CBR.19: Psalms: III. Poetic Books: Job-Songs. mjmselim. July29, 2018
((Here are pages 375-486 of CBR, Chapter III, (in three submissions pages 375-402, CBR.18 (Job), 402-450 CBR.19 (Psalms), 450-486 CBR.20 (Proverbs-Song of Songs) of the Poetic Books from Job to Song of Songs, comprising Psalms with Job & Proverbs & Ecclesiastes, & Solomon’s Song of Songs. This Chapter III & Part III will be added to the PDF of CBR from Genesis to Esther, along with the final pages of the Chapter in a few days. CBR. Christian Biblical Reflections. mjmselim. 2018))
PSALMS: (Selections from various authors, writers, commentaries, &c.)
1: Tehellim: Tehilloth (Hallels (Praises), Tephilahs, Tefillahs, (Prayers), Sherim (Songs))
Psalter has from ancient times been divided into five books: Book I (Genesis): Psalms 1-42; Book II (Exodus): Psalms 43-72; Book III (Leviticus): Psalms 73-89; Book IV (Numbers): Psalms 90-106; Book V (Deuteronomy): Psalms 107-150.
Titles Descriptive of Character of Poem: Psalm. ‘Mizmor’, rendered ‘Psalm’, is a technical term found only in the titles of the Psalter. It is prefixed to 57 Psalms, and with few exceptions is preceded or followed by the name of the author, generally that of David.
2: A Guide to the Psalms by W. Graham Scroogie Published in 1995 by Kregel Publications; Originally published by F.H. Revell, 1978.(1948-1978, parts) Great collection of facts, details, charts, and tables of the Book of Psalms gathered from dozens of Books. (Along with his “Unfolding Drama of Redemption”, the Guide to the Psalms is very useful & helpful. The same recommendation is here given to Spurgeon’s Treasury of David which Scroogie utilized & enhanced.)
3: From: Introduction to the Psalter: “What the heart is in man, that the Psalter is in the Bible.” Joh. Abnd. (Biblical Commentary on the Psalms. v1. Franz Delitzsch, DD. Translated from German, latest edition & revised by the author, in 3 vols. by Rev., David Eaton. FBL, Ed, W R Nicoll.(1887))
I. Position of the Psalter among the Hagiographa, and more especially among the Poetical Books.
“The Psalter everywhere forms an integral portion of the so-called ‘Kethubim’ or ‘Hagiographa’. Its position among these, however, is somewhat variable. It seems to follow from Luke 24:44, that in pre-Talmudic times it opened that division of the Canon (see also 2nd Macc. 2:13; and Philo ‘Vita Contempl.). In the Hebrew MSS. of the German class the prevalent sequence of the books is really as follows: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, then the five Megilloth (Scrolls, Rolls); and this order has been followed in our common printed editions. The Masora, however, and the MSS. of the Spanish class begin the Kethubim with Chronicles, which they unskilfully separate from Ezra-Nehemiah, and then make the Psalms, Job, Proverbs, and the five Megilloth follow. And according to the Talmud (‘Bathra’,14b) the right sequence is as follows: Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs; the Book of Ruth precedes the Psalter as being its prologue, [but the Book of Job is a far better prologue and introduction to the Psalms & the Poetic Books;] for Ruth is the ancestress of him to whom the sacred lyric owes the era of its richest efflorescence.
That the Psalter should open the division of the ‘Kethubim’ is undoubtedly the most natural arrangement, if for no other reason than this, that in its nucleus it represents the time of David, just as Proverbs and Job represent the Chokma-literature of the time of Solomon [but if Job is pre-Mosaic, or Patriarchal with Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob, then its proper place precedes the Psalter]. It is self evident, however, that it is only among the ‘Kethubim’ that it could find its proper place. The first place in the Canon is taken by the codex of the giving of the law. This codex is the foundation of the Old Covenant and of Israel’s nationality as well as of all its subsequent literature; it is the (Thorah, Torah), in contradistinction to which all the other sacred writings are reckoned (qabalah, kabbalah) (tradition resting on it). This fundamental five-fold book is followed by two series of historical writings, to which there is given the collective title (Nebiim, Nevi’im). The first of these two series consists of writings of a prophetical character that relate to the past, and bring down the history of Israel from the occupation of Canaan to the first dawning of light in the penal condition of the Babylonian exile (‘Prophetae priores’ (Early or Prior Prophets). The second series relates to the future; it consists of predictive writings composed by prophetical authors, which reach down to the time of Darius Nothus, and indeed to Nehemiah’s second stay in Jerusalem during the reign of that Persian monarch (‘Prophetae posteriores’ (Later or Posterior Prophets)). Regarded chronologically, the first series would correspond better with the second, if the historical books of the Persian period (Chronicles-Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther) had been joined to it; but for a good reason this was not done. The literature of Israel has struck out two sharply distinguished methods of writing history, viz. the annalistic and the prophetic, as types of which we may regard the Elohistic and Jehovistic methods in the Pentateuch and in Joshua. Now those historical books of the Persian period are annalistic, and not prophetic, in their character (although the Books of Chronicles have taken up and embodied many remnants of the prophetic method of writing history, just as, conversely, the Books of Kings have done with many remnants that are annalistic); they could not therefore be placed among the ‘Prophetae priores’. Only with Ruth the case is different. This short book bears such a close resemblance to the end of the Book of Judges (chaps, 17-21) that it might very well stand between it and Samuel. Its original position was behind the Book of Judges, just as the Lamentations of Jeremiah stood after the book of his prophecies; and it is only for liturgical reasons that both these books have been placed among the so-called Megilloth (Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes,and Esther, —the order in which they follow one another in our ordinary printed editions, according to the calendar of the festivals). It is self-evident that all the remaining books could be embraced only in the third division of the Canon, which (as could hardly have been otherwise in addition to (Thorah) and (Nebi’im)) received the general title of (Ketuvim, Kethubim); a title which, as the grandson of Ben-Sira renders it in his prologue (B.C. 132), signifies (ta alla patria biblia). This name is given to writings, and that too sacred writings (grapheia or hagiographa, to use an expression current, in the time of Epiphanius), upon which one can take one’s stand, and to which one can appeal with (k’k’tub) or (d’k’tib) (gegratai gar).1 Accordingly, although this title has not the same meaning, it has the same value as (k’t’bi qodesh); but it would be a mistake to regard it as equivalent to (ketubim baruch haqodesh); for the doctrine of three degrees of inspiration, according to which (baruch haqodesh) is the third degree, that, viz. which is associated with the greatest independent mental activity of the writer, cannot be traced further back than Maimonides (d.1204).
II. Names of the Psalter.
At the close of Psalm 72 we find (v. 20) the subscription: “‘the prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.'” Here the whole of the preceding Psalms are comprehended under the name (Tephilloth, Tefillot). This is surprising, for, with the exception of Ps.17 (and further on 86, 90, 102, 142), they are all otherwise entitled, and many, ‘e.g’. Pss. 1 and 2, contain no invocation of God, and therefore do not have the form of prayers. Nevertheless the collective name (Tephillah) is suitable to all the Psalms. The essential element in prayer is the direct and undiverted turning of the soul to God, the absorption of the spirit in thoughts of Him. All the Psalms participate in this, the essential element in prayer even those that are didactic, and such hymns as Hannah’s song of praise, which is introduced in 1st Sam. 2:1 with (watithpalel).
The external title borne by the Psalter is (Tehillim) (Sepher, Sefer), for which (Tillim) (apocopated Tilli) is also commonly used, as Hippolytus (‘ed. de Lagarde’, p. 188) testifies : (‘Hebraioi periegrapsan ton biblon Sephra Theleim’ (in Eusebius: Thallim, Tallim). This name also may surprise us; for the greater number of the Psalms are hardly hymns in the proper sense; most of them are elegiac or didactic, and only one (Ps.145) is directly entitled (Tehillah). But this collective name of the Psalms is also admissible; for they all participate in the essential nature of the hymn, viz. in that which is its real object, the glorifying of God. Those that are narrative praise the ‘magnalia Dei’; those that are plaintive praise Him likewise, inasmuch as they turn to Him as the sole helper, and close with the grateful assurance that they will be heard; and the verb includes both: the ‘magnificat’ and the ‘de profundis’. Instead of the dissimilate plural, (Tehillim) (if we may coin such a technical term), the language of the Masora prefers the most natural plural form of the noun, and throughout calls the Psalter (Sepher Tehilloth) (‘e.g’. on 2 Sam. 22:5). (In the Masora the Psalter is not called (Hallela ); only the so-called ‘Hallel’ [Hallels] (Ps.113-118) bears this name…)
In Syriac the Psalter is called ‘Kethobo demazmure’, in the Koran [Quran] ‘zabur’ (not ‘zubur’, as Golius and Freytag vocalize it), a word which in Arabic signifies nothing more than “writing” (synon. ‘kitab’ ; ‘vid’. on 3:1), but which is perhaps a corruption of ‘mizmor’, from which a plural, ‘mezamir’, which is found in Jewish-Oriental MSS., is formed by a change of vowels. A plural of ‘mizmor’ does not occur in the Old Testament. Even in the post-biblical ‘usus loquendi’ it is but seldom that either ‘mizmorim’ or ‘mizmoroth’ occurs as a name of the Psalms. In Hellenistic Greek the corresponding (Psalmoi) (> psallaein = zimmer) is so much the more common; the collection of the Psalms is called (Biblos Psalmön (Luke 20:42; Acts1:20) or (Psaltërion), the name of the stringed instrument (‘psanterin’ in the Book of Daniel) being metaphorically transferred to the hymns sung to its accompaniment. Psalms are songs for the lyre, and therefore lyric poems in the strictest sense.
X. Preliminary Theological Considerations.
The expositor of the Psalms may place himself either upon the standpoint of the poet, or upon that of the Old Testament community, or upon that of the Church. It is a fundamental condition of progress in exegesis that these three standpoints be kept separate, and that a distinction be accordingly drawn between the two Testaments [Delitzsch is very right!], and, in general, between the several stages [ages, dispensations, covenants, etc.] through which the revelation and the knowledge of redemption have passed. For not only redemption itself but also the revelation and the knowledge of it have had a progressive history, which reaches on from Paradise down through time into eternity. Redemption realises itself in a system of facts, in which God’s loving purpose to redeem sinful humanity is unfolded; and the revelation of redemption anticipates this gradual realization, in order at once to guarantee its Divine authorship, and to render its comprehension possible. In the Psalms there is presented to us more than half a millennium of this progressive realization, disclosure, and apprehension of redemption. And when we take into account the fact that one Psalm is dated from the time of Moses, and that the retrospective glances of the historical Psalms go back even to the age of the patriarchs, we may say that there is scarcely an occurrence that constituted an epoch in connection with the history of redemption, from the election of Abraham down to the new position assigned in the world to the post-exilic nation, which does not somehow or other find its expression in the Psalter. Nor is it merely facts external to it that re-echo in its lyrics; but seeing that David, next to Abraham [and Moses] undoubtedly the most significant religious character of the Old Testament, is its chief author, it is itself a direct, integral portion of the history of redemption. And it is also a source of information for the history of the revelation of redemption, inasmuch as it flowed not merely from the spirit of faith, but also at the same time largely from the spirit of prophecy; above all, however, it is our most important memorial of the progressive apprehension of the knowledge of redemption, seeing it shows how, between the giving of the law from Sinai, and the proclamation of the gospel from Sion, the final and essential redemption broke a path for itself in the consciousness and the spiritual life of the Jewish Church.
