I've decided to to include the entire text from the study sheets because I don't want to be sued or jailed for doing so. I am adding some things I see pertinent to learning about the subject in study and will site my source. Most of this study is based on a study guide from Mark A. Copeland which can be found here and only covers the first 50 chapters. If at some time I decide to drop this study I will try and at least continue through psalms without the use of the guide ... please remember your feedback is very welcome and I encourage it. There is a lot I've cut out to get us started.. so here we go with Mark's introduction into Psalms
Background Material On The Psalms
Having examined some of unique characteristics of Hebrew poetry in general, let's now focus on the book of Psalms itself...
1) The Origin Of The Word "Psalm"
The Greek word is "psalmos", from the Hebrew word "zmr" meaning "to pluck"; i.e., taking hold of the strings of an instrument with the fingers. It implies that the psalms were originally composed to be accompanied by a stringed instrument. "Psalms are songs for the lyre, and therefore lyric poems in the strictest sense."(Delitzsch, Psalms, Vol. I, p. 7) David and others therefore originally wrote the Psalms to be sung to the accompaniment of the harp.
In New Testament worship, we are told to sing the psalms to the accompaniment of the heart:
"...in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ep 5:19)
The phrase, "making melody," comes from the Greek word "psallontes" (literally, plucking the strings of). Therefore, we are to "pluck the strings of our heart" as we sing the psalms (i.e., to sing with emotion).
2) The History Of The Psalms
The oldest of the Psalms originate from the time of Moses (1400 B.C.). We have three psalms penned by Moses:
Exo 15:1-15 - a song of triumph following the crossing of the Red Sea
Deut 32, 33 - a song of exhortation to keep the Law after entering Canaan
Ps 90 - a song of meditation, reflection, and prayer
After Moses, the writing of Psalms had its "peaks" and "valleys"...
In David (1000 B.C.), the sacred lyric attained to its full maturity.
With Solomon, the creation of psalms began to decline; this was "the age of the proverb."
Only twice after this did the creation of psalms rise to any height, and then only for a short period: under Jehoshaphat (875 B.C.) and again under Hezekiah (725 B.C.).
3) The Authors Of The Psalms
David - Commonly thought to be the author of the book of Psalms, but he actually wrote only about seventy-three (73), less than half.
Asaph - The music director during the reigns of David and Solomon (1 Chr 16:1-7). He wrote twelve (12) psalms.
The Sons of Korah - These were Levites who served in the Temple (1 Chr 26:1-19). They wrote twelve (12) psalms.
Solomon - At least two (2) psalms are attributed to him (Ps 72, 127). That he wrote many more is stated in 1Ki 4:29-32.
Moses - As indicated above, he wrote the earliest psalms; one is included in Psalms (Ps 90).
Heman - Contemporary with David and Asaph, and is known as "the singer" (1Ch 6:33). He wrote one psalm (Ps 88) that has been preserved.
Ethan - A companion with Asaph and Heman in the Temple worship (1 Chr 15:19). He wrote one psalm (Ps 89).
Anonymous - The authorship of forty-eight (48) of the psalms is unknown.