Thirtle: The Titles of the Psalms












                   JAMES WILLIAM THIRTLE



















                                 HENRY FROWDE

                   LONDON, EDINBURGH, GLASGOW

                                 AND NEW YORK


                         [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

legitimate research.

            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.’


vi                     PREFACE


            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.


LONDON: January 23, 1904.




CHAPTER                                                                                                      PAGE


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


VII.      (3) PSALMS FOR A `SECOND PASSOVER                                42



            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 ARK BROUGHT TO ZION                                               82

VIII.     (5) A NATIONAL ANTHEM                                                           86

XIV.    (6) CONFLICTS COMMEMORATED                                           90



XVI.  PSALMS FOR SPECIAL CHOIRS                                        105

XVII. OTHER MUSICAL TITLES                                                   123

XVIII. LITERARY AND HISTORICAL HEADINGS                                 131

XIX.   SELAH-HIGGAION                                                             143


viii                               CONTENTS


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




            BRIEFLY EXPLAINED                                                                   175





                                    CHAPTER I




            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

2                      INTRODUCTORY


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

                        INTRODUCTORY                                        3


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).


                        INTRODUCTORY                                        3


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

Temple service1.

            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

of Israel; it prepares us for the discovery that in after

ages there was no hero to divide honours with David

‘the man after God's own heart'—in other words, the

man whom Jehovah chose for the throne of Israel.

Where is Solomon in this category? It is clear that in

the history of Israel there was but one giant, and he

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.

                        INTRODUCTORY                                        5


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

musical or have to do with the Temple choir. This

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.






                                    CHAPTER II






                              (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 the Temple choir, who

            trained the choir and led the music, and that it refers

            to the use of the psalm in the Temple services2.'


            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

Musician, adopted them for the services of the Temple,


            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 (Cambridge Bible for Schools and

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-

nized place in ‘the praises of Israel.’ The preposition

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

great events in the history of Israel. They go further

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,

it would appear, the Chief Musician accepted for Temple

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

written by David before the Temple was built were

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,

the explanation will be found in the history of Israel.

Now the songs of Zion were exchanged for the sorrows

of captivity; again, in later years, the stress of political

conflict effectually held down the religious spirit of the

people. Whatever, also, may have been Israel's love

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

psalms in the Temple, service of praise.  The glorious

tradition of bygone years had passed out of mind, and

the translators were, in consequence, without safe and

effective guidance.

            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,

p 217).






                                    CHAPTER III





                               (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--





and it ENDS with--




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

Chief Musician.

            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


Israel were in point of form. It suggests that in the

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

of view.

            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

Psalms in the days of the Temple worship3. They had


            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-

type reproductions of the Vatican and Alexandrine codices

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

to do1.


            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.





                                    CHAPTER IV






            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

musical titles.

            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.



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

order to explain the literature of Israel—of whom we

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

worship in Israel during the great annual feasts, also

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

work of the Chief Musician of the Temple at Jerusalem.





                                CHAPTER V






            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

‘the praises of Israel.’ Here and there, at least, we find

traces of the ministry of the Chief Musician and his work

in connexion with Temple psalmody.

            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

elaborated on the return from Babylon. We are satis-

                        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

great festivals of Israel, as well as for other occasions of

national interest and importance.

            At the time of the carrying away to Babylon, Israel

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 Israel than to restore divine worship to what it was

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

of praise, on the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem, to ‘prophesy

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-

ments of David king of Israel’ ... ‘the Levites to sing praises unto

the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer’: ‘since

the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was

not the like in Jerusalem’ (2 Chron. 29. 25-30 ; 30.26) ; Josiah's

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

bulked large in the life of Israel, and we should not be

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


15). And on the return from Babylon under Zerubbabel, we meet

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

nation of Israel. He was Jehovah's choice for the throne, and

the glory of the people for many generations. And does not

Israel still remember David, and pray daily that God will return

in mercy to Jerusalem, and ‘establish therein the throne of


            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

Anthesterion (Flower-month).

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


            1 Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, under ‘Lily.’

            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

find a definite place (Abrahams, in Hastings' Dictionary of the

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

Biblical archaeology.

