To the Alamoths
“To the Director: Of the Sons of Korah to the Alamoths — a song.”
(Psalm 46:1 — the Superscript in English Translations)
I suppose that I sound like a broken record to some when it comes to the importance of reading superscripts; yet they are not superscripts in the Hebrew Bible and thus we ought to recognize them as being just as divinely inspired as the rest of the text of scripture…hence it is given to us for instruction, guidance, reproof, etc… to prepare us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So what ought we take away from the superscription of this psalm. To begin with, the psalm is a psalm written by the Sons of Korah. We will again look more closely at the person of Korah later, but let it suffice to say that this family understood the meaning of grace as well as the consequences of taking a stand against God and against his anointed servant. Secondly, we should note that this song was written to the director — most likely a designation given to the Levite who would direct the temple musicians.
This psalm is also listed as a song, which means it was sung. How we as Christians have deviated from the practice of singing psalms. Now, I am not an advocate of exclusive psalmnody for in the spirit of the “new song sung” sung by the elders and by the redeemed in heaven (Revelation 5:9; 14:3), God has blessed his church with many wonderful hymns through the ages, but I also think that we ought not abandon the old for the new.
Now, the tune to which this psalm was to be sung was the Alamoth. We know very little about this particular tune other than it was the celebratory tune used when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:20). The term itself is actually plural in Hebrew and thus it could represent a group or series of melodies, but we simply don’t know as the music has not been preserved through the generations.
There are speculations, though as one might suspect. The term עֲלְמוֹת (alamoth) is the plural of עַלְמָה (almah), the latter typically used to refer to a young maiden or virgin. This is the term used, for example in Isaiah 7:14, that speaks of the Messiah being born from the womb of a virgin. Thus, some commentators have suggested that the term used of the tune indicates that it is either to be sung by women or to be played on instruments in a very high key. Psalm 68:26 (verse 25 in the English translations) adds to our understanding slightly, as this term is used to speak of the dancing girls with tambourines that would follow the processional, bringing the Ark into Jerusalem. In modern Egyptian, “almah” is used to refer to belly-dancers, not too far off from a picture of young girls with tambourines.
Regardless of the actual tune, this song was sung in celebration and stands as a reminder to us as to how we are to respond to the deliverance that God brings. How often we do not make much of all God does in our lives. He is to be praised with all of our might and in any way possible, for he has been good to us both in the good times and in the times of trouble. Our God is indeed a mighty refuge and deserves the praises we bring.