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Two-edged swords

Two-edged swords (149:6) were made of bronze or iron and were filed on each side, so that the blade could more readily and deeply penetrate enemy armor. In the NT, the word of God is said to be “sharper than… Read More »Two-edged swords

Who are the saints?

Who are the saints? The term “saints” is used in both the OT and NT to describe God’s people. In the OT it describes the faithful among God’s people Israel (37:28; 145:10). In the NT, the Greek word translated “saints”… Read More »Who are the saints?


In the OT, salvation generally refers to deliverance from both physical and spiritual danger. Because God had been a faithful Savior in the past, Israel trusted that they could look forward to his greater salvation in the future. The ultimate… Read More »Salvation

The Lord protects his people

The Lord protects his people. Psalm 138 tells of God’s constant care for everyone who loves him. Singing this psalm helps believers be more aware of the ways in which God preserves and protects them.


Wonders can also be translated “marvels.” The word is often used to describe God’s works of rescuing his people and protecting and caring for them (9:1; 78:11; 98:1; Ex. 3:20; 34:10). In Ps. 136:4, it describes creation, showing that God’s… Read More »Wonders

Anointing with oil

Anointing with oil. It was common during festivals for people to have their foreheads anointed with fragrant oils. This not only provided a pleasant aroma but gave the person a glistening look of good health. (See 133:2.)


Watchmen (130:6) were stationed along the walls of ancient cities. They would sound an alarm if an enemy approached the city. Fields and vineyards also had watchmen to protect the grain and produce from thieves and animals.

What are fowlers?

What are fowlers? A “fowler” is someone who traps birds. In the Scriptures, it is used figuratively to describe active enemies of God’s people. The psalmist describes God as delivering his people from the fowler’s snare (91:3; 124:7).

Broom tree

The wood of the broom tree makes excellent charcoal (120:4). Charcoal was an ideal source of fuel in Bible times because it was lightweight and created a hot fire that retained its heat for a long time.

Unique verses

Unique verses. Out of the 176 verses in Psalm 119, only seven lack an explicit mention of God’s Word: vv. 84, 90–91, 120, 122, 132, and 149.

The longest psalm

Aside from being the longest psalm, Psalm 119 is also the longest and most carefully structured chapter in the Bible. The psalm is an acrostic poem of 22 stanzas, following the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Within each stanza,… Read More »The longest psalm


The cornerstone (118:22) is the large shaped stone at the corner of the building’s foundation. It is essential to a structure’s stability. Several NT writers compared Jesus Christ to a cornerstone (e.g., Matt. 21:42; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:4–8).

A psalm of thanksgiving

A psalm of thanksgiving. The words of Psalm 116 are excellent for expressing public thanks after surviving a crisis situation.


Idols (115:4) represent anything allowed to compete with God for ultimate loyalty, robbing him of the devotion and glory he alone deserves. Idolatry is evil and foolish. God deserves our wholehearted love because nothing else compares with him.


Flint is a very hard variety of quartz that was plentiful in the land of the Bible. It could be broken into sharp pieces and used to make tools and weapons. Knives, arrowheads, sickle blades, and saws were all made… Read More »Flint

Two acrostic poems

Two acrostic poems. Because of their similar themes, Psalms 111 and 112 can be seen as companion psalms. Both are also acrostic poems. In the acrostics of the OT, each line or verse begins with successive letters of the Hebrew… Read More »Two acrostic poems

The right hand

The right hand is often a symbol of authority and power. Kings wore their signet rings on their right hand (Jer. 22:24), and a father blessed his oldest son with his right hand (Gen. 48:14, 17). In Psalm 110, the… Read More »The right hand

Steadfast love

What is God’s steadfast love to his people, for which Psalm 107 repeatedly says they should thank him? It is the enduring faithfulness, care, and kindness that he has promised to them. Even after their repeated disobedience, which brought his… Read More »Steadfast love


Despite all the faithfulness and steadfast love God showed to his people, as Psalm 105 recounts, they murmured (106:25), displaying a lack of contentment and trust in him. Such murmuring amounts to disobeying a gracious God who leads his people.


Psalms 105 and 106 celebrate God’s faithfulness to his people. They recall his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those who sing the psalms should see themselves as the beneficiaries of all the amazing things God has done in the… Read More »Celebrate


Ashes were often used in the OT to express sorrow, humiliation, or feelings of worthlessness. In Ps. 102:9, they are a sign of mourning, as indicated by their mention along with tears. The prophet Jeremiah encouraged Israel to “roll in… Read More »Ashes

What is integrity?

What is integrity? When the Bible describes someone as having “integrity” (101:2) it means that the person is characterized by good moral behavior. The Bible might also describe this person as “blameless” in the sight of God.

Joy to the world!

Joy to the world! Psalm 98:4–9 inspired Isaac Watts to write his famous Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World,” in 1719. The song celebrates not only the birth of Christ but how creation itself rejoices at the return of her… Read More »Joy to the world!


The word vengeance is used in Ps. 94:1 to describe one way in which the Lord brings about justice in the world. Individual Israelites were forbidden to seek personal vengeance (Lev. 19:18). However, it was the duty of the civil… Read More »Vengeance

How old?

How old? Psalm 90:10 suggests that Israelites were living to be 70 or 80 years old in the days of Moses. While life expectancy has varied somewhat over the centuries, it is about the same today.

Finding your way

Finding your way in the ancient world was often an inexact science. Without a compass or map, topographical features such as oases and mountains were heavily relied upon. The few maps available were often unreliable because they may have been… Read More »Finding your way


Abaddon (88:11) means “place of destruction.” In Rev. 9:11 Abaddon is king of “the bottomless pit.”

