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.
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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.

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Bible Geek: Feeling Limited by “Technology?”

bible-geek-logo

As far as I was concerned, technology wasn’t really around to make us feel inadequate until the early 1950s, or whenever computers came into being. Some say that Konrad Zuse started building computers in the 1930s, others argue that it was Charles Babbage in 1838… others point out that ancient computers were made as early as 205 BC, such as the Antikythera Mechanism which was found in a sunken ship. But that all depends on your definition of computers.

fragments_of_the_antikythera_mechanism

Fragments of the antikythera mechanism.

The word ‘technology,’ has a wider breadth of meaning than things you plug in, or that which tortures you via binary. Working my way through Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies video lectures on archaeology, I have been surprised at how often the word is mentioned. The simple definition of the word is “machinery and devices developed from scientific knowledge,” even if that knowledge is more practical wisdom than academic. In practical terms it means, anything your enemies have, that you don’t have, and fear will be used against you.

Around 1600 BC, (BCE is not a term I use) horses were first used in the Middle East as weapons of war, as the bridle and bit had been invented. Apparently, one of the new nation of Isra’el’s greatest concerns in settling in the Promised Land was these horses and the amazing abilities of the chariots they were hooked up to.

“But the mountain shall be yours, for it is a forest, and you shall cut it down. And the outer limits of it shall be yours. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have iron chariots and though they are strong.” Joshua 17:18

To us, this is ancient outdated technology in an age where we have drones, tanks and all manner of aircraft which would bomb a stone city to oblivion easily; but back then, such an innovation was a massive road block and a test of faith. When all you had was donkeys, time tested basic weapons and a lot of common sense, that could lead them to say, “we’ll never win this one.” But common sense can be the enemy of faith. All Isra’el had to do was look to the Lord for deliverance and chariots would not be a problem. God proved that with Jericho.

Joshua 6:2 “And Jehovah said to Joshua, See, I have given Jericho into your hand, and its king, and the mighty men of war.” And He did, spectacularly when the walls came down under divine power.

Horse and chariot, painting on dishes from Mycenae, Late Bronze Age, 14 to 13 century BC, National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Horse and chariot, painting on dishes from Mycenae, Late Bronze Age, 14 to 13 century BC, National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Saul was also up against superior technology when he was battling against the Philistines. In 1 Samuel 13:19 then 32 we see that the latest and greatest new weapons, were not available to the Isra’elites. “And there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel. For the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.” “And it happened in the day of battle there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people with Saul and Jonathan. But with Saul and with his son Jonathan there was found sword and spear.”

Did that stop the Lord from delivering His people out of the hand of the Philistines? No. Even though the battle was considered lost and the people were deserting, God won through. “And Jehovah saved Israel that day, and the battle passed over to Beth-aven.” 2 Samuel 14:23

So regardless of what you do and don’t have in any area of your life, or how ill prepared and outclassed you feel, if you rely on the Lord, there is hope for deliverance and victory. He is the One who is supposed to be your provider and victor. Salvation will never come through a gadget.


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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.

How We Can Use Goliath’s Sword

7076543_m“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts. Perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” John Steinbeck

It is easier to rule by intimidation and violence, than by humility and faith. Yet, despite many threats to David’s life and kingship, he never turned into an aggression-driven tyrant. David’s attitude was this:
“I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.
So many enemies against one man—
all of them trying to kill me.” Psalm 62:1-3a

However, this lesson in trust was not learned early. It only became a life choice of David’s after Saul’s initial attempts to kill him. Like all of us, David resorted to fleshly methods of coping first, then developed a greater faith the hard way.

When Saul fully gave full vent to his jealousy and paranoia about David, David fled first to the prophet Samuel, seeking refuge and guidance. Word of David’s location reached Saul, and after miraculous deliverance, David had to run again. He sought out Jonathan for answers and when Jonathan confirmed Saul’s determination to see David dead, he again fled and did something that an older David would find unpalatable. [Full story refs: 1 Samuel 19-21]

Firstly, he lied to the high priest who looked after the Tabernacle. David obtained holy bread which he had no right to touch. Secondly, he headed straight for a weapon: he demanded the return of Goliath’s sword from the priest. “There is nothing like it!” David replied. “Give it to me!” [Ref: 1 Samuel 21:9b] That is a very emphatic request. There is nothing faith-reliant, or humble about it, and I suspect that the main reason that David went to the Tabernacle, is neither for bread or spiritual guidance, (he’d already met with Samuel), but to get that sword. (See an in-depth analysis in the footnotes.)

