To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.
1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
God is wonderful in His works, especially in mankind, singularly exalted by the incarnation of Christ. Christ as the Son of Man to carry out God’s purpose of image and dominion.
The Creation of Humans in the Sumerian Myth of Enkgs
The Sumerian myth of Enki and Ninmah describes the creation of humankind and a subsequent contest between these two deities regarding the value and occupation of disabled individuals.
The myth begins when the earth was newly created and the lesser gods were charged with drudge work in service to the greater gods. Consigned to digging irrigation canals and providing their superiors with food, their toil became so wearisome that they rebelled against the high god Enki.
The mother goddess, Nammu, encouraged Enki to relieve the gods’ lab or by forming a creature who could do the work for them. Enki accordingly devised the form of humanity and commissioned Nammu to create man and woman, using a pinch of clay (cf Gen 2:7).
Afterward Nammu boasted that she could make a person in any form she wished, the Enki replied that he could find compensation for any deformity.
Nammu deliberately fashioned a series of individuals with various disabilities, including a blind man, a cripple, a barren woman and a eunuch.
Enki proceeded to find an honorable occupation for each of these persons in which their handicaps proved no obstacle. The text ends by praising the superiority of Enki.
The Biblical presentation of humanity’s creation is quite different from the Sumerian myth. In the Bible men and women are not an afterthought but the pinnacle of God’s creation, crowned with glory (Ps 8:5).
Work itself (tending God’s creation and caring for his creatures) is a God-given vocation (Gen 1:26, 28; 2:15), not a form drudgery to relieve God’s burden but a means for participation in his creative work and an opportunity to act as his representatives on Earth.
Human sickness and malformation, far from being the result of some divine game, are a product of humanity’s fallen condition and, in God’s sovereign plan, vehicles through whcih God can display his greatness in the lives of individuals (Jn 9:2-3).
To the chief Musician upon Nehiloth, A Psalm of David.
1 Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation.
2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.
5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
7 But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.
8 Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.
9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulcher; they flatter with their tongue.
10 Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.
11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
12 For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield.
A prayer to God against the iniquities of men. Learning how to get to the Lord in the morning in order to keep our focus on God’s house.
Ancient Musical Instruments
A modest number of remains of musical instruments have been recovered by archaeologists. We do, however, have abundant evidence in ancient texts (such as the Psalms) and art (such as Egyptian tomb paintings) that attest to the varied use ancient peoples made of instruments to create music.
Thus, the paucity of relics of ancient instruments is a matter of their fragility, not their scarcity. Indeed, a few of the more durable ancient instruments that have been found, such as cymbals, can still produce sound. Also, the vocabulary of musical instruments in Biblical Hebrew is fairly extensive.
There can be no doubt that such instruments were widely employed in the ancient world, including Israel.
Precise translation of Hebrew words of instruments is made difficult by the lack of Biblical descriptions.
Even ancient translators, such as those working on the Greek Septuagint, often had little understanding of the meanings of the Hebrew musical terms. Also, modern associations with certain names can be misleading.
For example, shofar is often translated “trumpet,” calling to mind a brass instrument rather than what it actually was: a ram’s horn.
The English “tambourine” suggests a hand drum with metal rings that jingle when shaken, but ancient Israelite hand drums probably lacked the rings.
On the other hand, ancient artwork from Egypt and Mesopotamia provides us with clear images of what many instruments looked like. The Israelites, like their neighbors, used three basic types of instrumentation:
Stringed instruments, like the lyre and harp. The Lyre is well attested from ancient Israel, but the harp is more problematic. Some authorities argue that the word translated “harp” may actually refer to a kind of bass lyre or even to a lute.
On the other hand, an instrument that is obviously a harp is attested from ancient Egypt and thus may have existed in Israel as well.
Percussion instruments of two kinds: Drums and tambourines were constructed from animals skin stretched over a frame.
“Idiophones” produce sound by vibrating but have neither strings nor skin membranes. Examples are bells, gongs, rattles, dappers, and cymbals.
These may have been made of various materials, including metal, wood, hardened day or bone. 2 Sam 6:5 and Neh 12:27 both refer to their use.
Wind instruments, like pipes, trumpets, or the shofar (ram’s horn), are well-attested in the Bible (flute-like instruments at 1 Kgs 1:40; silver trumpets at Num 10:2; the shofar at Joel 2:1).
Such instruments were widely used for entertainment and boisterous parties (Is 5:12), but also for celebratory worship (Ps 81:2; 150:1-5).
The first reference to musical instruments in the Bible in Gen 4:21, where Jubal, one of Cain’s descendants, is described as “the father of all who play the harp and flute.”
Musical instruments were used at celebrations of various kinds (Gen 31:27; Job 21:11-12), including military victories (Ex 15:20).
The shofar was employed primarily for signaling, especially during war (Jud 3:27; I Sam 19:9), as well as the temple.
Religious lyrics (such as those preserved in the Psalms) often called for instrumental accompaniment (Ps 150:3-5; Amos 5:23).
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
1 LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me.
2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.
3 But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.
4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.
5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves against me round about.
7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.
8 Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.
The prophet’s danger and delivery from his son Absalom mystically, the passion and resurrection of Christ. Christ as our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our head to the midst of fear.
The Psalm Superscripts
A psalm superscript is the brief informational note that precedes many psalms.
In Psalm 3, for example, the superscript is “A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.”
Today many scholars disregard the superscripts, considering them untrustworthy, but two factors suggest that we do well to pay attention to them:
Some superscripts refer to incidents about which the books of Samuel and Chronicles say nothing.
For example, the superscript of Psalm 60 mentions otherwise unknown battles with Aram Naharaim, Aram Zobah, and Edom.
If a scribe had been inventing superscripts to tie the psalms artificially to historical events, he would probably have linked them to known episodes from the canonical text (such as David’s flight from Absalom, as in Ps 3).
But references to unknown events or persons imply that the superscripts were written by people with specific knowledge of events, many of which are now lost to us.
The superscripts use technical, musical terms. Examples include song titles (like “The Doe of the Morning” in Ps 22).
References to instruments (such as “stringed instruments” in Ps 4) and special instructions (such as “for the director of music” in Ps 58).
Significantly, however, as early as the third century B.C. the true meanings of many superscripts were lost.
For example, the translators of the Septuagint evidently did not always know what to make of the Hebrew words of the superscripts and at times resorted to guesswork in translating these terms into Greek.
This implies that the superscripts themselves are quite old – perhaps as ancient as the psalms themselves.