from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 76

Psalms 41; 72; 89; 106; 150: The Five Books

The Story


Who was "the sweet Psalmist of Israel"? What instrument did David play? Do you remember his playing for Saul? What makes the Psalms that David sang so precious that they are a part of our Bible? David said, "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue."

Can you find some Psalms which have printed over them "A Psalm of David"? You will find more of them in the early part of the Psalm-book, among the first forty-one Psalms. This collection of Psalms perhaps was the first little Psalm-book which people used soon after the time of David, for singing in their homes; and when the temple was built by Solomon and services for the temple were arranged, this was perhaps the little Psalm-book that they used. It seems to end at Ps. 41:13, where we read, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen." This is called The First Book of Psalms, and is so marked in some of our Bibles. Afterward, more Psalms were collected, making a Second Book. You find the end of this Second Book in the last verses of Ps. 72. Still more Psalms were collected, until there were five books, which together make our Psalm-book. In all these books, you will find Psalms with David's name. He was always known as "the sweet Psalmist of Israel," and his Psalms were loved and remembered.

Among Psalms of praise to the Lord in the later books of Psalms much used in the temple, is Ps. 104, a beautiful song of praise to the Lord for His works in the world about us. It is especially a Psalm to read in the spring when the world is waking up to life, when trees and flowers are growing, and birds and animals of the hills and woods are making their nests and homes. Both the Psalm and the world about us call to us to awake and to be more truly the children that the Lord wishes us to be.


Psalms were sung and read by the people of Israel in their homes and in the temple when temple services began. There was no temple in Jerusalem when David was king, but it was built by Solomon, David's son, who was king after him. Then probably services were arranged, and Psalms, mostly Psalms of David, were sung by the priests and temple choirs. We may think of the Psalms then used as the first Psalm-book. At later times, other Psalms were sung and written, and perhaps more Psalms of David were found, and these were added to the Psalm-book. This perhaps was done when Hezekiah was king in Jerusalem, and Isaiah was prophet. We know that Hezekiah did much to restore the temple worship. He took much pains to teach the people of Judah (2 Chron. 17:7-9); he appointed people to collect the proverbs of Solomon (Prov. 25:1); and he did much for the temple music. (2 Chron. 29, especially verse 30) It seems probable that the Psalm-book was at that time enlarged. There was also a time after the return of captives from Babylon when Ezra the scribe did much to teach the people and to develop the worship in Jerusalem. (Ezra 7:6-10; Neh. 8) Some of the Psalms seem to belong to this time of religious revival, and perhaps some even to a later day. Remember the three periods which have been named, of Solomon, of Hezekiah, and of Ezra, as important in the Lord's providence in forming the Book of Psalms.

We have some indication of this gradual formation of the Psalm-book in the five books into which it was anciently divided, a division which is preserved in our Revised Version. The end of each book is marked by a Doxology. Find these Doxologies at the end of Psalms 41, 72, 89, and 106; and Psalm 150 is a sort of Doxology to the whole Book of Psalms. Find and read these Doxologies. They mark the division of the five books.

In general, the Psalms of Book I, Ps. 1-41, are more simple and personal. They belonged to a more simple time, and among them are a large part of the Psalms that have David's name. Books IV and V contain many Psalms of thanksgiving and praise, adapted for the public temple worship, which received great development in the time of Ezra, after the return from Babylon. In which book of psalms do you find "The Lord is my shepherd"? "I will lift up mine eves unto the hills"? "O Lord. thou hast searched me and known me", the Psalm that we are learning?

Spiritual Study


A series of studies of the Five Books of Psalms by several New-Church ministers is contained in The New-Church Review of 1897 and 1898. An introductory article in this series, having wider scope, may be found in The New-Church Review for October, 1897. The spiritual relation of the Five Books of Psalms to human experience and to the Lord is presented in these articles in an interesting way.

The historical background of the Psalms is important as far as it is known, as a basis for their spiritual study.

Another still more important consideration is the use of the Divine names in the several Books of Psalms. From our previous study of the Divine names, we know that the name Jehovah expresses the Divine love, and the Lordís relation to us in loving states, and that the name God expresses the Divine truth and its relation to us in intellectual states. In Book I of the Psalms, the name Jehovah is used 272 times, and the name God 15 times. The states described in these early Psalms are childlike and celestial. In Book II, the relation is reversed, the name God occurring 164 times and the name Jehovah but 30 times; and this relation holds through Ps. 83. The Psalms of Books II and III, in which the name God prevails, describe conflicts in the power of truth resulting in the humbling of self-intelligence and self-love. But in Book IV the name Jehovah alone is used; and in Book V with few exceptions. These books describe states of deeper and maturer love, after the humbling of temptation. The article referred to in The New-Church Review leads to this concluding statement: "Thus the five books are the songs of regeneration, from the first beginning of rational choice to the full conjunction with the Lord. They are the songs of union of the Divine with humanity, the songs of every regenerating soul, the marriage songs of the race."

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