How to Read the Psalms (How to Read Series)

by Tremper Longman III

Paperback, 1988





The Psalms possess an enduring fascination for us. For frankness, directness, intensity and intimacy, they are unrivaled in all of Scripture. Somehow the psalmists seem to have anticipated all our awe, desires and frustrations. No wonder Christians have used the Psalms in worship from the earliest times to the present.Yet the Psalms cause us difficulties when we look at them closely. Their poetry is unfamiliar in form. Many images they use are foreign to us today. And the psalmists sometimes express thoughts that seem unworthy of Scripture.Tremper Longman gives us the kind of help we need to overcome the distance between the psalmists' world and ours. He explains the various kinds of psalms, the way they were used in Hebrew worship and their relationship to the rest of the Old Testament. Then he looks at how Christians can appropriate their message and insights today. Turning to the art of Old Testament poetry, he explains the use of parallelism and imagery.Step-by-step suggestions for interpretating the psalms on our own are followed by exercises for further study and reflection. Also included is a helpful guide to commentaries on the Psalms.Here is a book for all those who long to better understand these mirrors of the soul.… (more)


IVP Academic (1988), Edition: 1st (first) , 5th (fifth) Pri, 166 pages

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LibraryThing member brianghedges
How to Read the Psalms by Tremper Longman III is a helpful and accessible guide for pastors, students, and lay persons desiring to study the Psalms. The book, divided into three parts, begins with an invitation to study the Psalms. Recalling Calvin's words that the Psalms are "an anatomy of all the
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parts of the soul," Longman urges us to read the Psalms, because they "appeal to the whole person . . . they inform our intellect, arouse our emotions, direct our wills, and stimulate our imaginations."

Part one of the book focuses on "The Psalms Then and Now." The first chapter discusses the genres of the Psalms, dividing the psalms into seven types: the hymn, the lament, thanksgiving psalms, psalms of confidence, psalms of remembrance, wisdom psalms, and kingship (or royal) psalms. Chapter two examines the origin, development and use of the Psalms, including some helpful reflection on the titles, authorship, and historical events behind some of the psalms. Chapter three investigates key Old Testament themes (covenant, law, kingship, blessing and curse, forgiveness etc.) with the assertion that the Psalms are "the heart of the Old Testament," a "microcosm" of the Old Testament's message and theology. Chapter four, on the other hand, focuses on "a Christian reading of the Psalms," thoughtfully exploring how the Psalms relate to Jesus. Longman concludes, that "two errors need to be avoided. The first is that we neglect a psalm's original setting . . . the second . . . is to miss the anticipation, the expectation of the Psalms." The fifth chapter is my favorite: "The Psalms: Mirror of the Soul." In this chapter, Longman discusses how the Psalms function in our lives to inform our intellect, arouse our emotions, and direct our wills.

The second part of the book is about "The Art of the Psalms." These chapters discuss literary issues, such as the characteristics of Old Testament poetry (chapter six), how to understand Hebrew parallelism in the Psalms (chapter seven), and imagery in the Psalms (chapter eight). These are valuable chapters, though a bit more technical than the first five. Part three of the book applies the methodology outlined in the first eight chapters to the study of three psalms - Psalms 98 (chapter nine), 69 (chapter ten), and 30 (chapter eleven).

This is a very good book that will help anyone in their reading and study of the Psalms. Longman is a good teacher and writes well. His book is oriented to the thoughtful layperson rather than the academic professional, though the author's knowledge and expertise in the Psalms are apparent. But the feel of the book is instructive and devotional, rather than dry and technical. In the epilogue, Longman gives this final exhortation, "Go to the Psalms when you are happy and everything seems right with you. Sing laments to God when your life seems to crumble. When God hears your prayer, don't forget to thank him for his kindness. When you are frightened, be encouraged by the psalms of confidence. Heed the psalms of wisdom. Above all, go to the psalms to be honest with God." Wise words, and typical of this helpful book. If you want to grow in your understanding of this crucial genre of Scripture, or more importantly, go deeper in your personal relationship with the Lord through praying the psalms, How to Read the Psalms is a great place to start. I highly recommend it.
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