David’s Steleae: The Psalms as Public Memorials and Private Prayers

violin-and-psalm“I will tell of the marvellous things You have done.” Psalm 9:1b

“I will exalt You, Lord, because You have rescued me.” Psalm 30:1a

A stele is “an upright stone slab or pillar bearing an inscription or design and serving as a monument, marker, or the like.” [Source: Dictionary.com] They were widely used in the Near East millennia before David, and well after his time. It was standard practice for kings to have steles and statues of themselves made as positive propaganda to support their reign. However, David didn’t follow this practice. In line with the *ten commandments, he didn’t have himself pictured with a representation of YHWH behind him, neither did he carve his achievements in stone. Apart from the book of Samuel and 1 Chronicles, the only memorials we have to David are his Psalms, some of which could be likened to victory steles, and others which have an interesting function.

Roughly half of all the Psalms that are attributed to David were sent to the choir director and made public, and 50% of those Psalms were written when he was in great distress. We don’t know how the other Psalms were used, but it is possible that the ones which have not been specifically marked as “for the choir director” were in his personal collection, then organised into books after his death. His Psalms which are marked as prayers: 17, 86, and 142, were notably not sent to the choir director.

Some of the Psalms that were made public had national themes: Psalm 60 was written while David grappled with Israel’s failures in the battle in the Valley of Salt, and is noted as being useful for teaching; the wording of Psalm 67 is a mix of a prayer and a benediction; and Psalm 58 is an outspoken challenge to the people of Israel on justice [see the final chapter below for clarification]. David also sent Psalm 53 to the choir director, making a public statement of faith with “only fools deny God.”

Using my own classification of the Psalms (I get lost in the theological classifications, so I divided them further for my own use), these are the victory Psalms that David wanted sung before the Lord:

  • Psalm 9: I will tell of all the marvellous things You have done.
  • Psalm 18: When rescued from Saul and the enemies in that period of time.
  • Psalm 20: May the LORD answer all your prayers.
  • Psalm 21: How the king rejoices in Your strength, O LORD!
  • Psalm 30: Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

The Psalms of joy and wonder, plus David’s statements of faith that were sent to the choir director include Psalms 8, 11, 19, 62, 65, 66, 67, 53 and 58.

One thing which occurred to me when looking at which Psalms were attributed to specific events and could be considered memorials, is that there are no Psalms specifically linked to David’s most notable victories such as killing Goliath, bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, or his battle achievements. He didn’t mention God’s special covenant with Him, or his plans to build the temple; (neither did David ask for it to be named after him.) This is a testament to David’s humility, despite the moral dips which occurred with Bathsheba and the census.

The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.

The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.

God is always the focus of David’s songs, which is another significant difference between him and any other ruler. He never claims honour or victory for himself. For an example, read the **Code of Hammurabi which has massive chunks at the beginning and end, glorifying and justifying the rule of Hammurabi. For example: “Hammurabi, the prince… making riches and increase, enriching Nippur and Dur-ilu beyond compare… who conquered the four quarters of the world, made great the name of Babylon…who enriched Ur; the humble, the reverent, who brings wealth…”

David’s work shows that he was transparent in how he talked about his life in public and that he wasn’t hung up on appearances. He freely admitted his faults and struggles and the glory for his successes always went to the Lord. Psalm 51, which speaks of his correction by Nathan over Bathsheba, and how sin affected him, was made public. Whether that was to address his sin because it was public knowledge, or whether it was to be used as a teaching aid to strengthen the faith of the people and encourage righteousness, or both, I honestly don’t know.

Psalm 3, which was about when he fled from Absalom, Psalm 34 where he escaped from Philistine territory feigning madness and Psalm 52, where he was betrayed by Doeg to Saul, weren’t marked for use by the choir director either. Not using Psalm 52 appears odd, as all the other betrayal Psalms were publicly sung. Perhaps it wasn’t copied or notated correctly, or perhaps David had some private reason for not sending it on? I wish I knew.

These are the Psalms which have a definite event associated with them and could be considered a form of victory stele.

