Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 17, “Psalms” pp. 297-314.
Lessing, commenting on Psalms, observes that “its overall movement is from despair to praise” (Lessing 2014, 297). The book has certainly had a profound impact on Christians, who have always used the Psalms extensively. Lessing notes that the ascriptions of various Psalms to different authors are suspect (Lessing 2014, 297). Yet it is clear that a variety of authors wrote Psalms, over a considerable period of time (Lessing 2014, 298).
Hebrew poetry is a challenge to scholars. It is an elevated and formal speech, but not always clearly distringuished from prose (Lessing 2014, 299). There does often exist parallelism and rhythm (Lessing 2014, 300).
Recent studies have found overall organizational patterns in the Psalter (Lessing 2014, 301). There may well be an overall thematic structure. However, Lessing does not assume a strongly cohesive and necessary structure. However, he does describe and evaluate the structural elements.
The superscriptions found in the Masoretic Text are different from those in the Septuagint (Lessing 2014, 303). Though the superscriptions may be of some use, identifying categories for the Psalms may be of more use. However, most Psalms could fit into multiple categories. Lessing suggests some possible categories.
Many of the Psalms speak to the themes of the Torah and the Messiah (Lessing 2014, 305). Many of the prayers speak of a king, particularly a Messianic king. Another strong theme is a contrast between the righteous and the wicked (Lessing 2014, 306).
Lessing points out the use of Psalms in worship in Israel (Lessing 2014, 308). They are used in ceremonial, ritual, and military settings. They have been used to express the work of God to all nations (Lessing 2014, 309). Other Psalms have been noted to call down curses on God’s enemies (Lessing 2014, 310). The Psalms are full of Jesus (Lessing 2014, 311). They speak of the righteous one suffering, of defense of the poor and oppressed, and many aspects of Jesus’ life. Sin and grace are clearly and frequently described throughout Psalms (Lessing 2014, 312).