TITLES OF THE PSALMS
THEIR NATURE AND MEANING
JAMES WILLIAM THIRTLE
[Public Domain: Ted Hildebrandt]
IN the following pages I propound a new
treatment of the Psalm Titles, especially the
Musical Titles. I have endeavoured to set
forth my views in a plain manner, and, as far
as possible, to avoid side issues and extraneous
It would have been easy to enlarge on several
points of great interest; but the exercise of such
freedom would have involved undesirable delay
in placing my observations before Bible students
in general. I think enough has been said to
make my position clear, and to evoke discussion
along lines that promise important results to
On some grounds I should prefer to have
developed the subject more thoroughly before
sending forth my book. Others, doubtless, will
complete what I have begun. I remember the
wise saying of Rabbi Tarphon: ‘It is not incum-
bent on thee to complete the work, yet art thou
not free to leave it alone.’
Having regard to the history of the Hebrew
Text of the Old Testament, as received through
the Massoretes, I hold it to be impossible, on any
such grounds as verbal features or literary style,
to distinguish with certainty documents of varying
ages or authors as entering into the composition
of the several books. Accordingly, in these pages,
I have treated the various books of the Old
Testament as constituting one ‘Divine Library’;
in other words, I have recognized, as beyond
doubt, a substantial uniformity in the language
of the Law, the Prophets, and the Holy Writings.
Hence I have been content to quote from one
and all the books without such qualifications and
reserve as have come into vogue during recent
Except where otherwise stated, the Revised
Version has been followed in these pages.
J. W. T.
I. INTRODUCTORY I
FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN
II. (I) THE KEY LOST 6
III. (2) THE KEY FOUND 10
IV. (3) SOME RESULTS OF MISCONSTRUCTION 17
THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
V. (I) PSALMS FOR SPECIAL SEASONS 21
VI. (2) PSALMS FOR THE FEAST OF THE PASSOVER 31
VII. (3) PSALMS FOR A `SECOND PASSOVER 42
VIII. (4) PSALMS FOR THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES 55
DAVID IN THE PSALTER
IX. (I) THE POET-KING'S PLACE AND INFLUENCE 67
X. (2) ON THE DEATH OF GOLIATH 70
XI. (3) THE VICTORY OVER THE PHILISTINES 76
XII. (4) THE
VIII. (5) A NATIONAL ANTHEM 86
XIV. (6) CONFLICTS COMMEMORATED 90
XV. PSALMS FOR A SEASON OF HUMILIATION 95
XVI. PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS 105
XVII. OTHER MUSICAL TITLES 123
XVIII. LITERARY AND HISTORICAL HEADINGS 131
XIX. SELAH-HIGGAION 143
XX. THE AGE OF THE PSALTER 151
XXI. OTHER THINGS THAT FOLLOW 160
XXII. CONCLUSION 167
§1. PSALM DIVISIONS AND CLASSES 169
§ 2. THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE PSALMS 170
§ 3, THE MUSICAL TITLES 171
§ 4. SELAH 172
§ 5. THE PSALM OF HABAKKUK 173
THE BOOK OF PSALMS (ACCORDING TO THE REVISED
VERSION). WITH TITLES DISCRIMINATED AND
BRIEFLY EXPLAINED 175
VARIED as they are in character and purpose, the
Titles of the Psalms have, from time to time, met
with a treatment no less varied at the hands of trans-
lators and expositors. In days gone by, reverent souls
who found a mystery in every word of Holy Scripture,
regardless of text or version, approached the Psalm
inscriptions in the same submissive spirit as they studied
the Inspired Word itself, assured that each and every
title had some message to deliver in harmony with
the general trend of Revealed Truth. Hence what
we have come to consider as catchwords, having little
or no syntactical relation with one another, have been
often combined and construed in terms explanatory
of the deep things of God. Divested of their true and
simple character, common words have been regarded
as expressions of mystery; and thus, without actual
desire or intention, legitimate criticism has been deferred
and the pursuit of sound knowledge postponed.
Opinions having such an origin, and running counter
to the recognized principles of Scripture interpretation,
have at length been set aside, and scholars have, during
more recent years, addressed themselves to this subject
along saner lines. As a preliminary to exposition, en-
deavours have been made to consider the Psalms as
compositions, and to bring to their elucidation such
help as can be gathered from the literature of other
branches of the great Semitic family. So far as these
efforts have related to what are called the Musical
Titles of the Psalms, it cannot be said that much
success has attended research. Hence there is, it is
believed, ample room for another attempt, in which
the Psalter and its phenomena will be studied in an
entirely new aspect, and therefore with results different
from any so far attained.
At the outset, one cannot but be impressed with
the variety and, indeed, the complexity of the Psalm
titles. A cursory survey discovers that some of these
relate to authorship, others to historical origin; some
describe literary features, others liturgical use. Yet
others are of the nature of musical indications. Deal-
ing with these last, some translators have found in
them topical titles, some musical instruments, some
initial words of popular airs ; and others have thought
to find in them remains of all these varied features.
While questions of literary description—Psalm, Song,
Prayer, &c.—have been discussed in order to an appre-
ciation of verbal distinctions, and statements as to
authorship have been subjected to criticism on other
grounds, less attention has been paid to the so-called
Musical Titles, of which ‘For the Chief Musician; set
to the Gittith' (Ps. 8, R.V.) may be instanced, for the
present, as an example.
In fact, this field has seemed so unpromising of reward
to the investigator that, for the past hundred years or
so, scholars have been content to follow one another in
the weary iteration of views largely based upon con-
jecture, and avowedly impossible of accommodation to
all the facts as they appear on the surface of the litera-
ture of the Old Testament. Referring to these musical
terms in general, the great Franz Delitzsch spoke his
mind with characteristic candour:
‘The key to their comprehension must have been
lost very early1.'
Speaking of the titles as a whole, it is well, before
going further, to notice that just one hundred of the
psalms are in such a manner referred to their reputed
authors—one (90) is ascribed to Moses, seventy-three
to David, two (72, 127) to Solomon, twelve to Asaph,
eleven to the sons of Korah, and one (89) to Ethan
the Ezrahite2. From this it appears that David is
the psalmist — no other writer can overshadow his
fame; and it is easy to understand how it has come
about for the entire collection to pass by his name. It
is no longer the fashion to discuss the meaning of l' David
and other similar expressions: beyond question author-
ship was intended by the formula. At the same time,
we must be consistent in regard to the preposition
When prefixed to a name at the head of a psalm it
1 Commentary on the Psalms, Eaton's translation, vol. i. 28.
Delitzsch spoke the conviction of scholars in general. Neubauer,
after a minute examination of Jewish thought on the sub-
ject, writes: ‘From all these different expositions of the titles
of the Psalms, it is evident that the meaning of them was early
lost; in fact, the LXX and the other early Greek and Latin
translators offer no satisfactory explanation of most of them '
(Studia Biblica et Ecclesiastica, vol. ii
2 This is how things appear in the common editions. We
shall show, however, in a later chapter, that Ps. 88 belongs to
Heman the Ezrahite, and not to the sons of Korah. Further,
on examining the inscription over Ps. 46, we shall find a repeti-
tion of the authorship of the preceding psalm. This will bring
the Korahitic psalms down to nine (see note 2 on p. 14).
stands for possession in the sense of authorship; when
prefixed to Hace.nam; (‘The Chief Musician’) it must also
stand for possession, though in another sense; presum-
ably that of having been given a place in the precentor's
repertory or list of psalms proper for rendering in the
As already intimated, it is not our intention to discuss
those headings which relate to authorship; we shall
also leave out of our investigations the purely historical
notes. At present we merely remark as to these, that
thirteen psalms have headings of an historical character,
and in every case they relate to David. This means
much; certainly more than it has become customary
to allow in recent times. It not only says a great deal
for the influence of the king and his place in the history
ages there was no hero to divide honours with David
‘the man after God's own heart'—in other words, the
whom Jehovah chose for the throne of
Where is Solomon in this category? It is clear that in
the stripling who slew Goliath.
Other headings, again, define the purpose of the
psalms to which they are prefixed, as for example
A Psalm of thanksgiving (100), To bring to remem-
brance (38, 70), A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath day
(92). Again, there are terms in which literary features
and spiritual purposes are distinguished—A Psalm,
1 We use language in this way to-day. Possession may be
regarded under various aspects : there is a landlord's posses-
sion and a tenant's also. A picture may be Turner's or Leigh-
ton's for the artistic work in it; or it may be associated with
the name of its owner for his proprietary rights in it.
a Song, a Prayer, a Praise, Michtam, Maschil, Shiggaion1.
Our present undertaking aims at discriminating head-
ings that are literary or historical from such as are
or have to do with the
work will entail important consequences; for we shall
find that the musical lines are not headings at all, and
that, for two thousand years at least, while occupying
an improper place, they have been misunderstood in
themselves, and also have inevitably involved the text
of Scripture in a measure of confusion and disorder.
Moreover, we shall find that the technical meanings,
varied and contradictory, that have been attributed to
certain of the musical terms, in the most approved
lexicons and expositions, must be rejected; and that
weight must be given to the simple and obvious signifi-
cations of such words, which will, as a fact, be shown to
be in no sense mysterious or recondite in character.
And as, along these lines, we become better acquainted
with features of the Psalter that have been much con-
troverted during the centuries, we shall find ourselves
in an improved position to survey and examine the
Psalms as a work of literature, and to appreciate their
peculiar qualities and religious design.
1 These terms, and the literary designations as a whole, will be
dealt with in chapter xviii.
FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN
(I) THE KEY LOST
THE words ‘For the Chief Musician’ (A.V. ‘To the
Chief Musician’) are prefixed in the ordinary editions of
the Psalter to fifty-five psalms1, most of which bear the
name of David. The designation is conveyed by the
participle of a verb meaning ‘to lead in music’ (HcanA
nazah). The features of this word are well summarized
by Professor Kirkpatrick :
‘The verb is used in Chronicles and Ezra in the
sense of superintending (i Chron. 23. 4; 2 Chron.
2. 2, 18; 34. 12; Ezra 3. 8, 9), and in it Chron. 15.
21 in the specific sense of leading (R.V.) the music.
There can be little doubt that the word Hace.nam; means
the precentor or conductor of
trained the choir and led the music, and that it refers
to the use of the psalm in the
Here we see the distinction between the poet and the
precentor—between the Psalmist and the Chief Musician.
The Psalms might be written by David, or Asaph, or
the sons of Korah, and it did not particularly matter at
what time, or in connexion with what circumstances
or events ; when at length the precentor, or Chief
adopted them for the services of the
1 The term is distributed as follows : In Book I (Pss. 1-41)
it occurs nineteen times ; in Book II (42–72) twenty-five times;
in Book III (73–89) eight times ; in Book IV (9o–106) not at
all; and in Book V (107–150) three times.
2 The Book of Psalms (
Colleges), p. xxi.
THE KEY LOST 7
they were invested with a new quality. They might be
headed Psalm or Song, Michtam or Maschil; they might
be historical in origin or not associated with any special
occurrence: now they were given a stated and recog-
place in ‘the praises of
lamed (l) prefixed to Hcnm must be understood (as
already intimated) as meaning that the psalm belonged
to the precentor for singing purposes, equally as it
belonged to the poet as its author.
Later on, we shall show that the words which occa-
sionally accompany the line ‘For the Chief Musician’
are of great importance—such words, for instance, as
Gittith, Shoshannim, Alamoth. They inform us, in an
indirect way, that some psalms were, so to speak, ear-
marked for one season of the year, and some for another;
some were for male voices and some for female; while
several were specified for use in the commemoration of
events in the history of
these words provide certain psalms with topical titles,
whereby they could be recalled in an instant, and with
precision, even although their opening lines might seem
similar to those of other pieces in the general collection.
In fact, the elements of such a classification as is ex-
hibited in our modern hymn-books are discernible in
the Musical Titles of the Psalms.
The parallel does not end here, however. As to the
hymns used in Christian worship, whatever may be the
circumstances of their origin they are selected for sing-
ing in order that their message may come into relation
with some present and immediate subject, or some
teaching actually under consideration. In like manner,
would appear, the Chief Musician accepted for
use psalms that were made before he came into office,
8 FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN
as well as others which doubtless were strictly contem-
porary writings; and one and the other he endorsed
for employment on occasions that were by no means
parallel with the circumstances of their original com-
position. That a psalm conveyed a timely lesson, seems
to have determined its selection for a given season or
purpose in public worship.
From this standpoint we can realize how psalms
by David before the
afterwards associated with great events in his own
career, and sung in his memory and to the praise of the
Lord his God. The poet wrote of conflict with enemies;
in the spirit of a wholesome accommodation to the needs
of later times the words were sung to assist a realization
that ‘Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is
that shall tread down our adversaries’ (Ps. 60. 12).
To recur to the confusion that has gathered round the
musical terms. When we have dealt with them in
detail we shall have something to say about their un-
doubted antiquity. It is sufficient now to observe, in
the words of Delitzsch:
‘The LXX found them already in existence, and did
not understand them ; they cannot be explained even
with the aid of the Books of Chronicles (including the
Book of Ezra, which forms a part of these), in which
much is said about music, and in which they make
their appearance, like much else, as the revival of
choice old expressions, so that the key to their compre-
hension must have been lost very early1.’
1 Commentary on the Psalms (Eaton's translation), vol. i. 28.
Of the same terms, Kirkpatrick says: ‘Many of them are ex-
tremely obscure, and their meanings can only be conjectured'
(Psalms, Introd. xviii). Driver: ‘The terms . . . are frequently
obscure' (Literature of the Old Testament, seventh edition, p. 369).
THE KEY LOST 9
Doubtless the key was lost very early. With some,
explanation will be found in the history of
the songs of
of captivity; again, in later years, the stress of political
conflict effectually held down the religious spirit of the
Whatever, also, may have been
for the Law of Moses, and the care shown by the Rabbis
for the Pentateuch, certain it is that no corresponding
devotion was lavished upon the books which compose
the other divisions of the Old Testament—the Prophets
and the Hagiographa. Hence, when the Septuagint trans-
lation came to be made (about 250—200 B.C.), the work
fell to men who knew nothing of the liturgical use of the
tradition of bygone years had passed out of mind, and
the translators were, in consequence, without safe and
Though not able to speak positively, we the
sequel will show that when the Alexandrian translators
entered upon their work ‘the key’ was lost. In the wake
of that loss has come an ever-increasing volume of
speculation, which has done little or nothing to solve
the problem. This is hardly surprising. The material
which is the subject of examination has become dis-
ordered: and, before history or philology can contribute
anything to the interpretation of the titles, a readjust-
ment must take place. This we now proceed to explain.
Cheyne: ‘There is an appearance of better philology in the
later theories, but the result remains uncertain ' (Origin of the
Psalter, p. 460). Wellhausen: ‘In most cases these musical
directions are unintelligible to us' (Polychrome Bible: Psalms,
FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN
(2) THE KEY FOUND
As a result of minute study of the Psalms, as to their
history and structure, alike in the original Hebrew and
the early versions, the ‘key of the so-called musical
titles has at length been found. In the course of
research, we bore in mind the general conditions of
ancient writing and the various ways in which docu-
ments become corrupted in transmission from genera-
tion to generation. We remembered that, owing to the
absence of paragraph divisions and the lack of any
system of punctuation, old-time writings present, among
other problems, cases in which scholars have found it
difficult to decide questions of construction, and impos-
sible to individualize with certainty distinct passages
of great works.
Here, in the Psalter, we find a remarkable illustration
of this very problem. Though the Hebrew text which
lay before the Septuagint translators was substantially
that which we possess to-day, in points of detail it
doubtless had peculiarities that have not come down to
us. It may be taken for certain, among other things,
that the writing was close and compact, the psalms
following one another without break or division. Some
benediction or closing line of a formal character indi-
cated the end of a psalm ; and some such inscription as
‘A Psalm,’ ‘A Song,’ ‘By David,’ ‘By Asaph,’ with
occasional elaborations of a descriptive or historical
THE KEY FOUND 11
nature, indicated the beginning of another. Where
psalms had no such words as these at the end or the
beginning, two or more of them were often combined,
and many are so found to-day, both in Hebrew MSS.
and in codices of the early versions1.
In whatsoever way these tokens of division were set
out in the actual MSS. that lay before the Septuagint
translators—in whatsoever way they may have been
understood or estimated by the Septuagint translators
themselves—one fact is beyond dispute, the so-called
‘musical’ titles have come down to us, alike in the
Massoretic recension of the Hebrew text (copies about
900 A.D.) and in the Greek and other early versions
(codices dating from about 400 A.D.) in a form that
has, even to the present day, caused great confusion.
Whether literary or musical, the lines have been a stum-
bling-block for lexicographers, critics, and commen-
tators; and among other results this is found, namely,
words which in other connexions would have been
regarded as unmistakable in meaning2, when met with
here are immediately enshrouded in mystery, and in-
vested with fanciful and speculative significations.
Yet, all down the ages, the Canonical Scriptures have
supplied us with a psalm which, standing by itself,
claimed to be studied as a model in all its various
features, literary and musical. That psalm appears
in Habakkuk 3. Being alone, it cannot have taken
anything from a preceding composition, nor can any
1 This is the case, for instance, with Pss. 9 and 10, 32 and J3,
42 and 43, 70 and 71, and several other psalms, in the Fourth
and Fifth Books.
2 For instance, Alamoth and Shoshannim, as appearing at the
head of Pss. 46 and 45 in the ordinary editions of the Psalter.
12 FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN
concluding words have been misconstrued as belonging
to some succeeding composition. It proclaims itself
as normal—as a model, a standard psalm. And its
striking features are these1: it OPENS with--
'A PRAYER OF HABAKKUK THE PROPHET UPON
and it ENDS with--
‘To THE CHIEF SINGER ON MY STRINGED
In other words, at the head of the psalm we have a
statement of its class (a Prayer), its author (Habakkuk),
and its special character (Shigionoth2). These particu-
lars are literary; they deal with the writer and the
writing. At the end, we have a statement that is
musical and exclusively so; the psalm has been
adopted3 by the Chief Singer (the same word as is ren-
dered ‘Chief Musician’ in the Psalms), and it is one for
orchestral rendering in the worship of God. The pro-
noun ‘my’ before ‘stringed instruments’ seems to
suggest (what we do not appear to find in the Psalter)
a definite and first-hand assignment of the piece to the
This psalm in Habakkuk tells us what the Psalms of
1 For the general purposes of this statement, we quote the
A.V. We shall, later on, controvert the ‘set to’ of the R.V.;
but for the present there is no need to dispense with the guidance
of the familiar versions.
2 See chapter on ' Literary and Historical Headings'; also
Appendix, § 5.
3 As already observed, the (lamed) implies possession in
both cases. The psalm belongs to Habakkuk as its author.;
to the chief singer it belongs in the sense that he has charge of
it for a special purpose (see note on p. 4).
THE KEY FOUND 13
succession of compositions that make up the Psalter
there has been a displacement of the ‘Chief Musician’
line, along with the words that accompany it in a score
or more of instances. The proper place of this line as
we shall demonstrate in a practical manner, is at THE
CONCLUSION of a psalm. Through an unfortunate error
it has, in every case, been placed at the beginning of THE
PSALM FOLLOWING that to which it rightly belongs. The
various words that have accompanied it in its wandering
have added to the confusion, which has baffled explana-
tion for the past two thousand years. Accordingly,
words such as Gittith, Alamoth, and Shoshannim, and
others, which could hardly perplex the tyro in the
Hebrew language, have, in the abnormal circumstances,
been more than a match for the profoundest erudition;
and a desperate ingenuity has overlaid them with
meanings that are purely conjectural, and as unin-
teresting as they are valueless from a philological point
In the edition of the Psalms which follows these pages
the titles have been carefully discriminated as to their
character: the lines that should follow have been dis-
tinguished from those which should precede each psalm.
The combination which is thus dissolved has been
responsible for lamentable confusion at the head of
Ps. 88, as ordinarily printed. There, as has been often
pointed out by expositors, one and the same composition
is ascribed to two distinct writers. The psalm is de-
scribed as ‘A Song, a Psalm of the sons of Korah,’ and
also as ‘Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.’ In the words
of Franz Delitzsch, we have here ‘alongside of one
another two different statements’ as to the origin of one
14 FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN
psalm1. We do not ask, with the distinguished com-
mentator, ‘which notice is the more trustworthy?’
The former is out of place ; it belongs to Ps. 87, which
is explicitly described in its heading as ‘A Psalm of the
sons of Korah; a Song2.’ In the accompanying Psalter
the conflicting notices are given their proper positions.
As will have been inferred, the displacement here
described, and which it is the purpose of the present
work to correct, takes us back beyond the age of
existing Hebrew manuscripts. The Massoretes seem
to have had no conception of the text having become
deranged in this particular. Going backward for a
second period of a thousand years, we find the Sep-
tuagint translation in progress, or possibly just com-
pleted; but the best extant copies of this work give us
no help. In fact, we are driven to the conclusion that
the Seventy were quite unfamiliar with the use of the
in the days of the
1 Commentary on the Psalms (vol. ii. 499).
2 A peculiarity of the musical line here is that it repeats the
facts as to class and authorship. There is only one other case
in which this feature appears, Ps. 46 in the ordinary editions.
Both the psalms of which the authorship is repeated are by the
sons of Korah. Regarding other psalms which have had more
than one name over them, see the ` Praise and Confession
Choir' (p. 116).
3 Ginsburg's Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible
presents the features of the best MSS. and the most approved
editions of the text. There the psalms are set out in lines
as poetry, and (what is conclusive on the point in hand)
hcnml and dvdl rvmzm, or corresponding words, are given IN ONE
AND THE SAME LINE. As to the Septuagint translation, the collo-
reproductions of the
exhibit the same confusion. The words Ei]j to> te<loj, which
stand for ‘For the Chief Musician,’ occupy the same line as
THE KEY FOUND 15
no idea of a Chief Musician, or precentor; and when, in
z Chron. 15. 20, 21, they met with the words Alamoth
and Sheminith (which occur as psalm titles) they were
content to transfer them into their work in Greek letters,
as terms which to them were unmeaning or misunder-
Nevertheless, in one case at least, expositors have
very generally observed the relation of a musical title
to the psalm immediately preceding it. Dealing with
literary design in the arrangement of the Psalter, they
have called attention to the fact that Psalm 56, over
which stands the title Jonath elem rehokim (‘The Dove
of the Distant Terebinths’) is Receded by a psalm in which
David says: ‘Oh that I had wings like a dove! Then
would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wan-
der far off, I would lodge in the wilderness’ (Ps. 55. 6, 7).
