Reading, Interpreting, and Preaching the Psalms – Introduction

In preparation for an exegetical course I recently taught on the Psalter, I decided to present specifically the process I generally follow when approaching a psalm. As it happened, my thoughts ultimately developed into the following 10-step process.

But before presenting these suggestions, I have a couple qualifiers. On the one hand, this procedure assumes that the student has a working knowledge of Hebrew, with the skills to determine forms, to look up words in a standard lexicon, and to employ standard grammars.[1] On the other hand, the basis of this procedure is a text-centered approach that depends less on genre identification and more on the textual clues the author has left for the reader intent on discovering the significance of the psalm.

Today’s post will simply list the steps; later posts will flesh out some of the details with examples.

1. Read the Hebrew Text

2. Evaluate the Variants

3. Diagram the Text

4. Analyze the Parallelism

5. Examine the Psalm’s Coherence

6. Compare the Psalm to Its Context

7. Read the Text Canonically

8. Follow the Text into the New Testament

9. Apply the Psalm Responsibly

10. Pray the Psalm


[1] Many of these specifics are not necessarily covered in these steps, but rather assumed to be the outworking of a basic reading of Hebrew. That is, I don’t add a separate step to analyze the basic grammar (such as parsing of verbs), because I’m assuming that happens as one reads the text. These observations are vital, but I wanted to go beyond a simple rehashing of a basic Hebrew grammar class.

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Author: Randy McKinion

Besides being a husband and father, I teach at Cedarville University in Cedarville, OH.

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