Psalms Have a Verse Zero

Psalms Have a Verse Zero
116 of the 150 Psalms

You may have noticed in your Bible’s Book of Psalms that many psalms come with a heading or label of some sort. This heading might declare things such as “A Psalm of David” or “For the choir director” or “A Maskil of So-and-So.”

These headings and labels —which might also include descriptions or instructions — are easy to overlook, particularly in printed Christian Bibles where they are not given verse numbers. In Hebrew printings of the so-called “Old Testament,” which our Jewish friends call the Tanakh, these headings are numbered as verse 1, and are not sadly orphaned as they are in printed Christian Bibles.

Let’s see some examples in printed Bibles.

Here is the NET (New English Translation) Study Bible (an excellent product for its unique translator notes) in printed form. As a Christian Bible from a Christian publisher, the NET formats these headings to look like, well, headings, placed of course at the top of psalms. In the NET and other Christian Bibles, they are not numbered. For Psalm 32, the NET translation of its heading is “By David; a well-written psalm.”

Here:

Now here (below) is the same place in the Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh, used in their JPS Jewish Study Bible publication. Again, this is Psalm 32, but as this is a Jewish “Old Testament” from Jewish publishers, the numbering practice is give the heading — Of David. A maskil — the number one. Note that here in Psalm 32, the Hebrew decision is to couple the first strophe of the poetic lyric — Happy is he whose transgression… — with the heading, joining them into verse number one. And even though the JPS JSB does not explicitly print the number “1” alongside “Of David. A maskil,” we can tell by the placement of the number “2” that our heading is given number “1.”

Yes?

By the way, in their study notes, the JPS scholars declare that the meaning of the Hebrew word/transliteration “maskil” is uncertain. Compare this above, where the NET Bible translators interpret “maskil” as “well-written.” But that is a Hebrew translation lesson for some other day. ๐Ÿ™‚

Next is the Christian oriented NET Study Bible again, with their take on translation and formatting style of Psalm 34. The heading here is quite long and is not given a verse number, per the Christian way of numbering things. Note where the verse one numbering begins, just below the header with “I will praise the Lord at all times….”

Now here is Psalm 34 as printed by the JPS Jewish Study Bible. The lengthy heading is given verse number one (implied, not actually printed in ink). Note where verse two falls. The NET vs JPS numbering is representative of the off-by-one numbering of Psalm verses in Christian vs Jewish Bibles.

(Note also that Psalm 34 is an acrostic in the Hebrew. The JPS publishers let us know this by printing the Hebrew A, B, C … = ื, ื‘, ื’, ื“ … = aleph, bet, gimel, dalet….)

Next we present the Complete Jewish Bible take on Psalm 31. The CJB is rather unusual, as it is a Christian Bible whose publisher, David Stern, is a Messianic Jew, and a very articulate defender of Christianity and articulate presenter of Christianity’s Jewish context. The CJB formats the psalms by showing the reader both “Jewish” and “Christian” numberings. Here is the CJB Psalm 31 heading and style:

Recognizing the Jewish vs Christian manner of number Psalm verse numbers, and eager to point out “Jewish stuff” to a Christian audience, Stern’s CJB cleverly gives Psalm verse numbers a double numbering. Jewish numbering of the headings is printed as 1 and Christian numbering of these is cleverly set to zero.

Below is the CJB presentation of Psalm 79. For readers partial to the Jewish numbering scheme, “A Psalm of Asaf” falls as verse number one. For readers partial to the Christian manner, “A Psalm of Asaf” is presented smartly as verse number zero:


By our count, 116 of the 150 psalms have these headings.

The 116 Psalms with a header/label are: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92, 98, 100, 101, 102, 103, 108, 109, 110, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, and 145.

And therefore, the 34 Psalms which have no header/label are: 1, 2, 10, 33, 43, 71, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 104, 105, 106, 107, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 135, 136, 137, 146, 147, 148, 149 and 150.

To give us a sense of the variety of headers/labels, and the frequency of each type (more or less), here are all the Psalms with a header/label, where we have sorted the headers and therefore group them (more or less) per each type. Here we have used the New American Standard Bible translation, and so our sorting is based on NASB translation choices:

78 A Maskil of Asaph. Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. (NASB)
74 A Maskil of Asaph. O God, why have You rejected [us] forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture? (NASB)
89 A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite. I will sing of the lovingkindness of the LORD forever; To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth. (NASB)
16 A Mikhtam of David. Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You. (NASB)
17 A Prayer of David. Hear a just cause, O LORD, give heed to my cry; Give ear to my prayer, which is not from deceitful lips. (NASB)
86 A Prayer of David. Incline Your ear, O LORD, [and] answer me; For I am afflicted and needy. (NASB)
90 A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. (NASB)
102 A Prayer of the Afflicted when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You. (NASB)
100 A Psalm for Thanksgiving. Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. (NASB)
82 A Psalm of Asaph. God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. (NASB)
79 A Psalm of Asaph. O God, the nations have invaded Your inheritance; They have defiled Your holy temple; They have laid Jerusalem in ruins. (NASB)
73 A Psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart! (NASB)
50 A Psalm of Asaph. The Mighty One, God, the LORD, has spoken, And summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. (NASB)
38 A Psalm of David, for a memorial. O LORD, rebuke me not in Your wrath, And chasten me not in Your burning anger. (NASB)
3 A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. O LORD, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. (NASB)
63 A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. (NASB)
29 A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. (NASB)
143 A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, O LORD, Give ear to my supplications! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness! (NASB)
101 A Psalm of David. I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, To You, O LORD, I will sing praises. (NASB)
141 A Psalm of David. O LORD, I call upon You; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You! (NASB)
15 A Psalm of David. O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? (NASB)
24 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. (NASB)
23 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. (NASB)
110 A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” (NASB)
34 [A Psalm] of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. (NASB)
32 [A Psalm] of David. A Maskil. How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! (NASB)
103 [A Psalm] of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, [bless] His holy name. (NASB)
144 [A Psalm] of David. Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, [And] my fingers for battle; (NASB)
35 [A Psalm] of David. Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me. (NASB)
37 [A Psalm] of David. Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. (NASB)
138 [A Psalm] of David. I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing praises to You before the gods. (NASB)
27 [A Psalm] of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? (NASB)
28 [A Psalm] of David. To You, O LORD, I call; My rock, do not be deaf to me, For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit. (NASB)
25 [A Psalm] of David. To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. (NASB)
26 [A Psalm] of David. Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, And I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. (NASB)
145 [A Psalm] of Praise, of David. I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever. (NASB)
72 [A Psalm] of Solomon. Give the king Your judgments, O God, And Your righteousness to the king’s son. (NASB)
87 A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song. His foundation is in the holy mountains. (NASB)
92 A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath day. It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; (NASB)
98 A Psalm. O sing to the LORD a new song, For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him. (NASB)
30 A Psalm; a Song at the Dedication of the House. [A Psalm] of David. I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, And have not let my enemies rejoice over me. (NASB)
7 A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning Cush, a Benjamite. O LORD my God, in You I have taken refuge; Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me, (NASB)
124 A Song of Ascents, of David. “Had it not been the LORD who was on our side,” Let Israel now say, (NASB)
133 A Song of Ascents, of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! (NASB)
122 A Song of Ascents, of David. I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” (NASB)
131 A Song of Ascents, of David. O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. (NASB)
127 A Song of Ascents, of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain. (NASB)
129 A Song of Ascents. “Many times they have persecuted me from my youth up,” Let Israel now say, (NASB)
134 A Song of Ascents. Behold, bless the LORD, all servants of the LORD, Who serve by night in the house of the LORD! (NASB)
128 A Song of Ascents. How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways. (NASB)
121 A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? (NASB)
120 A Song of Ascents. In my trouble I cried to the LORD, And He answered me. (NASB)
130 A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD. (NASB)
132 A Song of Ascents. Remember, O LORD, on David’s behalf, All his affliction; (NASB)
125 A Song of Ascents. Those who trust in the LORD Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever. (NASB)
123 A Song of Ascents. To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! (NASB)
126 A Song of Ascents. When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream. (NASB)
83 A Song, a Psalm of Asaph. O God, do not remain quiet; Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. (NASB)
108 A Song, a Psalm of David. My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul. (NASB)
88 A Song. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. For the choir director; according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. O LORD, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before You. (NASB)
48 A Song; a Psalm of the sons of Korah. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, In the city of our God, His holy mountain. (NASB)
39 For the choir director, for Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. I said, “I will guard my ways That I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle While the wicked are in my presence.” (NASB)
36 For the choir director. [A Psalm] of David the servant of the LORD. Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; There is no fear of God before his eyes. (NASB)
11 For the choir director. [A Psalm] of David. In the LORD I take refuge; How can you say to my soul, “Flee [as] a bird to your mountain; (NASB)
14 For the choir director. [A Psalm] of David. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. (NASB)
70 For the choir director. [A Psalm] of David; for a memorial. O God, [hasten] to deliver me; O LORD, hasten to my help! (NASB)
46 For the choir director. [A Psalm] of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. (NASB)
18 For the choir director. A [Psalm] of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said, “I love You, O LORD, my strength.” (NASB)
52 For the choir director. A Maskil of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul and said to him, “David has come to the house of Ahimelech.” Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The lovingkindness of God [endures] all day long. (NASB)
42 For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah. As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. (NASB)
44 For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah. O God, we have heard with our ears, Our fathers have told us The work that You did in their days, In the days of old. (NASB)
