7 Popular Commentaries on the Psalms

Perhaps more than any other part of the Bible, the Psalms cut to the heart of human emotion, presenting raw cries of humanity as we interact with God. When joyful, the psalmists break forth in praise of Yahweh. When in anguish, they cry for vindication, never hesitating to express their doubts, fears, and frustrations—but always with the conviction that God will come through for them in the end.

As New Testament believers, we have the privilege of seeing Jesus in the Psalms. We find him as God’s begotten Son in Psalm 2:7, and we find him as the cornerstone in Psalm 118:22. With the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus pointed toward his own fulfillment of Psalm 22 on the cross, and he fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 16:10 with his resurrection. And these are just a few examples—the Psalms are filled with Christ!

From the church’s beginnings, Paul encouraged believers to address one another in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). And the Psalms have endured as the songbook of the church throughout history.

If you’re a song leader—or any kind of leader—it’s vital to have a solid understanding of the Psalms. Here are some of the most popular commentaries on the Psalms to get you started.

1. Expositor’s Bible Commentary

Though bundled together with Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, Willem A. VanGemeren’s section on the Psalms is considered by many to be one of the best parts of the whole Expositor’s Bible Commentary—and the other volumes are quite worthwhile as well. Tremper Longman III says that “VanGemeren’s commentary is excellent on the text and the text’s theology and is particularly helpful in sermon preparation.”
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2. Word Biblical Commentary

Peter C. Craigie was originally supposed to author all three of these volumes on the Psalms. Unfortunately, he died having only completed the first. Marvin E. Tate wrote the second volume, and Leslie C. Allen wrote the third. While Craigie’s volume is generally considered to be the strongest of the three, together they make a solid addition to any library of Psalms resources.
Learn more: Psalms 1–50, Psalms 51–100, Psalms 101–150

3. Tyndale Old Testament Commentary

Derek Kidner’s two volumes on the Psalms offer introductory-level commentary that is valuable for beginners and scholars alike. Tremper Longman III says that “in spite of its brevity, this commentary is highly recommended for its theological insight and practical bent.” It’s a great option when you just need to quickly understand the text.
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4. NIV Application Commentary

Dr. Charles Stanley says of the NIV Application Commentary, “It is encouraging to find a commentary that is not only biblically trustworthy but also contemporary in its application. . . . I use it and recommend it.” While the series is not yet complete, this first volume on the Psalms by Gerald H. Wilson stands quite well on its own.
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5. The Treasury of David

Charles Spurgeon provided thorough commentary on every verse of the Psalms, and he included quotations from such notable theologians as Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, and Matthew Henry. Cyril J. Barber calls Spurgeon’s Treasury, “A classic in its field. Richly rewarding, deeply devotional, and pleasingly relevant.”
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6. Classic Commentaries and Studies on Psalms

This collection brings together 35 classic volumes on the Psalms from nearly 30 different Bible scholars. If you’d like to reference a wide variety of perspectives at the same time, this collection is for you. You’ll get multiple full commentaries, analyses of individual psalms, outlines, study guides, and more.
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7. The Psalms of David

Hymn writer and theologian Isaac Watts arranged nearly every Psalm in rhyming meter for singing, often creating multiple versions per Psalm. Some have become well-known hymns that we still sing today, such as “Jesus Shall Reign” (Psalm 72, part II) and “Joy to the World” (Psalm 98, part II). While not a commentary in the technical sense, The Psalms of David provides us with Watts’ insights into the Psalms, and it makes an especially great resource for singers and songwriters.
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These few suggestions are just the beginning. Logos has hundreds of resources relating to the Psalms. Check them out, and start studying the Psalms today!

Written by
Chuck McKnight
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Written by Chuck McKnight
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