Psalms 9-10 - Higgaion and Selah
I have been trying to write a little note about two psalms a day. In this case, two psalms were originally one psalm. I am told that Psalms 9 and 10 were originally one long psalm. At some point, this psalm was divided into two pieces. However, I want to combine them once more for this writing.
Those who know about this psalm tell us that it is an “alphabetical” psalm. Perhaps we thought Psalm 119 was the only one that fits this category. Not so! There are other “alphabetical” psalms. Unfortunately, translating from Hebrew to English lost that distinction for us. Yet, Hebrew scholars assure us that David used the first 11 letters of the Hebrew alphabet in Psalm 9:1-18 and the rest of the alphabet in Psalm 10:1-17!
While we could discuss much in these two psalms regarding the praise David has for God (Ps. 10:16), David’s prayer for the enemies’ defeat (Ps. 10:15), and many other things, I would like to focus on two words in the text.
I want to focus on the two words “Higgaion” and “Selah.” It is interesting to note that “Higgaion” is translated in other psalms (Ps. 19:14, 92:1-3, 2:1, 38:12; Isa. 59:3, 13; etc.), but not here. Here, the translators of the KJV, LSB, TIB, ASV, ESV, NET, NAS, and several others chose to “Anglicize” a Hebrew word. What does “Higgaion” mean? It is hard to know its exact meaning, but often it is considered an utterance or a call for meditation from the reader of the Psalms (Evan Blackmore. The Book of Psalms, Vol 1. 2017. p. 180). For this reason, a handful of translations render the word “meditation” (NKJV, NLT, LSV, etc.) and even “quiet interlude” (NLT). The next word in Psalm 9:16 is “Selah.” We remember from our study in Psalm 2 that this word is a complicated word. It can mean rest, but it also carries the idea of meditation at times.
Thus, as David pens this psalm, when he comes to verse 16 of Psalm 9, the musical notation is to rest or pause and meditate on what was said. I really like these words because I think they provide added emphasis to the songs and teaching. The blessed man is one who “meditates” (higgaion) on God’s word (Ps. 1:2). Do we meditate on the teaching in the psalms? They are rich!
By application, when we sing praises to God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 13:15; Jas. 5:13; etc.), are we truly thinking about and meditating upon the meaning? Though our songs are not verbally inspired like the psalms were (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:20-21), they are based in Scripture and worthy of our meditation because of the message they teach from God’s word. We also recognize that several psalms have been supplied with a tune, and we today worship God and sing the songs once penned by David in this way. Pause! Meditate! Think about what a privilege we have when we can read these songs and sing them to God!
Much more ought to be said, but please allow these words to encourage us to not only meditate on the words of Scripture but make sure we meditate on the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” we direct to our God (Col. 3:16)! May they be holy! May they be offered “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24), that they might be a “sweet-smelling savor” to God (II Cor. 2:15).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The words of Christ to His apostles before they started across Galilee (Mk. 4:35) didn’t hit me in my younger days like they do today. Experience has taught me a few things, as well as deeper Bible studies! Those words mean something because the word of God is powerful (Heb. 4:12). It’s these words in Mark 4:35 that bring meaning to the words in Mark 4:40. You see, it wasn’t merely the fact that Jesus was getting after the apostles for their lack of faith in a general sense. Jesus was chastising them for not believing the words He’d spoken before they’d ever left shore! We know that “faith cometh by hearing” (Rom. 10:17). The apostles had heard the words of Christ but hadn’t believed Him! This is why He said they had no faith.
Please understand, “Let us pass over to the other side” was just as powerful a statement as any other Christ uttered. Why do I say this? It is because Christ’s words have power. The power that can call the world into existence (Gen. 1-2) told the apostles, “Let’s go!” Regardless of the outward circumstances (Mk. 4:37), if Jesus says this boat is going to the other side, then it’s going! There is no storm, wave, wind, famine, fire, or flood that’ll stop it from happening! Did those in the “other little ships” hear those words from the mouth of Christ (Mk. 4:36)? The text doesn’t say, but either way, following Christ meant safe passage to the other side (Mk. 5:1)!
