2. Background to the Psalms

A. Authorship: The King & The Priests

  • Half of them written by David & Solomon
  • All the other named ones are priests

B. Theological

  • All based on the covenant relationship with God
  • Without the covenant, they would be meaningless
  • Particularly in the laments, the pleas are on the basis of the covenant
  • The most important word to understand in this context is: chesed
    • hard to translate: (KJV “lovingkindness” or “mercy” are poor translations)
      • faithful-love,
      • loyal-love
      • love that will never let you down and never give up on you but will hang on to the end
  • It is possibly the most beautiful word in any human language
  • It is a fundamental theme of the Psalms and the main thing God is praised for

C. Historical

  • Two basic types of sacrificial worship
  • We must distinguish the burnt offerings from the sacrifices
  1. Burnt Offering: Totally burned—all goes up in smoke. Demonstrates total commitment to God
    • Lev 1: burned offering, an animal, or Lev 2 grain if you are a grain farmer
  2. Partially sacrificed to God. Really a communal meal.
    • The priest ate his part, the offerer his/her part & God’s part was burned.
    • These were offered for three reasons (Lev 7:11-12, 16)
      1. Thanksgiving. (No concept of private thanksgiving in the O.T.)
        • You offered a sacrifice and a song.
      2. Vow answered by God
      3. Voluntary, freewill offering—just to express your love for God
  • 1 Chron 16:37-43 describes the organization of music and song to go along with the sacrifices.
  • Many of the Psalms were in this category
  • These songs were designed to be sung “with smoke” (Waltke)
  • e.g. Ps 66:13f
    • Selah —what does it mean. Literally “to lift up”
    • untranslatable: “Selach” like hip-hip-hooray. Just a cry of praise!
  • another example: Ps 116:12-19