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How to Read and Understand the Psalms

By Bruce K. Waltke, Fred G. Zaspel

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How to Read and Understand the Psalms

By Bruce K. Waltke, Fred G. Zaspel

... Show All

An Introduction to the Psalms from Biblical Scholars Bruce K. Waltke and Fred G. Zaspel 

Written over the course of 1,000 years, the book of Psalms is a collection of religious poetry voicing a wide variety of human emotions expressed in different genres—imprecatory psalms, psalms of praise, and more. It has become one of the most popular books of the Bible, but most readers have only a surface level understanding of the Psalms and how it fits into the larger historical and scriptural context.

In How to Read and Understand the Psalms, Bruce K. Waltke and Fred G. Zaspel give readers tools to learn how to properly interpret and internalize the Psalms. Developed primarily from decades of lectures by Waltke, they explain the various types of psalms, Hebrew poetry, rhetorical techniques, and more. Armed with these tools, believers will discover how the 150 psalms can further fuel their knowledge and love of God. 

  • Developed Primarily from Lectures by Bruce K. Waltke: A renowned Old Testament scholar, Waltke taught on the Psalms for decades at Dallas Seminary, Regent College, Westminster Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Knox Theological Seminary
  • Ideal for Pastors, Teachers, and Students: Readers will be equipped to read, teach, and preach the Psalms with greater confidence 
  • In-Depth: Waltke and Zaspel examine specific psalms verse-by-verse and explain the various ways the psalmists themselves convey their message and how their psalms should be read in light of the biblical canon

Read Chapter 1


Bruce K. Waltke

Bruce K. Waltke (ThD, Dallas Theological Seminary; PhD, Harvard University) is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Studies at Regent College and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Knox Theological Seminary. He is the author of An Old Testament Theology and commentaries on Genesis, Micah, and Proverbs. Bruce is a member at Advent Anglican Church in Woodinville, Washington. 

Fred G. Zaspel

Fred G. Zaspel (PhD, Free University of Amsterdam) serves as a pastor at Reformed Baptist Church in Franconia, Pennsylvania, an adjunct professor of systematic theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and executive editor at Books At a Glance. He is the author of The Theology of B. B. Warfield and Warfield on the Christian Life, coauthor of New Covenant Theology, and has published numerous booklets, articles, and book reviews.

Product Details

Category: Biblical Studies
Arts & Literature
Format: Hardcover w/ Jacket
Page Count: 608
Size: 5.5 in x 8.5 in
Weight: 28.84 ounces
ISBN-10: 1-4335-8433-6
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-8433-6
ISBN-UPC: 9781433584336
Case Quantity: 16
Published: June 20, 2023

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction to the Psalms
Chapter 2: Hermeneutics: Interpreting the Psalms as Believers
Chapter 3: The Historical Setting of the Psalms
Chapter 4: The Royal Orientation of the Psalms
Chapter 5: The Liturgical Setting of the Psalms 
Chapter 6: Hebrew Poetry
Chapter 7: Form Criticism and Psalm Forms
Chapter 8: Praise Psalms 
Chapter 9: Petition-Lament Psalms
Chapter 10: Individual Songs of Grateful Praise
Chapter 11: Songs of Trust
Chapter 12: Messianic Psalms
Chapter 13: Didactic Psalms 
Chapter 14: Rhetorical Devices and Structures 
Chapter 15: The Final Arrangement of the Psalter

Appendix 1: Superscripts, Postscripts, or Both
Appendix 2: A Canonical Process Approach to the Psalms 
Appendix 3: Summary of Psalm Forms
General Index

Scripture Index 


“As has often been said, the Psalms reflect every aspect of the human soul. Without them, our worship would be impoverished and less honest, lacking the elements of righteous anger, confusion, and dejection that so often permeate the Psalms. Bruce Waltke and Fred Zaspel have provided us with a gem of a book that opens up fresh insights into the structure, meaning, and purpose of the Psalms. This book crystallizes the fruit of long careers of devoted scholarship with clarity, insight, and skill. Hopefully this book will drive the church back to the Psalms to gain much-needed courage and nourishment. What a wonderful gift to the church.”
Derek W. H. Thomas, Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary; Teaching Fellow, Ligonier Ministries

“The most obvious virtue of How to Read and Understand the Psalms is its scope. An appropriate subtitle for the book might be What You Always Wanted to Know about the Psalms. As part of this admirable scope, detailed explications of specific psalms balance the chapters that explore the topics important to scholarship on the Psalms.”
Leland Ryken, Emeritus Professor of English, Wheaton College

“This work by Waltke and Zaspel is a milestone achievement, encapsulating a lifetime of study in an accessible form that will serve students, pastors, and anyone else who wants to deepen and enrich their understanding of the book of Psalms.”
Iain M. Duguid, Professor of Old Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary

“Bruce Waltke and Fred Zaspel have provided the academy and the church with a rich and comprehensive book on how to read and understand the Psalms. Years of scholarship and devotion come to fruition in this masterpiece. It is an essential read for those studying the Psalms.”
Mark D. Futato, Robert L. Maclellan Professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

“What better way to encounter the book of Psalms—a book with such a wide range of topics, emotions, and types of psalms—than through the eyes of a skilled interpreter like Bruce Waltke, assisted by experienced pastor and writer Fred Zaspel. Waltke has spent the better part of a lifetime pondering the Psalms and wisdom literature, and it shows in this eminently readable introduction. It is at once engaging, insightful, and uplifting. I heartily recommend it.”
David M. Howard Jr., Professor of Old Testament, Bethlehem College & Seminary; author, The Structure of Psalms 93–100; coeditor, The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul and Reading the Psalms Theologically

“A few years ago, I visited the Jeita Grotto in Lebanon. Hidden beneath a nondescript hillside of rock and scrub lies a vast underground cavern, a gallery of dizzying vistas, towering earth sculptures, and precarious chasms—all of it stunningly beautiful. This book feels like that. Waltke and Zaspel take us into and under the Psalter and show a huge, dazzling world teeming there. I’m stumped to know what else could have gone into this monumental book. It is scholarly, highly readable, instantly useful, spilling with insight, and massively comprehensive. The material on David alone is worth the price of the book. Every serious reader, teacher, and preacher of the Psalms needs a copy.”
Mark Buchanan, author, David: Rise and David: Reign