Green, Delitzsch, Hengstenberg, and others, have seen
some relation between the line in question and the pre-
ceding psalm; but it seems never to have occurred to
them to go behind appearances and thoroughly to ex-
amine the entire system of psalm inscriptions.
While the observation of the expositors named indi-
cates the relation of the line to Psalm 55, the absence
yalmo>j t&? Dauei<d, or such-like headings, as is represented
with precision in Swete's Greek Old Testament according to the
1 The Septuagint translators rendered Hac.enam;la (‘For the Chief
Musician’) by Ei]j to> te<loj (‘For the end’). None of the
Greek versions give material help as to that important word.
In dealing with the other musical lines, however, the Seventy
and their successors were more successful. In due course, we
shall amply justify this remark, which is much more favour-
able to the Greek versions than is the commonly expressed
judgement regarding the Psalm Titles.
16 FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN
of any echo of the title in the succeeding psalm plainly
suggests that the line is out of place. Pending the de-
velopment of our case as to the displacement, we ask for
some consideration for this candid observation on the
part of scholars who had no theory to support in pointing
out the facts now described. The line, though standing
so long over Psalm 56, proclaims itself as properly
belonging to Psalm 55, which it furnishes with a topical
title of much force and beauty. In this edition of the
Psalter it is given what we hold to be its primitive place.
To conclude this chapter: in a proper arrangement
of the material, the lines at the top of a psalm should do
this and no more--(I) describe the piece, whether a Song,
a Psalm, Michtam, &c.; (2) state the author, David,
Asaph, sons of Korah, &c.; (3) set out the circumstances
of its composition, as is the case in thirteen historical
psalms (Doeg, Ziphites, When Saul sent, &c.); or the
object for which it was written (‘To bring to remem-
brance,’ ‘For the Sabbath day,’ &c.). Anything not
coming within this description belongs to the preceding
psalm; and in the present edition such notices have been
restored to the place which they originally occupied.
There is no need to emphasize the world of difference
between authorship and use in worship, between his-
torical origin and liturgical application. It is primarily
with liturgical application and use in divine worship
that the subscript line, ‘For the Chief Musician,’ has
1 Still we would not overlook, in this connexion, the excep-
tional instances in which points relating to the class of psalm
and the authorship are repeated with the musical notice—Pss. 45
and 87 (as numbered in this edition). See note 2 on p. 14.
FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN
(3) SOME RESULTS OF MISCONSTRUCTION
WHEN the Musical Titles of the Psalms were mis-
construed, seed was sown for centuries of confusion,
followed by speculation along various lines. The Sep-
tuagint translators seem to have looked for a measure
of relation between these titles and the psalms that
followed them; and occasionally their renderings were
accommodated in some degree to such features as they
deemed responsive1. One thing is certain, at that early
time the titles were, with few exceptions, regarded as
words to be translated as simply as possible—as the
most cursory examination of the Septuagint and other
Greek versions will show. Though two or three of the
titles may have been thought to stand for musical in-
struments, none were treated as catchwords of popular
airs. The guess-work of subsequent centuries, among
Jews and Christians alike, had not as yet begun.
All the same, the Septuagint translators and their
followers found no clear and consistent response in the
psalms to the titles so far as they understood them. For
1 See their rendering of Aijeleth hash-Shahar as ‘Concern
ing the Morning Aid.’ They associated the title with tUlyAx<
(Eyaluth) in Ps. 22. 19 (20) (R.V, ‘succour’). Even the most
distinguished of recent expositors have shown a readiness to
seize upon such points of similarity ; and well they might,
considering how frequently any such response has to be sought
in vain in the psalm following the musical line.
18 FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN
instance, as to Gittith (or Gittoth) which they rightly ren-
dered ‘Winepresses,’ they found no echo in Pss. 8,
81, 84—that is, in the psalms following the title; and
the same may be said regarding other psalms and titles.
Hence there arose a disposition to seek a mystical rather
than a logical correspondence; but this, it need hardly be
said, yielded no satisfactory result. Speculation threw
no light upon the problem of the titles, either as to their
meaning or their purpose in regard to the psalms1.
Next it became general to find ‘a musical instrument’
expressed by the various words that gave difficulty to
the expositor. Seeing that a title received no explanation
in the psalm itself, perhaps an explanation could be
found in something separate and independent! A safe
inference, no doubt; and ‘a musical instrument’ was
a definition sufficiently abstract for any and every
troublesome term. Though Semitic literature and
Oriental antiquities might be silent regarding the sup-
posed ‘harp of eight strings,’ or ‘trumpet in the shape
of a lily,’ the rendering served a purpose in the absence
of exact information. The Authorized Version of the
Psalms had this view underlying its renderings of the
The more recent tendency has been to find, not
musical instruments, but styles of singing and catch-
lines of popular songs. Here, again, the desideratum is
met of something altogether independent of the text.
Seeing that the Hebrew Psalter, as hitherto studied, had
1 Neubauer's essay in Studia Biblica, vol. ii, on the Psalm
Titles according to Early Jewish Authorities, proves how
essentially without authority early Jewish opinion is in regard
to this subject. In fact the views are in many cases as unreason-
able as they are generally discordant.
SOME RESULTS OF MISCONSTRUCTION 19
furnished no explanation of the titles, let the song-books
of the surrounding nations be introduced! Why should
not the Psalms have been sung to heathen melodies and
airs? Rather the question should have taken the op-
posite form—Why should heathen melodies come in?
The suggestion is unthinkable to a mind that has any
understanding of Israelitish thought and history. How-
ever scholars may have reasoned, the position thus
stated describes their most approved conclusions—Jews
and Christians agreeing. And the Revised Version, with
rendered ‘set to,’ reflects this view.
Let it be noted that these theories, which for a time
have foreclosed inquiry, have been based on pure as-
sumption. As a fact, dummy musical instruments and
supposititious airs, associated with people of whom we
know comparatively little, have been introduced in
to explain the literature of
know more by far than we do of any other ancient
nation! Speculation having, in these circumstances,
yielded no solution of the problem, the psalm titles
invite attention from an altogether new point of view.
Our course of procedure is simple. First, we correct
the misplacement of the musical line throughout the
Psalms; and then, by applying to the general treat-
ment KNOWN facts and teachings, as distinguished
from mere conjectures, we deal with the various titles
themselves in the light of the psalms to which they
properly belong. We shall be rewarded by glimpses of
of services in commemoration of outstanding events in
the history of the nation. These observations will pre-
pare us for others, which will help us to understand the
of the Chief Musician of the
THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
I) PSALMS FOR SPECIAL SEASONS
WITH the musical line ` For the Chief Musician' thus
restored to its original place in the Hebrew Psalter, we
are enabled to study the Songs of Zion with promise of
a larger knowledge of their contents and use. At once
we see that we have not simply a collection of poems,
but a hymnal consisting of songs and prayers, medita-
tions and homilies, to be rendered in divine worship by
singers and instrumentalists. For this latter purpose
the pieces have, so to speak, been endorsed by the Chief
Musician, or precentor, and received into his repertory.
Proceeding to examine the words which accompany
the familiar notice, we inquire, quite naturally, whether
they give us any clue as to the occasions on which specific
pieces were brought forward in the service of praise.
Was everything hap-hazard? or were psalms selected
with thought and judgement for use at different seasons
of the year? Investigation shows to demonstration that
reverent care, along the line suggested, was exercised on
the part of those who arranged for the due expression of
traces of the ministry of the Chief Musician and his work
Assuredly we have not in the Book of Psalms any
complete calendar such as was doubtless anticipated by
David, realized by Solomon and other pious kings, and
on the return from
TO THE CHIEF MUSICIAN 21
fled, however, that there was a formal calendar of
worship, and what has not hitherto been recognized will
now be shown; for the Psalter rubrics (to use the term
generally) indicate the elements of appointments for the
national interest and importance.
At the time of the carrying away to
had a magnificent heritage of religious experience.
There had undoubtedly been times of indifference, and
disregard of Jehovah and His service; but there were
periodical revivals, which avowedly aimed at bringing
back the days of David and Solomon and in particular
was the name of the great poet-king influential and his
aims regarded as satisfying the highest ideals. Nothing
more glorious was conceived by the most godly rulers
in the golden age, in fact, to ‘do according to the com-
mandment of David.’ Such, undoubtedly, is the im-
pression conveyed by the Books of Chronicles1.
1 This deeply interesting subject may be studied in the light
of the following passages: David's ordinance for the service
praise, on the bringing of the ark to
with harps, &c.,’ and for song (I Chron. 25. I sq.); Solomon's
appointmentof Levites to ‘praise and minister before the priests,’
for all seasons of the year, ‘according to the ordinance of David
his father’ (2 Chron. 8. 13, 14); Jehoiada's provision, after the
death of Athaliah, ‘according to the order of David’ (2 Chron,
23. 18); the appointment of Hezekiah, in times of deep revival,
‘according to the commandment of David’ . . ‘with the instru-
of David king of
the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer’: ‘since
time of Solomon the son of David king of
the like in
solemn passover... ‘the singers the sons of Asaph were in their
place, according to the commandment of David’ (2 Chron. 35. I,
22 THE CALENDAR TN THE PSALTER
Whatever might be the circumstances of their origin,
psalms which referred most definitely to the glorious
past of the nation, and such as gave expression to earnest
prayer to the God of Israel, could not but be selected for
the worship of the sanctuary. And, needless to say, the
festivals of the spring and autumn would be the first
to claim attention on the part of the precentor. Passover,
with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, came first; and
then Tabernacles, with the Feast of Ingathering. These
large in the life of
surprised to find psalms associated with them.
Among the psalm titles which have excited the deepest
interest are Shoshannim and Gittith. These, we shall
show, point respectively to the Passover and Taber-
nacles feasts. We shall discuss the words and examine
the psalms to which they belong.
Speaking generally, Shoshannim means ‘lilies,’ and
Gittith speaks of ‘winepress.’ The one represents
flowers, which tell us of spring; the other represents
fruit, which speak of autumn. Passover was the
spring feast; Tabernacles was the autumn feast.
On good and sufficient grounds lexicographers and
And on the return from
once more with ‘the musical instruments of David,’ with songs
and singers, also with Levites whose duty it was to praise and
give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man
of God’ (Ezra 3. 10; N eh. 12. 24, 36, 45, 46). In the literary
headings of the Psalms, and also in the musical titles, to be
explained in subsequent pages, David was the one hero of the
the glory of the people for many generations. And does not
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL SEASONS 23
expositors have suggested the relation of Gittith to the
autumn feast, for ‘winepress’ suggests the vintage
season; but we are not aware that Shoshannim has yet
been recognized as designating the spring feast which
was, of course, celebrated in the flower season.
There is no need to prove that spring is the time of
flowers, or that autumn is the time of fruits. The two
seasons represent the earth's productiveness in beauty
and in wealth. Ancient and modern poets have sung
these notes1, and months have been named accord-
ingly2. The pictorial statement of Song of Songs 2. 11,
12 holds true in the West no less than the East: ‘The
winter is past, the rain is over and, gone; THE
FLOWERS APPEAR ON THE EARTH, &c.’ In other words,
after winter comes spring, and the flowers announce the
fact. In Israelitish life and experience spring meant the
Passover, and anything that recalled the season must
of necessity have suggested the feast.
As to the word Shoshannim, which stands for the
Passover season in the system of psalm titles, its simple
meaning is ‘lilies.’ It was, however, used in a general
1 Athenaeus spoke of flowers as ‘children of the spring’—
e@aroj te<kna (Deipnosoph., 1. 13, c. 9, 6o8). W. Cullen Bryant
wrote of ‘flowering springs’ (The Planting of the Apple-tree).
Thomas Moore's muse brought the two seasons into contrast,
‘Every season hath its pleasures:
Spring may boast her flowery prime,
Yet the vineyards' ruby treasures
Brighten autumn's sob'rer time.’
(Spring and Autumn.)
2 Compare the Old Dutch Grassmonth and Winemonth; the
French Republican Fioreal and Fructidor; also the Attic Greek
24 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
way for flowers of various kinds, as is explained by
Dr. G. F. Post, who writes:
‘Susan, in Arabic, is a general term for lily-like
flowers, as the lily, iris, pancratium, gladiolus, &c.,
but more particularly the iris. It is as general as the
English term lily, which is applied to flowers of the
genera Lilium, Gladiolus, Convallaria, Hemerocallis,
of the botanical order Liliaceae, and to Nyrnphaea,
Nuphar, Funkia, &c., not of that order. The Hebrew
Shushan must be taken in the same general sense1.’
The word was used for spring flowers in general, the
brightest and most beautiful giving a name to the whole2.
It is not in the least surprising that the Passover, falling
in the month Abib (‘growing green’), should be asso-
ciated with the flower season and expressed by such a
word. For a long period the Israelitish practice was to
indicate times and seasons by expressions describing
natural phenomena and agricultural operations. Indeed,
it was not until after the Babylonish captivity that the
month names which at present prevail came into use
among the Jews3. Shoshannini and Giltith are both
2 Compare Seneca's allusion to the lily as ‘the spring flower’
—‘florem vernum’ (Epist. 122); and Mary Tighe's line, ‘And
thou, 0 virgin queen of spring’ (The Lily).
3 There are three sets of terms to distinguish the Biblical
months—(a) Old (Canaanite) names, (b) numbers, and (c) the
Babylonian names. Of the first class only four have survived :
these names are all derived from climatic and economic con-
ditions (Abib, Ziv, Ethanim, Bul). In the time of the Exile,
the old Canaanite names were dropped, and the months were
distinguished by numerals, as in parts of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and
Kings. From the Exile, the new Babylonian names begin to
a definite place (Abrahams, in
Bible, s.v. ‘Time’).
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL SEASONS 25
terms that come within this category ; they belong to
nature and agriculture, and are not strictly technical in
These words come before us the one with the other,
and we shall shortly find that this is their right relation.
That they represent the seasons will be shown to be not
merely an assumption but rather an inference from
a considerable array of facts that have not as yet re-
ceived the attention they deserve. As to Shoshannim,
it may be remarked that the Septuagint translators mis-
read it in the psalm titles, so they give us no help as to
its application. With regard to Gittith, which they
apparently read Gittoth, they do assist us: they render
it ‘winepresses.’ The two words represent flowers and
fruit, and, as we shall see, fall into line with combinations
of great importance in Israelitish history, monumental
and literary. In tracing their meaning, we are on
the track of some of the most interesting symbols of
The Passover season, it is hardly necessary to say,
spoke of the making of the nation; and the Feast of
Tabernacles recalled God's care for His people during the
a table in the wilderness,’ and thus prove Himself
Keeper as well as Redeemer of His heritage? If He did,
should we not reasonably expect to find emblems or
monumental tokens of feasts that were invested with
such deep significance in the history of the nation? Yes,
and we do find them. As the feasts spoke of the
nation, so memorials of various kinds pointed to the
What are we to understand by the decorative details
26 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
the pillars of Solomon's
GRANATES (i Kings 7. 20—22 ff.)? What was the meaning
the ornamentation displayed on the
given by Ptolemy Philadelphus to the Jews of Egypt—
LILIES and CLUSTERS OF GRAPES (JOS. Antiq. 12. 2. 9, 10)?
What, again, are we to understand by the FLOWERS OF
PURPLE and the GOLDEN VINE exhibited on the veils
adorned the doors of the
(ibid. 15. 11. 3)? Once more, can we overlook the
symbology of the seven-branch candlestick on the Arch
of Titus, as it appeared in 1710, and was described by
Reland—LILIES and POMEGRANATES1? Ever and anon
one meets the same combination, FLOWERS and FRUIT
1 The candlestick of the tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex. 25.
31–34) displayed ‘knops and flowers’; according to the Sep-
tuagint, ‘globes and lilies’; the Targums (Onkelos and Pales-
tine), ‘apples and lilies.’ Josephus understood the ornaments
to be ‘knops and lilies, and pomegranates and bowls’ (Antiq. 3.
6. 7). In a number of places the Seventy have rendered HraP,
(perach, flower) by kri<non (lily). There seems to have been a dis-
position to speak of flowers in general as ‘lilies.’ The point
that flowers and fruit entered into the symbology of
with a definite purpose, ultimately representing the nation
itself. May we not see an extension of the same symbols in
the ‘golden bells and pomegranates’ upon the hem of the high
priest's robe? (Exod. 28. 33, 34; 39. 25, 26). The bells stood
for flowers--for lilies are bell-flowers. As other appointments
‘for a memorial of the children of
28. 29 ; 39. 7), so this robe was understood to be in the history
of the nation (see Ecclus. 45. 9). It is well to notice, on the other
hand, that in the Oracle, or most holy place, of Solomon's
palm-trees and open (or garlanded) flowers (1 Kings 6. 23 if. See
also Ezek. 40. 22; 41. 18–20 ; and cp. Ps. 92. 12, 13). Leaving
considerations of passing seasons and human experience, these
emblems seem to be eloquent of the things which abide.
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL SEASONS 27
the flowers of spring suggesting the Passover, and the
fruit of autumn the Feast of Tabernacles.
ncient monuments display similar emblems, some
of which we may mention. Remains of ancient syna-
the Palestine Exploration Fund, include lintels and
cornices with decorations such as have been described
now the LILY-FLOWER is with a WINE-BOWL, at other
times with a cluster of grapes1. And what shall be said
THE SYMBOLS REPRESENT THE SPRING AND AUTUMN FEASTS;
AND THE TOKENS OF THE FEASTS BECAME THE INSIGNIA OF
of the designs upon those much-discussed coins, the
Hebrew shekel and half-shekel, which some numismatists
assign to one period, some to another? On the one side
is a TRIPLE LILY, on the other a WINE-BOWL! Schiirer
speaks of the significance of these symbols as still ‘doubt-
ful2.’ Association with such a round of objects as we
have indicated, going back to Bible times, should help
to determine their age beyond dispute3. And, need-
1 When the symbols take the form of a lamb and a wine-
bowl, the meaning is the same—the Feast of the Passover and
the Feast of Tabernacles.
2 Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ,
vol. ii. p. 380.
3 The designs on other coins may be explained by looking in
the same direction for their motive. For instance, a silver coin
28 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
less to say, when symbols are found on coins they declare
their national importance even though their meaning
may for a time remain obscure.
If Passover (Pesach) stood for anything, it stood for
Whatever may have been the inclusive meaning of
Tabernacles (Succoth), certainly the sense of divine care
and protection was specially prominent. So the two
expressed the alpha and omega of
in Jehovah—the REDEEMER and KEEPER of the nation
(Deut. 24. z8; Lev. 23.43 ; PS. 121. 5). Hence the signs
for the seasons came to stand for the people themselves,
who claimed in anticipation, and as a present possession,
the blessings of the promise given by Hosea: ‘I will be
the dew unto
. . . his beauty shall be as the olive tree, . . . they shall
revive as the corn, AND BLOSSOM AS THE VINE : the scent
shall be as the wine of
also the remarkable words in 2 Esdras 5. 23, 24: ‘0
Lord that bearest rule, of all the woods of the earth,
and of all the trees thereof, THOU HAST CHOSEN THEE
ONE VINE: . . . of all the flowers of the world THOU
HAST CHOSEN THEE ONE LILY,' &c.
Let other allusions be considered.
of the reign of Herod Agrippa has features precisely similar
to the one depicted in the text. On the one side are three ears
of corn, springing from one stalk (Passover: see Lev. 23. 10-14);
and on the other a tent or booth (Feast of Tabernacles). May
the triple character of the Passover symbol not be owing to the
fact that, in a certain sense, the institution had three stages—
of Promise itself? (see Exod. 12. 3 ff.; Num. 9. 5; Joshua 4.
19; 5. 10).
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL SEASONS 29
2-6; Jer. 2. 21; 12. 10ff.).
the Prayer-book for British Jews, in the service for the
of Purim, where
Jacob.’ Moreover, in a hymn chanted in connexion
with the Feast of Hanuca (Dedication), the Jews praise
God for delivering ‘the Standard of the Lilies,’ meaning
As the feasts were a parabolic expression of the origin
of the nation, so the signs of the feasts afterwards
became emblematic of the people themselves. Capable
of a varied expression, they became the insignia of
Whether monumental or literary, appearing on
are full of meaning. If further proof is demanded of
their religious and national significance, it is assuredly
afforded by the fact that these very symbols were
employed long ago on Hebrew tombstones. The
commonest symbol found in the Jewish catacombs at
explained, in its original represented both flowers and
Moreover, in the old Jewish cemeteries at
similar features are displayed. On some gravestones
the TRIPLE LILY appears; on others the POME-
1Where the symbols take the form of a bunch of grapes or
a basket of fruit, the meaning is the same. That the lilies have
been identified as ‘poppies,’ and the pomegranates spoken of as
‘a round fruit,’ is evidence of the extent to which Old Testament
symbology has been neglected and misunderstood (See Jewish
Encyclopaedia, s. v. ‘Catacombs,’ and literature there indicated;
30 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
As seen on the monuments of the dead, such symbols
cannot be regarded as merely accidental or of an
the national and the religious were combined. So the
flowers declare the sleepers to be of the people of the
Passover—that is, REDEEMED; the fruit proclaim them
to be of the people of the Tabernacles Feast—that is,
KEPT of the Lord.
The symbols and facts which we have considered go
deep into Israelitish history. From them emerge im-
pressions having all the force of logical conclusions. Let
us mark well the signs and their meaning
(I) SHOSHANNIM—Lilies (Flowers) for the Feast of
(in the Spring), which, in a word, meant
LIVERANCE FROM EGYPT, a guarantee or pledge of a
thousand deliverances (Exod. 12. 2, 27 ; Deut. 24. i8).
(2) GITTITH—Winepresses (Fruit) for the Feast of
Tabernacles (in the Autumn), which, in a word, meant
the ENJOYMENT OF DIVINE PROTECTION and full reliance
upon Jehovah's care (Lev. 23. 43).
