Book Review: ‘Psalms’ by William S. Plumer


For each book of the Bible there are a handful of commentaries that have been cherished by preachers and teachers throughout the decades. For Romans there was Luther, Spurgeon on Psalms, and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Romans and Ephesians. Many teachers will have very specific tastes, and can point to individual favourites — I am a devoted reader and proponent of any commentary written by James Montgomery Boice. Others will point to names like John Stott and R. Kent Hughes.

When it comes to the Psalms, Charles Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David is beloved by many, and has been a tremendous help for over a decade. More recently John Goldingay has contributed what is quickly becoming a new favourite commentary on Psalms.

William_Swan_PlumerOf similar benefit and popularity is the mammoth contribution made by American minister, author, and theological professor, William S. Plumer, originally published in 1867, repeatedly re-published since then, and republished again this year by Banner of Truth.

According to Banner of Truth, William S. Plumer “was one of Princeton Theological Seminary’s most well-known students” and proceeded on to begin “a very active and diverse ministerial career.” Born in 1802 in Griersburg, Pennsylvania, Plumer would eventually become a well known itinerant preacher, before finally being called to a settled pastorate in Baltimore, Maryland. He would then move on to several other congregations, as well as serving in academic roles at Western Theological Seminary and Columbia Theological Seminary.

‘William S. Plumer’s Commentary on the Psalms is my constant companion as I read and preach through the Psalms,” said Ligon Duncan. “His “Devotional Thoughts” at the end of his exposition of each of the psalms are so rich, wise, pastoral, specific, and suggestive, that every preacher will find superabundant help, especially in the area of application, in them. I cannot recommend Plumer too highly.”

Psalms-PlumerW.S. Plumer’s commentary — Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks — has been beloved for well over a century, and is likely to continue to be of benefit to preachers for years to come. At over 1200 pages long, this mammoth tome is a resplendent example of the ability for a commentator to find a bridge between sound exegesis and exposition, and practical application.

As part of the ‘Geneva Series of Commentaries’ — which includes other luminous names such as Charles Hodge and John Calvin — W.S. Plumer’s commentary on Psalms represents one of the most comprehensive and valuable commentaries on Israel’s hymnal. In the brief introduction, the author explains that, first and foremost, this commentary was written because “the Word of God is not bound. It is open to all.” The author’s intention in writing was “to aid the reader with the best suggestions of writers inaccessible to most, as well as to make original remarks, critical, explanatory, doctrinal, and practical.”

Each Psalm is given lengthy attention, beginning with an English translation, followed by a comprehensive treatment of existing thought from numerous commentators of and before Plumer’s time. The author also adds his own significant and insightful “Doctrinal and Practical Remarks”, making each chapter a commentary of one voice with many authorities.

The size of Plumer’s commentary on Psalms may seem off-putting to some, but it should not. Whether a student, preacher, teacher, academic, or lifelong servant of God’s Word, this book is a tremendous companion to studying one of the most important and valuable books of the Bible.

You can buy Psalms by William S. Plumer from Banner of Truth, here. Publisher Banner of Truth provided me this book, free of charge, with no expectations except an honest review.