That doesn’t sound like David. What happened to:
“But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
I praise God for what He has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4/11

It wasn’t built into him yet.

David should have been in trouble with the Lord for taking the bread and possibly, also for taking the sword, however, the grace of God intervenes in this part of his story. The Lord uses this awful incident to help David survive to become King. God allowed David both the bread and the sword without penalty, as he and his men had to eat, and David would have to defend himself from many threats in the wilderness, he’d face in the years to come. As the sword and bread was God’s, it was also His to give and use as He desired. [Ref: 1 Samuel 21]

I am basing this on Jesus’ own discussion of this issue in Mark 2:25-26 “He [Jesus] answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (The Law helps people, people aren’t to be enslaved by it.)

God provided, regardless of His Law.

So now we have a terrified David. He runs for safety to Gath, a *large Philistine city, close to the borders of Judah, where Saul and his men won’t follow; but he is recognised and has to retreat yet again. To run to an enemy you have repeatedly fought against is an incredibly desperate, fear-fuelled act. It says a great deal about David’s frame of mind.

To escape the wrath of Saul, David’s family also has had to abandon their property and livelihood, and join David in hiding. He gets his ageing parents to safety through the family’s **ties in Moab, and he is left in mortal danger, with only a group of fellow renegades, his brothers and… Goliath’s sword.

Put yourself in David’s shoes. Everything has blown up out of control and rectifying it is far beyond his control. David probably knew why Saul had turned on him and feels acutely persecuted. He has never tried to seize power from Saul and is blameless, homeless and grieving his separation from his wife, Michal, (who he must have been worried about, knowing Saul’s temper, and because she’d risked her life to save him.) A significant number of innocent people are dead or suffering, and it’s all because of him. All David has is his faith and that sword. Symbolically, what would this sword have meant to David?

This treasure had to be a symbol of hope and encouragement. It would represent:
1. God’s proven intention to deliver Isra’el from her enemies, and maybe David from his;
2. it was a sign of God’s favour and honour on David’s life;
3. it was a promise of Kingship to come, as it was a king’s grade weapon; and
4. it was a means of violent defence.

With David’s full history in mind, Goliath’s sword teaches me two lessons that I can apply to my own life.

4114180_s1. Remember what God has done in our lives.
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deuteronomy 4:9

This is a traditional approach set down first by Moses, then repeated by the Psalmist, Asaph, as he reminds the people of his era to remember God’s deeds in Psalm 78. David does this also, in obedience to Moses, in Psalms such as Psalm 66. A publicly sung Psalm would enable the goodness of God to become a testimony and source of empowerment to everyone who heard it.

“Come and see what our God has done,
what awesome miracles He performs for people!
He made a dry path through the Red Sea,
and His people went across on foot.
There we rejoiced in Him.
For by His great power He rules forever.
He watches every movement of the nations;
let no rebel rise in defiance.” Psalm 66:5-7

Whatever the Lord has done in your life, keep it by your side, like a sword, as a reminder of God’s provision and love for you. Write it down, or keep a souvenir, so you remember that testimony. It will help you in the future.

2. When desperate or hurting, never let your actions be tinged with regret
David’s visit to the priests at Nob had catastrophic consequences. They were killed by Saul for helping, which devastated David. As long as he carried Goliath’s sword, as useful and encouraging as that symbol would have been, he would also be carrying a reminder of those deaths, his lies and his lack of faith. It is possible that this tragedy is part of what taught David to look for the Lord for deliverance, rather than first reaching for a weapon to defend himself with.

In all things, no matter how stressed we are, it’s far better to act in the best character we can muster, so we don’t look back with regret, or weep over the bridges we have burnt behind us. Don’t become aggressive when you’re backed into corners; whether that’s through words you will later regret, bitterness, or any action that is unrighteous.

It’s easy to grasp any tool to make yourself feel safer in a time of desperation, just slow down and try and ensure that you’re reaching for the right one.