These fixtures, as we have already observed, cover the
entire ground of the making of the nation, and its con-
secration to the Lord as a peculiar people. We now
proceed to examine, the psalms which were associated
THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
(2) PSALMS FOR THE FEAST OF THE PASSOVER
SHOSHANNIM (Psalms 44, 68)
THERE is no need to give a description of the Passover
Feast, nor to rehearse the full significance of the spring
commemorations as they struck the Israelitish mind
(Exod. 13. 4; 23. 15; 34. 18). Chief as well as first in
order of the national festivals, the Passover was cele-
brated on the fourteenth day of the first month, called
Abib—ear-forming (of barley) or growing green (of
vegetation in general). It recalled the coming out of
It was instituted in its first significance in the land of
derings in the wilderness of Sinai, it was next observed in
The ordinance was, above all else, a memorial of great
deliverances. In special mercy Jehovah passed over
the houses of the Israelites when the first-born of the
Egyptians were destroyed.
Whatever may have passed out of mind in the course
of centuries, the descendants of the liberated Israelites
retained a lively recollection of the story of their national
redemption. Jehovah brought them out of the house
of bondage with outstretched arm, and for their sakes
He cast the heathen out of the land which He had pro-
mised to the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The
32 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
progress of the Ark of the Covenant during the journey
the ark set forward, Moses said, ‘Rise up, 0 LORD, and
let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate
thee flee before thee’ (Num. 10. 35). This we do well to
remember in our present studies. When God was with
before their enemies (Deut. 28. 7, 25). The Passover
was also called. the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which
was ordained to be kept ‘in its season from year to year
for ever’ (Exod. 12. 14; 13. 10; Lev. 23. 5, 6). Taken
a whole, these seven days of festivity reminded
the hard bondage of
wrought for them by a covenant-keeping God, arid of the
triumphant entrance that had been accorded them into
the land of their inheritance.
The Shoshannim psalms, two in number, are on this
note, and very distinctly so. Those entitled Shoshan-
nim Eduth, also two in number, will demand separate
treatment. Our present concern is with Psalms 44 and
68. In the latter (ver. 1) we once more meet with the
words of Moses, ‘when the ark set forward,’ in this form:
‘Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered; let
them also that hate him flee before him.’ Although
the prayers and praises of these psalms were timely for
any day, they were specially suited for the Passover
season, for they rehearsed, with much animation and
power, the signs and wonders that were wrought in
could not but bring home to the Israelitish mind the
that the God of the Exodus from
to deliver His people again and again.
looked forward to new mercies like these enjoyed by the
PSALMS FOR FEAST OF THE PASSOVER 33
fathers of the nation. If Jehovah was the God of the
past, nevertheless the future was with Him: ‘I the
Lord, the first, and with the last; I am He.’
A Psalm of David, a Song.
1 Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered;
Let them also that hate him flee before him.
2 As smoke is driven away, so drive them away:
As wax melteth before the fire,
So let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
3 But let the righteous be glad ; let them exult before
Yea, let them rejoice with gladness.
4 Sing unto God, sing praises to his name :
Cast up a high way for him that rideth through the
His name is JAH; and exult ye before him.
5 A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows,
Is God in his holy habitation.
6 God asetteth the solitary in families: a Heb. maketh the solitary to
He bringeth out the prisoners into prosperity: dwell in a house
But the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
7 0 God, when thou wentest forth before thy people,
When thou didst march through the wilderness;
8 The earth trembled, [Selah
The heavens also dropped at the presence of God:
Even yon Sinai trembled at the presence of God, the
9 Thou, 0 God, didst send a plentiful rain,
1 The verses which specially respond to the Musical Title are
printed in black (Clarendon) type.
34 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
Thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was
10 Thy acongregation dwelt therein: a Or, troop
Thou, 0 God, didst prepare of thy goodness for the poor.
11 The Lord giveth the word:
The women that publish the tidings are a great host.
12 Kings of armies flee, they flee:
And she that tarrieth at home divideth the spoil.
13 bWill ye lie among the sheepfolds, b Or, When ye lie among
As the wings of a dove covered with silver, the sheepfolds, it is as
And her pinions with yellow gold? the wings....gold.
14 When the Almighty scattered kings therein,
c It was as when it snoweth in Zalmon. c Or, It snowed
d An high mountain is the
16 Why look ye askance, ye high mountains, of summits
At the mountain which God hath desired for his abode ?
Yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever.
The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thou-
sands upon thousands:
17 The Lord is among them, eas in Sinai, in the sanctuary.
Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led thy captivity
18 Thou hast received gifts among men,
Yea, among the rebellious also, that f the LORD God f Heb. Jah. See ver. 4
might gdwell with them. g Or, dwell there
h Blessed be the Lord, who daily beareth our burden, h Or, Blessed be the Lord
19 Even the God who is our salvation. [Selah day by day: if one oppresseth
20 God is unto us a God of deliverances; us, God is our salvation
And unto JEHOVAH the Lord belong the issues from
21 But God shall smite through the head of his enemies,
PSALMS FOR FEAST OF THE PASSOVER 35
The hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in
The Lord said, I will bring again from
I will bring them again from the depths of the sea :
23 That thou mayest dip thy foot in blood,
That the tongue of thy dogs may have its portion
from thine enemies.
24 They have seen thy goings, 0 God,
Even the goings of my God, my King, ainto the sanc- a Or, in the sanctuary
tuary. Or, in holiness
25 The singers went before, the minstrels followed after, Hess
In the midst of the damsels playing with timbrels.
26 Bless ye God in the congregations,
Even the Lord, ye that are of the fountain
27 There is little Benjamin their ruler,
The princes of
The princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.
28 Thy God hath commanded thy strength :
c Strengthen, 0 God, that which thou d hast wrought c Or, Be strong. O God,
Because of thy temple at
Kings shall bring presents unto thee.
30 Rebuke the wild beast of the reeds,
The multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the
e Trampling under foot the pieces of silver; e Or, Every one submitting
f He hath scattered the peoples that delight in war. himself with pieces of silver
Princes shall come out of
God. g Heb.
32 Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth;
0 sing praises unto the Lord; [Selah
36 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
33 To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens,
which are of old;
Lo, he uttereth his voice, and that a mighty voice.
34 Ascribe ye strength unto God:
His excellency is over
And his strength is in the skies.
35 a O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: a Or, Terrible is God
The God of Israel, he giveth strength and power unto
Blessed be God.
For the Chief Musician ; set to b Shoshannim1. b That is, Lilies
In this song-psalm of David we have the Passover
story—the deliverance from Egyptian and other enemies,
and the settlement in a land of prosperity—told with
striking detail and great poetic force. Jehovah is the
God of complete salvation (19, 20). In the words of
‘The great central idea of the psalm is the choice
leads; from this all flows2.’
But it is because of its graphic outline of antecedent
events that the psalm was designated by the chief
musician for the Passover season; and whether we take
29, ‘Because of thy temple at
1 Or rather, relating to Shoshannim, the Passover Feast.
The preposition lfa (‘al), in all such cases as this, may well
be rendered ‘on’ or ‘concerning.’ A still more useful render-
ing is ‘relating to’; for then any qualifying description is
easily supplied by the mind: relating to—(as a season); re-
lating to-- (as a choir); relating to--(as a subject), as the
case may be. In no precise sense does the word mean ‘set to’;
though it may mean ‘corresponding with’ or ‘answering to.’
2 The Psalms, vol. i. p. 534 (8th ed.).
PSALMS FOR FEAST OF THE PASSOVER 37
allusion to the tabernacle that was actual in David's
time or as an anticipation of the more glorious building
erected by Solomon, one thing is clear: the psalm re-
flects conditions of national ascendency and prosperity
on the part of people whose God was Jehovah (18, 34),
and whose song was of salvation and deliverances such
as the Passover brought to mind from year to year
This psalm brings us into another atmosphere. Mas-
chil of the sons of Korah, it was written for times of
national decline. Yet it opens on the distinctive Pass-
A Psalm of the sons of Korah. Maschil.
1 We have heard with our ears, 0 God, our fathers
have told us,
What work thou didst in their days, in the days of old.
2 Thou didst drive out the nations with thy hand, and
plantedst them in;
Thou didst afflict the peoples, and adidst spread them a Or, cast them forth abroad.
3 For they gat not the land in6possession by their own
Neither did their own arm save them:
But thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of
Because thou hadst a favour unto them.
4 Thou art my King, 0 God:
Command bdeliverance for Jacob. b Or, victories
5 Through thee will we push down our adversaries:
Through thy name will we tread them under that
rise up against us.
6 For I will not trust in my bow,
38 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
Neither shall my sword save me.
7 But thou hast saved us from our adversaries,
And hast put them to shame that hate us.
8 In God have we made our boast all the day long,
And we will give thanks unto thy name for ever.
9 But now thou bast cast us off, and brought us to dis-
And goest not forth with our hosts.
10. Thou makest us to turn back from the adversary:
And they which hate us spoil for themselves.
11 Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat;
And hast scattered us among the nations.
12 Thou sellest thy people for nought,
And hast not increased thy wealth by their price.
13 Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours,
A scorn and a derision to them that are round about us.
14 Thou makest us a byword among the nations,
A shaking of the head among the peoples.
15 All the day long is my dishonour before me,
And the shame of my face hath covered me,
16 For the voice of him that reproacheth and blas-
By reason of the enemy and the avenger.
17 All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten
Neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant.
18 Our heart is not turned back,
Neither have our steps declined from thy way;
19 a That thou hast sore broken us in the place of jackals, a Or, Through
And covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we have forgotten the name of our God,
Or spread forth our hands to a strange god;
PSALMS FOR FEAST OF THE PASSOVER 39
21 Shall not God search this out?
For he knoweth the secrets of the heart.
22. Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long;
We are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
23 Awake, why sleepest thou, 0 LORD?
Arise, cast us not off for ever.
24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face,
And forgettest our affliction and our oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust:
Our belly cleaveth unto the earth.
26 Rise up for our help,
And redeem us for thy lovingkindness' sake.
For the Chief Musician; set to a Shoshannim1. a That is, Lilies
Note the condition of need expressed in this psalm.
honour,’ like ‘sheep appointed for meat,’ and ‘scattered
among the nations.’ There were stall fighting hosts, but
Jehovah went not forth with them, so they were de-
feated on the field (9–11). This was virtually a reversal
old-time experiences, when the enemies of
before them. Yet the nation was still in the land, but
held in contempt by the surrounding peoples (13, 14).
Not because of any flagrant wickedness were the chosen
people being ‘killed all the day long,’ but presumably
because it was the inscrutable will of God that trial
should come upon them (18-22). In conclusion comes
a prayer for help—for deliverance from the ‘affliction
and oppression’ of the new house of bondage (24: comp.
Exod. 3. 7, g, the words of which are repeated with
1 Or rather, relating to Shoshannim, the Passover Feast. See
note on p. 36.
40 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
It may seem hardly reasonable to inquire what inter-
pretations others have put upon the word Shoshannim
(singular Shushan or Shoshan) in this connexion; seeing
that in no case have such interpretations been subject
to help and direction derived from the psalms to which
the word rightly belongs in the system of titles as here
explained. Yet, in order to show that the conclusions
which we have advanced are not opposed to con-
sistent or cogent views, we give the following excerpts
from the works of authorities in lexicography and
GESENIUS: Shushan (or Shoshan). A lily; an instrument
of music, perhaps so called as resembling the form of the lily
Lex. s.v., Robinson's edition, 1872. The
has not yet reached the word. Buhl's German edition (1899),
reminding one of the modest Query of old-time lexicons, after
dealing with the ordinary uses of the word, says of the occur-
rences in psalm-inscriptions—'No indication of meaning.'
FURST : Proper name of one of the twenty-four music choirs
left by David, so called from a master, Shushan (Heb. Lex.
s.v., Davidson's edition).
KIRKPATRICK: ‘Shoshanninm denotes, not the theme of the
psalm, nor a lily-shaped instrument by which it was to be
accompanied, but the melody to which it was to be sung—
some well-known song beginning with the word Shoshannim'
(The Book of Psalms, Cambridge Bible, p. 245).
WELLHAUSEK: Probably the catchword of an older song,
to the tune whereof this psalm was to be sung (Polychrome
Bible: Psalms, p. 183).
HAUPT: The Hebrew 'al Shoshannim may mean ‘with
Susian instruments’ (Polychrome Bible: Psalms, p. 183).
By the application of the canon suggested by Hab.
3. 19, the entire relation of the word has been altered.
We find it associated with psalms that convey a definite
PSALMS FOR FEAST OF THE PASSOVER 41
message; and hence an exegetical reason is brought in
for our contention that Shoshannim means lilies, and
not a melody; that it stands for a season, and not a
musical instrument; and that it is used by way of
metonymy for the Passover commemoration. There-
fore, it is neither the name of a choir-master, nor the
catchword of an old song, nor a technical term implying
that the musical instruments employed in the worship
of Jehovah were ‘made in Shushan,’ or any other land
We proceed to consider the Shoshannim Eduth Psalms,
which in several respects are of special importance, in
particular because their Musical Title seems to associate
with a well-known epoch in the history of
THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
(3) PSALMS FOR A ‘SECOND PASSOVER’
SHUSHAN EDUTH: SHOSHANNIM EDUTH
(Psalms 59, 79)
THE Shoshannim Psalms proclaim their special cha-
racter with great distinctness. We cannot say at what
time they were first employed in the Passover celebra-
tion; but the facts regarding the Musical Titles seem
to push the data, back into days anterior to those in
which many modern scholars are disposed to find
anything like a collection of psalms. And if the Chief
Musician's notes take us so far, then it becomes needful
to place the origin of the pieces, in some cases at least,
in a time still earlier than the date of their coming into
There are two Passover psalms besides those already
studied, and the designation of these is accompanied
by a peculiar qualification. They are Psalms 59, 79,
the former of which is entitled Shushan Eduth, and the
latter Shoshannim Eduth. As to Shushan, it is the
singular of Shoshannim; and it would seem that, as
designating the spring season, the two forms were
interchanged. No difficulty presents itself here. With
Eduth, however, the case is somewhat different. Its
character in the system of titles is fairly obvious ; it
supplies a note of qualification, but what that qualifi-
cation implies, may not, perhaps, be affirmed with
PSALMS FOR A ‘SECOND PASSOVER’ 43
certainty. The meaning of the titles is—Psalm 59,
‘Lily: Testimonies’; Psalm 79, ‘Lilies: Testimonies.’
According as tvdf is read as the plural of hdAfe (Edah),
namely tOdfe (Edoth), or as the singular substantive tUdfe
(Eduth), we shall render ‘testimonies’ or ‘testimony.’
As the two terms are intimately related, and the
pointing to which they have been subjected is doubt-
less arbitrary, we may make our choice. In those
Pentateuch passages in which light is thrown on our
subject, scholars prefer to read tvdf as the plural of hdf—
‘testimonies.’ Both words are of great importance in
the Old Testament literature.
First as to tUdfe—Eduth. The slabs bearing the ten
words of the Law were called the ‘tables of TESTIMONY’
(Exod. 31. 18); the chest containing the said tables was
called the ‘ark of the TESTIMONY’ (Exod. 25. 22); and
the tent in which the ark was lodged was designated the
‘tabernacle of TESTIMONY’ (Exod. 38. 21). It is not
easy to see how the word, as so associated, could be used
to qualify a title pointing to the Passover.
As the plural of hdAfe the word is found in a series of
passages which will readily occur to the mind. It stands
for laws as divine TESTIMONIES (Edoth), or solemn
charges, and is often combined with other terms of simi-
lar import—statutes, judgements, commandments. One
such passage is i Kings 2.3, in which we read that David,
being nigh unto death, charged Solomon in these words:
‘Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his
ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments,
and his judgements, and his TESTIMONIES, according
to that which is written in the law of Moses,’ &c.
2 Kings 17. 15, we read how
statutes’ of Jehovah ‘and his TESTIMONIES which he
44 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
testified unto them.’ Again, in 2 Kings 23. 3, we find
Josiah making a covenant with his people, in the presence
of Jehovah, ‘to keep his commandments, and his
TESTIMONIES, and his statutes, with all his heart, and all
Here we may find a connexion between the TESTI-
MONIES and the Passover. To begin with, let it be
recalled that, as originally given, the Passover does not
strictly come under this heading. The feast, in its first
was ordained in
had left the house of bondage. It was given while as
yet the people were unredeemed, in fact while they were
still in ‘the land of the enemy.’ It was the sign and
token of redemption, and designed to show forth God's
mercy and power to all generations. Though that night
was one ‘to be much observed unto the Lord for bring-
them out from the
and though the celebration of the ordinance in other
circumstances forty years afterwards, immediately after
be memorable (Joshua 5. 10), there was also an instruc-
tion, having the nature of a statute, judgement; and
TESTIMONY, concerning the feast, which it is essential to
recognize in this connexion.
The particulars are recorded in Num. 9. 5-14; and
there we have a detailed statement of the conditions on
which what has come down to our days as the Second
Passover, otherwise the Little Passover, was to be cele-
brated. The original institution was to be held in the
first month; but for those who, by reason of ceremonial
uncleanness, or ‘being in a journey afar off,’ found
attendance impossible, it was commanded that there
should be a celebration in the second month, ‘according
PSALMS FOR A ‘SECOND PASSOVER’ 45
to the statute of the Passover, and according to the
ordinance thereof.’ The suggestion is that the psalms
bearing the subscript title Lilies: Testimonies were on
some memorable occasion selected for use at the Second
Passover, a Passover qualified by the word Testimonies
to show that it was the one contemplated by the special
command of the Lord, given through Moses in the
wilderness of Sinai two years after the exodus (Num.
9. 1, 8).
And here we might leave the subject. But we must
examine the psalms themselves. Before doing so, how-
ever, we inquire whether Israelitish history gives us any
record of such a Passover celebration as is here described.
We are directed to the reign of Hezekiah, and in par-
ticular to the Chronicler's account of his reorganiza-
that, in the first year of his reign, the king opened the
doors" of the house of the Lord; and, calling the priests,
commanded them to sanctify themselves and to cleanse
the holy place. For sixteen days the 'work was in hand
and afterwards the offering of sacrifices in atonement for
the sins of the people was carried out on such a large
scale that ‘the priests were too few.’ The service of
song was restored, cymbals, psalteries and harps being
brought in; the Levites stood with ‘the instruments of
David,’ and ‘sang praises unto the Lord with the words
of David and of Asaph the seer’ (29. 25-30).
‘So the service of the house of the Lord was set in
order’ (2 Chron. 29. 35). But what had happened by
consequence of the prolonged sanctification of the
house, and the renewal of the order of worship? The
Passover season had gone by—the house was not ready
when the opening day arrived. There was, in the cir-
46 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
cumstances, nothing for it, but that the provision set
forth in Num. 9 should be accepted, and this was done.
‘The king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the
second month. . . . So they established a decree to make
even to Dan, that they should come to keep the Passover
the Lord, the God of Israel, at
had not kept it in great numbers (of a long tirne, RN.
marg.) in such sort as it is written' (30. 2, 5).
he entire proceedings bear witness to revival. The
congregation of people was large, representing slime of
tribes included in the
Levites ‘sood in their place, after their order, according
the law of Moses, the man of God.’ The
having been purified, efforts were afterwards made to
purify the land from monuments of idolatry and symbols
of wickedness. Every work which Hezekiah undertook
‘in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and
in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all
his heart, and prospered' (30. 13, 16, 18 ; 31. I, 21).
Bearing in mind the unrest which characterized the
opening of his reign, and remembering the Passover
of trust and joy in view of
redeemed people, we may well regard the Edith or
‘Testimony’ psalms as designated for this period.
A Psalm of David: Michtam: when Saul sent, and they
watched the house to kill him.
1 Deliver me from mine enemies, 0 my God:
Set me on high from them that rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,
PSALMS FOR A ‘SECOND PASSOVER’ 47
And save me from the bloodthirsty men.
3 For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul ;
The mighty gather themselves together against me:
Not for my transgression, nor for my sin, 0 LORD.
4 They run and prepare themselves without my fault:
Awake thou to a help me, and behold. a Help. meet
5 Even thou, 0 LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel,
Arise to visit all the b heathen: b Or, nations
Be not merciful to any wicked trangressors. [Selah
6 They return at evening, they make a noise like a dog,
And go round about the city.
7 Behold, they belch out with their mouth;
Swords are in their lips:
For who, say they, doth hear?
8 But thou, 0 LORD, shalt laugh at them;
Thou shalt have all the c heathen in derision. c Or, nations
9 d 0 my strength, I will wait upon thee: d So some ancient authorities.
For God is my high tower. The Hebrew text has, His strength
8 e The God of my mercy shall prevent me: e According to some ancient authorities
God shall let me see my desire upon f mine enemies. My God with his mercy.
9 Slay them not, lest my people forget: f Or, Make that lie in wait for me
g Scatter them by thy power, and bring them down, g Or, Make them wander to and fro
0 Lord our shield.
12 For the sin of their mouth, and the words of their
Let them even be taken in their pride,
And for cursing and lying which they speak.
13 Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they
be no more:
And let them know that God ruleth in Jacob,
Unto the ends of the earth. [Selah
14 And at evening let them return, let them make a noise
like a dog,
48 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
And go round about the city.
15. They shall wander up and down for meat, 15
And tarry all night if they be not satisfied.
16. But I will sing of thy strength ;
Yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning
For thou hast been my high tower,
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
17. Unto thee, 0 my strength, will I sing praises : 17
For God is my high tower, the God of my mercy.
For the Chief Musician; set to a Shushan Eduth1.
a That is, The lily of testimony
A Psalm of Asaph.
1. 0 God, the b heathen are come into thine inheritance; b Or, nations
Thy holy temple have they defiled ;
They have laid
2. The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be
meat unto the fowls of the heaven, 2
The flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.
3. Their blood have they shed like water round about
And there was none to bury them.
4. We are become a reproach to our neighbours,
A scorn and derision to them that are round about us.
1 Or rather, for Shushan Eduth, the Passover Feast, as or-
dained for special circumstances, for the second month (Num. 9.
