THE

 

             BOOK OF PSALMS

 

                               A NEW TRANSLATION

                                              WITH

                           INTRODUCTIONS AND NOTES

                          EXPLANATORY AND CRITICAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                  By

                            J. J. STEWART PEROWNE, D. D.

                              Canon Residentiary of Llandaff

                     Hulsean Professor of Divinity at Cambridge

                                 Hon. Chaplain to the Queen

          Late Praelector in Theology and Fellow of Trinity College

 

                                              VOL. I

 

                                           PSALMS 1-72

 

 

 

 

                    George Bell and Sons in 1878, 4th edition.

 

 

              Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt:  Gordon College 2006

  with the help of Kim Spaulding, Apurva Thanju, and Brianne Records

 

 

 

            PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION

 

 

ALTHOUGH the Fourth Edition of this work does not differ

very materially from those that have preceded it, either in

the translation or in the notes, yet in one respect it will

I hope, be found much more complete and accurate. In

preparing it, I have had the advantage of consulting

many original authorities in Talmudical and Rabbinical

literature which before were not within my reach, and I

have consequently been able to correct several errors of

quotation from these sources, some of which have found

their way into many commentaries, one writer having often

merely copied and repeated the blunders of another. And,

further, I have had throughout the valuable assistance of

Dr. Schiller-Szinessy, the learned Reader in Talmudical and

Rabbinical Literature in this University, who is a master

of Jewish lore, and who has most kindly spared no labour

in verifying and correcting my references. Their greater

accuracy is, in a large measure, due to the conscientious

care which he has bestowed upon them, and of which

I am the more sensible, because I know that it has been

 


viii      PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION.

 

bestowed notwithstanding the pressure of other numerous

and heavy engagements. It is a pleasure to me to take

this opportunity of expressing my obligations to him, and

my sense of the ready kindness with which his learning is

always placed at the disposal of others.

 

CAMBRIDGE,

           March 7, 1878.

 


 

 

 

            PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION

 

            IN preparing a Third Edition of this work for the press,

I have availed myself of the following critical aids and

authorities:--

            I. Baer's critical text of the Psalter. His preface on the

Metrical Accentuation of the Poetical Books deserves notice.

            2. Field's admirable Edition of Origen's Hexapla. I have

corrected by reference to it many quotations which were

given in my former editions on the authority of Montfaucon.

            3. Moll's Commentary in Lange's Bibelwerk.

            4. The 2nd Edition of Delitzsch's Psalter.

            5. The 3rd Edition of Ewald's work on the Psalms.

            6. The 2nd Edition of Hitzig's Commentary.

            7. Dr. Kay's Psalms with Notes.

            8. Professor Conant's Translation.

            9. The 2nd Edition of Dr. Phillip's Commentary.

My special thanks are due to R. L. Bensly, Esq., Fellow of

Gonville and Caius College, who has been so kind as to

revise the sheets of the work as it passed through the press;

to his knowledge and accuracy I am greatly indebted.

 

TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE,

        April 22, 1873.


 

 

 

             PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

 

THE Second Edition of this work will not be found to differ

very materially from the First. I have made a few additions,

more particularly to the Critical Notes in some of the earlier

Psalms; and I have corrected errors wherever I have dis-

covered them, or where they have been pointed out to me

by friends. All the references have been carefully revised.

Many of the apparent mistakes in the references of the First

Edition were due to my having used the Hebrew Bible,

without taking due care to mark where the Hebrew divisions

of chapters or verses varied from the English. Where these

differ, it will now be found, I hope, that both references are

given, those to the Hebrew text being enclosed in square

brackets. If, however, the double reference has still been

omitted in some cases, it may be borne in mind that in all

Psalms which have an inscription, the inscription is reckoned

as a verse (occasionally as two verses) in the Hebrew text,

whereas this is not the case in the English. Consequently

the first verse in the English may be the second or even the

third in the Hebrew, and so on all through. In the Critical

Notes the references are always to the Hebrew text.


xii       PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

            In revising my translation I have approached in several

instances more nearly to the Authorized Version, and I have

more frequently than before left the literal rendering of a

clause for the note, giving the freer and more idiomatic in the

text. In doing this, I have listened to the suggestions of my

critics, some of whom, not agreeing in other respects, have

agreed in censuring my trnaslation. And now as there is at

last some reasonable hope that a revision of our Authorized

Version will be undertaken by competent scholars, this ques-

tion of translation possesses far more than a merely personal

or temporary interest. Even a translator who has failed, if

he has done his work honestly and conscientiously, may be a

beacon, if he cannot be a guide, to those who come after him.

I shal therefore be pardoned perhaps, if I discuss more fully

than I should otherwise have done, some of the points that

have been raised.

            The objections that have been brought against me are of

this kind. One of my reviewers observes that, after having

said that I had not “needlessly departed” from our Authorized

Version, I have “judged if needful often enough to give an

entirely new air to my translation.”  Another writes: “The

gain which is acquired by the greater accurarcy of the version

by no means compensates for the loss of harmony and

rhythm and sweetness, both of sound and of association.

An English reader could undrestand the Psalms no better,

and he could not enjoy them half so well.” I have been

charged with going directly against “existing standards of

public tastes and feeling,” in following the Hebrew order of

the words, where such order is not the most natural in

English. This is “to undo the work of such men as

Wordsworth and Tennyson.” Again, “In the original, the

paronomasia or alliteration” [to preserve which the structure

of the sentence in English has been made to accomodate

 


           PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.             xiii

 

itself to the structure in Hebrew] “amounts only to a delicate

hint, which may pass unnoticed except to an observant eye;

in the translation it obtrudes itself as a prominent feature of

the style.” And both critics concur in thinking that I have

myself fallen into the very errors in point of taste which

I have condemned in other translations.

            Now I may at once say that to some extent, if not to the

whole extent alleged by the reviewers, I plead guilty to the

indictment. I have carried minute and punctilious accuracy

too far. I have sometimes adhered too closely, without any

adequate and compensating result, to the order of the words

in the Hebrew. It will be an evidence of the sincerity of my

reprentance on this head, that in the present edition I have in

many instnaces corrected both the one fault and the other.

But I cannot concede all that the critics demand of me.

            I. In the first place, I did not say, in the preface to my

first edition, that I had not “needlessly departed from our

Authorized Version,” but that I had “not needlessly departed

from the sound English of our Authorized Version;” and

my meaning was evident, because I immediately gave as

instances of departure the use of the verb “to seize” and

of the noun “sympathy.”*

            2. In the next place, I feel quite sure that those who lay

so much stress upon “harmony and rhythm and sweetness,”

are thinking more of the Prayer-Book Version of the Psalms,

than of that of King James’s translators. The former is far

more musical, more balanced, and also more paraphrastic

than the latter; and from constantly hearing it read in the

Church Services, we have become so thoroughly habituated

to it that almost any departure from its well-known cadences

 

            * So it ought to have stood: the verb “to sypmpathize” was put by

mistake for the noun “sympathy.” I have only used it once in Ps. lxix.,

and there to express a Hebrew noun which occurs nowhere else.

 

 

 


xiv       PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

 

offends the ear. Indeed our familiarity with this version is

such, that not only would most English Churchmen having

occasion to quote a verse of a Psalm quote it as it stands in

the Prayer-Book, but they would often be very much sur-

prised if they were told that the very sense of the Bible

Version was different. Of the multitude of persons who are

familiar with the phrase, "The iron entered into his soul," how

many are aware that the rendering in our Bible is, “He was

laid in iron” There can be no question as to which is

the more rhythmical and the more expressive; but there can

also be no question that the Authorized Version faithfully

represents the Hebrew, which the other does not. It would

be no difficult task to quote a number of passages from the

Bible Version of the Psalms which fail essentially in rhythm

just because they are faithful to the original.

            Take for instance the following (Ps. lviii. 7):—"Let them

melt away as waters which run continually: when he bendeth

his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces."

            Now contrast with this the freer but inaccurate rendering

of the Prayer-Book Version:--"Let them fall away like water

that runneth apace; and when they shoot their arrows, let

them be rooted out."

            Again, the Bible version of lix. 19 is:---"God shall hear

and afflict them, even He that abideth of old. Because they

have no changes, therefore they fear not God."

            Whereas the Prayer-Book Version (again very inaccurate,

but much smoother) is:—"Yea, even God, that endureth for

ever, shall hear me, and bring them down: for they will not

turn nor fear God."

            In the Bible, Ps. lxviii. 19 stands:—"Thou, 0 God, didst

send a plentiful rain, whereby Thou didst confirm Thine

inheritance, when it was weary."

            In the Prayer-Book Version it is:  “Thou, 0 God, sentest

 


           PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.             xv

 

a gracious rain upon Thine inheritance, and refreshedst it

when it was weary."

            Or compare the two versions in xlix. 7-9, or in cxxx.

1-4, and the same phenomenon presents itself, as it does in

many other instances; the Bible is the more accurate, the

Prayer-Book the more rhythmical version. But if this is the

case, then in estimating a new translation, the object of which

is avowedly to give as exactly as possible the sense of the

original, justice requires that it should be compared with the

language of the Authorized Version, not with that of the

Prayer-Book.

            3. Thirdly, I have been censured for adhering too closely to

the form of the Hebrew, both in its idiom and in the structure

of the clauses. Perhaps I have gone too far in this direction.

But before a question of this kind can be decided, it is im-

portant to lay down as clearly as possible to the mind what

it is we aim at in a translation. "There are two maxims of

translation," says Goethe: "the one requires that the author

of a foreign nation be brought to us in such a manner that we

may regard him as our own; the other, on the contrary, de-

mands of us that we transport ourselves over to him, and,

adopt his situation, his mode of speaking, his peculiarities.

The advantages of both are sufficiently known to all in-

structed persons, from masterly examples." Each of these

methods "is good," says Mrs. Austin, the accomplished trans-

lator of Ranke's History of the Popes, "with relation to its ends

—the one when matter alone is to be transferred, the other

when matter and form." And she adds very truly: "The

praise that a translated work might be taken for an original,

is acceptable to the translator only when the original is a work

in which form is unimportant." She instances Pope's Homer

as essentially a failure, because we want to know not only

what Homer said, but how he said it. "A light narrative," she

 


xvi          PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

 

continues, “a scientific exposition, or a plain statement of

facts, which pretends to nothing as a work of art, cannot be

too thoroughly naturalized. Whatever may be thought of the

difficulties in the way of this kind of translation, they are

slight compared with those attending the other kind, as any-

body who carefully studies the masterpieces in this way must

perceive. In the former kind the requisites are two—the

meaning of the author, and a good vernacular style; in the

latter, the translator has, as far as possible, to combine with

these the idiomatic tone of the author—to place him before

the reader with his national and individual  peculiarities of

thought and of speech. The more rich, new, and striking these

peculiarities are, the more arduous will the task become; for

there is manifestly a boundary-line, difficult if not impossible

to define, beyond which the most courageously faithful trans-

lator dares not venture, under pain of becoming unreadable.

This must be mainly determined by the plasticity of his lan-

guage, and by the taste of his fellow-countrymen. A German

translator can effect, and may venture, more than an Egnlish;

an English than a French;--and this, not only because his

language is more fulll and pliant, but because Germans have

less nationality, and can endure unusual forms of speech for

the sake of gaining accurate insight into the characteristics of

the literature of other countries.”

            It is on these grounds that Mrs. Austin defends her own

“Germanisms” in her translation of Goethe into English.

It is on similar grounds that I would defend “Hebraisms”

in the rendering of the Psalms and the poetical portion

of the Hebrew Scriptures into English. In the poetry of a

people, more than in any other species of literature, form is

of importance. Hence we find Mrs. Austin, whose skill as

a translator has been universally admitted, not shunning

           

            *Characteristics of Goethe, vol. i. pp. xxxv-xxxxvii.

 


           PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.                 xvii

 

inversions of language in her translations from Goethe, where

“fidelity” and “literalness” are her object. Thus, for in-

stance, the lines in the Metamorphose der Pflanzen:

            “Dich verwirret, Geliebte, die tausendfaltige Mischung,

                Dieses Blumengewuhls uber dem Garten umber;”

are rendered by her—

            “Thee perplexes, beloved, the thousandfold intermixture

                 Of this flowery throng, around in the garden.”

And again,

            “Blattlos aber und schnell erhebt sich der zartere Stengel,

                 Und ein Wundergebild zieht den Betrachtenden an,”

 

is translated—

            “Leafless, however, and rapid, up darts the slenderer flower-stalk,

                 And a wonderful picture attracts the observer’s eye.”

 

            I have in the same way deliberately preferred, where the

English idiom did not absolutely forbid it, to retain the order

of the words in the Hebrew, because I felt that in sacrificing

the form, I should be inflicting a loss upon the reader. How-

ever, as I said, in revising my work I have somewhat

modified my practice in this respect, and have contented

myself on several occasions with putting the more literal

rendering in a note.

            4. Besides being guilty of too great “punctiliousness” and

“inelegance,” where idiom and harmony are concerned, I

have sinned, according to one of my reviewers,* in the intro-

duction of the word “Jehovah” instead of “the Lord,” which

has for centuries been its customary equivalent. The change,

he says, would be perfectly legitimate, if I were professing to

make everything give way to verbal exactness. But as I

allow other considerations to come in, he thinks that the

perpetual recurrence of the Hebrew form of the word is in

the highest degree strange and unpleasant. “As the name

           

            *Saturday Review, July 2, 1864.

 


xviii       PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

 

had fallen out of use in the Jewish Church, and never became

current in the Christian, our old translators did well to prefer

the idea to the name; and the attempt to bring back the

name seems now to force into prominence its local and

national character, where everything calls for a word which

has nothing local or national about it." In reply to these

objections, it might be almost sufficient to observe that in

retaining the Hebrew name I have only followed the example

of every modern translator of eminence. But of course it is

still a question for consideration, whether there are sufficient

grounds for the change.  I think there are very cogent

grounds, which the reviewer in his dislike of novelty, or his

dislike of Puritanism, has entirely overlooked, (I) In the

first place, our translators in their use of the word "Lord"

make no distinction between two names, "Jehovah and

"Adonai," perfectly distinct in Hebrew, and conveying

different conceptions of God. (2) In the next place, it is

well known that whole Psalms are characterized, just as

sections of the Pentateuch are characterized, by peculiar

names of God, and it is surely of some importance to retain as

far as possible these characteristic features, especially when

critical discussions have made them prominent, and questions

of age and authorship have turned upon them. (3) What the

reviewer regards as a disagreeable innovation, has been held

by very good authorities to be a desirable emendation in our

Authorized Version. "Why continue the translation of the

Hebrew into English," says Coleridge, "at second hand,

through the medium of the Septuagint? Have we not

adopted the Hebrew word Jehovah? Is not the Ku<rioj, or Lord,

of the Septuagint, a Greek substitute in countless instances

for the Hebrew, Jehovah? Why not, then, restore the

original word; and in the Old Testament religiously render

Jehovah, by Jehovah; and every text in the New Testament,

 


           PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.                 xix

 

referring to the Old, by the Hebrew word in the text referred

to?"* No one could be a better judge on such a point than one

who, like Coleridge, was both poet and critic; and it is observ-

able that he would have carried the change even farther than

to confine it to the Old Testament. And the late Professor

Blunt, quoting this passage, remarks that "though we may

not agree with him to the full extent of his conclusion that

‘had this been done, Socinianism would have been scarcely

possible in England,’ yet we cannot doubt that the imperfect

translation of the divine name has had its effect in fostering it."† 

(4) If owing to merely superstitious scruples the name fell

out of use in the Jewish Church, and if owing to a too slavish

copying of the Greek and Latin Versions our own Version

lost the word, these are reasons of no force whatever against

a return to the original use. It is no doubt a question how

the word should be written when transferred to another lan-

guage. "Jehovah" certainly is not a proper equivalent for

the Hebrew form; for it is well known that the Jews, having

lost the true pronunciation of the name, transferred to it the

vowels of the other name "Adonai," which in reading they

have for centuries substituted for it. Some of the Germans

write "Jahveh," others "Jahaveh;" and Hupfeld, despairing of

any certainty as to the vowels, retains merely the consonants

and writes "Jhvh." Probably the most correct equivalent in

English would be "Yahveh" or "Yahaveh," but this would

look pedantic, and would doubtless shock sensitive eyes and

ears far more than the comparatively familiar form, Jehovah.

Nor must it be forgotten that this Hebrew form is sometimes,

though rarely, admitted by our translators, as is also the still

less euphonious form, Jah. (5) Lastly, I cannot feel that it is

any objection that the use of the Hebrew name "forces into

 

            * Coleridge's Remains, iv. p. 226.

            † Blunt, Duties of the Parish Priest, Lect. II. p. 41.

 


xx           PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

 

prominence its local and national character." On the contrary,

if we are to read the Old Testament with anything like discern-

ing appreciation, if we are not to confound the New Testament

with the Old, as the majority of ancient Commentators and

a large number of modern Commentators do, thus effacing

altogether, as far as in them lies, the progressive character of

Revelation, we shall be anxious to retain all that is distinctive

and characteristic in the earlier Scriptures, that we may give

to each portion its proper value. We shall not wish to efface

a single character by which God helps us the better to trace

His footsteps, but shall thankfully remember that He who

"in many portions and in many manners spake to the fathers

by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us in

a Son."

            Having said so much on this subject of translation, I will

venture to add a few words on the proposed revision of our

Authorized Version.

            It appears to me a matter of real congratulation to the

Church that such a revision has at length been seriously

entertained by Convocation. I do not share the feelings of

those who look upon any attempt to correct manifest errors

with dislike and apprehension. Indeed the objectors have in

this instance suffered their fears very grossly to exaggerate

the evil against which they protest. Nothing surely can be

more moderate, or more cautiously framed, than the language

of the resolution adopted by the Southern Province in Con-

vocation. They only advise that those passages in the

Authorized Version should be amended "where plain and

clear errors . . . . shall on due investigation be found to

exist." Yet it has been assumed, by nearly every writer

and speaker who is opposed to revision, that revision is

equivalent to reconstruction. It has been assumed that a

Commission would not leave of the existing structure one

 


          PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.              xxi

 

stone upon another—would scarcely even make use of the

stones of the old building for the construction of the new. The

whole strength of the objectors' case rests on this assumption.

Yet, even setting aside the distinct avowal of the resolution

to the contrary, scholars and men of taste and judgement are

not likely to agree together to be guilty of any such ruthless

demolition. The probability is that among those to whom

the task of revision would be entrusted, there would be found

many men whose veneration for our Authorized Version is

quite as great, and quite as intelligent, as that of those who

object to any alteration. Men of this kind would not be for

rash and hasty corrections, or for trivial emendations. They

would not suffer wanton injury to be done. They would

religiously preserve the fine old diction, the mother idiom, the

grace and the strength of the existing Version. These are

too precious a heritage, they would feel, to be lightly sacri-

ficed. Keeping close to the terms of the Resolution, they

would only give a true rendering to passages which have

undoubtedly been wrongly translated.

            With the overthrow of this assumption, all the other argu-

ments against revision lose their force. It has been said, for

instance, that the specimens of new translations which have

lately appeared are not such as to hold out any prospect of

improvement in the new Version. They may be more literal,

but they are less idiomatic than the Authorized Translation.

But it is one thing for an individual to put forth a translation

which he believes gives the nearest and most literal rendering

of a book; it is another thing to revise an existing transla-

tion. In the former case, the utmost liberty may be claimed

in the latter, the work has its own obvious limitations. The

difference is the difference between the architect who builds

a new church as a rival to the old, or with the view of

securing some particular advantages, acoustic properties for

 


xxii          PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

 

instance, which the old did not possess, and the architect who

restores an ancient and glorious cathedral, removing only

defects and scrupulously preserving all its characteristic

features.

            So, again, with regard to the objection that the new Version

would not gain universal acceptance, as that of 1611 has done;

this surely depends upon the manner of its execution. No

doubt even those comparatively few and moderate corrections

which alone are designed would at first be regarded with

some suspicion, especially because, as the Bishop of St. David's

pointed out, clergymen and Dissenting ministers would

thereby be robbed of some of their favourite texts, No doubt

there would be some sharp criticism of the work. But if

learned men of all parties, Nonconformists as well as Church-

men, are associated in the revision, and if the revision is wisely

and carefully made within the assigned limits, there seems no

very obvious reason why the new book should not find accept-

ance gradually, and eventually supersede the old. If it did

not, it would fall by its own demerits, and no amount of

"authority" would ensure its success.

            The limitation of the revision to "plain and clear errors,"

does away also with the objection, of which so much

has been made, that the faith of the ignorant would be

unsettled if they were led to suppose that what they had

been accustomed to receive as the word of God, was not the

word of God. This is precisely the kind of argument which

would have stopped the Reformation. And the objectors

seem to forget that the mischief they apprehend is already

done, when ministers of religion give, as they often do, cor-

rections of the existing Version in their pulpits, and when

designing men lay hold of manifest mistranslation as an

instrument whereby to shake the faith of the multitude in

the Bible.

 


        PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION            xxiii

 

One more objection only I shall notice. It has been

argued that no essential doctrine would be affected by the

change, and that therefore the change is not worth the risk

which it entails. Those who rely most on this argument

are the very last who ought to make it. For though it may

be quite true that no doctrine of importance would be

touched, yet holding, as they do, that "all Scripture is

given by inspiration of God," they ought to hold that its

exact sense is everywhere of importance. But I am not

prepared to admit the allegation in all its breadth. There

are passages in our Bible where great truths are at least

grievously obscured by a wrong translation. Take, for in-

stance, that very striking prophecy* in the latter part of the

eighth and the beginning of the ninth chapter of the Prophet

Isaiah. Perhaps there is no more, remarkable prophecy in

the Bible; yet it is worse than obscure as it stands in our

Authorized Version. The sense given in the Authorized

Version is even the exact opposite of the true sense. The

prophecy ceases to be a prophecy at all. The prophet had

been speaking of a thick darkness which should settle upon

the land. Men in their perplexity, instead of seeking

counsel of God and His Word (viii. 19, 20), were seeking to

necromancers and to "wizards that chirp" (E. V. peep, i.e.

pipe like birds, the Latin pipiare), and that mutter. The

inevitable result was a yet more terrible hopelessness.

 

            "And they shall pass along hardly bestead and hungry; and it shall

come to pass that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves,

and they shall curse their king and their God; and they shall look

upward, and they shall look to the earth, and behold trouble and anguish,

and distressful gloom. But the darkness is driven away. For there shall

no more be gloom where there was vexation. As in the former time He

lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, so in the

 

            * This is the passage to which the Bishop of Llandaff referred in his

speech in Convocation.

 


xxiv          PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

 

latter time He hath made her glorious by the way of the sea, beyond

Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness

have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of

death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation,

Thou hast increased their joy: they joy before Thee according to the

joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For Thou

hast broken the yoke of his burden and the staff (laid upon) his shoulder,

the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every greave of

the greaved warrior in the battle-tumult, and the garment* rolled in

blood, shall be for burning, for fuel of fire. For a child is born unto us,

a Son is given unto us; and the government shall be upon His shoulder,

and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father

of Eternity,† Prince of Peace."

 

            I have purposely abstained from any needless departure

here from the Authorized Version. I have only corrected

“plain and clear errors.”

            The alterations which I have made in the above passage

are such as I believe, with one exception (that at the end

of viii. 22, "but the darkness is driven away"), would be

accepted by all Hebrew scholars. And I would ask any

one who recollects that this important passage is read every

Christmas-day in the ears of the people, and who has felt

how impossible it is to extract any intelligible sense from it,

whether the mere correction of acknowledged errors would

not be an immense boon, whether it would not make at least

one great prophecy concerning Christ shine with tenfold

brightness? Are such corrections valueless? Would any

injury or any loss follow from them? If not, is it not at

least worth while to make the trial, to see whether we can

improve without injuring our Authorized Version?

Since the first edition of this volume was published,

several works have appeared in England bearing more or

 

            * Properly, the soldier's cloak.

            † Or perhaps, "Father of the age to come," or "Author of a new

dispensation."

 


          PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.             xxv

 

less directly on the interpretation of the Psalms. Bishop

Wordsworth's Commentary is well known. It keeps to the

beaten track of ancient exposition. The Psalms by Four

Friends is a fresh and suggestive contribution to the litera-

ture of the subject. But it is impossible not to feel some re-

gret that men who have done their work in other respects

so well should have followed so arbitrary an authority as

Ewald in his chronological arrangement. The Rev. Charles

Taylor in his book, The Gospel in the Law, has treated with

learning and ability many of the questions connected with

the interpretation of the Messianic Psalms and the Psalms

of Imprecation. Still more recently, Dr. Binnie of Stirling

has published a work on the Psalms, in which he discusses

their history and poetical structure, their theology, and their

use in the Church. In his chapters on the theology of the

Psalms, he maintains the most commonly received views

respecting the Messiah, a future life, the imprecations, &c.,

but he handles these subjects with learning and moderation.

I must not omit to add to these works, Professor Plumptre's

volume of Biblical Studies, in which he has republished

a very interesting paper on "the Psalms of the Sons of

Korah."

            I have had so little leisure for the revision of my own

volume that I have not been able to make all the use of

these different works which I could have desired. But I

am indebted to them as well as to many correspondents,

known and unknown, for valuable suggestions, which per-

haps at some future time I may be able to turn to better

account.

 

ST. DAVID'S COLLEGE, LAMPETER,

                     March 14, 1870.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

 

 

 

            THIS work is designed to be a contribution to the study

of the Old Testament. In preparing it for the press, I have

kept before me the wants of two classes of readers: those

who have, and those who have not, an acquaintance with the

original text; and I am led to hope that thus the Commentary

will be more widely useful than if it had been merely popular

on the one hand, or exclusively critical on the other.

            It will be seen, that I have endeavoured to accomplish

three things.

            I. In the first place, I have given a new translation of the

Psalms, which it has been my object to make as faithful

and as accurate as possible, at the same time that I have

sought to avoid rather than to imitate that punctiliousness

of rendering which, especially among our Commentators on

the New Testament, has been so much in fashion of late.

In many instances, this too scrupulous accuracy is so far

from helping to the better understanding of an author, that

it has exactly the reverse effect. The idiom of the English

language is sacrificed to the idiom of the Greek; and nothing

whatever is gained by the sacrifice. What is supposed to be

 


xxviii        PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

 

extreme accuracy is, in fact, nothing but extreme inelegance.

The consequence is, that the hybrid English, which is designed

to represent the Greek so exactly, stands bald and ragged,

in the garb of a beggar as well as a foreigner, and fails to

convey any intelligible idea at all, unless it be to a reader

who already is acquainted with the Greek. The Old Testa-

ment has not as yet been subjected, to the same extent, to

this starving, denaturalizing process, though it has not alto-

gether escaped. Indeed, it would be no difficult matter to

cite passages from recent English translations, rendered

evidently with the greatest care and apparent fidelity to the

original, which are wanting in all the essentials of a good

translation, having neither rhythm, nor force, nor elegance.

I am not so presumptuous as to assert that where others have

failed, I have succeeded. I can only say I have striven to

the utmost to produce a faithful but not a servile translation.

Perhaps it is hardly necessary to add, that a new translation

implies no disparagement to our Authorized Version. To

the many excellences of that Version, no one can be more

alive than I am: the more it is studied, the more these

will be appreciated; the more its noble simplicity, its unap-

proachable grandeur, its rhythmic force of expression will be

felt. But it is obvious that, since the time when it was made,

our knowledge of the grammar of the Hebrew language, of

the structure of Hebrew poetry, and of many other subjects

tending to the elucidation of the sacred text, has been largely

increased. A modern interpreter is bound to avail himself

of these new stores of knowledge, and may reasonably hope

to produce, at least in some passages, a more accurate ren-

dering of the Hebrew than that which our translators have

adopted. But, as a rule, I have not needlessly departed from

the sound English of our Authorized Version. Two or three

words not used by our translators, such as the verb "to

 


           PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.                  xxix

 

seize," and the noun "sympathy,"*  I have ventured to employ

where they seemed to me, in the particular passage, most

exactly to convey the meaning of the original words. I have

also adhered more closely than is usual in the English

Version, to the order of the words in the Hebrew, because

in many instances, as might be expected in a language so

antithetical in its structure, the special force of certain words

is thus maintained, or some delicate shade of meaning more

clearly brought out, which would otherwise be lost. How far

the attempt thus made has been successful, it is for others

to judge.

            II. In the next place, I have endeavoured by means of

Introductions to the several Psalms, and by Explanatory

Notes, to convey to the English reader a true idea of the

scope and meaning of each. Here I have availed myself of

the best Commentaries, ancient and modern. I have used

them freely, but have laid it down as a rule to express my

obligations, and to give the name of the writer from whom

I have borrowed. If in some few instances I may have

neglected to observe this rule, it has not been done inten-

tionally. From the Fathers I have gleaned but little, their

style of exposition being such as to lead them to disregard

the literal sense, and to seek for mystical and allegorical

interpretations. For the first true exposition of Scripture, of

the Old Testament more especially, we must come to the

time of the Reformation. Here, Luther and Calvin hold the

foremost place, each having his peculiar excellence. Luther,

in his own grand fearless way, always goes straight to the

heart of the matter. He is always on the look-out for some

great principle, some food for the spiritual life, some truth

 

            * Both of these words are good old English words, and used by our

best writers. The first is as old as R. of Gloucester, the second as early

at least as Spenser. Shakespeare's is "condolement."

 


xxx      PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

 

which can be turned to practical account. He is pre-

eminently what in modern phrase would be called subjective,

as a commentator. Every word of Scripture seems to him

instinct with life and meaning for himself and his own imme-

diate circumstances. But on that very account he not unfre-

quently misses the proper and original force of a passage,

because he is so intent on a personal application; not to

mention that he cannot always shake himself free of the

allegorical cobwebs of patristic interpretation. They still

cling to the mane of the lion, who in his strength has trodden

down the thicket.