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FOOTNOTES:
Please see “By Heart or By Sword” for further explanation on David not using violence for deliverance. http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32075

* This is based on recent archaeological findings. Gath is thought to have been around eight times larger than David’s Jerusalem, and would have been a logical hiding place.

** David’s family ties were via his grandmother, Ruth, from the book of Ruth.
To understand this part of David’s story properly, you need to understand the circumstances surrounding the sword. For example, why wasn’t it with David in the first place? As part of the spoils of war, Goliath’s sword was rightfully David’s and Saul did not take it as his own. Goliath’s sword was a huge, heavy piece of iron, in days when apart from King Saul and his Crown Prince, Jonathan, no one throughout Isra’el had iron weapons at all. [Ref: 1 Samuel 13:19-22 ] Even though David had headed Saul’s army, maybe he wasn’t entitled to carry a weapon of such a high calibre? That privilege may only have belonged to the King, and David was a humble servant, who would not have kept a better weapon for himself, than the King had.

As the sword was located in a sacred place, behind the ephod in the Tabernacle where God was worshipped, I wonder if David had surrendered it to the Lord as an offering? It was his first victory and it appears that he knew where the sword was. The location of the sword would not have kept it safe from raiding Philistines, so if it was an offering, did David have the right to take it back? Especially as at the same time, David was also given the holy bread that had sat in the Tabernacle as an offering to the Lord, and was strictly only for the priests consumption, under the Laws God gave the people through Moses. The bread was to help feed the priests. Taking that bread, was like taking part of someone’s wages and should not have happened. This is complex and I don’t have all the answers. I have studied and debated this long and hard and this is the best I can figure out. I could be completely off track. What do you think?

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The Spiritually Mature David’s Attitude to Deliverance:

“Be still in the presence of the LORD,
and wait patiently for Him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.” Psalm 37:7-9

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honour come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him,
for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8 (Cross reference Psalm 131:2)

“LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land You have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!” Psalm 16:5-8

Article source for these Scriptures: The Anti-King: David and Humility
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33025


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.

When You Can’t Be An Overcomer: Coping With Spiritual Failures

1280px-White_LionIn 1996, I wrote an article called “spiritually correct is.” I was exploring some of the attitudes our church had then, which were generated far more by peer pressure, than Scripture.

Not all peer pressure is bad. The standards set by a group can be a force for good, which supports and encourages people. However, sometimes we take a positive spiritual principle and carry it too far, placing expectations on people that they can’t carry comfortably.

Here are two of the points which came up on my list:
– Putting on a ‘praise the Lord’ face and false demeanour, rather than being honest about where you’re at.
– Faking faith in areas you have trouble trusting God in.

Regardless of what denomination you call home, I am sure you have experienced, or seen this in action: or you have done it yourself.

My church was very keen on being an overcomer. This popular coping mechanism came from Scriptures such as: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Luke 10:19 and “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

We sang songs about being an overcomer, and it became the ‘must have’ attitude to use with everything. I still listen to songs on the theme. As I write this in 2015, there is one on my current favourites playlist, by Mandisa. I think it’s a great attitude to have, however, when I’m having trouble meeting that bar… and it can be a very high bar to jump, falling short potentially lands me in a great deal of guilt.

My full time work is studying and writing about King David. It may seem like an easy task, but sometimes I have really bad days. The enemy is no fan of the Word of God, so my computer malfunctions, huge bills arrive, my pain levels shoot up, the negativity on social media starts to get me down… then working from home develops serious drawbacks… There have been times when I have violently hit the wall. I have many buttons which can be pushed, and some weeks, they all seem to get hit in rapid succession. I can find it next to impossible to cope.

To stay afloat, I listen to the voices of encouragement around me. My church life tells me I am an overcomer. So I hook into praying and my praise and worship music. But some days, that is just not enough. I am still slammed up against that wall, feeling wretched. It’s fine to think positive, but I still have to find money, apologise to my husband, fix that computer which will take hours, (it was days), and I want to scream, “somebody make it stop already!”

So I have a choice. Do I feel guilty because I haven’t functioned as a victorious overcomer, or do I get honest with God?