1. We shall consider, in the first place, ‘the relation of the Psalms to the prophecy of the coming Christ’. When the human beings, whom God had created, had ruined themselves by falling into sin, He did not abandon them to the doom of wrath which they had chosen for themselves, but visited them on the evening of that most unhappy day, in order to make that doom a disciplinary medium of His love. This visitation of Jahve-Elohim was the first step taken by Him in connection with the history of redemption towards the goal of the Incarnation; and the so-called ‘protevangelium’ was the laying of the first foundation of the verbal revelation of Himself by means of the law and the gospel a revelation which prepared the way, in accordance with the plan of redemption, towards this goal of the Incarnation and the restoration of humanity. The way of this redemption, which breaks a path for itself in history,” and at the same time also announces itself to the human consciousness, runs through the whole of Israel’s career; and the Psalms show us with what vital energy this seed-corn of words and deeds of divine love has unfolded itself in the hearts of believing Israelites. They bear the impress of the time, during which the preparation of the way of redemption was concentrated upon Isirael, and the hope of redemption had become a national hope; for after humanity [the Gentiles] had broken up into separate nationalities, redemption retired within the limits of a chosen people, in order that it might there come to maturity, and then, bursting these limits, become the possession of the whole human race. At that time the promise of the coming Mediator was in its third stage [after Adam-Noah & Abraham-Moses]. The prospect of victory over the power of temptation in the human race had been connected with the seed of the woman, the prospect of a blessing for all peoples, with that of the patriarch; in these days, however, when David became the creator of psalm-poetry to be used in divine worship, the promise had become Messianic [Dispensation of David-Messiah]; it pointed the hope of the faithful to the king of Israel, and in fact to David and his seed; redemption and glory, for Israel in the first place, and indirectly also for the Gentiles, were looked for through the mediatorial office of Jahve’s Anointed. The fact that among all the Davidic Psalms there is found but one (viz. Ps.110), in which, as in his last words (2 Sam. 23:1-7), he looks out into the future of his seed and has the Messiah objectively before him, is accounted for only by the circumstance, that up to this time he himself was the object of Messianic hope, and that it was only gradually, and more especially in consequence of his deep fall, that this hope was dissevered from him personally, and transferred to the future. Then when Solomon ascended the throne, the Messianic longings and hopes centred, as Ps. 72 shows, upon him; they applied to the one final Christ of God, but for a long time they clung enquiringly, and, on the ground of 2 Sam. 7, with perfect right, to the direct son of David. Even in Ps. 45, it is a descendant of David, contemporary with the Korahite singer, to whom the Messianic promise is applied as a marriage blessing, in the hope that it may be realised in him. But it soon became manifest that neither in this king, any more than in Solomon, had He jet appeared, who is the full realisation of the Messianic idea; and when, in the time of the later kings, the kingdom of David became more and more glaringly inconsistent with its sacred vocation, Messianic hope broke entirely with the present, which became merely the dark back-ground, from which the image of the Messiah, as being purely future, stood forth in relief. The (Ben-Dawid), around whom the prophecy of the period of the later kings revolves, and whom even Ps. 2 sets forth before the kings of the earth, in order that they may pay him homage, is (even supposing that the ( echrith) was expected to dawn immediately after the present) an eschatological person. In the mouth of the Old Testament Church even Pss. 45 and 132, seeing that their contents pointed to the future, have become Messianic in a prophetical or eschatological sense. It is surprising, however, that the number of such Psalms as are not merely typically Messianic is so small, and that the Church of the post-exilic period (We refer to the period immediately after the Exile; for towards the end of the Maccabaean period, Messianic hope broke ont afresh, as the Salomonic Psalter shows: its revival and declension are determined by the law of contrast.) has not enriched the Psalter with a single Psalm that is Messianic in the stricter sense. In the later portion of the Psalter, theocratic Psalms, as distinguished from those that are strictly Messianic, are more numerously represented. By theocratic Psalms we mean such as have to do, not with the kingdom of Jahve’s Anointed, which overcomes and blesses the world, not with the Christocracy, in which the theocracy attains the summit of its representation, but with the theocracy as such, completed both outwardly and inwardly in its self-manifestation, not with the Parousia of a human king [Man], but with the Parousia of Jahve Himself, with the kingdom of God revealed in all its glory. For the proclamation of redemption contained in the Old Testament runs on in two parallel lines: the one has as its termination the Anointed of Jahve, who rules over all nations from out of Zion, the other, the Lord Himself, sitting above the Cherubim, to whom the whole earth pays homage. These two lines do not meet in the Old Testament; it is the history of the fulfilment of prophecy that first makes it clear that the Parousia of the Anointed One and the Parousia of Jahve are one and the same. And of these two lines the divine is the one that predominates in the Psalms; the hope of the psalmists, more especially after the kingdom had ceased in Israel, is generally directed beyond the human mediation directly towards Jahve, the author of redemption. The fundamental article of Old Testament faith runs (Yeshu athah l’Yhwh) (3:9; Jon. 2:10). The Messiah is not yet recognised as a God-man. Accordingly the Psalms know neither of prayer to Him, nor of prayer in His name. But prayer to Jahve and for Jahve’s sake is essentially the same thing. For Jahve implies Jesus. Jahve is the Saviour. The Saviour, when He shall appear, is nothing else save the (Yeshu ah) of this God in a visible manifestation (Isa. 49:6).
As regards the divine-human goal of Old Testament history, we distinguish five classes of Psalms, which point to it. Since 2 Sam. 7 the promise of the Messiah is no longer connected with the tribe of Judah in general, but with David [House of David]; and it points not merely to the endless duration of his kingdom, but also to one scion of his house, in whom the divinely appointed destiny of his seed to be a blessing, first to Israel, and thence to all the nations of the world, is to be fully realised, and without whom, therefore, the Davidic kingdom would be a headless trunk. Psalms in which the poet, looking beyond his own age, comforts himself with the vision of this king, in whom the promise is finally fulfilled, we call ‘Messianic in an eschatological’ and indeed ‘directly eschatological’ sense. Such Psalms do not merely base themselves upon the word of prophecy that was already in existence, but even carry it still further; it is only by means of their lyrical form that they are distinguished from prophecy in the strictest sense; for prophecy is a proclamation, and the Psalms are spiritual songs.
The Messianic purport of the Psalms, however, is not limited to the element of strict prediction, to which the future becomes objective. Just as natural life presents a series of stages [ages, periods, decades, generations, etc.], in which the lower stage of existence points preformatively to that which is next in order above it, and indirectly to that which is highest, so that, ‘e. g’, in the globular form of a drop there is announced the striving after organism, as it were, in the simplest fugitive outline, so the progress of history, and more especially of the history of redemption, is also typical; and the life of David, not only as a whole, but also most surprisingly even in individual traits, is a ‘raticinium [ratiocinium] reale’ [real reason] of the life of Him, whom prophecy regards as David [the Beloved] raised up again as it were in a glorified form, and whom it therefore directly names (Obedi Dawid = My Servant David) (Ezek. 34:23 f.; 37:24 f.) and (Dawid Malkam = David their King) (Hos. 3:5; Jer. 30:9). Such Psalms, in which David himself (or even a poet putting himself into David’s position and mood [prophetic identification & association]) gives lyrical utterance to typical critical events in his life, we call ‘typico-Messianic’ Psalms. To this class, however, there belong not only such as have David, directly or indirectly, for their subject; for the path of suffering which was trodden by all the Old Testament saints in general, and more especially by the prophets in the fulfilment of their calling (‘vid’. on 34:20 f.; and Ps. 69), has become in a certain sense a (tupos tou mellontos). All these Psalms, not less than those of the first class, may be cited in the New Testament with (hina plëröthë ); only with this difference, that in the former it is the prophetic word, in the latter the prophetic history, that is fulfilled. The older theologians, especially the Lutheran, oppose the assumption that there are such typological citations of the Old Testament in the New; (The 5th Ecumenical Council also denied it, when it condemned Theodore of Mopsuestia’s typical interpretation of Pss. 16, 22, & 69.) they had not yet attained to the organic view of history [the dispensational view] granted to our age, and were therefore also without the true counterpoise to their rigid theory of inspiration.
There is, however, also a class of Psalms, which we call Messianic in a ‘typico-prophetical’ sense. These are Psalms in which David, when describing experiences of his [the] inner and outer life which were already typical in themselves, is raised above the limits of his own individuality and time, and uses regarding himself hyperbolical expressions, which were not to become full historical truth until they became so in Christ. [Add to this is the experiences of others, such as Joseph & Job, who give grounds for reflection and analogy to the poet and to reader or future generations.] Such Psalms are typical, inasmuch as their contents are rooted in the individual, but typical history of David; at the same time, however, they are prophetical, in asmuch as they give expression to that which is present and individual in complaints, hopes and descriptions that point far beyond the present, and are first fulfilled in Christ. The psychological possibility of such Psalms has been called in question; with the same injustice, however, as it was objected to Kant, on account of his distinction between an intelligible and a sensible Ego, that he posited two subjects in one personality. The mystery of these Psalms is at bottom the mystery of all poetry. The genuine lyric poet does not give a mere copy of the impressions of his empirical Ego; an ideal Ego, as Vinet says somewhere [in his Outlines of Theology, and other writings, 2nd Section, Chap. 1.II ‘Different Elements of Christianity’], overhears, as it were, this empirical Ego; it is this second soul that makes the poet. Now, just as the poet does not form a mere cast of his impressions, but idealises them, i.e. seizes them by the root of their idea, and stripping off and abstracting all that is adventitious and unimportant lifts them up into the region of the ideal, so David also in these Psalms idealises his [and others] experiences and anticipations. The natural result of this is, that these are reduced to that in them which is essentially typical; he does this, however, not in a condition of poetical self-stimulation, but as moved by the Spirit of God; and this has the further consequence, that the lifting up of his experiences into the region of the ideal is at the same time a lifting of them up into the region of the antitype; in other words, the statement of his [the] typical fortunes and the corresponding moods has assumed the form of a predictive statement of the fortunes and moods of his antitype. (To en autö pneuma Christou (1st Pet. 1:11) —this is the soul of his ideal Ego; this is his “second soul.”
Besides these three classes of Messianic Psalms, we may regard such Psalms as the forty-fifth and the seventy-second as forming a fourth class of ‘indirectly eschatologico-Messianic’ Psalms. These are Psalms in which, in keeping with the circumstances of the time at which they were composed, Messianic hopes were centred upon a contemporary king, without, however, having been fulfilled in him; so that in the mouth of the Church, which was still waiting for their final fulfilment, they have become eschatological hymns, and we are perfectly justified in interpreting them ‘as such’, as well as in their bearing upon their own time.
A fifth class is formed by the ‘eschatologico-Jehocistic’ Psalms. These concern themselves with the Parousia of Jahve, and with the consummation of His kingdom that is being gradually brought about by means of judgment (‘vid’. Ps. 93). The number of these Psalms preponderates in the Psalter. They contain the other premise for the divine-human end of the history of redemption. Lightning-like illuminations of this end are to be found in the prophets. But it is reserved to history itself to draw the final conclusions of the ‘unio personalis’ from these human and divine premises. The Redeemer, to whom the faith of the Old Testament betook itself, is Jahve. Its hope was centred, not in the human, but in the Divine King. That the Redeemer, when He should appear, would be God and man in one person, was an idea foreign to the consciousness of the Old Testament Church. And it is only in individual rays that the knowledge, that He would be sacrifice and priest in one person, breaks in upon the Old Testament darkness, the pole star of which is (YHWH) and only (YHWH).
2. When we turn now, in the second place, to consider the ‘relation of the Psalms to the legal sacrifices’, we find that this also is different from what we, looking at the matter from the standpoint of fulfilment, would naturally expect. It is true there are not wanting passages, in which the offering of the outward, legal sacrifice is recognised as a taking part in religious worship on the part of the individual and the Church (66:15; 51:21); but those passages are more numerous, in which the external sacrifice is compared so disparagingly with the (logikë latreia), that, no regard being had to its divine appointment, it appears as something not really desired by God at all, as a shell that should be cast away, as a form that should be broken in pieces (40:I f.; 50; 51:18 f.). It is not this, however, that surprises us. This is the very point, wherein the Psalms contribute their share towards the progress of the history of redemption; it as the process of writing the law upon the heart, commenced already in Deuteronomy [and before that in Genesis], that is continued here upon the ground of the memorable word of Samuel (1 Sam.15:22 f.); it is the gradually waxing spirit of the New Testament, that in this and in other respects in the Psalter is breaking down the legal barriers, and stripping off the (stoicheia tou kosmou), as a butterfly casts off its chrysalis. But what is put in the place of the sacrifices that are criticised so disparagingly? Contrition of heart, prayer, thankfulness, self-surrender to God in the doing of His will; just as in Prov. 21:3, doing justly; in Hos. 6:6, kindness; in Mic. 6:6-8, doing justly, love, humility; and in Jer. 7:21-23, obedience. This is what is surprising. The sacrifice that is depreciated is looked upon merely as a symbol, not as a type; it is regarded only ethically, not in its connection with the history of redemption; it is only so far as it is a gift to God (qorban), not so far as the gift is appointed to be an expiation (kapparah), that its character is brought out; —in one word, the mystery of the blood remains undisclosed. In a case, where the New Testament consciousness must think of sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ, mention is made (51:9) of the sprinkling that formed part of the legal ritual for the cleansing and putting away of sin; but although the language is plainly figurative, there is no explanation of the figure. Whence comes this? —Because, speaking generally, the sacrifice of blood, as such, remains a question in the Old Testament, to which almost only Isa. 53 (in addition to Zech.12:10 and 13:7) gives a plain answer that is in keeping with the historical fulfilment. It is in such late prophetic words as these, that the delineation of the Passion and the self-sacrifice of Christ first becomes the subject of direct prediction; and it is the history of the fulfilment given in the Gospels that first shows, how closely in keeping with the Anti-type was the form that the Spirit, which spoke through David in his passion Psalms, gave to the utterances of the type regarding himself. In regard to reconciliation as well as redemption in general, the believing confidence of the Old Testament, as it expresses itself in the Psalms, rested upon Jahve. He is not only the Saviour, but also the Reconciler (mekapper), from whom propitiation is entreated and hoped for (79:9; 65:4; 78:38; 85:3, etc.). At the end of the way which He took through history to redemption Jahve is indeed God in Christ, and the blood that was given by Him as a typical means of propitiation (Lev. 17:11) is, in the Anti-type, that of the God-man, and so far His own (Acts 20:28).
