Later psalms ... and the earliest
Psalm 126:1-3 After the return from exile, the people rejoice as Ezra leads the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in 445BC (see Nehemiah 8:13-18).
“When the LORD brought the prisoners back to Jerusalem, it seemed as if we were dreaming. Then we were filled with laughter; and we sang happy songs. Then the other nations said, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’ The LORD has done great things for us, and we are very glad.”
Psalm 127:1 Spurred on by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the returned exiles rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore the Temple (see Nehemiah 4:15-18, Haggai 1:12-15 and Zechariah 4:1-10). The Second Temple is completed in 516BC.
“If the LORD doesn't build the house, the builders are working for nothing. If the LORD doesn't guard the city, the guards are watching for nothing.”
Psalm 137:1-3 The people remember their time of exile in Babylon (see 2 Kings 25:1-11) following the downfall of Jerusalem in 587BC.
“By the rivers in Babylon [the Tigris and the Euphrates] we sat and cried when we remembered Jerusalem. On the poplar trees nearby we hung our harps. Those who captured us asked us to sing; our enemies wanted happy songs. They said, ‘Sing us a song about Jerusalem!’ But we can't sing songs about the LORD while we are in this foreign country!”
“By the rivers in Babylon we sat and cried" (Psalm 137:1) (Jayel Aheram)
Psalm 90 may well be one of the oldest of the psalms. It's attributed to Moses, and may have been written just before the Exodus from Egypt in c.1450BC. It looks back to the beginning of time and concludes that the people of God are suffering because of God’s wrath. It concludes by begging forgiveness and asking for God’s favour.
“Lord, you have been our home since the beginning. Before the mountains were born and before you created the earth and the world, you are God… To you, a thousand years is like the passing of a day, or like a few hours in the night” (a reference to soldiers who keep watch overnight while those sleeping are unaware of the passage of time). (Psalm 90:1-4)
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