My question is a simple one: “Do you believe the words Christ has spoken or are you like the apostles on this day?” For example, Jesus has said:
- “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). How do you respond to these words? Do you accept or reject them?
- “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9). How do you respond? Have you found two, three, or many other exceptions to God’s rule of one man and one woman for life (Matt. 19:4-6)?
- “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). How do you respond? Are you too busy getting vengeance against others to listen to the Lord’s words here? Have you convinced yourself that this way wouldn’t work “in the real world”?
Of course, He had many more things to say that demand our attention, faith, and obedience. Yet, these examples above make a crucial point. Christ’s word is just as powerful and just as authoritative as it ever was (Col. 3:17)! Do we believe this? If we say we believe, then why do we fight against His words?
Let’s remember that the One who cast demons out with a word is the same One who said “Let’s go to the other side.” The One who healed people of their physical illnesses is the same One who wants to save you from spiritual illness and has made salvation possible through the instructions in the gospel (Rom. 1:16)!
These apostles faced a hard situation on the sea of Galilee. Yet, they needed to trust in the Lord, who said they were going to the other side. Have you read Psalm 23:4 lately? Might there be some applications of this verse to the events in Mark 4:35-41? Now let’s get personal -- might there be some applications of Psalm 23:4 to your life? Do we say the “right thing” but not live it? The Lord has promised His church (Acts 2:47) that we’ll be in Heaven one day if we remain faithful (Rom. 2:7; Rev. 2:10; I Cor. 15:58). Will we trust these words and be patient in this world, enduring our problems (Mk. 13:13; Heb. 3:14)? Or will we be like the apostles in Mark 4 and falter for a lack of faith?
Just as it was 2000 years ago, and as it has been since Genesis 3, so also it is today, the choice is ours! What will we choose? Hebrews 10:39 says, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” May this be our cry today! Christ has told us to “go,” so let’s go!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The book of Mark is the shortest book of those comprising the “gospel records.” It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Mark doesn’t wait long before showing us the opposition Jesus faced in His preaching. In Mark 2, we see scribes and Pharisees opposing Him and His work. Among their common complaints was that Jesus associated with sinners. Mark 2:15-17 says, “And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his (Matthew’s, JMJ) house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Seeing as Jesus just invited a publican (Matthew) to follow Him (Mk. 2:14), it shouldn’t be a surprise that when Jesus went to Matthew’s house, publican friends would be invited to listen to Jesus! Jesus treated this man just as He had earlier treated four fishermen (Mk. 1:16-20). He simply requested that they “follow Him.” This would change their lives far beyond anything we could describe on this page.
The point being that Jesus looked at five sinners (Rom. 3:23) and saw not what they were, but what they could become! He saw people who’d do much good for the Lord’s cause and kingdom, but they had to be taught! Jesus was willing to teach. In fact, Jesus was willing to teach all that would listen to Him. This is why we see multitudes coming to Him and listening (Mk. 1:28, 33, 37, 45, 2:1-2, 13, etc.).
In contrast, the scribes and Pharisees had no time, no compassion, and gave no thought to the lives and concerns of the sinners around them. I’m reminded of Christ’s parable in Luke 18:11-12. Therefore, when they saw Jesus spending time with publicans, sinners, and the like, this was scandalous to them! If He claims to be God’s prophet, and people claim He is the Messiah, surely even He would know the kind of people He is around! (For more study, please read Luke 7:36-50 and see the attitude of Simon toward Christ.)
In Mark’s short book, we see Christ’s attitude toward sinners as one of respect, one of compassion, and one of love. He never berated them for their bad decisions or sins. He never acted as if they were beneath Him (though they were -- all of us are!). He did, however, tell the truth and told it unapologetically. He told the truth in a manner that they (and all) could understand. Please read Mark 2:15-17 and see that when Jesus was criticized for even associating with publicans, sinners, and others, His answer was not a defense of their sin. He didn’t say, “At least they’re not hypocrites!” as some might’ve been tempted to say. His answer was straight-forward: “they need Me!”.
