Ancient Songs from the Bible

Fe Langdon, v ia Flickr

What is the oldest song you know? Christy VanArragon and Adam Navis look at ancient songs. People still use these songs to think about God.

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Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Adam Navis.

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And I’m Christy VanArragon. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Think of the oldest song you know. How old is it? When was it written? What is the song about? In the early 1950s, scientists found the world’s oldest complete song. The song is more than 3,000 years old!

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The scientists were working near the modern town of Ras Shamra, on the coast of Syria. The song was in the language of Hurrian. The ancient Assyrian people of Syria, Iraq, and Iran spoke Hurrian. Scientists today still do not completely understand the Hurrian language. So they are not sure what all the words in the song are. But they do know that the song gives directions for musical instruments. They also know that it is a religious song. It was for the wife of the Assyrian moon god.

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Many ancient songs have religious meanings. The Christian Bible also contains ancient songs. The book of Songs, or Psalms, is the longest part of the Bible. Today’s Spotlight is on the ancient Psalms of the Bible.

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The oldest psalms in the Bible are about the same age as the Hurrian song. Over a period of around 1,000 years, different people wrote the Psalms. Unlike the Hurrian song, the songs do not include complete musical directions. So we do not know what they sounded like. However, for thousands of years, people of faith have looked to the psalms for encouragement and hope.

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Walter Brueggemann is a well known teacher and writer. He studies and writes about the Christian Bible. He has written many papers and books on the Psalms. Brueggemann says that the Psalms are a place where people meet with God. The Psalms are a way to pray, and talk to God. People have used the Psalms like this for thousands of years. Brueggemann describes three different kinds of psalms. Each kind shows how people feel in relation to God.

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The first kind is a psalm of orientation. The word orientation means knowing where you are. The psalms of orientation help the reader see how God is in the world. In these songs, the writer feels that everything is right with the world. There is justice. God is in control. Life has order. And the song writer has faith. These psalms come from a position of strength.

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“The Lord simply spoke, and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.
Let the whole world fear the Lord. Let everyone worship him.
For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.
The Lord stops the plans of the nations. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever.
His plans can never be shaken.”
Psalm 33:6-11

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“O LORD, our Lord, your beautiful name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
You have taught children and babies to tell of your strength. You silence your enemies and all who oppose you.
When I look at the night sky, I see the work of your fingers. I see the moon and the stars you set in place.
What are people that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.”
Psalm 8:1-5

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The second kind of psalm is one of DISorientation. This is when people are hurt or angry. They feel that God has betrayed them. They do not understand why bad things happen. Some of the words of these psalms can be shocking. They express anger towards God, and anger towards their enemies. They can show a desire to hurt others. They are filled with pain.

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“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with pain in my spirit? With sadness in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have victory?
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Return the life to my eyes, or I will die.”
Psalm 13:1-3

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“O God, other nations have taken control of your land, your special possession.
They have left the bodies of your people as food for birds and wild animals. Blood has flowed like water. No one is left to bury the dead.
Other nations make fun of us. We are objects of laughter and hatred to those around us.
O Lord, how long will you be angry with us? Forever?”
Psalm 79:1-6

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The third kind of psalm shows a new orientation. These psalms come after people have experienced pain. But they also express a new trust in God. These songs usually express thankfulness.

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“When my heart was sad and my spirit was angry, I did not understand. I was like an animal before you.
Yet I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your words. And afterward you will take me into glory.
Who do I have in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire but you.
My body and my heart may fail. But God is the strength of my heart.
He is my life forever.”
Psalm 73:21-26

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“My heart is strong and trusting in you, O God. No wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!
Wake up, musical instruments!
I will wake the sun with my song.
I will thank you, Lord, among the people.
I will sing your praises among the nations.
For your unfailing love is higher than heaven.
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Be praised, O God, above the highest heaven.
May your glory shine over all the earth.”
Psalm 108:1-5

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For thousands of years, people have used the Psalms in the Bible to connect to God as individuals and as communities. The different kinds of psalms help people to express their true feelings and thoughts. They help people come to God in truth. And Christians believe that as people meet with God, no matter how they feel, God will also meet with them.

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The writer of this program was Jennifer Hawkins. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Ancient Songs from the Bible’.

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 You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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What songs do you listen to when you are happy? What songs do you listen to when you are sad?


Avatar Spotlight
said on September 16, 2015

It’s cool.

Avatar Spotlight
Johanna Castillo
said on May 03, 2016

I’m just can say !What poignant words , nothing else is necessary to have inspiration in our lifes if Jehovah sums it all.

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on May 04, 2016

When I happy I like hear to “We belong together” by Mariah Carry. But when I bad I dont like hear anything, I just sleep :D
Generaly I am always hearing to Christian songs by Arabic language

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on May 05, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight program
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Thursday 05, May 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Christy VanArragon, Jennifer Hawkins, Adam Navis, and Michio Ozaki:

First of all, I want to thank you for more one great issue that you have developed for us readers and learners of English. This article is very emotionally.
When I am happy I listen to my favorite song HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE RAIN? From Rod Stewart. But when I am sad I do not listen to music or song. I just want to sleep and to stay alone.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 05, 2016

We were born and grow up. We are cared for, taught and educated. We try much to become good persons of family and community. We live our faith life. We are very small in front of nature. We are very small in front of difficulties and sufferings. We cry and lament. We complete our faith journey. We are on our journey to our home in heaven, the kingdom of God. We have difficulties and sufferings. The gain of the kingdom of God is important. Our heart aims at our true home in heaven.

Avatar Spotlight
William 26
said on July 11, 2016

Thanks a lot spotlightenglish , This is a fabulous article!!!

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 28, 2018

I rarely am sad, but I like romantic songs and a few of them are sad. “Autumm Leaves”, for example, is a beautiful song and is a sad one, because explains the sadness produced for the beloved’s people absence. But I like the romantic song “My Way” which show us satisfaction and pleasure for a life lived intensely and by his own rules. I use to say music is nourishment for the soul…