            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

journey to the Land of Promise. Did Jehovah redeem

Israel from the house of bondage? Did He ‘prepare

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


of the pillars of Solomon's Temple—LILIES and POME-

GRANATES (i Kings 7. 20—22 ff.)? What was the meaning

of the ornamentation displayed on the Temple furniture

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

which adorned the doors of the Temple of Herod

(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

is, that flowers and fruit entered into the symbology of Israel

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

were ‘for a memorial of the children of Israel before the Lord’ (Ex.

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

Temple, quite another set of emblems appear—cherubim and

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-

gogues in the Holy Land, as witness the publications of

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















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, Eng. tr., div. i.

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

the nation of Israel as ‘the redeemed of the Lord.’

Whatever may have been the inclusive meaning of

Tabernacles (Succoth), certainly the sense of divine care

and protection was specially prominent. So the two

feasts expressed the alpha and omega of Israel's boast

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

as the dew unto Israel: HE SHALL BLOSSOM AS THE LILY,

. . . his beauty shall be as the olive tree, . . . they shall

revive as the corn, AND BLOSSOM AS THE VINE : the scent

thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon' (14. 5--7). Note

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


            Let other allusions be considered. Israel a VINE :

Israel is a luxuriant vine.' God ` brought a vine out of


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—

first in Egypt, then in the wilderness, and thirdly in the Land

of Promise itself? (see Exod. 12. 3 ff.; Num. 9. 5; Joshua 4.

19; 5. 10).


            PSALMS FOR SPECIAL SEASONS           29


Egypt’ (Hos. 10. 1; Ps. 80. 8. See also Isa. 5. 1-7;

27. 2-6; Jer. 2. 21; 12. 10ff.). Israel a LILY: see

the Prayer-book for British Jews, in the service for the

Feast of Purim, where Israel is called ‘The Lily of

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

Israel, from the Grecians, in the days of the Asmoneans.

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

Temple furniture or pieces of money, these emblems

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

Rome is the seven-branch candlestick, which, as already

explained, in its original represented both flowers and

fruit. Moreover, in the old Jewish cemeteries at Rome

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;

also Hudson's History of the Jews in Rome, ch. 13).

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

ephemeral character. With Israel, as is well known,

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

Passover (in the Spring), which, in a word, meant DE-

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


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

with them.






                                    CHAPTER VI





            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

Egypt through the exertion of Jehovah's mighty power.

It was instituted in its first significance in the land of

Egypt; and, having been once celebrated in the wan-

derings in the wilderness of Sinai, it was next observed in

the Land of Promise four days after the passage of the

Jordan (Exod. 12. 3 ff.; Num. 9. 5; Josh. 4. 19; 5. 10).

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



progress of the Ark of the Covenant during the journey

to Canaan was attended with marvellous signs: When

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

Israel their enemies fled; when He left them they fled

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

as a whole, these seven days of festivity reminded Israel

of the hard bondage of Egypt, of the mighty deliverance

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

Israel's behalf ‘in the days of old’ (44. I). And they

could not but bring home to the Israelitish mind the

assurance that the God of the Exodus from Egypt was

ready to deliver His people again and again. Israel ever

looked forward to new mercies like these enjoyed by the



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.’


                                    PSALM 681


                        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

            God of Israel.

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.




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

14 When the Almighty scattered kings therein,  

     c It was as when it snoweth in Zalmon.                           c Or, It snowed

15  A mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan;

     d An high mountain is the mountain of Bashan.                d Heb. A mountain

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,



     The hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in

            his guiltiness.

22 The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan,

     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 of Israel.

27 There is little Benjamin their ruler,

     The princes of Judah and their bcouncil,                                    b Or, company

     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,

            for us.

29 Because of thy temple at Jerusalem

      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

31 Princes shall come out of Egypt;                                         f Or, as otherwise read

    g Ethiopia shall haste to stretch out her hands unto                    Scatter thou

            God.                                                                                   g Heb. Cush

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 Israel,

     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                        

            his people.

      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

            of Zion as the dwelling-place of Jehovah. To this all

            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

verse 29, ‘Because of thy temple at Jerusalem,’ as an


            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

(19, 20).


                                    PSALM 44.

            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-

over note.


            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

            thy countenance,

    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;



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.

Israel is represented as ‘cast off and brought to dis-

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

of old-time experiences, when the enemies of Israel fled

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.



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

(Heb. Lex. s.v., Robinson's edition, 1872. The Oxford Gesenius

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

of captivity.

            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

them with a well-known epoch in the history of Israel.






