The book of Psalms is one of the most beloved portions of Holy Scripture. Its contents are read and sung by millions every day. The book is actually a collection of 150 individual songs composed over a period of approximately 1,000 years, from the time of Moses (Psalm 90) to the post-exilic period (Psalm 126). Seventy-three of the psalms are explicitly attributed to David, but other authors are mentioned as well. There are a number of books available that offer some helpful introductory insights into the book of Psalms. One of the most helpful is C. Hassell Bullock’s Encountering the Book of Psalms. In addition to these works, there are a number of great commentaries on the book of Psalms. The following are five of the most helpful.
1. Willem A. VanGemeren — “Psalms” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (2008).
Along with D.A. Carson’s commentary on Matthew, this is one of the two or three best commentaries in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary series. It is certainly the most helpful commentary on the Psalms that I have yet read. For each psalm, VanGemeren provides a substantive introduction followed by expository comments and textual notes on every verse. In many cases, these comments are then followed by an Appendix dealing more fully with some important issue in that particular psalm. I cannot recommend this commentary highly enough. It should be used by every student of Scripture.
2. Allen P. Ross — Psalms 1–41; Psalms 42–89; Psalms 90–150* *(Kregel Exegetical Library, 2012, 2013, 2016).
I have long enjoyed Allen Ross’ commentary on Genesis, Creation & Blessing, but I only recently discovered his three-volume commentary on Psalms. He brings the same gifts to the exegesis of this book as he brought to Genesis. There is in-depth exegesis, analysis of theological themes, and suggested application for each psalm. A very helpful work.
3. Gerald Wilson, Dennis Tucker and Jamie Grant — Psalms Volume 1; Psalms Volume 2 (NIV Application Commentary, 2002, 2018).
The NIVAC series is a mixed bag, but Gerald Wilson’s initial volume on the Psalms is one of the standouts. The NIVAC series divides comments into three sections: Original Meaning, Bridging Contexts, and Contemporary Significance. In most of the commentaries in this series, the author will do very well in one or maybe two of those sections. Wilson is one of the few who succeeds in all three. Because of Wilson’s death, he was unable to write the second volume. This task was given to Dennis Tucker and Jamie Grant. Considering how high Wilson set the bar, they did an admirable job completing this commentary.
4. Donald Williams — Psalms 1-72; Psalms 73-150 (The Preacher’s Commentary, 2002).
I ran across this commentary years ago when it was part of the now defunct Mastering the Old Testament series. I have always found something of value when I have opened these volumes to see what Williams has to say on a given psalm. This is a non-technical, highly readable commentary, with a strongly devotional and practical approach. It is well worth consulting.
5. Derek Kidner — Psalms 1-72; Psalms 73-150 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 1973).
Kidner’s commentaries are always worth reading, and for those looking for a basic introductory-level commentary on the Psalms, this is a great place to start. The comments are clear and very concise, but always reflect the extensive learning and insight of the author.
The volumes in the Word Biblical Commentary, Psalms 1-50; Psalms 51-100; Psalms 101-150, were in my original top 5, but were bumped by the addition of Allen Ross’ three-volume work. They are still worth consulting. In 2019, Daniel Estes published a commentary on Psalms 73–150 in the New American Commentary. It is quite good. If he publishes the volume on Psalms 1–72 in the future, I might have to move these volumes into the top 5.
There are a number of other helpful commentaries on the book of Psalms. Charles Spurgeon’s commentary provides a wealth of material for preachers. Other commentaries that will prove especially helpful for pastors are the three volumes by John Goldingay, the commentaries by William S. Plumer, Michael Wilcock (Vol. 1; Vol. 2), George A.F. Knight (Vol. 1; Vol. 2), James Montgomery Boice (Vol. 1; Vol. 2; Vol. 3), and Eric Lane (Vol. 1; Vol. 2).
Helpful Related Works:
Geoffrey Grogan’s Prayer, Praise and Prophecy is a must-read on the theology of the Psalms. The structure and theology of the Psalms is covered well by O. Palmer Robertson in his The Flow of the Psalms. I would also recommend the three volumes by Bruce Waltke and James Houston: The Psalms as Christian Worship, The Psalms as Christian Lament, and The Psalms as Christian Praise.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.