400px-Psalm_21_Initial_DThe benefit of working with the Psalms echoing in my head, is when those bad days hit, David himself, helps to relieve my spiritual-failure guilt. Here are other Scriptures about overcoming. This first one is Psalm 13:3-4, written on a very bad day, with a heavy, discouraged heart:

“Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” (NIV)

“The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came
over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” Psalm 116:3

When I read about David struggling: the one who won against Goliath, the one who is the grandfather of Christ, our Messiah… the one who seemed to ace everything and bounce back from any disaster… I realise that that being an overcomer is a process and you don’t get it right straight away. You don’t have to get it right – straight away. – No one has ever asked you to from the Bible!

You don’t bounce back up as a victor, until you hit the mat in anguish.

David says,
“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?” Psalm 6:2-3

What the overcomer mindset wants immediately is this:
“But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favour as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12

Achieving victory and success takes time and you get to develop a lot of wisdom in the process. God has to move all the pieces on the chessboard into the right position, before He can give you the answer you seek; and when blessing comes, it may not look exactly as you expected it to look. If you are fixated on one answer, you may not recognise your victory when it does arrive. As wise people say, we don’t always get what we want, we get what we need.

When you hit the dust, feeling like a miserable failure with no spiritual muscle, remember that you are in excellent company. David was given the highest honours of anyone in the Bible, (except for Jesus, of course.) If he can be swallowed by discouragement and come out of it victorious, then we all can. Just do as he did and don’t stop praying, praising and seeking God. That is the key to being a genuine overcomer.

David’s Last Words
These are the last words of David:
“The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
the hero of Israel’s songs:
“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
his word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings grass from the earth.’
“If my house were not right with God,
surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
and grant me my every desire.
But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
which are not gathered with the hand.
Whoever touches thorns
uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
they are burned up where they lie.” 2 Samuel 23:1-7


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.

I Can’t Find A Thing! An Alternative Way of Categorising the Psalms

Theologically, the Psalms are divided into the categories of praise, lament, wisdom and royal Psalms. Those categories are too broad for me, so I have divided them up further. The only Psalms included here are ones which have been written by King David, or in his distinctive style. He always spoke about his own experiences and from an “I” viewpoint, which makes his work easy to identify. More Psalms which are considered his are on this page.

Additional links which will help you find specific topics in the Psalms, are at the base of this page.

I have termed the “magistrate” Psalms as such, as one of the functions of the King was to hear and rule on disputes. These Psalms fit perfectly with that role.