51 For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. (NASB)
68 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. A Song. Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, And let those who hate Him flee before Him. (NASB)
65 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. A Song. There will be silence before You, [and] praise in Zion, O God, And to You the vow will be performed. (NASB)
64 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; Preserve my life from dread of the enemy. (NASB)
41 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. How blessed is he who considers the helpless; The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble. (NASB)
13 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? (NASB)
40 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. (NASB)
31 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me. (NASB)
20 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you [securely] on high! (NASB)
109 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. O God of my praise, Do not be silent! (NASB)
21 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. O LORD, in Your strength the king will be glad, And in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice! (NASB)
139 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
140 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men; Preserve me from violent men (NASB)
19 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (NASB)
49 For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. Hear this, all peoples; Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, (NASB)
47 For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. O clap your hands, all peoples; Shout to God with the voice of joy. (NASB)
85 For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. O LORD, You showed favor to Your land; You restored the captivity of Jacob. (NASB)
66 For the choir director. A Song. A Psalm. Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; (NASB)
57 For the choir director; [set to] Al-tashheth. A Mikhtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave. Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by. (NASB)
59 For the choir director; [set to] Al-tashheth. A Mikhtam of David, when Saul sent [men] and they watched the house in order to kill him. Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me [securely] on high away from those who rise up against me. (NASB)
58 For the choir director; [set to] Al-tashheth. A Mikhtam of David. Do you indeed speak righteousness, O gods? Do you judge uprightly, O sons of men? (NASB)
75 For the choir director; [set to] Al-tashheth. A Psalm of Asaph, a Song. We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks, For Your name is near; Men declare Your wondrous works. (NASB)
80 For the choir director; [set to] El Shoshannim; Eduth. A Psalm of Asaph. Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who are enthroned [above] the cherubim, shine forth! (NASB)
77 For the choir director; according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. My voice [rises] to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice [rises] to God, and He will hear me. (NASB)
62 For the choir director; according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. My soul [waits] in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. (NASB)
56 For the choir director; according to Jonath elem rehokim. A Mikhtam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath. Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me; Fighting all day long he oppresses me. (NASB)
53 For the choir director; according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,” They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good. (NASB)
69 For the choir director; according to Shoshannim. [A Psalm] of David. Save me, O God, For the waters have threatened my life. (NASB)
60 For the choir director; according to Shushan Eduth. A Mikhtam of David, to teach; when he struggled with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and Joab returned, and smote twelve thousand of Edom in the Valley of Salt. O God, You have rejected us. You have broken us; You have been angry; O, restore us. (NASB)
45 For the choir director; according to the Shoshannim. A Maskil of the sons of Korah. A Song of Love. My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. (NASB)
5 For the choir director; for flute accompaniment. A Psalm of David. Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my groaning. (NASB)
61 For the choir director; on a stringed instrument. [A Psalm] of David. Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. (NASB)
9 For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David. I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. (NASB)
54 For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites came and said to Saul, “Is not David hiding himself among us?” Save me, O God, by Your name, And vindicate me by Your power. (NASB)
55 For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Maskil of David. Give ear to my prayer, O God; And do not hide Yourself from my supplication. (NASB)
76 For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph, a Song. God is known in Judah; His name is great in Israel. (NASB)
4 For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. (NASB)
81 For the choir director; on the Gittith. [A Psalm] of Asaph. Sing for joy to God our strength; Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob. (NASB)
8 For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! (NASB)
84 For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts! (NASB)
22 For the choir director; upon Aijeleth Hashshahar. A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. (NASB)
12 For the choir director; upon an eight-stringed lyre. A Psalm of David. Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases to be, For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. (NASB)
6 For the choir director; with stringed instruments, upon an eight-string lyre. A Psalm of David. O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your wrath. (NASB)
67 For the choir director; with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song. God be gracious to us and bless us, [And] cause His face to shine upon us– Selah. (NASB)
142 Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer. I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD; I make supplication with my voice to the LORD. (NASB)


Thank you to Sefaria, Blue Letter Bible, Study Light, Bible Hub, and Bible Study Tools for your wonderful web sites, which Bible Bits uses (i.e., steals from) regularly in pulling together our blog posts!

In a curious phenomenon, the online presentation of unnumbered Psalm headings presents a challenge for online storage and formatting, not present for physical printing publishers. In web-driven systems, scripture is placed in data tables and cells where these cells are numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on. Naturally, all verses number one are placed in cell number one. All verses number 37 are placed in data cell number 37. This works fine until the data designer for the website discovers that Psalm headings truly are the first line in the Psalms, but they cannot now use the number of the data cell to provide the number of the heading line / verse line.

Thank you to the NET Study Bible, the JPS Jewish Study Bible, and the Complete Jewish Bible, all of which had to make decisions regarding Psalm heading and verse numbers, translations of headings, and the layout and format of numberings, headings, and verses.

The opening image is taken from David, ca 1408-1410. Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.


May God bless you with temporal and eternal grace.

We love the Bible and love studying God’s word.

Please read the actual Bible for yourself! ๐Ÿ™‚

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