3. Advancing from this point, we shall now, in the third place, look at the ‘relation in which the Psalms stand to the New Testament righteousness of faith, and to the New Testament morality that flows from the fundamental law of all-embracing love’. With respect both to the idea of reconciliation and of redemption, the Psalms undergo a metamorphosis in the consciousness of the praying New Testament Church, a metamorphosis rendered possible by the unfolding and specialising of redemption that have taken place since they were written, and with which they fit in without constraint. Only in two points does it seem difficult to make the precatory contents of the Psalms amalgamate with the Christian consciousness. The one of these is the ethical self-consciousness, bordering upon self-righteousness, that frequently as serts itself before God in the Psalms [as it did in Job]; the other is the jealous wrath against enemies and persecutors that discharges itself in fearful imprecations. The self-righteousness, it is true, is only in appearance; for the righteousness to which the psalmists appeal is not the merit of works, not a sum of good deeds, that are recounted to God with a claim for reward, but a bending of the will and a shaping of the life, that is in accordance with the mind of God, that has its roots in the emptying of self and in the surrendering of one’s self to Him, and that looks upon itself as the result of His justifying, sanctifying, preserving and guiding grace (73:25 f.; 25:5-7; 19:14; etc.). Nor is there wanting an acknowledgment that the basis of our nature is inherently sinful (51:7), that apart from God’s grace man is justly liable to be condemned before Him (143:2), that the sins even of the converted are many and to a great extent unknown to himself (19:3), that forgiveness of sins is the indispensable condition of blessedness (32:1 f.), that a new and divinely created heart is an absolute necessity (51:12) -there is an acknowledgment, in short, that the way of salvation consists in penitence, forgiveness and renewal. On the other hand, however, it is no less true that, in the light of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ and of the Spirit of regeneration, there is rendered possible an ethical self-criticism which cuts far more deeply and distinguishes far more precisely; that the tribulation, which befalls the New Testament believer, while it does not indeed excite in him the same keen sense of the wrath of God which is so frequently expressed in the Psalms, nevertheless, in view of the cross upon Golgotha and the heaven opened to him, sinks deeper into his inmost heart, seeing it now appears to him as an appointment of chastening, proving and preparing love; and that, now the righteousness of God, which makes over our unrighteousness, and which is accounted a gift of grace even by the Old Testament consciousness, is presented for our believing appropriation as a righteousness that has been worked out historically through the active and passive obedience of Jesus, the dissimilarity as well as the reciprocal conditionality of the righteousness of faith and the righteousness of life has become a fact of the inner life that is far more clearly recognised and is fraught with more important consequences. (Cf. Kurz [Kurtz], Zur Theologie der Psalmen, iii.: Die Selbst-gerechtigkeit der Psalm-sanger in the Dorpater Zeitschrift, 1865, 352-358. (Compare: History of the Old Covenant from the German of J.H. Kurtz translated & edited by Alfred Edersheim & James Martin (1859), and Edersheim’s Bible History Old Testament (1876-87.1890).) “The righteousness of faith set forth in the Old Testament, and represented by the evangelium visibile of the ritual of sacrifice, has not yet attained the fundamental and primary position assigned to it in the New Testament, and more especially by Paul. Its position is rather secondary and auxiliary; justification does not present itself to the consciousness as a condition of the sanctification that is to be striven after, but only as a complement of the defects that adhere to the sanctification that has been inadequately attained.”) Nevertheless it is not impossible to translate even such self-testimonies as 17:1-5 into the language of the New Testament consciousness [experience & reality]; for they do not hinder the latter when using them from thinking especially of the righteousness of faith, of the divine deeds that are sacramentally applied, and of the life of regeneration that asserts itself victoriously in the midst of the old every-day life. By means of them the Christian must also feel himself earnestly exhorted to self-examination, to see whether his faith is actually manifesting itself as the productive power of a new life; and here too the difference between the two Testaments loses its harshness in view of the great truths condemnatory of all moral shallowness that the Church of Christ is a Church of saints, that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, and that he who is born of God does not sin.
As regards the so-called imprecatory Psalms, however, it is certainly true that, in the attitude of the Christian and the Church to the enemies of Christ, the longing for their removal is outweighed by the longing for their conversion. On the assumption, however, that they will not be converted, and will not anticipate the penal judgment by repenting, the passing over of the jealousy of love into that of anger is justified also in the New Testament (‘e. g’. Gal. 5:12); and on the assumption that their devilish obduracy has become absolute, even the Christian need not shrink from praying for their ultimate overthrow. For the kingdom of God does not come only by the way of grace, but also by the way of judgment; the coming of God’s kingdom is what is longed for by the suppliant of the Old Testament as well as of the New ‘vid’. 9:21, 59:14, etc.); and in the Psalms also every imprecation of judgment upon those, who set themselves to oppose the coming of this kingdom, is made upon the assumption of their persistent impenitence (‘vid’. 7:13 f.; 109:17). Where, however, as in Pss. 69 and 109, the imprecations enter into the most minute details, and extend to the descendants of the unhappy mortal and even to eternity, there is no other justification of them than that they have proceeded from a prophetic spirit; and they cannot be appropriated by the Christian in any other sense, than that, as he uses them in prayer, he ascribes glory to the righteousness of God, and commends himself the more earnestly to His grace.
4. ‘The relation of the Psalms’, in the fourth place, ‘to the last things’ is also such that, in order to their becoming an expression in prayer of the faith of the New Testament, they need to be deepened and adjusted. For what Julius Africanus says regarding the Old Testament: (oudepö dedoto elpis anastaseös saphës) is true at least of the time previous to Isaiah. In one of his latest cycles of apocalyptic prophecies (c. 24-27) Isaiah first foretells the first resurrection, i.e. the resuscitation of the company of martyrs that have fallen a prey to death (26:19), as well as, with enlarged field of vision, the cessation altogether of death (25:8); the Book of Daniel, that Apocalypse of the Old Testament sealed until the time of fulfilment, first predicts the general resurrection, i.e. the awakening of some to life and of others to judgment (12:2); between these two prophecies stands Ezekiel’s vision of the bringing of Israel out of the Exile under the figure of a creative reanimating of a large field of dead bodies (c. 37) —a figure, which at least presupposes that, to the wonder-working power of God’s faithfulness to His promise, that which it represents is not impossible. But even in the latest Psalms the knowledge of redemption nowhere shows itself as yet so far advanced that these prophetic words regarding the resurrection could have been transformed into a dogmatic, integral portion of the Church’s faith; the hope that the scattered bones will spring up again ventures to suggest itself at first only in a bold figure (141:7); the hopeless darkness of Sheol is not rolled away (6:6; 30:10; 88:11-13); where mention is made of deliverance from death and Hades, what is meant is the preservation, already experienced (e.g.86:13) or hoped for (e.g.118:17), of the living from their attack; and there are other passages alongside of these, which declare the impossibility of escaping from this universal human fate (89:49). On the other hand, there are also passages in the Psalms, in which the hope, not to fall a prey to death, is expressed in so absolute a manner, that the thought of this unavoidable destiny is swallowed up entirely by the assurance of life in the strength of God the living One (66:14, and especially 16:9-11); others in which the gracious fellowship with Jahve is set over against this temporal life and its possessions (17:14 f.; 63:4) in such a manner, that there naturally results the antithesis of a life that transcends time and extends beyond this transitory state of existence; others in which the destiny of the godless is contrasted with that of the righteous as dying with living, defeat with triumph (49:15), so that the conclusion is inevitably suggested that the former die, although they seem to live for ever, while the latter live for ever, although they die; and others in which the psalmist seems to anticipate that, instead of having to fall a prey to death and Hades, he will be translated to God’s presence somewhat after the manner of Enoch and Elijah (49:16; 73:24). But nowhere do we find in the Psalms an article of faith that was generally received; we merely see how faith in a future life has striven to penetrate the gloom, at first only as an individual conclusion drawn from premises that were experimentally certain to the believing consciousness; and far from the grave and Hades being deprived of their power by an explicit knowledge of a better future, they have rather only vanished momentarily, as it were, before the ecstatic feeling of a life derived from God, a feeling which disregards them, and have not therefore as yet been actually and permanently overcome. For the very same reason there is not to be found in the Psalms any more than in the Book of Job a perfectly satisfactory theodicy in respect of such a distribution of lots on this side the grave as seems incompatible with God’s righteousness. Pss. 7; 49; and 73. no doubt approximate to the right solution; but even the solution given in them is still but an anticipation and a suggestion.
Nevertheless there is nothing clearly revealed in the New Testament which was not already stirring in the Psalms. For in the view of the psalmists death and life are such radical notions (notions, that is to say, apprehended by them as rooted in the principles of divine wrath and divine love), that it is easy for New Testament faith, to which they have been fully disclosed even to their background in hell and heaven, to adjust and deepen all the utterances in the Psalms that refer to them. It is by no means contrary to the mind of the psalmist, if in such passages as 6:6 the New Testament suppliant substitutes Gehenna for Hades; for the psalmists dread Hades only as being the realm of wrath or of separation from God’s love, which is the true life of men. Nor is it contrary to the mind of the poets to think in 17:15 of the future beholding of the face of God in all His glory, and in 49:15 of the resurrection morning; for the hopes that are expressed there in a spiritually exalted condition of soul are really, so far as regards their truly satisfying fulfilment, hopes that belong to the future life. As Oetinger says, there is no essential New Testament truth that is not contained in the Psalms, if not (noi) (in its unfolded sense), at least (pneumati). The Old Testament harrier already encompasses the gradually developing life of the New Testament, which is one day to break through it. The eschatology of the Old Testament leaves a dark background, which is laid out, as it were, to be divided by the New Testament revelation into light and darkness, and to be lit up into a wide perspective that extends into the eternity that lies beyond time. Wherever it begins to dawn in the eschatological darkness of the Old Testament, it is already the first morning rays of the sunrise of the New, that is thus announcing itself. In this respect also the Christian cannot refrain from disregarding the barrier of the psalmists, and understanding the Psalms according to the mind of the Spirit, who, even during the development of redemption and of the knowledge of it, kept the goal and the consummation steadily in view. Thus understood the Psalms are hymns of the Israel of the New Testament no less than of that of the Old.
The Church, when it uses the language of the Psalms as supplications, celebrates the unity of the two Testaments, and science, when expounding them, does honour to the distinction between the Old and the New. They are both in the right: the former in regarding the Psalms in the light of the one essential salvation, the latter in keeping apart the sacred eras, and the various stages through which the knowledge of salvation has passed.
His comment on Psalm 1:1: “The collection of the Psalms and that of the prophecies of Isaiah resemble one another in this, that the latter begins with a discourse, the former with a Psalm, neither of which has a title, but which open the two collections after the manner of prologues. From Acts 13:33, where the words, “Thou art my Son …” are quoted as being found (en tö prötö psalmö), we perceive that in very early times Ps. 1 was regarded as a prologue to the collection. The reading, (en tö prötö psalmö tö deuterö), which was already rejected by Griesbach, is an old correction. But that way of counting rests upon tradition. A scholium from Origen and Eusebius says regarding Pss. 1 and 2 : (en tö Hebraikö sunnëmenoi). So also Apollinaris: “(Epigraphs ho psalmos heurethë dicha, Hënömenos de tois par’ Hebraiois stichois). For it is an old Jewish view, as Albertus Magnus remarks: ‘Psalmus primus incipit a beatitudine et terminatur in beatitudinem, i.e. it begins with (’asheri) (1:1) and ends with (’asheri) (2:12), so that, as is said in ‘Berachoth’, 9.b (cf.j. ‘Taanith’, 2:2), Pss. 1 and 2 consequently form one whole (chda parshh). This was certainly not the original state of the case. No doubt Pss. 1 and 2 coincide in several respects (there (yhnh), here (yhnu); there (wdwd…t’bd), here (wthabdu); there (’ashri) at the beginning, here at the end); but these phraseological coincidences do not warrant us to conclude (with Hitzig) that both were composed by the same author, and still less that they were originally members of but one whole. The two anonymous hymns belong together only so far as the one is fitted to form the proem of the Psalter from its ethical, the other from its prophetical side. It is questionable, however, if even this was present to the mind of the compiler. It is possible that it was simply because of these coincidences that Ps. 2 was attached to Ps.1; the latter is the real prologue of the Psalter, which is arranged in the form of a Pentateuch after the pattern of the Thora. For the Psalter is Yea and Amen in hymns to the divine word of the Thora. For this reason it begins with a Psalm which contrasts the destiny of the lover of the Thora with that of the godless, —an echo of the exhortation (Josh.1:8) in which, after the death of Moses, Jahve commends the book of the Thora to his successor, Joshua. Just as the New Testament Sermon on the Mount, seeing it is a proclamation of the engrafted law, begins with (makarioi), so the Old Testament Psalter, which aims from first to last at this engrafting, begins with (’ashri). The first book of Psalms begins with two ‘aschres’ (1:1; 2:12) and ends with two ‘aschres’ (40:5; 41:2). A whole series of Psalms begins with (’ashri)) (Pss. 32; 41; 112; 119; 128) ; although we must not on that account assume that there was a special kind of ‘Aschre’ Psalms; for Ps. 32 ‘e. g’. is a (miskil), Ps. 112 a ‘Hallelujah’, Ps. 128 a (Shut haM‘aluth).”
4: Acrostic & Peculiar Psalms:
Acrostic AlphaBet Psalms: Aleph-Tau, 22 Hebrew Letters.