5-14). In this case the preposition lfa (‘al), ‘relating to,’ ‘con-
cerning,’ makes way for lx, (el), which may equally be under-
stood to mean ‘answering to’ or ‘corresponding with,’ See
note on p. 36. Possibly, in this instance, the Chief Musician's
programme is out of mind, and the season itself is referred to,
in which case lx, would imply ‘in connexion with,’ or ‘for’
the Passover Feast.
PSALMS FOR A ‘SECOND PASSOVER’ 49
5. How long, 0 LORD, wilt thou be angry for ever ?
Shall thy jealousy burn like fire ?
6. Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that know
And upon the kingdoms that call not upon thy name.
7. For they have devoured Jacob,
And laid waste his a habitation. a Or pasture
8. Remember not against us the iniquities of our fore-
Let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us:
For we are brought very low.
9. Help us, 0 God of our salvation, for the glory of thy
And deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy
10 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their
Let the revenging of the blood of thy servants which
Be known among the heathen in our sight.
11. Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee;
According to the greatness of thy b power preserve b Heb. thine arm
thou c those that are appointed to death; c Heb. the children of death.
12. And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their of deal/i. 1.
Their reproach, wherewith they have reproached
thee, 0 Lord.
13. So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture
Will give thee thanks for ever:
We will shew forth thy praise to all generations.
For the Chief Musician; set to a Shoshannim Eduth1. d That is, Lilies, a testimony
1 Or rather, relating to Shoshannim Eduth, the Passover
50 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
The prayer in Psalm 59, that Jehovah will ‘scatter’
the heathen and ‘bring them down’ recalls the victories
10. 35). The words ‘Let them know that God ruleth in
Jacob, unto the ends of the earth’ (13) correspond with
those of Joshua just after the promised land was entered:
Lord your God dried up the waters of
that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand
of the Lord, that it is mighty; that they may fear the
Lord your God for ever’ (Joshua 4. 23, 24).
In Psalm 79, as in the first Shoshannim psalm (44),
reproaches of the heathen, as levelled against
are regarded as in reality directed against Jehovah, and
as constituting a reflection upon His sacred honour (4. ro).
If the Passover stands for anything, it is for the redemp-
invaded by heathen, cruel and corrupt. Hence the
prayer for deliverance—an essential aspect of the Pass-
over story: Jehovah is besought, by mighty acts as of
old, to evoke the eternal praise of ‘the sheep of his
It will be asked by some, no doubt, whether these
psalms—or at any rate the latter of them--are not
post-exilic, and therefore such as Hezekiah could not
possibly have employed on the occasion described. We
reply that, when carefully examined, they proclaim
themselves very plainly as belonging to the time when
59, the heading, ‘Of David . . . when Saul sent, &:c.,’ must
count for something. Whatever may have been its
origin, Hezekiah could well use it of the enemies that
Feast, as ordained for special circumstances for the second
month (Num. 9. 5-14).
PSALMS FOR A ‘SECOND PASSOVER’ 51
were seeking the downfall of his kingdom when he
ascended the throne. His predecessor Ahaz, by his
ungodliness, invited divine retribution, and from all
quarters ‘the heathen’ gave him trouble (2 Chron. 28.
16-22). The terms of the psalm were true of the opening
days of Hezekiah's reign.
As to the second psalm (79), which is confidently
claimed for a much later period, we say that everything
depends upon how its opening verses are interpreted. Is
this a poem—to say nothing of a portion of Holy Scrip-
ture? If so, then must we not expect in it the qualities
of poetry—intensity, passion, vision? We shall look in
vain for a period when the entire situation of the poem
is reflected in the history of the people as set forth in
prose records. Take any psalm we may choose, we shall
meet with a like disappointment. Poets do not use the
language of historians; the things they see are often
different, the emphasis is different, the interpretation
different. If this is so in ordinary literature, why should
we expect less in Holy Scripture?
As for this psalm of Asaph, what is it but an ampli-
fication, poetic in form and fervid in religious faith, of
Hezekiah's address to the Levites on his succeeding to
the crown? He said: ‘Our fathers have trespassed, and
done that which was evil in the sight of the Lord our God,
and have forsaken him, and have turned away their
faces from the habitation of the Lord, and turned their
backs . . . Wherefore the wrath of the Lord was upon
a terror (R.V. marg.), to be an astonishment and an hiss-
ing, as ye see with your eyes. For, lo, our fathers have
fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters
and our wives are in captivity for this. Now it is in
52 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God
(2 Chron. 29. 6-10).
This condition of things, with an anticipation of the
certain issue, forms the subject of the opening verses of
the psalm. Asaph's vision embraces the coming years,
when speaking of the reproach of
whereunto the evil would lead. The forsaking of Jeho-
vah involved all this in retribution. But that the end
had not come, was made clear by the terms of the
prayer that followed: ‘We are brought very low. Help
us . . . deliver us . . . wherefore should the heathen say,
is their God?’ (8-10).
but in the land. The nations are their neighbours, people
dwelling round about them (4, 12); the pressure is so
to death’ (II). There is no prayer, however, for
a ‘turning of captivity,’ or for restoration to the inheri-
tance of the land. Though in distress, the Israelites are
still ‘the sheep of God's pasture,’ and prepared to ‘show
forth his praise to all generations’ (13).
The historical record tells us that at Hezekiah's
command the Levites sang ‘praises unto the Lord
with the words of David and of Asaph the seer’
(2 Chron. 29. 30). Is it nothing to the point to find that
these Eduth psalms exactly answer this description
—Psalm 59 being by David, and Psalm 79 by Asaph?
The latter writer is styled ‘the seer.’ The former was
no less a prophet (2 Sam. 23. 2 ; Acts 2. 30).
There is another point, arising from the musical line
itself. The psalm goes back at least as far as the days
of the Chief Musician. Can any one conceive of a time
when the service of praise was organized in the manner
PSALMS FOR A ‘SECOND PASSOVER’ 53
the said term implies when
‘on heaps’? When the city was destroyed, and the
in the days of Ahaz, the predecessor of Hezekiah. When
‘the service of the house was set in order,’ then, what-
ever terrors were impending, such a prayer as Psalm 79
was appropriate and timely. But if the opening lines
are understood as pointing to a post-exilic date, then
the psalm was never timely, nor the prayer one which
faith could deliver in the
Looking at the prayer as serious, and taking into
account the allusions that indicate continued habitation
of the land, we grasp the true meaning of the first three
verses as prophetic of coming judgement. If we remem-
ber the glorious reign that followed, we cannot but con-
clude that the prayer for deliverance was abundantly
answered. The psalm was, in a word, eminently suited
for such a time as that in which Hezekiah celebrated the
Passover in the second month (instead of the first), as
empowered by the TESTIMONY, or precept, or command-
ment, or statute, of Jehovah, given by Moses in the
wilderness of Sinai.
As in regard to other titles, so with Shushan Eduth
and Shoshannim Eduth, we get no reliable sense unless
we recognize their relation to the psalms which precede.
This is clear from the following:
SHUSHAN EDUTH: SHOSHANNIM EDUTH.
Gesenius: Shushan Eduth, Shoshannim Eduth. A melody
whose first line compared the Law as Testimony to a choice
(Heb. Lex. s.v. Eduth,
DELITZSCH : There was probably a well-known popular song
which began ‘Lily is the Testimony,’ &c.; or ‘Lilies are the
Testimonies’; and the psalm was composed after the melody
54 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
of this song in praise of the Thora [Law], and was to be sung in
the same way as it (Commentary on the Psalms, Eaton's transla-
tion, vol. ii. 89).
FURST: Perhaps the name of a musical choir whose presi-
dent was called Shushan, and who was stationed at Adithaim
Josh. 15. 36) in
known about the point (Heb. Lex. s.v., Davidson's edition).
This, of course, is confusion. The outcome of our
treatment is that both Shoshannim and Eduth are
allowed their true lexical meaning, and that simple
sense is adequate for all the purposes of a consistent
THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
(4) PSALMS FOR THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
GITTITH (PSALMS 7, 8o, 83)
PROCEEDING to consider psalms selected for use at the
Feast of Tabernacles, we are on ground equally inter-
esting: and to a certain extent, as already observed,
some scholars have anticipated our conclusions, by
defining Gittith, after the Septuagint translators, as
‘Belonging to the Winepress.’ And assuredly the
vintage season synchronizes with the great autumn
festival, which followed the Day of Atonement, when
the soul was afflicted in penitential sorrow for sin; it
in fact, the joyous ‘Harvest-Home' in
Coming in the seventh month—Ethanim, ‘flowing
brooks’—which after the Exile was called Tishri, the
feast lasted eight days. During this time the people
lived in booths formed of the branches of trees (Exod.
23. 16; Lev. 23. 33–43; Num. 29. 12–38; Deut. 16. 13).
was at this season that Solomon's
cated (1 Kings 8. 2; 2 Chron. 7. 8–10), and the same
ordinance was observed with great joy by the captives
Historically this feast is said to commemorate the
wanderings in the wilderness, but obviously in order to
emphasize some special aspect of those experiences—
namely, that, though far away from organized human
society, and in remote inhospitable regions, God pro-
for the children of
booths’ (Lev. 23. 43). In the words of Keil:
56 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
‘The booth (hKAsu) in Scripture is not an image of
privation and misery, but of protection, preservation,
and shelter from heat, storm, and tempest (Ps. 27. 5;
31. 21; Isa. 4. 6). That God made his people to
dwell in booths during their wanderings “through the
great and terrible wilderness, fiery serpents, scorpions,
and thirsty ground where was no water” (Deut. 8. 15),
was a proof of his fatherly concern for his covenant
at this feast, was to recall and bring vividly to the
remembrance of succeeding generations1.’
Jehovah cared for His people when they most stood in
need of His protection. The pillar of cloud to lead them
by day, and the pillar of fire to give them light by night,
were divine ordinances that could not but impress the
Jehovah. No wonder that, in the Targum of Onkelos,
the words of Lev. 23. 43 should be extended so as to
interpret the cloud as the Heaven-provided tent: the
‘made the children of
shadow of clouds’ and that the Targum of Palestine
should be more specific still, and read the verse: ‘That
your generations may know how, under the shadow of
Cloud of Glory, I made the sons of
the time that I brought them out redeemed from the
not’ (Ps. 78. 53). He who had redeemed the Israelites,
became their Keeper (Psalm 121).
With recollections of God's care, the feast combined
the delights of Harvest Home. Of all festive seasons in
been long stored; and now all fruits were also gathered,
the vintage past . . . The Harvest Thanksgiving of the
1 Biblical Archaeology, vol. ii. p. 55.
PSALMS FOR FEAST OF TABERNACLES 57
of Tabernacles reminded
of their dwelling in booths in the wilderness, while, on
the other hand, it pointed to the final harvest, when
gathered unto the Lord 1.' Hence the season was also
called the Feast of Ingathering.
The Winepress psalms are three in number—7, 80, 83.
The Hebrew tyTiGi (Gittith) is almost certainly a variant
of tOTGi (Gittoth), which appears in Neh. 13. 15: ‘In
days saw I in
the sabbath.’ It was apparently read as a plural (and
not as an adjective) by the Seventy, who render it in
each case, u[pe>r tw?n lhnw?n—‘Concerning the Wine-
presses 2’; and with this the Vulgate agrees Pro Torcu-
laribus. Here we have a safe guide as to the meaning of
tyTiGi, an explanation which has simplicity and antiquity
in its favour.
In view of the natural history of
in the light of the customs and institutions of the people,
Winepress is a word that tells its own tale. Both in the
Pentateuch and in later Scripture the vintage is com-
bined (in varying terms) with the general harvest :
‘threshing-floor and winepress’ (Deut. 16. 13), ‘treading
winepresses, bringing in sheaves,’ &c. (Neh. 13. 15).
and fig-trees and pomegranates’ (Deut. 8. 8); and above
else in popular esteem stood the vine.
2 The variant in Cod. A as regards Ps. 8o (classing this with
the Shoshannim psalms) is passed by as simply curious. The
psalm headings in that codex seem to be largely independent
of the sources followed by Cod. B, and of that represented by
the Massoretic text.
58 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
Jehovah's vine; the vintage spoke of Jehovah's pro-
vision for His people. To talk of the winepress implied
the harvest home, the gifts of God brought into the
garner for the service of man.
But the winepress meant more than that. If to
tread the grapes was a figure of harvest joy (Isa. 16. 1o),
so also was it a symbol of divine judgement (Isa. 63.3–6).
as viewed by
fate of their enemies, because of their being, in effect,
the enemies of God; and this judgement was regarded as
inevitable in order to the complete redemption of the
chosen of the Lord and the triumph of holiness and truth.
With ‘the day of vengeance’ for the nations, would
come ‘the year of the redeemed’ of Jehovah (Isa. 63. 4).
In each of the Gittith psalms there is an echo of the
winepress; and possibly this had much to do with their
allocation for the season of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Yet, above all, we cannot fail to be impressed with the
language in which prayer is made to ‘the Shepherd of
‘Jehovah my God, in whom I put my trust’ (7. 1)—by
the nation whose great privilege it was to enjoy ‘the
pastures of God’ (83. 12). In a word, these psalms,
whatever their characteristic terms, are the prayers of
such as lived in a consciousness that Jehovah was their
Keeper—the essential note of the Feast of Tabernacles.
A Psalm of Asaph.
1. Give ear, 0 Shepherd of
Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock ;
Thou that a sittest upon the cherubim, shine forth. a Or, dwellest between
2. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up
PSALMS FOR FEAST OF TABERNACLES 59
And come to save us.
3 a Turn us again, 0 God; a Or, Restore
And cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.
4 O LORD God of hosts,
How long b wilt thou be angry against the prayer of b Heb. wilt thou smoke
thy people ? See Ps. 74:1
5 Thou hast fed them with the bread of tears,
And given them tears to drink in large measure.
6 Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours :
And our enemies laugh among themselves.
7 Turn us again, 0 God of hosts
And cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.
Thou broughtest a vine out of
Thou didst drive out the nations, and plantedst it.
9 Thou preparedst room before it,
And it took deep root, and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with the shadow of it,
And c the boughs thereof were like d cedars of God. c Or, the cedars of God
11 She sent out her branches unto the sea, with the boughs thereof
And her shoots unto the River. d Or, goodly cedars
12 Why hast thou broken down her fences,
So that all they which pass by the way do pluck
13 The boar out of the wood cloth ravage it,
And the wild beasts of the field feed on it.
14 Turn again, we beseech thee, 0 God of hosts :
Look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this
15 And e the stock which thy right hand hath planted, e Or, protect (or main-
And the f branch that thou madest strong for thyself. tain) that which &c.
16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down: f Heb. son.
60 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
17. They perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.
Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, 17
Upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for
18. So shall we not go back from thee:
Quicken thou us, and we will call upon thy name.
19. Turn us again, 0 LORD God of hosts;
Cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.
For the Chief Musician; set to the Gittith1.
The note of this psalm is clear and definite, the lan-
guage of the season being employed to depict the condi-
tion of things in which Jehovah is asked to intervene as
people are encompassed by enemies, He will yet bring
back to favour (1-7).
vine; He has cared for it in the past, and He will assu-
redly visit it for salvation. Patience and victory are
the subject of impassioned prayer (17, 18). If Jehovah
will smile once more—or rather when at length He shall
smile again—His people will be saved from their dis-
This also is a psalm for adversity. Accepting for
themselves the first person singular of David's song, the
like lions, were rending them in pieces (I, 2).
Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, con-
cerning the words of
1. 0 LORD My God, in thee do I a put my trust: a Or, Take refuge
Save me from all them that pursue me, and deliver
1 Or rather, relating to the Gittith, the Feast of Tabernacles.
PSALMS FOR FEAST OF TABERNACLES 61
2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion,
Rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
3 O LORD My God, if I have done this ;
If there be iniquity in my hands ;
4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace
(Yea, I have delivered him that without cause was
5 Let the enemy pursue my soul, and overtake it;
Yea, let him tread my life down to the earth,
And lay my glory in the dust. [Selah
6 Arise, 0 LORD, in thine anger,
Lift up thyself against the rage of mine adversaries:
And awake for me; thou hast commanded judgement.
7 a And let the congregation of the peoples compass a Or,so shall
And over them return thou on high.
8 The LORD ministereth judgement to the peoples:
Judge me, 0 LORD, according to my righteousness,
and to mine integrity b that is in me. b Or, be it unto me
9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end,
but establish thou the righteous:
For Lie righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.
10 My shield is with God,
Which saveth the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
Yea, a God that hath' indignation every day.
12 c If a man turn not, he will whet his sword; c Or, Surely he will
He hath bent his bow, and made it ready. again whet
13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of
He maketh his arrows fiery shafts.
14 Behold, he travaileth with iniquity;
62 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
Yea, he hath conceived mischief, and brought forth
15. He hath made a pit, and digged it,
And is fallen into the ditch which he made.
16. His mischief shall return upon his own head,
And his violence shall come down upon his own
I will give thanks unto the LORD according to his
And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most
For the Chief Musician ; set to the Gittith1.
This psalm shows a reversal of
as the people in Jehovah's keeping. The judgement
of its enemies is delayed, and persecutors are repre-
sented as rending men who have made Jehovah their
trust. In fact (to use the language of the winepress)
the adversary is ‘treading down their life in the earth,
and laying their glory in the dust’ (5). Assuredly
Jehovah is holding Himself in readiness for the work of
judgement, whereby the mischief of the wicked shall
‘return upon his own head, and his violence come down
his own pate’ (16). They who are oppressing
shall themselves be trodden down. The entire psalm
is an appeal for Jehovah to avenge His own2.
1 Or rather, relating to the Gittith, the Feast of Tabernacles.
2 In his Origin of the Psalter, Cheyne argues that this psalm
comes of the Persian age, because of a Talmudical state-
ment associating it with the Feast of Purim. The musical
title Gittith takes us many centuries further into antiquity
than the treatise quoted, Massechet Sopherim; and it tells us
that, a good while before 200 B. C. (long enough before for
important words in the musical lines to become archaic and
PSALMS FOR FEAST OF TABERNACLES 63
A Song, a Psalm of Asaph.
1 0 God, keep not thou silence:
Hold not thy peace, and be not still, 0 God.
2 For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult:
And they that hate thee have lifted up the head.
3 They take crafty counsel against thy people,
And consult together against thy hidden ones.
4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from
being a nation;
That the name of
5 For they have consulted together with one consent;
Against thee do they make a covenant:
The tents of
7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek;
Philistia with the inhabitants of
misunderstood by the LXX), the psalm was connected with the
Feast of Tabernacles, then designated ‘Winepresses.’ Its sub-
stance justifies the selection. In these circumstances, we follow
the psalm backward to a generation before Purim was instituted,
the times of the Chief Musician of
at chat point in
contest the claims of David as the veritable author of the Shig-
gaion. Changes in lectionaries and service-books are certainly
of interest, but they do not speak the final word as to the origina-
tion of the materials affected. Hymns may exist for genera-
tions before finding their place in collections. It is not in the
surprising that a psalm which, in the days of
was associated with Succoth, should afterwards come to be
included in the service for Purim.
64 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
a They have holpen the children of
Do thou unto them us unto Midian; an arm to the children of
As to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the river Kishon.:
10. Which perished at En-dor;
They became as dung for the earth.
11. Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb;
Yea, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna:
12. Who said, Let us take to ourselves in possession
The b habitations of God. b Or, pastures
13. 0 my God, make them like the whirling dust;
As stubble before the wind.
14. As the fire that burneth the forest,
And as the flame that setteth the mountains on fire ;
15. So pursue them with thy tempest,
And terrify them with thy storm.
16. Fill their faces with confusion;
That they may seek thy name, 0 LORD.
17. Let them be ashamed and dismayed for ever;
Yea, let them be confounded and perish:
18. That they may know that c thou alone, whose name c Or, thou, whose name
is JEHOVAH alone is JEHOVAH art
Art the Most High over all the earth.
For the Chief Musician; set to the Gittith1.
This also is an appeal to the Keeper of Israel. To
conspire against God's people, is to hold Him in contempt.
If He really cares for His hidden ones (3), is it not time
that He stirred Himself? Yet He ‘holds his peace,’
and is ‘still’! (I). Jehovah's enemies—the enemies of
ment has arrived, now that those who hate God and His
are devising means for the destruction of
1 Or rather, relating to the Gittath, the Feast of Tabernacles.
PSALMS FOR FEAST OF TABERNACLES 65
They form an alliance against
every tribe of dishonoured name has joined in the con-
spiracy (5-11). The purpose is to descend upon God's
own inheritance (12). The figures of the threshing-floor,
and the unquenchable fire which consumes the stubble,
provide words in which to frame the judgement which
invoked upon the enemies of
Could psalms more suitable have been chosen for the
Feast of Tabernacles? There are, in each, the associa-
of language; also the notes of
peculiar people, and of His purpose to avenge their
sufferings in judgement upon the nations who have
oppressed them. All suggest the wine-press; and the
wine-press gives colour to their meaning.
As to the word Gittith, this remains to be said :
standing in its wrong place in the Psalter, it has received
varied and inconsistent treatment. Here are some
GESENIUS: Upon the Gittite (lyre)—so Targum; To the Gittite
(melody) Ewald, Olshausen, Delitzsch; or either of these,
Hupfeld, Perowne. Septuagint and Vulgate Ha-Gittoth, wine-
presses, whence Baethgen and others, at the wine-presses—i.e.
(Baethgen) a song for the Feast of Booths (Heb. Lex. s.v.,
DELITZSCH: An instrument with a joyous sound; or (and
this explanation accounts better for the fact that it occurs only
in psalm titles), a joyous melody, perhaps a march of the
Gittite guard, 2 Sam. 15. 18 (Hitzig). (Commentary on the
Psalms, Eaton's translation, vol. i. p. 190.)
FURST : A musical body of Levites, who had their chief
in the Levitical city of
WELLHAUSEN : We do not know whether Gittith here means
66 THE CALENDAR IN THE PSALTER
to the city of
destroyed before the Babylonian Exile, or ‘belonging to a
winepress’ (= song for the vintage?), or whether it denotes
a mode or key, or a musical instrument (Polychrome Bible:
Psalms, p. 166).