                        CHAPTER VII






                          (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

liturgical use.

            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



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 tUdfeEduth. 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.

In 2 Kings 17. 15, we read how Israel ` rejected the

statutes’ of Jehovah ‘and his TESTIMONIES which he



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

his soul.’

            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

significance, was ordained in Egypt, before ever Israel

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-

ing them out from the land of Egypt’ (Exod. 12. 42);

and though the celebration of the ordinance in other

circumstances forty years afterwards, immediately after

crossing the Jordan in the plains of Jericho, might well

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



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-

tion of the Temple service (2 Chron. 29-31). We read

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-



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

congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the Passover in the

second month. . . . So they established a decree to make

proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba

even to Dan, that they should come to keep the Passover

unto the Lord, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem : for they

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

the tribes included in the Northern Kingdom; and the

Levites ‘sood in their place, after their order, according

to the law of Moses, the man of God.’ The Temple

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

note of trust and joy in view of Israel being Jehovah's

redeemed people, we may well regard the Edith or

‘Testimony’ psalms as designated for this period.


                                       PSALM 59.

            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,



   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,



      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


                                    PSALM 79.

                               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 Jerusalem on heaps.

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.




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

            thee not,

   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

            name's sake.

10 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their


     Let the revenging of the blood of thy servants which

            is shed

     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



            The prayer in Psalm 59, that Jehovah will ‘scatter’

the heathen and ‘bring them down’ recalls the victories

given to Israel under Moses and Joshua (comp. Num.

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:

‘The Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan . . . .

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),

the reproaches of the heathen, as levelled against Israel,

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-

tion of Israel; and yet the inheritance of God had been

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

pasture’ (13).

            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

Israel was in the land. As to the former of them, Psalm

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).



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

Judah and Jerusalem, and he hath delivered them to be

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



mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God

of Israel, that his fierce anger may turn away from us’

(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,

and when speaking of the reproach of Israel he showed

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,

Where is their God?’ (8-10). Israel is not in exile,

but in the land. The nations are their neighbours, people

dwelling round about them (4, 12); the pressure is so

intense that Israel is ‘a prisoner,’ people ‘appointed

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



which the said term implies when Jerusalem was actually

‘on heaps’? When the city was destroyed, and the

Temple defiled, worship was suspended—as, for example,

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

pious faith could deliver in the Temple worship.

            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:




Gesenius: Shushan Eduth, Shoshannim Eduth. A melody

whose first line compared the Law as Testimony to a choice

flower (Heb. Lex. s.v. Eduth, Oxford edition).

            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 Judah, without anything more definite being

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








                                  CHAPTER VIII





                        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

was, in fact, the joyous ‘Harvest-Home' in Israel's


            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).

It was at this season that Solomon's Temple was dedi-

cated (1 Kings 8. 2; 2 Chron. 7. 8–10), and the same

ordinance was observed with great joy by the captives

returned from Babylon (Ezra 3. 4; Neh. 8. 13–18).

            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-

vided for the children of Israel, ‘made them to dwell in

booths’ (Lev. 23. 43). In the words of Keil:




                ‘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

            faithfulness—which Israel, by its dwelling in booths

            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

camp of Israel with their complete dependence upon

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

Lord ‘made the children of Israel to dwell under the

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

the Cloud of Glory, I made the sons of Israel to dwell at

the time that I brought them out redeemed from the

land of Egypt.’ ‘He led them safely, so they feared

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

Israel, this was the most joyous. ‘All the crops had

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


Feast of Tabernacles reminded Israel, on the one hand,

of their dwelling in booths in the wilderness, while, on

the other hand, it pointed to the final harvest, when

Israel's mission should be completed, and all nations

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

those days saw I in Judah some treading winepresses on

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 the Holy Land, and

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).

Palestine was ‘a land of wheat and barley, and vines

and fig-trees and pomegranates’ (Deut. 8. 8); and above

all else in popular esteem stood the vine. Israel was


            1 Edersheim: The Temple—its Ministry and Services, ch. 14.

            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.



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).

And, as viewed by Israel of old, judgement was the certain

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

Israel, that leadest Joseph like a flock’ (80. 1)—to

‘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.


                                    PSALM 80.

                              A Psalm of Asaph.


1.  Give ear, 0 Shepherd of Israel,

    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

            thy might,

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.


