What is a “Song of Degrees”?

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Song of Degrees

About a “Song of Degrees,” there is substantial uncertainty regarding its meaning. A Song of Degrees is perhaps better translated, a “Song of Ascents. ” These songs appear in the superscription of Psalms 120-134. The most likely explanation is that these Psalms were used as pilgrim songs, sung as the Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to attend the annual feasts. Four of the Songs of Degrees are ascribed to King David (122, 124, 131, 133), one Song of Degrees to Solomon (127), and the rest ten Songs of Degrees are for unknown writers.

List of the Song of Degrees

Psalm 120 and 121 are believed to be written by David after the death of Samuel. The departure of God’s prophet was a great loss to him. He realized that Samuel’s restraining influence had been removed and Saul would chase him with greater rage than ever. But he believed that God would be his strength.

Psalm 122 is a pilgrim song. It is an expression of joy for the privilege of going up to Jerusalem to worship.

Psalm 123 is an earnest call to God for help in time of trouble. The change from the singular to the plural (verses 1, 2) places the appeal on a national level.

Psalm 124 is a song of gratitude to God for His mighty salvation in time of national trouble. The precise occasion is not known. Neighboring enemies were a continual threat to Israel. And many times it seemed that God’s people would be totally destroyed, however, the Lord provided a way of deliverance.

Psalm 125 presents the theme that the righteous can be comforted with the Lord’s protection continually. As Jerusalem is secure by its geographical location, so those who have faith in God will be safe from the wicked.

Psalm 126, some believe, celebrates the return from Babylonian captivity (Ezra 1). The second part of the Psalm (verses 4–6) presents a note of sorrow. It is understood that either the people had again become enslaved and were asking for freedom or were asking, after a return to their land, for full restoration to their former status.

Psalm 127 presents the idea that man’s work of building is vain unless blessed by God.

Psalm 128 is an idyllic picture of family piety and felicity.

Psalm 129 is a song celebrating national deliverance. The Psalmist speaks of the hardships through which the nation had passed and of how the Lord delivered them and brought confusion to their enemies.

Psalm 130 is the confession of a sinner asking for forgiveness. He recognizes that if the Lord should deal with him according to his sin, he has no hope. But the Lord declares Himself to this sinner as a forgiving God.

Psalm 131 is a song expressing childlike faith and humble surrender. The Psalmist had humbled himself to the point where he no longer seeks the highest place.

Psalm 132 is a song commemorating David’s wish to build a temple for the Lord and His gracious promises to the king.

Psalm 133 is a short beautiful poem praising the beauty of brotherly unity. Such unity identified the meetings of the Israelites at the great festivals of Jerusalem.

Psalm 134 is a call to the night attendants in the sanctuary to worship Jehovah and their response. This short Psalm is the last of the Songs of Degrees or Ascents.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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