The psalms themselves suggest quite another order of
lexical facts. Gittith (Gitt/ith) = ‘Winepresses,’ recalls
the Feast of Tabernacles, the object of which was to
God's great goodness to
pilgrimage through the wilderness. As the Passover
the Tabernacles feast brought to mind that He was also
their Keeper. Hence the psalms illustrate reliance on
God in times of adversity, and that very plainly.
As for the preposition lfa (‘al), it cannot be accommo-
dated to the rendering ‘set to’ of modern expositions.
Its use is for the English ‘on,’ ‘concerning,’ ‘relating
to.’ ‘Relating to the Winepresses’ (as a season) is
a good rendering of the formula. If the precentor
had a separate collection, in which these psalms were
classed with others, then the object of the musical line
may have been to represent the psalms as ‘correspond-
ing with’ or ‘answering to’ pieces in the classified
DAVID IN THE PSALTER
(I) THE POET-KING'S PLACE AND INFLUENCE
THE place of David in the Psalter is not a question to
be settled by criticism alone. We have to consider
a man whose achievements impressed the imagination
of succeeding generations, as well as one whose actions
asserted for themselves a conspicuous place in the life of
his own time. Other men may have slain giants; but
David is the celebrated hero of the encounter with the
‘uncircumcised Philistine.’ Other kings may have
performed acts of piety that men could not but see and
admire; yet David stands pre-eminent among the rulers
erection of the glorious
should worship Jehovah from generation to generation.
Whatever else he may have been, David was the
(dviDA = UhvAdAOD. Comp. 2 Chron. 20. 37). His name occurs
more frequently than any other in the Old Testament,
even eclipsing that of Moses, the ever-to-be-revered
1 A glance at a full concordance will show this. Moses is
mentioned in the Old Testament over 65o times, David over
950 times. Of David it was said: ‘He played with lions as
with kids, and with bears as with lambs of the flock. In his
youth did he not slay a giant, and take away reproach from the
people, when he lifted up his hand with a sling stone, and beat
68 DAVID IN THE PSALTER
reason has he been idealized for two thousand years.
Was not the Messiah, which is called Christ, ‘born of the
seed of David, according to the flesh’? Over and above
everything David is the hero of the Old Testament;
and, what is more to our present purpose, he alone is the
hero of the Book of Psalms.
Let the inscriptions implying Davidic authorship be
discussed or discarded, their very existence means some-
thing; they mean that the place of the poet-king in the
hearts and minds of the editor (or editors) of the Psalter
(or Psalters) was second to no other name. Let the
headings relating to the historic circumstances that gave
rise to particular psalms be discussed or discarded, their
very existence means something; every one of them
presents DAVID as the delight of the Israelitish people.
There is no such inscription in honour of Solomon, or
any other king or champion.
In all, seventy-three psalms are described as ‘Of
David’; thirteen of these bear historical inscriptions,
and two of the (five) psalms of stated purpose are
David's. Moreover, in addition, the name occurs twelve
times in the Psalms themselves, not numbering the
famous colophon, Ps. 72. 20. And frequently the word
‘the king' stands for David the son of Jesse. Hence,
David must not be merely counted as a personage, but
weighed for his mighty influence in his own day and
down the boasting of Goliath? For he called upon the Most
High Lord; and he gave him strength in his right hand, to slay
a man mighty in war, to exalt the horn of his people. So they
glorified him for his ten thousands, and praised him for the
blessings of the Lord, in that there was given him a diadem of
glory. For he destroyed the enemies on every side, and brought
to nought the Philistines his adversaries, brake their horn in
pieces unto this day’ (Ecclus. 47. 3-7). Cp. note on p. 21.
THE POET-KING'S INFLUENCE 69
afterwards. Down the ages, in the Synagogue, prayers
have not ceased to be offered daily that Almighty God
will re-establish the throne of David, and ‘cause the
offspring of thy servant David speedily to flourish,' to
end that His people
We proceed to show that, as it is with the Psalms in
their ordinary titles, so it is with the place of David in
the subscript lines—that some of those lines bring under
notice commemorative services held in the days of the
Chief Musician, in honour of David, the man of war and
the devoted worshipper of Jehovah.
1 See Jewish Daily Prayers: Sh'moueh Esreh petitions.
DAVID IN THE PSALTER
(2) ON THE DEATH OF GOLIATH
MUTH-LABBEN (PSALM 8)
THE words Muth-labben have been the subject of keen
controversy. In some measure, the confusion has
arisen from a failure to recognize the extent to which
the Psalms are connected, in one way or another, with
the person and times of David. And confusion has been
made ‘worse confounded’ by the unfortunate fact that
expositors have sought in thewrong psalms fora response
to the Musical Titles—looking to the psalm following
instead of that preceding the line which has been so long
So far, we have found a logical relevancy to subsist
between the Psalms and their subscript titles. Whether
these titles denominate a class, recall an incident, or
furnish a pictorial designation founded on outstanding
expressions in particular psalms, we shall find this
relevancy all through. We must, however, be prepared,
in a degree, to meet with titles of the ‘catchword’
order, such as modern literature abundantly presents;
but this may be safely said—in no case will a connexion
between title and psalm be missing, so long as we keep
the right psalm in view.
It is beyond question that the words Muth-labben at
first suggest ‘Dying for the son.’ But in examining the
ON THE DEATH OF GOLIATH 71
phrase we have some things to remember. First, that
the psalm titles, having been out of place for two thou-
sand years, have been hopelessly misunderstood: and
second, that, through being misunderstood, they have
not received that editorial attention which the Massoretes
gave to the general text of the Old Testament. Hence
the words that make up these titles are, in a number of
cases, defective in spelling 1, and in some instances have
been supplied with points which give a misleading
sense2. When the points ‘stereotype’ a sound read-
ing, we are thankful for them, but when they give
sanction to a Rabbinical misunderstanding we pass
them by without hesitation.
Instead of following the Massoretic doctors, let us
inquire regarding traditions and explanations other than
the one which they seem to have followed. Among the
most striking of these we find that of the Jewish Para-
phrase, known as the Targum, which tells us, in effect,
that Nbela (labben), ‘of the son,’ should be read NyBela (labbeyn),
‘of the champion’: that is, a quiescent, or vowel-
letter, should have been supplied to place the word in its
proper light. The title, as given in the Targum, is:
—‘To praise, regarding the death of the man who went
out between the camps’—that is, regarding Goliath the
Philistine. Distinguished Jewish commentators have
read NBela in this sense. In I Sam. 17. 4, 23, Goliath
is called ‘a champion’—MyinaBeha-wyxi ('ish habbenaim)—
‘A man who stood between the two’—an intermediary
1 That is, the quiescents (or vowel-letters) have been supplied
incorrectly ; or the vowel-points have been so placed as to per-
petuate a misreading of the word.
2 See chapter on ‘Other Things that Follow’ (p 16o).
72 DAVID IN THE PSALTER
who presented himself for single combat to decide and
terminate conflict. Hence the word NyBe ‘champion’1.
Recall the story of the slaughter of Goliath, and then
look at the psalm. The ‘uncircumcised Philistine’
defied the armies of the living God, and cursed David by
the gods of his country. David's reply was: ‘I come to
thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the
the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite
thee, and take thine head from off thee; and I will give
the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto
the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth;
all the earth may know that there is a God in
(1 Sam. 17. 45-46). Is David, whom the Philistine dis-
dained for his youth, to be victorious through the power
of Jehovah? As a shepherd he has killed a lion and
a bear God delivered them into his hand. Is he now to
add conquest over the Philistine giant and attendant
hosts to the dominion which is already his over the
most fierce beasts of the field? Read the psalm in
which he praises God for the result of the contest :
A Psalm of David.
1. O LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is thy name in all the earth !
Who a hast set thy glory b upon the heavens. a So some ancient versions
2. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou The Hebrew is obscure.
established strength, b Or, above
Because of thine adversaries,
That thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
1 See the Hebrew Lexicon of Buxtorf, s. v. Nb; and the Con-
cordance of Particles by Noldius (ed. Tympius), s. v. Nyb,
ON THE DEATH OF GOLIATH 73
The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
And the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him but little lower than a God, a Or, the angels
And crownest him with glory and honour. Heb. Elohim
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works
of thy hands;
Thou hast put all things under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen,
Yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea,
Whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9 0 LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is thy name in all the earth!
For the Chief Musician ; set to Muth-labben1.
Surely it is impossible not to see the appropriateness
of this psalm to the incident which it was selected to
commemorate. The words are David's according to the
inscription; he is the man whom Jehovah has visited (4).
Can the words have had any other text than the one now
suggested, on the strength of the title, at length placed at
the foot of its own psalm? After such an act as the killing
of Goliath, what could David's note be other than domi-
nion? He who smote the lion and the bear had now
felled to the earth the mighty man from whom the
Israelites had fled sore afraid (I Sam. 17. 24, 49). Did
he not come next to God in dominion? and was he not
crowned with glory and honour (5)? And seeing that
‘the beasts of the field’ had found their match in him,
were not all things ‘under his feet’ (6-8)?
1 Or rather, on or relating to Muth-labben —For the Death of
the Champion (Goliath).
74 DAVID IN THE PSALTER
The God who delivered David ‘out of the paw of the
lion and out of the paw of the bear’ had given him this
victory also. David went forward in the Name of
Jehovah, who, through mighty acts, had got to Himself
glory reaching up to heaven (I). And all had been done
by the agency of one who had no power of his own in
fact, by one who classed himself with ‘babes and suck-
lings’ (2). The stripling who went out between the
` to take away the reproach from
that victory would be his, ‘that all the earth may know
there is a God in
psalm concludes, as it began, ‘O LORD, our Lord, how
excellent is thy name in all the earth!’ Little did the
poet think, however, when describing a memorable
event in the beautiful words of this psalm, that the
language he was employing had been charged by the
Spirit of Prophecy with higher doctrine and deeper
significance than could be realized in his day and
generation (see Heb. 2. 6-8).
May it not be said with confidence that what the
superscription lacks the subscript line supplies ? The
former says ‘A Psalm of David,’ the latter ‘Relating to
the Death of the Champion’1. It is in harmony with
1 The suggestions that Muth-labben (i) refers to the death of
Ben (a Levite referred to in i Chron. 15. 18); or (2) indicates
some unknown prince, or a mystical personage, hardly merit
consideration. A psalm endorsed by the Chief Musician for
great event, must be associated with a person or occurrence of
national importance. Nations do not celebrate fireside fame or
private heroism. To explain the title as relating to the death
of Absalom, whom David mourned in the pathetic words of
2 Sam. 18. 33, ‘Would God I had died for thee, my son,’ &c.,
is also unsatisfactory; for it is clear that the king's conduct
ON THE DEATH OF GOLIATH 75
what we know of Israelitish practice that the Philistine
should not be named here. When he came forth there
was an end of his boasting; but David lived to praise
the Lord for a mighty victory.
unpopular with the leaders in
being so, the event was not one for subsequent commemoration.
DAVID IN THE PSALTER
(3) THE VICTORY OVER THE PHILISTINES
MAHALATH (PSALM 52)
THE word tlaHEma as pointed here and in Psalm 87,
occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament except as
a proper name (Gen. 28. 9; 2 Chron. ii. i8). Acknow-
ledged authorities regard the meaning of the word as
‘dubious’ and ‘extremely obscure,’ though some venture
suggestions. Having brought the title into association
with its proper psalm, we may hope to learn something
about both. We must not lose sight of David's com-
manding place in the Psalter; and assuredly we have
no reason to put complete confidence in the Massoretic
points. Long before the text was punctuated, the ‘key’
to the titles ‘was lost,’ to recall words already quoted
from Delitzsch and others.
As pointed, the word has no indisputable meaning;
so in any case there must be investigation. The Septua-
gint translators do not help us; they transferred the
mysterious word, thus—u[pe>r maele<q. The Greek ver-
portant indication by rendering the word e]pi> xorei<%,
‘on a dancing.’ This means that they read the Hebrew
as tloHom; (m’holoth), ‘dancings’1. Symmachus, just
1 That is, the plural of hlAOHm; (m’holah), the occurrences of
THE VICTORY OVER THE PHILISTINES 77
afterwards, seems to have read the word similarly.
Now, dancing stands for rejoicing, which, in the life of
commotion, and excitement occasioned by national
Seeking occasions in the career of David when the
people gave themselves up to a ‘great dancing,’ we
cannot but be struck with the relevance of this psalm
to the incident recorded in i Sam. 18. 6, 7, and referred
to in chaps. 21. ii ; 29. 5. What is the scene ? David
has returned from the slaughter of Goliath and the rout
of the Philistine hosts, when he receives a sort of
national ovation: ‘The women came out of all the
meet king Saul, with timbrels, with joy, and with instru-
ments of music. And the women sang one to another
in their play, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’ (18. 6, 7).
We cannot overlook the incidents that follow. Saul
‘was very wroth,’ for this saying of the women dis-
pleased him; he sought to slay David, and his intrigues
are set forth in detail (chs. 19, 26). Escaped from the
place of danger, David receives the sword of Goliath from
Ahimelech at Nob, in the presence of Doeg the Edomite,
a follower of Saul (ch. 21). Doeg reported what he had
witnessed, and at the command of Saul slew the priests
of Nob. This period of David's life, though full of
which are: Sing. const., Song of Songs, 7. I; plural, Exod.
15. 20; 32. 19 ; Judges 11. 34; 21. 21; I Sam. 18. 6; 21.
I I (12) ; 29. 5. In all cases the word is defective as to the holem
of the root-syllable; and the same applies also to the plural
ending of the occurrences in the Book of Exodus, as shown in
the most correct editions of the Massoretic text.
78 DAVID IN THE PSALTER
incident, deals mainly with the fight with Goliath and
the consequences which ensued. By the subscript line
‘To the Chief Musician, relating to Mahalath,’ Psalm 52
is apparently appointed to be sung in honour of the
great victory, the event being recalled in simple fashion
by the ‘Great Dancing’ which followed it. One may well
conceive David holding in his hand the sword of the
fallen giant, and writing this psalm :
Maschil of David: when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul,
and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech.
1 Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, 0 mighty
The mercy of God endureth continually.
2 Thy tongue deviseth very wickedness;
Like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.
3 Thou lovest evil more than good;
And lying rather than to speak righteousness. [Selah
4 Thou lovest all devouring words,
a 0 thou deceitful tongue. a Or, And the deceitful tongue
5 God shall likewise b destroy thee for ever, b Or, break thee down
He shall take thee up, and pluck thee out of thy tent,
And root thee out of the land of the living. [Selah
6 The righteous also shall see it, and fear,
And shall laugh at him, saying,
7 Lo, this is the man that made not God his c strength; c Or, strong hold
But trusted in the abundance of his riches,
And strengthened himself in his wickedness.
8 But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
THE VICTORY OVER THE PHILISTINES 79
9 I will give thee thanks for ever, because thou hast
And I will wait on thy name, for it is good, in the
presence of thy saints.
For the Chief Musician; set to Mahalath1.
It is not clear what we are to understand by the his-
torical heading, ‘When Doeg the Edomite came, &c.’
Maybe it simply indicates the scene in which the poem
was written; the real subject remains--Goliath of Gath.
In the words of Perowne: ‘This psalm is a lofty chal-
lenge, a defiance conceived in the spirit of David when
went forth to meet the champion of
courage of faith breathes in every word. There is no
fear, no trembling, no doubt as to the end which will
come upon the tyrant. How vain is his boast in
presence of the lovingkindness of God, which protects
His people; in presence of the power of God, which
uproots the oppressor! Such is briefly the purport of
And it is to this conclusion that we are guided by the
word tlhm, so pointed as to find its counterpart and
response in the general language of Holy Scripture:
M'holoth, ‘dancings3.’ However it may be understood,
the word bears no relation whatever to the psalm which
1 Or rather, on or relating to Mahalath (for M'holoth)—
‘Dancings’ (or ‘Great Dancing’). See i Sam. 17. 37 — 18. 6.
2 The Book of Psalms, eighth edition, vol. i. 439, 440.
3 Of course the dancing stood for all the jubilation of which
it was the token and expression. There was a sacredness about
the exercise which we can hardly understand to-day. A time
dancing would be remembered in
giving would stand out in the round of modern life. (See
J. Millar, s.v. ‘Dancing,’ in Hastings' Bible Dictionary.)
8o DAVID IN THE PSALTER
follows it. Here are some of the definitions that have
GESENIUS: Apparently a catchword in a song giving
to tune [renderings of
a great service] (Heb. Lex. s.v.,
Possibly a special kind of song or a musical instrument. . .
(Buhl's German edition).
DELITZSCH: ‘Set to a sad melody,’ whether it be that
Mahalath itself is the name of such an elegiac melody, or that
the latter is indicated by means of the opening word of some
popular song (Commentary on the Psalms, Eaton's translation,
vol. ii. p. 170).
FURST: The name of a musical choir that dwelt in Abel-
Meholah (Heb. Lex. s.v., Davidson's edition).
HAUPT: Perhaps the catchword of an older hymn, the first
line of which may have been: ‘The sickness of Thy people heal,
O God!’ It is possible, however, that Mahalath is the name
of a musical instrument (Polychrome Bible: Psalms, p. 186).
Against these conjectures we oppose a reasonable
of the word 1. Following the lead of
and Symmachus, which antedate by hundreds of years
the Received Massoretic Text, we find ourselves referred
to a striking event in Israelitish history, which, in turn,
proves itself to be the subject of the psalm! The lexical
facts, then, as here developed, are simply these: tlHm
has been pointed tlaHEma (Mahalath) in error; it should
1 On dealing thus with the Hebrew text, Chwolson, the
Russian orientalist, writes: ‘In explaining the books of the
Old Testament we have the right, where necessary, of disre-
garding, not only the vowel signs but also the vowel letters,
and of not allowing ourselves to be bound by them. The ex-
positor must have before his mind the ancient grammatical
forms also, in order to see whether one or other of these forms
THE VICTORY OVER THE PHILISTINES 81
have stood tloHom;. (M'laoloth, ‘dancings’). The word
refers us to a story in the history of David, which was
by Psalm 52 being rendered in the
may not have been mistaken by the Sopherim and the Massoretes,
and wrongly interpreted ' (Hebraica, vol. vi. io8).
DAVID IN THE PSALTER
MAHALATH LEANNOTH (PSALM 87)
THE second Mahalath psalm has another catchword
combined with it, which means ‘Shoutings’—the chant-
ing songs of the dancers. Here, then, is a psalm which,
the service of the
a memorable time, all event characterized by great
rejoicings. Again we look to the life of David to supply
the historical fact, and a glance at the psalm itself sug-
gests quite easily the appropriate story, as recorded in
2 Sam. 6. 5, 14, 15 (also in i Chron. 13. 8 ; 15. 16, 28).
the Philistines for seven months, had been sent to
Kirjath-jearim, and there it remained for twenty years-.
till the time of David, in fact (I Sam. 4. 3-11 ; 5. 7, 8;
6.15; 7. 1, 2; 1 Chron. 13. 6-14; 15.1-16.1ff.). Removal
having been begun, there came ‘the breach upon Uzzah,’
who ‘put forth his hand to the ark of God’; and, in
of this, the
months in the house of Obed-edom in Gath-rimmon
(2 Sam. 6. i-ii). At the end of that time, David
it in a grand procession to
it was kept in a tent till a place should be prepared for
it (verses 12—19).
This procession became historic in
dancing and shouting such as made a profound impres-
‘David and all the house of
the Lord with all manner of instruments made of
fir wood, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with
timbrels, and with castanets, and with cymbals. . . . And
David danced before the Lord with all his might. . . . So
and all the house of
the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the
trumpet’ (2 Sam. 6. 5, 14, 15). It is admitted that the
word used for ‘dance’ here is distinctive—rKer;Ki (kirker)
the pilpel of rraKA (karar) ‘to circle’ [in i Chron. 13. 29
we find a form of dqarA (kakad) ‘to leap’]; but, all the
same, it is beyond question that the general term lUH
(hul), whence we have m’holoth, covers and embraces all
the various exercises. Also it is admitted that the word
rendered `shouting' in 2 Sam. 6. 15 is (t’rua’h); but
this, with the other forms of jubilation, may well be
included in the more common and comprehensive term
hnAfA (‘anah), whence comes the catchword tOnfE (‘anoth)
of the subscript line. The verb hnAfA (‘anah) is associated
with dancing as expressed by tloHom; (m’hooloth) in the
following places: i Sam. 18. 7 ; 21. II (12) ; 29. 5.
The R.V. renders ‘sing’ in each case.
Bearing in mind that the incident to which we have
been thus directed is the bringing of the ark to Mount
and its brief sojourn at Beth-shemesh and Gath-rimmon
(in Dan), let us look at the psalm itself:
A Psalm of the sons of Korah; a Song.
1 a His foundation is in the holy mountains. a Or, His foundation in the
The LORD loveth the gates of
More than all the dwellings of Jacob. loveth, even the gates &c
84 DAVID IN THE PSALTER
3. Glorious things are spoken of thee,
0 city of God. [Selah
4. I will make mention of a Rahab and Babylon as among a Or, Egypt
them that know me:
5. Behold Philistia, and Tyre, with b Ethiopia; b Heb. Cush
This one was born there.
Yea, of Zion it shall be said, This one and that one
was born in her;
And the Most High himself shall establish her.
6. The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the
This one was born there. [Selah
7. They that sing as well as c they that dance shall say, c Or, the players on
All my fountains are in thee. instruments shall be
A Song, a Psalm of the sons of Korah; for the Chief Musician;
set to Mahalath d Leannoth1. d Or, for singing
The relevancy of the psalm to the occasion which it
was selected (if not indeed written) to commemorate, is
as beautiful as it is obvious. The note is very much that
of Ps. 132. 13, 14: ‘The Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath
desired it for his habitation. This is my resting place
for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.’ ‘The
Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings
of Jacob.’ How, then, can the ark be allowed to rest in
Kirjath-jearim or any other of the ‘dwellings of Jacob’?