8 Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt :

    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

            her ?

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.



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

Judge (8-12). Israel is Jehovah's flock; and, though the

people are encompassed by enemies, He will yet bring

them back to favour (1-7). Israel is also Jehovah's

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-

tresses (17—19).


                                    PSALM 7.

            This also is a psalm for adversity. Accepting for

themselves the first person singular of David's song, the

people of Israel ask to be saved from their enemies, who,

like lions, were rending them in pieces (I, 2).


            Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, con-

                        cerning the words of Cush a Benjamite.

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

            with me

    (Yea, I have delivered him that without cause was

            mine adversary:)

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

            thee about:

    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;



      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 Israel's expectations

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

upon his own pate’ (16). They who are oppressing Israel

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



                                    PSALM 83.

                        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 Israel may be no more in re-


5 For they have consulted together with one consent;

   Against thee do they make a covenant:

6 The tents of Edam and the Ishmaelites;

    Moab, and the a Hagarenes;                                  a Or Hagrites See 1 Chr 5.10

7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek;

    Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre:

8 Assyria also is joined with them;


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,

to the times of the Chief Musician of Temple Psalmody. And,

arrived at chat point in Israel's history, we see little reason to

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

least surprising that a psalm which, in the days of Israel's kings,

was associated with Succoth, should afterwards come to be

included in the service for Purim.



a They have holpen the children of Lot.      [Selah                  a Heb. They have been

9 Do thou unto them us unto Midian;                                  an arm to the children of Lot.

   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

Israel as such—are jubilant. Surely the time of judge-

ment has arrived, now that those who hate God and His

people are devising means for the destruction of Israel

            1 Or rather, relating to the Gittath, the Feast of Tabernacles.

PSALMS FOR FEAST OF TABERNACLES                      65


(2-4). They form an alliance against Israel's God ;

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

is invoked upon the enemies of Israel (13-17).


            Could psalms more suitable have been chosen for the

Feast of Tabernacles? There are, in each, the associa-

tions of language; also the notes of Israel being God's

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

definitions :



    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.,

Oxford edition).

    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

seat in the Levitical city of Gath Rimmon (Heb. Lex. s.v.,

Davidson's edition).

WELLHAUSEN : We do not know whether Gittith here means



‘belonging to the city of Gath,’ which probably had been

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

commemorate God's great goodness to Israel in their

pilgrimage through the wilderness. As the Passover

reminded Israel that Jehovah was their Redeemer, so

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







                          CHAPTER IX






    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

of Israel in the nobility of his design and preparation for

the erection of the glorious Temple in which his people

should worship Jehovah from generation to generation.

            Whatever else he may have been, David was the

beloved of Israel as well as the beloved of Jehovah

(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

founder of the commonwealth of Israel1. Not without


                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

the end that His people Israel may be saved1.

            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.





                        CHAPTER X






         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

armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will

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;

that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel

(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 :


                                    PSALM 8.

                            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

camps ` to take away the reproach from Israel ' said

that victory would be his, ‘that all the earth may know

that there is a God in Israel’ (I Sam. 17. 46). The

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

Temple use, and apparently designed to commemorate some

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.


was unpopular with the leaders in Israel (2 Sam. 19. 5-8). That

being so, the event was not one for subsequent commemoration.






                            CHAPTER XI





                   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-

sion of Aquila. (2nd cent. A.D.), however, gives an im-

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

Israel, was generally associated with intense religious

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

cities of Israel, singing and dancing (tOlHom;hav; rywilA), to

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 :


                                    PSALM 52.

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

            of God:

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

            done it:

   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

he went forth to meet the champion of Gath. The calm

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

the psalm2.

            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

of dancing would be remembered in Israel as a day of thanks-

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

been given:



            GESENIUS: Apparently a catchword in a song giving

name to tune [renderings of Aquila and Symmachus also

indicated: a great service] (Heb. Lex. s.v., Oxford edition).

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

re-reading of the word 1. Following the lead of Aquila

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



have stood tloHom;. (M'laoloth, ‘dancings’). The word

refers us to a story in the history of David, which was

recalled by Psalm 52 being rendered in the Temple




may not have been mistaken by the Sopherim and the Massoretes,

and wrongly interpreted ' (Hebraica, vol. vi. io8).