Psalms: 9,10,37: 2 verses for each of the 22 Hebrew Letters
Psalms: 25,34: 1 verse each letter
Psalms: 111,112: ½ verse each letter
Psalm 119: 8 verses each letter (8×22=176)
Psalm 145: 1 verse each letter (#14, Nun, is missing)
Additional acrostics chapters can be found in Lamentations & Proverbs. In Esther the TetraGrammaton (YHWH) haShem (The Name) or Shem haMeforash (The Special Name) occurs 4 times as hidden acrostics.
Psalms are verbally or literally repeated whole or in part, and may words & phrases are found in other portions of the Old Testament: Psalms: 15 & 53; 18 & 2nd Sam. 22; 36 & 57; 40 & 70; 57 & 108; 60 & 108; and various verses in Psalms 135 &144. Compare variations of Psalms 71, 86, 135, & 144, with other Psalms 5-6, 9, 17, 22, 25-28, 31, 35, 40, 54-57, 72, 77, 116, & 130.
5: From: Biblical Companion, Introduction to Reading & Study of Holy Scriptures, &c by William Carpenter (1836)
1. Chapter III of the Poetical Books.
3. Another thing demanding attention in reading the poetical parts of the sacred writings, is the change of persons, which often occurs without the least intimation being given by the writer. This is occasioned in many cases by the form of composition —dialogue, or a kind of dramatic ode— in which there are different characters introduced, sustaining their respective parts. This observation applies more particularly to the book of Psalms, to the remarks on which the reader is referred.
Section II . Book of Psalms:
3. In these Compositions we are presented with every variety of Hebrew poetry. Some of them were prepared for particular solemnities in the Jewish worship; others appear to have been designed generally to celebrate the glorious perfections of God; and a few to have been drawn forth by the peculiar circumstances or experience of the inspired writers [and of others]. They abound in the most impressive and consoling predictions. One greater than David is continually presenting Himself, even Christ the Redeemer. Divine inspiration so guided the Psalmist, that in many instances his words, at the same time that they referred with sufficient precision to the circumstances of his own life, prefigured, in terms the most accurate and sublime, the humiliation, the sufferings, the triumphant resurrection, and the universal and eternal kingdom of the Messiah. Dr. Horsley has considered the greater part of the Psalms as a kind of dramatic ode, consisting of dialogues between certain persons, sustaining certain characters, as the priests, Levites, singers, &c. “The other persons introduced are Jehovah, sometimes as one, sometimes as another, of the Three Persons: Christ, in His incarnate state, is personated sometimes as a Priest, some times as a King, sometimes as a Conqueror.”: And in these reciprocations and divisions of parts, we discern, according to Dr. Lowth, the immediate cause of the disposition of the verse into equal strophes or stanzas [or lines], and why these consisted for the most part of distichs, in a sort of parallelism to each other, the last line responding to the first, and seconding, educing, and enforcing the sense. A recent writer has very materially extended this doctrine of parallelism, and, by an arrangement of several of the Psalms, has succeeded in showing that each one is a complete parallelism, either of the alternate or the introverted kind. In some cases, the parallelism will be found to depend on a correspondence of the topic; sometimes on an agreement of the person: but whatever form the Composition may assume, it will be found susceptible of great elucidation by the arrangement of the parallelism.” (See Boys’s Key to the Book of Psalms.)
5: Psalms in Order of Chronology: The following arrangement from the Scripture Magazine,(Vol. iii. pp. 296,297.) is chiefly compiled from Mr. Townsend’s Historical and Chronological Arrangement of the Old Testament.
Psalms: Numbers. Authors. (Probable Occasions.) Passage Connexions. (Date B. C.)
88….Heman. (Affliction of Israel in Egypt.) Exod. 2:25. (1531)
90….Moses. (Shortening of man’s life.) Numb. 14:45. (1489)
9……David. (Victory over Goliath.) 1st Sam. 18:4. (1063)
11….David. (Advised to flee to mountains. 1st Sam. 19:3. (1062)
59….David. (Saul’s soldiers surrounding town.)1st Sam.19:17. (1062)
56….David. (With Philistines at Gath.) 1st Sam. 21:15. (1062)
34….David. (Leaving city of Gath.) 1st Sam. 21:15. (1062)
142..David. (In cave of Adullam.) 1st Sam. 22:1. (1062)
17….David. (Priests murdered by Doeg.) 1st Sam. 22:19. (1062)
52….David} 109; 35; 140. (Persecution by Doeg) 1st Sam. 22:19. (1062)
64….David} 31. (Persecution by Saul.) 1st Sam. 23:12. (1061)
54….David. (Treachery of Ziphites.) 1st Sam. 23:23. (1061)
57….David} 58. (Refusal to kill Saul.) 1st Sam. 24:22. (1061)
63….David. (Wilderness of Engedi.) 1st Sam. 24:22. (1061)
141..David. (Driven out of Judea.) 1st Sam. 27:1. (1058)
139..David. (King of all Israel.) 1st Chron. 12:4. (1048)
68….David. (First removal of Ark.) 2nd Sam. 6:11. (1042)
132..David. (Second removal of Ark.) 1st Chron. 15:4. (1042)
105..David} 106; 96. (Ark taken from Obed-Edom’s.) 1st Chron. 16:43. (1042)
2……David} 45; 22; 16; 118; 110. (Nathan’s prophetic address.) 1 Chron.17:27. (1042)
60….David} 108. (Conquest of Edom by Joab.) 1st Kings xi. 20. 1040
20….David} 21. (War with Ammonites & Syrians.) 2nd Sam. 10:19. (1036)
51….David.. (Confession of adultery & murder.) 2nd Sam. 12:15. (1034)
32….David} 33; 103. (Pardon & thanksgiving.) 2nd Sam. 12:15. (1034)
3……David. (His flight from Absalom.) 2nd Sam. 15:29. (1023)
7……David. (Reproaches of Shimei.) 2nd Sam. 16:14. (1023)
42….David} 43; 55; 4; 5; 62; 143; 144; 70; 71. (By Jordan, from Absalom.) 2nd Sam.17:29. (1023)
18….David. (Conclusion of his wars.) 2nd Sam. 22:51. (1019)
30….David. (Dedication of Araunah’s threshing-floor.)1st Chron. 21:30. (1017)
91….David. (After his advice to Solomon.) 1st Chron. 28:10. (1015)
145..David. (Review of his past life.) 1st Chron. 28:10. (1015)
40….David} 41.61. 65. 69.78. (Dates & occasions unknown.) 1st Chron. 17:21. (1015)
6……David} 8; 19; 12; 23; 24; 28; 29; 38; 39; 86; 95; (After accession.) 1st Chron. 28:21. (1015)
101..David} 104; 120; 121; 122; 124; 131; 133. (After accession.) 1st Chron. 28:21. (1015)
72….David. (Coronation of Solomon.) 1st Chron. 29:19. (1015)
47….Solomon} 97-100. (Ark removed into Temple.) 2nd Chron. 7:10. (1004)
135..Solomon} 136. (Dedication of Solomon’s Temple.) 2nd Chron. 7:10. (1004)
82….Asaph & others} 115; 46. (Reign of Jehoshaphat.) 2nd Chron. 20:26. (896)
44….Hezekiah. (Blasphemous message of Rabshakeh.) 2nd Kings 19:7. (710)
73….Asaph} 75; 76. (Destruction of Sennacherib’s army.) 2nd Kings 19:19. (710)
79….Asaph} 74.83. 94. (Burning of Temple at Jerusalem.) Jer. 39:10. (588)
137..Asaph & Ethan & others} 130; 80; 77; 37; 67; (Babylonian Captivity.) Dan. 7:28. (541-538)
53….Asaph & Ethan & others} 49; 50; 10; 13-15; 25. (Babylonian Captivity.) Dan. 7:28. (541-538)
26….Asaph & Ethan & others} 27; 36; 89; 92-93; 123. (Babylonian Captivity.) Dan. 7:28. (541-538)
102..Daniel. (Near close of Captivity.) Dan. 9:27. (538)
126..Sons of Korah} 85. (Cyrus’s decree for restoring the Jews.) Ezra 1:4. (536)
107..Various} 87; 111-113. (Israel’s return from Captivity.) Ezra 3:7 (536)
114..Various} 116; 117; 125; 127. (Israel’s return from Captivity.) Ezra 3:7. (536)
128..Various} 134. (Israel’s return from Captivity.) Ezra 3:7 (536)
84….Sons of Korah} 66. (Foundation of second Temple.) Ezra 3:13. (535)
129..Ezra or Nehem. (Opposition of the Samaritans.) Ezra 4:24. (534)
138..Haggai or Zech.(Rebuilding of Temple.) Ezra 6:13. (519)
48….Various} 81; 146-150. (Dedication of second Temple.) Zech. 8:23. (519)
1……Ezra} 119. (Manual of devotion.) Neh.13:3. (444)
6: From: Book of Psalms, Introduction & Notes. Bk1,Psalms1-41. A F Kirkpatrick,DD. Cambridge Bible Commentary for Schools and Colleges 1901:
1. Psalter has from ancient times been divided into 5 Books: Book I (Genesis): Psalms 1-42; Book II (Exodus): Psalms 43-72; Book III (Leviticus): Psalms 73-89; Book IV (Numbers): Psalms 90-106; Book V (Deuteronomy): Psalms 107-150.
2. Titles Descriptive of Character of Poem:
Psalm: ‘Mizmor’, rendered ‘Psalm’, technical term found only in Titles of Psalter. It is prefixed to 57 Psalms, & with few exceptions is preceded or followed by the name of the author, generally that of David. Verb from which ‘mizmor’ is derived occurs frequently in Psalter but rarely elsewhere. It appears originally to have meant ‘to make melody’, like the Lat. ‘canere’, but came to be applied specially to instrumental music, as distinguished from vocal music. ‘Mizmor’ then means ‘a piece of music’, a song with instrumental accompaniment.
Song: ‘Shir’, rendered ‘song’, is the general term for a song or canticle. It occurs 30 times in Titles, generally preceded or followed by ‘mizmor’, & not unfrequently in Text of Psalms, & in other Books. It is applied to secular as well as sacred songs.
Maschil: is found as Title of 13 Psalms, 11 of which are in Books II & III. Meaning is obscure.
Michtam: occurs in the Title of 6 Psalms, preceded or followed by ‘of David’. It is probably, like ‘Maschil’, Musical Term, meaning of which cannot now be determined.
Shiggaion: occurs in Title of Psalm 7, & Prayer of Habakkuk is said to be ‘set to Shigionoth’. Word is derived from verb which means ‘to wander’.
Prayer: stands as the title of five Psalms. In Subscription to Psalm 72 preceding collection of Davidic Psalms is designated as ‘Prayers of David’. Hab. 3 is called Prayer of Habakkuk.
Praise: is Title of one Psalm only (145), though ‘Praises’ came eventually to be the title of the whole book.
3. ‘Titles connected with Musical Setting or Performance’:
To Chief Musician: R.V. For Chief Musician: perhaps rather Of Precentor: is prefixed to 55 Psalms, of which only 2 are anonymous, and most bear the name of David. 52 of these are in Books I-III, & 3 in Book V. It is found also in the Subscription to Habakkuk’s Prayer. Verb, of which the word is a participle, is used in Chronicles & Ezra in sense of ‘superintending’, and in 1st Chr.15:21 in the specific sense of ‘leading’ (R.V.) music. There can be little doubt that the word ‘m’naeach’ means ‘precentor’, or ‘conductor’ of Temple Choir, who trained Choir & led Music, & refers to use of Psalm in Temple Services. It seems to have been Term belonging to older Collection, which went out of use in later times. At any rate Translators of LXX did not understand its meaning.
Selah: This Term, though not belonging to the Titles, may conveniently be discussed here. Word is found 71 times in Psalter in 39 Psalms, 3 times in Habakkuk 3, & nowhere else in the O.T. In 16 Psalms it occurs once; in 15 twice; in 7 (and in Hab. 3) 3 times: in 1, 4 times. Of these Psalms 9 are in Book I: 17 in Book II: 11 in Book III; none in Book IV: 2 only in Book V. It is to be further noted that all these Psalms, with exception of anonymous 66 & 67, bear name of David or of Levitical singers (the sons of Korah, Asaph, Heman, Ethan); & all bear indications of being intended to be set to music. Majority of them (28 of the 39: cp. Hab. 3:19) have, ‘For Chief Musician’ in Title, frequently with further specification of the instruments or melody. Of the remaining 11, 8 are designated ‘mizmor’, ‘psalm,’ 2 ‘maschil’, & 1 ‘shiggaion’. It may fairly be inferred from these facts that Selah is a technical term of great antiquity, having reference to musical accompaniment. Its precise meaning, however, is quite uncertain. Explanation given in Oxford Hebrew Lexicon, p. 699, also deserves consideration.
Higgaion: occurs in 9. 16 along with Selah as Musical Direction, & in Text of 92:3, ‘with ‘higgaion’ upon harp.’ It denotes apparently Instrumental Interlude of some kind. Word has the sense of ‘meditation’ in 19:14, & according to usage of cognate verb, which denotes growling of lion, moaning of dove, or of a mourner, it should mean ‘murmuring’, ‘meditative music’, rather than ‘resounding music’.