This is a link to the Blue Letter Bible’s list of what event each Psalm refers to.
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Joy
canstockphoto12030870Psalm 8: O LORD, your majestic name fills the earth!
Psalm 18: The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
Psalm 24: Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty.
Psalm 29: The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea.
Psalm 33: Sing a new song of praise to him… Praise Him with instruments…
Psalm 65: You are the hope of everyone on earth.
Psalm 66: Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth!
Psalm 67: David’s work? May the nations praise you, O God.
Psalm 75: But as for me, I will always proclaim what God has done. (Attributed to Asaph, but Davidic in style. Could be his, or on his behalf?)
Psalm 103: He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
Psalm 108: For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens.
Psalm 138: For your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.
Psalm 145: I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever.
2 Samuel 23: King David’s last words.
1 Chronicles 16: Sung when the Ark of the Covenant was bought into Jerusalem.
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Victory
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. (This Psalm may relate to the census that David was punished for taking. Ref: verses 6,7)
Psalm 34: Taste and see that the LORD is good. (Regarding the time he pretended to be insane in front of Abimelech, who sent him away.)
Psalm 68: Rise up, O God, and scatter your enemies.
Psalm 118: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Davidic in style.)
Psalm 144: Praise the LORD, who is my rock.He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.
2 Samuel 22: When delivered from Saul.
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When Troubled By Sin
Psalm 6: O LORD, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage.
Psalm 27: The LORD is my light and my salvation, so why should I be afraid?
Psalm 28: The LORD is my strength and shield.
Psalm 31: You are my rock and my fortress.
Psalm 32: Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven.
Psalm 38: O LORD, don’t rebuke me in your anger. (Post BathSheba?)
Psalm 39: Rescue me from my rebellion. Do not let fools mock me.
Psalm 40: He lifted me out of the pit of despair… He set my feet on solid ground. (Post BathSheba?)
Psalm 41: Heal me, for I have sinned against you.
Psalm 51: After David had committed adultery with BathSheba.
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Prophetic / Messianic Psalms
Psalm 110: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”
Is it also possible that Psalm 2 was written by David?
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Persecution and Danger
Psalm 4: Answer me when I call to you, O God who declares me innocent.
Psalm 5: O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.
Psalm 7: Concerning Cush of the tribe of Benjamin.
Psalm 10: Why do you hide when I am in trouble?
Psalm 17: Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 26: Put me on trial, LORD… Test my motives and my heart.
Psalm 35: O LORD, oppose those who oppose me.
Psalm 43: Why am I discouraged?… I will put my hope in God.
Psalm 52: Written when David was betrayed and his location was given to Saul.
Psalm 54: Regarding the time the Ziphites betrayed David to Saul.
Psalm 55: Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest!
Psalm 59: Regarding the time Saul sent soldiers to watch David’s house.
Psalm 64: Protect my life from my enemies’ threats.
Psalm 70: May those who try to kill me be humiliated and put to shame.
Psalm 86: O God, insolent people rise up against me.
Psalm 109: They repay evil for good, and hatred for my love.
Psalm 140: O LORD, keep me out of the hands of the wicked.
Psalm 141: O LORD, I am calling to you. Please hurry!
Psalm 142: Written when hiding in a cave from Saul.
Psalm 143: Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.
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Personal Faith
Psalm 3: I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety… (Post Absalom)
Psalm 11: I trust in the LORD for protection.
Psalm 16: I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken…
Psalm 23: The LORD is my shepherd.
Psalm 36: Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Psalm 58: Justice – do you rulers know the meaning of the word?
Psalm 63: When David was hiding in the wilderness of Judah.
Psalm 121: I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there? (Davidic in style.)
Psalm 139: O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
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Magistrate Psalms (Injustice Possibly Observed as he Heard and Judged Legal Cases)
Psalm 12: Therefore, LORD, we know you will protect the oppressed.
Psalm 14: Will those who do evil never learn?
Psalm 15: Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD?
Psalm 37: Commit everything you do to the LORD.
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Deep Distress
37645811_sPsalm 13: O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever?
Psalm 22: Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Psalm 25: The LORD is a friend to those who fear him.
Psalm 31: You are my rock and my fortress.
Psalm 42: As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. (Attributed to the Sons of Korah, but Davidic in style. Could be his.)
Psalm 55: Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest!
Psalm 56: Regarding the time the Philistines seized him in Gath. You have collected all my tears in a bottle.
Psalm 60: After battles with the enemies of Isra’el.
Psalm 61: When my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety.
Psalm 62: He alone is my rock and my salvation.
Psalm 69: Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck.
2 Samuel 1:19-27: Lament over King Saul and Jonathan’s deaths.
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Teaching (Instructional) Psalms
Psalm 36: Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Psalm 37: Commit everything you do to the LORD.
Psalm 53: Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
Psalm 60: Is marked “useful for instruction.”
Psalm 119: How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. (Davidic in style.)
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Songs of Ascent
Songs for pilgrims who will be visiting the new temple in Jerusalem, which is yet to be built by King Solomon.
Psalms 121 to 134 cover these songs. As David did a great deal of work on temple planning before his death, it is only fitting that some are his work.

David is not listed as the author of all these Psalms, he is only listed as authoring 122, 124, 131 and 133. However 121, 123 and 130 have a Davidic ring to them.
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Acrostics (Hebrew Alphabet)
Psalm 9: I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
Psalm 10: Why do you hide when I am in trouble?
Psalm 25: The LORD is a friend to those who fear him.
Psalm 34: Taste and see that the LORD is good. (Regarding the time he pretended to be insane in front of Abimelech, who sent him away.)
Psalm 37: Commit everything you do to the LORD.
Psalm 119: How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. (Davidic in style.)
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Written in Old Age
Psalm 25: The LORD is a friend to those who fear him.
Psalm 37: Commit everything you do to the LORD.
Psalm 103: He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
Psalm 108: For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. (Style change.)
2 Samuel 23: King David’s last words.

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Prayers of David
Psalms 17, 86 and 142. If David did write 102, that is also a prayer.

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Additional Links to External Resources

Psalms by theme: http://bookofhours.org/psalms/tool_themes.htm
Psalm Bible Study Topics: http://www.christianet.com/psalms/
A handy reference list on the Psalms: http://www.examiner.com/article/a-handy-reference-list-psalms