The collection known as the Psalms of Solomon are among the more important pieces of literature in the expansions collection since they are the reflections of “devout Jews to the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in the first century B.C” (OTP 2:640). The eighteen psalms are preserved in both Greek and Syriac manuscripts dating as early as the tenth century A.D. The eighteen Psalms of Solomon are mentioned in canon a list the fifth century A.D. Codex Alexandrinus, although the text of the Psalms are missing from that codex. The psalms seem to have been used by the author of 2 Baruch, implying they were written before the end of the first century. The psalms refer to an invasion of the land, so they may be dated as early as Antiochus IV Epiphanies, but Pompey (in 63 B.C.) and Titus (in A.D. 70) are also possibilities. Herod the Great is also a possibility although he was not exactly an invader from a foreign land when he took Palestine by force in the mid-30s B.C.

The consensus view, however, is that the invader in the Psalms of Solomon is Pompey. This implies a date after 48 B.C. since PsSol. 2.26-27 alludes to the assassination of Pompey. While on board a ship near Egypt, he was beheaded and his body thrown overboard.

PsSol 2.26-27 And I did not wait long until God showed me his insolence pierced on the mountains of Egypt, more despised than the smallest thing on earth and sea. 27 His body was carried about on the waves in much shame, and there was no one to bury (him), for he (God) had despised him with contempt.

R. B. Wright therefore suggests a range of dates from 45 to 70 B.C. for the datable Psalms. Since some do not allude events which can be dated, they may come from another period and were added to the collection when it reached its final form.

The Psalms of Solomon refer to people who call themselves “the pious” or “the righteous” who have fled to the desert. The temptation to identify the group as Essene ought to be resisted since the desert is often a place of refuge in the biblical material. If Roman invasion is the occasion of the Psalms, the invasion is blamed on the rivalries of the Hasmonean priests (Hyrcanus II, Aristobulus II, and Antigonus). They are blamed for defiling the sacrifices (2:1-3) and laying waste to the throne of David (17:6). The Hasmoneans are therefore corrupt and illegal kings.

The usual polemic accusations are made (immorality, breach of purity, theft, etc.)  The righteous have suffered, but they have not been destroyed. They are waiting for God’s judgment which will vindicate their suffering, although it may not be in this life. E. P. Sanders considered this as a rather vague belief in an afterlife (Sanders, Judaism, 454). In PsSol. 3:11 “The destruction of the dead is forever and he will not be remembered when God visits the righteous. This is the share of the sinners forever, but those who fear the Lord shall rise up to eternal life and there life shall be in the Lord’s light, and it shall never end.” Notice the righteous will rise to an eternal life of some sort. (John Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, 143 also lists 13:11, 14:3, 15:13 and 16:1-3 as implying an afterlife.)

What is unique in the Psalms of Solomon is a much more robust view of the Messiah. In Psalm 17 the messiah is described as a new Davidic king who “will destroy the lawless nations.” The twelve tribes of Israel will be restored to the land and the Gentiles will come from the ends of the earth to see the glory of the messiah.

Psalm 17 is the most important for New Testament context since it serves as an indication of messianic expectations which were current only shortly before the time of Jesus. Rome is viewed as a foreign invader who will be removed when the messiah comes. If these sorts of messianic expectations were popular in Galilee in the 20’s A.D. then we have good reason to read Jesus’ teaching as intentionally messianic and we are able to understand some of the confusion and disappointment among the Jews who heard him teach. One might speculate as to the motives of Judas for betraying Jesus. If Judas was thinking something like what we read in PsSol. 17 then it is possible he was trying to “force Messiah’s hand” into striking out against Rome and the Temple establishment. Jesus seemed to be claiming to be the Messiah, but he did not seem to be the Davidic messiah expected in Psalm 17.

From an ethical perspective, the Psalms have a very high view of proper behavior and morality, despite only mentioning the Law in 4:8 and 14:1-3. One must live a life pleasing to God. This requires confession of sin and humble acceptance of God’s discipline (3:4; 10:2; 14:1; OTP 2:645). This is similar to Hebrews 12, which describes God’s discipline as that of a good, heavenly father.