Two Terms refer to ‘musical instruments’:
On Neginoth: rather, with music of stringed instruments: occurs 6 times in Psalter: and in Hab. 3:19 we find ‘on my stringed instruments’. Upon Neginah: rather, with music of stringed instrument: may be variation of expression, or may indicate melody to which Psalm was to be sung. Word is derived from verb meaning ‘to play on stringed instruments’. It occurs elsewhere in the sense of ‘music’ or ‘song’. The title no doubt indicates that the Psalm was to be accompanied by stringed instruments, perhaps by these only.
Upon Nehiloth: R.V. with Nehiloth, or (marg.) wind instruments: in Ps. 5 only. Possibly flutes of some kind are meant. For use of these in sacred music see Is. 30:29 (a pipe); & on their use in services of the Second Temple see Edersheim, ‘Temple and its Services’, p. 55. It is not however the usual word for ‘flute’.
Two terms probably indicate Character or Pitch of Music.
Upon Alamoth: R.V. set to A.: is found in Title of Ps. 46, & may possibly once have stood in Title of Ps. 9, & either as Subscription to Ps. 48, or in Title of Ps. 49. Term appears to mean ‘in manner
of maidens’, or, ‘for maidens’ voices: ‘soprano’.
Upon Sheminith2: R.V. set to S., i.e. as marg., ‘eighth’: probably denotes that setting was to be an octave lower, or, on lower octave: ‘tenor’ or ‘bass’. Both terms occur together in 1 Chr.15:19-21. Heman, Asaph, & Jeduthun were appointed “with cymbals of brass to sound aloud”: 8 other Levites, “with psalteries set to Alamoth ” ; & 6 “with harps set to Sheminith, to lead.”
Upon Gittith: R.V. set to Gittith: occurs in Titles of Pss. 8, 81, 84. In form ‘Gittith’ is fem. adj. derived from ‘Gath’. Rendering of LXX, Symm., & Jer. ‘For’ or ‘over the winepresses’ may however preserve true reading, indicating that these Psalms were sung at Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering at the end of the vintage. Ps. 84 appears to have been specially intended for that festival; & Ps. 84 is virtually ‘Psalm of going up,’ for the use of pilgrims to three Great Feasts.
To Jeduthun: R.V. after the manner of J. (62, 72): probably means that the Psalm was set to some ‘melody’ composed by or called after David’s chief musician (1st Chr. 16:41). In the title of Ps. 39 Jeduthun appears to be named as the chief musician intended.
Series of obscure titles probably indicate ‘melody’ to which the Psalm was to be sung by a reference to the opening words of some well-known song. Such are the titles of Ps. 9: set to Muth-labben (R.V.), meaning possibly ‘Die [Death] for Son’. Ps. 22: set to Ayyeleth hash-shachar, i.e. ‘hind of morning. Pss. 45, 69: set to Shoshannim (R.V.), i.e. Lilies. Ps. 60: set to Shushan Eduth (R.V.), i.e. The lily of testimony. Ps. 80: set to Shoshannim Eduth (R.V.), i.e. Lilies, testimony. All these titles probably denote the melody to which Psalm was to be sung, not subject of the Psalm or a lily-shaped instrument. Ps. 56: set to Yonath elem rechokim, i.e. ‘Silent Dove of them that are afar off’: or, as read with different vowels, ‘Dove of the distant Terebinths’. Four Psalms (57-59, 75) have Title, [set to] Al-tashcheth, i.e. ‘Destroy not’, possibly the vintage song to which there is allusion in Is. 65:8. Titles of Ps. 53: set to Mahalath: & 88: set to Mahalath Leannoth: are extremely obscure, but probably belong to this class…..
……few titles refer to the liturgical use of the Psalm. In the time of the Second Temple, each day of the week had its special Psalm, which was sung at the offering of the morning sacrifice…..”A Psalm, Song for Sabbath Day.”….to Bring to Remembrance, or, as R.V. marg., to Make Memorial, may indicate that they were sung at Offering of Incense: & that of Ps. 100, Psalm of Thanksgiving (R.V.), marg. for Thank-offering, may mark that it was sung when Thank-offerings (56:12) were offered…. Song at Dedication of House,….To teach is part of Title prefixed to Ps. 60…. Song of Degrees, rather, Song of Ascents (R.V.), or, for Goings up, is Title prefixed to 15 Psalms (120-134), which appear to have formed separate Collection, bearing Title ‘Songs of the Goings up’ (or, ‘of Going up’), which was afterwards transferred to each separate Psalm……Psalms bears names of: Moses, David, Solomon, Asaph, Korah’s sons, Heman…..
What then is their value? It seems probable that, in many cases at least, they indicate the source from which the Psalms were derived rather than the opinion of the collector as to their authorship….
While then the titles of the Psalms cannot be supposed to give certain information as to their authors, and many of the Psalms bearing the name of David cannot have been written by him, we are not justified in rejecting the titles as mere arbitrary conjectures. They supply information concerning the earlier stages of the growth of the Psalter ; and it is not unreasonable to inquire whether a Psalm taken from a collection which bore David’s name may not have been actually composed by him. In criticising the title of a Psalm and endeavouring to fix its date by the light of its contents much caution is necessary….
(Chapter 8: Messianic Hope):
“Poetry was the handmaid of Prophecy in preparing the way for the coming of Christ. Prophetic ideas are taken up, developed, pressed to their full consequences, with the boldness and enthusiasm of inspired imagination. The constant use of the Psalms for devotion and worship familiarised the people with them. Expectation was aroused and kept alive. Hope became part of the national life. Even Psalms, which were not felt beforehand to speak of Him Who was to come, contributed to mould the temper of mind which was prepared to receive Him when He came in form and fashion far other than that which popular hopes had anticipated ; and they were recognised in the event as pointing forward to Him. Cp. Lk. 1, 2.
This work of preparation went forward along several distinct lines, some of which are seen to converge or meet even in the O.T., while others were only harmonised by the fulfilment. Thus (1) some Psalms pointed forward to the Messiah as Son of God and King and Priest : others (2) prepared the way for the suffering Redeemer: others (3) only find their full meaning in the perfect Son of Man: others (4) foretell the Advent of Jehovah Himself to judge and redeem.
All these different lines of thought combined to prepare the way for Christ; but it must be remembered that the preparation was in great measure silent and unconscious. It is difficult for us who read the O.T. in the light of its fulfilment to realise how dim and vague and incomplete the Messianic Hope must have been until the Coming of Christ revealed the divine purpose, and enabled men to recognise how through long ages God had been preparing for its consummation.
(1) Royal Messiah….(2) Suffering Messiah…..(3) Son of Man….(4) Coming of God….(5) Nations….
(Chapter 10: Psalter in Christian Church):
If a history of the use of the Psalter could be written, it would be a history of the spiritual life of the Church. From the earliest times the Psalter has been the Church’s manual of Prayer and Praise in its public worship, the treasury of devotion for its individual members in their private communing with God. “No single Book of Scripture, not even of the New Testament, has, perhaps, ever taken such hold on the heart of Christendom. None, if we may dare judge, unless it be the Gospels, has had so large an influence in moulding the affections, sustaining the hopes, purifying the faith of believers.
With its words, rather than with their own, they have come before God. In these they have uttered their desires, their fears, their confessions, their aspirations, their sorrows, their joys, their thanksgivings. By these their devotion has been kindled and their hearts comforted. The Psalter has been, in the truest sense, the Prayer Book both of Jews and Christians.”
“What is the history of the Church,” writes Dean Stanley, “but a long commentary on the sacred records of its first beginnings?… The actual effect, the manifold applications, in history, of the words of Scripture, give them a new instruction, and afford a new proof of their endless vigour and vitality….
The Psalter alone, by its manifold applications and uses in after times, is a vast palimpsest, written over and over again, illuminated, illustrated, by every conceivable incident and emotion of men and nations ; battles, wanderings, dangers, escapes, deathbeds, obsequies, of many ages and countries, rise, or may rise, to our view as we read it.”
It would be impossible in a few pages to trace the history of the use of the Psalter even in the barest outline. All that can be attempted here is to give some few indications of the vast influence which the Psalter has exercised, and of its paramount importance in the history of Christian worship and devotion.
There is no evidence that the entire Psalter was used in the public worship of the Jewish Church, though many Psalms were sung or chanted in the services of the Temple and the Synagogue. But the number of the quotations from the Psalter in the New Testament, and the multitude of indirect allusions to its thoughts and language, prove how familiarly it was known in the apostolic age.
It was upon the Psalms that our Lord’s spiritual life was nourished. The sting of the Tempter’s quotation of Ps. 91 lay in the fact that its words were a precious reality to Him. He sang the ‘Hallel’ (Pss. 113-118) with His disciples at the Last Supper (Matt. 26:30). A Psalm was the subject of His meditation as He hung upon the Cross, and with the words of a Psalm He gave up His life. In the Psalms He and His disciples found the foreshadowing of His own experience (John 13:18; 2:17), and He taught His disciples to understand how they prepared the way for His coming (Luke 24:44). The first Christian hymns —the Magnificat, Benedictus, and Nunc Dimittis —are composed after the model of Psalms and contain numerous echoes of them. Doubtless the hymns which Paul and Silas sang in the prison at Philippi (Acts 16:25) were Psalms. St James commends the singing of Psalms as the most fitting expression of joyfulness (5:13); St Paul enjoins it as the natural outlet for spiritual enthusiasm and a means of mutual edification (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). It was a common practice at the meetings of the Corinthian Church (1 Cor. 14:26).
As we pass on into later ages we find that the singing of Psalms was not only a constant element of common worship, but a favourite occupation of Christians in their homes and at their work. It was a tradition in the Church of Antioch that the antiphonal singing of Psalms was introduced by Ignatius, the first bishop (c. A.D. 100), who saw a vision of angels praising the Trinity in antiphonal hymns, and delivered the method of singing which he had seen in his vision to the Church at Antioch, whence it spread to all the Churches. The hymns from Holy Scripture which Tertullian in the second century tells us were sung at the agapae or love-feasts were doubtless Psalms. St Jerome, writing from Bethlehem to Marcella, and describing the charms of the Holy Land, tells her that the singing of Psalms was universal. “Wherever you turn the labourer at the plough sings Alleluia: the toiling reaper beguiles his work with Psalms: the vine-dresser as he prunes the vine with his curved pruning-hook sings something of David’s. These are the songs of this province: these, to use the common phrase, are its love ditties: these the shepherd whistles; these are the labourer’s implements.”
St Chrysostom (347-407) thus describes the universality of the use of the Psalms in his day. “If we keep vigil in the Church, David comes first, last, and midst. If early in the morning we seek for the melody of hymns, first, last, and midst is David again. If we are occupied with the funeral solemnities of the departed, if virgins sit at home and spin, David is first, last, and midst. O marvellous wonder! Many who have made but little progress in literature, many who have scarcely mastered its first principles, have the Psalter by heart. Nor is it in cities and churches alone that at all times, through every age, David is illustrious; in the midst of the forum, in the wilderness, and uninhabitable land, he excites the praises of God. In monasteries, amongst those holy choirs of angelic armies, David is first, midst, and last. In the convents of virgins, where are the bands of them that imitate Mary; in the deserts, where are men crucified to this world, and having their conversation with God, first, midst, and last is he. All other men are at night overpowered by natural sleep: David alone is active; and congregating the servants of God into seraphic bands, turns earth into heaven, and converts men into angels.”
When men and women, forsaking their ordinary callings, dedicated their lives to devotion and prayer in monasteries and communities, the singing of Psalms formed a large part of their religious exercises. In course of time the recitation of the Psalter became a clerical obligation as well. Various schemes or uses were drawn up. Fixed Psalms were generally assigned to certain of the canonical hours, while at the other services the remainder of the Psalms were recited ‘in course.’ Thus according to the Roman or Gregorian scheme fixed Psalms were assigned for daily use at Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, Nones, and Compline; while at Mattins Pss. 1-109, and at Vespers Pss. 110-150 were taken once a week ‘in course,’ exclusive of the Psalms assigned to the other services. The Benedictine or Monastic scheme was similar, also providing for the recitation once a week of those Psalms which were not recited daily. The Ambrosian scheme, deriving its origin from St Ambrose, and still in use in the province of Milan, only provides for the recitation of the Psalter once a fortnight. In the Eastern Church the Psalter is divided into twenty ‘cathismata’, each of which is subdivided into three ‘staseis’. The whole Psalter is recited once a week ordinarily, and twice a week in Lent, but the details of the arrangement vary according to the time of year.
In this way a portion of the Psalms nearly equal in amount to twice the whole Psalter was recited every week. But many instances are quoted of holy men who recited it much more frequently. It is said that St Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, in the fifth century, repeated it daily; St Maurus, the disciple of
St Benedict, and Alcuin, the famous instructor of Charles the Great, did the same. St Kentigern, bishop of Glasgow, in the sixth century, went through it every night. Bede relates how Ecgbert, a young student of noble birth at an Irish monastery, when attacked by the plague, vowed that if he recovered he would recite the whole Psalter daily in addition to the ordinary canonical hours, as a memorial of praise to God.
