How to Read the Psalms, By Tremper Longman III
How to Read the Psalms
  • Length: 168 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: January 07, 2025
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0281
  • ISBN: 9781514002810

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The Psalms have been well-loved and frequently used by Christians throughout history. For directness, intensity, and intimacy, they are unrivaled in all of Scripture. Somehow the psalmists seem to have anticipated our own awe, desires, and frustrations.

Yet the Psalms also challenge us when we look at them closely. Their poetry is unfamiliar in form. Many images used are foreign to us today. And the psalmists sometimes express troubling thoughts that seem hard to reconcile with other teachings of Scripture.

In this volume of the popular How to Read Series, Tremper Longman III gives us the kind of help we need to overcome the distance between the psalmists' world and ours. He explains the various genres of psalms, the way they were used in Hebrew worship, their relationship to the rest of the Old Testament, and the characteristics of Hebrew poetry. Then he looks at how Christians can appropriate the message and insights of Psalms today.

Step-by-step suggestions for interpreting the psalms on our own are followed by exercises for further study and reflection, plus a helpful guide to commentaries on the Psalms. This second edition includes expanded content, updated sources, and a new appendix on the structure of the book of Psalms.

"In this updated introduction to the Psalms, Longman offers readers a solid foundation for understanding and appreciating these beloved Scriptures. In addition to learning about important facets of the Psalms, such as genre and poetics, readers have an opportunity to see interpretation of the Psalms modeled, and even test their understanding with exercises for each chapter. I will be recommending this book to my students, church members, and everyone who wishes to explore this 'mirror of the soul'!"

Elizabeth H. P. Backfish, associate professor of biblical studies at Jessup University

"Most of us can find the book of Psalms in our Bible by familiarity of touch. It is the most read portion of the Bible for dear and clear reasons. The Psalms attune, evoke, and give voice to some of our deepest struggles and desires. The Psalms are also complex poetic masterpieces that need a thoughtful guide to explicate the full richness of what is read. Tremper is a brilliant and passionate guide whose heart is shaped by the cry of the Psalms and transformed by the promise of Jesus in them. You can't find a better ally than Tremper to read the life-giving gift of the Psalms."

Dan Allender, professor of counseling psychology and founding president of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology

"With this second edition, Tremper Longman III has placed us all in his debt. With theological and literary sensitivity, and drawing on his wide research on Psalms, he introduces readers to the main issues needed to read Psalms well and the resources that can enable their further reading. A foundational work, this deserves to be read widely."

David Firth, tutor in Old Testament at Trinity College, Bristol

"The Psalms have long been thought of as the great prayer book of the Bible, but that has often been a distinction more noted than lived. No more. Tremper Longman III has given us a guide for not only reading and understanding these classic expressions of the soul-at-depth but also allowing them to form our lives."

John Ortberg, founder of

"For over thirty years, countless believers have benefited from How to Read the Psalms. Its secret sauce is its combination of literary guidance on genres and poetry, theological guidance for praying in view of Christ, and practical guidance on how readers can engage personally with God. May this second edition continue to equip the next generation to meet with God through the Psalter."

Andrew Abernethy, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College

"Longman has a unique gift to make complex biblical ideas clear and understandable. In this introduction to the Psalms, he writes with a scholar's experience and wisdom, and with a pastor's ability to connect Scripture to everyday life and practice. I will continue to use Longman's book not only as a textbook in my courses but also as a resource to help me understand and appreciate the Psalms."

David T. Lamb, Allan A. MacRae Professor of Old Testament and dean of the faculty at Missio Seminary and author of God Behaving Badly and The Emotions of God

"There is no better guide to reading and understanding the biblical Psalms than Tremper Longman. Bringing decades of his expertise to a new culmination in this second edition of How to Read the Psalms, Longman's work continues to be the go-to resource for students, pastors, and all who want to seriously engage the heart of the Old Testament and its anticipation of Jesus Christ."

Karen Jobes, Gerald F. Hawthorne Professor Emerita of New Testament Greek and Exegesis at Wheaton College


Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition

Introduction: An Invitation to the Psalms

Part One: The Psalms Then and Now
1. The Genres of the Psalms
2. The Origin, Development, and Use of the Psalms
3. The Psalms: The Heart of the Old Testament
4. A Christian Reading of the Psalms
5. The Psalms: Mirror of the Soul

Part Two: The Art of the Psalms
6. Old Testament Poetry
7. Understanding Parallelism
8. Imagery in the Psalms

Part Three: A Melody of Psalms
9. Psalm 98: Let All the Earth Praise God, Our Warrior
10. Psalm 69: Lord, I Suffer for Your Sake
11. Psalm 30: Thank You, Lord, for Healing Me!

Appendix: Is There a Meaningful Order to the Psalms?
Answers to the Exercises
Guide to Commentaries
General Index
Scripture Index


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Tremper Longman III

Tremper Longman III (PhD, Yale University) is Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He is the author or coauthor of over thirty books, including How to Read the Psalms, How to Read Proverbs, Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation, and Old Testament Essentials.