            Calvin, on the other hand, may justly be styled the great

master of exegesis. He is always careful to ascertain as

exactly as possible the whole meaning and scope of the

writer on whom he comments. In this respect his critical

sagacity is marvellous, and quite unrivalled. He keeps close,

moreover, to the sure ground of historical interpretation, and,

even in the Messianic Psalms, always sees a first reference to

the actual circumstances of the writer. Indeed, the view

which he constantly takes of such Psalms would undoubtedly

expose him to the charge of Rationalism, were he now alive.

In many parts of the Forty-fifth Psalm he boldly denies any

Messianic meaning at all. In expounding the Seventy-

second, he warns us against a sophistical application of words

to Christ, which do not properly belong to Him. In writing

on the Fortieth Psalm, he ventures to suggest, that the quo-

tation from it in the Epistle to the Hebrews is not made

in accordance with the genuine sense of the passage as it

stands in the Psalm. I quote these things simply to show

what has been said by a man who, though of course a

damnable heretic in the eyes of the Church of Rome, is by

a considerable section of our own Church regarded as a high

and weighty authority. Even Luther is not guilty of those

 


          PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.                  xxxi

 

forced and unreal expositions which, it is to be feared, are now

becoming common. In writing on the Twentieth Psalm, he

says:  "This Psalm almost all expounds of Christ. But such

an exposition appears to me to be too far-fetched to be called

literal." Calvin's method of interpretation, in this and similar

instances, will be abundantly evident to any one who will

read the following Commentary, where I have constantly

and largely quoted from him. In some cases, as in the

Seventeenth Psalm, where he denies all reference to a future

life, I have felt constrained to differ from him: in others, as

in the Imprecatory Psalms, I have thought that he hardly

carries out his own principles consistently. But of the

general soundness of his principles of exegesis, where he is

not under the influence of doctrinal prejudices—as, indeed,

he rarely is in his Commentary on the Psalms—I am

thoroughly convinced. He is the prince of commentators.

He stands foremost among those who, with that true courage

which fears God rather than man, have dared to leave the

narrow grooves and worn ruts of a conventional theology

and to seek truth only for itself. It is well to study the

writings of this great man, if only that we may learn how

possible it is to combine soundness in the faith with a

method of interpretation varying even in important par-

ticulars from that commonly received. Nothing, I be- 

lieve, is so likely to beget in us a spirit of enlightened

liberality, of Christian forbearance, of large-hearted mode-

ration, as the careful study of the history of doctrine

and the history of interpretation. We shall then learn

how widely good men have differed in all ages, how much

of what we are apt to think essential truth is not essential,

and, without holding loosely what we ourselves believe to

be true, we shall not be hasty to condemn those who differ

from us.

 


xxxii        PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

 

            Amongst more modern Commentators, I am indebted

chiefly to the Germans. The valuable works of De Wette,

Tholuck, Stier, Delitzsch, Ewald, Hupfeld, and Bunsen, I

have always consulted with advantage.*  Ewald is very often

arbitrary, no doubt, and with many of his conclusions I am

quite unable to agree but his intuitive faculty is admirable,

and much may be learnt from him, even where I, with others,

may deem him most at fault. He holds deservedly a high

position, but he would hold a higher, were he less severe and

unjust in his condemnation of those who differ from him.

Hupfeld's Commentary is the most exhaustive that has yet

appeared, and, in point of grammatical analysis, by far the

most masterly. Indeed, I know of none, on any part of the

Old Testament, at all to be compared to it in these respects.

Delitzsch represents a different school both of grammatical

interpretation and of theology. He has a very extensive

acquaintance with Talmudical and Rabbinical lore, and leans

to the Jewish expositors. In depth and spiritual insight, as

well as in the full recognition of the Messianic element in the

Psalms, he is far before dither of the others. The laborious

dulness of Hengstenberg renders it a tedious task to read his

Commentary; and the English translation makes matters ten

times worse.†  The notes in Bunsen's Bibelwerk are, as a

rule, excellent; in many instances where I have ventured to

dissent from Hupfeld, I have had the pleasure of finding

 

            * No candid reader of this volume will, I hope, be left in doubt how

far I agree, or disagree, with writers who differ so widely from one

another as some of those just named. But to lay down exactly here the

theological position of each of these writers would be a difficult and

delicate task, and one to which I do not feel I am called.

            † I give two specimens taken at random. "By the lowly is to be

understood such a person, as at the time feels his lowliness; as also under

the proud, he who is such in his own eyes, are to be thought of."—Vol. iii.

p. 489. "The hero David, the deforcer of the lion, and the conqueror of

Goliath."—Ibid. xix.

 


         PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.              xxxiii

 

myself supported by Bunsen in my rendering of a passage.

It is a matter of deep regret that the illustrious author did

not live to witness the completion of a work in which his

learning and his piety both shine so brightly, and which he

had so greatly at heart.*

            English expositors who have preceded me on the same

path, have not, I hope, been overlooked. Bishop Horne's

Commentary, the notes of Hammond and Horsley, the work

of the Rev. G. Phillips (now President of Queen's College,

Cambridge), and Mr. Thrupp's Introduction, and other works

more or less directly bearing on the interpretation of the

Psalms, have been consulted.†  Dean Alford, in his Com-

mentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, has everywhere

recognised and maintained, as it seems to me, the soundest

principles of interpretation with reference to the Psalms,

more especially the Messianic Psalms, and it is only to be

regretted that this able expositor has not devoted some of

that time and those energies to the elucidation of the Old

Testament, which, in their devotion to the New, have already

borne noble fruit. And here I cannot refrain from expressing

my wish that our great English scholars had not been so

exclusively occupied with the criticism and interpretation of

 

            * In many things I differ materially from Bunsen, nor do I appear as

the advocate of all his theological views; but of this I am sure, that in

England he has been greatly misunderstood and misrepresented: and I

cannot refrain from expressing my admiration of one who, amidst the

anxious demands of public duties, could find time for the prosecution of

studies as manifold and various as they were important, and who to the

splendour of vast attainments, and the dignity of a high position, added

the better glory of a Christian life.

            † The Notes which accompany the Tract Society's Paragraph Bible

deserve high commendation. They are brief, and to the point, and,

without any affectation of learning, often give the correct sense of difficult

passages. An unpretending, but useful little volume, has also been

published by Mr. Ernest Hawkins, containing annotations on the Prayer-

Book Version.

 


xxxiv         PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

 

the New Testament, to the comparative neglect of the Old.*

The contrast between ourselves and the leading German com-

mentators is, in this respect, very remarkable. In Germany,

those who have been most successful in their elucidation of

the Greek text of the New Testament, have, in most cases,

come to it well furnished and equipped with Hebrew lore,

De Wette, Bleek, Tholuck, Umbreit, Stier, Delitzsch, and

others, to whom we owe some of the most valuable com-

mentaries on the Gospels and Epistles, are men who have

interpreted, with no less ability and success, various portions

of the Old Testament; and it is impossible not to feel how

materially their familiarity with the latter has assisted them

in their exposition of the former. To Bleek and Delitzsch

we are indebted for the two most thorough and exhaustive

commentaries which have yet been written on the Epistle to

the Hebrews. A glance at Dean Alford's volume will show,

what it is no disparagement to him to remark, how largely

he has borrowed from their accumulated treasures. Of that

Epistle, perhaps more than any other portion of the New

Testament, it may be safely said that it cannot be understood

without a profound and accurate knowledge of the Penta-

teuch, the Psalms, and the Prophets. But the same remark

 

            * This is a reproach which is not likely to attach to us much longer.

Dr. Pusey has already led the way in his elaborate Commentary on the

Minor Prophets, a work full of erudition. We are also promised a

Commentary on the whole Bible, under the editorship of the Rev. F. C.

Cook, which is intended to convey to English readers the results of the

most recent investigations into the criticism and interpretation of the

sacred text. There is no lack of scholarship in England fully equal to

such a task. Such accomplished scholars as the Deans of St. Paul's and

Westminster, Mr. Grove, Mr. Plumptre, and many of the contributors to

Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, have already cast a flood of light on the

history, geography, antiquities, &c. of the Old Testament. The Bishop

of Ely, in his Lectures on the Pentateuch and the Elohistic Psalms, and

Mr. Pritchard, in his reply to Bishop Colenso, have given further and

abundant proof that the criticism of the Old Testament is no unknown

field to our English divines.

 


              PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.            xxxv

 

holds good of the other Books. As both Testaments were

given by inspiration of the same Spirit; as both speak one

truth, though in divers manners and under different aspects,

it is obvious that the more complete our understanding of

the one, the more complete also will be our understanding

of the other.

            III. Lastly, I have appended a series of notes, in which I

have discussed the criticism of the text, the various readings,

the grammatical difficulties, and other matters of interest

rather to the scholar than to the general reader. These have

been placed separately, for the most part, at the end of each

Psalm, in order not to embarrass those who know nothing of

Hebrew.

            Here, as indeed in the notes generally, it will be seen that

I have been fuller in the later Psalms than in the earlier.

The reason for this is, that I had at one time hoped to finish

the whole work in the compass of one volume, a design which

I was afterwards compelled to abandon. But I trust that in

no instance has any essential point been overlooked. For

the ordinary grammatical rules and constructions, the lexicon

and grammar must be consulted; I have only handled those

more exceptional cases which present 'some real difficulty,

verbal, textual, or grammatical.

            The critical aids of which I have availed myself are the

following:

 

            I. The well-known collections of Kennicott and De Rossi,

whence the various readings of the principal MSS. have been

gathered. These various readings are, unhappily, of com-

paratively little value in ascertaining the true text of the

Hebrew Bible, as none of the MSS. are of any high antiquity.

A useful digest will be found in Dr. Davidson's Revision of

the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament.

           


xxxvi            PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

 

            2. The Versions. The text of the LXX. which I have

followed is that of Tischendorf's last edition. For the other

Greek versions, Montfaucon's edition of Origen's Hexapla

has been used.

 

            The Chaldee, Arabic, and Syriac versions have been con-

sulted in Walton's Polyglot, and the last also in Dathe's

edition of the Syriac Psalter. For Jerome's versions I have

used Migne's edition, and for the Vulgate the small Paris

edition of 1851. I have also made use of the Anglo-Saxon

version, and the ancient Latin version which accompanies it,

which were edited by Thorpe.

            Besides these, I have constantly had before me the versions

of Luther, Diodati, Mendelssohn, Zunz, and others.

            To these aids I must add Furst's Concordance, and the

Thesaurus of Gesenius, both of them wonderful monuments

of learning and industry. The grammars which I have used

are those of Gesenius, the English edition by Davidson, based

on the sixteenth German edition (Bagster, 1852); and Ewald's

Lehrbuch, 6te Auflage, 1855. The commentaries already re-

ferred to, especially those of Hupfeld and Delitzsch, have

assisted me materially here, as well as Reinke's on the Mes-

sianic Psalms. I have also found Maurer and De Wette of

service, more so, indeed, critically than exegetically: Hitzig

and Olshausen I only know at second-hand.

            To three friends I am under great personal obligation: to

the Rev. J. G. Mould, formerly Fellow and Tutor of Corpus

Christi College, Cambridge, and the Rev. C. Pritchard,

formerly Fellow of St. John's College [now Savilian Pro-

fessor of Astronomy in the University of Oxford], for many

valuable suggestions; and to Mr. W. Aldis Wright, the

learned librarian of Trinity College, who has carefully revised

a great part of the work. I am only sorry that the earlier

 


         PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION,           xxxvii

 

sheets had been printed before he saw them, and contain

therefore many more inaccuracies, I fear, than the later.

            Thus I have explained what I have done, or, rather, what

I have attempted to do. Many faults there must be; but, to

quote the words of Calvin, “Even if I have not succeeded

to the full extent of my endeavours, still the attempt itself

merits some indulgence; and all I ask is, that each, according

to the advantage he shall himself derive therefrom, will be an

impartial and candid judge of my labours.”

            Among the students of Hebrew in England it is a pleasure

to me to think that I may count many of my former and

present pupils, many who have heard from me in the lecture-

room of King's College, London, or of St. David's College,

Lampeter, the explanations and the criticisms which I have

here placed in a more permanent form. I cannot help in-

dulging the hope that they will welcome the book as coming

from one who can never cease to feel the liveliest interest in

all that concerns them. It would be no common gratification

to me to know that it had served in some instances, perhaps,

to continue a work which I had begun, or had even revived a

study which the pressure of a busy life had compelled some

of them to lay aside.

            And now I commit to the Great Head of the Church this

attempt to interpret some portion of His Holy Word, humbly

beseeching Him to grant that it may bring forth fruit to His

glory and the edification of His Church.

            Truth has been my one object, I can truly say, mindful, I

hope, that truth can only be attained through "the heavenly

illumination of the Holy Ghost." Yet I would not forget

what Luther has so beautifully said, that none can hope to

understand for himself or teach to others the full meaning of

every part of the Psalms. It is enough for us if we under-

stand it in part. "Many things doth the Spirit reserve to

 


xxxviii      PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

 

Himself that He may ever keep us as His scholars, many

things He doth but show to allure us, many more He

teacheth to affect us; and as Augustine hath admirably said,

No one hath ever so spoken as to be understood by every one

in every particular, much more doth the Holy Ghost Himself

alone possess the full understanding of all His own words.

Wherefore I must honestly confess, that I know not whether

I possess the full and proper (ligitimam) understanding of

the Psalms or not, though I doubt not that that which I give

is in itself true. For all that Saint Augustine, Jerome,

Athanasius, Hilary, Cassiodorus, and others, have written on

the Psalter is very true, though sometimes as far as possible

from the literal meaning. . . . One fails in one thing, another

in another . . . others will see what I do not. What then

follows, but that we should help one another, and make

allowances for those who err, as knowing that we either have

erred, or shall err, ourselves, . . . I know that he must be a

man of most shameless hardihood who would venture to give

it out that he understands a single book of Scripture in all

its parts: nay, who would venture to assume that one Psalm

has ever been perfectly understood by any one? Our life

is a beginning and a setting out, not a finishing; he is best,

who shall have approached nearest to the mind of the

Spirit."*

 

        ST. DAVID’S COLLEGE, LAMPETER,

              March 1, 1864.

 

* Luther, Praef. in Operationes in Psalmos. [Tom. xiv. p. 9. Ed.

Irmischer.]

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                CONTENTS

 

 

                            INTRODUCTION

 

 

                                 CHAPTER I.

                                                                                                                                    PAGE

DAVID AND THE LYRIC POETRY OF THE HEBREWS                                   1

 

                                    CHAPTER II.

THE USE OF THE PSALTER IN THE CHURCH AND BY INDIVIDUALS                                                                                                                                           22

 

                                    CHAPTER III.

THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS                                                                     41

 

                                    CHAPTER IV.

THE POSITION, NAMES, DIVISION, AND PROBABLE ORIGIN AND          

FORMATION OF THE PSALTER                                                                         70

 

                                    CHAPTER V.

THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS                                                              84

 

 

                                    THE PSALMS.

                                   

                                           BOOK I.

PSALMS I.- XLI                                                                                            107-344

 

                                         BOOK II.

PSALMS XLII.—LXXII                                                                               347—576

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             BOOK OF PSALMS

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

                                INTRODUCTION

 

 

                                    CHAPTER I.

 

DAVID AND THE LYRIC POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.

 

THE Poetry of the Hebrews is mainly of two kinds,

lyrical and didactic. They have no epic, and no drama.

Dramatic elements are to be found in many of their odes,

and the Book of Job and the Song of Songs have some-

times been called Divine dramas; but dramatic poetry, in

the proper sense of that term, was altogether unknown to

the Israelites. The remains of their lyric poetry which

have been preserved--with one marked exception, the

Lament of David over Saul and Jonathan—are almost

entirely of a religious character, and were designed chiefly

to be set to music, and to be sung in the public services of

the sanctuary. The earliest specimen of purely, lyrical

poetry which we possess is the Song of Moses on the

overthrow of Pharaoh in the Red Sea. It is the worthy

expression of a nation's joy at being delivered, by the

outstretched arm of Jehovah, from the hand of their

oppressors. It is the grandest ode to liberty which was

ever sung. And it is this, because its homage is rendered,

not to some ideal spirit of liberty, deified by a people in

the moment of that passionate and frantic joy which

follows the successful assertion of their independence, but

because it is a thanksgiving to Him who is the one only

Giver of Victory and of Freedom. Both in form and

spirit it possesses the same characteristics which stamp

all the later Hebrew poetry. Although without any

 


2                   DAVID AND THE LYRIC

 

regular strophical division, it has the chorus, "Sing ye to

Jehovah, for He hath triumphed gloriously," &c.; it was

sung evidently in antiphonal measure, chorus answering to

chorus and voice to voice; it was sung accompanied by

dancing, and to the music of the maidens playing upon

the timbrels. Such is its form. In its spirit, it is like all

the national songs of the people, a hymn sung to the glory

of Jehovah. No word celebrates the prowess of the armies

of Israel or of their leaders: "Thy right hand, O Jehovah,

is become glorious in power; Thy right hand, O Jehovah,

hath dashed in pieces the enemy." Thus it commemorates

that wonderful victory, and thus it became the pattern

after which all later odes of victory were written. The

people from whom such poetry could spring, at so early

a period of their history, could not have been the rude

ignorant horde which some writers delight to represent

them; they must have made large use of Egyptian culture,

and, in these respects, in poetry and music, must have far

surpassed their Egyptian masters.

            Some fragments of poetry belong to the narrative of the

wanderings in the wilderness. One of these (Num. xxi.

14, 15), too obscure in its allusions to be quite intelligible

now, is quoted from a book called "The Book of the Wars

of Jehovah," which was probably a collection of ballads

and songs, composed on different occasions by the watch-

fires of the camp, and, for the most part, in commemoration

of the victories of the Israelites over their enemies. Another

is the little carol first sung at the digging of the well in the

plains of Moab, and afterwards, we may presume, com-

monly used by those who came to draw water. Bright,

fresh, and sparkling it is, as the waters of the well itself.

The maidens of Israel, we may believe, chanted it one to

another, line by line, as they toiled at the bucket, and thus

beguiled their labour. "Spring up, O well!" was the

burden or refrain of the song, which would pass from one

mouth to another, at each fresh coil of the rope, till the full

bucket reached the well's mouth.*

 

            * See the article on the Book of NUMBERS, in Smith's Dictionary

of the Bible, vol. ii. p.583.

 


              POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.             3

 

The Blessing of the High Priest (Num. vi. 24-26), and

the chants which were the signal for the Ark to set forward

when the people journeyed, and for it to rest when they

were about to encamp, are also cast in the form of poetry.

But these specimens, interesting as they are in themselves

and from the circumstances which gave birth to them, are

brief and fugitive. A far grander relic of that time has

survived. The Ninetieth Psalm is "The Prayer of Moses

the Man of God," written evidently towards the close of

the forty years' wandering in the desert. It is touched

with the profound melancholy of one who had seen his

dearest hopes disappointed, who had endured trials of no

common kind, who had buried his kindred in the desert,

who had beheld the people that he led out of Egypt

smitten down by the heavy wrath of God, who came to

the borders of the Promised Land, looked upon it, but was

not suffered to enter therein. It is the lofty expression of

a faith purified by adversity, of a faith which, having seen

every human hope destroyed, clings with the firmer grasp

to Him of whom it can say, "From everlasting to ever-

lasting Thou art God." This Psalm is like the pillar of

fire and of a cloud which led the march of Israel--it

is both dark and bright. It is darkness as it looks, in

sorrowful retrospect, upon man; it is light as it is turned,

in hope and confidence, to God.

            During the stormy period which followed the first

occupation of Canaan, poetry was probably but little

cultivated. Yet it would be a mistake, as Dean Milman

has pointed out,* to conclude that the whole period from

Joshua to Samuel was a period of  "alternate slavery and

bloody struggles for independence," or that, during the

greater part of it, the Israelites were subject to foreign

oppression. Such seems by no means to have been the

case. The wars of the time were wars, not of the whole

people, but of the several tribes with their immediate

neighbours. The conflicts were confined to a very limited

area; and out of a period of about four hundred and sixty

 

 *    History of the Jews, vol. i. p. 219 (2d edition). See also Mr.

Drew's Scripture Studies, p. 143.

 


 

4                    DAVID AND THE LYRIC

 

years, more than three hundred were, it may be inferred

from the silence of the narrative, years of peace and

prosperity. The struggles for independence, however,

which did take place, were such as roused the national

spirit in an extraordinary degree: it was the age of heroes;

and the victory, in one instance at least, was commemorated

in a poem worthy of the occasion. Of the song of Deborah

Dean Milman says: "The solemn religious commencement,

the picturesque description of the state of the country,

the mustering of the troops from all quarters, the sudden

transition to the most contemptuous sarcasm against the

tribes that stood aloof, the life, fire, and energy of the

battle, the bitter pathos of the close—lyric poetry has

nothing in any language which can surpass the boldness

and animation of this striking production."

           But the great era of lyric poetry begins with David.

Born with the genius of a poet, and skilled in music, he

had already practised his art whilst he kept his father's

sheep on the hills of Bethlehem. That he was no mean

proficient on the harp is evident from his having been sent

for to charm away the evil spirit from Saul, in those fits of

gloomy despondency and temporary derangement to which

that unhappy king was subject. It is probable that he had

added careful study to his natural gifts, for we find him

closely associated with Samuel and his schools of prophets

—men who, like himself, were both poets and musicians.

The art which he had thus acquired, and thus carefully

studied, was his solace through life. His harp was the

companion of his flight from Saul and of his flight from

Absalom. It was heard in the caves of Engedi, on the

broad uplands of Mahanaim, on the throne of Israel. We

have songs of his which date from all periods of his life;

from the days of his shepherd youth to his old age, and

within a short time of his death. Both his life and his

character are reflected in his poetry. That life, so full of

singular vicissitudes, might of itself have formed the

subject of an epic, and in any other nation but that of the

Hebrews would certainly have been made the groundwork

of a poem. It is a life teeming with romantic incidents,


 

                    POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.                 5

 

and those sudden turns of fortune which poets love to

describe. The latter portion of his history, that which

begins with his great crimes, and which traces step by step

their fearful but inevitable chastisement, is itself a tragedy

—a tragedy, in terror and pathos, equal to any which the

great poets of the Grecian drama have left us, and, in

point of human interest as well as Divine instruction,

incomparably beyond them.

         But the Poets of Israel did not make their national

heroes, however great, the subjects of their verse, or, if

they did, no works of this kind have come down to us.

Designed to be the great teachers of a pure faith to men,

chosen of God to speak His words, to utter the yearnings

and the hopes of men's hearts towards Him, they were not

suffered to forget this their higher vocation, or, when they

did forget it, their words perished. Even the fame of Solo-

mon could not secure for his thousand and five songs,

which were probably merely of a secular kind, the meed of

immortality. Hence it is that we have no Hebrew Poems

on the life of David; and hence also it is that the perils

and adventures through which he passed are not described

in David's songs as they would have been by more modern

poets. We are often at a loss to know to what particular

parts of his history, to what turns and circumstances of

his fortunes, this or that Psalm is to be referred. Still it

is impossible to read them and not to see that they are

coloured by the reminiscences of his life. A Psalm of this

kind, for instance, is the Twenty-third.* He who speaks

there so beautifully of the care of God, under the figure of

a shepherd, had known himself what it was to tend his

sheep—"to make them lie down in green pastures," to lead

them to the side of the brook which had not been dried up

by the summer's sun. Another image in that Psalm we

can hardly be wrong in conjecturing is borrowed from

personal experience. It was scarcely a figure for David

to speak of God as spreading a table for him "in the

 

* Even Ewald almost inclines to allow that this may have been a

Psalm of David's, though his final verdict is in favour of a later,

though not much later, poet.

 


 

6                      DAVID AND THE LYRIC

 

presence of his enemies." It was "in the presence of his

enemies " that Barzillai and others brought their plentiful

provision of "wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn,

and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse, and honey, and

butter, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people

that were with him, to eat, when they were hungry, and

weary, and thirsty in the wilderness." (2 Sam. xvii. 28, 29.)

         Or take, again, the Eighteenth Psalm, which we know

from the express testimony of the history, as well as from

its inscription, to be David's, and which is on all hands

admitted to be his. How thickly sown it is with meta-

phors, which, in his mouth, have a peculiar force and

beauty. Such are the names by which he addresses God.

Thrice he speaks of God as a rock: "Jehovah is my rock,

my fortress, my buckler, the horn of my salvation, my

high tower." And again, "Who is a rock, save our

God?" And yet again, "Jehovah liveth, and blessed be

my rock." How suitable are such epithets as coming

from one who when hunted by Saul had so often taken

refuge among the rocks and fastnesses, the almost inacces-

sible crags and cliffs, of Palestine. As he had escaped by

swiftness of foot, so he tells how God had made his feet

like the feet of the hinds or gazelles, which he had so often

seen bounding from crag to crag before his eyes, and had

set him "upon high places" beyond reach of the hunter's

arrow. To the same class of metaphors belong also others

in the same Psalm: "Thy right hand hath holden me up,"

"Thou hast made room for my steps under me, that my

ankles have not slipt;" whilst the martial character of

the whole is thoroughly in keeping with the entire tenor

of David's life, who first, as captain of a band of outlaws,

lived by his sword, and who afterwards, when he became

king, was engaged in perpetual struggles either with foreign

or with domestic enemies.

           It would be easy to multiply observations of this kind.

One other feature of his poetry, as bearing upon our pre-

sent subject, must not be overlooked. It is full of allusions

 

* Ps. xviii. 1, 2. See also verses 30, 31, 46. Compare lxii. 2,

6, 7, where, in like manner, God is thrice called a rock.


 

                       POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.                        7

 

to sufferings, to distresses, to persecutions; it abounds with

complaints of the faithlessness of friends, of the malice of

enemies, of snares laid for his life; it tells of constant

perils and wonderful deliverances. Such expressions might

naturally have come from David's lips again and again.

But they are general, not special. Saul is not mentioned,

nor Doeg, nor Ahithophel, nor Shimei. Very rarely is

there an allusion of which we can say with certainty that

it connects itself with one particular event rather than with

another. We have enough to convince us that the words

are David's words, but not enough to tell us under what

pressure of calamity, or by what joy of deliverance, they

were called forth. Shepherd, courtier, outlaw, king, poet,

musician, warrior, saint--he was all these; he is all these

in his Psalms, yet we can lay our finger but upon one or

two that seem to exhibit him in one of these characters

rather than in another. The inference is obvious: the

Psalms were designed not to be the record of a particular

life, but to be the consolation and the stay of all those who,

with outward circumstances widely different, might find in

them, whether in sorrow or in joy, the best expression of

feelings which they longed to utter.

         But if the Poems of David throw comparatively little

light on the external circumstances under which they were

written, they throw much upon his inner life. And here

their value cannot be over-estimated. The notices of the

history, indeed, leave us in no doubt as to the reality of

his faith, the depth and sincerity of his piety. But the

Psalms carry us further. By the help of these we see him,

as we see but few men, his heart laid open in communion

with God. We see the true man, in the deep humiliation

of his repentance, in the invincible strength of his faith, in

that cleaving to God in which he surpassed all others.

How imperfect, if we had nothing but the narrative in the

Books of Samuel to guide us, would be our knowledge of

that saddest page in David's history, when "the man after

God's own heart" became stained with the double crime of

adultery and murder. We might have pictured to our-

selves, indeed, the workings of a terrible remorse. We

 

 


 

8                        DAVID AND THE LYRIC

 

might have imagined how often, as he sat alone, his uneasy

thoughts must have wandered to that grave beneath the

walls of Rabbah, where the brave soldier whom he had

murdered lay in his blood. We might have tried to fill up

with words of confession and penitence and thanksgiving,

those few syllables, "I have sinned," which are all the

history records. But what a light is cast upon that long

period of remorseful struggle not yet turned into godly

sorrow, by those words in the Thirty-second Psalm:

"While I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my

roaring all the day, for Thy hand was heavy upon me day

and night, and my moisture was turned into the drought of

summer." What a keen, irrepressible sense of his crime in

that cry in the Fifty-first: "Deliver me from bloodguilti-

ness, O God, thou God of my salvation." What a know-

ledge of sin not only in act, but in its bitter and hidden

root---a sinful nature, in the acknowledgement, "Behold, in

iniquity I was brought forth, and in sin did my mother

conceive me." What a yearning for purity, for renewal,

for conformity to the will of God, in that humble earnest

pleading, "Create for me a clean heart, O God, and a

steadfast spirit renew within me." What a clinging, as of

a child to a father, in the prayer, "Cast me not away from

Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me."

What a sense of the joy of forgiveness and reconciliation,

when, raised up again and restored, he says, "Blessed is he

whose transgression is taken away, whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man to whom Jehovah reckoneth not iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no guile." It is confessions,

prayers, vows, like those recorded in his Psalms, which

reveal to us the true man, which help us better to

understand him than many histories, many apologies.

        But as David's life thus shines in his poetry, so also does

his character. That character was no common one. It

was strong with all the strength of man, tender with all the

tenderness of woman. Naturally brave, his courage was

heightened and confirmed by that faith in God which

never, in the worst extremity, forsook him. Naturally

warm-hearted, his affections struck their roots deep into

 


 

                 POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.            9

 

the innermost centre of his being. In his love for his

parents, for whom he provided in his own extreme peril—

in his love for his wife Michal—for his friend Jonathan,

whom he loved as his own soul—for his darling Absalom,

whose death almost broke his heart—even for the infant

whose loss he dreaded,—we see the same man, the same

depth and truth, the same tenderness of personal affection.

On the other hand, when stung by a sense of wrong or

injustice, his sense of which was peculiarly keen, he could

flash out into strong words and strong deeds. He could

hate with the same fervour that he loved. Evil men and

evil things, all that was at war with goodness and with

God—for these he found no abhorrence too deep, scarcely

any imprecations too strong. Yet he was, withal, placable

and ready to forgive. He could exercise a prudent self-

control, if he was occasionally impetuous. His true cour-

tesy, his chivalrous generosity to his foes, his rare delicacy,

his rare self-denial, are all traits which present themselves

most forcibly as we read his history. He is the truest of

heroes in the genuine elevation of his character, no less than

in the extraordinary incidents of his life. Such a man

cannot wear a mask in his writings. Depth, tenderness,

fervour, mark all his poems.