A knowledge of the Psalter by heart was required of candidates for ordination. St Gennadius, Patriarch of Constantinople (A.D. 458—471), refused to ordain as priest anyone who had not been diligent in reciting the Psalter. St Gregory the Great inquired if Rusticus, who had been elected Bishop of Ancona, knew the Psalter by heart, and refused to allow John the Presbyter to be consecrated as metropolitan of Ravenna on account of his ignorance of the Psalter. The second Canon of the second Council of Nicaea (A.D. 587) laid it down that no one was to be consecrated bishop unless he knew the Psalter thoroughly, and the eighth Council of Toledo (A.D. 653) ordered that “no one henceforth shall be promoted to any ecclesiastical dignity who does not perfectly know the whole Psalter” (Can. 8).
Various methods of singing the Psalms were in use in ancient times. (1) Sometimes the Psalm was sung throughout by the choir or congregation. This was called ‘cantus directaneus’, and was the simplest form of singing with little more than monotone. (2) Sometimes the Psalm was sung by a single voice, usually in a very elaborate fashion. This was called ‘cantus tractus’. (3) Sometimes the Psalm was sung in ‘cantus responsorius’, the precentor and the choir or the congregation taking their parts alternately. (4) Sometimes the Psalm was sung in ‘cantus antiphonalis’, the two sides of the choir taking it up alternately. The following passage of St Chrysostom (‘Hom’. 5) is of interest as shewing the congregational character of the singing in his day, and emphasising its significance. “When the Psalm began, it mingled all the different voices together, and one harmonious song was raised. Young and old, rich and poor, women and men, slaves and freemen, all raised the same melody….But it not only united us who were present; it joined the dead with the living. For the blessed Prophet was singing with us…. The Prophet speaks and we all answer, we all respond. You can see no distinction of slave or free, rich or poor, ruler or subject. The inequalities of life are banished; all are united in one choir, all have equal right of speech, and earth imitates Heaven. So great is the nobility of the Church.”
The voices of holy men in every age unite in bearing a concordant testimony to the power and preciousness of the Psalms. A few examples only can be given here.
St Athanasius, in his Epistle to Marcellinus on the Interpretation of the Psalms, the whole of which well deserves study, writes thus:
“They seem to me to be a kind of mirror for everyone who sings them, in which he may observe the motions of the soul, and as he observes them give utterance to them in words. He who hears them read, takes them as if they were spoken specially for him. Stricken in his conscience he repents, or hearing of hope in God, and of the grace which is given to those who believe, he rejoices as if this grace were promised to him in particular, and begins to thank God.. ..He who genuinely studies all that is written in this book of Divine inspiration may gather, as out of a paradise, that which is serviceable for his own need. Methinks that in the words of this book you may find an accurate survey and delineation of the whole life of man, the dispositions of the soul, and the movements of the mind. If a man has need of penitence and confession, if affliction or temptation has overtaken him, if he has been persecuted or has been delivered from the plots of his enemies, if he is in sorrow or trouble, or if he wishes to praise and give thanks and bless the Lord, he finds instruction in the Psalms…. If thou meditate on these things and study the Psalms, thou shalt be able, under the guidance of the Spirit, to grasp their meaning; and thou shalt emulate the life of the divinely inspired men who uttered these words.”
From Alexandria let us pass to Cappadocia, and listen to the eloquent words of St Basil, in the introduction to his Homily on the First Psalm:
“All Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable, for it was written by the Spirit to the end that as it were in a general hospital for souls, we human beings might each select the medicine for his own disease…. The prophets provide one kind of instruction, the historians another, the law yet another, and the exhortations of the Proverbs yet another. But the Book of Psalms contains that which is profitable in all of them. It prophesies of the future; it recalls history; it legislates for life; it suggests rules of action; in a word, it is a common storehouse of good doctrines, providing exactly what is expedient for everyone….A Psalm is the calm of souls, the arbiter of peace: it stills the stormy waves of thought. It softens the angry spirit, and sobers the intemperate. A Psalm cements friendship: it unites those who are at variance; it reconciles those who are at enmity. For who can regard as an enemy the man with whom he has joined in lifting up one voice to God? Psalmody therefore provides the greatest of all good things, even love, for it has invented concerted singing as a bond of unity, and fits the people together in the concord of one choir. A Psalm puts demons to flight: it summons the angels to our aid; it is a weapon in the midst of alarms by night, a rest from the toils of day; it is a safeguard for babes, a decoration for adults, a comfort for the aged, a most befitting ornament for women. It makes deserts populous and market places sane. It is an initiation to novices, growth to those who are advancing, confirmation to those who are being perfected. It is the voice of the Church; it gladdens festivals, it creates godly sorrow. For a Psalm calls forth tears even from a stony heart. A Psalm is the employment of angels, heavenly converse, spiritual incense….What mayest thou not learn thence? The heroism of courage; the integrity of justice; the gravity of temperance; the perfection of prudence; the manner of repentance; the measure of patience; in a word every good thing thou canst mention. Therein is a complete theology; the prediction of the advent of Christ in the flesh, the threatening of judgement, the hope of resurrection, the fear of chastisement, promises of glory, revelations of mysteries: all, as in some great public storehouse, are treasured up in the Book of Psalms.”
(Compare this with Richard Hooker’s well known words on the Psalms: “The choice and flower of all things profitable in other looks the Psalms do both more briefly contain, and more movingly also express, by reason of that poetical form wherewith they are written . . . What is there necessary for man to know which the Psalms are not able to teach? They are to beginners an easy and familiar introduction, a mighty augmentation of all virtue and knowledge in such as are entered before, a strong confirmation to the most perfect among others. Heroical magnanimity, exquisite justice, grave moderation, exact wisdom, repentance unfeigned, unwearied patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of Providence over this world, and the promised joys of that world which is to come, all good necessarily to be either known or done or had, this one celestial fountain yieldeth. Let there be any grief or disease incident into the soul of man, any wound or sickness named, for which there is not in this treasure-house a present comfortable remedy at all times ready to be found.)
In a well-known passage of his ‘Confessions’ (9. 4), St Augustine describes the comfort which he derived from the Psalms in the interval before his baptism.
“In what accents I addressed Thee, my God, when I read the Psalms of David, those faithful songs, the language of devotion which banishes the spirit of pride, while I was still a novice in true love of Thee, and as a catechumen rested in that country house along with Alypius, who was also a catechumen, with my mother at our side, in the dress of a woman but with the faith of a man, with the calmness of age, the affection of a mother, the piety of a Christian. How I addressed Thee in those Psalms! how my love for Thee was kindled by them! how I burned to recite them, were it possible, throughout the world, as an antidote to the pride of humanity. Yet they are sung throughout the world, and there is none that hideth himself from Thy heat. How grieved and indignant was I with the Manichaeans! and yet again I pitied them for their ignorance of those sacraments, those medicines, and their mad rejection of the antidote which might have cured them of their madness. Would that they could have been somewhere near me without my knowledge and watched my face and heard my voice when I read the Fourth Psalm in that time of leisure, and have known the effect of that Psalm upon me. Would that they could have heard what I uttered between the words of the Psalm, without my knowing that they heard… how I spoke with myself and to myself before Thee out of the inmost feelings of my soul. I trembled for fear, and then I became fervent with hope and rejoicing in Thy mercy, O Father. And all these feelings issued forth by my eyes and voice…”
The interpretation of the Psalm and the application of it to his own circumstances which follow are fanciful and far-fetched, but they shew how his heart glowed with fervour as he read, and how he found the Psalms “sweetened with heavenly honey, and luminous with the light of God.”
Luther and Calvin represent the revival of the study of the Bible in the age of the Reformation.
Luther speaks thus of the Psalter, which he found inexpressibly precious in the trials and conflicts of his stormy life:
“You may rightly call the Psalter a Bible in miniature, in which all things which are set forth more at length in the rest of the Scriptures are collected into a beautiful manual of wonderful and attractive brevity. From the Psalms you may learn not the works of the saints only, but the words, the utterances, the groans, the colloquies, which they used in the presence of God, in temptation and in consolation; so that though they are dead, in the Psalms they live and speak. The Psalms exhibit the mind of the saints; they express the hidden treasure of their hearts, the working of their thoughts, and their most secret feelings.”
“This book,” says Calvin, in the Epistle to his Readers prefixed to his commentary, ” I am wont to call an anatomy of all the parts of the soul; for no one will find in himself a single feeling of which the image is not reflected in this mirror. Here the Holy Spirit has represented to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, anxieties, in short, all the stormy emotions, by which human minds are wont to be agitated. The rest of Scripture contains the commands which God gave His servants to be delivered to us. Here the prophets themselves, in their converse with God, because they lay bare all their inmost feelings, invite or compel every one of us to examine himself, that none of all the infirmities to which we are subject may remain hidden. It is a rare and singular advantage when every secret recess is laid open, and the heart purged from the foul plague of hypocrisy and brought out to light.”
One quotation from a modern writer must suffice. With profound insight and unrivalled delicacy of touch the late Dean Church thus describes the Psalms and their work:
“In the Psalms we see the soul in the secret of its workings, in the variety and play of its many-sided and subtly compounded nature —loving, hoping, fearing, despairing, exulting, repenting, aspiring —the soul, conscious of the greatness and sweetness of its relations to Almighty God, and penetrated by them to the very quick; longing, thirsting, gasping, after the glimpses that visit it, of His goodness and beauty —awestruck before the unsearchableness of His judgement, silent before the certainty of His righteousness —opening, like a flower to the sun, in the presence of His light, of the immensity of His lovingkindness”……It has been the work of the Book of Psalms to teach devotion, worship, self-knowledge. “They bring before us in all its fulness and richness the devotional element of the religious character. They are the first great teachers and patterns of prayer, and they shew this side of the religious character….in varied and finished detail, in all its compass and living and spontaneous force….The tongue is loosed to give utterance out of the abundance of the heart, to every mood, every contrasted feeling of the changeful human mind. From all the hidden depths, from all the strange and secret consciousnesses of the awakened and enlightened soul, spring up unexpected and vivid words, in which generation after generation has found the counterpart of its own convictions and hopes and joys, its own fears and distresses and perplexities and doubts, its own confidence and its own sorrow, its own brightest and darkest hours. This immense variety of mood and subject and occasion, with which the reverence and hope of worship are always combined, is a further point in the work of the Book of Psalms. It is a vast step in the revealing of man to man. We know how much we owe of the knowledge of ourselves to the great dramatists, to the great lyrical poets, to the great novelists. Such, in the unfolding to man of all that is really and most deeply involved in the religious character, is the place of the Book of Psalms.”
Luther, as we have seen, calls the Psalms “a Bible in miniature”; and the words which Coleridge uses of the whole Bible may most truly be applied to the Psalms. In them we find copious sources of truth, and power, and purifying impulses; words for our inmost thoughts, songs for our joy, utterances for our hidden griefs, pleadings for our shame and our feebleness. And whatever ‘finds’ us bears witness for itself that it has proceeded from a Holy Spirit, even from the same Spirit, ‘which in all ages entering into holy souls maketh them friends of God and prophets’.
Kirkpatrick’s on Psalms 119:
This great “Psalm of the Law” is based upon the prophetic (Ezra 9:11) presentation of the Law in the Book of Deuteronomy, with the spirit and language of which its author’s mind was saturated. It represents the religious ideas of Deuteronomy developed in the communion of a devout soul with God. It is the fruit of that diligent study of the Law which is enjoined in Deut. 6:1-9, a beginning of the fulfilment of the promise of an inward and spiritual knowledge of it which is proclaimed by Jeremiah (31:33 ff.). The Psalmist is one whose earnest desire and stedfast purpose it is to make God’s law the governing principle of his conduct, to surrender all self-willed thoughts and aims, to subordinate his whole life to the supremely perfect Will of God, with unquestioning faith in His all-embracing Providence and unfailing love.
The ‘Law of God,’ which the Psalmist describes in its manifold aspects as His law, word, promise, commandments, statutes, judgements, precepts, testimonies, ways, is not the law in the narrower sense of the Mosaic legislation or the Pentateuch. The Hebrew word ‘torah’ has a wider range of meaning, and here, as in Pss. 1 and 19, it must be understood to mean all Divine revelation as the guide of life. This it is which kindles the Psalmist’s enthusiasm and demands his allegiance. It is no rigid code of commands and prohibitions, but a body of teaching, the full meaning of which can only be realised gradually and by the help of Divine instruction. It has been said that the Psalmist’s devotion to the Law contains the germ of Pharisaic legalism, but it may be questioned whether the observation is just. Nowhere does the Psalmist allow law to interfere between him and God; never is a formal observance of external rules substituted for the inward devotion of the heart. If sometimes his professions of obedience seem to savour of self-righteousness, his prayers for grace fully recognise that strength to obey must come from God. The Psalm is an acknowledgement of the blessing of a revelation, of the strength which the law gives to Israel in the midst of surrounding heathenism, and to the faithful Israelite in the presence of a prevailing laxity of faith and morals. In an age when the voice of prophecy was rarely heard, or perhaps was altogether silent, it begins to draw strength from meditation on the revelation made to past generations. It points no doubt towards the age of the Scribes, but it represents the best spirit of that age (Cp. Oehler’s O. T. Theology, §§ 84, 201). It is remarkable that a Psalm, emanating from the period in which the ritual law was codified and the Temple became the centre of Israel’s religion, should contain no reference whatever to ceremonial or sacrifice. Doubtless the Psalmist would have included the ceremonial law as a part of God’s commandments, but evidently he does not regard it as the principal part of them. The whole Psalm is animated by a profound inwardness and spirituality, as far removed as possible from the superstitious literalism of a later age. It shews no tendency to substitute mechanical observance of rules for the living application of principles. Such obedience, if it falls short of the full liberty of the Gospel, is at least a step towards it.
