Top Five Commentaries on the Psalms

Last week I identified the triumvirate of Psalms study, namely the three scholars who have determined the shape of Psalms study today. However, as I acknowledged these men’s work is sometimes not the easiest to find, never mind read. So, here are my suggestions the Psalms section in your library.

  1. Willem VanGemeren, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, vol. 5, 2008.

Although this is part of a twelve volume set on the whole Bible it is by no means a lesser treatment of the Psalter for it.

VanGemeren has brought all of his experience and expertise to bear on this commentary. It is well-informed, lucidly written and beneficially concise. While the treatment of each psalm is helpful and enlightening, both the introduction and the periodic sections treating themes make this commentary well worth its price-tag. There are also numerous technical footnotes for those who want to note textual variants, interpretive issues and other data.

  1. Derek Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72 & Psalms 73-150, vols. 15 & 16, 2008.

These two volumes offer a much shorter treatment of the Psalms. Kidner’s word economy is quite remarkable, and yet it is achieved simply by pointing readers back to previous comments on words, phrases, imagery, literary technique, etc. For the conservative evangelical Christian Kidner’s most profitable contribution is his treatment of the messianic theme. It is even-handedly dealt with in the very good introduction, as well as throughout. This would be a good go to commentary alongside your daily readings or family devotions in the psalms.

  1. Nancy deClaisse-Walford et al., New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms, 2014.

By far this is the most modern commentary (the above volumes are reprints of earlier editions). In light of that it is unsurprising that it is heavily influenced by the work of G. H. Wilson, mentioned in our previous post. However, it also develops his theory. The writing style is warm,204,203,200_.jpgand therefore it is an enjoyable read as well as informative.

All NICOT commentaries have a reader friendly layout which makes it easy to either dip into the commentary quickly and pick up a couple of paragraphs on something, or delve more deeply into abundant footnotes. This commentary is comprehensive and has three scholars contributing to it making it a very profitable purchase.

  1. James Montgomery Boice, Psalms (3 vols.), 1994-1998.

This is not a commentary per se, but a sermon on every single Psalm. It will not be so helpful in figuring out what a particular word means, nor giving all sides to a debate. Yet, it is invaluable for sermon preparation and formation. Boice’s experience of pastoral ministry drips through every line. The illustrations are illuminating and the application pertinent. His headings and titles are also good sermon fodder (although sometimes difficult to look past).

  1. Charles Spurgeon, Crossway Classic Commentaries (2 vols.), 1993.

Spurgeon’s commentaries on the psalms (The Treasury of David) have long been celebrated by exegetes. I remain unconvinced. He may have been the prince of preachers but sometimes I think his exegesis was suspect. For that reason I would not encourage you to search for the larger Treasury of David. Instead, I would point you to this abridged version. Spurgeon is very quotable and most enthusiastic in finding Jesus in every psalm, thus his work is of value in a study of the Psalms. However, it must be used with discernment.

The above commentaries have been chosen because they treat all psalms, however there are also a number of books which tackle particular psalms which would be worth hunting out: What works when life doesn’t by Stuart Briscoe and both The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life & Slogging along the Paths of Righteousness by Dale Ralph Davis.  Also worthwhile is Wilson’s NIVAC commentary, although sadly he died before being able to complete the next volume.

Other volumes which either aren’t quite as helpful, or I haven’t used extensively are the Bible Speaks Today volumes by Michael Wilcock (which wasn’t quite as helpful) and the Baker Academic volumes by John Goldingay (which look good but I have not yet used them extensively enough to recommend them). Do a bit of research, pick up one of these commentaries and submerge yourself in the Psalms.


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