No; Benjamin will not do; Dan will not do. Zion is
‘the city of God’ (3); ‘the Most High himself shall
establish her’ (5). Great kingdoms and empires may
have ‘this one' born in them (4); but Zion has ‘this one
1 Or rather, on or relating to Mahalath (for i'VI'holoth)
Leannoth—‘Dancings (or Great Dancing) with Shoutings.’ See
2 Sam. 6. 4, 14, 15, and i Chron. 13. 8 ; 15. 16, 28.
THE ARK BROUGHT TO ZION 85
and that one’ born in her (5). It is the city of which
all should desire to be citizens; and ‘when the Lord
writeth up the peoples,’ there will be nothing to compare
with having been ‘born there,’ or being a citizen of
Zion (6). Of no other place could the psalmist say:
‘They that sing as well as they that dance 1 shall say,
All my fountains are in thee’—all my sources of delight
are in thee 2!
1 ‘They that dance,’ Mylil;Ho, from lUH, ‘to dance’; whence
comes the word of the subscript title, TloHom;.
2 Or possibly those participating in the rejoicings are repre-
sented as declaring that all their descendants shall assuredly be
citizens of Zion. See this sense of Nyifa in Dent. 33. 28.
DAVID IN THE PSALTER
(5) A NATIONAL ANTHEM
AI JELETH HASH-SHAH AR (PSALM 21)
THIS psalm, one of the favourites of the collection,
seems to have been chosen to recall the coronation of
David. Mindful of national blessings, the people praise
God for their King. This is their National Anthem, in
which the ` politics ' and ` knavish tricks ' of the enemies
of Israel are not left out of sight (8-12), and confidence
in Jehovah the Strong is earnestly expressed (13). The
title, as given in the musical line, is rHawa.ha tl,y,.xa (Aijeleth
hash-Shahar), ‘The Hind of the Dawn.’ A figure, at
once delicate and splendid, is wrapt in the words. The
‘Hind of the Morning’ glow—this is an Oriental word-
picture of the sun as he sheds his rising rays. The
traveller watches with keen desire for the first beams of
light, and he warmly greets the ‘Dawn Hind’ as he
dances on the distant horizon. The opening verses
of the psalm provide a response to the title.
A Psalm of David.
1. The king shall joy in thy strength, 0 LORD;
And in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
2. Thou hast given him his heart's desire,
And hast not withholden the request of his lips. [Selah
3. For thou preventest him with the blessings of
a goodness: a Or, good things
A NATIONAL ANTHEM 87
Thou settest a crown of fine gold on his head.
4 He asked life of thee, thou gayest it him;
Even length of days for ever and ever.
5 His glory is great in thy salvation:
Honour and majesty dost thou lay upon him.
6 For thou a makest him most blessed for ever: a Heb. settest him to be
Thou makest him glad with joy in thy presence. blessings. See Gen. 12:2
7 For the king trusteth in the LORD,
And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he
shall not be moved.
8 Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies:
Thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee.
9 Thou shalt make them as a fiery furnace in the time of
thine b anger. b Or, presence Heb. countenance
The LORD shall swallow them up in his wrath,
And the fire shall devour them.
10 Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth,
And their seed from among the children of men.
11 For they intended evil against thee :
They imagined a device, which they are not able to
12 For thou shalt make them turn their back,
Thou shalt make ready with thy bowstrings against
the face of them.
13 Be thou exalted, 0 LORD, in thy strength :
So will we sing and praise thy power.
For the Chief Musician; set to c Aijeleth hash-Shahar
The ‘Hind of the Morning’ represents, in a word, an
object of grace and beauty, towards which the soul goes
1 Or rather, on or relating to Aijeleth hash-Shahar —The
Hind of the Dawn—recalling God's goodness to David in giving
him his heart's desire (2); perhaps also embodying an allusion
to the king as the pride and glory of his people.
88 DAVID III THE PSALTER
out in passionate desire. Hind stands for love (see
Prov. 5. Ig), and Morning implies waiting; ‘HEART'S
DESIRE’ interprets the title as a whole. And the
psalmist does not keep us waiting long for the words
which, by this title, are proclaimed as the most striking
of the poem: ‘Thou hast given him (the king) HIS
HEART'S DESIRE, and bast not withholden the request of
his lips.' How warm is the language! What follows in
the psalm is but an unfolding of these words, in which
David paints the Dawn Hind in royal beauty. As
designating a psalm which is laden with ideas of satis-
faction, no title could have been more striking and
graceful. And verses 3–6 justify the inference that
the psalm was associated with the commemoration of,
Israel's greatest king—David.
A somewhat divergent view of this psalm is thus ex-
pressed by Delitzsch:
‘In the preceding psalm (20), the people, interceding
for their king, cried for him, "May Jehovah fulfil all
thy desires"; in this they can say thankfully to God,
"the desire of his heart hast thou granted him." In
both psalms the people appear before God in con-
nexion with matters that concern their king; in the
former desiring and praying, in the latter thanking
and hoping; here as well as there in the midst of war;
here, however, now that the king has recovered, in the
assurance that the war will be brought to a victorious
Yet it is permissible to ask whether the HEART'S
DESIRE of the people, as well as that of the king, had not
been graciously granted by Jehovah? If so, may not the
title do more than recall the words of verses 1-4, and
1 Commentary on the Psalms, vol. i. 365, 366.
A NATIONAL ANTHEM 89
bring to mind KING DAVID himself1 who was the glory
of the people, captivating their vision like the ‘morning
glow’? Assuredly, they offer for him a noble prayer in
this beautiful psalm.
1 That the word ‘Hind’ is feminine, is no bar to this sugges-
tion. The subsidiary features of a figure do not limit its ap-
plication along the lines of some outstanding quality. It is
well known that in Hebrew and cognate dialects feminine
titles and figures of speech are at times applied to masculine
objects, when there is a desire to express intense affection, or
profound esteem to one in high station. Besides that, we
should bear in mind that a parable is not an allegory. Christ
said He was the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Door, the
Vine—using so many Greek words that were all feminine. There
was no impropriety, no confusion. Neither would it be im-
proper, in speaking of David as the ‘Heart's Desire’ of his
people, to say that he was as ‘the Hind of the Dawn’ to them.
(See Gesenius-Kautzsch, Heb. Gram., Oxford edition, pp. 412,
DAVID IN THE PSALTER
(6) CONFLICTS COMMEMORATED
JONATH ELEM REHOKIM (PSALM 55)
THAT the words Jonath elem rehokim belong to Psalm
55, as they are placed in this edition, must assuredly
have been suspected by many a student. It has become
quite general for expositors to support arguments for the
substantial compactness of the Psalter by expressing
themselves in some such words as these, by the late
W. H. Green, of Princeton: ‘It is a most significant
circumstance that the link which binds Psalm 56 to 55 is
the correspondence between the title of the former and
the text of the latter. The former is set to the tune of
“The silent dove of them that are afar off’; in the latter
the psalmist exclaims, verses 6, 7, “Oh that I had wings
like a dove . . . lo, then would I wander afar off 1.”’
It is a pleasure to see the title associated, at length,
with what is unquestionably its own psalm. There is
no need to argue the propriety of the combination. Let
us see the psalm as properly set out:
Maschil of David.
1. Give ear to my prayer, 0 God;
And hide not thyself from my supplication.
1 Old and New Testament Student (now Biblical World, of
Chicago), vol. xi. p. 163. See also Jebb, Hengstenberg, Delitzsch,
Kay, and others, in commenting on the psalms specified.
CONFLICTS COMMEMORATED 91
2 Attend unto me, and answer me:
I am restless in my complaint, and moan;
3 Because of the voice of the enemy,
Because of the oppression of the wicked;
For they cast iniquity upon me,
And in anger they persecute me.
4 My heart is sore pained within me:
And the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
5 Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me,
And horror hath overwhelmed me.
6 And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove!
Then would I fly away, and be at rest.
7 Lo, then would I wander far off,
I would lodge in the wilderness. [Selah
8 I would a haste me to a shelter a Or, hasten my escape
From the stormy wind and tempest.
9 b Destroy, 0 Lord, and divide their tongue: b Heb. Swallow up.
For I have seen violence and strife in the city.
10. Day and night they go about it upon the walls
Iniquity also and mischief are in the midst of it.
11 Wickedness is in the midst thereof:
c Oppression and guile depart not from her streets. c Or, Fraud
12 For it was not an enemy that reproached me;
Then I could have borne it:
Neither was it he that hated me that did magnify
himself against me;
Then I would have hid myself from him:
13 But it was thou, a man mine equal,
My companion, and my familiar friend.
14 We took sweet counsel together,
We walked in the house of God with the throng.
15 d Let death come suddenly upon them, d Or, as otherwise read
Desolations be upon them!
92 DAVID IN THE PSALTER
Let them go down alive into a the pit: a Heb. Sheol
For wickedness is in their dwelling, in b the midst of b Or, their inward part
16. As for me, I will call upon God;
And the LORD shall save me.
17. Evening, and morning, and at noonday, will I complain,
And he shall hear my voice.
18. He hath redeemed my soul in peace c from the battle c Or, so that none came
that was against me: nigh me
19. For they were many that strove with me.
Or, afflict God shall hear, and d answer them, d Or, afflict
Even he that abideth of old, [Selah
The men who have no changes,
And who fear not God.
20. He hath put forth his hands against such as were at
peace with him:
He hath profaned his covenant.
21. His mouth was smooth as butter,
But his heart was war:
His words were softer than oil,
Yet were they drawn swords.
22. Cast e thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain e Heb. that he hath
thee: given thee.
He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
23. But thou, 0 God, shalt bring them down into the pit
Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half
their days; f That is, The silent dove of them that are
But I will trust in thee. afar off, or as otherwise read
The dove of the distant terebinths
For the Chief Musician; set to f Jonath elem rehokim1.
1 Or rather, on or relating to Jonath elem rehohim—'The Dove
CONFLICTS COMMEMORATED 93
The rebellion of Absalom furnishes the subject of the
psalm, the allusions of which are in striking harmony
with the occurrences recorded in 2 Sam. 15-19. The
betrayal of David by Ahithophel, ‘his familiar friend’
with whom he had ‘taken sweet counsel,’ may be styled
the traditional explanation of the psalm. It was also
the explanation adopted by Delitzsch, who wrote:
‘Psalm 55 belongs, like Psalm 41, to the four years
of the growth of Absalom's rebellion; only it belongs
to a somewhat later time, when Absalom's party were
already so certain of their cause that they no longer
required to make any secret of it. . . . In David's sur-
roundings there are wild ongoings that aim at his
destruction. He would fain flee away from these and
ide himself, like a dove with its noiseless yet perse-
ering flight, which betakes itself to a hole in a rock
rom the storm or from the claws of the bird of prey . . .
t is not open foes, who might have had cause, that
re opposed to him, but faithless friends, among them
hithophel the Gilonite, the scum of perfidious in-
hese characteristics justify the title 2 given to the
of the Distant Terebinths '—apparently a commemoration of
David's conflicts and distresses. The word ‘moan’ in verse 17
is hmAhA (hamah) used in Ezek. 7. 16 of the cooing (or mourning)
of a dove.
1 Commentary on the Psalms, Eaton's translation, vol. ii.
pp. 178, I8I, I82.
2 The line is variously rendered according to the pointing
that is adopted for the central word: The Oxford Hebrew
Lexicon (after Olshausen, Cheyne, and others): ‘The Dove
of Distant Terebinths’; Delitzsch, ‘The Silent Dove among
the Afar-off ‘; Wellhausen, ‘The Dove of Far Off Islands’;
Perowne, ‘The Silent Dove in Far-off Lands.' From each and
all of these pictures we can gather impressions of the severity of
David's trials at the time indicated in the psalm.
94 DAVID IN THE PSALTER
psalm by the Chief Musician. And that David's trials
should have been commemorated is not unreasonable,
in view of the fact that the psalm selected for the
purpose affirms unwavering faith in Jehovah, as witness
the concluding verses:—'Cast thy burden upon the
LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer
the righteous to be moved,' &c.
PSALMS FOR A SEASON OF HUMILIATION
AL-TASHHETH (PSALMS 56, 57, 58, 74)
THE Al-tashheth psalms are four in number, and have
features in common. A study of the contents affords
a fair indication of the meaning of the subscript title;
of which ‘Destroy not’ gives the plain sense. Among
the early versions, the Septuagint and Vulgate render no
suggestive help. The Syriac Peshito, however, which
for the most part exhibits fanciful headings, unquestion-
ably of Christian origin, follows a singular course. It
ignores the title Al-tashheth in every case; but in an in-
scription over Psalm 74, which according to our arrange-
ment of the material is related to the Al-tashheth title,
it says: ‘A psalm of Asaph: when David saw the
angel destroying the people, and wept and said, Let thine
hand be against me, and against my seed, and not
against these innocent sheep,' &c.
A glance at the Psalm itself will show that it was in-
tended for other times.
hands of the enemy, as implied in verses 2 and 3, when
David's sin of numbering the people was followed by
divine judgement and sorrow unto repentance. Doubt-
less the Syriac inscription was built on the similarity
of the language of the opening verse of the psalm with
that of 2 Sam. 24. 17 (and 1 Chron. 21. 14 ff.): ‘Lo,
I have sinned, and I have done perversely; but these
sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray
thee, be against me, and against my father's house.’ All
96 PSALMS OF HUMILIATION
four psalms speak of adversity in greater or less degree.
It matters not what the individual occasions of writing ;
it seems evident from the At-tashheth title that these
psalms were used as Prayers of Humiliation.
A Psalm of David: Michtam: when the Philistines took
him in Gath.
1. Be merciful unto me, 0 God; for man would swallow
2. All the day long he fighting oppresseth me. a Or, They that lie in wait
They a Mine enemies would swallow me up all the day long: for me
For they be many that fight proudly against me.
3. What time I am afraid,
I will put my trust in thee.
4. In God I will praise his word:
In God have I put my trust, I will not be afraid;
What can flesh do unto me?
5. All the day long they wrest my words:
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
6. They gather themselves together, they hide them-
They mark my steps,
7 b Even as they have waited for my soul. b Or, Inasmuch as
c Shall they escape by iniquity? c Or, They think to escape
8. In anger cast down the peoples, 0 God.
Thou tellest my wanderings:
Put thou my tears into thy bottle;
Are they not in thy d book? d Or, record
9. Then shall mine enemies turn back in the day that
10. This I know, e that God is for me.
In God will I praise his word:
PSALMS OF HUMILIATION 97
In the LORD will I praise his word.
11. In God have I put my trust, I will not be afraid;
What can man do unto me ?
12. Thy vows are upon me, 0 God:
I will render thank offerings unto thee.
13 For thou hast delivered my soul from death:
Hast thou not delivered my feet from falling?
That I may walk before God
In the light of a the living. a Or, life
For the Chief Musician; set to Al-tashheth l.
A Psalm of David: Michtam: when he fled from Saul,
in the cave.
1. Be merciful unto me, 0 God, be merciful unto me;
For my soul taketh refuge in thee:
Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge,
Until these b calamities be overpast. b Or, wickednesses
2. I will cry unto God Most High;
Unto God that performeth all things for me.
3. He shall send from heaven, and save me,
When he that would swallow me up reproacheth; [Selah
God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.
4 My soul is among lions;
c I lie among them that are set on fire, c Or, I must lie
Even the sons of 'men, whose teeth are spears and
And their tongue a sharp sword.
5. Be thou exalted, 0 God, above the heavens ;
1 Or rather, Al-tashheth, ‘Destroy not,’ an appeal or prayer
for deliverance from danger and adversity (Exod. 32. 11—14;
Deut. 9. 26).
98 PSALMS OF HUMILIATION
Let thy glory be above all the earth.
They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down:
They have digged a pit before me;
They are fallen into the midst thereof themselves.
7. My heart is fixed, 0 God, my heart is fixed: [Selah
I will sing, yea, I will sing praises.
8. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp:
a I myself will awake right early.
9. I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the
10. I will sing praises unto thee among the nations.
For thy mercy is great unto the heavens,
11. And thy truth unto the skies.
Be thou exalted, 0 God, above the heavens;
12. Let thy glory be above all the earth.
For the Chief Musician ; set to A1-tashheth
A Psalm of David: Michtam.
1. b Do ye indeed c in silence speak righteousness? b Or, Is the righteousness ye
Do ye d judge uprightly, 0 ye sons of men? should speak dumb?
2. Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; c Or, as otherwise read, O
Ye weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth. he gods; or, O ye mighty ones
3. The wicked are estranged from the womb: d Or, judge uprigthly the sons of men
They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
4. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent:
They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
1 Or rather, Al-tashheth, ‘Destroy not,’ an appeal or prayer
for deliverance from danger and adversity (Exod. 32. 11-14;
Deut. 9. 26).
PSALMS OF HUMILIATION 99
5. Which hearkeneth not to the voice of a charmers, a Or, enchanters
Charming never so wisely.
6 Break their teeth, 0 God, in their mouth:
Break out the great teeth of the young lions, 0
7. Let them melt away as water that runneth apace:
When he aimeth his arrows, let them be as though
they were cut off.
8. Let them be as a snail which melteth and passeth
Like the untimely birth of a woman, b that hath not b Or, like them that have not
seen the sun. seen the sun
9. Before your pots can feel the thorns,
c He shall take them away with a whirlwind, the c Or, Even as raw flesh,
green and the burning alike. so shall fury sweep them away
10. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the ven-
He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
11. So that men shall say, Verily there is d a reward for d Heb. fruit
Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth.
For the Chief Musician; set to Al-tashheth1.
Maschil of Asaph.
1. 0 God, why bast thou cast us off for ever?
Why cloth thine anger smoke against the sheep of
2. Remember thy congregation, which thou hast pur-
chased of old,
1 Or rather, Al-tashheth, ‘Destroy not,’ an appeal or prayer
for deliverance from danger and adversity (Exod. 32. 11-14;
Deut. 9. 26).
100 PSALMS OF HUMILIATION
Which thou hast redeemed to be the tribe of thine
And mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.
3. Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual ruins,
a All the evil that the enemy hath done in the sanc- a Or, The enemy hath
tuary. wrought all evil
4. Thine adversaries have roared in the midst of thine
5. They have set up their ensigns for signs.
They b seemed as men that lifted up b Or, made themselves known
Axes upon a thicket of trees.
6. And now all the carved work thereof together
They break down with hatchet and hammers.
7. They have set thy sanctuary on fire;
They have profaned the dwelling place of thy name
even to the ground.
8. They said in their heart, Let us make havoc of them
They have burned up all the c synagogues of God in c Or, places of assembly
9. We see not our signs:
There is no more any prophet;
10. Neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.
How long, 0 God, shall the adversary reproach?
Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?
11. Why drawest thou back thy hand, even thy right
Pluck it out of thy bosom and consume them.
12. Yet God is my King of old,
Working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13. Thou didst d divide the sea by thy strength:
Thou brakest the heads of the e dragons in the waters.
PSALMS OF HUMILIATION 101
14. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces,
Thou gayest him to be meat to the people inhabiting
15. Thou didst cleave fountain and flood:
Thou driedst up a mighty rivers. a Or, ever-flowing.
16 The day is thine, the night also is thine:
Thou hast prepared the b light and the sun. b Heb. luminary
17. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth :
Thou hast made summer and winter.
18 Remember this, that the enemy c hath reproached, c Or, hath reproached the Lord
And that a foolish people have blasphemed thy
19. 0 deliver not d the soul of thy turtledove unto the d Or, tiny turtledove unto
wild beast: the greedy multitude
Forget not the e life of thy poor for ever. e Or multitude
20. Have respect unto the covenant:
For the dark places of the f earth are full of the Or, laud
habitations of violence.
21. 0 let not the oppressed return ashamed :
Let the poor and needy praise thy name.
22 Arise, 0 God, plead thine own cause :
Remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee
all the day.
23. Forget not the voice of thine adversaries:
The tumult of those that rise up against thee g as- g Or, which ascendeth
For the Chief Musician; set to Al-tashheth1.
But why ‘Destroy not’? Surely there could be no
1 Or rather, Al-tashheth, ‘Destroy not,’ an appeal or prayer
for deliverance from danger and adversity (Exod. 32. 11—14;
Deut. 9. 26).
102 PSALMS OF HUMILIATION
prayer more becoming a people whose God was Jehovah,
in days of judgement and tribulation. They had been
taught that they were the heritage of the Lord, who
would nevertheless chastise them for iniquity and trans-
gression. In days of visitation, therefore, how could
they help invoking the Divine mercy, in some such
words as Al-tashheth—‘Destroy not!’? In the early days
of the nation, when Aaron made a golden calf and the
people worshipped it, was not Jehovah's anger turned
away by the prayer of Moses? And had not that all-
prevailing prayer come down in the words of the great
lawgiver himself: ‘O Lord God, DESTROY NOT (Al-
tashheth) thy people and thine inheritance,’ &c.? How
could such a petition, as a consequence of which ‘the
Lord repented him of the evil which he thought to do
unto his people,’ pass out of mind1?
Again, could Israel forget the days of David, when
pestilence raged over the land, and swept away seventy
thousand? The king confessed his sin in numbering the
people, and besought Jehovah to stay the hand of
judgement. Do we not read that then, `when the angel
stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it,
the Lord repented him of the evil, and said to the angel
that destroyed the people, It is enough ; now stay
thine hand'? As the verbal forms here are from the
same root, thawA, it would appear that the prayer of
David was like unto that of Moses before him. And
the result was the same in each case: ‘Jehovah
repented him of the evil’ (Deut. 9. 26; 2 Sam. 24. 16).
Neither could Israel forget the great promise by Moses
‘When thou art in tribulation . . . thou shalt return
to the Lord thy God . . . he will not fail thee, NEITHER
1 Exod. 32. 11-14; Deut. 9. 26.
PSALMS OF HUMILIATION 103
DESTROY THEE, nor forget the covenant,' &c. (Deut. 4.
In the psalms classed Al-tashheth, a nation, and not
an individual, implores Divine clemency. The hand
of judgement is again upon Israel, and the God who
has often delivered is approached with prayers of ‘Be
merciful’ (Pss. 56. 1, 57. 1), ‘deliver from enemies’ (Ps.
59. 1), ` remember thy congregation which thou hast pur-
chased of old' (Ps. 74. 2). Jehovah is asked to ' have
respect unto the covenant '—the covenant which, in an
earlier time, He said HE WGTJLD NOT FORGET (PS. 74.
