Book Review: A Commentary on the Psalms

Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 1 (1—41)

The first of a massive three volume commentary on Psalms promises us a set that may become a classic and certainly is a unique work on this important biblical book. It is unique in its great emphasis on exposition (practical and significant for preaching) while at the same time providing a pastor with the many details of exegesis.

The introduction (over 150 pages) is thorough without becoming too detailed and technical. Ross discusses briefly the ancient manuscripts and translations as well as the history of Psalm interpretation. Then he provides fuller treatments of (1) Psalm titles (pp. 42-50; 150-53), (2), the organization and arrangement of the book of Psalms (pp. 52-63), (3) the aspects of biblical poetry, including figures of speech, and (4) literary categories in Psalms (including a section on imprecations, pp. 115-17). Ross has included a brief treatment of the book’s theology (pp. 155-68) and a very helpful selected bibliography (pp.71-80). Before beginning his treatment of the individual psalms, Ross furnishes a list of steps to be followed by an expositor of Psalms (pp. 169-79), thus giving the reader insight into Ross’s procedures of exegesis and exposition.

On each psalm Ross has written three sections: introduction, commentary, and application. The introduction starts with his own translation, including detailed footnotes on textual criticism and the Septuagint’s handling of the original Hebrew. Then he proceeds to a discussion of the psalm’s literary category and its organization. Here the reader will find information about the historical occasion of the poem’s composition as well as its later use for worship. This is followed by a detailed exegetical outline that maps out the logical flow of the text.

The main comments are organized under the points of Ross’s detailed expository outline, that restate the historical exegetical summary points in timeless theological propositions. The comments focus on five elements. (1) First are the explanations and analysis of the text. (2) There are key word studies in the footnotes (for example, “glory,” “reproach,” and “redeem” [pp. 473f., 534, & 605]. In his exegesis as Ross encounters one of these important words, that are used repeatedly in Psalms, he will reference where the note on that word is found, either earlier or later in the commentary. (The reader will need to have all three volumes handy!) (3) Ross discusses problems of interpretation and translation, drawing on and interacting with a number of other commentators, such as Delitzsch, Perowne, Briggs, A. A. Anderson, H. J. Kraus, Craigie, Broyles, and Goldingay. The footnotes contain numerous citations of scholarly articles. Regrettably, he has not availed himself as often to the insights in such conservative commentaries as Kidner, Leupold, and J. A. Alexander. (4) The reader will find much discussion of Hebrew tenses with categories of uses labeled. (5) Ross has identified also the various uses of figurative language (for example, “metonymy of the effect” and anthropomorphism).

In the final section Ross attempts to provide a statement of the main “expository idea” in the psalm. He also comments about the application of this theology to modern man. Often in the last paragraph he will identify how the New Testament has used this theology (for example, Psalms 14, 22, and 25).

Unfortunately, his method of organization has resulted in frequent repetition: what occurs in the notes to his translation may appear again in the comments.

  • Hardcover: 887 pages
  • Publisher: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2011
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 978-0825425622

Reviewed by: Robert D. Bell, Ph.D., Professor of Old Testament in BJU Seminary.
This book is available at


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One Response to Book Review: A Commentary on the Psalms

  1. Simon says:

    Thank you for your review. Was wondering if you might have read Goldinggay’s 3-vol commentary and how it compares with Ross in terms of its exegesis and theological application. tks.

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