In Reggae Songs
Book of Psalms
The Psalms, originally written in the form of Hebrew
poetry, are in themselves sacred songs, and so often lend
themselves very well to being incorporated into Reggae
lyrics. Encompassing a vast spectrum of human emotions,
the Psalms include resounding hymns of praise, reassuring
statements of faith, heartfelt cries of grief and
despair, quiet prayerful meditations, and historical
1:1 - Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel
of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor
sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Psalm 1 is aptly placed as an introduction
to the whole book of Psalms. It contrasts the ways of the
righteous and the wicked, comparing their different fates.
See, for example, 'Zion Hut' by IJahman.
2:1 - Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a
Here we witness the futile hostility and rebellion of
mankind towards God and his anointed. Prince Far I set
the entire words of Psalm 2 to one of his compelling rhythms, but the
first verse as quoted above also appears in many other
songs. See, for example, 'Love Is The Light' by Horace Andy and Big Youth.
19:1-2 - The heavens declare the glory of God; and the
firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth
speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
God's glory is displayed for all to see in the harmonious
patterns of the universe. Give thanks and praises! See,
for example, 'Signs And Wonders', by IJahman.
19:14 - Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of
my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my
strength, and my redeemer.
Only God's divine grace allows the words of our mouths
and the meditations of our hearts to be acceptable in
God's sight. ... See, for example, 'Rivers Of Babylon', by The Melodians.
23:4 - Yea, though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with
me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalm 23 is surely the best known and loved of all the
Psalms. King David, its writer, began his career as a
humble shepherd boy, and therefore took this theme as his
inspiration, likening God to a Shepherd who "maketh
me to lie down in green pastures" and
"leadeth me beside the still waters".
Under God's watchful protection, the sheep of his pasture
need "fear no evil".
For an amusing parody of this Psalm, see 'Drunkard Psalm' by Prince Buster. For the more
conventional rendition, look at songs such as 'Jah Guide' by Peter Tosh, 'Dreadlocks In Moonlight' by Lee 'Scratch' Perry, 'My Thoughts' by The Gladiators, or 'Cry To Me' by Bob Marley. See also the rhyming
version of this Psalm, as featured in 23rd Psalm by Buju Banton and Morgan Heritage.
Psalm 24:3-4 - Who shall
ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in
his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure
heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor
Hence, 'Let hands and heart be pure and
clean, to rally round the Red, Gold and Green!'
(that is, the Ethiopian flag). See, for example, 'Clean Hands' by The Gladiators, or 'King Of Kings' by Max Romeo and Dennis
Alcapone, which features the whole of the 24th Psalm,
including the beautiful words, 'Lift up your
heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting
doors; and the King of glory shall come in'.
Peter Tosh also adapts these words to encourage Black
people to be proud of their heritage and lay aside the
Lift up thine head, O ye Black Dignity
And be ye lifted up, ye ever-loving Black Dignity
And let the King of kings enter thine heart
See his songs 'Black Dignity' and 'Arise Blackman'.
27:1 - The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall
I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom
shall I be afraid?
This pair of rhetorical questions says it all. See, for
example, 'Dreadlocks In Moonlight', by Lee 'Scratch' Perry, and 'Creation' by Peter Tosh.
37:1 - Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be
thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
No need to be bitter or envious at the prosperity of the
wicked, for it is but transient. See, for example, 'Fly Away' by The Gladiators.
55:6 - And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for
then would I fly away, and be at rest.
times of oppression and anxiety, the psalmist prays for
relief. Quoted in Reggae lyrics, this verse inevitably
carries the added connotation of longing to escape to a
better world, of flying away home to Zion. See, for example, 'Wings Of A Dove' by Bob Marley, or 'Fly Away' by The Gladiators.
68:1 - Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let
them also that hate him flee before him.
The arresting opening of this Psalm sounds like a defiant
war-cry. It echoes Moses' words in Numbers
10:35. In Rasta
Reggae lyrics, it usually becomes, "Let JAH
arise...!". In fact, in the King James
Bible, the fourth verse of this same Psalm contains the
only example of the name 'JAH' being retained in
translation: "...extol him that rideth
upon the heavens by his name JAH". The
name 'Jah' is a shortened form of 'Jahweh' or
'Yahweh', used, as here, in poetry. ... For examples of
songs, see 'Message From The King' by Prince Far I, 'Igziabeher' by Peter Tosh, and 'Jah Live' by Bob Marley.
87:1-2 - His foundation is in the holy mountains. The
LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings
A song of triumph, rejoicing in Zion's sure foundation. See, for example, 'Message From The King', by Prince Far I.
92:1 - IT IS A GOOD THING TO GIVE THANKS UNTO THE LORD,
AND TO SING PRAISES UNTO THY NAME, O MOST HIGH:
Give thanks and praises unto God for his care and
devotion to his people, and for his righteous judgement
of the wicked. See, for example, 'Give Thanks And Praise' by Bob Marley.
104:14 - He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and
herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food
out of the earth;
This verse and others that also mention the word 'herb'
have sometimes been used to justify the medicinal,
curative and meditative uses of the so-called 'Holy Herb', also known as marijuana. The word
translated 'herb' in the King James Version might equally
be translated as 'vegetation'. Smoking marijuana is not
a biblical concept. ...See, for example, the song called
'Igziabeher', by Peter Tosh.
118:22 - The stone which the builders refused is become
the head stone of the corner.
The oppressed and downtrodden will win through in the end.
See, for example, the song 'Corner Stone', by Bob Marley. This scripture
is quoted in several places in the New Testament, since
Jesus and his followers referred to it in their teaching
21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, and 1 Peter 2:7.
133:1 - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for
brethren to dwell together in unity!
This beautiful verse links strongly to the Rasta concept
of the Inity (unity) of Imanity
(humanity). See, for example, 'Africa Unite' by Bob Marley.
137:1 - By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea,
we wept, when we remembered Zion.
These poignant words of grief, sung by the Israelites
held in captivity in Babylon, speak strongly to anyone, but especially
to a people who have themselves suffered the misery of
enslavement and exile. See, for example, 'Rivers Of Babylon' by The Melodians, or 'Jah Is No Secret' by IJahman.
...For a very detailed analysis of the adaptation of
Psalm 137 in Reggae lyrics, see the following article
HEBREW PSALMS TO REGGAE RHYTHMS:
RASTAS' REVOLUTIONARY LAMENTATIONS FOR SOCIAL
Nathaniel Samuel Murrel
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Frequently Occurring Biblical Quotations in Reggae Lyrics