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When Your World Gives Way, Sing it ALAMOTH (Or, Why Obscure Liturgical Notes at the Top of the Psalms Matter)

August 2, 2014

Psalms of Summer
Psalm 46 begins with some liturgical instructions, one of which is unclear. Here is the superscription to the Psalm, a sort of post-it note tacked onto the sheet music:

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A song.

The Psalm itself will divide thematically this way:

  1. Natural Disasters: 
But God is a strong refuge 
(vv. 1-3)
  2. Human Violence and Tragedies: 
But God rules over violence
 (vv. 4-7)
  3. Be Still and Know: 
Despite both of the above, God is God; God is with us
 (vv. 8-11)

11 Psalms are attributed to the Sons of Korah. Korah himself is not a major Biblical figure, but he and his descendants were Levites, involved in musical leadership. This portion of the inscription is clear enough—it’s “a song.”

Alamoth, a Hebrew word that goes untranslated in the 1984 NIV, means “young women.” Alamoth could have been just the name of a musical setting—like singing the doxology to the tune of Old 100th. Or Alamoth could have meant that this song was to be sung by young women—by sopranos—and so it is high-pitched. (HT: P. C. Craigie)

Or Alamoth could have just been how the choirmaster preferred to take his apple pie.


But—back to business—the fact that this is a song, and marked as a song, with details about how to sing it, is significant.

Here you have a people confronted with natural disasters, human violence, and tragedies… and their worship leaders call them in response to sing!

Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
I preached on Psalm 46 this last Sunday, from which the above is adapted. This is the final of three posts this week about that Psalm. I wrote about it here and here, too.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2014 6:11 pm

    Thank you for teaching me without going on and on. Peace be with you.

    • August 6, 2014 7:02 pm

      You are most welcome, and thank you for your kind words!

  2. April 10, 2017 6:53 am

    “Or Alamoth could have just been how the choirmaster preferred to take his apple pie.
    (Sorry.)” … Thank you for for injecting humor into your remarks! To mix your dessert metaphor, it is the icing on the cake!


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