20; Deut. 4. 31). In other words, the note of prayer
was, ‘DESTROY NOT thine inheritance, 0 Lord!’1.
The judgements of God and the warnings of the
prophets sometimes brought Israel face to face with
destruction. In a memorable passage, Jeremiah wrote:
‘Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel
stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this
people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go
forth . . . For who shall have pity upon thee, 0 Jerusa-
lem? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall turn
aside to ask of thy welfare? Thou hast rejected me
saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore have
1 We have passed by the general explanation of Al-tashheth
as ‘possibly the title of a vintage song,’ to which the psalms
were set! The reason given for this suggestion is that, in sub-
stance, the words appear in Isa. 65. 8. It is not, however, by
any means clear that a song is there quoted ; and nothing can
be adduced to show that the psalms of sadness and sorrow
classed as Al-tashheth were sung to melodies of such a type as
is assumed by the explanation referred to. The incidents in
the life of Moses and David give an explanation of the title
which cannot but be regarded as appropriate, and moreover
seems to be adequate on distinctly religious grounds.
104 PSALMS OF HUMILIATION
I stretched out my hand against thee, and destroyed
thee; I am weary with repenting’ (Jer. 15. I, 5, 6).
In presence of such denunciations, in times when
sorrow and suffering for sin came upon the people, how
should the Chief Musician class the psalms in which
Israel mourned their calamities and prayed for the
turning away of judgement? There was, indeed, no
Moses or Samuel to ‘stand before Jehovah’; but the
God of the fathers was Israel's Lord, and to Him they
presented their At-tashheth (‘Destroy not!’) prayers in
the words of men who had found favour with Jehovah.
The common desire was expressed in the prevailing plea
of Moses—‘Destroy not!’ The words of the petitions
were taken from the psalms of David, the sweet
psalmist of Israel, and the writings of Asaph, the leader
of Temple song.
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS
THERE can be no doubt that there were male and
female choirs, in a distinctive sense, in the Temple
service. The provisions in the time of Solomon find
their counterpart in those that were made after the
return from Babylon. Apart altogether from such
arrangements as resulted from the division of the
Levites into orders, some of them for leading the
praise of the people; and apart also from the dis-
tinction between instrumental music and ordinary
singing, there were choirs that were specifically female
as well as such as were properly called male. The
psalm titles refer to these, as well as witness to the
place occupied by stringed instruments in divine
THE FEMALE CHOIR : ALAMOTH (PSALM 45).
It would appear that Miriam and Deborah had their
successors in many generations. In Ps. 68—a psalm
recalling the jubilations of the people in years of God's
mighty working for Israel—there is clear recognition of
the way in which each sex had its proper part:
They have seen thy goings, 0 God,
Even the goings of my God, my King, into the sanc-
The singers went before, the minstrels followed
In the midst of the damsels playing with timbrels.
(Ps. 68. 24, 251; and cp. Ps. 148. 12.)
1 Singers lead the procession, after them players upon lyres
106 PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS
The Chronicler's account of Solomon's Temple and
its services gives a prominent place to song and music
--2 Chron. 5. I2, 13 ; 20. 28 ; 29. 25, 26 ; 35. 15.
Coming to the ‘Return,’ it will be noted that Ezra
mentions two hundred singing men and singing women
among those who came back to Jerusalem; and we know
no reason why the statement should not be received in
its unvarnished simplicity (Ezra 2. 65). In social life
the voices of women were heard as well as those of men,
in times of joy no less than in times of sorrow (2 Sam.
19. 35 ; 2 Chron. 35. 25). They were also heard in
the Temple service, if the mark, ‘To the Chief Musician
—Maidens,’ conveys any meaning as following Ps. 45.
Can there be any question as to the propriety of this
selection for female voices ?
A Psalm of the sons of Korah. Maschil. A Song of loves.
1. My heart overfloweth with a goodly matter:
a I speak the things which I have made touching the a Or I speak; my work is
king: for a king
2. My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
Thou art fairer than the children of men;
Grace is poured b into thy lips: b Or, upon
Therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.
3. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, 0 mighty one,
Thy glory and thy majesty.
4. And in thy majesty ride on prosperously,
c Because of truth and meekness and righteousness: c Or, In behalf of
and harps, and on both sides maidens with timbrels—a retro-
spective allusion to the song by the Sea, which Miriam and the
women of Israel sang to the accompaniment of timbrels.
Delitzsch, Commentary on the Psalms (vol. ii. p. 304).
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS 107
And a thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. a Or, let thy right hand teach
5. Thine arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under thee;
They are in the heart of the king's enemies.
6. Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever: b Or, Thy throne is the throne
A sceptre of equity is the sceptre of thy kingdom. of God &c.
7. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wicked-
Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee
With the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
8. All thy garments smell o/ myrrh, and aloes, and
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made
9. Kings' daughters are among thy honourable women:
At thy right hand doth stand the queen in gold of
10. Hearken, 0 daughter, and consider, and incline thine
Forget also thine own people, and thy father's house;
11. So shall the king desire thy beauty;
For he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.
12. And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift;
Even the rich among the people shall intreat thy
13. The king's daughter c within the palace is all c Or, in the inner part of the
Her clothing is inwrought with gold.
14 She shall be led unto the king d in broidered work: d Or, upon
The virgins her companions that follow her
Shall be brought unto thee.
15. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be led:
They shall enter into the king's palace.
108 PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS
16. Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children,
Whom thou shalt make princes in all the earth.
17. I will make thy name to be remembered in all genera-
Therefore shall the peoples give thee thanks for ever
For the Chief Musician; a Psalm of the sons of Korah;
set to Alamoth1.
‘A song of loves’—a nuptial ode—every line of this
psalm is characterized by delicacy and grace. The
special justification of the title is found in verses 9 to
15; but from first to last the psalm is out of the ques-
tion for male voices. The words are largely about
females, and by females they could well be sung--
moreover, be sung best. The women's choir in the
Temple precincts would appear to have been the special
charge of skilled leaders, whose names have come down
to us in i Chron. 15. 20. Those placed over the damsels
(Alamoth) had psalteries, as distinguished from those
over the Sheminith choir (of which presently), who had
harps. The word Alamoth is simple and common-
place; and, seeing that its plain meaning makes good
sense, we should not be justified in looking afield for
a technical signification 2.
GESENZUIUS: ‘al-Alamoth: to (the voice of) young women,
either literally or of soprano or falsetto of boys (Heb. Lex.
s.v., Oxford edition).
1 Or rather, on or relating to Alamoth, 'Maidens ' (as a choir).
2 That lfa (‘al) should precede Alamoth presents no difficulty.
In each and every case in the psalm titles, this particle may be
rendered ‘on’ or ‘relating to’—sometimes as to a season, at
other times as to a subject, and at other times as to a choir. See
note on p. 36.
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS 109
DELITZSCH: We approve of Perret-Gentil's chant avec voix
de femmes, and still more of Armand de Mestral's en soprano
(Commentary, vol. ii. p. 109).
KIRKPATRICK : The term appears to mean in the manner of
maidens, or, for maidens' voices : soprano (Psalms: Cambridge
Bible, p. xxv).
FURST: A musical choir, dwelling perhaps in tm,l,.fa, over whom
was placed a Hace.nam; (director) (Heb. Lex. s.v., Davidson's edition).
WELLHAUSEN: With Elamite instruments (Polychrome Bible:
Psalms, p. 46).
A failure to see the relation of the musical line to
its proper psalm sufficiently explains the confusion
that has prevailed regarding the use of tOmlAfE (Alamoth).
Finding no echo or response in Ps. 46, expositors felt
driven to seek a definition along abstract lines. Being
thrown off the scent by the misplacement of which we
have spoken so frequently, they have given ample rein
to the faculty of conjecture, with confusing results.
Among other suggestions advanced is one that would
bring the Muth-labben psalm (9 in ordinary editions)
into association with this, because of manuscript varia-
tions consequent upon the nature and intention of
the line being unrecognized by copyists. Still others
have argued for Ps. 49 being of the same class because
of the concluding words of its predecessor (‘al-muth =
‘unto death) having been pointed in different ways
by the Massoretes, so as to yield divergent significa-
tions. The unfortunate misplacement of the musical
line throughout the Psalter is answerable for these
and other adventurous speculations.
A minute examination of all the titles makes it
evident that Ps. 45 is the only one that can properly
bear the Alamoth mark. If, at length, we are satisfied
that the musical titles bear some relation to the sub-
110 PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS
stance of the psalms to which they are affixed, then
by reading with care the two just specified, we shall
speedily arrive at a definite conclusion, denying them
a suitableness for the Female Choir. Further, when
Dr. Paul Haupt (in the Polychrome Bible; Psalms)
makes Ps. 48 to end with lost words, thus, ‘He will
guide [ ]’ in order to place over Ps. 49 the notice,
‘With Elamite instruments,’ he robs one psalm and
does not enrich its successor. As, moreover, the
musical titles, without a single exception, are intro-
duced by the formula Hcnml, we are assuredly not jus-
tified in assuming the propriety of a reverse order of
words, as Dr. Haupt has done, by treating as a title
the phrase tUm-lfa at the end of Ps. 48.
THE MALE CHOIR: SHEMINITH (PSALMS 5, 11).
Next comes the Male Choir, designated by a word
which undoubtedly gives difficulty. As to tyniymiw;ha,
taken simply, it means ‘the eighth.’ If we had only
the occurrences in the psalm titles, we might feel com-
pelled to adopt the explanation, ‘the octave, or the
bass part in singing,’ although there seems to be no
adequate grounds on which to conclude that music in
the Israelitish sense knew anything of the standard
implied. It is impossible, however, to ignore the occur-
rence of the word in i Chron. 15. 21, where it is used
in contradistinction to the word tOmlAfE (Maidens). Two
facts are there brought before us : (i) certain skilled
men were appointed ‘with psalteries, over maidens’;
and (2) certain other skilled men were appointed ‘with
harps, over the Sheminith.’ If the maidens are spoken
of in one clause, should we not expect the males to be
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS 111
specified per contra? Whatever ‘the eighth’ may
mean, it would seem to describe the Male Choir.
Sheminith may point in one of several directions. A
time might be intended; but the passage in I Chron. 15
is against that. A dace might be intended; but here
again the way is barred. A class seems the inevitable
intention; and such a signification is agreeable to the
psalm titles as well as to the decisive passage in I Chron.
15. In Ps. 68. 25 (26), we have the MyriwA, male singers,
and the tOmlAfE, maidens; here in I Chron. 15, we seem to
have the same classes again, with the masculine char-
acter presented under another aspect. With fanciful
explanations, Talmudical writers have found in ‘the
eighth’ a reference to the rite of circumcision 1. The
circumcised are, of course, the males ; and in i Chron.
15. 21, it is affirmed that they are ‘to lead,’ to have
pre-eminence, which is precisely what we should sup-
pose in view of the peculiar privileges of the males in
The word was obviously a puzzle to the early trans-
lators. In the Psalms, the Septuagint renders it liter-
ally, ‘the eighth’; in 1 Chron. 15, it does less—both
Alamoth and Sheminith are transferred thus: a]laimw<q
and a]maseni<q. Some have interpreted Sheminith as
meaning an instrument of eight strings; others as
meaning ‘on the octave,’ or to be sung by the bass
voice. Regarding these explanations, it is sufficient
to say that they are mere guesses; we never meet
with such an instrument anywhere else, and we have
no information whatever as to such a musical standard
as is implied in ‘the octave2.’
1 Jewish Encyclopaedia, art. Circumcision.
2 Sir John Stainer, it may be remarked, writes on this
112 PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS
Both the contrast suggested by the passage under
notice (1 Chron. 15. 20, 21), and similar statements
elsewhere (2 Chron. 35. 25; Ezra 2. 65; Neh. 7. 67),
support our view that, whatever Sheminith may specify
in its quality of eighth, it stands for Male Choir in its
practical intention. If the circumcision, or consecra-
tion mark is alluded to, then we have an admirable
counterpart of Alamoth, the two words being singu-
larly free from naturalism. In that case, moreover,
the choir would be confined to descendants of Abraham
in the line of Isaac their eligibility being also based
on an act of piety of supreme importance in
Possibly, however, the Male Choir may have been
described as Sheminith on other grounds. We re-
member that some of the most solemn seasons of wor-
Num. 29. 35; Neh. 8. 18). The ‘solemn assembly’
nosy of the Feast of Tabernacles may have been
typical, and thus have given name and character to
a particular choir. In that case, the eighth would
imply association with special solemnities 2. Certain
point: ‘Although it is true that the octave is not only
one of the best known intervals in music, as being the dis-
tance between the singing pitch of men and women, but also
the most important naturally, being produced by the simplest
ratio of vibrations I : 2 ; yet the name octave could only be
given to it by those who possessed a scale in which eight steps
led from a note to its octave. Such a sound-ladder is of com-
paratively modern origin' (‘Music of the Bible,’ in The Bible
Educator, vol. i. p. 298).
1 Thus the children of Ishmael, or the Edomites, and others
who, though circumcised, submitted to the ordinance on any
other than the eighth day, were excluded.
2 How this comes about, seeing that the word is feminine,
is no less a difficulty with us than with expositors who have
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS 113
it is that the Sheminith psalms have features agree-
able to this view.
A Psalm of David.
1. Give ear to my words, 0 LORD,
Consider my meditation.
2. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my
For unto thee do I pray.
3. 0 LORD, in the morning shalt thou hear my voice;
In the morning will I order my prayer unto thee,
and will keep watch.
4. For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wicked-
a Evil shall not sojourn with thee. a Or, The evil man
5. b The arrogant shall not stand in thy sight: b Or, Fools
Thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
6. Thou shalt destroy them that speak lies :
The LORD abhorreth the bloodthirsty and deceitful
7. But as for me, in the multitude of thy lovingkindness
will I come into thy house :
In thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.
8. Lead me, 0 LORD, in thy righteousness because of
c mine enemies; c Or, them that lie in wait for me
Make thy way plain before my face.
explained it as an eight-stringed harp or lyre, in each case
relating it to substantives that are of the masculine gender
The word to be understood seems for the present to elude
capture. Sheminith cannot represent a musical instrument, for
in I Chron. 15. 21 we read that harps were put over it—which is
comprehensible if a choir is in. question.
114 PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS
9. For there is no a faithfulness in their mouth; a Or, steadfastness
Their inward part is b very wickedness b Or, a yawning gulf
Their throat is an open sepulchre;
10. They c flatter with their tongue. c Heb. make smooth their tongue
Hold them guilty, 0 God;
Let them fall d by their own counsels: d Or, from their counsels
Thrust them out in the multitude of their transgres-
For they have rebelled against thee.
11. e But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice, e Or, So shall all those...
Let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest rejoice, they shall ever
Let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. shout...and thou shalt
12. For thou wilt bless the righteous; defend them: they also...
0 LORD, thou wilt compass him with favour as with shall be joyful in thee
For the Chief Musician; on stringed instruments,
set to f the Sheminith1. f Or, the eighth
A Psalm of David.
1. In the LORD put I my trust:
How say ye to my soul,
2. Flee g as a bird to your mountain? g Or, ye birds
For, lo, the wicked bend the bow,
They make ready their arrow upon the string,
That they may shoot in darkness at the upright in
3. h If the foundations be destroyed, h Or, For the foundations
are destroyed; what hath
the righteous wrought?
1 Or rather, on stringed instruments, relating to the She-
minith, or Male Choir
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS 115
4. The LORD is in his holy temple,
The LORD, his throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.
5. The LORD trieth the righteous :
But the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul
6. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind shall be the
portion of their cup.
7. For the LORD is righteous; he loveth a righteous- a Or, righteous deeds.
b The upright shall behold his face. b Or, His countenance doth
For the Chief Musician; set to c the Sheminith1. behold the upright
c Or, the eighth
These psalms for the Male Choir, though not so dis-
tinctive as that assigned to ‘Maidens,’ bear the re-
quisite marks of judicious selection on the part of the
precentor. Points of gender are not to be pressed as
features ; the Male Choir represented all Israel, and
the common note is that of worship in the immediate
presence of Jehovah. The Temple is mentioned in
both psalms. The words ‘In thy fear will I worship
toward thy holy temple’ (Ps. 5. 7) forcibly remind
one of I Kings 8. 30, 33, 38 (also 2 Chron. 6. 29). More-
over, the former psalm seems to be for morning prayer
(verse 3), the latter for evening worship (verse 2).
Whatever our difficulties may be in understanding
the word Sheminith, there can be little doubt of the
actual application of the term. The passage in i Chron.
15 seems to decide that matter. The extent to which
lexicographers and expositors have speculated on the
term is shown by the following excerpts:
1 Or rather, relating to the Sheminith, or Male Choir.
116 PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS
GESENIUS: The eighth, the octave, a technical musical
term of which the significance is doubtful; opposed to ‘al
Alamoth, which is equally obscure (Heb. Lex. s. v., Robinson's
edition). The Oxford edition has not yet reached this word.
Buhl's German edition (1899): Perhaps a deeper octave.
DELITZSCH: The bass. . . the lower octave (Commentary on
the Psalms, vol. i. p. 168).
FURST: The eighth ; the eighth division (Heb. Lex., s.v.).
KIRKPATRICK: Probably denotes that the setting was to be
an octave lower, or on the lower octave—tenor or bass (The
Psalms: Cambridge Bible, p. xxv).
WELLHAUSEN: Probably the number of the mode or key
is here indicated (Polychrome Bible : Psalms, p. 165).
From the above it will be seen that we set aside no
consensus of opinion. The obvious meaning of Ala-
moth, when connected with Ps. 45, as in this edition,
shows the way out of a difficulty which expositors have
long laboured to surmount. The occurrence of She-
minith, in obvious contradistinction to Alamoth, leaves
nothing to be desired excepting an explanation of ‘the
eighth.’ Possibly one or other of the various abstract
terms for Praise, Thanksgiving, or Service may have
imposed a feminine name upon the choir.
PRAISE AND CONFESSION CHOIR: JEDUTHUN
(PSALMS 38, 61, 76).
There seems to have been a third choir, especially
designed for thanksgiving and praising God—the choir
of Jeduthun. In 1 Chron. 15. 16–22 we read that David
requested the Levites to appoint choirs and orchestras,
with the result that duties were imposed upon Asaph,
Heman and Ethan. In further arrangements, for
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS 117
leading purposes, certain men were given psalteries (for
the Maidens' Choir) and others harps (for the Male
Choir). When next these musical organizers are met
with, Ethan is named Jeduthun (16. 41); and a little
later we read of them in another light—as musical
households or guilds, to ‘prophesy with harps, with
psalteries, and with cymbals’ (25. I).
We have already met with David making it the chief
work of Asaph and his brethren to give thanks unto the
Lord (16. 7). Now we read that they prophesied
‘according to the order of the king’ (25. 2, 6. See also
Ezra 3. 10). All the choirs were for the service of God;
but of Jeduthun's it is specifically recorded that it was
to prophesy ‘IN GIVING THANKS AND PRAISING THE
LORD’ (25. 3). Others, of course, would do the same;
but, none the less, this appears to have been the part of
Jeduthun's choir along lines of its own; and, if we would
know why this name of the former Ethan persisted in
Temple history, it may be found in the duty of the choir,
for NUtUdy; (Jeduthun) and tOdOh (hodoth) ‘give thanks’;
both come from hdAyA (yadah) to give thanks, confess,
praise. And the Jeduthun psalms are in this note:
A Psalm of David, a to bring to remembrance. a or, to make memorial
1. 0 LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath:
Neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
2. For thine arrows b stick fast in me, b Heb. lighted on me.
And thy hand b presseth me sore.
3. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine
Neither is there any c health in my bones because of c Or, rest
118 PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS
4. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head:
As an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
5. My wounds stink and are corrupt,
Because of my foolishness.
6. I am a pained and bowed down greatly; a Heb. bent
I go mourning all the day long.
7. For my loins are filled with burning;
And there is no soundness in my flesh.
8. I am faint and sore bruised:
I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my
9. LORD, all my desire is before thee;
And my groaning is not hid from thee.
10. My heart throbbeth, my strength faileth me:
As for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone frorn me.
11. My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my
And my kinsmen stand afar off.
12. They also that seek after my life lay snares for me;
And they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things,
13. And imagine deceits all the day long.
But I, as a deaf man, hear not;
14. And I am as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.
Yea, I am as a man that heareth not,
15 And in whose mouth are no b reproofs. b Or, arguments
For in thee, 0 LORD, do I hope:
Thou wilt answer, 0 LORD My God.
16. For I said, Lest they rejoice over me:
When my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves
17. For I am ready to halt,
And my sorrow is continually before me.
18. For I will declare mine iniquity;
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS 119
I will be sorry for my sin.
19. But mine enemies are lively, and are strong:
And they that hate me a wrongfully are multiplied, a Heb. falsely
20. They also that render evil for good
Are adversaries unto me, because I follow the thing
that is good.
21. Forsake me not, 0 LORD:
O my God, be not far from me.
22. Make haste to help me,
O Lord my salvation.
For the Chief Musician, for Jeduthun 1.
This is emphatically a psalm of confession (3-8, 18).
The Lord is the psalmist's hope and desire (9, 15, 21,
22). The heading, ‘to bring to remembrance,’ may
mean more than at first appears. It is a personal heart-
searching; it is also an appeal to Jehovah. The word
thus rendered (ryKiz;hal;) represents an act of worship; in
1 Chron. 16. 4 we read that certain Levites appointed
by David were to ‘celebrate [same word] and to thank
and praise Jehovah.’ In such an act as this, man recalls
his sin and weakness, and takes hold of God's holiness
A Psalm of David.
1. Hear my cry, 0 God;
Attend unto my prayer.
2. From the end of the earth will I call unto thee,
when my heart b is overwhelmed: b Or, fainteth
Lead me to c the rock that is higher than I. c Or, a rock that is too high for me
1 The lamed (l) of possession comes before the name.
Jeduthun is presumably the master of the choir. In the other
psalms of this class the usual preposition, lfa relating to, is
120 PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS
3. For thou hast been a refuge for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
4. I will dwell in thy a tabernacle for ever: a Heb. tent
I will take refuge in the covert of thy wings. [Selah
5. For thou, 0 God, hast heard my vows:
Thou hast b given me the heritage of those that fear b Or, given an heritage unto those
6. Thou wilt prolong the king's life:
His years shall be as many generations
7. He shall abide before God for ever:
0 prepare lovingkindness and truth, that they may
8. So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever,
That I may daily perform my vows.
