Animals and Psalm 150

Psalm 150 says "let everything that has breath praise the Lord." Did those people believe that animals could sing?


Asked By: 
Here's Proof

There's this:

Anne Robertson

Seeing the existence of animals . . .
Some animals sing (e.g., birds), others howl at the moon.
But none of them literally praise God.
So, perhaps this psalm suggests that we become the kind of people who can see the existence of animals—as well as the rest of life—as praise of God.
That would take some doing on our part.
But I personally think it would be well worth it.
Author: Roger S. Gottlieb
Praising God in Psalm 150
As you may know, the Psalms themselves are songs. Many of them even have directions at the beginning for the musicians. As any musician can tell you, songs speak to our emotions and are not—either now or then—trying to make factual statements about science. Christian hymnody is full of similar themes. I grew up singing an American hymn from the early 20th century called “This is My Father’s World,” which contains the line, “All nature sings and ‘round me rings the music of the spheres.” It’s not an isolated reference.
And, I’ll be honest, when I saw your question the first thing I thought was, “He must live in the city.” I have always lived out in the country where it’s clear that birds sing, coyotes sing, and even trees have songs of a sort as the wind whistles through. No one living close to the land will question that all creation is perfectly capable of singing. Human song is just different from that of other species.
It’s also true that the word “praise" doesn’t mean “sing.” I’m sure you’ve praised something in your life without bursting into song. The Hebrew word is halal, which is most frequently translated as “praise” in the Bible, but is also translated as “glory,” “boast,” “shine,” and several other things. So the question underneath yours is “What does it mean to praise the Lord?”
My own answer to that question is that the ultimate praise of God is to become what we were created to be. That outcome looks different for humans than for a field of wheat or a bear or a bird, but it’s possible in each instance. By fulfilling our role in creation, everything that lives helps move the earth to the ultimate vision of the reign of God that the Bible gives us. When we fall short, we move the other way.
There is plenty of biblical support for the notion that God is concerned with all of creation and not just humans. The first actual covenant in the Bible is in Genesis 9:8-17, which reads: 
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.[a] 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
All of creation is included. And by the time we get to the New Testament, Paul also says in Romans 8:19-23:
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
The created order is included in God’s covenant and awaits redemption along with the humans who are charged with tending it.
I don’t know what the person who wrote Psalm 150 thought about singing animals; that is unknowable. But at that point in history, it is likely that the person was close enough to the sounds of nature that the voices of non-human creatures could, at times, be considered “songs,” and that those non-human lives could offer, in their own way, praise to their Creator. Camp in the woods for a couple of weeks and see if you don’t agree.

-- Rev. Anne Robertson





Massachusetts Bible Society Logo

Exploring the Bible Logo