Psalm 76 – “Hymnic Address”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist praises God and urges his audience to offer sacrifices.

II. Photo
God dwells in Israel: “God has made Himself known in Judah, His name is great in Israel; Salem became His abode; Zion, His den.” (vv. 2-3)

III. Select Verses    
2-4: God has made Himself known in Judah, His name is great in Israel; Salem became His abode; Zion, His den. There He broke the fiery arrows of the bow, the shield and the sword of war. Selah.
5-8: You were resplendent, glorious, on the mountains of prey. The stout-hearted were despoiled; they were in a stupor; the bravest of men could not lift a hand. At Your blast, O God of Jacob, horse and chariot lay stunned. O You! You are awesome! Who can withstand You when You are enraged?
11: The fiercest of men shall acknowledge You, when You gird on the last bit of fury.
12: Make vows and pay them to the LORD your God; all who are around Him shall bring tribute to the Awesome One.

IV. Outline
1. Superscription
2-5. Hymnic praise
6-11. Hymnic direct address
12. Call to worship
13. Rationale

V. Comment
Psalm 76 is a hymn that praises God’s past deeds and his might. The word  hls  “selah” appears in vv. 4, 10. While it closes a third-person address in v. 4, it appears within the second-person address in v. 11. As Craigie notes in an excurcus, “Both the etymology of the term and its precise significance remain uncertain. It is used sometimes at the end of sections which may be equivalent to strophes or stanzas (e.g. Ps 3:3, 5), sometimes at the end of a psalm (e.g. Ps 3:9), sometimes after what appears to be a quotation (e.g. Ps 44:9), but sometimes no evident significance may be determined from its location; thus it is used in Ps 68:8 in the middle of what is probably a quotation from an ancient passage of Hebrew poetry. The wide distribution of the term throughout the Psalter, and throughout the collections within the Psalter, probably indicates that the use of the word goes back to ancient times, though whether the usage goes back to the time of the composition of the psalms within which it appears cannot be certain.
“One factor which seems to be fairly certain is that the term has some kind of musical significance, either with respect to the singing of the psalm or with respect to its musical accompaniment. With very few exceptions, the term is used in psalms which have titles; the majority of the titles identify the psalms containing hls with David or the Levitical singers, and about 75 percent of the titles also make reference to the “musical director” or “choirmaster.”
“A variety of theories, some ancient and some modern, have offered possible solutions to the meaning of the term:

  • (i) G rendered the Hebrew term by dia¿yalma, which might be taken to imply “pause,” or “instrumental interlude,” or even “louder.”
  • (ii) The Palestinian Jewish tradition, as represented in the Targum and followed by some early Christian interpreters such as Jerome, took the term to mean “for ever,” though no precise etymological basis can be found for this meaning for the term. The implication would be that a benediction or chorus was to be sung at this point in the psalm.
  • (iii) A third possible interpretation is to understand the term as referring to points in the use of the song in the context of worship at which the congregation prostrated themselves on the ground in obeisance before God (see S. Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship II 211)…


“With respect to the interpretation of the psalms in which the word is used, it must be admitted that in the light of current knowledge no precise significance can be attributed to hls. However, it may serve as a useful reminder to the modern reader of the Psalms that many psalms were initially sung with musical accompaniment. And in terms of probabilities, the tradition preserved by G should probably be considered as providing the most likely significance of the term.” (Psalms 1-50, pp. 76-77)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Tate, Marvin. “Psalms 51-100” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 20 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1990).
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