Book Review: Psalms (Jensen)

Psalms, by Irving L. Jensen

The book of Psalms is an obvious place to seek biblical understanding as well as the way in which we can best understand God’s working in the lives of others and how people responded to the understanding of the history of God’s dealings with mankind as well as the providential dealings of God in their own lives.  To be sure, this is a very brief survey and self-study guide that in no means even gets close to the full complexity of the book of Psalms.  Yet one gets the feeling that the author is not trying to write the definitive guide to such an important book of the Bible, but rather to give guidance to the beginning reader as to the content and structure of Pslams and how they are integrated into the larger structure of biblical materials, looking back at history, including the creation and the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, dealing with the present struggles and difficulties of life and the relationship between imperfect believers and a perfect God, and also dealing with prophecy, especially of the Messianic variety, that has made these songs of vital importance for Christians because of the way that they deal with the first and second comings of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

This book is a short one at about 130 pages or so and it is divided into eleven lessons that together cover the 150 psalms.  The contents begin with a short foreword and general introduction that discuss the study aids used in this book (title, occasion, structure, analysis, outline, comments, and practical lesson) as well as provide some encouragement in how the reader can use the book.  After that the psalms are divided into lessons that fit with the fivefold division of the Psalms itself, which is also discussed in some detail.  The first four lessons cover the first book of the Psalms, with psalms 1-10, 11-21, 22-30, and 31-41.  After that the next two lessons cover psalms 42-55 and 56-72, providing the second book of the Psalms.  The next lesson after that covers the third book of psalms, from 73-89, and then the next lesson after that, 90-106, covers the fourth book of the Psalms.  Finally, the last three lessons cover the fifth and final book of the Psalms, 107-119, 120-134, and 135-150.  Throughout these lessons not all the psalms are covered but a great many are in at least passing detail, sometimes discussing where there is repetition with previous elements and what sort of circumstances may have prompted the knowledge discussed in the psalms.

It is pretty clear that this particular book was aimed at those who are fond of and have read the other guides by the author on various parts of the Bible, most of which also allow the reader to have a record of having wrestled with the scriptures under the author’s guidance.  A great many readers will likely have conducted more serious and lengthy discussions of the psalms than are included in this book [1], and that is probably for the best.  This book is a guide for those who only know the psalms, if at all, from singing them in church and who are unaware of their immense importance in connecting the law, community worship and praise, the personal lives of believers and their walk with God, and prophecies about judgment on earth as well as the first and second comings of Jesus Christ.  And if the author himself does not fully understand the chiasms that underlie a great many of the psalms, or at least does not want to convey that knowledge to the reader, at least a few of the psalms discussed here have very thoughtful descriptions of their structure for the reader to learn.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012/11/18/an-introduction-to-the-psalms-commentary-project/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/10/27/a-view-of-the-institutional-framework-of-the-composition-and-publication-of-the-psalms/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History, Music History, Psalms. Bookmark the permalink.

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