Notice Jesus called them sick. He called them sinners and said they needed to repent (Mk. 2:17)! Can you imagine such language coming from the lips of the Lord? Yet, there it is. What impresses me is that these people seemed to follow Him in greater numbers the longer He was on earth. What had Jesus done? As we observe Jesus in Mark 2 and the rest of the book, we see Someone who showed compassion (Mk. 1:41, 5:19, 6:34, 8:2). He saw people who needed direction (Mk. 6:34) and saw sinners who needed salvation. The people responded to this genuine action and listened intently. What Jesus said in Mark 2:17 was not “new news” to them. They knew they were in sin, and now they knew that they had come to the right Person who could bring them salvation!
What can I learn from this short reading? I can learn first to not be like the scribes and Pharisees. No one is “beneath” you. All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23). If you’ve been saved from your sins, then thank God for the salvation (Lk. 19:10; Mk. 16:16)! When you see people who aren’t saved, realize that you were in their shoes not that long ago. Someone loved you enough to tell you the truth. Now, love them enough to do the same (II Tim. 2:2; Eph. 4:15)!
The second lesson I learn in Mark 2:15-17 is to be like Jesus in my speech! Folks who are in sin need to know it! Friend, “no greater injustice can be done to a person than to leave them with the impression they are saved, when in fact, they aren’t!” Jesus called the people sick, sinners, and in need of salvation. This is precisely what they needed to hear. If they hadn’t been told this, they might’ve left the presence of Jesus thinking that they were just fine. Dear one, when you talk to someone about their soul, remember that this part needs to be said. You can talk about the weather, crops, children, the government, and 1000 other things, but if you miss the chance to talk to someone about his soul, you’ve missed it! There’s nothing more important than the condition of one’s soul (Matt. 16:26)! Pleasant smiles, hugs, and being neighborly will mean little when on Judgment, they look at you and say in so many words, “You met me day by day and knew I was astray, yet you never mentioned Him to me!” I would much rather thousands of people on Judgment Day cry that I told them about Jesus and warned them about sin but hurt their feelings than to have one person say, “You never mentioned Him to me!” What about you?
A third thing I learn from Jesus was even when He spoke of people being sick and sinners, He didn’t seem happy about it! May we never take a condescending view of others in sin (Matt. 7:12, 22:39; Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20; etc.). As we noted earlier, it wasn’t that long ago that we were in their position as well.
Lastly, I have to note that the message of Christ was a message for all. While it would’ve been easy for the Pharisees, scribes, and others to listen to Mark 2:17 and then think, “OK, this is why Jesus is with them.” If we listen closely to the response, it was actually a rebuke to those people as well. Think about it! Jesus said He came to call the sinners to repentance. Amen. Was He not also preaching to the Pharisees, scribes, and others when He was preaching those three years? Was there ever a time from Matthew-John where Jesus stopped His preaching to say, “Scribes and Pharisees, what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to you”? Jesus’ attitude was that those self-righteous people were as guilty of sin as the rest (Mk. 7:6-9)! They needed the same message because they needed the same Savior! Jesus suffered as a sacrifice for all men, not just for the ones on the “wrong side of the tracks”! They would’ve understood Jesus’ message here if they’d cared to listen, instead of wasting time pointing their fingers at others!
Much more could be said, but take what we’ve learned here and think seriously about our attitude. What kind of attitude are we displaying? Who’ve we told about Jesus this week? What efforts do we make to bring others to the Lord, beginning with those under our own roof (Eph. 6:4; Titus 2:3-5)? Think seriously about this, my friend, because the souls of those we love as well as our own souls hang in the balance (Ezek. 33:7-9)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Song of Solomon is probably best known for the descriptions of physical beauty contained there. There are four of these descriptions in the song. Three times the Shulammite is complimented (4:1-7, 6:4-9, 7:1-9), and one time, her beloved is praised (5:10-16). These descriptions make some folks uncomfortable. These descriptions have caused some even to suggest that perhaps Solomon’s Song is pornographic. I have also seen the opposite reaction when one chose to depict all that was said about the Shulammite literally. She looked like a monstrosity -- a mixture of goats, sheep, pomegranates, deer or gazelle, a tower, etc., instead of a human woman (See attached).
