Reference: Degrees, Songs Of
Fifteen: Psalm 120-134: four by David, one by Solomon, ten anonymous. Pilgrim songs: shir hama'alot, "a song for the ascendings," i.e. for the going up (Jerusalem and its temple being regarded as on a moral elevation above other places, as it was in fact on the most elevated tableland of the country, requiring a going up from all sides) to the three great feasts (Ex 34:24; 1Ki 12:27-28); Ps 122:1,4, which is the oldest, being composed by David to supply the northern Israelites with a pilgrim song in their journeys to Zion, where Asaph had warned them to repair now that the ark was transferred from Shiloh there (Ps 78:67-69). Solomon wrote Psalm 127, round which as a center a third poet, on the return from Babylon, grouped, with David's four psalms, ten others, seven on one side and seven on the other.
The simple style, brevity, and transitions formed by retaining a word from the previous verse (e.g. Ps 121:1-2, "from whence cometh my help; my help cometh," etc.), are suitable to pilgrim-song poetry. They all have a general, not an individual, character, referring to the literal and the spiritual Israel, whom God's providence always and in all places guards (Psalm 121; Psalm 124; Ps 125:5; 128:6; 130:8; 131:3). The posture of affairs contemplated in most of these psalms is that after the Babylonian captivity, when the building of the temple was interrupted by the Samaritans. The sanctuary in Ps 134:2 is the altar erected at the return, 536 B.C., for the daily sacrifice (Ezr 3:2-4,8). The temple was completed under Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest, with the help of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (Ezr 5:1-2; 6:14).
This is the title given to fifteen Psalms, Ps. 120 - 134. The word is maalah, and signifies 'going up, ascent,' and is translated, 'stairs, steps, going up.' These Psalms have been grouped together: four are by David, one by Solomon, and the rest are without a name. Scripture does not specify any particular occasion on which they were used. The principal thought in the title being 'a going up' it has been suggested that as all males had to go up to Jerusalem thrice in the year, these may be the songs they sang on their way. The return from captivity under Ezra and Nehemiah is also called 'a going up,' and these Psalms may have been used on that occasion. The Syriac Version heads them 'Songs of ascent from Babylon.' On a still future return to the land the Spirit of God may lead to a similar use of these Songs of Degrees. They represent Israel as in the land, but all opposition not as yet removed.
Degrees, Songs of,
a title given to fifteen Psalms, from 120 to 134 inclusive. Four of them are attributed to David, one is ascribed to the pen of Solomon, and the other ten give no indication of their author. With respect to the term rendered in the Authorized Version "degrees" a great diversity of views prevails, but the most probable opinion is that they were pilgrim songs, sung by the people as they went up to Jerusalem.