Book I of The Psalms

Discovery for Students

Book I of The Psalms


Psalms 1:1 through 41:13

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.” (Psalm 28:7)


The Book of Psalms contains 150 chapters which are divided into five sections, or books. This lesson focuses on Book I, which encompasses Psalms 1-41. All the psalms in this section are attributed to David except three: Psalms 1, 10, and 33.

Book I was probably the first official psalter of Israel (the compendium of the nation’s lyrical songs, hymns, and prayers). The other sections, added later, were written over about one thousand years between the time of Moses (approximately 1520 B.C.) until after the return of the Southern Kingdom from Babylonian captivity (approximately 445 B.C.). In the records of David’s era found in the Chronicles, there is frequent mention of sacred music and song being part of Israel’s worship. (For example, see 2 Chronicles 7:6 and 35:15.) Bible scholars agree that most of the psalms likely were sung for some period of time before they were added into the psalter.

Most of the psalms in Book I are personal in nature. They are presented in no particular order. While some relate to specific events in the life of David, even those are not arranged in a chronological progression.

Psalm 1 offers a prelude to the whole collection in Book I. It may have been composed for that purpose, but whether or not that is the case, the first psalm does provide a foundation for all the psalms that follow.

God’s provision of a Savior for His people is a recurring theme throughout the Book of Psalms, and many instances are found in this section. Psalm 2 portrays the Messiah’s triumph and kingdom; this psalm is quoted or alluded to in the New Testament at least eighteen times — more than any other in this section. Psalm 16:8-11 foreshadows Christ’s death and resurrection. Psalm 22 alludes to the suffering Savior on the Cross and presents detailed prophecies of the crucifixion, all of which were fulfilled perfectly. Psalm 34 prophesies that the Messiah’s bones would not be broken, and Psalm 40 relates that He came to do His Father’s will. (While Psalm 23, “The Shepherd Psalm,” is a part of Book I, it will be studied as a separate lesson.)

Jewish tradition correlates the five sections of the Book of Psalms with the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, which were authored by Moses), so Book I is called the “Genesis” section. The divine name mainly used within this section is “Jehovah” (Lord).


  1. Although Psalm 1 may or may not have been specifically written as an introduction to the whole collection of psalms, it sets the tone for them. What is the primary contrast developed in this psalm?
  2. Several psalms in Book I begin with the author conveying distress and helplessness, and yet end on a positive note of confident joy and victory. Sometimes this change takes place between one verse and the next! For example, the transition occurs at verse 8 in Psalm 6, at verse 5 in Psalm 13, and at verse 6 in Psalm 28. Why do you think the psalmist’s perspective shifted in these examples?
  3. Psalm 7 is a song of lament written by David regarding those who had falsely accused him. While the identity of Cush the Benjamite (named in the title) cannot be assuredly stated, he probably was a cohort of Saul who made slanderous accusations against David. How did the psalmist respond to these falsehoods? What can we learn from how he handled the situation?
  4. In Psalm 19:7-9, six different words or short phrases are used to refer to the whole body of Scriptural truth. These six words are followed by six descriptors (adjectives). What are the six words and their corresponding adjectives?
  5. Psalm 22, which is sometimes referred to as “The Crucifixion Psalm,” is an example of a Messianic psalm. In it, David prophetically described the Messiah’s death on the Cross. When Jesus was on the Cross, He spoke the words of verse 1 (see Mark 15:34). What are some other verses in this psalm that refer to Christ the Sin-bearer as He suffered upon the Cross?
  6. In Psalm 26:2, David asked the Lord to examine him, and to try (examine or investigate) his “reins” (innermost parts; affections, motives, thoughts) and his heart. Why should we follow the psalmist’s example and ask God to search our hearts?
  7. Psalm 38 bears the superscription “A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance,” and is classified as a penitential psalm. According to verses 3-4, what was the cause of David’s obvious physical, emotional, and spiritual sufferings? In his desperate state, what does verse 18 tell us he resolved to do?
  8. The timeless principles recorded in the Psalms are why people in every era have turned to this book for comfort and encouragement. Careful reading reminds us how near the Lord really is, and how quickly He meets us when we reach out to Him. What verse in Book I particularly spoke to you, and why?


The Psalms are beautiful because they are so personal. Every man, woman, and child can relate to them in some degree, and find comfort in them. While the Psalms are the experiences of humanity expressed in writing, we also see in them how man is affected by a holy God.