The Types of Psalms

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
    Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
    they fail because of all my foes.
Away from me, all you who do evil,
    for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
    they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

  • Psalm 6:1-10

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
    so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

  • Psalm 67:1-7

“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”
    let Israel say;
“they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
    but they have not gained the victory over me.
Plowmen have plowed my back
    and made their furrows long.
But the Lord is righteous;
    he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”
May all who hate Zion
    be turned back in shame.
May they be like grass on the roof,
    which withers before it can grow;
a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
    nor one who gathers fill his arms.
May those who pass by not say to them,
    “The blessing of the Lord be on you;
    we bless you in the name of the Lord.”

  • Psalm 129:1-8

On Tuesday I mentioned that I had dug up an old CD with data from a Bible Study Computer-based Training program that I had written.  Where in other lessons I had written one Bible story after another, at least something on every chapter, but when I got to the Psalms, I wanted to go a different route.

I studied many reference sources and I found one that divided the Psalms into twelve types of psalms.  Since three of the types all relate to thanksgiving, you could say that there are ten types and then thanksgiving is broken into three groups.  But if you go online to research it now, you might get four types, five types, seven types, whatever.

Admittedly, in the listing of the Psalms that were in each type, two types, Imprecatory and Messianic, the psalm is not listed, but the specific verses.  And many of the Psalms have elements in more than one type.  The three Scriptures above were chosen since they all had elements of more than one type.  Psalm 6 is a penitential psalm with the last verse as imprecatory.  Psalm 67 is an intercessional psalm as well as a Messianic psalm.  Odd how a Messianic psalm did not make the list as a prophetic psalm.  And Psalm 129 is a psalm of affliction with the verse 5 as imprecatory.  The imprecatory verse in Psalms 6 and 129 above are shown in bold text.

I might make changes to these lists, and I have lost the original source that placed these psalms into the types as shown.  But having some sort of list can help when you are looking for encouragement in one area or another.

When I lost my job nearly ten years ago, I prayed Psalm 13 for over a year.  I was reading a book by Charles Stanley and he had quoted Psalm 25.  It had the same concept of do not allow my enemies to laugh at me, but Psalm 13 is a psalm of affliction and Psalm 25 is a Didactic (instructional) psalm according to the list.  But I think that I was ready after that time of affliction to move on and figure out what God had in store for me.  Thus, I prayed Psalm 25 for nearly another year.

I suppose a little bit of definition might be in order:

Psalms of Affliction: Psalms where the psalmist is crying out in pain or distress, asking God where He is in the psalmist’s time of need.  But no matter how dire the circumstances or how long the lament, there seems to always be a word of praise.  Otherwise, why do we go to God in such times, other than to recognize Him as the only one who can help us?

Didactic psalms: These psalms are psalms that are intended to teach.  In most cases the psalm instructs us in moral principles.

Historical psalms:  These psalms tell a story, historical in nature, usually of how God had done something.  Note that in Exodus, the song of Miriam and Moses was written after the Israelites had crossed over the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was trapped and destroyed by the returning waters.

Imprecatory psalms: Asking for vengeance against enemies.  From the two examples above, these requests for vengeance are usually not specific in how God does it.  I have written about this type of psalm or prayer in that they are legitimate requests to God.  We know that God will eventually stamp out all evil in the world.  Praying that God would do as He promises that He will eventually do is legitimate, but when a face is applied to that evil, our first reaction should be one of forgiveness and mercy.

Intercessional psalms:  These are psalms where the psalmist intercedes with God for others.

Messianic psalms:  These psalms can be shown as being prophetic (or verses within the psalm) and the prophecy relates to the coming Messiah.  Oddly in the lists that follow, Psalm 22 is listed as a psalm of affliction and a prophetic psalm, but not as a Messianic psalm.  Yet, Jesus quotes from this psalm from the cross, the first verse, and there is language within the psalm that could relate to Christ’s suffering, but maybe the person creating the list thought the connection to Messianic prophecy was not strong enough.

Penitential psalms:  Penitential psalms relate to penitence, but more specifically confession.

Psalms of praise: Exactly as stated.  God is being praised.

Prophetic psalms: Prophetic psalms are those psalms containing prophecy that is not specifically Messianic prophecy.

Psalms of thanksgiving for God’s goodness to Israel:  Giving God thanks as noted.

Psalms of thanksgiving for God’s goodness to good people:  Giving God thanks as noted.

Psalms of thanksgiving for God’s mercies to individuals:  Giving God thanks as noted.

And now for the lists:

Psalms of affliction (Ps 3-5; 11; 13; 16-17; 22; 26-28; 31; 35; 41-44; 54-57; 59-64; 69-71; 74; 77; 79-80; 83-84; 86; 88-89; 102; 109; 120; 123; 129; 137; 140-143).

Didactic psalms (Ps 1; 5; 7; 9-12; 14-15; 17; 24-25; 32; 34; 36-37; 39; 49; 50; 52-53; 58; 73; 75; 82; 84; 90-92; 94; 101; 112; 119; 121; 125; 127-128; 131; 133).

Historical psalms (Ps 78; 105-106).

Imprecatory psalms. Asking for vengeance against enemies (Ps 5:10; 6:10; 9:20; 10:2,15; 25:3; 28:4; 31:17-18; 35:4,8,26; 40:14-15; 54:5; 55:9,15; 56:7; 58:7; 59:5,11,15; 68:1-2; 69:23-24,27-28; 70:2-3; 71:13; 79:10,12; 83:13-17; 94:2; 109:7,9-20,28-29; 119:78,84; 129:5; 140:9-10; 143:12; 144:6).

Intercessional psalms (Ps 20; 67; 122; 132; 144).

Messianic Psalms (Ps 2:1-12; 67:1-7; 68:1-35; 69:1-36; 72:1-20; 96:1-13; 98:1-9; 110:1-7).

Penitential psalms (Ps 6; 25; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143).

Psalms of praise (Ps 8; 19; 24; 29; 33; 45, 47; 50; 65-66; 76-77; 93; 95-97; 99; 104; 111; 113-116; 134; 139; 147-148; 150).

Prophetic psalms (Ps 2; 16; 22; 40; 68-69; 72; 87; 97; 110; 118).

Psalms of thanksgiving for God’s goodness to Israel (Ps 21; 46; 48; 65-66; 76; 81; 85; 98; 105; 124; 126; 129; 135-136; 149).

Psalms of thanksgiving for God’s goodness to good people (Ps 23; 34; 36; 91; 100; 103; 107; 117; 121; 145-146).

Psalms of thanksgiving for God’s mercies to individuals (Ps 9; 18; 30; 34; 40; 75; 103; 108; 118; 138; 144).

For my Thursday Morning Bible Studies, I will be finishing the OT History, Part 1, with the book of Ruth.  I want to move on to Revelation.  But then I was thinking of Job.  In doing so, I thought about how I might handle the Psalms.  I may do a set number of psalms, something like six psalms each week, on a different morning.  The scholarly quotes might be more selective, but using these lists can be helpful in applying a slightly different voice to the same situation.  I still have not figured out how this is going to work, but God will guide me.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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