Primary Source: Psalms 23, 51, and 137 (Introduction to Western Civilization 2.9)

There are 150 psalms in the Book of Psalms in the Bible. The psalms in the Bible were written by many different people. One of the authors of many of the psalms is King David. The psalms contain some of the best and most moving poetry ever written. The biblical psalms are stilled used by Jews and Christians in their prayers and worship services. You will read three psalms below. The first is Psalm 23, which is a psalm written by King David to show his devotion to God. It is probably the most popular of the psalms. The second is Psalm 51, which David wrote while he was repenting of his sin. The third and final psalm you will read below is Psalm 137, which was written by an anonymous poet during the Babylonian Exile, which you will read about later.

 

Psalm 23

 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

 

Psalm 51

 1 Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

 

Psalm 137

 1 By the waters of Babylon,

there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!

Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!”
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!

 

Review Questions

 1. In your own words, describe the relationship between God and King David in Psalm 23.

2. In Psalm 137, what kind of emotions is the poet expressing?

King David (Introduction to Western Civilization 2.8)

After the death of Moses, Moses’s disciple Joshua took charge of the Hebrew people. He led them into the Promised Land and helped them to conquer it from the nations that were in control of it at that time. He established the nation of Israel. After Joshua’s death, Israel was ruled by a group of people called judges. The judges decided who was right and who was wrong in disputes between individuals and made sure the law was followed.

The people of Israel, though, wanted to be like the other nations around them. While Israel was ruled by judges, the other nations were ruled by kings. They asked God for a king. A man named Saul was selected for the job. Saul then became the first king of Israel. Saul did a terrible job as king, however. He used his power for his own good instead of the good of the people.

At that time, the Israelites were at war with another group of people called the Philistines. There was a Philistine warrior named Goliath who challenged all of the Israelites. He mocked their nation and their God. He told them to send their best warrior and he would defeat him. All of the Israelites were afraid except for one teenage boy named David.

David was angry that Goliath had insulted Israel and its God. He decided to fight Goliath. David was so little he could not even wear the armor Israelite warriors usually wore nor could he lift a sword, but he decided to fight Goliath anyway. As he stepped forward to challenge Goliath, the tall, muscular Philistine laughed. “I challenge you to send your best warrior,” he said,” and you send me a boy!” Goliath was big and strong. He was sure he was going to win in a fight against David. When the fight began, however, David took his slingshot, put a rock into it, and shot at straight at Goliath’s head. The rock hit Goliath in the forehead and killed him instantly. Goliath fell to the ground dead. All of Israel praised David as a great warrior who had saved their nation.

Saul, however, was not happy. He was very jealous of David. He knew that the people of Israel hated him and loved David. Saul tried to kill David, but David led his own army of followers who fought back against Saul. After a long fight between David and Saul, Saul was killed in battle and David became the next king of Israel.

David became king of Israel in about 1000 BC and reigned as king for 30 years. During that time, he led the Israelites to many victories over their enemies. The Israelites enjoyed a long period of prosperity with David as king.

Although David was a devout worshipper of God and a great king, he is also remembered for a horrible sin he committed while he was king. One day, while he was on the rooftop of his palace, he saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba taking a bath on the rooftop of a house nearby. David fell in love with her when he saw her and wanted her to become his wife. After asking around, however, he found out that she was already married. There was a war going on at the time and her husband was a soldier. David ordered that her husband be placed on the front line of soldiers in an attack and that the other soldiers leave him to die. After the death of her husband, David took Bathsheba as his own wife.

One day, the prophet Nathan came to King David and told him a story. “There was a poor man,” he said, “who had only one little lamb. This lamb was his only lamb and he loved it very much. He loved this lamb so much that he took care of it in every way, feeding it at his table and allowing it to sleep in his bed. A rich man then came and took this little lamb away and murdered the poor man.” After telling this story, Nathan asked David, “What should be done to this rich man?”

David jumped up out of his seat in anger and yelled, “Bring me that rich man so that I might send him to be executed!”

Nathan the prophet looked up at the king and said, “You, King David, are that rich man.”

David knew that he had done something terrible. He cried, prayed, and fasted for days, asking God to forgive him. One prayer that he wrote during this time was Psalm 51, which many Christians and Jews still pray today as a prayer of repentance.

The first child that Bathsheba gave birth to died not long after it was born as a punishment for David’s sin. The second child that Bathsheba had, however, was a son named Solomon. Solomon became king of Israel after David’s death and is still remembered today for his great wisdom.

 

Review Questions

1. Who was the first king of Israel?

 2. Who was the second king of Israel?

3. What psalm did David write after his sin?

 

Vocabulary Words

Prophet – a person who receives messages from God

Psalm – a religious poem, often written in the form of a prayer