Book Review: A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume I (1-41) by Allen P. Ross

Psalms are the songs of life. Yes, they are the songs of Israel. Yes, they are the songs of the church. But for me, most of all, the psalms are the songs of life. They provide words for my prayers and my emotions. They declare my faith, and remind me trust God no matter what. They teach language of the community of faith and the family of God. I am a huge fan of the Psalms.

I am also now a huge fan of A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 1 (1-41) by Allen P. Ross because he not only loves the psalms. He loves them enough to teach how to know them and then be able to teach them to others. What I like about this commentary is it is both exegetical and expository. Exegetical means it digs into the meaning of the psalm, its words, verses, style and setting. Expository means this is how you communicate this psalm as you teach/preach. Ross says that the purpose of this commentary is “to focus on the chief aim of exegesis, the exposition of the text.”

Most commentaries focus on one or the other. Ross seeks to do both, and he does it well because his exposition builds off solid exegesis. One more thing, exegesis is reading out of the text what is there. Eisegesis is reading into the text what I want to be there. If you want what God put there, you use exegesis, not eisegesis. Instead of grabbing favorite verses from a psalm, Ross digs into psalm as a unit or in its entirety. He digs into each verse, but he also goes section by section. He’s not just pulling one verse out to teach, but digging deep into each psalm to know its big idea and to be able to declare its message boldly.

Before Ross digs into the 1st 41 psalms, he spends 180 pages digging into the value of the psalms, their usage in worship, history of interpretation, how to interpret Biblical poetry, literary forms and functions as well as the theology of the psalms and how to use them in exposition (preaching/teaching).

Since this is or is to be a 3 volume work, the 180 pages provide an indepth introduction and overview of the psalms. Being able to dig a bit deeper into an overview of the psalms, and his use of specific examples led to a greater appreciation of the psalms themselves.

One of my favorite parts in the 18o opening pages is the history of interpreation of the psalms. He analyzes an extensive list of commentaries and how they developed over the years. Since I owned a few of those he mentioned, it gave me a greater understanding of what I had and perhaps what I need.

Another part I appreciated was his highlighting of the major  Hebrew words that refer to praise. It probably helps to know Hebrew to appreciate what he writes, but it’s not required. He is good enough to put the English pronunciation right beside the Hebrew words.

In the commentary section, each psalm comes with an exegetical and expositional outline. The last section in the commentary of the psalm provides a quick overview of what the previous pages have laid out.

Ross does not claim that his expositional outline is the only possible one. But he did affirm for me of building one’s message from a psalm, from what the psalm teaches, not just the favorite verses from it that I like to teach.

Jesus quote of Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is greater appreciated when the whole psalm is considered and not merely those that I find relevant to Good Friday.

The study of each psalm begins with a title that summarizes its meaning. If you are teaching or preaching from the psalms, this provides a launching point for your preparation. If you are simply wanting to deepen your appreciation and study of the psalms, this provides a focal point for your study.

I give A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 1 (1-41) by Allen P. Ross 5 out of 5 stars. It’s a great book not only for communicators of God’s Word, but for those who want to go deeper into the Psalms.

Thank you to Kregel Publishers with their academic section and this book’s addition to the Kregel Exegetical Library  for providing a free copy to review. I was not required to give a positive review, I found it worthy of 5 out of 5 stars.


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