There are 150 psalms in the Book of Psalms that were written over the span of 800 years. Most of the Psalms written were made to be sung. There are two main genres of Psalms, which are laments and hymns. David is know to have written 73 psalms, Asaph wrote 12, the sons of Korah wrote 11, Solomon wrote 2, Moses wrote 1 and 50 are anonymous . Although 50 were anonymous, David was certainly the author of the majority of the Psalms.
The title of the Psalm is not always a direct indicator of who the author was because the preposition “of,” “to,” and “for”. They are all the same in Hebrew. For example, if the title of the psalm was “Psalm of David” it could have been a psalm that he wrote himself. It also could have been one that was written for him, “Psalm for David” or it could have been a song dedicated to him, “Psalm to David.” The most natural thing to assume however is that the titles do indicate authorship because if the psalm was written by David then his name would be on it as the author(Halley, 247). If the psalm was written to David it would include David’s name, but it could also include the name of the author. David is said to be the principle author for psalms. The purpose of the Psalms that David wrote was to sing praises to God and give God the glory for all of his creations. David also wrote songs of lament, as did many of the other psalmists.
Psalm 15 is an entrance liturgy because it follows a simple question and answer form. Many of the Psalms are written in this format . Thomas Jefferson called this psalm the picture of a true gentleman . Psalm 15 is a Davidic psalm and a perfect picture of what a true citizen of Zion, the City of David, should be. When David was writing this poem he focused on who may dwell in the Lord’s Sanctuary in the city of Zion. “This Psalm explains who is worthy to be a guest’ of the Lord. The psalmist delineated the flawless character of one who is fit to worship in the Lord’s Sanctuary.” David asked the spiritual question of who could worship in God’s dwelling place (Pfeiffer,573). He then went on to describe what kind of person is capable of going to the temple on the holy hill.
Psalms 15 starts out with two simple questions. The psalmist asks God who is worthy to abide in God’s tent and who is worthy to dwell on God’s holy hill. In the first question it is important to note that the psalmist is not talking about an actual tent that a family would reside in. The psalmist is asking who is worthy to enter God’s holy place known as the temple. At this time in the ancient world a tent was used as God’s holy place, and this tent was located on the holy hill. The psalmist also asks in verse 1 who may go on the holy hill where the temple is located. It seems as though the psalmists would actually like to go to this holy place for themselves but is reserved about actually going because he knows that God has strict limitations as to who can actually enter the holy temple.
The next part of the psalm directly answers the two questions asked in verse 1. In verse 2 the David gives a general answer of the type of person that is able to dwell in God’s place. In later verses the psalmist goes on to describe in detail exactly what kind of person will be admitted into the temple located on Zion . Verse 2 states that the acceptable person is one who can walk blamelessly, do what is right, and a person who speaks the truth. This answer is very general, but it does a great job of explaining what kind of person can enter the temple. It does not mention that the person who wants to enter the temple has to be completely perfect. That is an important thing because no human is perfect and if it took perfection to worship in the temple, it would be an empty place. This answer to what kind of person may enter is just explaining that at the point of entrance into the temple it is necessary for all wrong doings to have been forgiven and all sins to have been repented of. No man can walk blameless all the time, mankind as a whole has a sinful nature and that nature keeps us away from God, the psalmist in his wisdom asks God directly, what can man do to enter God’s tabernacle?
In the following verses 3-5a a very specific description of the type of man that is allowed into God’s tent is given. A person who does not slander is the first attribute mentioned. This is probably mentioned first because the tongue, where slander comes from is a direct representation of what is in a person’s heart and with an unclean heart it is impossible to commune with God. Next it mentions a person that does no evil to their neighbor. This is just an obvious extinction of the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. A person who is evil toward their neighbor is treating one of God’s creations with disrespect, therefore showing no respect to God. This is a reason not to let an evil person on to the holy hill where the temple is located.
In verse 4 is goes on to describe a person that despises the wicked. It is important to note here that no wicked person could ever be in the presence of God. A person that despises wicked people is obviously the type of human that can be with God. Making a judgment about other people’s character is a hard thing to do. However when a person or neighbor is wicked, it should be easily recognizable and in verse 4 it explains that it is necessary to make this character judgment in order to commune with God. The second part of verse 4 explains that if the wicked are despised than naturally those who fear God will be honored. Admiring people that honor God and that have good morals will help an individual grow in their personal walk with God. The third part of verse 4 leaves the character judgment idea and moves on to good business practices. Standing by an oath even when that promise will hurt, is a very hard thing to do. According to this verse living up to a given word is as important part of being able to enter God’s temple. This may be one of the hardest things on the list of attributes given in Psalms 15. In today’s life this would be the equivalent of never declaring bankruptcy and living up to every promise ever made. This is obviously a very hard thing to do, but it is important to be perfect in the eyes of God before entering the temple on the holy hill .
Verse 5 stays on the topic of moral business practices by beginning with ” who do not lend money at interest” is an unbelievably hard concept to grasp. In today’s society lending money without interest is unheard of. Many people make suitable livings lending money to others in return for interest. In this passage it clearly states not to charge people interest when money is lent. The next part of the verse is a little easier to comprehend. Not taking a bribe is something that any individual who calls themselves Godly would not do. So what is given here is the direct answer of what type of person can dwell in God’s Holy Place. A person who is blameless and does right, speaks the truth, does not slander, and do not do evil to their friends. They also do not take reproach from their neighbor, a person who despises the wicked, honors people who fear the Lord, keeps their word, and has excellent moral business practices. The end of verse 5 does give assurance that if a person can manage to do all these things they will not be moved. This is a promise that once a person is in the presence of the Lord then they are safe and will enjoy the comfort of the lord .
This is a very long list for one person to be able to accomplish. It is funny that this list is given in Psalms. It seems like it would only be possible to have all of these attributes through the blood of Christ covering up the wrong doings, but Jesus has not come to earth in this part of the bible, so it leaves the question, how can any sinful person do all of these things? In the Old Testament it was necessary to give a blood offering to God in order to cover up sins. The only way for a person in the Old Testament to commune with God was after they gave a sacrifice. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and after he died it was no longer necessary to give these blood offerings to commune with God. Jesus was know to be very fond of the Psalms and often taught out of them for a very good reason.
Coogan, Michael, Marc Brettler, Carol Newman, and Pheme Perkins, ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Halley, Henry. Halley’s Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1927.
Mays, James. Psalms. Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville : John Knox Press, 1994.
Pfeiffer, C.F. The Wycliffe Bible commentary: Old Testament (Ps 15:1-5). Chicago: Moody Press, 1962.
Reyburn, William, and Robert Brancher. A Translators Handbook on the Book of Psalms. New York: United Bible Societies, 1991.
The New Interpeter’s Bible; A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Nashville: Abingon Press, 1996.
Walvoord, J.F. The Bible knowledge commentary: An exposition of the Scriptures (Ps 15:1-5). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, (1983-c1985).