         The Third Psalm, written, there can be little doubt, as

the title informs us, on his flight from Absalom, combines

many traits:—his undaunted courage: "I laid me down

and slept; I awaked; for Jehovah sustaineth me: I will

not fear ten thousands of the people, who have set them-

selves against me round about" (ver. 5:6); his strong

conviction that he had right on his side, and that therefore

his foes would be overthrown: "Thou has smitten all mine

enemies on the cheekbone; Thou hast broken the teeth

of the ungodly" (ver. 7); the generous prayer for his

misguided subjects: "Thy blessing be upon Thy people"

(ver. 8).

       So again, in the Fifth Psalm, what burning words of

indignation against the enemies of God and of His chosen:

"Punish Thou them, O God; let them fall from their

counsels; in the multitude of their transgressions cast them


 

10               DAVID AND THE LYRIC

 

away; for they have rebelled against Thee" (ver. 10).

(Comp. vii. 14-16.) In the Seventh, what a keen sense of

injury, what a lofty, chivalrous spirit: "O Jehovah my

God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands;

if I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with

me; (yea, rather, I have rescued him that without any

cause was my enemy:) let the enemy persecute my soul,

and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the

earth, and make my glory abide in the dust" (ver. 3-5).

In the Fifteenth, what a noble figure of stainless honour, of

the integrity which can stand both before God and before

man! In the Sixteenth (ver. 8-11), Seventeenth (ver. 8-15),

and Eighteenth (ver. 1, 2), what deep personal affection

towards God, an affection tender as it is strong, yet free

from the sentimentalism which has so often degraded the

later religious poetry of the Church!

       One Psalm in particular exhibits with singular beauty

and truth both sides of David's character. It is the Sixty-

third. The same tenderness of natural affection, the same

depth of feeling, which breathes in every word of his elegy

upon Jonathan, is here found chastened and elevated, as he

pours out his soul towards God. It is the human heart

which stretches out the arms of its affections, yearning,

longing for the presence and love of Him who is more

precious to it than life itself. This is the one side of the

Psalm. The other is almost startling in the abruptness of

its contrast, yet strikingly true and natural. It breathes

the sternness, almost the fierceness, of the ancient warrior,

hard beset by his enemies. From that lofty strain of

heavenly musing with which the Psalm opens, he turns to

utter his vow of vengeance against the traitors who are

leagued against him; he triumphs in the prospect of their

destruction. They shall perish, so he hopes, in his sight,

and their carcases shall be the prey of jackals in the

wilderness.

          I have lingered thus long upon David, upon his character

and his writings, because, in even a brief outline of Hebrew

poetry, he, of necessity, occupies a foremost place, and

because the Book of Psalms is almost identified with his


 

                POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.         11

 

name. Nor must it be forgotten, that he not only thus

personally contributed more than any other individual to

the great national collection of religious songs and hymns,

but that he may be said to have founded a school of sacred

poetry among the Jews. Asaph, Heman, and Ethan (or

Jeduthan) whom he appointed as his three chief musicians,

were all, it would appear, poets; the first of them so

famous as to have reached to a position almost equal to

that of David himself. Some of the Psalms, it is true,

which go by his name could not have been written by him,

as they bear manifest traces of later times. Others are,

with more probability, ascribed to him. And these, the

Psalms of the sons of Korah, and a few which are anony-

mous, have many resemblances of thought and expression

to those of David. He was the model after which they

copied; his the fire which kindled theirs. So great a poet

inevitably drew a host of others in his train.

            Under Solomon, religious poetry does not seem to have

flourished. His own tastes and pursuits were of another

kind. The Proverbs can scarcely be called poetry, except

that they are cast in a rhythmical form. They are at least

only the poetry of a sententious wisdom; they never rise

to the height of passion. The earlier portions of the

Book contain connected pieces of moral teaching, which

may be styled didactic poems. In two passages especially

(iii. 13-20, viii. 22-31), where Wisdom is described, we

have a still loftier strain. But there was no hand now to

wake the echoes of the harp of David.* Lyric poetry had

yielded to the wisdom of the mâshâl, the proverb, or

parable; the age of reflection had succeeded to the age

of passion, the calmness of manhood to the heat of youth.

Solomon is said, indeed, as has already been remarked, to

have written a thousand and five songs (1 Kings v. 12),

but only two Psalms, according to their Hebrew titles, go

by his name; and of these, one, the Seventy-second, may

 

* Unless, indeed, we assume with Delitzsch that Psalm 1xxxviii.

which is attributed to Heenan, and Psalm lxxxix. to Ethan, were written

in the time of Solomon. From 1 Kings iv. 31 it may perhaps be

concluded that Asaph was already dead.


 

12                  DAVID AND THE LYRIC

 

perhaps have been written by him: the other, the Hundred

and Twenty-seventh, most probably is of much later date.

          Besides these, two other of the Poetical Books of the

Bible have been commonly ascribed to Solomon. One

of them bears his name, "The Song of Songs which is

Solomon's;" the other, whether written by him or not,

represents with singular truth and fidelity the various

phases of a life like that of Solomon. But Ecclesiastes

is not a Poem. It is the record of a long struggle with the

perplexities, the doubts, the misgivings, which must beset

a man of large experience and large wisdom, who tries to

read the riddle of the world, before his heart has been

chastened by submission, and his spirit elevated by trust

in God. The Song of Songs is a graceful and highly-

finished idyll. No pastoral poetry in the world was ever

written so exquisite in its music, so bright in its enjoy-

ment of nature, or presenting so true a picture of faithful

love.* This is a Poem not unworthy to be called "the

Song of Songs," as surpassing all others, but it is very

different from the poetry of the Psalms.

            From the days of Solomon till the Captivity, the culti-

vation of lyric poetry languished among the Hebrews,

with two memorable exceptions. These were in the reigns

of Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah. Both monarchs exerted

themselves to restore the Temple worship, and to provide

for the musical celebration of its services. To both, in

circumstances of no common peril, were vouchsafed won-

derful deliverances, which called forth hymns of praise

and thanksgiving.+ Both were engaged in meritorious

efforts for the promotion and cultivation of learning.

Jehoshaphat appointed throughout his dominions public

instructors, an institution similar, apparently, to that of

the Corlovingian missi; Hezekiah, who has been termed

 

* This is not the proper place to enter upon the question of the

religious meaning of this Book: I am speaking of it simply as poetry.

But I may say generally that I accept the interpretation of the poem

given by Dr. Ginsburg in his valuable commentary. No objection can

be made to that interpretation, on the score of the place that the

Book occupies in the Canon, which would not apply equally to

Deborah's Song, or to the Lament of David over Saul and Jonathan.

+ 2 Chron. xx. 21, 29 ; xxix. 25, 30.


 

               POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.     13

 

the Pisistratus of the Hebrew history,* established a

society of learned men (Prov. xxv. I), whose duty it was

to provide for the collection and preservation of all the

scattered remains of the earlier literature. To their pious

labours we are doubtless indebted for many Psalms which

would otherwise have perished. The arrangement of some

portion, at least, of the present Psalter, it may reasonably

be supposed, was completed under their superintendence.

Smaller separate collections were combined into one; and

this was enriched partly by the discovery of older hymns

and songs, and partly by the addition of new.+ A fresh

impulse was given to the cultivation of Psalmody. The

use of the ancient sacred music was revived, and the king

commanded that the Psalms of David and of Asaph

should be sung, as of old time, in the Temple. He him-

self encouraged the taste for this kind of poetry by his

own example. One plaintive strain of his, written on his

recovery from sickness, has been preserved in the Book

of the Prophet Isaiah (chap. xxxviii.). In some Latin

Psalters, several Odes, supposed to belong to the time of

the Assyrian invasion, have his name prefixed to them.

           How far any of the Psalms found in our existing collec-

tion can be placed in the time of Jehoshaphat is doubtful;

on this point critics are divided: but there can be no doubt

that several are rightly assigned to the reign of Hezekiah.

Amongst these are a number of beautiful poems by the

Korahite singers. The Forty-second (and Forty-third)

and Eighty-fourths Psalms were written, it has been con-

jectured++ by a Priest or Levite carried away into captivity

by the Assyrians. The Forty-sixth, Forty-seventh, and

Forty-eighth still more certainly refer to that period.

These must all have been written shortly after the over-

throw of Sennacherib and his army. The first has many

striking coincidences of thought and expression with the

prophecies of Isaiah, delivered not very long before under

Ahaz. The last opens with a vivid picture of the approach

 

* See Delitzsch, Commentar über den Psalter, ii. 377.

+ For the proof of this see below, Chapter IV.

++ Bleek, Einl. in das A. T., p. 168.


 

14                      DAVID AND THE LYRIC

 

of the Assyrian army, and of its sudden and complete

overthrow—a picture rivalling in its graphic force and

concentrated energy the delineations of the same Prophet

in sight of the same catastrophe—and concludes with a

grand burst of religious and patriotic exultation, such as

might naturally be called forth by an occasion so memor-

able. Religion and patriotism are here blended in one,

and find, united, their truest and noblest expression.* To

the same period of the Assyrian invasion may be referred

the Sixty-fifth and Seventy-sixth Psalms, and possibly,

also, the Seventy-fifth.

            But from this time till the return from the Captivity,

comparatively few Psalms were written. It is probable,

indeed, that as there was no period during the existence

of the Jewish monarchy when the voice of Prophets was

not heard, so also there was no long period during which

the sweet singers of Israel were altogether silent. The

Prophets themselves were Psalmists: Jonah (chap. ii.),

Isaiah (chap. xii.), Habakkuk (chap. Hi.), were all lyric

poets. It would be but natural that, in some instances,

their sacred songs should be incorporated in the public

liturgies. After the Exile, when the Prophets took so

active a part in the rebuilding of the Temple and the

restoration of its services, this seems almost certainly to

have been the case.+ Before the Exile the same thing

may have happened. Two Psalms, the Thirty-first and

the Seventy-first, have been supposed by eminent critics

to have been written by Jeremiah; a supposition which

derives countenance from their general character, from the

tone of sorrowful tenderness which pervades them, from

the many turns of expression like those to be met with in

the writings of the Prophet, and, in the case of the latter

Psalm, also from its Inscription in the Septuagint, accord-

 

* See the Notes on these Psalms.

+ The Seventy-sixth is expressly styled in the Inscription of the

LXX. w]dh> pro>j to>n ]Assuri<on. With less probability they entitle Ps.

1xxx. yalmo>j u[pe>r tou?   ]Assuri<ou.

++ Several of the later Psalms are, by the LXX. Syriac and Vulgate,

said to have been written by Haggai and Zechariah. See the Article

ZECHARIAH in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible.


 

                        POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.               15

 

ing to which it was a favourite with the Rechabites and

the earlier exiles.

          Even in Babylon itself some Psalms were written. There

the Hundred and Second Psalm was evidently composed,

towards the close of the Seventy Years, and in prospect of

the speedy restoration of the captives to the land of their

fathers; there possibly, also, at an earlier period, the

Seventy-fourth and the Seventy-ninth, which describe

with so much force of pathos the sack of Jerusalem, the

burning of the Temple, and the horrible slaughter of the

inhabitants.

        Still, during the five hundred years which elapsed from

the death of David to the time of Ezra, a period as long

as from the days of Chaucer to our own, no great suc-

cessors to David appeared; no era but that of Hezekiah,

as has already been observed, was famous for its sacred

singers. Here and there a true Israelite, in his own

distress, or oppressed by the sins and calamities of his

nation, poured out his Complaint before God; or for his

own or his people's deliverance sang aloud his song of

thanksgiving. And some few of these songs and com-

plaints may have been collected and added to the earlier

Psalms; some even, whose authors were unknown, may

have been ascribed to David, the great master of lyric

poetry. But what Eichhorn has remarked, remains true,

that the Psalms belong, as a whole, not to many, but

chiefly to two or three periods of Jewish history,—to the

age of David, to that of Hezekiah, to the return from the

Babylonish Captivity.

         This, indeed, is only in accordance with what has been

observed in other nations, that certain great crises of history

are most favourable to poetry. From the throes and travail-

pangs of a nation's agony are born the most illustrious of

her sons in arts as well as in arms. The general commo-

tion and upheaving, the stir and ferment of all minds, the

many dazzling occasions which arise for the exercise of the

loftiest powers,—all these things give a peculiar impulse, a

higher aim, a nobler resolve, to those who, by the preroga-

tive even of their natural gifts, are destined to be the


 

16                       DAVID AND THE LYRIC

 

leaders of the intellectual world. Hence, likewise, poets

appear in clusters or constellations; for only in seasons

of great peril, or signal and splendid triumph, are those

deeper and stronger feelings called forth which are the soul

of the truest and most perfect poetry.

     Such a crisis to the Jews was the Return from the

Captivity. And, accordingly, to this period a very con-

siderable number of Psalms, chiefly in the Fourth and

Fifth Books, may without hesitation be referred. The

Jews had carried with them to Babylon their sacred music,

and the Psalms of David and his singers. The familiar

words associated with so many happy memories, with the

best and holiest hours of their lives, must often have

soothed the weariness of exile, even if their hearts were

too heavy to sing the song of Jehovah in a strange land.

The fact that their heathen masters "required of them a

song" to enliven their banquets, shows how great a skill in

music they possessed, and how well it was appreciated.

Nor did exile make them forget their cunning. When the

first joyful caravan returned under Zerubbabel, we are

particularly informed that it comprised singing men and

singing women. The first expression of their joy was in

Psalms. Many of the beautiful little songs in that ex-

quisite collection entitled "Pilgrim Songs," or "Songs of

the Goings-up," must have been first called forth by the

recollection of their going up from Babylon to Jerusalem,

if not first sung by the way. They are full of touching

allusions to their recent captivity, full of pious affection for

their land, their city, their temple. They were afterwards

comprised in one volume, and were then intended for the

use of the pilgrims who went up from all parts of the

Holy Land to keep the yearly festivals in the Second

Temple. For the worship now restored there, and restored

with something of its former splendour, notwithstanding

all that had been irreparably lost when the beautiful house

wherein their fathers had worshipt was laid in ashes, many

hymns and songs were especially composed. Amongst

these was that long series of Psalms which open or close

with the triumphant Hallelujah, a nation's great thanks-


 

                      POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.                    17

 

giving, the celebration of a deliverance so wonderful, that

it eclipsed even that which before had been ever regarded

as the most signal instance of God's favour towards them,

the deliverance of their fathers from the bondage in

Egypt. One portion of these Psalms (cxiii.—cxviii.), "the

Hallêl," * or, as it was sometimes called, "the Egyptian

Hallêl," as if with the purpose of bringing together the

two memorable epochs of the national history, was sung at

the great festivals in the Second Temple, at the Passover,

at Pentecost, at the Feast of Tabernacles, and also at the

Feast of Dedication and at the New Moons. This was

doubtless "the hymn " which our Lord and His Apostles

are said to have sung+ at His last solemn Passover before

He suffered.

       Nearly all these later Poems are in character and style

unmistakeably different from the earlier. They have the air

and colouring of another age, of a different state of society.

They are, for the most part, no longer individual, but

national, a circumstance which of itself, perhaps, in some

instances abates their interest. They want the terseness,

the energy, the fire, of the Psalms of David. They have

neither the bold vehemence nor the abrupt transitions

which mark his poetry. They flow in a smoother and a

gentler current. We hardly find in the Anthems which

were intended for the service of the Second Temple

the vigour, the life, the splendour, the creative power,

conspicuous in those which, when the Ark was carried to

its resting-place on the holy mountain, rolled from the

lips of "the great congregation," like "the voice of many

waters," beneath the glorious canopy of a Syrian heaven.

The last age of Hebrew Poetry, if poetical excellence alone

be considered, was scarcely equal to the first. But it has

its own peculiar interest: it was a second spring, and it

was the last.

      One question remains to be considered before we

conclude this rapid and necessarily very imperfect sketch

 

* Delitzsch, Psalmen, ii. 16o n. (1st Edit.) He points out that "the

Great Hallêl" is the name, not of these Psalms, but of Ps. cxxxvi.

+ Matt. xxvi. 30 ; Mark xiv. 26.

VOL. I.


 

18                     DAVID AND THE LYRIC

 

of Hebrew Lyric Poetry. Are any of the Psalms in our

present Psalter later than the times of Ezra and Nehemiah?

Three or four critics, with that strange perverseness so

often to be found in minds naturally rather acute than

profound, have insisted that more than one-half of the

entire collection is as late as the days of the Maccabees.

But this singular literary heresy apart, the verdict is

almost unanimous the other way; the large majority have

maintained that not a single Psalm in the collection can

be brought down to a period so late. It has been argued

and repeated again and again, that the history of the

Canon precludes the possibility of Maccabean Psalms.

That history shows us, it has been said, that the whole

volume had long before received its recognised place as a

Canonical book. The argument advanced on this side

of the question rests on the following grounds:--First, in

the Prologue to the Book of Ecclesiasticus, written some

time before the outbreak of the Maccabean struggle, a

threefold division of the Scriptures is recognised,--the

Law, the Prophets, and "the other books of the fathers."

This last expression has been generally supposed to

denote that division of the Scriptures commonly called the

Hagiographa, and in which the Psalms were comprised.

Secondly, we are told in the Second Book of Maccabees

(ii. 13), that Nehemiah made a collection of the sacred

writings which included "the works of David." Hence it

has been inferred that the Psalter was finally brought to

its present shape, and recognised as complete, in the time

of Nehemiah. But this is thoroughly to misunderstand

the nature of the formation of the Canon, which was

manifestly a very gradual work.* Even granting that by

"the works of David" we are to understand a general

collection of Psalms, it does not follow that the collection

contained the exact number, neither more or less, now

comprised in the Psalter. The Canon itself was not closed

under Nehemiah. Additions were made by him to other

Books. Why should not additions be made at a later

 

* See Prof. Westcott's able article on the CANON in Smith's Dic-

tionary of the Bible.


 

                        POETRY OE THE HEBREWS.                 19

 

period to the Psalter? Ewald himself, who strenuously

maintains that no Psalms are so late as the Maccabean

period, admits nevertheless that under Judas Maccabeus a

large number of books were added to the Canon—the

Proverbs, the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Daniel,

Esther, the Chronicles.* But if so, on what possible

grounds can it be alleged that the Psalter, merely because

collected into a whole under Nehemiah, was finally closed

against all later additions?

        A far stronger argument on that side of the question

would be found in the Septuagint Version, if it could be

shown that the translation of the Psalms was finished at

the same time with that of the Pentateuch under Ptolemy

Lagi (B.C. 323—284). This, however, cannot be proved,

though the expression in the Prologue to Ecclesiasticus

may seem to imply it. But it is worthy of notice, that

the writer of the First Book of the Maccabees is evidently

acquainted with the Alexandrine Version, and that this

Version, though it ascribes some Psalms to Haggai and

Zechariah, mentions none of a later date.

        The question, therefore, still remains an open one; and

there is no reason, so far as the History of the Canon is

concerned, why we should refuse to admit the existence

of Maccabean Psalms. Psalms like the Forty-fourth, the

Seventy-fourth, and the Seventy-ninth, seem more easily

explained by referring them to that period of Jewish

history than to any other; though the last two, as has

already been remarked, may, not without some show of

probability, be referred to the time of the Chaldean

invasion.+

        Such, in its merest outline, is the history of Sacred

Psalmody among the Hebrews. It occupies between its

extreme limits a period of a thousand years, from Moses

to Nehemiah, or perhaps even to a later age. During a

large portion of that period, the Psalms shine like "a light

 

*The passage in 2 Maccabees ii. 13 is as follows:—e]chgou?nto de> kai>

e]n tai?j a]nagrafai?j kai> e]n toi?j u[pomnhmatismoi?j toi?j kata> to>n Neemi<an ta>

au]ta<, kai> w[j kataballo<menoj biblioqh<khn e]pisunh<gage ta> peri> tw?n basile<wn

kai> profhtw?n kai> ta> tou? Daui>d kai> e]pistola>j basile<wn peri a]naqema<twn.

+See more on this subject in the Introduction to those Psalms.


 

20                     DAVID AND THE LYRIC

 

in a dark place." They tell us how, amidst corruption,

idolatry, and apostasy, God was truly loved and faithfully

worshipt. Not only as "given by inspiration of God"

are they a witness to the fact that God was teaching His

people. So far they are what the Prophetical Books are.

Psalmists as well as Prophets were chosen by Him to be

the interpreters of His will, to declare His truth. Both the

one and the other are the organs and vehicles of the Divine

communications. But there is this further significance in

the Psalms. They are not only, not chiefly, it may be

said, the voice of God to man. They are the voice of man

to God. They are prayers, indeed, far beyond merely

human utterances; they are prayers which the Spirit of

God himself has given as the model of all prayer and

intercession. But they bear witness at the same time to

the reality of the soul's spiritual life in those who uttered

them. Truly divine, they are also truly human. They go

infinitely beyond us; they have a depth and height, and

length and breadth of meaning, to which the best of us

can never fully attain. We feel that they rise into regions

of peaceful and holy communion with God to which we

may aspire, but which we have not reached. But mean-

while they have a reality which satisfies us that they are

the true expression of human hearts pouring themselves

out towards God, though often themselves carried beyond

themselves through the power of the Holy Ghost.

           There are times, no doubt, when we read one and

another of these Psalms with something like a feeling of

disappointment. There are times when we cannot repress

the wish to know more of the circumstances which called

them forth, of the feelings, the views, the hopes, with which

they were written. We ask ourselves what the peril is

from which the Sacred Poet has barely escaped; who the

enemies were whose machinations so terrified him; what

the victories, the successes, the deliverances, which he

celebrates with such loud songs of thanksgiving. We

should read them, we think, with fresh interest, could

we tell with certainty when and by whom they were

written. But if we could do this, if the picture of those


 

                   POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.                  21

 

circumstances were clear and well-defined, we might lose

more than we should gain. For the very excellence of the

Psalms is their universality. They spring from the deep

fountains of the human heart, and God, in His providence

and by His Spirit, has so ordered it, that they should

be for His Church an everlasting heritage. Hence they

express the sorrows, the joys, the aspirations, the struggles,

the victories, not of one man, but of all. And if we ask,

How comes this to pass? the answer is not far to seek.

One object is ever before the eyes and the heart of the

Psalmists. All enemies, all distresses, all persecutions, all

sins, are seen in the light of God. It is to Him that the

cry goes up; it is to Him that the heart is laid bare; it

is to Him that the thanksgiving is uttered. This it is

which makes them so true, so precious, so universal. No

surer proof of their inspiration can be given than this,

that they are "not of an age but for all time," that the

ripest Christian can use them in the fulness of his

Christian manhood, though the words are the words of

one who lived centuries before the coming of Christ in

the flesh.


 

 

 

                                     CHAPTER II.

 

THE USE OF THE PSALTER IN THE CHURCH AND BY

                                     INDIVIDUALS.

 

DEEP as is the interest attaching to the Psalter as the

great storehouse of Sacred Poetry, and vast as is its

importance considered as a record of spiritual life under

the Old Dispensation, scarcely less interest and importance

attach to it with reference to the position it has ever

occupied both in the public worship of the Church and in

the private life of Christians. No single Book of Scripture,

not even of the New Testament, has, perhaps, ever taken

such hold on the heart of Christendom. None, if we may

dare judge, unless it be the Gospels, has had so large an

influence in moulding the affections, sustaining the hopes,

purifying the faith of believers. With its words, rather

than with their own, they have come before God. In

these they have uttered their desires, their fears, their

confessions, their aspirations, their sorrows, their joys,

their thanksgivings. By these their devotion has been

kindled and their hearts comforted. The Psalter has been,

in the truest sense, the Prayer-book both of Jews and

Christians.

       The nature of the volume accounts for this; for it is in

itself, to a very great extent, the converse of the soul with

God. Hence it does not teach us so much what we are to

do, or what we are to be, as how we are to pray; or, rather,

it teaches us what we are to do and to be through prayer.

"This," says Luther, "is the great excellence of the Psalter;

that other books, indeed, make a great noise about the

works of the saints, but say very little about their words.

But herein is the pre-eminence of the Psalter, and hence

 

                                        22

 

 

                     THE USE OF THE PSALTER.            23

 

the sweet fragrance which it sheds, that it not only tells

of the works of the saints, but also of the words with which

they spake to God and prayed, and still speak and pray."

         Nor is the influence of this Book on the Church at

large and on our public Liturgies less remarkable. "The

primitive Church," says Bishop Taylor, "would admit no

man to the superior orders of the clergy, unless, among

other pre-required dispositions, they could say all David's

Psalter by heart." Tertullian, in the second century,

tells us that the Christians were wont to sing Psalms at

their agap, and that they were sung antiphonally. From

the earliest times they formed an essential part of Divine

Service. We learn from Augustine and other writers, that,

after the reading of the Epistle, a whole Psalm was sung,

or partly read, partly sung—taking them in the order in

which they stood in the Psalter--and that then followed

the reading of the Gospel.+ Hilary, Chrysostom, Augustine,

all mention the use of the Psalms in the public service, and

describe them, sometimes as being sung by the whole

congregation, at others as being recited by one individual,

who was followed by the rest. The practice of antiphonal

chanting was common in the East, and was introduced by

Ambrose into the Western Church. Either the congregation

sang the verses of the Psalm alternately, in two choirs, the

one answering to the other, or, sometimes, the first half of

the verse was sung by a single voice, and the other half

by the whole congregation.

           We learn from the Talmud, as well as from the Inscrip-

tions of the LXX., that certain Psalms were appointed in

the Second Temple for the service of particular days. The

same custom also obtained in the Christian Church. The

Morning Service used to begin with Psalm lxiii., the

Evening Service with Psalm cxli. In Passion Week, Psalm

xxii. was sung. Since the time of Origen, Seven Psalms

have received the name of Penitential Psalms, which were

used in the special additional services appointed for the

 

* Sermon on the Whole Duty of the Clergy. Works (Eden's edit.),

vol. viii, p. 507.

+ August. Serm. 176, Opp. torn. v. pp. 1212-14. Paris, 1837.


 

24                   THE USE OF THE PSALTER

 

season of Lent. These were Psalms vi. xxxii. xxxviii. li.

cii. cxxx. cxliii.*

       In the Church of Rome, Psalms occupy a prominent

place in the Service of the Mass. The oldest Mass-books

consist of three parts: the Sacramentary, containing the

prayers of the officiating priest; the Lectionary, containing

the lessons from the Bible; and the Antiphonary, contain-

ing the Psalms and antiphons, or verses from the Psalms

and Prophets which served as the Introit, and received

the name from their being sung responsively. The term

"gradual " in the Mass is a remnant of the ancient custom

before referred to. The Psalm which was sung before the

Gospel was called Responsorium graduale, because it was

intoned by two voices from the steps (gradus, whence the

name) of the ambon, and then taken up by the people.

In the Seven Canonical Hours, as they are called, the

Psalms form no inconsiderable part of the service; and

the Romish priest prays them daily in his Breviary. Our

own Church has provided for the daily recital of some

portion of them in her services, and has so distributed

them in her Liturgy, that the whole book is repeated every

month. In a very large part of the Reformed Churches

they take the place of hymns. Thrown into metrical

versions, they are probably sung by most congregations

of professing Christians amongst ourselves, little as any

metrical version has succeeded in preserving the spirit and

glow of the original. In many places, especially among

Protestant communities abroad, it is usual to bind up

the Psalter with the New Testament, from the feeling,

doubtless, that, more than any other part of the Old, it

tends directly to edification. Nor is this feeling modern,

or peculiar to Protestants. Two facts will show how widely

it has prevailed. The one is, that when the Council of

Toulouse, in 1229, forbade the use of the Bible to the laity,

a special exception was made in favour of the Psalter:

 

* The seven Psalms were selected with reference to the sprinkling

of the leper seven times in order to his cleansing, and the command

to Naaman to wash himself seven times in the Jordan, or, as others

say, as corresponding to the seven deadly sins. (See I)elitzsch on

Ps. cxliii.)

 


              IN THE CHURCH AND BY INDIVIDUALS.        25

 

the other is, that the Psalter was the first portion of the

Hebrew Bible which ever issued from the press.

       To follow the history of such a Book, to listen to the

testimonies which have been borne to it by God's saints

in all ages, must be a matter of no little interest. I will,

therefore, set down here some of the most striking of these

testimonies.

         I will first cite Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria in the

fourth century, who, in his Epistle to Marcellinus, prefixed 

to his Interpretation of the Psalms, professes to tell him

the opinion of an old man whom he once met, concerning

the Book of Psalms. He says:

        "He who takes this Book in his hands, with admiration

and reverence goes through all the prophecies concerning

the Saviour which he finds there as in the other Scriptures;

but the other Psalms he reads as if they were his own

words, and he who hears them is pricked at the heart

as if he said them himself." No one, he goes on to

observe, can take the words of the Patriarchs, or Moses,

or Elijah, to himself, and use them always as his own; but

he who uses the Psalms "is as one who speaks his own

words, and each one sings them as if they had been written

for his own case, and not as if they had been spoken by

some one else, or meant to apply to some one else."

Again: "To me, indeed, it seems that the Psalms are to

him who sings them as a mirror, wherein he may see

himself and the motions of his soul, and with like feelings

utter them. So also one who hears a psalm read, takes it as

if it were spoken concerning himself, and either, convicted

by his own conscience, will be pricked at heart and repent,

or else, hearing of that hope which is to God-wards, and

the succour which is vouchsafed to them that believe, leaps

for joy, as though such grace were specially made over to

him, and begins to utter his thanksgivings to God" (§ 12).