                               CHAPTER XII




            (4) THE ARK BROUGHT TO ZION



            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,

in the service of the Temple, is, we presume, to recall

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 Ark of the Testimony, after being in the hands of

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

consequence of this, the Ark was left for a period of three

months in the house of Obed-edom in Gath-rimmon

(2 Sam. 6. i-ii). At the end of that time, David

removed it in a grand procession to Jerusalem, where

it was kept in a tent till a place should be prepared for

it (verses 12—19).

            This procession became historic in Israel. There was

dancing and shouting such as made a profound impres-

sion.  ‘David and all the house of Israel played before

            THE ARK BROUGHT TO ZION                             83


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

David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark 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

Zion, after its long stay at Kirjath-jearim (in Benjamin),

and its brief sojourn at Beth-shemesh and Gath-rimmon

(in Dan), let us look at the psalm itself:


                                    PSALM 87.

            A Psalm of the sons of Korah; a Song.


1 a His foundation is in the holy mountains.                       a Or, His foundation in the

2 The LORD loveth the gates of Zion                                 holy mountains the Lord

   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.






                                 CHAPTER XIII




                        (5) A NATIONAL ANTHEM



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.


                                    PSALM 2I.

                             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,







                                CHAPTER XIV







            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:


                                    PSALM 55.

                              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.




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 moan:      

    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

            of destruction:

    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.







                                    CHAPTER XV




                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. Mount Zion was not in the

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.


                                    PSALM 56.


A Psalm of David: Michtam: when the Philistines took

                                    him in Gath.

1.  Be merciful unto me, 0 God; for man would swallow

            me up:

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

            I call:

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.


                                    PSALM 57.

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


                                    PSALM 58.

                        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

            the righteous:

    Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth.


                        For the Chief Musician; set to Al-tashheth1.


                                     PSALM 74.

                               Maschil of Asaph.


1. 0 God, why bast thou cast us off for ever?

    Why cloth thine anger smoke against the sheep of

            thy pasture?

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

            the land.

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

            the wilderness.

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

            0 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

            cendeth continually.


            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.

30, 31).

            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.






                                    CHAPTER XVI


                        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





            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 ?


                                    PSALM 45.

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

            thee glad.

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

            glorious:                                                                     palace

    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

            and 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.




            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



            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 Israel.

            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-

ship in Israel were on the eighth day (Lev. 23. 36;

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.


                                    PSALM 5.


                             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

            a shield.


            For the Chief Musician; on stringed instruments,

                        set to f the Sheminith1.                                              f Or, the eighth



                                         PSALM II.


                                    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.



                                 (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


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:


                                    PSALM 38.

            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

            my sin.

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

            against me.

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

and power.


                                    PSALM 61.

                                    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

            thy name.

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

            preserve him.

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.


                                    PSALM 76.

                        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

            of prey.

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







                                    CHAPTER XVII



                            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

            and fruits1.'


            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


                                         PSALM 4.

                                    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

            into dishonour?

    How long will ye love vanity, and seek after false-

            hood?  [Selah

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

            are increased.

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-

tion B;.

            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 Temple service, both in


            1 The Temple: its Ministry and Service, ch. 3.,

            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 Temple singing as

            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 Temple with musical accompaniment.

            This singing was lost with the extinction of the

            theocratic life and the destruction of Solomon's

            Temple, so that in the post-exilic Temple-worship

            only feeble remnants survived (Ezra 3. 10; comp.

            2. 44, 65; Neh. 7. 73, 12. 27f., 36; Ps. 150; Sirach

            49. 20 [18] 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 Israel’ (1 Chron. 16. 4). ‘With his

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 Assyria,

Babylonia, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Greece, Rome, India, Burma,

China, Peru, and the South Sea Islands, with a few specimens

of the horns used by Jews in modern times! As a fact, the music

of old Israel, like the Temple itself, has long passed beyond recall.

            2 Biblical Archaeology, vol. ii. 281.

130                 OTHER MUSICAL TITLES


of a later time, when the Temple had been ‘strength-

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).






                             CHAPTER XVIII




            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.



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 Temple liturgy, it

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

Hebrew Psalter

            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:



theless; call it Maschil, and it belongs to the same

great cl ass. The genus includes the species, the general

the particular.

            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 Mich-

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.




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 Israel.’ In the Massoretic text thirty-

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.’


                        MICHTAM: MASCHIL.

            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.



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



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