1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
An exhortation to praise God with all sorts of instruments. Praising God in His sanctuary with everything that has breath.
Among the ancient texts of the Bible scholars they sometimes encounter psalms not found in the Hebrew Bible. A Syriac medieval Psalter includes five Apocryphal psalms numbered 151 to 155. Psalm 151 also appears in numerous ancient versions (Greek, Latin, Ethiopic, and others).
Cave 11 of Qumran contained Hebrew versions of Ps 151, 154, and 155, and several others non-canonical psalms were discovered in caves 4 and 11. This gives rise to the obvious question of whether these psalms were overlooked and should have been included in the Scriptures.
Psalm 151 is a pseudo-autobiographical account of the early life of David drawn from 1 Samuel, although the Hebrew version also includes some material not found in the Greek.
The Hebrew of Ps 151 includes, “The mountains do not testify to him [the LORD], and the hills do not tell [of him]. The trees praise my words and the flocks [praise] my deeds.”
Perhaps those lines were edited out of the Greek version on the grounds that they were unorthodox or simply made no sense. Some of the non-canonical psalms have borrowed from the Biblical psalms and maintain their poetic conventions.
For example, Ps 154 and 155 are pleas to God for help and are analogous to the Biblical Ps 1, 62, and 63. Psalm 155 opens with the words: “LORD, I have called to you; hear me,” in the tradition of Ps 61:1 and 63:1.
The reason these psalms were not included in the Bible is simply that they were written too late. Their presence at Qumran and elsewhere indicates that liturgists continued to create songs of praise in imitation of the psalms after the canon had closed.
In fact, we even see psalm-like songs of praise in the New Testament (e.g., Lk 1:46-55).
1 Praise ye the LORD: for it is g ood to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.
2 The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.
3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.
4 He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
6 The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.
7 Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:
8 Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.
9 He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.
10 He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.
11 The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.
13 For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.
14 He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.
16 He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.
17 He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?
18 He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.
19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his Judgments unto Israel.
20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his Judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.
The church is called upon to praise God for His peculiar graces and favors to His people. In the Hebrew this Psalm is joined to the foregoing. Praising the Lord with a vision of His purpose for Jerusalem and Zion.
1 Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:
2 My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.
3 LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!
4 Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.
5 Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.
6 Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.
7 Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children;
8 Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
9 I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.
10 It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.
11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood:
12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:
13 That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets:
14 That our oxen may be strong to labor; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.
15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.
A Psalm of praise to the infinite majesty of God. Fighting the good fight of faith for the sake of being in the state of a happy church life.
Warfare in the Ancient World
Modern readers may be shocked at the opening verse of Ps 144, but warfare is a prominent theme in Psalms.
The earliest wars were conducted with crude weapons of wood and stone. Horses were of limited value during heavy combat because the stirrup had not yet been invented and a rider could easily fall.
Chariots were not used extensively until the Bronze Age. An Egyptian chariot conveyed two men, a driver and an archer (chariots from the Levant [Syria] also accommodated a shield-bearer). Massed chariots used shock value and speed to demoralize and scatter an enemy. Chariots were prominent in New Kingdom Egypt.
A revolution in military technology occurred at the beginning of the Iron Age. Massed armies of heavy infantry with the discipline to hold their ranks appeared on the scene. They could withstand and rout a chariot charge, making the chariot obsolete except as a prestigious vehicle for commanders.
Battles were often short, lasting only as long as one side or the other had the stamina to maintain face-to-face combat. Frequently one side would break ranks and flee. Panic was common, exacerbated by the commanders’ poor control, having to rely as they did on shouted voice commands or signals.
In keeping with the hilly terrain they inhabited, the Israelites relied primarily on infantry. Light infantry soldiers wore little or no armor and typically used projectile weapons, like stones and arrows. They moved in loose formations, relying on speed (see Jud 20:15-16; 2 Cho 14:8).
Heavy infantrymen wore full armor and often carried heavy swords and long spears. They moved in large, close formation, with spears lowered to form a wall of pikes, in effect creating an ancient version of a The Greek hoplite (heavily armored infantry soldier) marching in his phalanx was a classic example of heavy infantry in action.
Normally a heavy infantry unit would rout a light infantry corps, but out in the open a single heavy infantryman could be at a disadvantage when pitted against a light infantryman, due to the latter’s mobility and ability to strike at a distance.
The greatest armies combined heavy and light infantry with cavalry. Alexander the Great and Hannibal were masters at using their heavy infantry as a solid center for their armies, employing cavalry to flank an opponent.
The Roman legions rejected the long pike in favor of a short sword. These legions had the weight and impact of heavy infantry but were much more mobile.
In addition to fighting pitched battles in the open field, armies sometimes laid siege to walled cities that were often situated atop hills. How long a city could hold out depended on how much food it had in storage and upon whether it had direct access to underground springs.
Plague could strike a besieged city, as happened to Athens during the Peloponnesian War in 430 B.C. Often the besieging army would seek to bring down a city by building a siege ramp and attacking the walls with siege towers.
Ancient armies were often made up of citizen soldiers called up in times of emergency. These citizens could fight with dedication but were poorly trained and armed and often needed to return home on short order to tend their crops. Citizen-soldier armies served Israel during the judges period.
Ancient societies tried to give their armies a core of professional soldiers with long-term enlistments. Kings would also hire mercenaries.
The Spartans had a novel solution to the recruitment problem: Every man served in the army full-time and lived in the barracks through most of his adult life (farming was handled by slaves called helots).
Ancient city-states often fought each other in “wars” that lasted a single day. Casualties could be light, and frequently nothing more was at stake than setting a property claim.
Other wars could be catastrophic. The Peloponnesian War lasted 27 years, destroyed the Athenian Empire and devastated the Greek world. Victorious armies might slaughter cities and take survivors as slaves, effectively destroying peoples and cultures with deliberate genocide.
Armed conflict was indeed a fact of life for the peoples of ancient times. Against this reality David had ample reason to thank God, who trained his hands for war.
1 Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.
2 And enter not into Judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
3 For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.
4 Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.
5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.
6 I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.
7 Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.
9 Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.
10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
11 Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.
12 And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.
The prophet praises God and prays to be delivered from his enemies. No worldly happiness is to be compared with that of serving God. Learning how to interact with the Lord and pray through when we are overwhelmed by the enemy.
Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave.
1 I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.
2 I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.
3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.
4 I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
5 I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.
6 Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.
7 Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.
The psalmist in tribulation calleth upon God for his delivery. The seventh penitential Psalm. Learning how to be transparent with God in prayer when in trouble and at the same time acknowledging the Lord’s bountiful dealing.