         Again: "In the other Books (of Scripture) are dis-

courses which dissuade us from those things which are evil,

but in this has been sketched out for us how we should

abstain from things evil. For instance, we are commanded

to repent, and to repent is to cease from sin; but here has


 

26                      THE USE OF THE PSALTER

 

been sketched out for us how we must repent, and what we

must say when we repent. And again, Paul hath said:

'Tribulation worketh patience for the soul, and patience,

proof,' &c.; but in the Psalms we find written and engraven

how we ought to bear afflictions, and what we should say

in our afflictions and what after our afflictions, and how

each one is proved, and what are the words of them that

hope in the Lord. Again, there is a command in every-

thing to give thanks; but the Psalms teach us also what to

say when we give thanks. Then when we hear from others,

'They that will live godly shall be persecuted,' by the

Psalms we are taught what we ought to utter when we are

driven into exile, and what words we should lay before

God, both in our persecutions and when we have been

delivered out of them. We are enjoined to bless the Lord

and to confess to Him. But in the Psalms we have a

pattern given us, both as to how we should praise the

Lord and with what words we can suitably confess to Him.

And, in every instance, we shall find these divine songs

suited to us, to our feelings, and our circumstances" (§ 1o).

        These words of Athanasius are doubly interesting when

we remember what his own life had been; how often he

had been driven into exile; what persecutions he had

endured; from how many perils he had been delivered.

         Let us hear next Ambrose, Bishop of Milan in the fourth

century, in the preface to his Exposition of Twelve of the

Psalms of David.* "Although all divine Scripture breathes

the grace of God, yet sweet beyond all others is the Book

of Psalms," . . . "History instructs, the Law teaches, Pro-

phecy announces, Rebuke chastens, Mortality [? Morality]

persuades: in the Book of Psalms we have the fruit of all

these, and a kind of medicine for the salvation of man."

…"What is more delightful than a Psalm? It is the

benediction of the people, the praise of God, the thanks-

giving of the multitude, . . . the voice of the Church, the

harmonious confession of our faith," &c.+

 

* Opp. Venet. 1748, tom. ii. In Psalmum I. Enarr.

+Afterwards, in enumerating other excellences of the Psalms, he

throws a curious light on the state of the churches in Milan during the


 

   IN THE CHURCH AND BY INDIVIDUALS.                27

 

      With deep feeling Augustine narrates what the Psalms

were to him in the days of his first conversion to God.

"What words did I utter to Thee, O my God, when I read

the Psalms of David, those faithful songs, those pious

breathings which suffer no swelling spirit of pride, when I

was as yet uninstructed in all the truth and fulness of Thy

love, a catechumen in that country-house, keeping holiday

with the catechumen Alypius, whilst my mother remained

with us, in the garb of a woman, (but) with the faith of

a man, with the calmness of an old woman, with the

affection of a mother, with the piety of a Christian. What

words did I utter to thee in those Psalms; how was my

love to Thee inflamed thereby; how did I burn to recite

them, were it possible, through the whole world, against

the proud swelling of men! And yet they are sung

through the whole world, and there is none who is hidden

from Thy heat.* How vehement and how sharp was my

grief and indignation against the Manicheans; + and yet,

again, how I pitied them because they knew not these

sacraments, these medicines, and showed their insanity in

rejecting the antidote which might have restored them to

sanity! How I wish they could have been somewhere near

me, and, without my knowing that they were there, could

have seen my face and heard my words when I read the

Fourth Psalm, in that retirement in which I was, and have

known all that that Psalm was to me!" And then he goes

through the whole Psalm, describing the feelings with

which he read it, and the application which he made of it

to his own case—an application very wide indeed of the

proper meaning of the Psalm, but one which, nevertheless,

poured light and peace and joy into his soul.

       We pass on to the time of the Reformation. Let us

hear how two of its great master spirits speak. "Where,"

 

celebration of Divine Service. "What difficulty there is," he says, "to

procure silence in the church when the Lessons are read! If one

speaks, all the rest make a noise. When a Psalm is read, it produces

silence of itself. All speak, and no one makes a noise."

* In allusion to Ps. xix. 7.

+ Because, as rejecting the Old Testament, they robbed themselves

of the Psalms.


 

28        THE USE OF THE PSALTER

 

says Luther, in his Preface to the Psalter (published in

1531), "will you find words more aptly chosen to express

joy, than in the Psalms of praise and the Psalms of thanks-

giving? There thou mayest look into the heart of all the

saints, as into fair delightful gardens, yea, even into heaven

itself, and note with what wonderful variety there spring

up therein, like so many exquisite, hearty, delightful

flowers, sweet and gladsome thoughts of God and His

benefits. On the other hand, where canst thou find deeper,

sadder, more lamentable words of sorrow than are to be

found in the Psalms of complaint? There again thou

mayest look into the heart of all the saints, as into death,

yea, as into hell. How dark and gloomy it is there with

the manifold hiding of God's countenance! So likewise

when the Psalms speak of fear or hope, they speak in such

manner of words that no painter could so paint the fear

or the hope, and no Cicero or master of oratory could

express them to the life more happily."

       Again, in the Preface to his Operationes in Psalmos,* he

observes: "This Book is, in my judgement, of a different

character from the other books. For in the rest we are

taught both by word and by example what we ought to

do; this not only teaches, but imparts both the method

and the practice with which to fulfil the word, and to copy

the example. For we have no power of our own to fulfil

the law of God, or to copy Christ; but only to pray and to

desire that we may do the one and copy the other, and

then, when we have obtained our request, to praise and

give thanks. But what else is the Psalter, but prayer to

God and praise of God; that is, a book of hymns? There-

fore the most blessed Spirit of God, the father of orphans,

and the teacher of infants, seeing that we know not what or

how we ought to pray, as the Apostle saith, and desiring

to help our infirmities, after the manner of schoolmasters

who compose for children letters or short prayers, that they

 

* D. Martini Lutheri Exegetica Opp. Latina, Ed. Irmischer, torn.

xiv. p. 1o. This Preface bears the date Wittenbergae, sexto calen.

Aprilis, Anno M.D.xix. I have to thank Dr. Binnie (The Psalms, their

Teaching and Use, p. 381) for correcting an error in the reference in

the first of my two quotations from Luther.


 

IN THE CHURCH AND BY INDIVIDUALS.           29

 

may send them to their parents, so prepares for us in this

Book both the words and feelings with which we should

address our Heavenly Father, and pray concerning those

things which in the other Books He had taught us we

ought to do and to copy, that so a man may not feel

the want of anything which is of import to his eternal

salvation. So great is the loving care and grace of our

God towards us, Who is blessed for evermore."

        The following passage from Calvin's Preface to his Com-

mentary will show the high value which he set upon the

Psalms. "If," he says, "the Church of God shall derive as

much benefit from (the reading of) my Commentaries, as I

have myself derived from the writing of them, I shall have

no reason to repent of the labour I have taken upon me.

.... How varied and how splendid the wealth which this

treasury contains it is difficult to describe in words; what-

ever I shall say, I know full well must fall far short of

its worth. . . . This Book, not unreasonably,am I wont to

style an anatomy of all parts of the soul, for no one will

discover in himself a single feeling whereof the image is

not reflected in this mirror. Nay, all griefs, sorrows, fears,

doubts, hopes, cares, and anxieties—in short, all those

tumultuous agitations wherewith the minds of men are wont

to be tossed—the Holy Ghost hath here represented to the

life. The rest of Scripture contains the commands which

God gave to His servants to be delivered unto us; but

here the Prophets themselves, holding converse with God,

inasmuch as they lay bare all their inmost feelings, invite

or impel every one of us to self-examination, that of all the

infirmities to which we are liable, and all the sins of which

we are so full, none may remain hidden. It is a rare and

singular advantage when, every hiding-place having been

laid bare, the heart is cleansed from hypocrisy, that foulest

of plagues, and is brought forth to the light. Lastly,

if calling upon God be the greatest safeguard of our

salvation, seeing that no better and surer rule thereof can

be found anywhere than in this Book, the further any man

shall have advanced in the understanding of it, the greater

will be his attainment in the school of God. Earnest

 


30               THE USE OF THE PSALTER

 

prayer springs first from a feeling of our necessity, and

then from faith in the promises. Here the readers will

both best be awakened to a due sense of their own evils,

and warned to seek the proper remedies for them.

        "Moreover, whatever would serve to encourage us in our

prayer to God is shown us in this Book. Nor yet are they

only promises that meet us here; but we have often set

before us one who, with the invitation of God calling one

way, and the hindrances of the flesh another, girds him-

self bravely to prayer; so that if ever at any time we be

harassed by doubts of one kind or another, we may learn

to wrestle against them, till our soul takes wings and

mounts up with glad freedom unto God. Nor that only,

but that through hesitations, fears, alarms, we may still

strive to pray, till we rejoice for the consolation. For this

must be our resolve, though distrust shut the door to our

prayers, that we must not give way when our hearts are

shaken and restlessly disturbed, till faith comes forth

victorious from its struggles. And in many passages we

may see the servants of God, so tossed to and fro in their

prayers that, almost crushed at times, they only win the

palm after arduous efforts. On the one side the weakness of

the flesh betrays itself; on the other the power of faith

exerts itself. . . . This, only in passing, is it worth while to

point out, that we have secured to us in this Book, what is of

all things most desirable, not only a familiar access unto

God, but the right and the liberty to make known to Him

those infirmities which shame does not suffer us to confess

to our fellow-men. Further, the sacrifice of praise, which

God declares to be a sacrifice of sweetest savour and most

precious to Him, we are here accurately instructed how to

offer with acceptance. . . . Rich, moreover, as the Book is

in all those precepts which tend to form a holy, godly, and

righteous life, yet chiefly will it teach us how to bear the

cross; which is the true test of our obedience, when, giving

up all our own desires, we submit ourselves to God, and so

suffer our lives to be ordered by His will, that even our

bitterest distresses grow sweet because they come from His

hand. Finally, not only in general terms are the praises

 


IN THE CHURCH AND BY INDIVIDUALS.                    31

 

of God's goodness uttered, teaching us so to rest in Him

alone, that pious spirits may look for His sure succour in

every time of need, but the free forgiveness of sins, which

alone reconciles God to us, and secures to us true peace

with Him, is so commended, that nothing is wanting to the

knowledge of eternal salvation."

         He adds, that his best understanding of the Psalms had

come to him through the trials and conflicts which he had

himself been called upon to pass through; that thus he

was not only able to apply better whatever knowledge he

had acquired, but could enter better into the design of each.

writer of the Psalms.

     Hooker, reasoning in his immortal work with the sectaries

of his times, and defending the use of Psalms in the Liturgy,

says:

      "They are not ignorant what difference there is between

other parts of Scripture and the Psalms. The choice and

flower of all things profitable in other books, the Psalms

do both more briefly contain and more movingly also ex-

press, by reason of that poetical form wherewith they are

written. . . . What is there necessary for man to know which

the Psalms are not able to teach? They are to beginners

an easy and familiar introduction, a mighty augmentation

of all virtue and knowledge in such as are entered before,

a strong confirmation to the most perfect among others.

Heroical magnanimity, exquisite justice, grave moderation,

exact wisdom, repentance unfeigned, unwearied patience,

the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors

of wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of Providence

over this world, and the promised joys of that world which

is to come, all good necessarily to be either known, or done,

or had, this one celestial fountain yieldeth. Let there be

any grief or disease incident unto the soul of man, any

wound or sickness named for which there is not in this

treasure-house a present comfortable remedy at all times

ready to be found. Hereof it is that we covet to make the

Psalms especially familiar unto all. This is the very cause

why we iterate the Psalms oftener than any other part of

Scripture besides; the cause wherefore we inure the people

 


32              THE USE OF THE PSALTER

 

together with their minister, and not the minister alone, to

read them as other parts of Scripture he doth."*

     Donne says: "The Psalms are the manna of the Church,

As manna tasted to every man like that he liked best, so

do the Psalms minister instruction and satisfaction to every

man, in every emergency and occasion. David was not

only a clear Prophet of Christ himself, but of every

particular Christian; he foretells what I, what any, shall

do, and suffer, and say." +

        In later times we find similar testimonies repeated in

great abundance. A. H. Francke, in his Explanation of

the Psalms with a View to Edification (Halle, 1731, Part I.

p. 904), thus expresses himself: "So long as a man has not

the Spirit of Christ, so long as he does not deny himself,

and take up his cross daily and follow Christ, no Psalm

seems sweet to him. He has no pleasure therein; it seems

to him all like dry straw, in which he finds neither strength

nor juice. But when he is himself led through a like course

of suffering and affliction, when he is ridiculed, scorned,

and mocked by the world for righteousness' sake and

because he follows Christ, and sees what it is to press

through all the hindrances which meet him from within

and from without, and to serve God the Lord in truth,—

then it is that he observes that in the heart of David far

more must have gone on than that he should have troubled

himself merely about his outward circumstances. He is

conscious, in his daily struggle, of the same enmity, which

has been put by God between Christ and Belial, between

those who belong to Christ, and those who belong to the

devil, and that precisely the same contest in which so much

is involved is described in the Psalms; and of which, in

fact, even the First Psalm speaks, when it says, ‘Blessed

is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,’

&c. He therefore that denies himself and the world, with

all its greatness, with all the riches and the favour of men,

who will have nothing but God's word as his rule, and seeks

 

* Hooker, Eccl. Pol., Book v. ch. xxxvii. § 2.

+ Donne, Sermon lxvi. Works, vol. iii. p. 156 (Alford's edit) See

also the Introduction to Psalm lxiii.


 

     IN THE CHURCH AND BY INDIVIDUALS.               33

 

to take a cheerful conscience with him to his death-bed,

learns by experience what a real struggle it costs to effect

this. But he who learns this, learns also how to understand

the Psalms aright."

         From many passages which might be quoted from 

Herder's writings I select one: "Not merely as regards

the contents, but also as regards the form, has this use of

the Psalter been a benefit to the spirit and heart of men.

As in no lyric poet of Greece or Rome do we find so much

teaching, consolation, and instruction together, so has there

scarcely ever been anywhere so rich a variation of tone in

every kind of song as here. For two thousand years have

these old Psalms been again and again translated and

imitated in a variety of ways, and still so rich, so compre-

hensive is their manner, that they are capable of many a

new application. They are flowers which vary according

to each season and each soil, and ever abide in the fresh-

ness of youth. Precisely because this Book contains the

simplest lyric tones for the expression of the most manifold

feelings, is it a hymn-book for all times."*

        From Bishop Horne's Preface to his Commentary, I will

quote a few lines, partly because of the striking coincidence 

of expression which they exhibit with two passages already

quoted, the one from Donne, and the other from Calvin.

       "Indited," he says,"under the influence of Him to whom

all hearts are known, and events foreknown, they suit

mankind in all situations, grateful as the manna which

descended from above and conformed itself to every

palate. . . . He who hath once tasted their excellences

will desire to taste them again; and he who tastes them

oftenest will relish them best.

       "And now, could the author flatter himself that any one

would take half the pleasure in reading the following

exposition, which he hath taken in writing it, he would not

fear the loss of his labour. The employment detached him

from the bustle and hurry of life, the din of politics, and

the noise of folly; vanity and vexation flew away for a

 

* Abhandlungen and Briefen zur schonen Literatur. Sämmtliche

Werke. Th. xvi. p. 17.

VOL. I.


 

34                              THE USE OF THE PSALTER

 

season, care and disquietude came not near his dwelling.

He arose, fresh as the morning, to his task; the silence of

the night invited him to pursue it: and he can truly say

that food and rest were not preferred before it. Every

Psalm improved infinitely upon his acquaintance with it,

and no one gave him uneasiness but the last, for then he

grieved that his work was done. Happier hours than those

which have been spent in these meditations on the songs of

Sion, he never expects to see in this world. Very pleasantly

did they pass, and moved smoothly and swiftly along: for

when thus engaged, he counted no time. They are gone,

but have left a relish and a fragrance upon the mind, and

the remembrance of them is sweet."

         Irving in his Preface to Bishop Horne's work writes:

     “. . .The songs of Zion are comprehensive as the human

soul and varied as human life; where no possible state of

natural feeling shall not find itself tenderly expressed and

divinely treated with appropriate remedies; where no con-

dition of human life shall not find its rebuke or consolation:

because they treat not life after the fashion of an age or

people, but life in its rudiments, the life of the soul, with

the joys and sorrows to which it is amenable, from con-

course with the outward necessity of the fallen world.

Which breadth of application they compass not by the

sacrifice of lyrical propriety or poetical method: for if there

be poems strictly lyrical, that is, whose spirit and sentiment

move congenial with the movements of music, and which,

by their very nature, call for the accompaniment of music,

these odes of a people despised as illiterate are such. For

pure pathos and tenderness of heart, for sublime imagina-

tion, for touching pictures of natural scenery, and genial

sympathy with nature's various moods; for patriotism,

whether in national weal or national woe; for beautiful

imagery, whether derived from the relationship of human

life, or the forms of the created universe; and for the

illustration, by their help, of spiritual conditions: more-

over, for those rapid transitions in which the lyrical muse

delighteth, her lightsome graces at one time, her deep and

full inspiration at another, her exuberance of joy and her


 

          IN THE CHURCH AND BY INDIVIDUALS.                35

 

lowest falls of grief, and for every other form of the natural

soul, which is wont to be shadowed forth by this kind of

composition, we challenge anything to be produced from

the literature of all ages and countries, worthy to be

compared with what we find even in the English Version of

the Book of Psalms."*

       This array of testimonies, so various and yet so accordant,

shall be closed with three from our own time. The first,

unhappily a mere fragment, is from one of the most

original thinkers and most eloquent preachers whom our

Church has in these later times produced. The second is

from the dying bed of one who was the ornament and the

pride of a sister Protestant Church on the Continent.

The third is from a devout and attached member of the

Church of Rome.

         "The value of the public reading of the Psalms," says

the late F. W. Robertson of Brighton, " is, that they express

for us, indirectly, those deeper feelings which there would

be a sense of indelicacy in expressing directly. . . . There

are feelings of which we do not speak to each other; they

are too sacred and too delicate. Such are most of our

feelings to God. If we do speak of them, they lose their

fragrance; become coarse; nay, there is even a sense of

indelicacy and exposure. Now, the Psalms afford precisely

the right relief for this feeling: wrapped up in the forms of

poetry (metaphor, &c.), that which might seem exagge-

rated, is excused by those who do not feel it: while they

who do, can read them, applying them without suspicion of

uttering their own feelings. Hence their soothing power,

and hence, while other portions of Scripture may become

obsolete, they remain the most precious parts of the Old 

Testament. For the heart of man is the same in all

ages." +

       "It is this truth of human feeling which makes the

Psalms, more than any other portion of the Old Testa-

ment, the link of union between distant ages. The

historical books need a rich store of knowledge before

 

* Collected Works, vol. i. pp. 386, 387.

+ Sermon IX. (Second Series), p. 119.


 

36                 THE USE OF THE PSALTER

 

they can be a modern book of life; but the Psalms are

the records of individual experience. Personal religion is

the same in all ages. The deeps of our humanity remain

unruffled by the storms of ages which change the surface.

This Psalm (the Fifty-first), written three thousand years

ago, might have been written yesterday: describes the

vicissitudes of spiritual life in an Englishman, as truly as

in a Jew. 'Not of an age, but for all time. ' "*

      Adolphe Monod, whilst suffering from the cruel malady

of which he died, speaks thus to the friends who were

gathered about his sick-bed: "We must read the Psalms

in order to understand the sufferings of David. The

Psalms discover to us the inner man of David, and in the

inner man of David they discover to us in some sort the

inner man of all the Prophets of God. Well, the Psalms

are full of expressions of an unheard-of suffering. David

speaks in them constantly of his evils, his sicknesses, his

enemies without number: we can scarcely understand, in

reading them, what he means by the enemies of which he

speaks so constantly; but they discover to us at least an

inner depth of affliction, of which, with the mere history

of David in our hands, we should scarcely have formed an

idea. It is one of the great advantages of the Psalms."

He then refers to the Thirty-eighth Psalm as an illustra-

tion. Subsequently he says: "The capital object of the

mission which David received of God for all generations

in the Church was the composition of Psalms. Well, he

composes his Psalms, or a great part of them, in the midst

of the most cruel sufferings. Imagine then, bowed down

by suffering, physical, moral, and spiritual, you were called

upon to compose a Psalm, and that from the bosom of all

these sufferings, and at the very moment when they were

such as those which he describes in Psalm xxxviii., should

issue hymns to the glory of God, and for the instruction of

the Church. What a triumph David gains over himself,

and what a humiliation it is for us, who in our weakness are

mostly obliged to wait till our sufferings are passed, in order

to reap the fruit of them ourselves, or to impart the benefit

 

* Sermon VII. (Second Series), p. 96.


 

         IN THE CHURCH AND BY INDIVIDUALS.          37

 

to others. But David, in the midst of his sufferings, writes

his Psalms. He writes his Thirty-eighth Psalm whilst he

undergoes those persecutions, those inward torments, that

bitterness of sin. I know it may be said that David wrote

that Thirty-eighth Psalm coldly, transporting himself into

sufferings which he did not feel at the time, as the poet

transports himself into sufferings which he has never ex-

perienced; but no, such a supposition offends you as much

as it does me: it is in the furnace, it is from the bosom of

the furnace, that he writes these lines, which are intended

to be the encouragement of the Church in all ages. O

power of the love of Christ! O renunciation of self-will!

O grace of the true servant of God! O virtue of the

Apostle,* and virtue of the Prophet, virtue of Christ in

them, and of the Holy Ghost! For never man (of him-

self) would be capable of such a power of will, of such a

triumph over the flesh." +

        Frederic Ozanam, writing shortly before his death to a

Jew who had embraced Christianity, says: "The hand of

God has touched me, I believe, as it touched Job, Ezechias,

and Tobias, not unto death, but unto a prolonged trial. I

have not, unfortunately, the patience of these just men: I

am easily cast down by suffering, and I should be incon-

solable for my weakness, if I did not find in the Psalms

those cries of sorrow which David sends forth to God, and

which God at last answers by sending him pardon and

peace. Oh, my friend, when one has the happiness to

have become a Christian, it is a great honour to be born

an Israelite, to feel one's self the son of those Patriarchs

and Prophets whose utterances are so beautiful that the

Church has found nothing finer to place on the lips of her

children. During many weeks of extreme languor the

Psalms have never been out of my hands. I am never

wearied of reading over and over those sublime lamen-

tations, those flights of hope, those supplications full of

love, which answer to all the wants and all the miseries

 

* He had shortly before mentioned St. Paul as an instance like that

of David.

+ Adieux á ses Amis, &c. pp. 101-106. 7e edit. Paris, 1859.


 

38             THE USE OF THE PSALTER

 

of human nature. It is nearly three thousand years since

a king composed these songs in his days of repentance and

desolation, and we still find in them the expression of our

deepest anguish and the consolation of our sorrows. The

priest recites them daily; thousands of monasteries have

been founded in order that these Psalms might be chanted

at every hour, and that this voice of supplication might

never be silent. The Gospel alone is superior to the

hymns of David, and this only because it is their fulfil-

ment—because all the yearnings, all the ardours, all the

holy impatience of the prophet find their accomplishment

in the Redeemer issued of his race. So great is the bond

between the two Testaments, that the Redeemer Himself

had no name dearer to Him than that of Son of David.

The two blind men of Jericho called Him by it, and I

often cry out to Him with them, 'Son of David, have

mercy on us!' " * It is said of Ozanam in his sufferings

that "it was sufficient to recite aloud some verses of the

Psalms while he was suffering most to make him forget his

own pain and the distress of those who were striving to

alleviate it." +

         How great, then, is the history of the Psalms! David

sang them, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and all the Prophets.

With Psalms Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah celebrated their

victories. Psalms made glad the heart of the exiles who

returned from Babylon. Psalms gave courage and strength

to the Maccabees in their brave struggles to achieve their

country's independence, and were the repeated expression

of their thanksgivings. The Lord of Psalmists, and the

Son of David, by the words of a Psalm, proved Himself to

be higher than David; and sang Psalms with His Apostles

on the night before He suffered, when He instituted the

Holy Supper of His Love.++ In His last awful hour on the

Cross He expressed in the words of one Psalm, "His fear

and His need of God," and in the words of another gave

up His spirit to His Father. With Psalms, Paul and Silas

praised God in the prison at midnight, when their feet were

 

* Life of Frederic Ozanam, O'Meara, pp. 438, 439.

+ Ibid. p. 451.    ++ Matt. xxvi. 30.


 

        IN THE CHURCH AND BY INDIVIDUALS.             39

 

made fast in the stocks, and sang so loud that the prisoners

heard them. And after his own example, the Apostle

exhorts the Christians at Ephesus and Colossae to teach

and admonish one another with Psalms and hymns and

spiritual songs. Jerome tells us, that in his day the Psalms

were to be heard in the fields and the vineyards of Pales-

tine, and that they fell sweetly on the ear, mingling with

the songs of birds, and the scent of flowers in the spring.

The ploughman as he guided his plough chanted the Hal-

lelujah, and the reaper, the vine-dresser, and the shepherd

sang the songs of David. "These," he says, are our love

songs, these the instruments of our agriculture." Sidonius

Apollinaris makes his boatmen, as they urge their heavily-

laden barge up stream, sing Psalms, till the river-banks

echo again with the Hallelujah, and beautifully applies the

custom, in a figure, to the voyage of the Christian life.*

With the verse of a Psalm, "Turn again, then, unto thy

rest, O my soul," the pious Babylas, Bishop of Antioch,

comforted himself, while awaiting his martyrdom in the

Decian persecution, saying, "From this we learn that our

soul comes to rest when it is removed by death from this

restless world." Paulla, the friend of Jerome, was seen by

those who were gathered around her in her last hour to

move her lips, and when they stooped to listen, they heard

the words, "How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of

hosts." A Psalm was the best utterance for the over-

flowing joy of Augustine's heart at his conversion,+ and a

Psalm was his consolation when he lay upon his death-bed.++

With the words of Psalms, Chrysostom comforted himself

in his exile, writing thus: "When driven from the city, I

cared nothing for it. But I said to myself, If the empress

wishes to banish me, let her banish me;  'the earth is the

Lord's, and the fulness thereof.' "  And again: "David

clothes me with armour, saying, 'I will speak of Thy testi-

monies before kings, and will not be ashamed.' " With the

 

*        " Curvorum hinc chorus helciariorum

            Responsantibus Alleluia ripis

           Ad Christum levat amnicum celeusma.

            Sic, sic psallite, nauta et viator! "

+ See above, p. 27.        ++ See Introduction to Psalm xxxii.

 


40             THE USE OF THE PSALTER.

 

words of a Psalm, holy Bernard expired. With the words

of a Psalm, Huss and Jerome of Prague gave up their souls

to God, without fear, in the midst of the fire. Chanting the

twelfth verse of the Hundred and Eighteenth Psalm with

voices that rose high above the din of battle, the Protestant

army rushed to victory at Courtras. With the voice of a

Psalm, Luther entered Worms, singing brave defiance to

pope and cardinals, and all the gates of hell. With Psalms,

that faithful servant of God, Adolphe Monod, strengthened

himself to endure the agonies of a lingering and painful

disease. And in the biography of a late eminent prelate

of our own Church, no page possesses a deeper interest, a

truer pathos, than that which records, that for many years

before his death the Fifty-first Psalm had been his nightly

prayer.* And what shall I say more? The history of the

Psalms is the history of the Church, and the history of

every heart in which has burned the love of God. It is

a history not fully revealed in this world, but one which

is written in heaven. It is a history which, could we know

it, might teach us to hush many an angry thought, to recall

many a bitter, hasty, uncharitable speech. The pages of

that Book have often been blotted with the tears of those

whom others deemed hard and cold, and whom they treated

with suspicion or contempt. Those words have gone up

to God, mingled with the sighs or scarcely uttered in the

heart-broken anguish of those whom pharisees called

sinners, of those whom Christians denounced as heretics

or infidels, but who loved God and truth above all things

else. Surely it is holy ground. We cannot pray the

Psalms without realizing in a very special manner the

communion of saints, the oneness of the Church militant

and the Church triumphant. We cannot pray the Psalms

without having our hearts opened, our affections enlarged,

our thoughts drawn heavenward. He who can pray them

best is nearest to God, knows most of the Spirit of Christ,

is ripest for heaven.

 

* Memoir of Bishop Blomfield, vol. ii. p. 266.


 

 

 

                          CHAPTER III.

 

          THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

THERE are some topics connected with the interpretation

of the Psalms which have been the subject of so much

discussion that it was scarcely possible to treat them satis-

factorily in the notes. I propose, therefore, in this chapter

to handle them more at large. How far we are to look in

the Psalms for predictions of the Messiah, or the hope of a

future life; in what sense the assertions of innocence

which meet us on the one hand, and the imprecations of

vengeance on the other, are to be understood: these, and

questions like these, must present themselves to every

thoughtful reader of the Psalms; and to give some answer

to these questions will now be my endeavour.

          I. The first question, and the most important, is this:

What is the nature of the Messianic hope, as it meets us

in the Psalms?

       On this subject it may be said broadly, that three views

have been entertained.

        I. There have been expositors, more especially in recent

times, who have gone so far as to affirm that none of the

Psalms is in any proper sense Messianic, or that if the

hope of the Messiah finds expression at all, it is traced in

colouring so faint, in outlines so uncertain, that it ceases to

be anything more than a vague anticipation at best. With

such interpreters I shall not attempt to argue. To me

the whole history of the Jewish nation becomes the most

unintelligible of all enigmas, apart from the hope of Him

who was to come. This hope is interwoven with all the

tissues of the web of that history, and is the stay and the

 

                                         41

 

42               THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

strength of all. Nor can I understand how, with the his-

torical fact before us of the promise given to David, we

can hesitate to admit that in his Psalms, at least, some

references to that promise would be found. A hope so

great, a promise so distinctly given, must, by the very

necessities of the case, have occupied the mind of David,

and have reappeared in his Psalms. It would be far more

perplexing to account for the absence than for the presence

of the Messianic hope in his writings.

        2. Others, again, and more especially the Patristic and

Mediaeval writers, have gone to the opposite extreme.

