Psalms is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Taken together, its 150 sacred poems express virtually the full range of Israel’s religious faith.
The Book of Psalms in its current, most commonly used forms, consists of 150 songs and prayers referred to individually as psalms and referenced by chapter and verse. They each have a poetic character with frequent use of parallelism. In addition to the title of the collection which translates as song or hymns from both Hebrew and Greek, superscriptions in many of the Psalms provide musical references and some direction, in some cases even references to melodies that would have been well-known by early congregations.
Songs that can be identified as such in the Psalms include songs of thanksgiving, hymns of praise and royal psalms, which may have been used in coronations and weddings. Identification of some psalms as prayers is also seen within the text, for example in the conclusion to Psalm 72.
The largest category of Psalms, though not grouped as such in the text, is that of lament – expressions of complaint and pleas for help from God. There appears to also have been an instructional function of the psalms as seen in their references to the law.
Dating of individual compositions is difficult, and in some cases impossible. Many appear to have been written early in the history of ancient Israel, others after the exile to Babylon. Biblical scholars note the early organization into five collections, paralleling the Torah or Pentateuch – the first five books of the bible. However, other reasons for dividing the book in this way are unclear. Authorship is also uncertain in spite of frequent attributions to David.