Understanding The Bible
STUDY REFERENCE
Clarence E. Mason's "OLD TESTAMENT POETIC BOOKS"
The Book of Psalms
ADDENDUM TO THE PSALMS (Titles for the Psalms)

 

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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
1970


ADDENDUM TO PSALMS
Titles for the Psalms

First, we should be reminded that on all but 47 of the 150 psalms there is already a title as part of the inspired text, indicating at least authorship and sometimes the occasion of writing, use to which psalm will be put, musical directions, etc.  Thus, we must be careful to severely distinguish any human addition, such as given below.

At the same time, except for a few of the better known psalms, the average reader finds it difficult to remember the theme of psalms as he comes to them in his Bible.  This is particularly true because David was often in trouble and/or danger and cried out to God for deliverance.  Longings for holiness, praise and thanksgiving, the vindication of God's ways with men, and similar themes are oft repeated.  Thus, general titles are of little value, for they would have to be repeated so often that they would offer no distinctive thought for the particular psalm.  The matter is further complicated by the fact that some psalms run the whole gamut of themes.

Hence, at best, some titles must of necessity be an expediency.  Except for some of the psalms with rather obvious themes, the method adopted here is to choose some outstanding verse in the psalm, especially if it is well know or, lacking this, to choose some verse(s) in the psalm as a peg on which to hang our identification of the psalm or its distinction from those around it.  It is recognized that many might choose another title for a given psalm and indeed I have often come at the same psalm from different angles, leading to different titles.  Also, sometimes, as in the case of Psalm 8, I try to get at the most apt wording of the title of an important psalm by considering refinements of alternate wordings.

Thus, these are offered simply as undogmatic helps to fellow students.  "I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful." (1 Cor. 7:25)

If any of these titles approve themselves to you, you may wish to record them neatly right in your Bible over the particular psalm(s) involved, since they will be of little value stuffed away in a notebook.  Because the psalms are in constant use for personal devotions and public exposition, it will be handy to have a suggestion right there in your Bible.  The student is referred to the New Scofield Bible, which no adds suggested titles.  If any similarity is noticed, it is valid, for the sub-committee adopted some of these which I turned in.

 