To them every Psalm has some direct prophetical refer-

ence to our Lord, to the circumstances of His life, or His

passion. So Tertullian takes the whole of the First Psalm

as a prophecy of Joseph of Arimathea; Augustine gives to

each a reference to Christ and His Church; and Albertus

Magnus, asserting that it is a well-known fact that the

whole Book is concerning Christ (constat quod totus Tiber

iste de Christo est), interprets the First Psalm "of Christ,

and His body the Church."

         3. But all sober interpreters since the time of the Refor-

mation, following the guidance of Luther and Calvin, have

avoided both extremes of error. On the one hand, they

have recognised the existence of the Messianic element;

on the other, they have abandoned those strained and

fanciful interpretations by which violence is done to the

plain language of many Psalms, when they are regarded

as predictive of our Lord.

       Still much difference of opinion exists, more especially

amongst English commentators, as to the principle of

interpretation to be followed in those Psalms which are

confessedly Messianic. One class of expositors, of whom

Bishop Horsley may be taken as a chief representative,

have laid it down as a certain principle, that whenever

any part of a Psalm is by any of the writers of the

New Testament applied to our Lord, there we are bound

to explain the whole Psalm as prophetical of Him. Nay,

every Psalm, it has been contended, which may reasonably

be held, even without express New Testament sanction, to


 

             THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.              43

 

be Messianic, is Messianic in all its parts from first to last.

For, it is urged, we are otherwise left without compass or

star to guide us. Where, if this principle be abandoned, are

we to draw the line, or what is to be the criterion of inter-

pretation? Can we take one verse, and say, This applies

to David; and another, and say, This applies to Christ?

Does not our application of the Psalm thus become vague

and arbitrary? Left without any standing rule or principle

of interpretation, each can take or reject what he pleases.

But, in the first place, this canon of interpretation fails,

because it, at least tacitly, assumes that in all these Psalms

the writer is consciously uttering a prediction; that the

Psalmist, although he is speaking, it may be, in some lower

sense of himself, has ever consciously before the eye of his

mind One greater than he, in whom he knew that his words

would find their ultimate fulfilment. But there is no proof

that such is the case, but rather the reverse. In many

Psalms it seems very evident that the writer is speaking

of himself, of his own sufferings, of his own deliverance,

apparently without thinking of another; although being a

prophet, and therefore a type of Christ, he is led to use

unconsciously words which, in their highest and truest

sense, are applicable only to Christ.

       In the next place, the difficulties involved in the canon

of interpretation to which I refer are far more serious than

those which it is intended to surmount. It compels us

constantly to take words and phrases in a sense which is

obviously not their proper and natural sense. We find in

many of these Psalms, passages of which are said to have

been fulfilled in the circumstances of our Lord's life or pas-

sion, confessions of sinfulness, maledictions of the writer's

enemies, expressions of hatred and revenge, none of which

can, in their plain literal sense, be transferred to our Lord.

It is therefore necessary, in order that the canon may hold

in its application, to give to all such words and expressions

a very modified and altered meaning; an expedient to

which we surely ought not to resort, unless no other way

of escape were open to us. The words of Scripture may

have a far deeper meaning than that which lies on the


 

44           THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS

 

surface, but surely not an altogether different meaning—a

meaning which can only be extracted by ingenious contri-

vances, or by doing violence to the simplest rules of lan-

guage. If, in order to maintain some rule of interpretation

which we assume to be necessary, we are compelled to

introduce words and thoughts into passages where those

words are not found, it may be worth while to ask our-

selves whether our rule itself is not bent and twisted, and

fit only to be thrown away.

         Let us test the rule, then, in one or two well-known

instances. In the Fortieth Psalm there occurs a passage,

the Septuagint Version of which is quoted in the Epistle to

the Hebrews. The quotation runs thus: "Wherefore when

He cometh into the world He saith: Sacrifice and offering

Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared me:

In burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no

pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the

book it is written of me, to do Thy will, O God." The

citation is made in illustration of the writer's argument

against the perpetuity of the Jewish sacrifices. He shows

that those sacrifices were but a part of a Law which was a

shadow of good things to come, a Law which confessed its

own incompleteness, which contained the elements of its

own dissolution, which itself prophesied the destruction of

its own body of death, and its resurrection to a life spiritual

and eternal. He argues that the very repetition of those

sacrifices is a proof of their incompleteness: and further,

that the nature of the sacrifices was such, that they could

have only a typical, not a moral efficacy. "It is impossible

that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin,"

&c. With these he contrasts the offering of Christ, the

great virtue of which lay in the fact, that it was the offering

of an obedient will, and therefore essentially moral and

spiritual in its character. And in order to express this

truth in a forcible manner, and to put it in a light which

for his readers would have an especial attraction, the

writer of the Epistle claims the words of the Psalmist as

having found their fulfilment in the mouth of Christ. The

fact that the passage as cited by him from the Version of


 

           THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.               45

 

the LXX. differs in a material point from the Hebrew text,

however interesting and instructive in itself, has no bearing

on my present argument. What it is of importance to

observe is, that those words quoted as having found their

highest realization, their most perfect meaning, in the lips

of our blessed Lord,* are followed by other words in the

Psalm, which in their plain grammatical sense cannot

possibly be considered as spoken by Him. For what

follows this lofty expression of a ready obedience, of a will

in harmony with the will of God? A sad confession of

human sinfulness and misery. A cry for mercy, as from

one who has sinned, and who has suffered for his sin.

"Thou, O Jehovah, wilt not refrain Thy tender compas-

sions from me. . . . For evils have come about me without

number; My iniquities have taken hold upon me that I

cannot see: They are more than the hairs of my head,

And my heart hath failed me." Then follow further, a

petition for help, and a prayer for confusion on his enemies.

Now, how is this latter part of the Psalm made to apply to

Christ? How, in particular, are the words in ver. 12,  "my

iniquities," interpreted? That I may not be guilty of any

exaggeration, I will quote Bishop Horsley's note on the

passage: “AErumnae meae” [my distresses], says Houbigant;

piously thinking that the person who speaks throughout

the Psalm had no sins with which to charge himself. But

since God 'laid upon Him the iniquities of us,' therefore

the Messiah, when He is personated in the Psalms, per-

petually calls those iniquities His own, of which He bore

the punishment."

       But of the two explanations Houbigant's is the more

tolerable. The word rendered "my iniquities" might, in

accordance with the opinion of competent scholars, be

rendered "my punishments," the word being the same as

in Gen. iv. 14, where our Authorized Version has, "my

punishment is heavier than I can bear." But even then, as

punishment for personal guilt is meant, it is obvious that

   

  * This, I think, it may fairly be concluded, considering the general

nature of the argument of the Epistle, is the writer's view, although it

is not expressly said that the Scripture was fulfilled.

 


46              THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

only by a remote, and circuitous, and tortuous method, can

the proposed application be made.

          But as to Horsley's own interpretation, it is far more

indefensible than that which it is intended to supersede.

The passage which he quotes in support of his interpreta-

tion fails really in its most essential particulars. For that

does express the very idea which here is not expressed,

and which is only assumed, but not proved, to be implied.

There we do not find "our iniquities" spoken of as the

iniquities of Christ, but they are distinctly said, on the one

hand, to be "the iniquities of us all," and as distinctly said

on the other, to have been "laid upon Him." Nor will

similar passages which are sometimes appealed to in the

New Testament bear the stress of the argument drawn

from them. We are reminded, for instance, that our Lord

is said "to bear our sins in His own body on the tree;"

and that we even read that   "God made Him who knew no

sin to be sin for us;" and it is contended that such lan-

guage justifies the interpretation which Horsley has given

of the Psalm. But I ask, is there no difference between

these alleged parallel passages? Is not the difference,

on the contrary, so great, that the one cannot be fairly

explained by the other? Surely it is one thing for us to

be told that God made Christ sin; and it is quite another

thing for our blessed Lord himself to speak of the iniquities

of others as His own. As a fact He never does so. And

the step in the argument is prodigious. The two ideas

have scarcely an intelligible connection. The one expres-

sion seems even to exclude the other. A judge might

condemn an innocent man to death in behalf of the guilty,

but surely that innocent man would never speak of himself

as guilty. Rather would he hold fast his integrity, as that

which gave additional worth to his self-sacrifice.

       Let us take one more instance, if possible still more

 strikingly conclusive against the mode of interpretation

which I am impugning. It shall be taken from the next

Psalm in the series, the Forty-first. If this Psalm be the

composition of David, there call be little doubt that he had

in his mind the cruel desertion of some friend, perhaps


 

                THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.              47

 

Ahithophel, in the season of his extremity, 2 Sam. xv. 31;

xvi. 20, &c. The words of the 9th verse, which so feelingly

describe the bitterest drop in the cup of sorrow, the faith-

lessness of a known and trusted friend, are by our Lord

himself applied to the treachery of Judas.* But it is very

instructive to observe the manner in which the quotation is

made, especially where, as in this instance, it is introduced

with the formula, "That the Scripture may be fulfilled."

Our Lord drops from the quotation words which could not

apply to Himself: "Mine own familiar friend in whom I

trusted;" for He never did trust Judas. He knew from

the beginning who should betray Him. It is clear, then,

that we have our Lord's own authority for taking a portion,

not only of a Psalm, but even of a particular passage in a

Psalm, as prophetic of Himself and the circumstances of

His life. Indeed, in this Psalm the difficulties are abso-

lutely appalling, if we try to expound it throughout of

Christ. How, then, interpret the 4th verse: "Heal my

soul; for I have sinned against Thee;" or the l0th, "But

Thou, O Jehovah, be gracious unto me, And raise me

up, that I may requite them" ? Horsley's note on the

former verse is one of the most remarkable instances of a

forced interpretation which it was ever my lot to meet with.

He says:  In this Psalm the Messiah is the speaker, who

in His own Person was sinless. But the words may be

rendered, 'Surely I bear blame before Thee,' Personam pec-

catoris apud te gero. So the word xFH is used, Gen. xliii. 9,

of the A. V." Kennicott renders the sentence as a

question, "Have I sinned against Thee?" But Horsley

was quite right in adding, "But I much doubt the use of

the particle yKi as an interrogative." It would be as

reasonable to make o!ti or ga>r an interrogative in Greek.

To return, however, to Horsley's explanation, what meaning

after all does it convey? What sense is there in saying,

"Heal my soul, for I bear the blame before Thee. Heal

my soul, for I am not a sinner, but only in the character

of a sinner"? Such interpretations introduce the idea

 

*  ]All ] i!na h[ grafh> plhrwq^?, o[ trw<gwn met ] e]mou? to>n a@rton e]p^?ren e]p ]

e]me> th>n pte<rnan au]tou?.  John. xiii. 18.

 


48             THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

which their authors think they find in a passage, and then

the passage itself is said to contain the idea.

        We need not carry this argument further. It is won-

derful, indeed, that so arbitrary a canon of interpretation

should have been invented, that it should have been

maintained so perseveringly, and that its manifest defects

should not have made its soundness suspected.

         Besides these inherent difficulties, the canon has all

analogy against it, as well as the authority of the New

Testament writers. It has analogy against it; for no one

thinks of expounding the prophetical books in this manner.

Thus, no one contends that because part of a prophecy is

Messianic, therefore every portion of it must be Messianic.

No one, for instance, would argue that the whole of Isaiah's

prophecy delivered to Ahaz, on the invasion of Rezin and

Pekah, must be applied down to its minutest details to

Christ, because St. Matthew leads us to see a fulfilment

of one portion of his announcement in the birth of Jesus

of Nazareth. Why should we apply to the Psalms a rule

which we do not apply to the Prophets?

        But in the next place, the invariable practice of the New

Testament writers overthrows the canon referred to, and

establishes for us a safe and consistent rule of interpreta-

tion. Never does any writer of the New Testament, Evan-

gelist or Apostle, never does our Lord himself, sanction the

application of any passage of the Old Testament to Him in

which the writer confesses and deplores his own sinfulness.

This fact of itself ought to be a guide to us in our interpre-

tation. It is a beacon against the shoals and quicksands

of human error. Frequently and freely as the New Testa-

ment writers cite passages from the Old Testament, and

especially from the Psalms,* as fulfilled in Christ—some

perhaps which, without their authority, we should hardly

have dared so to interpret—they most cautiously abstain

from that perversion of language which in modern theology

has been pushed to such an extreme. To them it would

 

* It is a remarkable fact, that of all the citations in the New

Testament, from the Old, which have a Messianic reference, nearly

one-half is made from the Psalms.


 

             THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.               49

 

have seemed nothing short of an awful profanation to have

spoken of the sins laid upon Christ as His sins. They

would never have thought it possible to speak of Him as

a sinner, who to them was the Holy One of God. Words

which expressed devotedness, self-sacrifice, high and holy

aspirations, these they felt, and we all feel, however true in

some sense of a righteous Israelite of old, uttering them in

the communion of his heart with God, and carried beyond

himself while he uttered them, were infinitely truer, yea,

only true in the fullest sense, of Him who came not to do

His own will, but the will of Him who sent Him. Hence

these, even where no direct prediction was intended, were

more fitting in His mouth than in theirs. So likewise the

language of sorrow, the cry poured out from the depths of

a troubled spirit, however truly expressive of the feelings

of a pious Jew bowed down by calamities, persecutions,

miseries untold, never came with so true a force of utter-

ance from any lips as from the lips of Him, whose sorrows

and whose sufferings were such as it hath not entered into

the heart of man to conceive.

       What, then, is the conclusion at which we arrive from

these observed facts? Surely it is this: that the Psalms

to a large extent foreshadow Christ, because the writers of

the Psalms are types of Christ. And it is of the very

nature of a type to be imperfect. It fortells in some par-

ticulars, but not in all, that of which it is the type. Were

it complete in itself, it would not point further; through

its very incompleteness it becomes a prophecy. Now, the

Psalms are typical. They are the words of holy men of

old—of one especially, whose life was fashioned in many

of its prominent features to be a type of Christ. But just

as David's whole life was not typical of Christ, so neither

were all his words. His suffering and his humiliation first,

and his glory afterwards, were faint and passing and eva-

nescent images of the life of Him who was both Son of

David and Son of God. But the sorrowful shadow of pollu-

tion which passed upon David's life, that was not typical,

and, therefore, the words in which it was confessed are not

typical or predictive, or capable of application to our Lord.

 

VOL. I.


 

50               THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

Once let us firmly grasp this idea, that any Psalm in which

a suffering saint of God under the Old Testament addresses

God has but a typical reference to Christ, where it has any

such reference at all, and we are freed at once from all em-

barrassment of interpretation. Then we can say without

hesitation: Every word in that Psalm is the true expres-

sion of the feelings of him who wrote it; the suffering

is a real suffering; the sorrow is a real sorrow; the

aspiration, so high, so heavenly, is a real aspiration; the

joy and the triumph of deliverance are real; the con-

fession of sin comes from a heart to which sin is a real

burden. But the sorrow, the suffering, the aspiration, the

joy, the triumph—all but the sin—never found all their

fulness of meaning save in the life and on the lips of the

Perfect Man.

      Another great advantage of this system of interpreta-

tion is, that it not only saves us from a forced and un-

natural interpretation of language in particular instances,

but that it falls in so completely with the whole history of

the Old Testament. That history is throughout typical.

We have the key to its meaning in that quotation by the

Evangelist Matthew: "Out of Egypt have I called my

son." The history of Israel and the history of Christ are,

in a certain sense, one. And as the history of Israel was

fashioned to be typical of the history of Redemption, in

its capital features, so the history of the great: represen-

tative characters in Israel was designed to foreshadow,

each in some distinct particular, the life of Christ. Christ

our Lord is Prophet, Priest, and King. All these offices

find their highest significance in Him; and, accordingly,

those who bore these offices in the Mosaic economy were,

in their several degrees, types of Christ.

         I. The Prophet was the teacher of the truth which he

had received by solemn commission from the mouth of

God. He came to the people, as one sent by God, bear-

ing the message of God on his lips. He spake of truth,

of righteousness, of mercy; he revealed God’s will, he

threatened God's judgements; he rebuked the prevalent

formalism and the prevalent hypocrisy. He was the


 

THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.        51

 

majestic witness for God against the Priest whose lips

no longer kept knowledge, against the King who forgot

that he was the servant of the Highest, and against the

people who clung to the letter of the Law with the more

scrupulous tenacity, in proportion as they forgot and de-

parted from its spirit. But the Prophet himself did not

speak all the truth. He often spoke dimly; he revealed

only those portions and fragments of truth which it was

his especial mission to proclaim. Such was the Prophet in

his teaching. But what was he in his life? He went in

and out before the people, and he was one with them. He

was better, for the most part, than those whom he rebuked,

but there were blots and imperfections in his life. Sin,

and error, and infirmity might be seen even in the teacher

sent from God. The true Prophet had not yet come.

God gave His people the type, but with His own hand He

brake it in pieces before their eyes, that they might wait

for the Great Prophet of His Church, for Him who should

not only teach the Truth, but be the Truth; for Him who

should not only speak the Word, but be the Word; the

only-begotten Son, who, alike in life and speech, should

declare the Father unto men.

         2. So likewise was it with the Priest. The Jewish 

High Priest was the intercessor between man and God.

As the Prophet was the messenger from God to man, so

the Priest was the representative, of man with God. He

was taken from among men. Once in the year he entered

into the most holy place, there to make atonement for sin.

But that holy place itself was typical and shadowy; it was

but the figure of heaven. The victim whose blood was

there sprinkled to make atonement, showed that the

earthly sanctuary needed itself to be cleansed. The blood

was the blood of a dumb animal, which could never take

away sin. The High Priest confessed his own imperfec-

tion in the very act of atonement, because he must offer

sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the

people. The Priest, therefore, though a representative of

the people, was an imperfect representative, entering into

an imperfect sanctuary, offering an imperfect sacrifice.


 

52                  THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS

 

God gave His people the type, but He brake in pieces

the type before their eyes, and thus He led them to look

for the true Priest, for Him who should make atonement

with His own blood and for ever put away sin by the

sacrifice of Himself; whose sympathy would be perfect,

because He could bear all hearts in His; whose sacrifice

would be perfect, because it was the sacrifice of Himself;

whose intercession would be all-prevalent, because He ever

liveth at the right hand of God.

       3. There was another prominent character in the Jewish

theocracy. The King was emphatically the Anointed of

God, His vicegerent upon earth. He was to be the wit-

ness for a Divine Government, the pattern of the Divine

righteousness, filled with the spirit of wisdom and under-

standing. "Give the king Thy judgements, O God, and

Thy righteousness unto the King's son." Such was the

prayer uttered, perhaps, by Solomon, and conveying in its

expression the true conception of what a king should be,

as ruling by the grace of God, and, in some sort, even

representing God to man. God made a covenant with

David, gave him promises great and glorious, seated his

son upon his throne. But that son disappointed all the

hopes which once gathered around him so brightly. The

morning of his reign which was so fair, like a morning

without clouds, was quickly overcast, and his sun set in

the disastrous gloom of a gathering tempest. He who

had been the mirror of justice and wisdom ended by

cruelly oppressing his subjects. Too surely and too

lamentably was it made evident, that he was not the

righteous king whose rule was to be a blessing to the

world. He was not the defender of the poor and the

scourge of evil-doers; his dominion was not from sea to

sea, nor from the river to the ends of the earth. After him

the sceptre which he had held was broken in twain. And

as one after another of his descendants sat upon David's

throne, the earthly hope waxed fainter and fainter. If

for a moment it revived with the pious Hezekiah, with the

good Josiah, it was but to sink at last into a deeper dark-

ness. Wrong and violence were in the city; and none sat


 

THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.        53

 

in the gate to do justice. The poor cried, but he had no

helper; the oppressed, and there was none to deliver. The

king was stained with crimes, and used the almost despotic

power of an oriental prince unscrupulously and without

remorse. The fair image of righteousness, associated with

the very name of king, and of which the bright ideal had

never been conceived as it was in Judaism, where was it to

be found? The true Son of David was not yet come.

Men's hearts and eyes failed them for longing and looking

for His coming. God took the earthly type and brake

it in pieces before their eyes, that they might thus wait

for Him who should be King of Righteousness and King

of Peace.

        Of these three principal figures in the Jewish typical

system, two appear prominently in the Psalms, the Prophet

and the King. This is what might be expected. The

Priest was typical by his acts rather than by his words.

And sacrifice and ritual might be enjoined and described

in the Law, but they find no place in the Psalms. They

are mentioned only to be depreciated. Hence in one

Psalm only does Messiah appear as Priest, and there He

is both King and Priest. There, moreover, He stands as

a Priest after the order of Melchisedec, and not after

the order of Aaron. But with regard to the other two

offices—those of Prophet and King—the Messianic

Psalms may be divided into two classes, according as

they are represented by the one or the other of these

two characters.

         1. We have a series of Psalms—the Second, the

Twentieth, the Twenty-first, the Forty-fifth, the Seventy-

second, the Hundred and Tenth—in all of which a King is

celebrated. In one Psalm a King is described who goes

forth conquering and to conquer; in another, a King

whose reign is a reign of righteousness and peace. In

another, the occasion of the royal nuptials has been

selected as the subject. In all, some Jewish monarch,

either on his accession, or at some critical period of his

reign, is the immediate object before the eyes of the

inspired Poet. But in all the monarch grows larger and

 


54        THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS. 

 

fairer than the sons of men. He is seen ever in the light

of the promise made to David, and in that light he is

transfigured. Human he is, no doubt: many words

spoken of him pertain only to a human king; but many

also are higher; many cannot, except by force of exagge-

ration, be made to apply to one who wears the frailty

together with the form of man. There is but one in-

terpretation by which the apparently discordant elements

in these Psalms can be held together. It is that according

to which the Psalms are regarded, not as simply predictive,

but as properly typical in their character.

        2. Many other Psalms there are, which, in the New

Testament, are said to have their fulfilment in the suffer-

ings of Christ. In these, again, the writer himself is a

type of Christ; and he is so in his character as a prophet, or

preacher of righteousness. In all these Psalms, a servant

of God appears as a sufferer, and a sufferer for righteous-

ness' sake; often, indeed, confessing that he suffers the

just punishment of his sins at the hands of God, but always

complaining that he is unjustly persecuted of men. In

such Psalms, more particularly, as the Twenty-second

and Sixty-ninth, we find, moreover, language used which

implies that the sufferer occupies a prominent position,

and that he is, in some sense, the representative of Israel

in his sufferings. The issue of those sufferings is to be a

subject of joy and thanksgiving, not to himself only, but

to all who, like himself, fear God, and endure persecution

for His Name's sake. Hence the Psalmist, both as prophet

and as righteous sufferer, is a type of Christ; for every

Jewish prophet or preacher was also conspicuous as a

sufferer, a martyr for the truth.

      But we never find these two characters—that of the

suffering prophet and the victorious king—united in the

same Psalm. This, of itself, is surely remarkable. This

of itself teaches us how purely typical the Psalms are, so

far as their Messianic import is concerned. Everywhere

we find imperfection, everywhere only a partial representa-

tion of that which could not, as yet, be conceived of in its

completeness.


 

          THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.          55

 

          Lastly, there is another remarkable circumstance, which

lends ample confirmation, were confirmation needed, to

the view I have advocated. It is this. Nowhere in the

Psalms are the redemption of the world and Israel's final

glory bound up with the coming of the Messiah. The

Messiah is, for a time at least, associated with the present,

and only with the present. The Anointed of God is

David, or Solomon, till both the one and the other fail

to fulfil the longings of men's hearts. But the Advent to

which Israel looks forward is the Advent of JEHOVAH.

It is He who is Israel's true King. It is His coming

which shall be her redemption and her glory; but His

coming is never identified with the coming of the Messiah.*

The early hope and the heavenly run on in parallel

lines, but they never meet. In the light of the New

Testament only do we see how David's Son is also his

Lord.

     All these facts, then, point in one direction. The fact

that the Messiah and the Divine deliverer are not as yet

seen by the Psalmists to be the same; the fact that the

King and the Sufferer are two, not one; the fact that the

New Testament writers never quote confessions of sinful-

ness as in any way applicable to Christ, whilst they do

quote other words expressive of devotion or suffering

as so applicable: all these tend to the same conclusion,

namely, that whilst all the great characters of Israelitish

history are typical of Him, they are so only partially and

imperfectly. Hence we can freely and safely adopt this

principle of interpretation in all cases. We can see in

every Psalm which may reasonably be regarded as

Messianic, a primary reference to the writer and to

his own circumstances; and, so far as confessions of sin

meet us, an exclusive reference; whereas in all else, without

maintaining a conscious prophecy, we can recognise the

language of a type waiting its proper accomplishment in

the Antitype.

         II. We turn now to the relation in which the Psalmists

 

* See this beautifully stated by Delitzsch, in the note which I have

quoted on Ps. lxxii.

 


56          THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS

 

stand to the Law of God. And here we may notice, first

the strong affection expressed for the Law of God in itself

and, next, the remarkable recognition of its higher and

more spiritual requirements, as contrasted with its merely

ceremonial enactments.

         I. We have, first, the expression of a strong personal

affection for the Law of God. "The Law of Jehovah," it

is said in the Nineteenth Psalm, "is perfect, restoring the

soul; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the

simple. The statutes of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the

heart; the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening

the eyes… The judgements of Jehovah are truth, they

are righteous altogether. More to be desired are they

than gold, yea than much fine gold; sweeter also than

honey, and the droppings of the honeycomb. Moreover

Thy servant is enlightened by them, and in keeping of

them there is great reward." In the First Psalm, where the

character of the righteous man is pourtrayed in contrast

with that of the wicked, it is summed up in these words:

"In the Law of Jehovah is his delight, and in His Law

doth he meditate day and night." The longest Psalm in

the whole collection, the Hundred and Nineteenth, might

be entitled "The Praise of the Law;" for it sets forth in

ceaseless variety of application the value of the law, the

statutes, the judgements of God. What then was this Law,

which seemed so precious, so infinitely beyond all gold and

silver, to the Psalmists of Israel, which was to them as a

light to their feet, and as sweet food to their mouth, and

which was their meditation all the day? Is it the same

Law which to St. Paul seems so bitter, which he views as

the strength of sin, as making him feel his wretchedness,

as pronouncing his condemnation? Calvin has thrown out

the question in his Commentary on the Nineteenth Psalm,

and has partly answered it. "How," he asks, "shall these

things agree, that the Law restores the soul, and yet is a

dead letter; that it cheers the heart, and yet brings with it

the spirit of a slave and inspires us with terror; that it

enlightens the eyes, and yet, by putting a veil before them,

darkens the light within?" "St. Paul," he replies, "and the


 

                  THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.            57

 

Psalmist, are regarding the Law from two different points

of view. David does not speak of the Law as opposed to

the Gospel, but of the Law as including the promise. To

him the Law is not merely the code, the bare precepts, but

the whole revelation of God, so far as it was then given,

including Christ Himself, on whom the adoption of Israel

rested. St. Paul, on the other hand, had to do with per-

verse interpreters of the Law, who were for separating it

from the grace and spirit of Christ; whereas, apart from

Christ, the Law, inexorable in its requirements, can only

expose the whole world to God's wrath and curse." This,

no doubt, is true so far as it goes. St. Paul was looking at

the Law merely as a covenant of works: "The man that

doeth these things, he shall live by them;" and he felt

deeply his own inability to live by them. He saw, on the

one hand, the holiness of God reflected in the Law, and,

on the other hand, the impossibility of keeping the Law.

The impossibility of keeping it filled him, with terror

and dismay, but, so far as it was the reflection of God's

holiness, he could say, as truly as David, " I delight in the

Law of God after the inner man." He too could say,

"The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and

just, and good." Viewed in itself, viewed as an expression

of the mind of God, it was all that the Psalmist declared

it to be. It was only when it was looked at as an instru-

ment of justification that it became clothed with terror.

When a man heard that in order to be saved he must

obey the Law, and when conscience told him that he was

a perpetual transgressor of the Law, then, indeed, he saw

nothing but condemnation. But this relation to the Law,

so distinctly felt, so clearly understood, is peculiar to the

Gospel. The work of the Spirit of Christ has given us,

it cannot be doubted, a deeper insight into the nature of

sin, and therefore, also, into the condemning power of

the Law. But, under the Old Testament, the opposition

between the Law and sin does not appear with anything

like the same sharppess of outline. The love and affection

which are expressed towards the Law here, are expressed

towards it regarded simply as the reflection of the pure,


 

58        THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

and perfect, and holy will of God. To the spiritually-

minded Jew under the Old Testament, that Law was

not merely an outward letter of restraint; his heart and

conscience consented thereto.* And one capital object of

the teaching of the Prophets was to represent it in its truly

spiritual meaning, and so to set it forth as a proper object

of affection to every heart which waited upon God.

       2. But, again, we find in the Psalms a thoroughly spi-

ritual appreciation of the ceremonial part of the Law.

Samuel had already led the way here. "Hath the Lord

as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices as in obey-

ing the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than

sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." The same

truth in one Psalm (the Fortieth) is represented as having

been immediately communicated by Divine teaching to the

writer of the Psalm. David may both have learnt it from

Samuel, when he was living among "the sons of prophets,"

and have had the lesson confirmed by the direct inspira-

tion of the Holy Ghost. "Burnt-offering and sacrifice,"

he declares, "Thou wouldest not. The sacrifices of God

are a broken spirit." In the grand prophetic strain of the

Fiftieth Psalm, the relation of sacrifice to obedience is no

less explicitly taught; the comparative worthlessness of the

one, the real value of the other. It is of importance to

bear in mind, that this, and this only, is the view taken

of the Mosaic sacrifices by the spiritually-enlightened Jew

under that dispensation. He evidently did not regard

those sacrifices, as so many Christian writers have regarded

them, as having, in the case of those who offered them in

penitence and faith, a spiritual efficacy. Their only efficacy

to him was the efficacy which the Law itself assigned to

 

 

* Luther, in commenting on those words of the First Psalm, "His

delight (or, as he renders it, will) is in the Law of Jehovah," beau-

tifully observes: "Now this will is that pure satisfaction of the heart,

and, so to speak, pleasure in the Law, which does not ask what the

Law promises, or what it threatens, but only this, that the Law is holy,

just, and good. It is, therefore, not only a love of the Law, but a loving

delight in the Law, which neither by any prosperity nor by any adversity

can the world and the prince of the world take away or overcome, but

through the midst of want, infamy, the cross, death, hell, it forces its

victorious way; for it shines forth chiefly in adversities."