For the Chief Musician; after the manner of Jeduthun1.
A Psalm of Asaph, a Song.
1. In Judah is God known:
His name is great in Israel.
2. In Salem also is his c tabernacle, c Or, couvert
And his d dwelling place in Zion. d Or, lair
3. There he brake the e arrows of the bow; e Or, fiery shafts, Or, lightnings
The shield, and the sword, and the battle. [Selah
4. Glorious art thou and excellent, f from the :mountains f Or, more than
5. The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their
And none of the men of might have found their hands.
6. At thy rebuke, 0 God of Jacob,
Both chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep.
1 Or rather, relating to Jeduthun (as a choir),
PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS 121
7. Thou, even thou, art to be feared:
And who may stand in thy sight when once thou art
8. Thou didst cause sentence to be heard from heaven ;
The earth feared, and was still,
9. When God arose to judgement,
To save all the meek of the earth. [Selah
10. Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee :
The residue of wrath shalt thou a gird upon thee.
11. Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God:
Let all that be round about him bring presents unto
him that ought to be feared.
12. He shall cut off the spirit of princes :
He is terrible to the kings of the earth.
For the Chief Musician ; after the manner of Jeduthun 1.
There are common elements in these psalms; in the
former, note ‘Thou hast heard my vows’ (5), and ‘That
I may daily perform my vows’ (8). In the latter, note
‘Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God: Let all that be
round about him bring presents unto him that ought
to be feared’ (II). Confession of sin; reparation for
wrong; with a firm reliance upon God: these are har-
monious notes. See how praise comes in (61. 8; 76. 1-4).
In an earlier chapter 2 we called attention to the con-
fused condition of the title material over Psalm 88 in
ordinary editions, that psalm being apparently set forth
as by the sons of Korah as well as by Heman the Ezra-
hite. A like confusion. has been detected by some in
connexion with the Jeduthun psalms; in consequence
of which such expositors have readily assumed that
1 Or rather, relating to Jeduthun (as a choir).
2 Seep. 13.
122 PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS
literary consistency was an unknown sense among
Hebrew writers and editors. The criticism has been
stated briefly as follows: ‘Two of the Jeduthun psalms
are also ascribed to David, and the third to Asaph.’
Those who have followed the contention of these pages,
will be prepared to allow that the confusion cannot
be placed to the account of the psalm writers or of the
Chief Musician. Once more we see reason to deplore
the misplacement whereby the subscript and super-
script lines were so combined as to rob each of its distinc-
tive purpose, and effectually to cover from view every
sign of the earliest classification and appropriation of
certain psalms for special occasions in the Temple
OTHER MUSICAL TITLES
NEHILOTH (PSALM 4).
SETTING Out with an impression that the psalm titles
must in a large degree relate to musical terms, expositors
have followed one another in explaining tOlyHin; as
meaning ‘flutes.’ Although on the face of it the word
suggests ‘inheritance,’ and although the Septuagint and
other early Greek versions point indubitably in that
direction, the word has been associated with llaHA (halal)
‘to perforate,’ hence flutes or pipes, and has been
explained as a virtual synonym of lyliHA (halil). By way
of justification, the fact is emphasized that flutes or
reeds were in use in the Temple service; and Isa. 30. 29,
1 Sam. 10. 5, and 1 Kings 1. 40, have been quoted
in proof. In all these cases, however, we meet with
lyliHA; and there is nothing to prove that the title
Nehiloth is in any way related to that word, or to any
other having the meaning of ‘flute.’
If not the name of a musical instrument, may not
Neliloth mean a tune or melody? So far, we have found
no instance of a tune or melody, or a catchword, or some
popular song, being essential to a rational view of the
psalm titles; and there is no obvious reason why we
should assume such in this case. But we have consis-
tently compared the titles with the preceding, as
distinguished from the succeeding, psalms; and that has
made all the difference in affording clues as to the
meaning of the musical lines. Let us note, then, the
124 OTHER MUSICAL TITLES
renderings of Nehiloth in the early versions: Septuagint,
‘Her that inherits’; Aquila, ‘Divisions of inheritance’;
Symmachus, ‘Allotments.’ The Old Latin and Vul-
gate versions are similar.
Our first inference from these renderings is, that in
early times, before the Sopherim and Massoretes did
their work on the Hebrew text, the title word was
composed of four consonants, namely tlHn. These
were understood to stand for a word which was after-
wards written full with points, as follows: tOlHAn; (n’haloth)
‘inheritances.’ Hence the renderings in the early ver-
sions, as just quoted. Jewish tradition, however, in
succeeding centuries, conceived the idea of a musical
instrument being implied, and the word was accordingly
pointed by the Massoretes in a way which made it possi-
ble, as already shown, to collate it with another word
meaning ‘flute.’ We are under no obligation to follow
a reading having such an origin—a reading which only
gives us a puzzle of a word after all. The old versions
indicate a better way, and suggest that, at periodical
or stated times in public worship, the Daughter of Zion
praised God in a definite manner for the inheritance
which He had caused them to possess—in fact, for the
inheritances of the tribes as a whole (Num. 26. 53–56;
33. 54; 36. 2; Joshua 11. 23; 14. 1, 2).
The significance of the holding of the land bye the
tribes is stated in forcible terms by Keil :
‘The way and manner in which Israel received the
land of Canaan in possession, corresponds to its calling
to be God's people. Though Israel had become
master of the land by force of arms, it was not their
own might, but the arm of the Lord which had wonder-
fully helped them and smitten the Canaanites, to
OTHER MUSICAL TITLES 125
fulfil the promise given to the fathers—Jehovah's
hand, which had extirpated the Canaanites and
planted Israel (Ps. 44. 3 f.). To this corresponded the
division of the land by lot to the tribes of Israel, and
the right of property attached to possession . . . The
land was and remained the property of Jehovah,
the Covenant God, in which the Israelites dwelt with
Him as strangers and sojourners (Lev. 25. 23), lived
on the produce of its soil, and enjoyed its products
In these circumstances, it was quite to be expected
that Israel would, on fitting occasions, avouch itself the
people of God in some such terms as these
A Psalm of David.
1. Answer me when I call, 0 God of my righteousness;
Thou hast set me at large when I was in distress:
a Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. a Or be gracious unto me
2. 0 ye sons of men, how long shall my glory be turned
How long will ye love vanity, and seek after false-
3. But know that the LORD hath set apart b him that is b Or one that he favoureth
godly for himself:
The LORD will hear when I call unto him.
4. c Stand in awe, and sin not: c Or, Be ye angry
Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and
be still. [Selah
5. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And put your trust in the LORD.
6. Many there be that say, Who will shew us any good?
1 Biblical Archaeology, vol. ii. p. 304.
126 OTHER MUSICAL TITLES
LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon
7. Thou hast put gladness in my heart,
More than they have when their corn and their wine
8. In peace will I both lay me down and sleep:
For thou, LORD, a alone makest me dwell in safety.
For the Chief Musician; with the b Nehiloth 1.
Whether this psalm was sung frequently or not, we
do not know. It was, anyway, a timely reminder of
some of the deeper truths involved in Jehovah's solici-
tude for His people. That Israel was Jehovah's portion
was by no means new teaching; the tribes had been
trained to live in the consciousness of that great convic-
tion. What possession could be compared with the
condition of mind expressed by the heart-gladness
induced by the smile of Jehovah (6, 7) ? The joys of
harvest were not to be mentioned in comparison.
With these conceptions and assurances the soul may
rest in perfect peace.
From first to last the psalm is a suitable commemo-
ration of Israel's perpetual obligation to God for the
1 Or rather, For the Nehiloth (for N’haloth), Inheritances (as
a commemoration). Again the particle lfa makes way for
lx,, which is quite suitable for the sense given, but would not
so well apply to a musical instrument. As a fact, in the two
cases in which with is understood before the word lyliHA (flute
or pipe), in 1 Kings I. 40 and Isa. 30. 29, the particle used is B;,
which we shall presently show is employed in most of the cases
in which a musical instrument is beyond question spoken of in
the psalm titles. Thence we infer that, if in this case a musical
instrument were intended, we should have had the preposi-
OTHER MUSICAL TITLES 127
inheritance into which the tribes had come. And its
concluding verse, ‘I will lay me down in peace,’ would
suggest that it was sung every night 1.
NEGIN0TH (PSALMS 3, 5, 53, 54, 6o, 66, 75).
The word Neginoth is the one undoubted reference
to musical instruments in the psalm titles. It occurs
seven times: Pss. 3, 5, 53, 54, 6o 66, and 75 (also in
Hab. 3. 19). In every case the Chief Musician note
precedes, and the meaning is ‘with stringed instru-
ments.’ In every case also, except Ps. 6o, the ‘with’
is expressed by the prefix 4; in the exceptional case,
lfa is used, suggesting that (recognizing the singular
form of the substantive) we should understand the
notice as relating to ‘a stringed instrument choir,’ as
in the case of the other choirs, which follow after gyp.
The presence of this note, ‘with stringed instru-
ments,’ raises interesting questions. If we understand
the subscript lines of Pss. 5, 11, and 46 in the light of
1 Chron. 15. 20, 21, we shall conclude that they at
least were performed ‘with stringed instruments’
1 The celebration of God's goodness in the matter of the
fatherland, might either recall the original settlement or any
reinstatement in the inheritance. The word lHanA (to inherit)
with its derivatives, would serve both purposes. Other
familiar Hebrew words suitable either for a first act or its
repetition—with the sense of again being understood and not
expressed—are xlemA to fill, or replenish; hnABA to build, or re-
build; hyAHA to live, or revive.
2 In this case it stands as apparently the construct
form of the singular substantive. In some MSS., however,
it stands as the plural Neginoth, written defectively ; while
in others it is fully written as a plural. So also was it read
by the Septuagint, other early versions following.
128 OTHER MUSICAL TITLES
the Chronicler speaks of the psalteries and harps.
Doubtless, the same is true of many of the psalms;
it was the work of the Chief Musician to attend to these
arrangements, and the intimation that the psalms had
been included in his repertory should be a guarantee
that the psalteries and harps and other ‘instruments
of music’ came in somewhere.
May not ‘with stringed instruments’ have implied
something definite as to the time of day when par-
ticular psalms were rendered? May not the expres-
sion have specified the piece, say, as for morning
worship, or for the opening exercises of divine ser-
vice? It is assuredly remarkable that of the two
Sheminith psalms, only the former (5) is ‘with stringed
instruments’; and that is evidently for morning wor-
ship (see verse 3). The same observation applies to
Ps. 3 (see verse 5); and of none of the Neginoth psalms
can it be said that they are obviously unsuitable for
the opening exercises of daily service. Whatever in-
strumental music there was, it served (in the words
of Edersheim1) ‘only to accompany and sustain the
song.’ Therefore, as the stringed instruments would
not be used by themselves, but in connexion with
choirs, it would seem almost certain that some prac-
tical intention lies behind the simple classification
‘with stringed instruments.’ And that only one of
the Sheminith (or Male Choir) psalms is so described
(and that for morning worship in particular), may
help in some measure to an appreciation of the in-
Some impressions have come down to us of the
glorious harmonies of the
OTHER MUSICAL TITLES 129
David's purpose and the achievements of his successors.
Whether the musical instruments were few or varied,
certain it is that the psaltery and the harp were
given leading parts (see i1Chron. 15. 20, 21; Ps. 81. 2,
3; 108. 2). As to the degree of perfection developed,
we have no exact information 1. In the words of Keil,
‘We are not to think of the
limited to mere cantillation, but must suppose real
melodies; for we dare not reason back from the
character of the later synagogue singing to the
singing of the
This singing was lost with the extinction of the
theocratic life and the destruction of Solomon's
only feeble remnants survived (Ezra 3. 10; comp.
2. 44, 65; Neh. 7. 73, 12. 27f., 36; Ps. 150; Sirach
49. 20  2).
Of David, the Psalmist, we read: He appointed
certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of the
Lord, and to celebrate and to thank and praise the
Lord, the God of
whole heart he sang praise, and loved him that made
him. Also he set singers before the altar, and to make
sweet melody by their music’ (Ecclus. 47. 8, 9). And
1 The extent to which ‘The Music of the Bible,’ as popularly
explained, is music of another kind, is illustrated by the fact
that in one such treatment hardly any information was pre-
sented regarding instruments that were actually Israelitish
but engravings were given of such as had obtained in
of the horns used by Jews in modern times! As a fact, the music
2 Biblical Archaeology, vol. ii. 281.
130 OTHER MUSICAL TITLES
of a later time, when the
ened’ by Simon the Just (died B.C. 291), we read:
‘Then shouted the sons of Aaron, they sounded the
trumpets of beaten work, they made a great noise to
be heard, for a remembrance before the Most High.
. . . The singers also praised him with their voices;
in the whole house was there made sweet melody’
(Ecclus. 5o. 16-18).
THE LITERARY AND HISTORICAL
OUR purpose in these pages has been to distinguish
the so-called Musical Titles from such as are generally
recognized as literary and historical in character. It
has, we think, been made plain that, with the exception
of Neginoth, the former can no longer be regarded as
designating musical instruments, or even as indicating
tunes or melodies. On the contrary, in association
with their proper psalms, they render a good account
of themselves as marking (1) the reasons for which
psalms were used in public worship 1; (2) national
commemorations, and other special purposes, for which
psalms were selected 2, (3) choirs to which certain
psalms were particularly assigned 3; (q.) the topical
description of psalms which easily lent themselves to
such treatment 4.
Not only would a measure of direction be thus
secured in the general use and application of the
psalms; but by reducing the entire body to classes,
it became easy for leaders and choristers to recall a
particular psalm as it might be desired. The first line
of a psalm hardly individualized it when included in
a large number; but to demand psalm ‘Give ear,
O Shepherd of Israel ' in the Gittith class, at once
1 As Gittith and Shoshannim.
2 As Muth-labben, Mahalath, Nehiloth, and Al-tashheth.
3 As Sheminith, Alamoth, and Jeduthun.
4 As Aijeleth hash-Shahar and Jonath elem rehokim.
132 LITERARY AND HISTORICAL HEADINGS
directed attention to Ps. 80; and again, if, to quote
another psalm, ‘Give ear to my prayer, 0 God,’ was
wanting in definiteness, through similar words appear-
ing elsewhere 1 there could be no doubt as to which
was intended when the title of the psalm was added,
Jonath elein rehohim (55). Whatever may have been
the purpose of classification in the
is obvious that the general arrangement would sub-
serve practical convenience along the lines indicated.
The other titles, which properly form headings of the
psalms, fall into two main classes. In the first, we
would place those which deal with the compositions
themselves, as to their character and authors; in the
second, those which set forth the historical origin or
religious purpose of particular psalms. A psalm may
be without any such headings, and yet be none the less
precious as to contents or beautiful in form 2; on the
other hand, it may have a formal superscription which
the most sympathetic student may find of little value for
any help it may yield in the understanding of the psalm3.
The intimations as to authorship claim respectful
attention, if for no other reason than that they accom-
pany the text as it has come down to us in its most
reliable form. The Massoretic text attributes seventy-
three psalms to David; twelve to Asaph; eleven to the
sons of Korah 4; two to Solomon ; and one each to
1 In first verse of Ps. 17.
2 See some of the ‘orphan psalms in the fourth and fifth
books (90 to 150).
3 For instance, Ps. 34, when David ‘changed his behaviour,’ &c.
4 These are reduced to nine in this work, by the discrimina-
tion of the titles which have hitherto stood over Pss. 46 and 88.
The latter psalm is ‘Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.’ See note
on p. 14.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL HEADINGS 133
Ethan, Heman, and Moses 1. On examining the Sep-
tuagint text, we find divergencies that are more than
curious ; some psalms which in the Massoretic text
are anonymous are there ascribed to David, others
are attributed to Haggai and Zechariah: while lines
descriptive of occasion or purpose are prefixed in a
number of instances, additional to those found in the
In the literary description of the psalms there is
considerable variety; but this does not matter so
much as some have been disposed to think. In modern
literary style the same freedom of expression is con-
tinually exercised, without giving rise to criticism or
causing confusion. A poem is not less a psalm because
it is described as a song; nor is it any less a prayer
because it has no heading at all. On careful examina-
tion, a psalm may appeal to us as a Song, a Prayer,
a Meditation, a Thanksgiving, a Homily, an Exhorta-
tion, a Plea, an Expostulation„ Which shall we call
it? Perhaps one day one aspect will prevail; another
day we may be impressed in a different manner
Though called Michtain, a poem may be a psalm never-
1 It is interesting to note that these single psalms follow
each other, and as i c were comprise a group by themselves.
2 Some of these are given as footnotes in the Psalter that
follows this Introduction.
3 Note, by way of illustration, the following forms of speech:
‘David spake . . . the words of this song’ (2 Sam. 22. I ); ‘Consider
my meditation . . . unto thee do I pray’ (Ps. 5. I, 2); ‘David
. . . spake unto the, Lord the words of this song ' (super-
scription of Ps. 18). Again and again invocation is followed
by thanksgiving, and meditation by rebuke. Any one of
these aspects may be asserted in the heading. Note the
number of cases in which Psalm-Song and Song-Psalm appear:
134 LITERARY AND HISTORICAL HEADINGS
theless; call it Maschil, and it belongs to the same
great cl ass. The genus includes the species, the general
Hence we would not regard such terms as expressive of
refined poetical distinctions, but rather as indicating
the dominant note or obvious intention of the psalm as
practically estimated and analysed. We are not with-
out help in assuming this standpoint. Ps. 14 (‘The
fool hath said in his heart’) is headed simply l’ David
(David's). When it appears again, as Ps. 53, it is
styled Maschil of David. So there may be Maschil
psalms without that word standing over them. Again,
the early part of Ps. io8 (I–5) reappears in Ps. 57
(7-11). In the former it is part of a Song-Psalm of
David; in the latter, part of a Michtam of David. The
latter part of Ps. 108 (6–13) is included in Ps. 6o (5–12);
a part of a Song-Psalm now has the character of a
tam. From these facts one seems justified in conclud-
ing that no nice points of poetical theory or literary
structure are implied in such words as Maschil and
Michtam, for in some cases the compositions which
are so described actually embody portions of ordinary
Speaking generally, it must be admitted that variety
of designation is no monopoly of a remote antiquity.
Modern hymnals include psalms and songs, solos and
choruses, canticles and melodies, chants and anthems.
In these terms the musical features are emphasized in
a way that affords but slight indication of the character
of the words—whether the note be prayer or praise,
exhortation or appeal, designed to stir up emotion or
e.g. 30, 48, 65, 66, 67, 68, 75, 76, 83, 87 (repeated in subscript
line), 92, 108.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL HEADINGS 135
to provoke enthusiasm. The psalm headings, however,
appear to point in another direction. Far from indi-
cating musical distinctions, they emphasize the character
of the pieces, or the moral and spiritual intent of the
poet. Many of the psalms are strongly personal, others
are of the nature of homilies ; yet all have their place in
‘the praises of
four psalms are without any literary designation; forty-
three are styled Miz;nor, rendered ‘psalm’ in the
English versions; two are simply designated Shir
('song'); twelve Mizmor shir or Shir mizmor, ‘a psalm
or song,’ ‘a song or psalm’; fifteen Shir hamma ‘aloth,
‘song of degrees’ (R.V. ‘ascents’); five are T’philah,
‘a prayer’; six are Michtam, thirteen Maschil, and
one Shiggaion, all three words transferred without
translation into our English versions; one is T’hillah,
‘a praise’; and one Mizmor l’Thodah, ‘a psalm of
With the psalm titles discriminated, as advocated in
these pages, something is done to focus light upon
words that have long been discussed but with little
definite result. Already we may be sure that Michtam
and Maschil are not musical terms; they are attached
to the name of the psalm writer, and not to the Chief
Musician's mark of appropriation. Standing as they do
in relation to the poems, they displace such general
terms as ‘psalm’ and ‘song.’
Take Michtam first. It occurs in the headings of six
psalms, and in each case it is followed by ‘of David’ 1.
1 The Michtam psalms are--16, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60.
136 LITERARY AND HISTORICAL HEADINGS
The Septuagint translators rendered it sthlografi<a, or
ei]j sthlografi<an—‘an inscription,’ or ‘foran inscription.’
A variety of fanciful interpretations have competed for
acceptance from time to time. Some have held the
words to describe the associated psalms as specially
epigrammatic in character, although no sufficient
evidence is forthcoming to justify the description.
Others, as the A. V. marg., have suggested ‘a golden
psalm,’ ‘a gem,’ from Mt,K,, ‘gold’ (because hidden
away in treasuries), although the psalms in question
are by no means alone in displaying features that
are attractive and thoughts that are precious in a high
If we examine the Michtam psalms themselves, we
shall not be long in gathering impressions as to their
special qualities and the first thing that will strike
us is that they are personal. Four of them are in the
first person singular of the pronoun, and have the nature
of private prayers (16, 56, 57, 59); the others have the
character of meditations, but are very direct in phrase.
These exhibit the plural pronoun, and in one instance
the reason seems to be given, for Ps. 60 is described as
Michtam, to teach. May this mean that a prayer that
was personal and private was put forth, in special cir-
cumstances, as a model for general worship--to teach?
The other Michtam psalm, 58, is a combination
of expostulation with sinners and appeal to Jehovah
to visit judgement upon them. All are very direct,
and the sense of being covered, concealed, which lies
in the root-word, may imply the PERSONAL and PRI-
VATE nature of these psalms, in their origin and first
Alike in its meaning and use, the word Maschil is
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL HEADINGS 137
much wider. It seems, in fact, to be the opposite of
Michtam, and to describe a psalm of instruction,
A PUBLIC HOMILY 1. The word is found over thirteen
psalms. It comes from a verb (sachal) meaning to be
prudent and intelligent, and has been explained as
signifying a didactic poem. In the Septuagint, it is
rendered by forms of su<nesij, ‘understanding,’ ‘dis-
cernment,’ implying a purpose of instruction in the
psalms. Some have