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What are the Songs of Ascent?

Songs of Ascentaudio
Question: "What are the Songs of Ascent?"

The Songs of Ascent are a special group of psalms comprising Psalms 120—134. They are also called Pilgrim Songs. Four of these songs are attributed to King David (122, 124, 131, 133) and one to Solomon (127), while the remaining ten are anonymous.

The city of Jerusalem is situated on a high hill. Jews traveling to Jerusalem for one of the three main annual Jewish festivals traditionally sang these songs on the “ascent” or the uphill road to the city. According to some traditions, the Jewish priests also sang some of these Songs of Ascent as they walked up the steps to the temple in Jerusalem.

Each of the psalms in this collection begins with the title “A Song of Ascents.” While perhaps they were not originally composed for this purpose, these psalms were later grouped together for use in traveling toward Jerusalem for the yearly Jewish festivals.

The theme of each Song of Ascent offers much encouragement for those who seek to worship God today:

Psalm 120: God’s presence during distress
Psalm 121: Joyful praise to the Lord
Psalm 122: Prayer for Jerusalem
Psalm 123: Patience for God’s mercy
Psalm 124: Help comes from the Lord
Psalm 125: Prayer for God’s blessing upon His people
Psalm 126: The Lord has done great things
Psalm 127: God’s blessing on man’s efforts
Psalm 128: Joy for those who follow God’s ways
Psalm 129: A cry for help to the Lord
Psalm 130: A prayer of repentance
Psalm 131: Surrender as a child to the Lord
Psalm 132: God’s sovereign plan for His people
Psalm 133: Praise of brotherly fellowship and unity
Psalm 134: Praise to God in His temple

The Songs of Ascent continue to find a place among the many hymns and songs of worship of Jews and Christians today. They serve as powerful examples of how we can express our worship and love for God through the power of song.

Recommended Resource: Psalms: The Expositor's Bible Commentary by Longmann, Garland, & VanGemeren

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