 

                   THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.           59

 

them; they were the instruments of restoring him, when

he had transgressed, to his place as a member of the

theocracy, a citizen of the visible kingdom of God. But

they did not confer, or convey, the remission of sins. They

were external, and their efficacy was external. They were

typical, no doubt, of Christ's sacrifice; and the forgiveness

which they procured, and which resulted in the re-admis-

sion of an offender to the privileges of his Jewish citizen-

ship, was typical of the forgiveness of sins under the

Gospel dispensation. But it is no less certain that the legal

sacrifices did not take the place in the Old Testament of

the sacrifice of Christ in the New, that it was not through

his sacrifices that the Old Testament believer looked for

the forgiveness of his sins. Had it been so, we could not

have found the constant opposition between sacrifice and

obedience, the studied depreciation of sacrifices, which

meets us everywhere in the Psalms and the Prophets, and

which is, in fact, fully confirmed by the whole argument of

the Epistle to the Hebrews. How far the Jewish believer

saw into the typical meaning of his sacrifices, is a question

which cannot now be answered. It is however somewhat

remarkable that the Prophets, earnestly as they expostu-

late with the people on the subject of their sacrifices, never

say one word on this aspect of them, never speak of this

their hidden meaning. But the typical meaning and the

real efficacy are two very different things. In truth, as has

been ably argued,* if we assign to the type the virtue of

the antitype, if we make the remission of sins procured by

the one co-extensive with the remission of sins procured

by the other, we destroy the type altogether. The sacrifice

had no moral value. Hence the Psalmist says, not sacrifice

but a broken heart. Could he have said this, if through

the sacrifice he looked for forgiveness of sin?

           III. We find in the Psalms, on many occasions, asser-

tions of uprightness, of innocence, of freedom from trans-

gression, which almost startle us.    Such expressions,

 

* See the clear and satisfactory statement of the whole question in

Dean MacDonnell's Donnellan Lectures. Appendix to the First

Sermon.


 

60        THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

indeed, have sometimes given offence, as if they savoured

of a self-righteous spirit. But a little reflection will show

how mistaken such a notion is. We have but to turn to

the passages in which they occur to see at once that the

words are not the words of a proud boaster, ignorant alike

of his own heart and of the law of God. Take, for instance,

such passages as these: "Thou hast proved my heart;

Thou hast visited me by night; Thou hast tried me and

findest no evil thought in me; neither doth my heart trans-

gress " (Ps. xvii. 3). The words are bold words, no doubt.

Such an assertion of innocence is one which we might

tremble to make. But it is not self-righteous. It is not

the utterance of the Pharisee, "God, I thank Thee I am

not as other men are, or even as this publican." It is

made solemnly in the presence of God, with a direct appeal

to Him as knowing the heart: "From Thy presence let

my judgement go forth; Thine eyes behold uprightness"

(ver. 2). It is fully explained by other language imme-

diately preceding: "Give ear to my prayer which (is

uttered) by no deceitful lips." These last words show us

the sense in which such a passage is to be taken. The

Psalmist is not asserting his freedom from sin, but the

uprightness and guilelessness of his heart towards God.

He is no hypocrite, no dissembler; he is not consciously

doing wrong.

        Language equally strong, or stronger, we find again in

the next Psalm: "Jehovah rewarded me according to my

righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands did

He recompense me. For I have kept the ways of Jehovah,

and have not wickedly departed from my God. . . I have

also been perfect with Him, and have kept myself from my

iniquity." Such words are, no doubt, enough to make us

pause and look within, and ask ourselves if we can utter

them in sincerity, but they are manifestly not said in a

boastful, arrogant spirit. The whole Psalm is full of a

childlike trust and confidence in God, the very opposite of

the spirit of self-righteousness. It may be, perhaps, that

we meet with such expressions more frequently in the

Psalms than we do in the New Testament, because the

 


                 THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.             61

 

sense of sin under the old dispensation was not so deep as

under the new. That it was not, and could not be, the

New Testament itself teaches us. The Law was given to

restrain outward acts, but it could not touch the conscience.

There were foreshadowings of the sacrifice of Christ, but

that sacrifice had not been offered. And therefore, as the

power and efficiency of that atonement could not be under-

stood, so neither could all the depth and malignity of sin

be discovered. The Spirit of God, though He undoubtedly

was the source of all righteousness then, as now, in the

hearts of believers, yet did not, it is plain, exercise the

same influence as He does in the present dispensation.

We are distinctly taught that, till the Ascension of Christ,

"the Holy Ghost was not given." That gift, it is intimated,

was in some special sense the great glory and privilege of

the Christian Church. "It is expedient for you that I go

away; for if I go not away the Comforter will not come

to you, but if I depart I will send Him unto you." Nor

was the distinguishing feature of His mission the imparting

only of extraordinary miraculous gifts. In His other ope-

rations, also, He works now as He did not then. Coming

as the Spirit of the Father and the Son, it is His office in

a sense before unknown, because connected immediately

with the work of Christ and His going to the Father, to

convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judge-

ment. All, therefore, that was taught under the legal

economy on these subjects, though true, because taught

by the same Spirit, yet was nevertheless comparatively

imperfect, because He had not yet come as sent by the

risen Saviour.

         Still, while we admit this, because the whole tenour and

scope of God's Revelation compel us to admit it, we must

not forget how true, how real, how widely different from

anything to be met with elsewhere in the ancient world, is

the sense of sin expressed in the Psalms. It may be, no

doubt, and it often is, first awakened by suffering. The

sharpness of the rod seems the measure of the trans-

gression. It may be that more frequently acts of sin are

regarded than the bitter root whence these spring—the


 

62        THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

sinful nature. So far as this is the case, we may allow that

such representations are in accordance rather with the Old

Testament than with the New. But even granting this, we

have still the truest view of sin before us in the Psalms.

We do find there (in the Fifty-first Psalm) the confession

of a sinful nature, as well as of sinful acts. We find the

confession that all sin, as sin, is committed against God,

even when the act is done against our neighbour. We find

the ever-living consciousness that God looks at the heart,

and not merely at the outward act. "The righteous God

trieth the hearts and reins." We find the blessedness of

forgiveness stated in words which the Apostle Paul cites in

his Epistle to the Romans, when asserting the doctrine of

justification by faith. We find the need, and the longing

for sanctification through the Spirit, plainly and feelingly

declared.

       IV. One other point, bearing upon the moral position of

the Psalmists, remains to be considered, and it is, perhaps,

that which has occasioned more real perplexity than any

other. We find in some of the Psalms terrible denun-

ciations of the writer's enemies, withering anathemas, im-

precations so awful that we almost tremble to read them.

How are we to explain the occurrence of such prayers for

vengeance? Are they justifiable? Are they, not the mere

outbursts of passionate and unsanctified feeling, but the

legitimate expression of a righteous indignation? Or are

they Jewish only, and not Christian? And if so, then how

are we to reconcile this with a belief in the Divine autho-

rity and inspiration of the Scriptures? Such language is

certainly very different from anything that we meet with

in the New Testament; and yet, if it is not legitimate, if

we may not use it ourselves, then how can it be said to

be given by inspiration of God?

       This is a real difficulty, and it seemed so real a difficulty

even to a mind like that of Arnold, that he took refuge

in what must be called a non-natural interpretation, and

argued that such language could be lawfully used now,

only with reference to the enemies of our soul's peace.

Yet it is obvious how impossible it is to carry out this


 

             THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.           63

 

principle of interpretation. How, for instance, in wrestling

with spiritual enemies, could we adopt with any definite

meaning such words as these: "Set Thou a wicked man

over him, and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he

shall be judged, let him be condemned; and let his prayers

become sin. Let his days be few, and let another take

his office. Let his children be fatherless and his wife a

widow," &c. It is manifestly out of the question: the

gulf is too wide between the original sense and the

attempted application.

       I have so fully explained, in a note on the Thirty-fifth

Psalm, what I believe to be the right principle of inter-

pretation in passages of this imprecatory character, that

I need not go over the ground again. I will only make

two remarks. First, let the English reader be on his guard

against the well-meant assertions of Bishop Horne and

other writers, that the verbs which are correctly rendered

in our Authorized Version as optatives might, with equal

propriety, be rendered as futures. This method of trans-

lation would escape from the difficulty by giving us

predictions for imprecations. Thus, for instance, instead of

reading: "Let his days be few: let his children be father-

less," &c., these expositors would have us read: "His days

shall be few: his children shall be fatherless," &c. But

this is an expedient which does violence to the most certain

rules of language. The tense in Hebrew which by the

older grammarians is commonly called the future, and, by

the more recent, either the present or imperfect, but which

I venture to think ought to be called the aorist, has two

forms. One of these is used to denote sometimes present,

sometimes past, sometimes future action. The other, an

apocopated or shortened form, is used to denote the expres-

sion of a wish.* It is this last which occurs in all the

 

* In order to make this clear to a person ignorant of Hebrew, I

will attempt an illustration from the Latin. Amabit, "he will love,"

is the third person future of amo; now suppose that instead of

employing a distinct form, as the Latin language does, to express "let

him love," it were to convey this optative meaning by contracting the

future amabit into ambt, such a process would, as nearly as possible,

represent what takes place in Hebrew.

 


64           THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

passages where the English Version has employed, and

rightly employed, the auxiliary verb "let" as an equivalent.

This, then, is certain: we have in the Psalms imprecations,

prayers for vengeance, and not merely the threatening of

God's wrath against impenitent sinners. The verbs are

optatives, not futures.

         My next remark is designed to meet, if possible, a mis-

representation of my meaning in what I have said in the

Note before referred to. I have there endeavoured to

show that, whilst we need not suppose that the indignation

which burns so hotly is other than a righteous indignation,

yet that we are to regard it as permitted under the Old

Testament rather than justifiable under the New. Surely

there is nothing in such an explanation which in the

smallest degree impugns the Divine authority of the earlier

Scriptures. In how many respects have the harsher outlines

of the legal economy been softened down by "the mind

that was in Christ Jesus." How much of it is declared to

be antiquated, even though it still stands for our instruction

in the volume of the Bible. How clearly our Lord Himself

teaches us, that His Spirit and the spirit of Elijah are not

the same. Yet surely no prophet of the Old Testament

occupies a higher place, as an inspired messenger of God,

than the prophet Elijah. Our Lord does not condemn the

prophet for his righteous zeal: He does forbid the mani-

festation of a like zeal on the part of His disciples. As

in the Sermon on the Mount He substitutes the moral

principle for the legal enactment, so here He substitutes

the spirit of gentleness, meekness, endurance of wrongs,

for the spirit of fiery though righteous indignation. The

Old Testament is not contrary to the New, but it is

inferior to it.

         And there is a peculiarity in the circumstances under

which our Lord's remarks were uttered when He forbade

His disciples to call down fire from heaven upon the

Samaritan village, which makes His remarks on that

occasion strictly applicable to the question we are dis-

cussing. The disciples, it is plain, were not actuated by

selfish or interested motives. It was not their own quarrel,


 

         THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.               65

 

but their Master's, in which they were engaged. The insult

had been offered to Him, and therefore they would have

avenged Him as Peter did, when he drew his sword and

cut off the ear of Malchus. Their indignation was righteous,

as Elijah's indignation was righteous. But because they

were disciples of the Gospel of peace, not the stern soldiers

of an exclusive and peremptory law, the zealous work

of vengeance was forbidden them. Surely, then, we are

justified in saying that the imprecations in the Psalms,

though springing from a righteous zeal for the glory of

God, and not from any mere thirst of personal revenge,

still are not such as a Christian can lawfully, in their

natural sense, use now. They may have their lesson for

us, nevertheless. They may show us what zeal for God

is; how it consumes one who is truly filled by it. They

may be a warning against laxity of belief, indifference,

softness of spirit, even whilst we know that our zeal is to

be a zeal of love, not of hate; our fervour, a fervour of

devotion to God, rather than of opposition even to those

whom we may count to be His enemies. The imprecations

which may not pass over our lips, where one of our own

enemies, or even one of God's enemies, is concerned, may

still remind us that there is a holy jealousy of love, may

rouse us to greater moral earnestness, may rebuke us, and

put us to shame because we are neither cold nor hot. Such

words of Scripture may be profitable for reproof, if they

are not profitable for doctrine.*

         V. Before we quit the general subject of the Theology

of the Psalms, one other topic requires a few words of

notice. I have touched upon it frequently in the Notes,

but an allusion to it here will not be out of place. What

do we gather from the Psalms with respect to a future life?

Does the hope of that life, and of the resurrection of the

dead, occupy any prominent place among those motives by

which the saint of God strives to sustain his faith amidst

the wrong-doing which he sees in the world, the persecu-

 

* See Coleridge's Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit, Letter III.;

and Dean Stanley's Jewish Church, Lect. XI. p. 249, &c. I have

said more on the subject in my Sermons. Sermon V.

 


66            THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

tions to which he is exposed, the sorrows and the sufferings

which lay so heavily upon him? Very rarely indeed is

this motive appealed to: still more rarely is it made a

ground of consolation in the midst of suffering. Some

half-dozen passages in the Psalms are all that can be

pointed out, where the bright hope of everlasting life casts

its light upon the present. In this, as in all things else,

God's revelation was gradual. At no time could they

who trusted in God and loved Him dream that their trust

and love were only for this world. But in the life of

Abraham, nothing is said of his hope after death. In the

life of Moses it is the same. With David the hope begins

to assert itself; it is not, indeed, clear; it speaks in no

certain accents; but still it wears the aspect, and utters the

voice, of a hope. It is a hope of that which may be, rather

than of that which shall be: but yet, even in its weakness,

it tramples upon the world, and time, and death. With

Isaiah this hope becomes clearer. Ezekiel, in the parable

of a national resurrection, draws his image from the resur-

rection of the dead. Daniel asserts it in language which

cannot be mistaken. From this time onward it becomes an

undoubted article of Jewish belief. They who deny it are

counted for a sect, and our Lord confutes them with an

unanswerable argument drawn from the books of Moses.

Finally, by His Resurrection, life and immortality were

brought to light; and from the days of the Apostles to the

present hour, Jesus and the Resurrection have been the

prominent subjects of all Christianity, and a future life the

most consoling hope in all times of affliction, and in the

presence of death. But it was otherwise with the fathers

of the Jewish Church. God was teaching them the capital

truth on which all other truth was to rest, that He, and

nothing else, was their sufficient portion. "I am thy shield,

and thy exceeding great reward," this was His great word

to Abraham. It was by this that Abraham lived. All

else was promise; this was present possession. The pro-

mised land he could never call his own; the promised seed

was given to him only to be demanded back by Him who

gave it. The whole discipline of Abraham's life had this


 

        THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.                67

 

purpose in it; to lead him to find in the everlasting God,

his strength, his portion, his all. He was called "the friend

of God;" and he who had God for his friend could need,

could have, nothing more; for all was implied in this. On

this fact Abraham's life was built; on this the lives of all

his true children. The Jews were not merely designed to

be witnesses to the world of the unity of God. They were

this, no doubt; but they were far more. They were wit-

nesses to a better truth,—that the Eternal God loves men,

and calls them His children and His friends, and that men

can be, and know themselves to be, His friends and His

children. It is of this truth that the Psalms are full.

They give proof in every verse of the reality of a com-

munion and fellowship between the living God and His

creatures. The poetry of the Hebrews, it has been well

said, is a "poetry of friendship between God and man."*

And it seems to have been designed that the truth of this

Divine communion should occupy so commanding a posi-

tion, that no other truth should be suffered, as it were, to

come into competition with it. + This was to stand alone

in its grandeur, because it is upon this that man's life must

be built. We must rest upon the broad foundation of faith

before we can have the hope which maketh not ashamed.

If hope is the anchor within the veil, faith is the victory

which overcometh the world. We cannot wonder, there-

fore, that so little, comparatively, is said of a future life

in the Psalms. It was not yet time. God was training

His children to lean only upon Him. When the fulness

of the time was come, the veil was rent away, Paradise

opened, and the Church militant made one with the Church

triumphant.++

 

* "Eine Freundschaftspoesie der Menschen mit Gott sollte sie

 seyn; eine Kindespoesie schwacher Menschen vom väterlichen höch-

sten Wesen, die sick an seinen Bund erinnern, auf sein gegebenes

Wort beziehen, und ihr Herz durch Thaten Gottes stärken."– HERDER,

 Sämmtl. Werke, i. 213

+ See Dean Stanley's Jewish Church, Lect. VII. p. 154, and Mr.

Isaac Taylor's admirable work, The Spirit of the Hebrew Poetry,

where this abstinence from the theme of a future life is strikingly

brought out.

+ I have discussed this whole question more fully in my Hulsean

Lectures on "Immortality, " Lect. III.


 

68       THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.

 

       I have thus endeavoured to trace some of those differ-

ences between the Old Testament and the New, which

meet us in the Psalms; and which meet us peculiarly

there, because there, more than anywhere else, we can see

what the life of the saints, their true life, was towards God.

Such an attempt must be made carefully, lest we either

exaggerate differences on the one side, or fail to see them

on the other. That there are differences, our Lord Himself

has taught us. In His Sermon on the Mount, and in the

discourse with His disciples before referred to, He has

distinctly recognised them. It is for us to strive to see

them in His light:, not according to our own prepossessions.

We read the Old Testament now with our Christian illu-

mination; we read it, therefore, in a Christian sense; we

cannot help doing so. But we should also remember, that

that sense is not the sense which it once possessed; but one

which has superseded, or softened, or transfigured the other.

We must not attribute to them of old time a knowledge

and an insight which they did not possess, even whilst we

thankfully use their words as the best expression of our

own Christian faith, and hope, and love.

       Let me venture here to add a comparison by which I

have sometimes endeavoured to illustrate to my own mind

the difference between the Old Covenant and the New.

They who belonged to the former were like men living in

a valley, above whose heads hung heavy masses of vapour,

hiding from them the mountain-peaks which rose near, and

the light resting on their summits. Now and then, through

a sudden rift in the vapour, there stole a ray of light, and

lingered for a moment on some favoured spot in the valley

beneath. Now and then some one dwelling in that favoured

spot, and endowed with a keener sight than the rest, fol-

lowed that ray of light, till his eye rested upon the mountain

summit. It was but for a moment that he was permitted

to see such things, yet it was long enough to make him

rejoice in hope; long enough to make him a preacher to

others of what he had himself been privileged to see. We,

on the other hand, stand on the mountain-top on which the

Sun has risen, on which the full light now shineth. The


 

            THE THEOLOGY OF THE PSALMS.                69

 

vapours which once hid the valley are rolled away. To us

the whole landscape is disclosed. We see, therefore, not

the mountain only, but the valley. We see it far more

truly than those who dwelt in it, for we see, not a part

only, but the whole. We see it, not by means of a partial

illumination only, mist and light struggling and confused,

but all unveiled in its cloudless splendour. We see both

mountain and valley, radiant with a Divine glory, bright

with the everlasting sunshine of God.*

 

* A further discussion of some of the topics treated of in this

Chapter will be found in the Appendix to Vol. II. of this Edition.


 

 

 

                                CHAPTER IV.

 

THE POSITION, NAMES, DIVISION, AND PROBABLE ORIGIN

              AND FORMATION OF THE PSALTER.

 

     I. Place of the Psalms in the Bible.—The Psalter is a

Part of the third great division of the Hebrew Bible, which

is styled the K'thubhîm, or Hagiographa. In this division

it has commonly occupied the first place, and hence we find

the whole of the Old Testament summed up under the

three names of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.*

This order, however, has not been uniformly followed. It

is observed in the German MSS. and in most printed

editions, where the several Books stand as follow: Psalms,

Proverbs, Job, and then the Five Megilloth, as they are

called, viz. the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Eccle-

siastes, Esther. But the Massoreth and the Spanish MSS.

arrange differently: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, the

Megilloth, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah; the intention being,

no doubt, thus to bring the Books of Chronicles into imme-

diate juxtaposition with the Books of Kings, but with the

obvious disadvantage of separating Chronicles from Ezra

and Nehemiah. According to the Talmud the order is:

Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs; the Book of Ruth being pre-

fixed as a kind of Prologue to the Psalms, because David

was descended from Ruth. But the natural order is that

which places the Psalms first, as representing, in a con-

siderable portion of it, the age of David; and then Proverbs

and Job, as representing the age of Solomon.

        II. Names of the Psalms.—The Psalms are called, in our

 Hebrew Bibles, by the general name of Myl.ihiT; (T’hillim),

"Praises, Songs of Praise," or Myl.ihiT; rp,se, "Book of

 

                         * Luke xxiv. 44.

 

                                70


 

             FORMATION OF THE PSALTER.                   71

 

Praises;" frequently written in a shorter form, Myl.iTi (or

with the Aramaic termination NyliTi), or even still further

abbreviated, by rejection of the final Mem, into yl.;Ti (Tilli).*

It is remarkable, however, that only one single Psalm, the

145th, is styled a T'hillah, or "Song of Praise," in its

Inscription; and as most of the Psalms are not, strictly

speaking, hymns, but rather of an elegiac or didactic cha-

racter, it has been thought surprising that they should be

styled collectively "Songs of Praise." De Wette, indeed,

objects to the title, as not representing sufficiently the

general character of the Book; but a more suitable one

could, perhaps, hardly be found; for thanksgiving is the

very life of the Psalms, even of those in which there

breathes most the language of complaint. "To the Glory

of God" might stand as the Inscription of each. The

narrative Psalms praise, whilst they record, His mighty

deeds; the didactic Psalms declare His goodness as worthy

of grateful acknowledgment; the Psalms of sorrow are

turned into songs of joy, in the recollection or anticipation

of His saving help. "The verb lle.ha"+ says Delitzsch,

"includes both the Magnificat and the De Profundis."

       Another name, given, however, not to the whole Psalter,

but only to a portion of it, is tOl.piT; (T’philloth), "Prayers."

At the end of the Seventy-second Psalm there is appended

a notice, which is designed, as some have supposed, to

apply to the Second Book, but which more probably ap-

plies to the whole collection ranging from Ps. i. to Ps. lxxii.,

"The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." Here,

as in the former instance, the name is not borrowed from

the Inscriptions of the Psalms, for only one in that col-

lection, namely the Seventeenth, is expressly styled "a

Prayer." In the later Books a few other Psalms are

entitled "Prayers;" such are Psalms lxxxvi., xc., cii., cxlii.

 

* Hippolytus attempts to express the title in Greek letters:  [Ebrai?oi

perie<grayan th>n bi<blon  Se<fra qelei<m and Jerome in Latin (in the Pre-

face to his translation juxta Hebraicam Veritatem) : "Et titulus

ipse Hebraicus SEPHAR THALLIM, quod interpretatur volumen

hymnorum Apostolice auctoritati congruens non plures libros, sed

unum volumen ostendit." In later Jewish writings, the feminine form

tOl.hiTi occurs.

+ "To praise;" retained in the English, Hallelujah.


 

72               THE PROBABLE ORIGIN

 

But here, again, the title, as a general title, is justified by

the contents of most of the Psalms. Psalms, it is true,

like the First, the Second, the Thirty-third, the Thirty-

seventh, contain no address to God, and many others, which

contain petitions and supplications, are not throughout in

the form of prayers. And yet, if prayer be the eye of the

heart turned towards God, then each Psalm is a prayer,

just as Hannah's Song of Praise is styled a prayer. "And

Hannah prayed and said," &c. Thus the very names of

the Psalms, "Praises and Prayers," not only tell us what

they are, but remind us, in the language of the Apostle,

"in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanks-

giving, to make known our requests unto God.''*

        In the Septuagint, the whole collection is styled yalmoi<

(Psalms), songs sung to a musical accompaniment; and,

elsewhere in Hellenistic Greek, sometimes yalth<rion, a

word properly denoting, in the first instance, a stringed

instrument (psantêrin in the Book of Daniel; English,

psaltery), and then the song or songs sung thereto (English,

psalter). In the N. T. the Psalter is called bibloj yalmw?n,

"the Book of Psalms" (Luke xx. 42, Acts i. 20). From

the LXX. the name was adopted by the Vulgate, and so

came into general use in the Christian Church.

        III. Existing Division of the Psalms.—The Psalms are

divided in our Hebrew Bibles into five Books, the close of

each of the first four being marked by a doxology: the

150th Psalm itself, perhaps, as Delitzsch suggests, occupy-

ing the place of a doxology at the end of the last. These

Books are distributed as follow: Book I. contains Psalms

i.—x1i.; Book II. Psalms xlii. —lxxii.; Book III. Psalms

lxxiii.—lxxxix.; Book IV. Psalms xc.—cvi; Book V. Psalms

cvii.—cl. Hilary (Prol. in Librum Psalmorum) mentions

this division, and observes on the fiat, fiat (Amen, Amen),

 

* The Massoreth styles the Psalter, xlylh, Hallêla. In Syriac it is

called ketobo demazmûre; in the Koran, zabûr; this last meaning in

Arabic nothing more than "writing," or "scripture," though Delitzsch

conjectures it may be a corruption of mizmor, whence, in Jewish oriental

manuscripts, is formed a broken plural, mezâmîr. In the O. T. there

occurs no plural of mizmor. In later Hebrew, both mizmorim and

mizmoroth are occasionally employed as names of the Psalms.


 

 

            AND FORMATION OF THE PSALTER.              73

 

with which the several Books conclude, but thinks himself

bound by the authority of the Apostle (Acts i. 20), who

speaks of the Book of Psalms, to reject this division. On

the other hand, he considers it absurd to call them "the

Psalms of David," because the names of so many other

authors are given in the Inscriptions. Cassiodorus, in like

manner, declares for one Book instead of five, but strangely

assigns the existing fivefold arrangement to Jerome, who,

in the Preface to his Psalter, expressly discards it. Augus-

tine (on Ps. cl.) is of the same opinion, confessing that he

can discern no reason for the division. Hippolytus, on the

other hand, whose words are afterwards quoted by Epipha-

nies, styles the Psalter "a second Pentateuch." His words

are: Tou?to< se mh> pare<lqoi, w# filo<loge, o!ti kai> to> yal-

th<rion ei]j pe<nte diei?lon bibli<a oi[  [Ebrai?oi, w!ste ei#nai kai>

au]to> a@llon penta<teuxon . In accordance with this is the

Midrash on Psalm i. I: "Moses gave to the Israelites the

Five Books of the Law, and corresponding to these

(Mdgnk) David gave them the Book of Psalms, which

consists of Five Books." "This division," says Delitzsch,

perhaps somewhat fancifully, "makes the Psalter the coun-

terpart of the Law, which it also resembles in this, that as

in the Law Jehovistic and Elohistic sections alternate, so

here a group of Elohistic Psalms (xlii.—lxxxiv.) is inserted

between two groups of Jehovistic Psalms (i.—xli ; lxxxv.—

cl.). The Psalter is also a Pentateuch, the echo of the

Mosaic Pentateuch from the heart of Israel; it is the five-

fold Book of the congregation to Jehovah, as the Law is

the fivefold Book of Jehovah to the congregation."

       The doxologies which stand at the end of Psalms xli.,

lxxii., and lxxxix., stand there appropriately, as marking

the close of certain groups, or distinct collections of Psalms.

But there seems no such natural appropriateness in the

position of the fourth doxology. There is no reason, as

Ewald has observed, why Psalm cvi. should be separated

from Psalm cvii. It was placed here, therefore, by the last

collector or editor of the Psalms, in order to make up the

fivefold division. Three divisions already existed from an

earlier date. The rest of the Psalms, from Psalm xc. to cl.,


 

74                 THE PROBABLE ORIGIN

 

gradually collected, most of them after the Exile, would

have formed one long Fourth Book, out of proportion to

the rest, but for this division, which, making two Books out

of one, brought the whole into conformity with the arrange-

ment of the Law. It is not improbable, indeed, that this

division into Five Books was made after the model of the

Pentateuch; but when, or by whom, it was made, it is now

impossible to say, All that we know is, that the division

is as old as the Book of Chronicles, and therefore as old as

the time of Nehemiah; for in I Chron. xvi. 35, 36, there

is a free citation of verses 47, 48, of the 106th Psalm, the

latter of which forms the doxology with which the Fourth

Book concludes. But this doxology, there is every reason

to suppose, was added later than any of the others. The

first three Books represent, in the main, three original

collections, as we shall see; the First belonging to the early

period, the Second and Third to what may be called the

middle period of the Jewish monarchy.

      IV. The gradual formation of the Psalter.---I. One of

the first things which strikes us in an examination of the

Inscriptions, is that for the most part groups of Psalms by

 the same author are brought together. This fact is an

indication that originally a number of smaller collections

must have existed independently, which were afterwards

united in one. The First Book consists, with two or three

exceptions, of Psalms of David; the Second, of a series of

Psalms by the sons of Korah, and another series by David;

the Third, of two minor collections, one supposed to be by

Asaph, and the other by the sons of Korah. In the Fifth

we have one group of "Pilgrim Songs," and another group

of "Hallelujah Psalms," each of them manifestly, in the first

instance, distinct hymn-books or liturgies.

      2. Again, a new Book frequently begins with a new

collection, and this is followed by a series of Psalms, in-

tended to be a supplement to the preceding Book. So, for

instance, Book II. was a Korahite selection, enlarged by

the addition of a number of Psalms of David, which had

escaped the notice of the compiler of the First Book.

       3. The same Psalm occurs in different Books, with some


 

          AND FORMATION OF THE PSALTER.              75

 

variation, such as would be due partly to accident in its

transmission from mouth to mouth, partly to design where

it had been adapted to new circumstances, and to express

particular feelings. The fact, however, that certain Psalms

(the 14th and 53rd, the latter part of the 40th and the l0th,

the 57th, 60th, and 108th) are thus repeated in different

Books, proves incontestably that these Books were originally

separate collections.