The close personal relation of the Psalmist to God is one of the most striking features of the Psalms in general, and in few Psalms is it more marked than in this. In every verse but one (115) or at most two (but on 128 see note) after the first three introductory verses God is addressed; in all but some fourteen verses the Psalmist addresses God in the first person [in prayer], or, which is the same thing, as His servant.
The Psalmist has arranged his meditations in an elaborate alphabetical form, adopted partly perhaps as an aid to memory. The Psalm consists of 22 stanzas, according to the number of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the 8 verses in a stanza begins with the same letter, and the letters are taken in their regular order. The arrangement of Lamentations 3 presents the nearest parallel, but there the stanzas consist of three verses only. This artificiality of structure seems to have hindered many commentators from appreciating the variety of the contents of the Psalm, and many have denied that any real connexion or progress of thought is to be found in it. In a sense this may be true: the verses are not so much linked together by logical connexion as united by their direction to a common centre, but each stanza has, as a rule, some leading thought, which gives it a distinctive character. Those who by long devotional use have become intimately familiar with the Psalm have found a significant variety in the apparent monotony of its language. For them it is ‘the Psalm of the Saints’; ‘the Alphabet of Divine Love’; ‘the Christian’s golden ABC of the praise, love, power and use of the Word of God.’ St Augustine deferred the exposition of it until he had finished the rest of the Psalter, and finally approached it with reluctance & diffidence: “non tarn propter eius notissitnam longitudinem quam propter eius profunditatem paucis cognoscibilem …quanto enim videtur apertior, tanto mini profundior videri solet” (Prooemium in Ps. 118 ) [Preface: I have expounded all the rest of the Psalms, which we know the Book of the Psalms containeth, which by the custom of the Church is styled the Psalter, partly by preaching among the people, partly by dictations, as well as I, by the Lord’s help, was able: but I put off the 118th [119th] Psalm, as well on account of its well-known length, as on account of its depth being fathomable by few. And when my brethren deeply regretted that the exposition of this Psalm alone, as far as pertaineth to the Psalms of the same volume, was wanting to my works, and strongly pressed me to pay this debt, I yielded not to them, though they long entreated and solicited me; because as often as I began to reflect upon it, it always exceeded the utmost stretch of my powers. For in proportion as it seemeth more open, so much the more deep doth it appear to me; so that I cannot shew how deep it is. For in others, which are understood with difficulty, although the sense lie hid in obscurity, yet the obscurity itself appeareth; but in this, not even this is the case; since it is superficially such, that it seemeth not to need an expositor, but only a reader and listener. And now that at length I approach its interpretation, I am utterly ignorant what I can achieve in it: nevertheless, I hope that God will aid me with His Presence, that I may effect something. For thus He hath done in all those which, though at first they seemed to me difficult, and almost impracticable, I have succeeded in adequately expounding. But I decided to do this by means of sermons, which might be delivered among the people, such as the Greeks term (homilias, homily). For this is, I think, more equitable, that the assemblies of the Church be not defrauded of the comprehension of this Psalm, by the singing of which, as much as by that of others, they are wont to be charmed. But let the preface end here: we must now speak of the Psalm itself, to which we have thought it right to make this Preface.]. The 119th Psalm, writes Dr Liddon, represents in the highest degree ” the paradox of seeming simplicity overlying fathomless depth. It conveys at first an impression of tautology… it seems to reiterate with little attempt at variety the same aspirations, assurances, prayers, resolutions”; but a close and sympathetic study shews it to be “infinitely varied in its expressions, yet incessantly one in its direction; its variations are so delicate as to be almost imperceptible, its unity so emphatic as to be inexorably stamped upon its every line” (‘The Priest in his Inner Life’, p. 46).
“The 119th Psalm,” says Mr Ruskin, quoted by Archbp. Alexander, Witness of the Psalms, p. 302, “has become of all the most precious to me in its overflowing and glorious passion of love for the law of God.”
Who the author of the Psalm was it is idle to speculate, but we may gather from it some idea of the circumstances among which he lived. He was sorely tried, but in his trials he recognised God’s loving discipline for his good (‘vv’. 50, 67, 71, 75, 107, 153). He had to suffer contempt (22, 39, 42) and even ill-treatment (121, 134) for his adherence to the law. The authorities of the community despised and persecuted him (23, 161); men of position and power, whom he designates as ‘the proud’ or ‘the wicked,’ mocked him, calumniated him, endeavoured to oppress and injure him (51, 61, 69, 78, 84, 85, 86, 95, 122, 150, 157). He was even in danger of his life (87, 109). His persecutors were not heathen, but faithless Israelites, for he describes them as forsaking God’s law (53), wandering from His commandments (21), forgetting His words (139). They were selfish, self-satisfied men of the world, incapable of appreciating true religion (70). Their indifference to the law sometimes aroused his burning indignation (53); sometimes excited his profound sorrow (136). He was confronted by laxity if not actual apostasy (113, 158, 126): evil example might have tempted him to disown his faith and cast in his lot with evil-doers (29, 37, 115), but he has successfully resisted the temptation, for he knows God’s estimate of their character (118, 119), and their certain destiny (155). Under these circumstances, however, it is no easy task for him to maintain his constancy. Repeatedly and earnestly he prays for fuller knowledge of the law and for strength to keep it, for relief from persecution, for protection and preservation.
We can thus form a tolerable idea of the circumstances of the Psalmist, or of the class which he represents, for it is probable that he speaks on behalf of others as well as himself, and interweaves their experiences with his own. This representative character of the Psalm explains some phrases which seem to go beyond individual experience, though it is clear on the whole that an individual and not the community is the speaker. At what time he lived it is impossible to say precisely. That it was in the post-exilic period is certain from the tone and language of the Psalm, but in what part of it is doubtful. The beginning at any rate of the conditions described above is to be found in the evils which Ezra and Nehemiah endeavoured to remedy, and against which Malachi protested. (See e.g. Neh. 5, 6, 13; Mal. 3:13-15.) There are not a few points of contact in thought and language between their writings and the Psalm. It may have been written about the middle of the fifth century B.C., possibly not till considerably later, but certainly not so late as the Maccabean age. There are no traces of the struggles of the time when the possession of a copy of the law and the observance of the characteristic rites of Judaism were punishable with death.
Delitzsch infers from ‘vv’. pff., 99, 100, 141, that the Psalmist was a young man; Ewald from ‘vv’. 84-87 that he was advanced in years. Neither inference seems to be justified. More probably he was a man of mature years, who had learned much by experience, but felt that he had still much more to learn.
Hitzig conjectures that he was a prisoner who beguiled the tedium of his imprisonment by the composition of the Psalm, and Delitzsch is inclined to adopt the suggestion. But there is no sufficient ground for such a hypothesis.
It is not likely that the Psalm was deliberately composed “as a ‘vade mecum’ for Israelite young men.” Doubtless it was well adapted for a compendium of instruction, but it attests itself to be the utterance of heartfelt devotion. Nor again is it a ‘national’ Psalm, in the sense that the Psalmist merges his own personality in that of the community and speaks in its name. Doubtless he speaks for others as well as himself; it is of the essence of inspired poetry to be representative and to possess a catholicity of thought; and often he appropriates the national experience, for to the Israelite membership in the covenant nation was a profound reality; but the Psalm breathes throughout the spirit of the most intense personal conviction, of the most intimate but deeply reverent communion with God.
It will be most convenient to consider once for all the various words for ‘the Law’ which recur so frequently in this Psalm (According to the Massoretic note on ‘v’. 122 one of the ‘ten’ expressions, —pointing to the ‘ten words’ of the Decalogue, —’saying,’ ‘word,’ ‘testimony,’ ‘way,’ ‘judgement,’ ‘precept,’ ‘commandment,’ ‘law,’ ‘statute,’ ‘faithfulness’ (according to another reading ‘righteousness’) occurs in every verse except ‘v’. 122 (to which ‘v’. 132 should be added). ‘Faithfulness’ however is an attribute of the law, not a synonym for it: and the word judgements’ does not always mean ‘ordinances’), and to note some of its most characteristic phrases.
1. ‘Torah’, ‘law,’ LXX (nomos) occurs 25 times. Cp. Deut. 4:8 &c. It has however a much wider range of meaning than ‘law.’ It denotes (a) ‘direction’ or ‘instruction’, whether human (Prov. 1:8) or Divine: (b) ‘a body of teaching’: (c) more definitely, ‘a law’, or (d) ‘a code of laws’, whether the Deuteronomic code or the Levitical legislation, ‘the law of Moses’: and so finally (e) the Pentateuch. Here, as in Pss. 1 and 19, it must be taken in its widest sense, as synonymous with the ‘word’ of Jehovah (Is. 1:10; 2:3), to include all Divine revelation as the guide of life, prophetic exhortation as well as priestly direction, the sum of an Israelite’s duty. (Cp. the use of ‘the law’ to denote the whole O.T. in John 10:34.)
2. ‘Dabar’, ‘word,’ LXX (logos) (20 times), in plur. ‘words’ (3 times), is the most general term for God’s communication of His Will to man, especially through prophets. It will be remembered that the “Ten Commandments” are literally the “Ten Words” (Deut. 4:13). Cp. Deut. 4:2,10; &c.
3. ‘’Imrdh’, ‘saying,’ or collectively ‘sayings,’ LXX (logion) (i9 times), is a poetical synonym for ‘dabar’, rare in prose, but found in Is. 5:24 in parallelism with ‘torah’. Cp. Deut. 23:9.
4. ‘Mitsvah’, ‘commandment,’ LXX (entolë) (21 times in plural, once in singular collectively), denotes a definite command imposed by authority. It is often coupled with the two following words in Deut. (e.g. 6:1).
5. ‘Chuqqim’, 21 times, once chuqqoth, ‘statutes,’ LXX (dikaiömata), lit. something engraved or inscribed, so what is prescribed or enacted. Frequently in Deut. (4:I &c.).
6. ‘Mishpatim’, ‘judgements,’ or ‘ordinances,’ LXX (krimata) (19 times in plur., 4 times in sing.), has some variety of meaning. The idea in the word is “that of a. judicial decision, made authoritatively
once, and constituting a rule, a precedent, applicable to other similar cases in the future” (Driver on Deut. 4:1); but in several passages of the Psalm it means the judicial acts of Jehovah, executing judgement on the wicked, and revealing or vindicating His law. Common in Deut. (4:1 &c.).
7. ‘Piqqudim’, (dikaiömata) (21 times), ‘precepts,’ ‘injunctions,’ LXX (entolai), a poetical word found only in the Psalter (19:8; 103:18; 111:7).
8. ‘‘Edah’ or ‘‘eduth’ (sing. once, plur. 22 times), ‘testimony,’ [witness] LXX (marturia). The idea of the word is “that of an ‘attestation’, or formal affirmation; hence, as referred to God, a solemn declaration of His Will on points (especially) of moral or religious duty, or a protest against human propensity to deviate from it….” The word came to be used” as a general designation of moral and religious ordinances, conceived as a Divinely instituted standard of conduct.” The term ‘testimony’ in the singular is applied to the Decalogue “as a concise and forcible statement of God’s will and human duty” (Driver on Deut. 4:45). Cf. Deut. 4:45; 6:17, 20: in the sing. ‘eduth’ is frequent in Ex., Lev., Num.
9. ‘Derek’, ‘way,’ LXX (hodos), denotes the course of conduct marked out by God’s law. Cp. Deut. 5:33; 9:12, &c.
10. ‘’Orach’, ‘path, a poetical synonym for ‘derek’; not in Deut., but common in Prov.
The ‘attributes’ applied to the Law should also be studied. Like its Author (‘v’. 137, cp. Deut. 32:4) it is perfectly righteous. The note of righteousness is constantly repeated; in all its aspects the Law answers to that perfect standard which God is to Himself for all His works and words. Its faithfulness and truth correspond to the faithfulness and truth of His nature; it is sharply contrasted with all that is false in belief and conduct.
