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Encountering the Book of Psalms, 2nd Edition

A Literary and Theological Introduction

series: Encountering Biblical Studies

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Though the Psalms are perhaps the most familiar portion of the Hebrew Bible, they are also among the most difficult to interpret. In this new, thoroughly updated edition of a successful textbook, a respected evangelical Old Testament scholar offers a guide to the book of Psalms that is informed by current scholarship and written at an accessible level. Designed for the undergraduate classroom, it includes photos, sidebars, and other pedagogical aids and features a new interior design.

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To the Student
Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition
Part 1: Encountering the Literary and Hermeneutical Dimensions of the Psalms
1. "Begin the Music": Introducing the Psalms
2. Listening to the Symphony of Praise: Interpreting the Psalms
3. The Seams of the Garment of Praise: The Structure of the Book
Part 2: Encountering the Psalms as Worship and Historical Reflection
4. The Psalms in Worship and Faith
5. Encountering Theology and History in the Psalms
Part 3: Encountering the Psalms as Literary and Theological Types
6. "Praise the Lord, O My Soul; All My Inmost Being, Praise His Holy Name": Psalms of Praise
7. "My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?": Psalms of Lament
8. "I Love the Lord, for He Heard My Voice; He Heard My Cry for Mercy": Psalms of Thanksgiving
9. "The Lord Is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want": Psalms of Trust
10. "You Are My Son; Today I Have Become Your Father": The Royal Psalms
11. "The Lord Reigns": The Kingship of Yahweh Psalms
12. "My Mouth Will Speak Words of Wisdom": Wisdom Psalms
13. "The Law of the Lord Is Perfect, Reviving the Soul": Psalms of Torah
14. "May They Be Blotted Out of the Book of Life": Imprecatory Psalms


"Hassell Bullock presents the fruit of a lifetime of academic study and spiritual practice devoted to the Psalms. The first edition brought understanding and appreciation, and the second edition will do this and more. Hassell brings these poems of old off the page and into the hearts and lives of readers. The Psalms sing again."

Richard S. Hess, distinguished professor of Old Testament, Denver Seminary

"Readers can hear and feel the psalmists' heartbeat for God as they read Hassell Bullock's book on the Psalms. This revised edition is thoroughly updated and contains many useful and reader-friendly features, including sidebars, photos, figures, charts, and more. An especially welcome feature is the new attention to the canonical reading of the Psalter, i.e., to the book's structure and message as an organic whole. If one reads through this book--along with the book of Psalms itself!--one's spiritual life and love for God and neighbor will be immeasurably enriched. I heartily recommend it."

David M. Howard Jr., professor of Old Testament, Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota

"Hassell Bullock has done it again! In this revision of his time-honored Encountering the Book of Psalms, he combines the mind of a scholar, the clarity of a teacher, the heart of a pastor, and the deep piety of one who has long walked with God as he guides the reader to learn, to live, and to love the Psalter."

Daniel J. Estes, distinguished professor of Old Testament, Cedarville University

"Bullock's first edition has proven itself to be the most comprehensive introduction to the Psalter for students, pastors, and serious lay readers. What was already an outstanding treatment is now further enriched by years of mature reflection in preparation for his two-volume commentary on the Psalms. This updated edition of Bullock's balanced and student-centered volume is most welcome."

John W. Hilber, professor of Old Testament, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. C. Hassell Bullock

    C. Hassell Bullock

    C. Hassell Bullock (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Hebrew Bible emeritus at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, where he taught for thirty-six years. He also served as an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA)....

    Continue reading about C. Hassell Bullock


Praise for the First Edition

"The strengths of the book are many. First, the punctuation of the narrative with helpful charts and diagrams increases understanding and makes the material discussed more enjoyable. Second, while Bullock demonstrates an overall command of the Psalter, he deftly avoids overemphasizing a personal agenda in his interpretation. . . . Third and most importantly, the book does indeed function as a literary and theological introduction to the book of Psalms. Having completed this book, the student will have been introduced to the major theological and literary elements within the Psalter as well as major scholarly contributions on the subject."

Bradley Embry,

Review of Biblical Literature

"This is an excellent summary of information about the various scholarly opinions about the Book of Psalms. . . . The 'Encountering' series is designed to appeal to a modern reader. Clear headings, sidebars, study questions, tables, and various graphical elements make the pages visually interesting. . . . An excellent introduction to scholarly and devotional approaches to the Psalms. A student or pastor building a personal library should seriously consider adding this volume to his Psalms shelf."

L. Russ Bush,

Southern Baptist Journal of Theology

"A scholarly and quite detailed work. . . . It is a helpful, comprehensive, well-written, and well-presented introduction to the Book of Psalms. Anyone beginning serious study of the Psalms will find Bullock's work to be an excellent starting point."

Jamie Grant,


"Bullock's book is a gift to all who pray, live, and love the Psalter. . . . Numerous pictures, charts, tables, definitions, and devotional thoughts are sprinkled throughout Encountering the Book of Psalms, making this book a treasure for those who seek a superb devotional and teaching resource on the Psalms."

Reed Lessing,

Concordia Journal

"[This volume] is the fruition of deep, academic preparation and presentation on the part of the author. . . . Though its utilization would be favorable for undergraduate courses, lay persons will find a wealth of information in this treatment of the Psalms. . . . The book's organization may well be one of its most admirable traits. Sidebars are used to isolate contemporary issues of concern and show how the book of Psalms speaks to pressing ethical and theological matters. At the beginning of each chapter is an outline of the chapter and a suggested list of goals to guide the reader in approaching the material. Key terms and a glossary follow each chapter, along with discussion questions. A variety of illustrations are found throughout the book, which are intended to make the text more aesthetically pleasing and more easily read. Tables group psalms according to genre. . . . [The book contains] excellent formatting and helpful applications of the Psalms."

William M. Tillman Jr.,

Review and Expositor

"Bullock helps the reader gain a grounding in the psalms by placing them in chronological and historical perspectives. He also examines how psalms have been used in worship services, tracing that use up to the present day. The book, illustrated with drawings and charts, is suitable for classroom use, and each chapter includes an outline and objective. This is a text that anyone desiring and introduction to, and an in-depth study of, the psalms can put to excellent use. It is easy to use, substantive in its material and clear in its presentation."

Presbyterian Layman

"The interesting Encountering series by Baker is aimed at Bible Colleges and provides well constructed text books at this level. Outlines, sidebars and illustrations appear in the text as well as summaries and questions. . . . The approach in this volume is far more balanced and interactive with the actual text of Scripture than some discussions used in Bible Colleges. It is intelligent and fair minded, and deserves wide use."


"This book would benefit pastors in training or ministers who wish to extrapolate background information for an intensive study of the Psalms."

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