This year I’ve been reading through the Psalms in my personal devotions. Along the way, I’ve discovered some invaluable resources that have deepened my love for what is one of the longest books in the Bible.
A Commentary on the Psalms: 42-89 by Allen P. Ross, released last year by Kregel Academic, is a stellar tool for navigating the difficult themes that pepper the Psalms.
In the commentary, each psalm is treated individually and includes three parts: an introduction with historical setting; a detailed exegetical analysis; and an application with a single-sentence summary or “expository idea” that encapsulates the message of the psalm.
What I liked about this book
Ross offers a straight-forward, clean exegesis. A reader can take questions concerning difficult texts straight to this book and easily find clear answers and interpretative helps.
The author gives the full context for specific words and how they are used across the Psalter. For example, his commentary on Ps. 43 outlines 3 categories of the term “injustice,” Ps. 48 offers an entire page on the meaning of “be glad.”
I appreciated that the treatment of textual variants is separated from the commentary and exegesis. The result? The commentary, although not intended for a novice student, is made a little more reader friendly.
The commentary is very pastoral. Ross often takes a pastoral tone in the application section, including notes to students on how to rightly organize the text. For example, he urges the reader to view John 4 (the woman at the well) through the interpretative lens of Ps. 50 which speaks of true, spirit-filled worship.
What I didn’t like about this book
For the novice student, the inclusion of several items would have made the series more helpful – a bibliography and a summary of introductory material on the Psalter.
Understandably, both of these items are included in other volumes of this series. As is, the commentary can only treat each psalm individually (as in the pairing of Ps. 42-43) instead of how the psalms function together or how their arrangement impacts the meaning of the entire book.
For example, Ps. 42 opens the second of 5 books that comprise the Psalter. Its placement as an introductory song to Book II would impact its exposition (or our interpretation of its meaning) in some measure – a point Ross concedes but doesn’t discuss in his commentary on Ps. 42. Without understanding the structure of the Psalter, the reader unfortunately misses the full sense of the original author’s meaning or the full context of the psalm.
Lastly, I wish the author had given the prophetic or Messianic element of the Psalter a more prominent place in his exegesis. In psalms traditionally considered to speak of the Messiah, Ross dedicates greater space to the immediate historical context of the song, leaving Messianic or eschatological elements to the application area (see Ps. 43, 65, 66, 67).
Why does this matter?
The reader is left to fill in the blank as to the author’s original intent in writing his psalm. Was the author intentionally referring to the Promised Messiah (Ps. 45) when he wrote his song or did New Testament writers layer a Messianic meaning over the original hymn?
Who should buy this book
Here are a few other groups who would benefit from this commentary:
This series (all 3 volumes) would make an excellent gift for any believer or lover of the Psalms.
A student seeking to understand the Psalms, particularly a commentary with word study helps and clear applications.
Individuals who love to pray the Psalms but struggle to appropriate their meaning in a current context. The application section at the close of each psalm is particularly geared toward cultivating a vibrant prayer life.
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Thanks to Kregel Academic for providing a copy of this book to review. This post contains affiliate links. To find out more, click here.