“A Song of Degrees”

July 1, 2004




Q.

Several psalms contain the heading “A song of degrees.” What does that mean?

A.
You’re referring to Psalms 120—134. Four of these psalms are attributed to David, one is attributed to Solomon, and the rest are anonymous. Other words used for “degrees” are “steps,” “ascenta,” “pilgrims,” “goings up,” and “graduals.”

Various Bible scholars have attempted to pinpoint the meaning and use of these psalms. Some believe that people sang them while “going up” to Jerusalem for the three yearly festivals (Deuteronomy 16:16). The songs may have been like national anthems. Others believe that people sang them after their captivity (Ezra 7:7). Still others see the term “degree” as referring to a certain rhythm; people would “step” or “ascend” in time to these songs. Others believe the songs have to do with ascending the steps to the temple, which some assume to number fifteen.

Some believe that the songs were connected to King Hezekiah. Hezekiah became ill and could have died, but God gave him fifteen more years to live. (As proponents of this view point out, the number of years is the same number as the psalms called songs of degrees.) Isaiah 38:8 and 20 allude to some songs in relation to a mention of degrees in its account of Hezekiah and God’s intervention:

Behold, I [the Lord] will bring the shadow on the sundial, which has gone down with the sun on the sundial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward?. . . The Lord was ready to save me [Hezekiah]; therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the Lord?

This is one of those questions we can find the answer to in Glory!

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (July 2004).
© 2004 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.