Theme: The Psalm’s Place in the Nation’s Life
In this week’s lessons we focus on the gracious power of God seen in the wonders of creation and in the bounty of his provision.
Scripture: Psalm 65:1-13
How was this psalm to be used in Israel? And when was it sung? It could have been sung at any time, of course, and probably was. But since it deals with the bounty of a good harvest, it is likely that it was composed for the Jews’ annual harvest festival, the Feast of Tabernacles. This was the longest and most joyful feast of the Jews. It began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, which was observed as a Sabbath, and it continued until the twenty-second day of the month, which was also observed as a Sabbath, that is, for a total of eight days in all. This was after the crops were brought in and the people were celebrating the abundance of the harvest. Part of the celebration consisted in offering the first fruits to God (see Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39).
There is another feature of the psalm that would also place it at this time of year. Psalm 65 is one of only three psalms in the Psalter that use the word “atone” or “atonement” (in v. 3). That it does may be significant in light of the fact that the Day of Atonement occurred almost immediately before the Feast of Tabernacles in the Jewish calendar, on the tenth day of the seventh month. Therefore, the first stanza of the psalm, where the reference to atonement occurs, might be thought of as looking back to that immediately preceding day.
There is little question about how the psalm should be outlined, since virtually all commentators do it the same way. There are three stanzas, just as in the New International Version text: verses 1-4, verses 5-8, and verses 9-13. Derek Kidner titles these three sections: 1) God of grace, 2) God of might, and 3) God of plenty. As suggested earlier and as will be seen more clearly as the psalm is studied, the emphasis is on the last of these three sections, which is also the longest. The first two stanzas prepare for this final stanza and build to it.
When was this psalm used in Israel?
What was the Feast of Tabernacles?
For Further Study:
Read Leviticus 23:33-43. What kind of offerings were brought to God? What time of year did this feast take place? How often did the celebration occur?
How does Psalm 65 relate to the Feast of Tabernacles?