  • 7 – concerning Cush of the tribe of Benjamin
  • 18 – rescued from all enemies and Saul [PUBLIC]
  • 30 – dedication of the temple / house [PUBLIC]
  • 54 – betrayed by Ziphites [PUBLIC]
  • 56 – seized at Gath [PUBLIC]
  • 57 – when fled from Saul and went to the cave [PUBLIC]
  • 59 – soldiers watching his house [PUBLIC]

The last point of interest is David’s request that two Psalms which relate to persecution by Saul, (57 and 59,) be sung to the tune “Do Not Destroy.” Knowing the old title attached to that melody would add a clear message to the Psalm, which would be noted by anyone knowing that piece of music. Other Psalmists also requested the same for their work.

“Do Not Destroy” is also the melody which was selected for Psalm 58: “Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word?” In Bible Hub’s interlinear Bible, “ruler” is elem, or congregation. [Strongs Number 482] It is a masculine word, which is culturally correct as the assembly of believers was all male in David’s time. Some Bibles say gods, some say sons of men. There is no correct consensus. It is a source of profound frustration to me that words such as this are so poorly translated in our Bibles, and a reminder to dig deeper to find the true meaning of the Word of God.
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
Notes:

*“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

**The Code of Hammurabi translated by L.W. King http://www.general-intelligence.com/library/hr.pdf  and the Louvre Museum’s page on it: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/law-code-hammurabi-king-babylon


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Advertisements

Psalm 150 in Hebrew (with subtitles)

 

Bible Geek: Does the Book of Chronicles Whitewash David’s Life?

bible-geek-logo

The book of Chronicles was known as “Events of Past Times” or “Acts of the Days” and was written around 520 or 530 BC, post exile by a Chronicler (perhaps Ezra or Nehemiah,) to remind the Israelites of the period of God’s favour and to encourage them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild a godly life. That is why the book can appear politically white washed, focussing less on sin, (except to warn of the deadly danger of idols and turning away from God again,) and focussing more on the good old days of David’ reign when everything was grand. It doesn’t dodge the issues of David’s sin, as these stories were already well known. Instead, the writer *gathers up “the threads of the old national life broken by the Captivity,” and shows the people that they can have their God and their nation back.

Major themes the book are centred around is Godly dominion over the people, righteous worship and obedience to the Covenant set out in the legal book of Deuteronomy. For that reason you will read a lot of detail about how the temple functioned and was set up. The books act as an instruction manual. Faith and hope and how the people of Isra’el belong to God (shown through the genealogies) are also main themes. The books were written using multiple historical documents and are considered accurate, solid historical Biblical canon without challenge, unlike the Song of Solomon, whose usefulness as Scripture has been hotly debated by both Judaism and Christianity throughout Church history.

Chronicles only talks about the the Kings of Judah as it is the Judean remnant that is being addressed. At this stage in history, the northern Kingdoms of Isra’el had long since been taken captive by the now overthrown Assyria, and there was a strong temptation for the people to retain their familiar lives in Babylon rather than step into the scary unknown. The land of milk and honey still waited for Israel to return, the people simply needed to be motivated to take it. [Ref: read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah for more on that period of Jewish history. It’s an amazing era which profoundly illustrates God’s undying mercy and love for His people, against the odds.]

A great deal of the book reiterates the content of 1 and 2 Kings, however there are chapters and verses which add to the picture we already see. It has a specific historical role and is loved by Bible scholars who like to focus on Godly leadership as it applies to our time. It has a lot to give, even without the books of Kings in the background to fill out the complete history.

I thoroughly recommend reading “Parallel Passages of the Historical Books” from the Companion Bible http://www.therain.org/appendixes/app56.html to help piece all the verses together. It takes in more than just Kings and Chronicles.

chronicles-whitewash white_spacer

From: *Easton Illustrated Dictionary:
The writer gathers up “the threads of the old national life broken by the Captivity.” The sources whence the chronicler compiled his work were public records, registers, and genealogical tables belonging to the Jews. These are referred to in the course of the book (1 Chr. 27:24; 29:29; 2 Chr. 9:29; 12:15; 13:22; 20:34; 24:27; 26:22; 32:32; 33:18, 19; 27:7; 35:25).