What is said, though unfamiliar to our “western” ears, is simply a poem praising the beauty of the one he (or she) loves. I will not be able to explain every description in this short article, but please understand, he compares his beloved to the beauties of nature created by God (Gen. 1-2). Just as some suitor might tell his girlfriend, “Your eyes are bluer than the sea,” the Shulammite was told a similar thing in chapter seven, verse four! She is spoken of in majestic terms in verse five. This would be the equivalent of calling a beautiful girl a “fox” or some other description today. Solomon’s song spends time complimenting the Shulammite for her physical beauty. She also compliments her beloved in the text for the beauty she sees in him.
Why say such things, and why describe a woman in this way? Is it not obvious? He loves her and therefore compliments the beauty of the one he loves! She had a low opinion of her beauty (1:5-6), so her beloved (and later husband) showers her with praise.
Husbands, how are you doing at praising your wife for her beauty? Did you praise her before you were married but have since ceased? This man didn’t do it. When we read Song of Solomon 4, 6, and 7, we read him complimenting her before and after the wedding! Husbands, don’t forget this lady is the wife of your youth, and a part of you (Eph. 5:28-29). Pay her compliments! Praise her! Ladies, do this for your husbands as well. Husbands love to be complimented, so act as the Shulammite and do it (Song of Sol. 5:10-16). If you are having marriage problems, or feel like you are drifting apart, maybe part of the problem is a lack of communication. Perhaps you are not communicating your love or your praise to your spouse. This is the point of those four sections in the song. It is not pornographic, nor something meant to stir up evil desires. Instead, it is intended to be sincere praise showered upon two who genuinely love one another.
Just as husbands and wives today need to compliment and praise one another, I find it interesting that Christ does the same for the church. The church, considered Christ’s bride, is honored by being called “glorious” and without a flaw (Eph. 5:27). The picture of Christ and the church is a picture of a husband and wife and the love they share for one another. It is a picture of genuine, sincere love that ought to be true in the lives of all of those who are married.
To those married, may your love deepen and grow through the years. As you mature, may you grow closer together, and may it be that the beauty you saw in the wife of your youth only enhance through the years. True beauty is within. May we thank God for that beauty we see in our spouses.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Our title is a phrase that is unique to the Song of Solomon. Four times in the book, the Shulammite spoke of “him whom my soul loveth” (3:1-4), and once she called him, “thou whom my soul loveth” (1:7). The intensity of her love is apparent. This was no passing infatuation with her, for in this song, she waited patiently for him, and in two sections (chapters 3 and 5), she went looking for him when she dreamed she had lost him. She was not satisfied unless they were together. She sought the one “her soul loveth” diligently in these dreams (perhaps she would consider them nightmares).
She speaks not of a casual acquaintance, close friend, or the like when she speaks of her beloved. This is one her soul loves! When found, she “held him, and would not let him go” (3:4). The intensity of this love is something that ought to be in our marriages. Paul described this love from the man’s point of view when he said a man ought to love his wife as his own body (Eph. 5:28). He continued, “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it” (Eph. 5:29).
Husbands, love your wives as your own bodies! Wives, love your husbands with your soul! Christ loved His church so much that He “gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). Paul made clear the relationship between a husband and wife reflect Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32). His blood purchased the church (Acts 20:28). In response, the church is to love the Lord and submit to Him (Eph. 5:24). As the Shulammite desired her beloved, and as the wife desires her husband (Gen. 3:16), so let Christians desire to serve and follow the Lord. May we truly love Him, for He loved us first (I Jn. 4:19). Yes, love Him from the soul! Love Him for all he has done for us and how He has made it possible to be in Heaven one day (Jn. 14:3).
The pure love described in Solomon’s Song needs to be applied in our homes and the church. If we haven’t been doing this, let us start today to reflect that pure and intense love. Christ showed it first to us; therefore, let us respond in kind.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs