Lord, when I needed to rest in Him, and when I needed His presence more deeply in my life. Maybe you are in the same boat, so I want to share some information—yes, to me, important information, that might help you get started. Start with a chapter whose title sounds interesting. Cross them off when you read each one, and then come back and comment if reading this book makes sense to you.

Genres

The chapters in the Book of Psalms include the following number of different genres. The genres in Psalms identify and group the books by the main idea of the psalm. Below you will see how the 150 psalms are categorized by their overall subject matter. Some say the genres are like prayers.

  • Lament  - 59
  • Praise  - 41
  • Hymn  - 17
  • Royal  - 10
  • Wisdom  - 9
  • Thanksgiving  - 8
  • Trust - 6

Authorship

Psalms authorship can be attributed to multiple people.

  • David
  • Asaph
  • Korahites
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Anonymous

Themes

There are multiple themes in the Book of Psalms. The most prominent are listed below.

  • Worship
  • Faith
  • Prayer: Petition
  • Thankfulness
  • God: Providence
  • Righteousness
  • God: Faithfulness
  • God: Love

Structure

Many types of structures consist in Psalms. Here are just a few you might recognize when you read through this mighty book.

  • Strophe-a structural division of a poem containing stanzas of varying line length, especially an ode or free verse poem.
  • Chiasm-a repetition of any group of verse elements (including rhyme and grammatical structure in reverse order.
  • Acrostic-a poem, or other composition in which certain letters in each line form a word or words.

Chapter Headings

Now, it is time for you to browse through the titles of the psalms. If it helps, print off this list, keep it in your Bible and check off the ones you read. Find ones that interest you first and go from there.

Psalm 1           The Ways of the Righteous and the Wicked

Psalm 2           The Messiah’s Reign

Psalm 3           A Call to Yahweh in Distress

Psalm 4           Safety in Yahweh

Psalm 5           Prayer for Guidance and Protection

Psalm 6           An Appeal for Forgiveness and Deliverance

Psalm 7           Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

Psalm 8           Yahweh’s Glory in Creation

Psalm 9           Praise for Yahweh’s Justice

Psalm 10         Prayer for God to Throwdown the Wicked

Psalm 11         Confidence in Yahweh’s Righteousness

Psalm 12         Human Faithlessness and God’s Faithfulness

Psalm 13         Trust in the Salvation of Yahweh

Psalm 14         The Folly of the Godless and God’s Final Triumph

Psalm 15         Description of Those Who May Dwell with Yahweh

Psalm 16         Confidence in Yahweh

Psalm 17         Prayer for Vindication and Protection

Psalm 18         Praise to God for His Deliverance

Psalm 19         Yahweh’s Creation and Law

Psalm 20         God’s Blessing on the King

Psalm 21         Joy in the Salvation of Yahweh

Psalm 22         Suffering and Waiting for Deliverance

Psalm 23         Yahweh the Shepherd

Psalm 24         The King of Glory

Psalm 25         A Prayer for Guidance, Deliverance, and Forgiveness

Psalm 26         A Prayer for Vindication

Psalm 27         Declaration of Trust

Psalm 28         Prayer for Help, and Joy in Its Answer

Psalm 29         Praise to God for His Glory and Strength

Psalm 30         Thanksgiving for Answered Prayer

Psalm 31         Yahweh is a Fortress

Psalm 32         Thanksgiving for Forgiveness of Sins

Psalm 33         Praise to Yahweh for His Character and Creation

Psalm 34         Thanksgiving for Yahweh’s Deliverance

Psalm 35         Prayer for Rescue from Enemies

Psalm 36         Human Wickedness and God’s Love

Psalm 37         The Protection of the Righteous and the Destruction of the Wicked

Psalm 38         Prayer of Repentance

Psalm 39         The Brevity of Human Life

Psalm 40         God’s Faithfulness and Deliverance

Psalm 41         Thanksgiving for God’s Provision in Time of Sickness

Psalm 42         Hope in God in the Midst of Despair

Psalm 43         Prayer for Rescue

Psalm 44         Present Defeat and Past Deliverance

Psalm 45         Celebration of a Royal Wedding

Psalm 46         God Provides for and Protects His People

Psalm 47         God Is King over All the Earth

Psalm 48         The Greatness of God in Zion

Psalm 49         Wealth and the Fate of the Wicked

Psalm 50         An Oracle Concerning Sacrifices

Psalm 51         Prayer of Repentance and Plea for Mercy

Psalm 52         God’s Judgment on the Wicked and Love for the Faithful

Psalm 53         The Folly of the Godless and Salvation for Israel

Psalm 54         Answered Prayer for Deliverance from Adversaries

Psalm 55         Betrayal of a Friend and Trust in God

Psalm 56         Prayer for Deliverance and Confidence in God

Psalm 57         Prayer for Rescue from Enemies

Psalm 58         Judgment on the Wicked

Psalm 59         A Prayer for Protection

Psalm 60         Lament After a Defeat and a Prayer for Restoration

Psalm 61         Confidence in God’s Protection

Psalm 62         Confidence in God’s Salvation

Psalm 63         Longing for God

Psalm 64         Plea for Divine Retribution

Psalm 65         Thanksgiving for God’s Provision

Psalm 66         Thanksgiving to God for His Works

Psalm 67         Prayer of Blessing

Psalm 68         Praise to God for Providing Victory

Psalm 69         Plea for Deliverance from Persecution

Psalm 70         Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

Psalm 71         A Prayer to God the Rock of Refuge

Psalm 72         Prayer for the Prosperity of God’s Anointed King

Psalm 73         The Wicked and the Righteous Contrasted

Psalm 74         Lament in Time of National Defeat

Psalm 75         Thanksgiving for God’s Future Help

Psalm 76         Praise to God for His Rescue of Israel

Psalm 77         Remembering God’s Help for Israel

Psalm 78         God’s Faithfulness in Israel’s History

Psalm 79         Lament for Jerusalem after Its Destruction

Psalm 80         Prayer to Restore Israel

Psalm 81         An Appeal from God to Israel

Psalm 82         God Commands Justice

Psalm 83         Request to Act against Israel’s Neighbors

Psalm 84         The Joy of Worshiping in the Temple

Psalm 85         Hope in God’s Future Help

Psalm 86         Prayer for Help against Ruthless Men

Psalm 87         Foreign Nations Come to Worship in Jerusalem

Psalm 88         Prayer for Help in Despair

Psalm 89         Remembering the Covenant with David, and Sorrow for Lost Blessings

Psalm 90         God’s Eternity and Human Frailty

Psalm 91         God’s Protection in Times of Crisis

Psalm 92         Thanksgiving to Yahweh for Victory

Psalm 93         Yahweh Is King Over All the Earth

Psalm 94         Prayer for Retribution against Oppressors

Psalm 95         Call to Worship and Obey

Psalm 96         Yahweh the King Comes in Judgment

Psalm 97         Yahweh’s Glorious Reign

Psalm 98         Praise to Yahweh for His Salvation and Judgment

Psalm 99         Yahweh Is a Holy King

Psalm 100       Worship God with Joy

Psalm 101       Promise to Act with Integrity

Psalm 102       Plea for Personal and National Help

Psalm 103       Thanksgiving for Yahweh’s Compassion

Psalm 104       Praise to Yahweh for His Creation and Providence

Psalm 105       Praise to Yahweh for His Work on Behalf of Israel

Psalm 106       Praise to Yahweh for His Faithfulness in Israel’s History

Psalm 107       Thanksgiving to Yahweh for His Deliverance

Psalm 108       Prayer to Yahweh for Victory over Enemies

Psalm 109       Prayer for Help against Enemies

Psalm 110       Yahweh Gives Authority to His Messiah

Psalm 111       Praise to God for His Work and Commands

Psalm 112       The Path of the Righteous and the Path of the Wicked

Psalm 113       God’s Majesty and Care for the Needy

Psalm 114       Praise to God for His Works During the Exodus

Psalm 115       Dead Idols and the Living God

Psalm 116       Thanksgiving for God’s Deliverance

Psalm 117       Let All Peoples Praise Yahweh

Psalm 118       Praise to God for His Loyal Love

Psalm 119       Meditation on Yahweh’s Law

Psalm 120       Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

Psalm 121       Trust in God’s Protection

Psalm 122       Jerusalem the Site of God’s Presence

Psalm 123       Prayer for Yahweh’s Action in the Face of Scorn

Psalm 124       Thanksgiving for Yahweh’s Help

Psalm 125       Confidence in Yahweh’s Protection

Psalm 126       Prayer for Restoration

Psalm 127       Prayer for Protection and Prosperity

Psalm 128       Blessed Is Everyone Who Fears Yahweh

Psalm 129       Victory Over the Enemies of Zion

Psalm 130       Hope for the Redemption of Yahweh

Psalm 131       Calm Trust in Yahweh

Psalm 132       Yahweh Dwells in Zion

Psalm 133       The People of God Dwell in Unity

Psalm 134       Praising Yahweh in the Temple at Night

Psalm 135       Praise to God for His Power and Redemption

Psalm 136       Praise to God for His Creation and Deliverance

Psalm 137       Lament During the Babylonian Exile

Psalm 138       Thanksgiving for Yahweh’s Goodness

Psalm 139       The Knowledge of God

Psalm 140       Prayer for Help in the Face of Enemies

Psalm 141       Prayer for God’s Help in Maintaining Integrity

Psalm 142       Prayer for Deliverance from Pursuers

Psalm 143       Prayer for Rescue from Enemies

Psalm 144       Prayer for National Safety

Psalm 145       Song of God’s Majesty and Love

Psalm 146       Praise to Yahweh for His Help

Psalm 147       Praise to Yahweh for His Provision

Psalm 148       Let all Creation Praise Yahweh

Psalm 149       Praise to God for His Future Judgment

Psalm 150       Let Everything Praise Yahweh

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this browse through these psalms. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, at one time I was not particularly interested in reading the psalms. But God has a way of enlightening us! Only God’s sense of humor would have put me in a position where I am now facilitating a seventeen-session Bible study on the Book of Psalms from the Joy of Living Bible Study. God is good, wise, and always wants us to move on with Him.

God bless.

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Verses come from the New American Standard Bible. Photo Credit: Canva

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About the author

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Patti Greene

Patti Greene is the author of three outstanding devotional prayer journals, Answer Me, Anchor Me, and Awaken Me and a book titled "Christian Caregiving: Practical Advice for a Happy Ending." Patti earned a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and pursued graduate studies in religious education and library science spending two years as a second-grade teacher. After spending 12 years as a stay-at-home mom, Greene spent 18 more years as a school librarian in St. Louis, Missouri and Houston, Texas. When not writing books or blogs, Greene spends her time caregiving, reading, researching, and hanging out with her family and friends. Patti and her husband have three adult children and five grandchildren. Visit her blog at GreenePastures.org.

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