As compared with Samuel and Kings, the Book of Chronicles omits many particulars there recorded (2 Sam. 6:20-23; 9; 11; 14-19, etc.), and includes many things peculiar to itself (1 Chr. 12; 22; 23-26; 27; 28; 29, etc.). Twenty whole chapters, and twenty-four parts of chapters, are occupied with matter not found elsewhere. It also records many things in fuller detail, as (e.g.) the list of David’s heroes (1 Chr. 12:1-37), the removal of the ark from Kirjath-jearim to Mount Zion (1 Chr. 13; 15:2-24; 16:4-43; comp. 2 Sam. 6), Uzziah’s leprosy and its cause (2 Chr. 26:16-21; comp. 2 Kings 15:5), etc.

It has also been observed that another peculiarity of the book is that it substitutes modern and more common expressions for those that had then become unusual or obsolete. This is seen particularly in the substitution of modern names of places, such as were in use in the writer’s day, for the old names; thus Gezer (1 Chr. 20:4) is used instead of Gob (2 Sam. 21:18), etc. The Books of Chronicles are ranked among the khethubim or hagiographa. They are alluded to, though not directly quoted, in the New Testament (Heb. 5:4; Matt. 12:42; 23:35; Luke 1:5; 11:31, 51).

29200701_mr3x3xrrr

Further Helpful Reading


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Study Light.org : One Stop Bible Study and Encouragement Web Site

slorglogoEven though I usually visit Bible Hub to access Scriptures quickly, I still keep an eye out for other sites which have great online Bible resources. Study Light recently grabbed my attention for the amazing range of resources they have on offer.

Study Light has more than a range of Bibles and commentaries, they have:

  • Bible reading plans and progress charts
  • Devotionals from popular authors such as Charles Spurgeon, Selwyn Huges, A.W. Tozer and Oswald Chambers
  • Bible Maps
  • Historical Resources from many points in history including BC (including Edersheim and Josephus – by the way, I refuse to compromise by using BCE, sorry, not sorry); A.D. including the Early Church Fathers, Foxe’s Book or Martyrs and more; plus many books on church history, including the history of various denominations.
  • There are pastoral resources ranging from quotes and illustrations to use in church bulletins, to sermon illustrations.
  • Original language tools in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.
  • News from the Christian post.
  • Audio teachings.
  • Articles and daily reflections on the Word.
  • Lots of commentaries, concordances, dictionaries and encyclopaedias… plus the odd Bible or two, actually, a giant drop-down list of them!
  • And you can even choose which colour you want the site to appear in.
  • Plus a cartoon!

Needless to say, I bookmarked it pretty fast.

Please, go and help yourself, then pass the word on.

REBLOGS WELCOMED

Praise and Worship: I Will Not Be Afraid: Songs in the Night

youtubeoldtv

I am aware that this form of video is pirating, even though the channel means to encourage and share with others. Love it? Please support Matt by buying it. I thoroughly enjoy this whole album. It’s very encouraging.

Bible Geek: How to Keep Scripture in Context

bible-geek-logo

“A text out of context, is pretext.”

If you try and prove a point by using only a phrase or a few words out of Scripture, you are using the Word for a purpose that it had never been intended for.

To keep the Word of God in context, you must:

  1. understand and quote the whole verse;
  2. take careful note of who it is addressed to, it may not be relevant to your audience within it’s prophetic or cultural context;
  3. take into account the meaning of the verses before and behind it;
  4. consider the message of the entire chapter;
  5. know and consider the section of the book of the Bible that your verse is in, and how that affects it;
  6. know what the book it is in, is all about (for example, a prophetic book is very different from an Epistle;) and
  7. understanding the Testament the book is in, (Old or New Testament.) Without that understanding, you won’t be able to accurately attribute the requirements for salvation, worship etc., in that time.

 

unknownAdapted from the work of Dr David Pawson, http://davidpawson.org

“A speaker and author with uncompromising faithfulness to the Holy Scriptures, David brings clarity and a message of urgency to Christians to uncover hidden treasures in God’s Word.”