BOOK I, Psalms 1-41 (Messianic Psalms marked in RED)
Psalm 1

(1) The Lord Jesus as man (first coming)
(2) Two men, two ways, two destinies

Psalm 2

(1) The Lord Jesus as God (second coming)
(2) Christ, the victorious coming King

Psalm 3 A morning psalm (v. 5)
Psalm 4 An evening psalm (v.8)
Psalm 5 Morning prayer for protection (vv. 3, 11)
Psalm 6 David prays in soul distress (vv. 3, 6)
Psalm 7 A prayer to a righteous God (v. 9)
Psalm 8 (1) God's dominion shared with man
(2) God's glory and man's privilege
(3) God's plan for man's dominion
(4) God gives man dominion over the earth
Psalm 9 Praise for victory over enemies (v. 9)
Psalm 10 Plea for God's judgment (v. 12)
Psalm 11 Taking refuge in God (v. 1)
Psalm 12 The scourge of lying lips (v. 2; cp. Isa. 54:17)
Psalm 13 The testing of delay
Psalm 14 A picture of the natural man (cp. Ps. 53; Rom. 3:10-12)
Psalm 15 The man who abides with God
Psalm 16 The path of life and joy
Psalm 17 Kept as the apple of God's eye! (v. 8)
Psalm 18 (1) Who is a God like Thee?
(2) The delivering God praised
Psalm 19 (1) The works and Word of God
(2) God's message in nature and Scripture
Psalm 20 Help from the sanctuary (v. 2)
Psalm 21 Blessings from God
Psalm 22 The suffering Saviour
Psalm 23 The tender Shepherd
Psalm 24 The triumphant, Ascended Lord (vv. 3, 7; cp. Ps. 68:18)
Psalm 25 Plea for defense, guidance, pardon
Psalm 26 David's integrity (v. 11)
Psalm 27 Triumphant faith (v. 1)
Psalm 28 Testimony to answered prayer (v. 6)
Psalm 29 God's mighty power
Psalm 30 God's deliverance celebrated
Psalm 31 "My times are in Thy hand!" (v. 15)
Psalm 32 Joy following confession of sin
Psalm 33 God our Creator and Preserver
Psalm 34 The children's psalm (v. 11)
Psalm 35 David's prayer against the wicked
Psalm 36 God's excellent mercy (v. 7)
Psalm 37 (1) A song of security
(2) An alphabet of trust (an incomplete acrostic)
Psalm 38 Godly sorrow for sin
Psalm 39 (1) The frailty of man (vv. 4-5)
(2) The brevity of life (vv. 4-5)
Psalm 40 God's song for our mouths (v. 3)
Psalm 41 God's help in illness (v. 3)
BOOK II, Psalms 42-72
Psalm 42 Longing for God and His house (vv. 1, 4)
Psalm 43 Our hope is in God (v. 5)
Psalm 44 God's apparent forgetfulness (v. 24)
Psalm 45 Christ, our glorious King
Psalm 46 God, our refuge and strength
Psalm 47 "God is King of all the earth" (v. 7)
Psalm 48 "Zion, city of the great King" (v. 2)
Psalm 49 Riches cannot redeem men (v. 7)
Psalm 50 God is judge of all (v. 6)
Psalm 51 A  great penitential psalm
Psalm 52 Victory over lying tongues
Psalm 53 A description of the wicked (cp. Ps. 14)
Psalm 54 Deliverance from ruthless men
Psalm 55 complaint concerning false friends (vv. 12-14)
Psalm 56 Our tears remembered by God (v. 8)
Psalm 57 God trusted in trouble
Psalm 58 Prayer for God's vengeance (v. 6)
Psalm 59 The help of the helpless
Psalm 60 Man's help is vain (v. 11)
Psalm 61 The Rock higher than I (v. 2)
Psalm 62 Waiting upon God
Psalm 63 Thirst for God
Psalm 64 God's protection
Psalm 65 God's abundant provision
Psalm 66 Praise for God's benefits (v. 16)
Psalm 67 A missionary psalm (v. 2)
Psalm 68 Song of triumph and glory (cp. v. 18 and Ps. 24:3, 7-10)
Psalm 69 Plaint of the reproached one (v. 9)
Psalm 70 The poor and needy one (v. 5)
Psalm 71 a prayer for old age (vv. 9, 18)
Psalm 72 Christ's glorious millennial kingdom
BOOK III, Psalms 73-89
Psalm 73 (1) Perennial problem of the wicked (vv. 12, 17)
(2) Almost backslidden (v. 2)
Psalm 74 "Arise, O GOd, plead thy cause!" (v. 22)
God's people at low ebb (v. 9)
Psalm 75 Ultimate triumph of righteous
Psalm 76 "The wrath of man shall praise Thee" (v. 10)
Psalm 77 God's mighty deeds remembered (v. 11)
Psalm 78 God's longsuffering at Israel's sin (v. 38)
Psalm 79 God's judgment on enemies implored (v. 6)
Psalm 80 "Turn us again, O God!"  (v. 3)
(note the "Vine, " v. 8ff.; cp. Isa. 5; Jn 15)
Psalm 81 The stupidity of disobedience (vv. 11, 16)]
Psalm 82 Instruction to earthly rulers
(Note this comment on v. 6; cp. Jn 10:34: "If mortal men were, dignified with 'the image and likeness of God.' called ' mighty or strong ones' (i.e., 'gods'), as partaking of the attributes of moral personality like God (i.e., ability to will, to determine, to choose, to know good and evil), how much more title did the Lord Jesus Christ have to be called the Son of GOd as, on the one hand being from all eternity God the Son, and as to His humanity, sinlessly conceived of the Holy Spirit in the virgin's womb.")
Psalm 83 Prayer against plotting enemies
Psalm 84 Delight in the courts of God
Psalm 85 The exiles returned by God
Psalm 86 "There is none like Thee!"  (v. 8)
Psalm 87 Zion, the city of God (v. 3)
Psalm 88 Lament over affliction
Psalm 89 The Davidic covenant rehearsed
BOOK IV, Psalms 90-106
Psalm 90 Children of dust (v. 10)
Psalm 91 In the secret place
Psalm 92 The propriety of praise
Psalm 93 The majesty of God
Psalm 94 Vengeance belongs to God
Psalm 95 Exhortation to worship
Psalm 96 God's greatness and glory
Psalm 97 The righteous LORD reigns
Psalm 98 Praise to Jehovah
Psalm 99 "The LORD our God is holy!" (v. 5)
Psalm 100 Gladness and Thanksgiving
Psalm 101 A vow for a holy life (v. 2)
Psalm 102 Plea to the unchanging God (v. 27)
Psalm 103 "Bless the LORD!"
Psalm 104 The God of creation and providence
Psalm 105 God's faithfulness to Israel (v. 8)
Psalm 106 Israel's unfaithfulness to God (e.g., v. 24)
BOOK V, Psalms 107-150
Psalm 107 The diversity of God's provision
Psalm 108 (1) The fixed heart
(2) The steady heart
Psalm 109 God's help implored
Psalm 110 The psalm of the king-priest
Psalm 111 God's wonderful works (v. 4)
Psalm 112 Blessings of righteousness
Psalm 113 God's universal praise (v. 3)
Psalm 114 God's almighty deliverance
Psalm 115 Contrast between idols and God
Psalm 116 Delivered from death! (v. 8)
Psalm 117 The shortest psalm; praise urged
Psalm 118 The loving kindness of God
Christ the Headstone of the corner
Psalm 119 The longest psalm:  God's Word praised
(a perfect acrostic; 8 verses to each of 22 letters of Hebrew alphabet)
Psalm 120 Inner conflict
Psalm 121 The traveler's psalm (v. 8)
Psalm 122 Joyful anticipation of Jerusalem
Psalm 123 Awaiting God's intervention (v. 2)
Psalm 124 God was on our side
Psalm 125 The LORD round about His own (v. 2)
Psalm 126 Like those that dreamed
Psalm 127 Children are God's heritage (v. 3)
Psalm 128 God's blessings on the home
Psalm 129 Israel sustained despite enemies
Psalm 130 Waiting for the morning
Psalm 131 Growing in grace
Psalm 132 David's concern for the ark
Psalm 133 blessed unity!
Psalm 134 Constant praise
Psalm 135 The true God contrasted with idols
Psalm 136 "His mercy endureth forever"
Psalm 137 Israel's sorrow in exile
Psalm 138 Answered prayer
Psalm 139 God's omniscience and omnipresence
Psalm 140 A cover over my head (v. 7)
Psalm 141 A guard before my mouth (v. 3)
Psalm 142 "No man cared for my soul" (v. 1)
Psalm 143 "In thy faithfulness answer me" (v.1)
Psalm 144 The happy people (v. 15)
Psalm 145 Let all praise Him (v. 21)
Psalm 146 God praised for His help (v. 5)
Psalm 147 God praised for gathering Israel
Psalm 148 God praised by all creation
Psalm 149 God praised by the children of Zion
Psalm 150 The crescendo of praise climaxed

 

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