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Sunday, March 22 2015
Psalm 120: A Song Of Degrees
"A Song of degrees"
The English-language word "degree" originated from a compound Latin word, de, meaning down, and gradus, meaning a step (The Consolidated Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary). The word "downgrade," meaning "to rate lower" or "to lower in value or esteem" (The WordWeb Dictionary by Princeton University) is also a direct product of the Latin term.
The original meaning of "degrees" was to lessen. It's a different word from "lesson" (from a Latin word, lectum, meaning to read) - although in the present world, lessening of stubbornness and arrogance makes learning lessons much easier, or even possible. Later, "degree" came to mean steps of higher or lower order e.g. degrees on a thermometer, or a degree from an institution of learning.
"Degree" is used to translate the Hebrew word, pronounced mawl-aw-law, which means progression to a higher place. The word is commonly used to describe elevating, but is also used to describe relative positions of responsibility of righteous people e.g. the Levite service structure (see When Were The Levites Set Apart? and The Levite Clans; also What Did John The Baptist's Father Do At The Temple?).
Examples, as translated in the King James Version:
"15:17 So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari their brethren, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; 15:18 And with them their brethren of the second degree, Zechariah, Ben, and Jaaziel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehiel, and Unni, Eliab, and Benaiah, and Maaseiah, and Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom, and Jeiel, the porters." (1 Chronicles 15:17-18 KJV)
The word is also used to make plain that righteousness or wickedness can be found in any "degree." Those who grow by obeying the Law of the LORD are righteous, while those who achieve a high degree by Satanic lawlessness are evil (see also The Most High). That was the point of the Messiah's parable of Lazarus and the rich man - which was about two rich men's attitude toward a poor man in genuine need (see Parables Of Jesus Christ: Lazarus And The Rich Man).
"62:9 Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity. 62:10 Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them." (Psalm 62:9-10 KJV)
The word is also found in the miracle of the sundial in which a brighter light briefly made "the shadow ten degrees backward" (see Hezekiah's Healing).
"20:9 And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? 20:10 And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. 20:11 And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz." (2 Kings 20:9-11 KJV)
Psalm 120 is one of 15 Psalms that are described as "A Song of degrees" in the King James Version. The original word is the same as found in the verses quoted above. Other translations render it as "A Song of Ascents" (not to be confused with accents, although most verbal or musical accents are produced by "degrees" of tone). While some historians regard the term to mean how the song was sung and/or played, others believe that it may have (otherwise or also) referred to how people sang it as they ascended the road to Jerusalem for worship at the Temple, or for observance of the Holy Days (see Leviticus 23: The True Christian Holy Days and The Identity Of The LORD God).
"120:1 A Song of degrees.
Fact Finder: When and how did singing originate?
This Day In History, March 22
1349: The Jews of Fulda, Germany, were massacred by the townspeople who blamed them for the plague known as the "Black Death." Not only were the Jews not the source of the plague, they were much healthier than most of the other townspeople because they observed the LORD's Biblical rules of health and hygiene (see Leviticus 13: Bacteria and Leviticus 15: Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness; also Leviticus 18: Sexual Abominations and Leviticus 11: What Makes Creatures Clean or Unclean?).
1638: Anne Hutchinson, a mother of 15 children, was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for "religious dissent" - her home Bible-study group was attracting too many people away from the "established church of the colony."
1752: Canada's first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette, was established.
1765: The British Parliament passed the Stamp Act - a tax to be levied directly on its New England colonies to help pay for their own defense against the powerful and threatening "New France" French Empire in North America. Ironically, the defense tax was used as one of the major manipulated excuses for the rebellion of the colonies against their founders. Fortunately for the survival of the colonies, France didn't attack them after they rejected British protection because Napoleon Bonaparte (the former Corporal, then self-proclaimed revolutionary General, who reigned as Emperor of the French from 1769 to 1821) consumed the bulk of his massive forces in the Napoleonic Wars across Europe - from which he suffered his famous defeat at Waterloo (Belgium) by the British Army.
1848: The Venetian Republic declared independence from Austria.
1895: In Paris, Auguste and Louis Lumiere first demonstrated motion pictures using celluloid film.
1903: A drought caused Niagara Falls to temporarily stop flowing.
1917: Ironically, in view of subsequent history, the U.S. became the first country to recognize the communist government of Russia, following the overthrow of the czar. The apparent logic was that the U.S. and Russian were both "we the people revolutions," and both involved the founding of a republic after the overthrow of a king.
1919: The first international airline service was inaugurated on a weekly schedule between Paris, France and Brussels, Belgium.
1945: The Arab League, a loose confederation of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, was formed in Cairo for the purpose of securing Arab unity. Others joined later: Libya, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Kuwait, Algeria, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (see also What Does The Bible Say About Arabs?).
1946: Britain recognized the independence of the protectorate of Transjordan, known today as the Kingdom of Jordan (see A History Of Jerusalem: The British Mandate; also Jordan's West Bank Invasion and Where Is Palestine?).
1947: Viscount Louis Mountbatten and his wife Edwina arrived in Delhi; the last viceroy in India, Mountbatten's mission was to bring about independence for India.
1979: The Israeli Parliament approved the peace treaty with Egypt (see Israel's Wars In The Twentieth Century).
1993: Intel began marketing the first "Pentium" (80586) computer processors.
1995: Russian Cosmonaut Valeriy Polyakov returned to earth after a record 438 days in orbit.
2004: Ahmed Yassin, a leader of Hamas (a Palestinian Sunni Islamist group; see also Where Is Palestine?) was assassinated (the elderly, blind quadriplegic was in his wheelchair, being taken out of morning prayers, when killed) in the Gaza Strip by Israeli helicopter-fired missiles; nine nearby civilians ("collateral damage") were also killed.