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 2 Samuel 23:1Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,
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“On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the LORD” (1 Chronicles 16:7 1 Chronicles 16:7Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the LORD into the hand of Asaph and his brothers.
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).

“[Woe to you] who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David” (Amos 6:5 Amos 6:5That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David;
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“Now David himself said in the book of Psalms . . .” (Luke 20:42 Luke 20:42And David himself said in the book of Psalms, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand,
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“For David himself said by the Holy Spirit . . .” (Mark 12:36 Mark 12:36For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.
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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 1 Samuel 16:14-23 14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubles you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants, which are before you, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play with his hand, and you shall be well. 17 And Saul said to his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. 18 Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him. 19 Why Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, Send me David your son, which is with the sheep. 20 And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son to Saul. 21 And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armor bearer. 22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray you, stand before me; for he has found favor in my sight. 23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was on Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
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). David also composed a moving lamentation after Saul and Jonathan lost their lives in battle (2 Samuel 1:17-27 2 Samuel 1:17-27 17 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: 18 (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.) 19 The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places: how are the mighty fallen! 20 Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. 21 You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, on you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil. 22 From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty. 23 Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 24 You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold on your apparel. 25 How are the mighty fallen in the middle of the battle! O Jonathan, you were slain in your high places. 26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant have you been to me: your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. 27 How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
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; 2 Samuel 3:33-34 2 Samuel 3:33-34 33 And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dies? 34 Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put into fetters: as a man falls before wicked men, so fell you. And all the people wept again over him.
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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 Amos 6:5That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David;
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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 2 Samuel 23:2The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and his word was in my tongue.
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These are “the last words of David” (2 Samuel 23:1 2 Samuel 23:1Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,
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)—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 2 Peter 1:21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
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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 1 Samuel 16:13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the middle of his brothers: and the Spirit of the LORD came on David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
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)
.

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 1 Corinthians 2:10But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
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). As Peter later wrote, God’s prophets had this Spirit, “the Spirit of Christ,” working within them (1 Peter 1:11 1 Peter 1:11Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
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