Read: Psalm 1:1-2 |
Is there any significance to the number 5 in the Bible?
Biblical numerology, according to some Biblical scholars, refers to the symbolic meaning of numerical values in the Bible. While not everyone agrees with assigning spiritual significance to numbers that appear repeatedly throughout the Bible, it is interesting to consider the validity of the spiritual symbolism.
For this posting, I reference the number 5. There are 5 books in the Book of Psalms. The number 5 is said to symbolize grace – God’s grace, goodness and favor towards humans. The Ten Commandments contain two sets of 5 commandments; there are 5 types of offerings God commanded Israel to bring him; David picked up 5 smooth stones to slay Goliath; the first 5 books of the God’s Law are called the Pentateuch – Penta means 5.
Though unproven, the repetitious usage seems to imply a meaning that we can only attempt to grasp. By the grace of God, let us then endeavor to understand the purpose and the value of dividing the Book of Psalms into 5 books as we conclude our overview of this book.
The uniqueness of Psalms – Five Books folded into One
The Book of Psalms is one of the most diverse books in the Bible. It covers themes ranging from praise, rejection, worship, war, grace, judgment, wisdom, sin, obedience, justice, and the coming of the Messiah.
The first chapters of Psalms where written in the time of Moses, through the time of David, Asaph, and Solomon, to the time of the Ezrahites who most likely lived after the Babylonian captivity. Yet the book is unique not only because it was collected gradually over a thousand years, or because only Psalms and Proverbs were written by multiple authors, or even for being the longest book in the Bible, but also because it is ordered into five books.
The Purposeful Division Parallels the Pentateuch
Scholars believe that around the time of Ezra, the books of the Psalter were organized into their final form. The books begin in Psalms 1, 42, 73, 90, and 107 and each book concludes with a doxology. Psalm 150 contains a soaring crescendo for the entire book of Psalms. [See table above the Questions Section]
In the final form, each of the five books was aligned with the Pentateuch – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Scholars have noted a conscious effort to harmonize the five books of Psalms to the Pentateuch. (Table: Psalms – Themes by Book) For instance, in “Thru the Bible”, Dr J. Vernon McGee explains how Book 1 harmonizes to Genesis:
“…, in the Genesis section, you see the perfect man in a state of blessedness in Psalm 1. Psalm 2 tells of the rebellious man. In Psalm 3 is the perfect man rejected. In Psalm 4, we see the conflict between the seed of the woman and the serpent. In Psalm 5, we find the perfect man in the midst of enemies. Psalm 6 presents the perfect man in the midst of chastisement with the bruising of his heel. In Psalm 7 we see the perfect man in the midst of false witnesses. Finally, in Psalm 8 we see the salvation of man coming through the bruising of the head. In Psalms 9–15 we see the enemy and Antichrist conflict and the final deliverance. Then in Psalms 16–41 we see Christ in the midst of His people sanctifying them to God.”
Table – Psalms Themes by Book
|Book 1||Book 2||Book 3||Book 4||Book 5|
|Theme||Adoring Worship||Wondering Worship||Ceaseless Worship||Submissive Worship||Perfected Worship|
(Law and Land)
|Number of chapters||41||31||17||17||44|
|Main Authors||David||David & Korah||Asaph||Anonymous||David|
Source: Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament, Chicago: Moody Press, 1978 Edition, p. 280, by Irving L. Jensen
The New Testament repeatedly tells us to speak and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16); if we are suffering or cheerful, we are to sing psalms (James 5:13). These witnesses testify the usefulness of the Psalms to aide in our spiritual growth and in overcoming trials and temptations.
These references show that the Psalms teach us to worship God. The greatest call of believers and the church is to create more worshippers. If we worshipped Christ as we should, we would have more evangelists, more outreach and we would not be lacking servants to help advance His Kingdom. Let us worship Him!
The Psalms are capable of serving as:
– The Christian’s “hymnal” to assist us in our praise to God
– The Christian’s “prayer book” in which we learn how to approach God in prayer
– The Christian’s “book of evidences” to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ
– The Christian’s “training guide” for living holy and righteous lives before God
– Mark Copeland – The Book of Psalms a Study Guide
1. Discover –
A. Read the first chapter of each book. Do you feel the connection to the Pentateuch?
B. Read the doxology of each book. What common words and phrases stand out to you?
2. Develop –
A. During this study as you encounter various scriptures, try to recognize how many references and songs that we hear refer to Psalms. Does that surprise you?
B. Summarizing author Bernard Anderson, the Psalms speak to us by advising us and they speak for us in our darkest moments when we can’t quite find what to say. Even when Christ was on the cross, He quoted the words of Psalm 22. Have you ever found yourself quoting Psalms in the midst of something? Which one did you quote and what was the circumstance?
3. Demonstrate –
A. This week focus on worshipping God more. Try to be an example of Psalm 150:6 “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!”
B. The grand doxology in Psalms 150 is beautifully written. Read it and share it with your prayer partner.