Song of the Lamb

The words of Ps. 86:9 are incorporated into the song of the Lamb in Rev. 15:4. All nations, from all around the globe, will someday worship the Lord.


En-dor (83:10) is perhaps most famous for being home to a spiritual medium whom Saul consulted on the eve of his final battle (1 Sam. 28:7–25).


The word blessed (84:4, 5, 12, etc.) refers to someone who has received—or who will receive—something good from the Lord. It is not just a temporary feeling of happiness but a state of well-being in relationship to God.

How long?

How long? This question (79:5) occurs nearly twenty times in the Psalms, more than any other question. It is almost always associated with a psalm of lament, such as Psalm 79.


Zoan (78:12) is the ancient Egyptian city of Tanis, one of many cities in the area where the Israelites lived around the time of Moses. The city’s ruins were surveyed by Napoleon Bonaparte in the late 1700s.


The horn could be a symbol of power and military strength, and thus to lift up or exalt it was to publicly assert power. God warns the ungodly not to lift up their horns (75:4), and promises that he will… Read More »Horn


Hope means putting one’s full confidence in God, who always keeps his promises. Believers can have hope for the future because of what God has done in the past. Created things will always ultimately disappoint. God alone is the source… Read More »Hope


The term fortress (71:3) could describe the city walls of ancient times. These walls, usually stone, included towers at strategic points so that the soldiers could see if anyone was trying to climb the wall. God is the believer’s true… Read More »Fortress

The deep

The deep. In Ps. 69:15, “the deep” is a striking picture of the problems of life that can seem so frightening and overpowering. But the Lord, who created the world out of “the deep” (Gen. 1:2), can rescue his people… Read More »The deep

Ancient worship leaders

Ancient worship leaders. Psalm 68:24–27 mentions singers and musicians leading worship. Other passages, such as 1 Chron. 15:16–22, give details about some of the musical instruments that were used in Israelite worship.

Dwell in God’s courts

The psalmist David’s desire to dwell in God’s courts (65:4), that is, in the sanctuary, recalls his closing words in Psalm 23: “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”


Banners served as battle flags in ancient wars. Attached to poles, they were used to signal troop movements or to serve as rallying points. Banners could be actual flags or they could be carved figures, often depicting a bird or… Read More »Banners


Pride (59:12) is the opposite of humility. It means putting excessive confidence in one’s own abilities, wealth, or position. Pride causes a person to crave the glory and honor that belong only to God.

Memorizing the Psalms

Memorizing the Psalms. The poetic style of the Psalms make them easy to memorize. Throughout the centuries, many believers have memorized all 150 Psalms.

A helpful guide

A helpful guide. The writers of the Psalms understood the importance of constant communication with God. They knew that God would hear their prayers, and they trusted him to act on their behalf. Believers today can benefit greatly by patterning… Read More »A helpful guide


Hyssop is a member of the mint family. Its fuzzy leaves and branches produce bunches of small white or yellow flowers. During Passover, the people of Israel used hyssop branches to place blood above their doors and on their doorposts… Read More »Hyssop

Fragrant robes

Fragrant robes. The anointing of a person did not always involve the use of oil. Plant extracts such as aloe, cassia (similar to cinnamon), and myrrh were used during celebrations such as weddings and coronations. The extracts would either be… Read More »Fragrant robes


There were at least three known species of deer in ancient Palestine. The red deer was the largest. The male could weigh up to 500 pounds (225 kg) while the female weighed up to 350 pounds (160 kg).

How long is a handbreadth?

How long is a handbreadth? A handbreadth (39:5) was considered to be the width of the four fingers on one hand, or roughly 4 inches (10 cm).


Snares (38:12) were traps used to catch birds and animals. Some snares used ropes or nets that would be triggered as soon as the bait was touched. Pits disguised with sticks and leaves were also used as snares. In the… Read More »Snares

Laurel tree

The laurel tree (37:35) may be the sweet-bay tree, which is found all over the Mediterranean and can grow up to 60 feet (18 m) in height. Parts of the tree can be used for medicinal purposes while its leaves… Read More »Laurel tree

Shadow of your wings

The phrase shadow of your wings (36:7) is also found in two other psalms (17:8; 57:1). It symbolizes the protection and safety of the Lord.

Summers in Israel

Summers in Israel can be very hot, depending on where one is (see 32:4). In places like Masada, near the Dead Sea, temperatures can soar past 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43° C) without a drop of rain. However, Jerusalem, with its… Read More »Summers in Israel

House of the Lord

The term house of the Lord (27:4) always refers to the temple, where God in OT times lived among his people.


What does Selah mean? Although the word Selah is found 39 times in the book of Psalms, its exact meaning is uncertain. Most scholars believe it is a musical term or a term to be used by a worship leader,… Read More »Selah

What is “Sheol”?

What is “Sheol”? In the OT, the Hebrew word “Sheol” (9:17) refers to the place where people go when they die. It is similar to the Greek word “Hades.” Both words are usually translated “death” or “the grave.”

How are the Psalms divided?

How are the Psalms divided? The Psalms are divided into five books: 1–41; 42–72; 73–89; 90–106; 107–150. Each book ends with a “doxology,” a hymn of praise to God.

A shield for his people

A shield for his people. Without the proper shield, an ancient warrior had little chance in battle. Psalms uses the term “shield” (3:3) to describe God’s protection of his people.

Where is Zion?

Where is Zion? Zion (2:6) is the mountain where Jerusalem and the temple were built. The term “Zion” sometimes refers to ancient Jerusalem and sometimes stands for the permanent home where God’s people will live forever with him (see Isa.… Read More »Where is Zion?