      4. The distinct use of the Divine Names lends a charac-

teristic feature to some of the Books. Thus, in the First

Book, Jehovah occurs 272 times, and Elohim but 15. The

next two Books are chiefly Elohistic, at least as far as

Ps. lxxxiv. From Ps. lxxxv. to the end of the Psalter, the

name Jehovah again becomes prevalent, and to such an

extent, that in Books IV. and V. it occurs 339 times, and

Elohim, of the true God, but once (cxliv. 9). It is owing

to this peculiarity in the use of the Divine Names, as it

would seem, that the Korahite Ps. lxxxiv. is subjoined to

the Elohistic Psalms of Asaph, which immediately pre-

cede. Of David's 71 Psalms, 18 are Elohistic; of the

Korahite, 2; of Asaph's, all. Add to these one of Solo-

mon's, and 4 anonymous ones, and we have in all (reckon-

ing Pss. xlii. xliii. as one) 44, in which the name Elohim

predominates. They form the middle portion of the

Psalter, and have preceding them 41, and following them

65, Jehovistic Psalms.*

 

* Delitzsch, Ueber den Psalter, II. 388.

    No probable explanation of this phenomenon has yet been given.

Ewald supposes that the collector of the Second Book purposely

changed the name throughout all these Psalms from Jehovah to Elohim,

influenced perhaps by the same sort of superstitious feeling which

prevents the modern Jews from uttering the sacred Name Jehovah.

But there is no foundation for such an hypothesis, nor is it consistent

with the fact that the later Psalms have, by preference, the name

Jehovah. The attempts of Hengstenberg and others, and recently of

some English critics, to show that the two names are always used with

reference to their distinct meaning—Jehovah as the covenant God

of Israel, Elohim as God the creator and governor of the world—must

be regarded as equally unsatisfactory. One fact entirely overthrows

it, viz., that the same Psalm appears both in a Jehovistic and an

Elohistic recension. Bishop Colenso's theory is the most extravagant

of all. As, according to him, Samuel introduced the name Jehovah,

so this name is first found in the later Psalms of David, and in those


 

76                 THE PROBABLE ORIGIN

 

Let us now examine the several Books more closely, and

endeavour to ascertain how far the original collection ex-

tended. The First Book consists entirely of Psalms attri-

buted to David, with the exception of four, which in the

Hebrew text are without any name; the First, the Second,

the Tenth, and the Thirty-third. But the first was regarded

usually (see Introduction to the Psalm) as a general pro-

logue to the Book, and according to an ancient arrange-

ment, the Second Psalm was united with the First. In the

version of the LXX., the Tenth Psalm forms one with the

Ninth; and the Thirty-third, however wrongly, is called a

Psalm of David. In later Books we find in the same way

shorter collections of songs supposed to be David's, and

these for the most part grouped together.

         But did the original collection end here, or did it extend

beyond the First Book? At first sight we might be dis-

posed to think that it extended as far as Psalm lxxii.,

which closes with a notice implying that up to that point

none but Psalms of David, or Psalms at least of his time,

had been collected. This collection, too, it might be

argued, was formed by Solomon, who concluded it with a

Psalm either written by himself, or, as some have conjec-

tured, composed by David originally, and reduced to its

present form by Solomon. It is far from improbable, as I

have pointed out in the Introduction to Psalm i., that that

Psalm was written by Solomon, and by him prefixed to the

first collected edition of his father's poetry.* We might

 

portions of the Pentateuch which are later than Samuel, the Elohistic

Psalms being earlier than the Jehovistic sections of the Pentateuch.

But all the facts are against such a theory. The Psalms of the First

Book (which he scarcely notices) are, by the consent of all critics, the

earliest in the collection, and these are Jehovistic. Many of David's

later Psalms (as the 51st, the 60th, the 63rd, &c.) are Elohistic; many

of his earlier, Jehovistic. Other Psalms of the age of Hezekiah (or at

the earliest of Jehoshaphat), as xlvi.—xlviii., and Psalms confessedly of

the period of the Exile, are Elohistic. How impossible, then, it is to

contend that Elohim is a mark of antiquity in a Psalm, Jehovah of a

more recent date. This has been well argued by Professor Harold.

Browne (now Bishop of Ely), in his Reply to Bishop Colenso. His

criticisms, both on the Psalms and on the Pentateuch, are, I rejoice to

find, on many important points, confirmatory of my own.

* I can now add a circumstance in favour of that hypothesis, for the

notice of which I am indebted to my friend Mr. George Grove. He


 

             AND FORMATION OF THE PSALTER.              77

 

thus suppose the royal editor to have published the book

with a preface and a conclusion of his own. But the

internal evidence of the Second Book overthrows this

hypothesis. The First Book contains few Psalms that can

be certainly assumed to be later than the time of David.

The Second Book contains some unquestionably Davidic

songs, and one of Asaph, which may possibly be the

genuine work of Asaph the seer. But it contains also a

series of Psalms ascribed to the Korahite singers, many of

which, it is perfectly clear, could have been written by no

contemporary of David. The 46th Psalm (perhaps the 47th)

and the 48th are almost certainly as late as the time of

Hezekiah, and are songs of triumph celebrating the defeat

of Sennacherib. By some critics, indeed, they are placed

in the reign of Jehoshaphat, but no commentator of repute

has placed them earlier. The date of the 44th has been

much questioned, but it may perhaps be Maccabean, as

Calvin was disposed to think. It contains an assertion of

national innocence strangely at variance with all that we

know of the earlier history of Israel, and with the uni-

form language of the Prophets. The 65th, 66th, and

67th Psalms may be referred most probably to the times

of the Assyrian invasion, the 71st to the time of Jere-

miah, and indeed it may have been written by the Prophet

himself; the 69th seems to have been as late even as

the Exile.

         The internal evidence, then, leads irresistibly to the con-

clusion, that the original collection was of smaller compass,

and consisted, we may reasonably suppose, of those Poems

mainly, if not exclusively, which are now classed in the

 

remarked to me that the writer of the First Psalm must, he thought,

have been a dweller in Northern Palestine, or one familiar with its

scenery. To such a person the image of the tree planted by the

channels of waters, whose leaf does not wither, would be far more

natural than to an inhabitant of the southern district, where the streams

only run in winter, and are soon dried up. Now Solomon, we know,

had his summer-palace of Lebanon, and must consequently have often

passed through a country which would have suggested the image

employed in the Psalm. Indeed, would not such a phenomenon be

more striking to one who saw it occasionally, than to one who had it

constantly before his eyes?

 


78               THE PROBABLE ORIGIN

 

First Book. These, I incline to think, were first collected

by Solomon, who would naturally provide for the preserva-

tion and transmission of his father's poetry, the more so as

the musical services of the Temple were by his direction

conducted with the utmost magnificence, though he himself

apparently contributed little or nothing to the anthems and

liturgies of that service. It is not, however, necessary

therefore to assume that all the Psalms of the First Book

were written by David or his contemporaries; for at a later

period some might have been added to the collection as

first made by Solomon.

         The next collection was probably not completed till the

time of Hezekiah. To "the men of Hezekiah" we owe

the preservation of many proverbs of Solomon not in-

cluded in the first collection of his Proverbs (xxv. I). To

them we may in like manner be indebted for the discovery

and preservation of many of those Psalms attributed to

David, which we find grouped together in the Second Book.

The peculiarity of this Book is, that it consists first of a

group of Psalms attributed to the sons of Korah, then of a

single Psalm said to be by Asaph, then of another group

mostly bearing the name of David. In the Third Book

we meet with a similar phenomenon. Here we have but

one Psalm, the Eighty-sixth, which is said to be a Psalm of

David, and we have first a group of Psalms called Psalms

of Asaph (lxxiii.---lxxxiii.), and then a group of Korahite

Psalms, forming a supplement to those in the Second Book,

precisely as David's Psalms in the Second Book form a

supplement to those in the First.

          Now we are told, in 2 Chron. xxix. 30, that Hezekiah,

when he kept that great Passover which filled all Jerusalem

with joy, and which seemed the beginning of a better and

happier time, appointed the Levites "to praise Jehovah in

the words of David and of Asaph the seer." Such a fact

harmonises exactly with what we have seen as to the

formation of the Second and Third Books of the Psalms.

Psalms of David are contained in the one, Psalms of

Asaph in the other. And what more likely than that the

compiler (or compilers) of these two Books should have

 


          AND FORMATION OF THE PSALTER.            79

 

appended the remark at the end of lxxii. 20, in order to

intimate that he knew of no more Psalms which could with

any show of reason be assigned to David? The fact that

we have but one Psalm going by his name in the Third

Book, lends colour to the supposition that the person who

compiled that Book wrote the words which now stand as

the conclusion of Psalm lxxii.

       No further additions were made to the Psalter till the

times of Ezra and Nehemiah, when it was enriched by a

large number of songs written during and after the Exile.

To this period are due, in the main, the Fourth and Fifth

Books. With these later Psalms were incorporated, how-

ever, some gleanings from earlier times; some precious

relics of the ancient Psalmody of Israel not hitherto classed

in any collection, and possibly preserved some of them

only by oral repetition from father to son. The Fourth

Book opens with a Psalm said to be "a Prayer of Moses,

the Man of God." Then follows a series without names,

and in this Book two only, the 101st and 103rd, are said

to be by David. In the Fifth Book we have fifteen more

attributed to him, some obviously by mistake, others, as

the 110th, beyond all doubt rightly so attributed. From

all this we conclude, first, that the formation of the present

Psalter was a gradual work; and next, that though several

individual Psalms have been dislocated, so as to disturb

the chronological order, another order having been sub-

stituted for that of sequence in time, yet that in the main,

the oldest Psalms stand first; the latest, last. The most

ancient songs, those of David and of David's time, are

chiefly contained in Pss. i.—xli. In xlii.—lxxxix. mainly

those of the middle period of Hebrew poetry. In xc.---cl.

by far the majority are of a later date, composed during or

after the Babylonish captivity.

         But as in the Prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, so

here the chronological order seems to be recognised, only

to be crossed and broken by another. The groups, as a

whole, are chronologically disposed, but not so the several

Psalms. Here a different principle of arrangement has

been observed, and one to a great extent of a merely

 


80                THE PROBABLE ORIGIN

 

external kind. Psalms are placed together, sometimes

because the instruction conveyed in both is the same;

sometimes because the same word or expression occurs

in both: thus, for instance, Ps. li. (David's) follows Ps. 1.

(Asaph's), because both disparage the sacrifices of slain

beasts, as compared with the personal sacrifice of a broken

heart and an obedient will: again, Psalm xxxv. follows

Psalm xxxiv., because in both mention is made of "the

Angel of Jehovah." Psalms 1iv. and 1v. are associated,

because in ver. 4 of the one we have "O God, hear my

prayer;" and in ver. 2 of the other, "Give ear, O God, to

my prayer."

        This principle being once recognised, we may under-

stand how it comes to pass that later Psalms may be found

in the earlier Books, and earlier Psalms in the later.

Psalms by the same author would, almost as a matter of

course, be characterised by certain peculiarities of expres-

sion. Some proof of this will be given in the next chapter.

Hence, many such Psalms, originally placed together,

would be left as they were first placed, and others, again,

would be inserted here and there, where some link of

affinity suggested that a place might be found for them.

Thus it was that the chronological order held its ground

partially; and thus we can account for the exception to,

and deviation from, that order. Beyond this, it would be

folly to attempt to go. To give a reason for the place of

each Psalm, is as impossible as to give a reason for the

order of the different Suras in the Koran; though there,

in like manner, we see a general principle adhered to, the

larger Suras coming first, and the smaller afterwards, with-

out any regard to chronological sequence. In the Divan

of Armul Kais, the Poems are differently arranged in

different MSS., without any apparent reason or plan being

discernible. In the Vedas, on the other hand, it has been

 

 

* Delitzsch, both in his Commentary and in his Symbolae ad

Psalmos illustrandos, has endeavoured to show that the order of all

the Psalms rests upon a principle of this kind. Qimkhi (on Ps. ii.)

says: The reason why one Psalm follows another in a particular

order is not known to us, only we know that they are not arranged

chronologically.


 

        AND FORMATION OF THE PSALTER.              81

 

noticed that there are the same external points of con-

nection as in the Psalms. Invocations addressed to the

same divinities (as in the Psalms the same Divine Name),

hymns referring to the same circumstances, and prayers

for similar occasions are usually classed together.*

       V. Numbering of the Psalms.—Two other points require

some notice: (I) the separation of the several Psalms from

one another; and (2) the integrity of each in the form in

which we have them in our existing collection.

       (I) As regards the first, every Psalm which is provided

with an Inscription, is by that very circumstance separated

from the Psalm immediately preceding: but it is otherwise

with those which have no Inscription. Here, in the MSS.

of the original collection, there would be little to distin-

guish between the end of one Psalm and the beginning

of the next; nothing more, perhaps, than a small space

between the two; or, at the most, the beginning of the

Psalm would be marked by the beginning of another line.

Hence copyists might easily make mistakes, and we find

that the LXX. (who are followed by the Vulgate) make, in

four instances, a distribution different from that of the

Hebrew text. They combine Pss. ix. and x., and also

cxiv. and cxv. into a single Psalm. On the other hand,

they divide cxvi. into two, ver. I—9, 10—19; and in like

manner cxlvii. into two, ver. I--II, 12—20.

      The following table will exhibit the respective arrange-

ments of the two texts :

            HEBREW.                              LXX. VULGATE.

            Ps. i.-viii.                                Ps. i.-viii.

                  ix, x.                                       ix.

                 xi.-cxiii.                                  x.-cxii.

                 cxiv., cxv.                            cxiii.

                cxvi.                                    cxiv.-cxv.

                cxvii.-cxlvi.                         cxvi.-cxlv.

                cxlvii.                                  cxlvi., cxlvii.

                cxlviii.-cl.                            cxlviii.-cl.

 

       In these cases, the division in the Hebrew text seems

preferable to the other. There are several other instances

 

             * Stähelin, Einleitung, pp. 382, 383.


 

82                THE PROBABLE ORIGIN

 

in which, although the two texts harmonize, yet the

existing division appears doubtful.

       Thus, it is almost certain that Pss. xlii., xliii., were

originally but one poem. Less probably the same may

have been the case with cxiii., cxiv.; and cxvii. (which is

only two verses) may have originally belonged to cxviii.

On the other hand, some Psalms which now appear as

one have been formed, it has been conjectured, out: of

two. As, for instance, Ps. xix. ver. I—6, and ver. 7—14 ;

xxiv. ver. 1—6, and ver. 7—10; xxvii. ver. I—6, and

ver. 7—14 ; xxxii. ver. 1—7, and ver. 8-11.

       But in most of these cases there is little reason for

disturbing the existing arrangement.

      (2) Many of the Psalms have not come down to us in

their original form. (a) Later additions, omissions, and

other alterations have been purposely made, in order to

adapt them to special occasions. (b) Owing to a long-

continued and widely-spread oral transmission, various

lesser changes in the text would of necessity take place.

We have an instance of the variations which would thus

arise in comparing the two versions of the Eighteenth

Psalm, the version which is found in 2 Sam. xxii.

being the more popular of the two. Other examples of

deviation, partly accidental, partly due to design, may be

found on comparing Ps. lxx. with the latter portion of

Ps. xl., from which it was both detached and altered; and

Ps. liii. with Ps. xiv. In the last instance the changes seem

to have been made purposely to adapt the Psalm to a

particular emergency.

        We have a striking instance of addition to an ancient

poem in Ps. li., of which the two last verses were obviously

added at the time of the return from the Exile, the Psalm

itself having been written by David, as the title correctly

informs us.

       Psalm cviii. is compounded of portions of two other

Psalms, lvii. 8—12, and lx. 7—14. Similarly the Psalm

given in I Chron. xvi. 8—36, is a composition from Pss.

xcvi., cv., and cvi. I, 47. It is possible, in like manner,

that the two parts of Ps. xix. were borrowed from two


 

              AND FORMATION OF THE PSALTER.            83

 

originally distinct poems, and designedly placed together

by some later hand. Design is manifestly shown in the

juxtaposition of the two, the glory of God in nature, and

the glory of God in His Law; and, at the same time, the

style of the two portions is widely different.

      It is plain, then, that these ancient Hebrew songs and

hymns must have suffered a variety of changes in the

course of time, similar to those which may be traced in

the older religious poetry of the Christian Church, where

this has been adapted by any means to the object of some

later compiler. Thus hymns once intended for private

use became adapted to public. Words and expressions

applicable to the original circumstances of the writer, but

not applicable to the new purpose to which the hymn was

to be put, were omitted or altered. It is only in a critical

age that any anxiety is manifested to ascertain the original

form in which a poem appeared. The practical use of

hymns in the Christian Church, and of the Psalms in the

Jewish, far outweighed all considerations of a critical kind;

or rather these last never occurred. Hence it has become

a more difficult task than it otherwise would have been to

ascertain the historical circumstances under which certain

Psalms were written. Some traces we find leading us to

one period of Jewish history; others which lead to another.

Often there is a want of cohesion between the parts of a

Psalm; often an abruptness of transition which we can

hardly account for, except on the hypothesis that we no

longer read the Psalm in its original form.


 

 

 

                                  CHAPTER V.

 

               THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.

 

THE Inscriptions of the Psalms are chiefly of three

kinds.

     I. Those which mark their musical or liturgical

character.

      II. Those which assign them to particular authors.

     III. Those which designate the particular circumstances

under which a Psalm was composed.

    Any of these may occur separately, or be combined to

form one Title.

     I. We distinguish here between what may be called the

liturgical and the musical notices.

     i. To the former belong such formulae as the often

repeated Hacenam;la (lam’natsäach), "For the Precentor,"

or leader of the Temple choir. E. V. "To the Chief

Musician." It occurs fifty-five times in the Inscriptions.

The word is derived from Hcn, "to be strong;" in the

Piel, "to have the mastery;" and is used in 2 Chron. ii. 17,

in the general sense of "leader." It may mean, therefore,

either the leader of the band, or of the singers; or,

perhaps, rather (comp. Hab. iii. 19; Pss. iv., vi.) the person

to whom the song was given in order that it might be set

to music for the Temple service, and who superintended the

practice of the Levitical choirs.* In three Psalms (xxxix.,

 

* Ewald, Poet. B. i. 171; Delitzsch, Psalm. ii. 391. Stähelin, Einl.

374. In this case the l; may be used in a sense more nearly approach-

ing its use when prefixed to the names of the authors of the Psalms.

It may mean not "for" the Precentor, but "of" the Precentor, as sig-

nifying that the musical accompaniment of the Psalm came from him.


 

            THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS. 85

 

lxii,, lxxvii.) the name of Jeduthun (or Ethan) is added,

who we know was one of David's three famous choir-

masters, It is worthy of remark that, except in the case

of two Psalms (lxvi., lxvii.), which are anonymous, this

title is only prefixed to Psalms of David, Asaph, or the

Korahites.

     dm.elal; (l’lammêd), "For teaching," Ps. 1x. This may

perhaps intimate that the Psalm was intended to be taught

publicly by the Levites to the people, but it may also

mean that it was to be taught to the Levites themselves.

Delitzsch connects it with 2 Sam. i. 18, where David gives

his elegy to be sung when the children of Judah are taught

the use of the bow, tw,qA y B dm.elal;, or the song itself may

have been entitled "the bow."

         ryKiz;hal; (l’haskîr), "To bring to remembrance," Ps.

xxxviii. and lxx. (see note on the Title of the former).

In i Chron. xyi. 4, it is joined with lle.hal;U tOdOhl;,

"to give thanks and to praise," as a part of the special

duties of the Levites who were set by David before the

Ark, and there it would seem to mean "to call to

memory," so as to praise and celebrate the goodness of

Jehovah. Delitzsch (on Ps. xxxviii. I) connects it with

the hrAKAz;xa (azkarah), or "offering of incense," at the

time of offering which these Psalms were to be sung.

Ewald, on the other hand, admitting that such may

have been its use, interprets it "to use as incense," and

supposes it to mean a prayer offered in the Temple,

which ascends to heaven, and reminds God of men,

Ps. cxli., 2, Rev. viii. 4.

          hdAOtl; (l'thodah), "For thanksgiving," Ps. c., Delitzsch

explains in like manner, as a direction that the Psalm should

be sung when the thank-offering was offered: Ewald, that

it should be sung as a thanksgiving.

    ii. Notices of a musical kind,. Such are, (a) the different

names by which a Psalm is described.

    rywi (shîr), "A song," xlvi., the most general name, and

rOmz;mi (mizmôr), "A Psalm," properly as sung with instru-

mental accompaniment, from which means both "to

 


86       THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS

 

sing" and "to play." * These two are frequently united

(rOmz;mi rywi), xlviii., lxvi., lxxxiii., lxxxviii., cviii., and in

the reverse order, ‘w m, xxx., lxvii., lxviii., lxxxvii., xcii.),

which may perhaps be explained, as Stahelin suggests, by

the fact that there were different editions of the same

Poem; for in lxv., lxxv., lxxvi., the words are separated

from one another by intervening words, which shows that

they are not merely a compound expression, but represent

the same Psalm in two different musical aspects.

       MTAk;mi (michtam), LXX. sthlografi<a, Ps. xvi. (see

note a there) and lvi,—lx; perhaps a "Golden Poem," or it

may be connected with the Arabic       "to hide," and so

"a mystery," " a song of deep import."

           lyKiW;ma (maskil), LXX. sune<sewj, ei]j su<nesin, "A finely,

skilfully constructed Ode," xxxii. (see note there), xlii.,

xlv., lii.—lv., lxviii., lxxiv., lxxviii., lxxxviii., lxxxix., cxlii.

So I think Ewald has rightly explained the word, and some

such meaning is rendered necessary by its use, not in the

Inscription, but in the body of the Psalm, in xlvii. 7 [8],

where as following it must mean either "in a skilful

strain," or, "a skilfully constructed song."

        NOyGAwi (shiggaion), Ps. vii. (see note there), perhaps "An

irregular or dithyrambic Ode," from hgw, "to wander."

The LXX. render it by yalmo<j, the Arab. "a lament,'" the

Syr. "a hymn." But all these renderings are doubtful, as

in Hab. iii. we find tOnOyg;wi lfa "Upon shigionoth," the

preposition denoting, in the Inscriptions of the Psalms,

either the instrument upon which, or the melody after which,

the Psalm was to be sung. Ewald, however (Poet. B. i.

176), explains "After the manner of dithyrambs," or "To

dithyrambic measures," and contends that lfa is used as in

the phrases "Upon 'Alamoth,"  "Upon the Sheminith.

 

* Ewald (Poet B. i. 24) has rightly explained the root-idea as ex-

pressing that which is pure, clear, well-ordered. Hence (I.) in its

lower sense (in the active form of the verb) it is "to purge," "to,

prune," putare, amputare, said of taking away the superfluous wood of

a vine, or of "snuffing" a candle; (2) it means also computare, "to

number," and so to "arrange" in proper rhythm, and with proper

music to sing and play, as numerus = ruqmo<m, a]riqmo<j. It is used of a

song as accompanied by any instruments, not merely stringed instru-

ments, as is evident from the Aram. rmAz,, Dan. iii. 5, 6, which means

music in general.


 

THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS. 87

 

(octave)," to denote, not the melody to which the Psalm

was to be sung, but a particular kind of music.

      Four other names occurring in the Inscriptions are not

properly of a musical character. These are:

      (I) hlA.hiT; (t'hillah), "A praise," only found in Ps. cxlv.,

though properly applicable to a large number of the

Psalms. All which were composed on any occasions of

joy, triumph, thanksgiving, and designed for public worship,

might fittingly be described as "praises" or "hymns."

       (2) hlA.piT; (t'phillah), "A prayer," Ps. xvii., lxxxvi , xc.,

cii., cxlii.(See also Hab. iii.) A whole collection of

David's songs are styled "the Prayers of David," lxxii. 20.

      (3) tOdydiy; rywi (shîr y' dîdoth), "Song of loves," Ps. xlv.,

a song, that is, the subject of which is love.

       (4) tOlfEma.ha rywi (shîr hamma'abath), "Song of the

ascents." LXX. w]dh> tw?n a]nabaqmw?n. Ital. and Vulg.

canticum graduum. E.V. "Song of Degrees." Ps. cxx.—

cxxxiv. This has been variously explained. a. Gesenius,

who is followed by Delitzsch and others, supposes that by

this title the peculiar rhythmical structure of these Psalms

is denoted, according to which, a word or expression in one

verse is taken up and repeated in the next, this being done

in a sort of ascending scale or ladder, whence the name.

But there are two objections to this view: first, that all the

Psalms bearing this title have not this rhythmical struc-

ture; and next, that this structure is not peculiar to these

Psalms. It is found also in Ps. xxix., in Is. xvii. 12, xxvi.

5, &c., and in the song of Deborah, Judg. v. b. Some of

the later Jewish expositors suppose that these fifteen

Psalms were sung upon the fifteen steps leading from the

court of the men to the court of the women; but the

Talmud (Middoth, ii. 5 ; Succa, 51 b) only compares the

fifteen Psalms to the fifteen steps, and gives a different

explanation of the title elsewhere (Succa, 53 a). y. Others,

again, explain "songs of the goings-up," i.e. from Babylon,

songs sung by the exiles on their return, comp. Ezra vii. 9,

where the return is spoken of as lb,BAmi hlAfEma.ha.  "the

going-up from Babylon." And there can be no doubt that


 

88            THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.

 

the contents of most of these Psalms favour such an

explanation. d. But the plural tOlfEma.ha makes it more

probable that the yearly "goings-up " to keep the great

festivals at Jerusalem are meant. Hence the title "song of

the goings-up"="a pilgrim song." That the caravans

"went up" with singing, is evident from Is. xxx. 29. The

allusions to the Exile are readily explained by the fact that

these Psalms, or some of them, were composed for the

pilgrimages to the Second Temple.

      (b) Particular instruments by which the Psalm was to be

accompanied, when sung.

        tOlyHin;.ha-lx,, "To the flutes," or with flute accom-

paniment, or wind instruments, Psalm v., seems equivalent to

tOlyliHE-lx,.

         tOnyGn;Bi "With stringed instruments," Ps. iv., vi., liv., lv.,

lxvii., lxxvi.; tnayGin;-lfa "Upon a stringed instru-

ment," lxi.

       But Ewald objects to the first, that flutes were not used

in the Temple-service. To this Delitzsch (on Ps. v.) re-

plies, by referring to Is. xxx. 29, and compares 1 Sam. x.

5, I Kings i. 40, which would at least show that the flute

(châlîl) was used in religious services, and flutes are men-

tioned in the Mishna and Gemara, Erachin 10a, among the

instruments of music used in the Second Temple.

      To the interpretation of 'al n'gînath Ewald also objects,

because he says the preposition ought to be B;, not lfa  

though, as he admits that the latter preposition is employed

in xcii. 4, this objection is not fatal to the common view

(Poet. B. i. 175.)

        (c) A particular tone or measure to which the Psalm was

to be adapted.

       Two of these, tOmlAfE-lfa, Ps. xlvi., "After the manner of

maidens," and tyniymiw;.ha-lfa, " Upon the octave

(below)," occur also in the historical books, I Chron. xv. 20,

21, and it has been conjectured that the former refers to the

high voice of the women singers, the soprano,—the latter to

the deep voice of the men, the bass, upon the lower octave.

Ewald objects, in one place, that we have no evidence that


 

 

      THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.           89

 

the Hebrews were acquainted with the octave in music; in

another, he observes that the prep. lfa cannot be here em-

ployed to denote different kinds of melodies, because these

two, "Upon 'Alamoth" and "Upon the Sheminith," were

to be united in the same solemn procession. It is equally

plain that the two words do not mean instruments, because

they are in each case associated with instruments; the first

with the lute (nabla), the second with the harp (kinnor).

But there is no reason why different voices, sopranos and

basses, or tenors and basses, should not have sung together.

He finds the first formula again probably at the conclu-

sion of Ps. xlviii., where the present Massoretic reading is

tUm-lfa, and again in the Inscription of Ps. ix., where he

supposes NBela tUm-lfa to be a longer form of the same

notice. He would read tUml;fa, one word, as it is found in

some MSS., and suggests that it is a noun formed after the

analogy of tUdl;ya and that thus the inscription may mean

"youthful vigour hath the son."

       tyTGiha-lfa, Ps. viii., "Upon the Gittith," or, as the form

of the word seems to imply, "after the Gittite manner," or

 "manner of Gath," some particular measure or style of

music which had been borrowed from the Philistines, and

named after one of their chief cities, as among the Greeks

there were Phrygian and Lydian measures, &c.

         NUtUdy;-lfa, "Upon, i.e. after the manner of, Jeduthun,"

one of the famous singers of David, who was per-

haps, as Ewald suggests, the inventor of this particular

measure.

          tlaHEma-lfa, l Ps. liii., and joined with tOn.fal;, lxxxviii.,

"To sing after the manner of Machalath," may possibly be

an inscription of the same kind, though other interpretations

of it have been given. See note a on Ps. liii.

      (d) A particular melody after which the Psalm was to

be sung. Popular airs already in vogue were adapted to

the service of the Temple. Such is the case, Delitzsch ob-

serves, with a great deal of the old Church music; and the

hymns of the Synagogue (the Pijut) are set to old popular

tunes. Inscriptions of this kind are to be found in Ps. xxii.

"After the song beginning, Hind of the dawn;" Ps. lvi.


 

90       THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.

 

"After the song, The silent dove in far-off lands," or

perhaps "The dove of the distant terebinths." Similarly

we find "Destroy not," Ps. 1vii.—lix., lxxv., these being

probably the first words of some well-known song; and

"After lilies," xlv., lxix., "After lilies, the testimony,"

lxxx., or "After the lily of the testimony," lx. ; though

some would explain this of a lily-shaped instrument.

