Let’s have some music
Sing me a happy song
Note to music leader: use the gittith. A psalm of Asaph.1Sing happy songs to God who gives us strength.
Make them loud and joyful for the God of Jacob’s family.
2Break out in song and beat that tambourine.
Then add the soothing hum of harp and lyre.
3Blow the trumpet when the new moon rises,
When the full moon shines on our feast day.
4It’s the law in Israel.
It’s the rule of Jacob’s God.
5He gave this law to Joseph’s family
When they left the land of Egypt.
Then I heard God speak
In a language I had never heard before.
God’s talking6“I lifted slavery’s burden from them.
I freed their hands to toss those baskets away.
7In your trouble, you called me.
In your trouble, I came and rescued you.
I came hidden in heaven’s thunder.
And I tested you at Meribah Spring.
Instruments8Listen, people, I’m warning you.
Israel, my people, listen to me.
9You’re not allowed to have idols.
And you can’t worship foreign gods.
10It’s me talking to you,
the LORD, your God.
I brought you out of Egypt
And filled your hungry mouths.
11But you, my people, didn’t listen to me.
Israel, you didn’t do as I said.
12So I gave you your stubborn heart’s desire,
To live your lives by your selfish rules.
13If only my people would listen to me.
If only Israel would follow my lead,
14I would quickly defeat their enemies.
I would crush them with the strength of my fist.
15Those who hate the LORD would submit to him.
And they’d submit to him forever.
16As for you, I’ll feed you the finest wheat,
And all the honey from the rock you can eat.”
Scholars can only guess what the writer meant by gittith. Some guesses scholars offer: It could have been a type of instrument, like a unique style of a harp or a flute, perhaps named after the city where it was made. It might have been the name of a melody that fit the lyrics.
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. And the possible byline “of Asaph,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by Asaph, about Asaph, or was inspired by Asaph. Asaph led a musical family in the tribe of Levi, one of the 12 tribes that made up the original nation of Israel. Levite families worked as priests and worship leaders and worship assistants for the Jewish nation. Asaph was a leader of worship music during the time of King David (1 Chronicles 16:5). His family carried on the musical tradition, showing up five centuries later, when a Jewish man named Nehemiah, in the 500s BC, helped rebuild Jerusalem after Babylonian invaders from what is now Iraq leveled Jerusalem in 586 BC.
More literally, “I heard a language I didn’t know.” Scholars have interpreted this in various ways. Most recently, scholars say the songwriter is acting as a prophet who hears the voice of God who speaks from verses 6-16. Scholars in earlier times interpreted it as the voice of someone identifying with the Hebrews in Egypt, in a foreign land with a foreign language.
Slaves used baskets in their chores of carrying things for their masters—anything from mud bricks to harvested crops.
On the exodus out of Egypt, the Hebrew ancestors of the Jews complained to Moses about needing water. Moses broke open a rock to reveal a spring. He gave the place two names: Massah, meaning “test,” and Meribah, meaning “complaint” (Exodus 17:7).
The word in the original language of Hebrew is selah. Bible scholars haven’t figured out what it means yet, so all we can do is guess. It could mean “pause for effect,” “instrumental interlude,” or “choir singing ‘Amen.’” We’re offering a guess instead of selah. Though selah might be the better way to go because it’s always correct, it’s also always incomprehensible. “Instruments” has a good chance of being wrong, but at least we convey the idea that the Hebrew word behind it probably has something to do with enhancing the song.
God uses his personal name, translated as LORD, in all caps. It’s a name that appears around 7,000 times in the Christian Bible, which makes it the most common way of referring to God. Moses asked God what his name was, and God said Moses should tell the Israelite ancestors of the Jews that his name is “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). In the original Hebrew language, the name is spelled with only consonants—no vowels. It’s an ancient shorthand, to save hides used to make scrolls. The name is YHWH. Without knowing which vowels, most scholars have settled on YAHWEH, pronounced YAH-way. God’s name is so sacred to many Jews that they refuse to speak it. Instead, they’ll use names that describe the character of God, such as Adonai, which means “my Lord.” Some won’t even write the name. In English, they’ll spell the name G-d.
The meaning behind “rock” is unclear. It could mean best honey or rich food. Or it might refer to the miracle of water from the rock (Exodus 17) or to the LORD as Israel’s rock-solid defender and provider (Deuteronomy 11:14-15; 32:4). Who knows, it may simply refer to honey found in hives built in rock crevices. Honey found in the wild can seem to taste all the sweeter because it comes as a happy surprise.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.