The Writers of the Hebrew Bible

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The Writers of the Hebrew Bible

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In writing His Word for humanity, God used people from all social levels and walks of life: kings, prophets, priests, scribes, tax collectors, herdsmen, fishermen. Though God inspired them all, He used their own natural human personalities to help convey His message. Their background stories make for fascinating reading. It is surprising how much the Bible itself reveals about how it came to be put together through God using human instruments.

Let's begin our story with David, the king of Israel who lived about 1,000 B.C. Three millennia later we still speak and write and sing the words of David. They are quoted extensively in what we call the New Testament. He created a large amount of literature that God preserved for future generations.

Who was the principal composer of the words and music of the Psalms?

Now these are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; thus says the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Samuel 23:1).

"On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the LORD" (1 Chronicles 16:7).

"[Woe to you] who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David" (Amos 6:5).

"Now David himself said in the book of Psalms . . ." (Luke 20:42).

"For David himself said by the Holy Spirit . . ." (Mark 12:36).

The Bible has much to say about David's musical and literary accomplishments. No fewer than 73 psalms bear David's name. It seems likely that many of the unattributed psalms were also authored by this king. His skillful playing on the harp calmed the disturbed mind of King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23). David also composed a moving lamentation after Saul and Jonathan lost their lives in battle (2 Samuel 1:17-27; 2 Samuel 3:33-34).

How many times have people unfamiliar with the Bible repeated the phrase, "How are the mighty fallen," without realizing that they are quoting David's sorrow over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan? David and his music were so renowned that the prophet Amos mentions them some 300 years after David's reign (Amos 6:5).

What was the source of David's inspiration?

"The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue" (2 Samuel 23:2).

These are "the last words of David" (2 Samuel 23:1)—serious matters he wished his audience to remember. This great king was one of many Peter had in mind a millennium later when the apostle wrote, "For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).

Did David himself have the Holy Spirit?

"Then Samuel [the prophet] took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward" (1 Samuel 16:13).

This anointing occurred when David was yet a young man caring for his father's sheep. God gave His Spirit to David at a young age, and these passages indicate that many of his compositions were inspired through that Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a vital link between God and man. God reveals His precious truth to us by and through His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10). As Peter later wrote, God's prophets had this Spirit, "the Spirit of Christ," working within them (1 Peter 1:11).

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