Perhaps the Inscription of Ps. ix. admits of a like inter-

pretation. The preposition lfa may there denote that the

Psalm was to be sung to an air beginning with the words,

"Death of the son," or, as Delitzsch would render, "Death

makes wise." See above under (c).

         The older interpreters regarded all these expressions as

so many mottoes or devices, designed to convey, with enig-

matical brevity, the purport and meaning of the Psalm.

Thus, for instance, in Ps. xxii., "the hind " was emble-

matical of suffering; "the dawn," of deliverance. In lvi.

"the silent dove " was innocence suffering in patience, and

so on. Paulus Melissus, in his translation of the Psalter

(1572), was the first who suggested what may now be

called the generally received explanation; and J. H. Alsted,

in his Triumphus Bibliorum Sacrorum (1625), anticipated

and even surpassed, says Delitzsch, all modern investiga-

tions on this subject. That this class of notices is properly

musical, is evident, from the fact that they only occur in

those Psalms which have "For the Precentor (or Chief

Musician) " in their Inscriptions. They are clearly there-

fore not intended, as Hengstenberg still takes them, to

denote the subject of the Psalm.

       Though the Psalms, as a whole, were collected for litur-

gical use, still it may be doubted whether they were all

originally intended for the public worship of the Sanctuary.

Psalms like the 3rd, the 4th, the 7th, seem, as Stahelin

remarks, to have been composed with no such purpose.

These and other Psalms, especially in the First Book,

appear rather, like the Olney Hymns, to have been the

outpouring of personal feeling, the utterance of the sorrows

and joys of the heart in its communion with God, with a

view to private edification, and the relief of feelings which

 


THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.        91

 

it was almost impossible to restrain (see Ps. xxxix.).*

Indeed, the Psalms of the First Three Books, Pss. i.—

lxxxix., are in this respect different from the remaining

Psalms, which are of a less personal and more general

character. It may perhaps be owing to this circumstance,

as Stahelin has suggested, that Hacem;la., “For the Pre-

centor," which occurs fifty-five times in all, in the Inscrip-

tions, is found fifty-two times in the First Three Books.

In the case of the latter Psalms, it was understood, as a

matter of course, that they were designed for the Temple

service; but in the case of the earlier Psalms, this direc-

tion, "For the Precentor," was prefixed with the very

object of making them liturgical. The three Psalms,

cix., cxxxix., cxl., where this direction appears in the later

Books, are such as, by their contents, required to be

thus clearly marked as intended for public worship.

Whereas, on the other hand, Psalms like the 8th, the 29th,

the 33d, in the First Book, did not require any such speci-

fication, because from their general character they might at

once be assumed to be liturgical.

       The same conclusion may be drawn from the occurrence

of another musical sign, which, though not found in the

Inscriptions of the Psalms, may be noticed here; namely,

the Selah. In the Fifth Book this occurs but four times,

and of this number three times in one Psalm, the 140th,

perhaps because, like the words "For the Precentor," it

stamped the Psalm with a liturgical character.

       It is almost hopeless to attempt to give a satisfactory ex-

planation of this word Selah. By the Targum, the Talmud,

and Aquila, it has been rendered "eternity," because in

Ps. lxi. 5, and lxxxix. 38, it seemed to stand parallel with

MLAOf, "for ever; " by Ab. Ezra, "Amen;" by Gesenius,

"Pause, stillness, rest:" he derives it from hls, or xls,

which he doubtfully connects with hlw, but such an inter-

change is hardly defensible, and, moreover, the meaning

thus obtained does not apply where the Selah stands in the

 

* Reuss appears to me to be entirely mistaken in regarding all, or

nearly all, the Psalms as national, not individual, even when the ex-

pression of feeling is in the first person singular.


 

92      THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.

 

middle of a verse, or interrupts the sense, as in lv. 19 [20],

lxvii. 7 [8], 33 [34], Hab. iii. 3, 9, or at the end of a Psalm,

as in iii., ix., xxiv., where the "rest," i.e. the cessation of the

music or singing, would be understood of itself, and would

not need to be pointed out. Others, again, would connect

it with lls, and explain it in the sense of "elevation,"

"lifting up," whether of the voice or of the music. As,

however, it is most frequently introduced at the end of a

strophe, it would seem more probably to imply the inter-

vention at the particular place of a musical symphony.

Hence the LXX. render it dia<yalma. And in the hopeless

perplexity and darkness which beset the whole subject

of Hebrew music this may be accepted as the least

improbable interpretation. The word derived from the

root "to lift up," was intended as a direction to the

musicians to strike up in a louder strain. During the

singing, the accompaniment would be soft and gently

modulated. At particular parts the voices would cease,

and then the louder instruments, such as the trumpets, &c,

would be heard with full effect. So that, as Ewald says,

the word would be equivalent to "Up! Aloud!" or in

German, die Musik laut! This musical sign is clearly very

ancient, inasmuch as it is found in all the old Versions,

and inasmuch also as even then its meaning was matter of

debate and uncertainty.

      For a full discussion of this subject, I would refer to

Mr. Wright's Article in Smith's Dict. of the Bible, where the

various hypotheses are discussed. In this and in his other

Articles on the Titles of the Psalms, he has exhausted the

question, but not without admitting how little that is really

satisfactory can be said.

          Each of these various notices was intended, though we

have now lost the key to them, to give to the Psalm to

which it was prefixed, as has been said, its proper musical

or liturgical designation, and, except the Selah, they are

all found in the Titles of the Psalms.* Further, as regards

 

* The only possible exception to this rule is in Ps. xlviii., where a

musical notice may have been placed at the end (see note there), as

it is also in Hab. iii. 19.


 

          THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.        93

 

the order of the notices themselves, the direction "For the

Precentor" stands, as a rule, first, and then the particular

instrument, or melody, to which the Psalm was to be sung.

The exceptions to this are in xlvi., where the name of the

author is inserted between the musical references, and

lxxxviii., where the words "A song. A Psalm of the sons

of Korah," precede them. It is possible that in these

instances the title was not correctly copied.

       Why it is that in the heading of one Psalm we have

only "For the Precentor," why in another the particular

instrument is added, and in a third the particular tone

or melody to which it was to be sung, cannot now be

explained. There seems to be no reason, in the nature

of the case, for these variations. All we can infer from

the existing irregularity is, that these variations must

have been as old as some of the separate collections, and

that it was with them as with our modern hymn-books,

some of which have prefixed to each psalm or hymn the

tune to which it is to be sung, while others are published

without such direction.

     II. We have next to consider those Inscriptions which

give us the name of the Author.

      This is always prefixed with the preposition l;, "belong-

ing to." So a Psalm is said "to belong to" David, or

Solomon, or Asaph, according as it was written by one or

the other. Out of the Psalter we find the same usage in

Is. xxxviii. 1, and Hab. iii. I; and a similar one exists in

Arabic. In some instances we have only the name, with

the preposition prefixed: in others we have the fuller form

of expression, ‘l rywi, song of . . . , or, ‘l rOmz;mi, Psalm

of . . . , or the rarer words denoting the particular kind of

poem, such as lyKiW;ma, MTAk;mi, NOyGAwi, &c., on the meaning

of which see above, p. 86. In one or two instances we

find what may be called an historical description of the

Poem, joined with the name of the author, as is the case

with some of the Pilgrim-Songs, and also with the title of

Psalm xxx., "Song of the Dedication of the House."

      I. David. ---His name is prefixed to all the Psalms in the

First Book, with the few exceptions already noticed; and


 

94       THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.

 

to most of the Psalms in the second half of the Second

Book, li.—lxx., except lxvi. and lxvii. After this his name

appears once in the Third Book, Ps. lxxxvi.; twice in the

Fourth, ci. and ciii.; fifteen times in the Fifth, cviii., cix.,

cx., cxxii., cxxiv., cxxxi., cxxxiii., cxxxviii.—cxlv. In all,

therefore, he is said to have written seventy-three Psalms.

In two Psalms of the First Collection, the high title of

"servant of Jehovah" is added to his name.

        2. David's Singers.—These appear in the Second and

Third Books, as already noticed.

       (a) The Sons of Korah.—Eleven Psalms, xlii.—xlix.

(xlii. and xliii. being reckoned as one), 1xxxiv., lxxxv.,

lxxxvii., and lxxxviii. (according to the first of its two

inscriptions), are ascribed to them. According to Num.

xxvi. 58, I Chron. vi. 22, ix. 19, xii. 6, they were one of

the oldest Levitical families, long before the time of David,

and related to the still more ancient family of Kohath, the

son of Levi. In the time of David, Heman the son of Joel,

a member of this family, became famed for his skill in

music and song; and hence, apparently, the Korahites

obtained the name of "singers " (2 Chron. xx. 19). Hence

it is that in the Inscription of Ps. lxxxviii. we have, first,

the general title assigning it to "the sons of Korah," and

then the special, assigning it to Heman.

        (b) Asaph.—He is said to have written twelve Psalms,

1., lxxiii.—lxxxiii. He is one of the three famous singers

of David, and holds amongst them, indeed, the foremost

place, I Chron. xvi. 5, and xv. 17-21. In later times, he

alone ranks with David, Neh. xii. 46, I Chron. vi. 29---32.

In the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles, the

"sons of Asaph" are mentioned in the same way as the

"sons of Korah " in the Inscriptions.

       (c) Ethan, the Ezrahite.—He is named only as the author

of one Psalm, the Eighty-ninth. He is the third of David's

great singers. See the passages quoted above.

        Of these three leading men we know but little more;

the notices of them in the historical books are but

scanty. It would seem, however, that whilst (according

to I Chron. vi.) each of the three was descended from


 

          THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.             95

 

one of the three great Levitical houses of Kohath,

Gershom, and Merari, yet a comparison of I Kings v. II

[E. V. iv. 31], and Pss. lxxxviii., lxxxix., with I Chron. ii. 6,

might rather lead us to conclude that Heman and Ethan

were originally, like David, of the tribe of Judah, and only

because of their high reputation and their great skill in

music, which led them to establish and train Levitical

choirs, were afterwards, by way of honour, enrolled in the

tribe of Levi, as we find in the post-Exile Books.*

       3. Besides these seventy-three Psalms of David, and

twenty-four of his singers, we have, according to the

Hebrew Inscriptions, two of Solomon's, lxxii. and cxxvii.

       4. One Psalm, the Ninetieth, is attributed to Moses,

"the man of God."

       5. The LXX., in the title of Ps. cxxxvii., add to the

name of David that of Jeremiah (t&? Daui>d  ]Ieremi<ou), and

in the titles of cxxxviii., cxlvi.--cxlviii., give the names of

Haggai and Zechariah, whereas the three last have no

inscription in the Hebrew text. In lxxi. they add to the

name of David, "Of the sons of Jonadab, and of those

who were first led captive."

          About a third, therefore, of the Psalms are anonymous.

         The question here arises, how far are these Inscriptions

trustworthy? That in some cases the authors themselves

may have prefixed their names to their poems may be

granted. It may have been so, perhaps, in such instances

as Is. xxxviii. 9, Hab. iii. I; yet it would be too much to

infer, from these passages, that such was the custom of the

Hebrew poets. There still remains the remarkable fact,

not to be accounted for on that hypothesis, that so large

a number of Psalms, especially of those in the Fourth and

Fifth Books, are anonymous.+ Why is this? Why is it

that David's name, and those of his singers, figure so pro-

minently, whereas scarcely another author is mentioned?

 

* Ewald, Poet. Büch. i. 212, 213.

+ In particular, it is strange that none of the Psalms are, in the

Hebrew, ascribed to any of the Prophets, though some of them, as

Isaiah and Habakkuk, are conspicuous as religious poets. The LXX.

do assign some of the later Psalms to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, and

Zechariah.


 

96        THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.

 

It has sometimes been argued that we have evidence of

David's own custom in this respect, in the title of Ps. xviii.,

as confirmed by 2 Sam. xxii. I; but in the title of Ps. xviii.

David is styled "the servant of Jehovah," and judging by

the analogy of such cases as Deut. xxxiv. 5, Josh. i. I,

xxiv. 9, Judg. ii. 8, it seems most likely that this title was

not bestowed upon him till after his death, and conse-

quently that the Inscription was not written by him. Nor

is the question settled by an appeal to the practice of the

Arabian poets.* For there seems every reason to doubt

whether it was a custom with them to inscribe their poems

with their names; otherwise there could not be so much

uncertainty respecting the authorship of very much of

their poetry.+ The same uncertainty has been observed

in the case of the hymns of the Vedas, and those in the

Zendavesta.++

       When we come to examine the Psalms more closely, and

to compare their contents with their reputed authorship,

we find ourselves compelled very often to reject the latter.

Not only is it very difficult to believe that the author of

Pss. iii., iv. could have been the author of Pss. ix., x.; not

only is it evident, as in the inscription of Ps. cxxvii., where

a misunderstanding of the words "except Jehovah build

the house," which were supposed to allude to the building

of the Temple, led the Psalm to be ascribed to Solomon,

that the Inscriptions must sometimes have been due to the

guess of a later collector; but what is still more astonish-

ing, some of the Inscriptions involve us in glaring anachro-

nisms. Psalms lxxiv., lxxix. for instance, which describe

the destruction of Jerusalem, and the burning of the

Temple, are said to be Psalms of Asaph, the contemporary

of David.

         An attempt has sometimes been made, in order to main-

tain at all hazards the correctness of the Inscriptions, to

explain such anomalies. Hengstenberg, for instance, and

 

* Keil in Hävernick’s Einleit. p. 131.

+Stähelin, Einleit. p. 387.

++ De Wette, Comm. Einl. p. 77. Rückert, Hamasa, i. pp. 23,29;

see also p. 45, where a poem of the famous Muhelhil Ibn Nobata,

is ascribed to an unknown author.


 

              THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.             97

 

Keil, would give a different meaning to the preposition l; in

cases like the last mentioned. According to these critics, it

denotes here, not that these Psalms were written by Asaph,

but only that they were written by the family of Asaph, his

name being prefixed because of his celebrity as head of the

Levitical choir. But as Stähelin observes, this is really to

make "the sons of Asaph" guilty of a literary imposture,

in prefixing the name of their ancestor to their own pro-

ductions, in order to clothe them with a fictitious splendour.

Besides, as we have in the corresponding form of Inscrip-

tion "the sons of Korah," there seems no reason why we

should not have had here, "the sons of Asaph." Such

facts prove convincingly that all the Inscriptions are not

trustworthy, and consequently that they must be tested by

a careful examination of the style and contents of the

Psalms to which they are severally prefixed. The question

may, however, be asked, How came Psalms which are so

manifestly not the work of Asaph, to be ascribed to him?

Can we account for the Inscription in such instances?

Perhaps we can.

        These Psalms are stamped by several peculiarities, which

have been partly pointed out by Delitzsch, and still more

fully by Stähelin.

       (I) In these Psalms God is for the most part spoken

of as JUDGE; as exercising that judgement for His own

glory, both in Israel and among the nations of the world.

See Psalms 1., lxxv., lxxvi., lxxxii. Psalm lxxiii., though

it does not expressly mention God as Judge, is an acknow-

ledgement of His righteous judgement upon earth; the

more impressive, because it is the result of many doubts

and questionings. Similarly, Pss. lxxviii. and lxxxi. are in

substance records of the Divine judgement in the history

of Israel.

       (2) I may add, God is described frequently in these

Poems as the SHEPHERD, and Israel as the flock, lxxiv. I,

lxxvii. 20 [21], lxxviii. 52, 71, 72, lxxix. 13, lxxx. I [2].

The figure is employed elsewhere in the Psalms of the

people of Israel, only in xxviii. 9, xcv. 7, c. 3.

       (3) In the next place, we find in these Psalms God

 


98       THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.

 

Himself introduced as speaking, and that not merely in a

brief and passing manner, as in other Psalms, but in a

sustained and solemn discourse, continued through several

verses: 1., lxxv., lxxxi., lxxxii.

         (4) In several of these Poems we find references to the

giving of the Law on Sinai, to the march through the

wilderness, and to other portions of the ancient history of

Israel, such as do not occur at least in the Psalms of the

first Two Books. Comp. 1., lxxiv., lxxviii., lxxx., lxxxi.,

lxxxiii.

       (5) In all these Psalms, both the Divine Names, Jehovah

and Elohim, occur, and the former usually towards the

end, where the language of the Psalm changes to sup-

plication. See lxxiii. (where, however, 'Adonai Jehovah),

lxxiv. 18, lxxvi. II [12], 1xxx. 19 [20], 1xxxi. 15 [16],

lxxxiii. 16, 18 [17, 19].  Only 1. has in the first verse

Jehovah.

       (6) Other Names of God which are frequent in these

Psalms are 'El (lxe), which, occurring in the whole Psalter

sixty-four times, is found in the Psalms of Asaph alone

sixteen times: and 'Elyon (NOyl;f,), "Most High," which

occurs in these Poems eight times, and in the rest of the

Psalter, in all, twenty-two times.

       (7) Again, Jacob and Joseph are mentioned together as

representatives of the whole nation, lxxvii. 15 [16], and

Israel and Joseph, lxxx. 1 [2], lxxxi. 4, 5 [5, 6]; in the last

two places Joseph stands in the parallelism, and therefore

as synonymous with Israel.

       (8) Other modes of expression there are, which, if not

peculiar to these Psalms, occur in them most frequently,

such as faypiOh, to shine forth, 1. 2, lxxx, I [2], only in xciv.

1, besides;  ydaWA zyzi that which moveth in the field, 1. II, and

lxxx. 13 [14] ; the peculiar form of the stat. constr. Oty;Ha,

1. 10, lxxix. 2; the use of the verb ghn, to describe God's

leading of His people, lxxx. 1 [2], lxxviii. (26) 52, elsewhere

only xlviii. 14 [15], and the same thought lxxvii. 20 [21];

tyfir;ma Nxco, lxxiv. I, lxxix. 13; only twice besides in the

Psalms; hv,nA, hxAnA  pasture, lxxiv. 20, lxxix. 7, lxxxiii. 12

[13]. The verb hfr, to feed a flock, is also common in


 

     THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.       99

 

these Psalms, see above (2). The verb JrW, to burn, which

is found only three times in the Psalter, occurs in lxxiv. 8,

lxxx. 16 [17]; Fb,we in the sense of tribe, lxxiv. 2, lxxviii.

55, 68 (besides only in cv. 37, cxxii. 4). tOxUw.ma , destruc-

tions, only lxxiii. 18, lxxiv. 3. wDAq;mi, sanctuary, lxxiii. 17,

lxxiv. 7, lxxviii. 69, elsewhere only in lxviii. and xcviii.

       There are, then, certain points of resemblance in all these

Psalms sufficiently striking to have arrested the attention of

transcribers, and to account for their having been ascribed

to the same author. The selection, it is evident, must have

rested on critical grounds—on the similarity of style, on the

coincidence of the thoughts—and yet it is not a little

remarkable that no attention seems to have been paid to

the historical features of these Psalms. It is a manifest

anachronism, as has been said, which would assign Psalms

like the Seventy-fourth and Seventy-ninth, which speak of

the destruction of the Sanctuary, to Asaph, the contem-

porary of David. Either the more ancient tradition

ascribed some of these Psalms to Asaph, and the rest were

conjecturally placed with them from their general resem-

blance to those which went by his name, or perhaps there

may have been originally a small separate collection

entitled "Psalms of Asaph," into which others, at a later

period, may have crept. How easily this might have

occurred we see from the whole history of hymnology. It

has repeatedly happened that the hymns of one author

have been ascribed to another, either from conjecture when

the author was unknown, or from carelessness when his

name might have been ascertained.

       If we now turn to another principal group of Psalms

inscribed with the name of their authors—those attri-

buted to the sons of Korah--we shall again find them

stamped by certain features of resemblance. This group

consists of Psalms xlii.—xlix., lxxxiv., lxxxv., Ixxxvii.,

lxxxviii.

      (I) As the Psalms of Asaph, for the most part, regard

God as the JUDGE of the earth, so these Psalms delight to

represent Him as KING. Compare xliv. 4 [5], xlvii. 2 [3],

6, 7 [7, 8], lxxxiv. 3 [4], and even in xlv. 6 [7], the earthly


 

100                        THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.

 

King is pourtrayed as the symbol and visible type of the

heavenly, as may be seen by comparing xlv. 6 [7] with

xxvii. 3 [4].

       (2) These Psalms are decidedly Elohistic, though in five

of them, viz. xlvi., xlvii., xlviii., lxxxiv., lxxxvii., the name

Jehovah also occurs. In two of these Psalms, xlii. 2 [3],

lxxxiv. 2 [3], God is called "the Living God " (yHa lxe), and

nowhere else in the Psalter. Another Name of God occur-

ring several times in these Psalms, and but once beside in

the Psalter (xxiv. 10), is "Jehovah of Hosts," xlvi. 7 [8], 11

[12], xlviii. 8 [9], lxxxiv. 1 [2], 3 [4], 12 [13], though we

have in other Psalms "Adonai, Jehovah of Hosts," lxix.

6 [7]; "Jehovah Elohim (of) Hosts," lix. 5 [6], where see

note, lxxx. 19 [20]; and "Jehovah God of Hosts."

      (3) Jerusalem is represented as being ever under the

watchful care and protection of God, xlvi., xlvii., xlviii.,

lxxxvii., and hence is called "the city of God," xlvi. 4 [5],

xlviii. 8 [9], lxxxvii. 3; only once besides "the city of

Jehovah," ci. 8.

        (4) Other words and phrases characteristic of these

Psalms link them with the Psalms of Asaph, where, how-

ever, they are of less frequent occurrence. Such are

j`wAHEma, lxxxviii., 6 [7], 18 19], comp. lxxiv. 20 (besides

only cxliii. 3); the plural of NKAw;mi, "dwellings," or "taber-

nacles," xciii. 3, xlvi. 4 [5], xlix. 11 [12], lxxxiv. I [2], else-

where only lxxviii. 28 (A Psalm of Asaph), and cxxxii.

5, 7. The noun xl,P,, "wonder," occurs three times in the

Psalms of Asaph, and twice in those of the sons of Korah;

MyriBAwmi, "breakers," in xlii. 7 [8], lxxxviii. 7 [8], besides

only in xciii. 4, and 2 Sam. xxii. 5. Psalms x1ii. xliii.,

describe the same longing for the House of God, the same

delight in visiting it, which are expressed in lxxxiv.

      Two principal ideas stamp these Psalms: the one, the

delight in the worship and service of Jehovah; the other,

the thankful acknowledgement of God's protection vouch-

safed to Jerusalem as the city of His choice.

       On the whole, there are many points of resemblance, not

only between the Psalms belonging to each several group,

but between the two groups themselves. Not so special


 

          THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.      101

 

and personal as most of those ascribed to David, and not

so general as those of the later Books, inasmuch as they

have some definite historical groundwork, they occupy

a middle place between the two. The Korahite and

Asaphite Psalms are, for the most part, national songs;

either prayers for the nation in its distresses, or thanks-

givings for deliverance vouchsafed: whilst the fact that so

much is said in them of the Sanctuary, so much longing

for its solemn services, so much joy and delight therein,

lends no doubt confirmation to the hypothesis that they

were written by members of Levitical families. All tends

to show that some kind of criticism was exercised in the

arrangement of these Poems. Possibly some tradition

existed as to the style and manner of Korahite Psalms,

for it is quite in accordance with the Oriental genius that

a particular style of poetry should be perpetuated in the

same family.

        III. The third class of notices is that which purports to

give an account of the particular occasion for which a Psalm

was composed. These seem, for the most part, nothing

more than a kind of scholia, added by a later hand, though

some of them may rest upon a genuine tradition.

       The majority of them are questionable on the following

grounds:

        a. They occur only in the Psalms of David. But if

David's singers copied his example so closely as Heng-

stenberg would persuade us, and David himself prefixed

these notices to his own Psalms, how is it that we find

none in the Psalms ascribed to Asaph, Heman, &c.?

The fact that we find these notices in the Psalms of

David exclusively is easily accounted for, because the

history of David is so much better known than that of the

other Psalmists; and hence it would be comparatively an

easy thing to fit particular Psalms to particular occasions

in his life.

       b. Nearly all these notices refer to events which are

recorded in the history more at length, and many of them

are borrowed, almost word for word, from the historical

books. The Inscription of Ps. xxxiv. is borrowed, but with


 

102        THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.

 

some confusion, from I Sam. xxi. 14; that of Ps. lii. from

I Sam. xxii. 9, &c.; that of Ps. liv. from I Sam. xxiii.

19; that of Ps. lvi. alludes to I Sam. xxi. II—15 (but,

as it deviates somewhat from the narrative there, may

perhaps be taken from some independent and trustworthy

source); that of Ps. 1vii., which is obscure, possibly refers

to I Sam. xxii , as also Ps. cxlii.

          c. We can trace, in some instances, how the notice in the

Inscription has been derived from words or allusions in the

Psalm, even when it finds no support in the general tenour

of the Psalm. Thus in Ps. xxxiv. the notice seems to have

been derived from ll.ehat;Ti, ver. 3, and OmfEFa, ver. 9, com-

pared with I Sam. xxi. 14. The notice in Ps. lix., "when

Saul sent, and they watched the house to put him to

death," rests, apparently, on the allusions in ver. 6 [7], 10

[11], 14 [15].

       d. The additions and deviations in the historical notices

of the LXX. (comp. Pss. lxxi., xciii., xcvi., xevii., cxliii.,

cxliv.) show how common it was for the collectors to

adopt different traditions, or perhaps to follow mere

conjecture.

       e. The analogy of the Arabic Anthology of the Hamasa

confirms the view above taken. The Inscriptions are not

derived from the author, but, as Rückert in his translation

has shown (Band i. 7, 13, &c.), are often merely guessed at

from the contents, and that contrary to all probability.*

        Some of these historical notices, however, as I have

said, are, beyond all reasonable doubt, ancient and trust-

worthy. Such are those chiefly in the First Book; as, for

instance, those contained in the titles of Pss. iii., vii., and

xviii., the last of which is further confirmed by its recur-

rence in that edition of the Psalm which is given in the

history, 2 Sam. xxii. Much may also be said in favour of

the notice in Ps. lx. This, though it alludes to the events

mentioned in 2 Sam. viii. 13, 14 (comp. x. 16, and I Chron.

xviii.), yet, as Ewald has observed, is clearly derived from

other independent sources; the word, hcAHi is a rare and

ancient word; and the Psalm itself, though in its present

 

                    * Stähelin, Einleitung, p. 398.

 


THE INSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS.          103

 

form apparently adapted to a later occasion, is, in part,

as old as David, and therefore the Inscription may be

as old as those of iii., vii., xviii.

    The conclusion, then, at which we arrive here, is the same

as in the case of the alleged authorship of certain Psalms.

The Inscriptions cannot always be relied on. They are

sometimes genuine, and really represent the most ancient

tradition. At other times they are due to the caprice

of later editors and collectors, the fruits of conjecture,

or of dimmer and more uncertain traditions. In short,

the Inscriptions of the Psalms are like the Subscriptions

to the Epistles of the New Testament.* They are not of

any necessary authority, and their value must be weighed

and tested by the usual critical processes.

 

    * Mr. Armfield, Gradual Psalms, chap. ii., finds fault with the com-

parison, because, as he says, "we have the very best evidence from

without that they (the Subscriptions to the Epistles) are an interpola-

tion," whereas we have no such evidence in the case of the Titles to

the Psalms. He seems to have forgotten that our earliest MS. of the

O. T. of which the date is certain is of the tenth century, whereas we

have MSS. of the N. T. of the fourth, a century earlier than the date

at which the Subscriptions were added. If the MSS. of the O. T.

were of corresponding antiquity, we might in the same way be able to

trace the addition of the Inscriptions. And this is rendered almost

certain when we observe the variations of the LXX. and the Syriac,

and when we further bear in mind that the historical Inscriptions are

prefixed only to David's Psalms.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                THE PSALMS

 

 

                                              BOOK I.

 

       

                                        PSALMS I.-XLI.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                  104

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                            PSALM I.

 

            THIS Psalm seems to have been placed first in the collection,

because, from its general character and subject, it formed a suitable

introduction to the rest. It treats of the blessedness of the righteous,

and the misery of the wicked, topics which constantly recur in the

Psalms, but it treats of them as if all experience pointed only in one

direction. The moral problem which in other Psalms troubles the

ancient poets of Israel, when they see the evil prospering and the

good oppressed, has here no place. The poet rests calmly in the

truth that it is well with the righteous. He is not vexed with those

passionate questionings of heart which meet us in such Psalms as the

37th and 73d. Hence we may probably conclude that his lot was

cast in happier and more peaceful times. The close of the Psalm, 

however, is, as Ewald remarks, truly prophetical, perpetually in force,

and consequently descriptive of what is to be expected at all times

in the course of the world's history.

            In style the Psalm is simple and clear. In form it is little more

than the expansion of a proverb.

            The absence of any inscription, which is rare in the First Book,

seems to indicate that this Psalm was from the first regarded in the

light merely of an introduction (prooi<mion braxu<, as Basil calls it),

and perhaps as Ewald suggests, originally to some older and smaller

collection. In some MSS. it is not numbered at all, being treated

simply as a prologue or preface. This must have been a very early

arrangement, as our present Second Psalm is quoted as the First

(according to the best reading) in Acts xiii. 33, where the words,

"Thou art my Son," &c., are cited as found e]n t&? prw<t& yalm&?. In

other MSS., again, the two Psalms appear as one. And accordingly,

Albertus Magnus says, "Psalmus primus incipit a beatitudine, et ter-

minatur in beatitudine," alluding to the "Blessed is the man," &c,

and "Blessed are all," &c. ii. 12. (So, too, the Jewish tradition,

Berachoth, 9 b.) This last arrangement, however, is certainly wrong.

There is no connexion of subject between the two Psalms, and in

style and character they are totally unlike. They, may, however, be

 

                                            107


 

108                                     PSALM I.

 

regarded as forming a double introduction to the Psalter, they em-

brace the two principal features of the ancient Revelation, they are

the spiritual and poetical embodiment respectively of the Law and