Question: I am studying the Psalms and want to know the meaning of the words in the titles, and any other guidelines you can give.
Answer: Here is a brief definition of a few of the musical terms that appear in the titles of the Psalms. “Neginoth” means stringed instruments and appears in Psalms 4, 6, 54, 55, 61, 67, 76. Nehiloth” in Psalm 5 means “an accompaniment by wind instruments.” “Shiggaion” in Psalm 7 is probably a line melody. “Gittith” in Psalms 8, 81, 84 is a wine press or vintage song. “Aijeleth-Shakar” in Psalm 22 literally means “hind of the morning.” It may be a time note or the name of a melody. “Maschil” in Psalms 32, 42, 44, 45, 52‑55, 74, 78, 88, 89, 142 is thought to mean a didactic (to teach or give instruction), or reflective poem. “Jeduthun, in Psalm 39, 77, a choir leader in David’s day. “Shoshannim” in Psalms 45, 69, 80 means “lilies.” It was possibly a spring song, or a metaphor for a woman’s choir. “Jonath-elem-rehokim” in Psalms 56 is probably the name of a tune. “Mahalath Leannoth” in Psalm 88 is a song for sickness.
- David wrote many of the Psalms, as did various other writers. The titles are not absolute certainty of the authorship. In the titles the prepositions “of,” “to,” and “for” are the same Hebrew word. Therefore, a Psalm “of” David may be one he wrote, or which was written “for” David, or dedicated “to” David. The Psalms are recognized as the “Psalms of David”, primarily because he was the principle writer or compiler.
- There are three key Psalms. Two, practical to the individual, are Psalms 1 and 23; and a third, prophetic concerning Christ, is Psalm 22.
- I believe the key word for Psalms would be “Hallelujah”; that is, “Praise the Lord.” It occurs 13 times in six brief verses in Psalm 150; which is known as the “Hallelujah Chorus.” All of Psalms is directed to the Christian so he will joyfully “Praise the Lord!” Studying the Psalms is like mining for gold and digging up the unlimited wealth of God’s wisdom, grace, and direction which He gives to His children. Psalm 150 is the final “Doxology” for the whole book of Psalms; as is the final invitation for sinners to come to Christ found in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible (Revelation) in Verse 17c,
“…let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”