Psalms: Volume 1 by James Hamilton

by | Jan 15, 2022 | Book Review

A Book Review

Psalms: Volume 1 (covering Psalms 1–72) by James M. Hamilton Jr. is part of Lexham’s Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary series. The purpose of this series, according to the General Editor’s Preface, is to “relate biblical theology to our own lives and to the life of the church” (xxvii). The result is a solid commentary on the Psalms that pays special attention to biblical theology. In the author’s own words, “Biblical theology is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors” (42). This commentary includes a thorough introduction, a surprisingly short section on biblical and theological themes, and a detailed psalm-by-psalm exposition.

The introduction makes some useful points beyond what you normally find in a commentary. Hamilton recognizes the superscriptions, which he recognizes as inspired (47), as a key to understanding thematic relationships between the psalms. He addresses the canonical form of the book and its inspiration, making the theologically significant statement: “I would thus attribute inspiration not only to the individual authors of each psalm, but also the editor(s)/anthologists(s) who put the book of Psalms into its canonical form” (14). And his unequivocal positions on the inspiration of the text and the veracity of its authorship claims are refreshing. 

Each commentary in the Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary series includes a section called “Biblical and Theological Themes.” Sometimes it precedes the author’s exposition, sometimes it proceeds, but it’s always one of the main attractions to this series. Hamilton only gives twelve pages to this section, and its shortness surprised me. There are five subsections: 

  1. The Master Narrative
  2. Truths Derived from the Mater Narrative
  3. Behaviors
  4. Liturgy
  5. Culture

The content is good, but Hamilton has made his name on the topic of biblical theology. His exposition is certainly written with biblical theology at the forefront, but he could have given us a more detailed treatment of biblical theology proper and more content on the theological content of the Psalms. The preface promises that “the major contribution of each volume…is a thorough discussion of the most important themes of the biblical book in relation to the canon as a whole” (xxvii). I just wish there was more. 

But the exposition is excellent. The exposition for each psalm follows this set pattern:

  • Structure
  • Context: Verbal and Thematic Links with Surrounding Psalms
  • Exposition
  • Bridge

The overview often offers a proposed chiastic structure before offering the text according to both the CSB and the author’s own translation. Hamilton points out thematic links to other psalms in close proximity. And the exposition treats each psalm section-by-section according to Hamilton’s outline in a concise yet fruitful manner. The bridge provides application by highlighting the impact this Psalm had and should have on the people of God. 

This commentary would benefit pastors and anyone, specialist and non-specialist alike, interested in studying the book of Psalms. It clearly explains the biblical context and theological content of each psalm and directs readers on how to apply the text to their own life. Hamilton’s work on Psalms is a valuable theological and exegetical contribution. 

Order from Lexham Press here. 

Photo by Brent Niedergall.

Special thanks to Lexham Press for a free review copy of this book. This did not affect my thoughts in any way, so far as I’m aware.


Brent Niedergall

Pastor, Grammarian, Runner

Brent Niedergall, MDiv, is Chief Editor at Positive Action for Christ in Whitakers, North Carolina. He’s gone to war in Afghanistan, felled towering trees, and parsed Greek verbs.


Brent Niedergall