Other constantly recurring expressions should also be noted. The Psalmist’s repeated protestations that he has ‘observed’ or ‘kept’ the law, his resolutions to do so, and his prayers for strength to fulfil them, answer to the repeated injunctions of Deut. (4:2 &c.). ‘With a (my) whole heart,’ with entire devotion of thought and will, is a phrase characteristic alike of this Psalm and of the Book of Deut. (4:29; 6:5 &c.) where it is often coupled with ‘the whole soul,’ the organ of feeling and emotion. In Deut. the Israelites are repeatedly exhorted to learn the statutes and judgements (5:1) and to teach them to their children (4:10); and repeatedly the Psalmist prays that he may be taught. The Psalmist’s reiterated prayers for ‘understanding’ recall the language of Deut. 4:6. ‘Life’ is held out in Deut. (4:I &c.) as the reward of obedience; and for ‘life’ the Psalmist continually pleads — ‘quicken thou me’ — ‘let me live’ (25, 37, 40, 88, 107, 149, 154,156, 159, 116, 144). The source of ‘life’ he finds in the law and promises of God (50, 93): and by ‘life’ he means not simply preservation from death, but liberation from all, whether within or without, that crushes and paralyses life, and hinders its proper use and enjoyment; for ‘life’ includes the ideas of light and joy and prosperity. It finds its fullest realisation in communion with God. The original promise of life to the nation is coupled with the promise of the possession of the land, but the latter now drops out of sight, and the conception of ‘life’ is approximating towards the higher meaning of the word in the N.T. Cp. Deut. 8:3. Very noteworthy is the Psalmist’s enthusiastic love for the Law. The love which the Israelite was bidden to cherish for Jehovah (Deut. 6:5 &c.) is kindled by the manifold revelation of His Will in the Law. “O how I love thy law: it is my meditation all the day” (97). It is no irksome restraint of his liberty, but his delight, his joy, his treasure, his comfort, the subject of his meditations by day by night, the source of trust and hope amid all the perplexities and troubles of life. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
7: From: Book of Psalms, Notes Critical Explanatory & Practical Albert Barnes 1868: (Barnes last work of His Bible Commentary was the Book of Psalms, considered for 40 years, and prepared over his last 12 years, in partial blindness. See his Preface & Introduction.)
§ 5. General Character of Book of Psalms: “Psalms are mostly lyrical poetry, that is, poetry adapted to the harp or lyre; to be used in connexion with instrumental music; to be ‘sung’, not ‘read’. Such poetry was common among the ancients, as it is among the moderns. Anacreon, Alcseus, Stesichorus, Sappho, and Horace were eminent among the ancients as ‘lyric’ poets; and the numerous writers of ‘songs’, sacred and secular, among the moderns, are to be ranked in the same class. The phrase ‘lyric poetry’ now, however, is frequently applied to that species of poetry which “directly expresses the individual emotions of the poet” (Webster, Die).”….[Barnes concludes Section 5 with a lengthy passage from De Wette’s Commentary translated by Torrey in the Biblical Repository.]
§ 6. Imprecations in Psalms: [Barnes tries quiet well to honestly explain the harsh and unforgiving expressions & passages found in many Psalms. He closes with: “In some of these ways it is probable that all the difficulties in regard to the “imprecations” in the Psalms may be met. They who deny the inspiration of the Psalms should be able to show that these are not proper explanations of the difficulty; or that they are not consistent with any just notions of inspiration.”]
§ 7. Practical value of Book of Psalms: ….”Hence, in sickness, in bereavement, in persecution, in old age, on the bed of death, the Book of Psalms becomes so invariable and so valuable a companion; and hence, not as a matter of convenience, but as supplying a ‘want’ in the minds of men, and as significant of their value, the Psalms and the New Testament are so often bound together in a single volume. Hence, also, for the aged, for the sick, for those whose powers of vision fail by disease or by years, the Psalms and the New Testament are printed in large type, and bound in convenient forms, that the truths contained in these volumes may be still accessible to the saint ripening for heaven, as the light fails, and as life ebbs away. To the end of the world the Psalms in religious experience will occupy the same place which they now occupy; to the end of the world they will impart comfort to the troubled, and peace to the dying, as they have done in the ages that are past.”
§ 8. Qualifications for preparing a Commentary on Psalms: …..” (6) It may be added that the Book of Psalms, in the main, is so plain, so easy to be understood by the great mass of readers; so expressive of the internal feelings and emotions, as to increase the difficulty in the preparation of a Commentary. The Psalms are so rich; so full of meaning; so adapted to the wants of believers; —they so meet the varied experiences of the people of God, and are so replete with the illustrations of piety; they so touch the deepest fountains of emotion in the soul, that, so far as most of these points are concerned, a Commentary, considered as an additional source of light, does not differ materially from a candle considered as affording additional splendour to the sun. What a man finds in the ordinary perusal of the Psalms as a book of devotion, on the subject of deep experimental piety, is so much in advance of what he will usually find in the Commentary, that he turns from the attempt to explain them with a feeling of deep disappointment, and comes back to the Book itself as better expressing his emotions, meeting his necessities, and imparting consolation in trial, than anything which the commentator can add. He welcomes the Book of Psalms itself as a comforter and a guide; and in the little volume sold now at so cheap a rate, or appended to his pocket Testament, the common reader of the Bible finds more that is suited to his need than he would in the voluminous commentary of Venema; in all the collections in the Critici Sacri; in the Synopsis of Poole; in the Annotations of Grotius; or in the learned expositions of De Wette —elegant as the work of De Wette is,—or of Tholuck, or Hengstenberg.
When these difficulties in composing a Commentary on the Psalms are considered; —when a man who sits down to write one reflects on the qualifications necessary for the task; —and when under the influence of these thoughts, constantly increasing in magnitude, and pressing upon him more and more as he labours for a dozen years, though at intervals, as I have done, in preparing a Commentary on this portion of Scripture, —whatever ardour of desire or confidence of success he may have had at the commencement of his enterprise, he will cease to wonder, as he progresses in his work, that the efforts of others to prepare a Commentary heretofore have been a failure, and he will not be surprised, should his life be lengthened out to see the result of his own labours, if he finds that the world regards that at which he has toiled so long, and which he hoped might be, in some measure, worthy of the Volume he has undertaken to explain, as but adding another to the long list of unsuccessful attempts to prepare a proper exposition of the Book of Psalms.”
(Barnes summary of Psalms 145:) “This is also a Psalm of David, and the last of the series in this part of the collection. It is entitled simply, “Of Praise,” or, in the Hebrew, “Praise by David,” or ” Praise of David ;” —that is, one of David’s songs of praise. It is an alphabetical psalm; that is, each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The arrangement in this respect is complete, except that the letter (n), ‘Nun’ -n- is omitted, for which no reason can be assigned, unless it was from a desire that the psalm might consist of three equal parts of seven verses each. In the Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Latin Vulgate, and AEthiopic Versions, this omission is attempted to be supplied by inserting between vers. 13 and 14 a verse which in Hebrew would begin with a (n), ‘Nun’, —(n’mn), etc.: — “Faithful is the Lord in all his words, and holy in all his works.” This is taken from ver. 17 of the psalm by the change of a word in the beginning —’faithful’ for ‘righteous’, —(n’mn) for (tzdyk). There is no authority for this, however, in the MSS., and it is evidently an attempt to supply what seemed to be an omission or defect in the composition of the psalm. The verse is not in the Chaldee Paraphrase, or in the version of Aquila and Theodotion; and it is certain that as early as the time of Origen and Jerome it was not in the Hebrew text. The Masorites and the Jewish commentators reject it. The sense is in no way affected by the insertion or omission of this, since the verses of the psalm have no necessary connexion in meaning —the composition, as in most of the alphabetical psalms, being made up of independent sentiments suggested in part at least by the necessity of commencing each verse with a particular letter. The psalm does not admit of any particular analysis, and it is impossible now to ascertain the occasion on which it was written.”
8: From: Commentary on Psalms, Primitive & Medieval Writers. John M. Neale. 2nd Ed. (1869)
Introduction: Dissertation I: Psalms Employed in Offices of Church:
1. “If we keep vigil” says St John Chrysostom, ” in the Church, David comes first, last, and midst. If early in the morning we seek for the melody of hymns, first, last, and midst is David again. If we are occupied with the funeral solemnities of the departed, if virgins sit at home and spin, David is first, last, and midst.*(stanza of Theognis). O marvellous wonder! Many who have made but little progress in literature, nay, who have scarcely mastered its first principles, have the Psalter by heart. Nor is it in cities and churches alone that at all times, through every age, David is illustrious; in the midst of the forum, in the wilderness, and uninhabitable land, he excites the praises of ‘God’. In monasteries, amongst those holy choirs of angelic armies, David is first, midst, and last. In the convents of virgins, where are the bands of them that imitate Mary; in the deserts, where are men crucified to this world, and having their conversation with ‘God’, first, midst, and last is he. All other men are at night overpowered by natural sleep: David alone is active; and, congregating the servants of GOD into seraphic bands, turns earth into heaven, and converts men into angels.” Nothing can more admirably shadow out the feelings of the Church to her everlasting heritage, than these words of the great Doctor of the East. The love, the veneration, the delight which she has ever expressed for the Psalter, have almost turned it into a part of her own being. It is not only that, from the beginning till now, the whole book of Psalms has been weekly recited by so many thousand priests, but that the spirit of the Psalter permeates and kindles every other part of the service; that its principal features have received a new and conventional character, have been transfigured from the worship of the synagogue to that of the Church; that, to use the mediaeval metaphor, the trumpets of the tabernacle have given place to the Psaltery and the New Song of the Christian ritual.
2. The Church of the primitive and of the Middle Ages, then, adapted the Psalter to her own needs; she employed all the luxuriance of her imagination to elicit, to develope, —if you will, to play with,— its meaning. There is, to use the word in a good sense, a perfect treasure of mythology locked up in mediaeval commentaries and breviaries, —a mythology, the beauty of which grows upon the student, till that which at first sight appears strange, unreal, making anything out of anything, perfectly fascinates. The richness and loveliness of this system of allegory have never yet been done justice to in our language. Commentaries indeed we have, many of them valuable in their way, but neither calculated nor indeed professing to do more than to explain difficulties, to develope the historical and literal meaning sense and in some of the very plainest passages to point out a possible reference by David to the Son of David…..(4. …the Psalms or Psalter was the most recited Book of the Scriptures , in part and whole, for a thousand years; was required to be memorized for ordination; ignorance of it disqualified consecration of Bishops; and The Eighth Council of Toledo2 (653) orders that ” none henceforth shall be promoted to any ecclesiastical dignity who do not perfectly know the whole Psalter, and in addition to that the usual Canticles and Hymns, and the Formula of Baptism.” In like manner the Council of Oviedo (1050) decrees that “the Archdeacon shall present such clerks for Ordination at the Ember seasons as know perfectly the whole Psalter, the Canticles, the Hymns, the Gospels, and the Collects.”)…..(6. ….Psalter was Divided for Recitation in Divine Service (the Work of God) in the Churches and Monasteries at various Hours of the Day s & Nights (Matins, Nocturns, Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sexts, Nones, Vespers, Complies, &c.; for Weekdays, Sabbaths, Sundays, Feast Days, Holy Days, &c.)….(9. …Spiritual Explanation of Arrangement:)
10. To begin with the Sunday Nocturns. The ritualists remind us of the three night watches of a besieged city, and thence deduce the triple prayer of a city which, like the Church, is never free from the assaults of her spiritual enemies. More fancifully they make each Nocturn to represent respectively the patriarchal, the legal, and the Christian dispensations. The first Nocturn, divided by its antiphons into three portions, or, as they are technically called, “distinctions,” sets forth the threefold division of the Patriarchal period ; that before the flood; that between the flood and Abraham; and that between Abraham and Moses. In each of these divisions they discover four principal Saints, to each of whom in consequence they attribute one of the Psalms. In the first period, Abel, Enos, Enoch, and Lamech. “Blessed is the man,” says Abel, ” that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly :” thus setting forth the distinction between himself and Cain. ”Why do the heathen so furiously rage together?” exclaims Enos, in whose time the grand division between polytheists and the worshippers of the One true ‘God’ took place. “Thou art my worship, and the Lifter up of my head,” exclaims Enoch, —lifted up, indeed, when translated, that he should not see death. “O ‘Lord’, rebuke me not in Thine indignation,” is the Psalm of Lamech, who was blessed by ‘God’ with a son, the preserver of the human race from the indignation that destroyed the world. I need not explain how, in the same way, they make the four Psalms of the next distinction to signify Noah, Shem, Heber, and Terah, nor the third to set forth Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The second Nocturn, as we have seen, has three Psalms: and these are referred to the three epochs of the legal dispensation: the Priests, the Judges, and the Kings. They are respectively set forth in the 16th Psalm: when the Priest says, “The ‘Lord’ Himself is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:” in the 17th, where the Judge prays, “Let my sentence —that is, the sentence I shall pronounce—” come forth from Thy Presence;” and the 18th, where the Monarch declares, “Great prosperity giveth He unto His King.” In the same way, the dispensation of grace may be divided into three epochs, —that of Apostolic preaching, that of persecution, and that of peace. Apostolic preaching is set forth by the 19th Psalm, which, as we shall see in its proper place, has always been applied to the Apostles. The epoch of persecution, and therefore of the martyrs, is expressed by the 20th Psalm, ” The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble.” The time of peace is represented by the 21st, “Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not denied him the request of his lips.” The appearance of Antichrist is prophesied towards the end of that Psalm; “Thou shalt make them like a fiery oven in the time of Thy wrath:” and then the promise of final felicity; “Be Thou exalted, ‘Lord’, in Thine own strength, so will we sing and praise Thy power.”
With such holy ingenuity did mediaeval writers explain their “Daily Service.”….
16…..(List of Psalms from St Athanasius Epistle to Marcellinus:)
Prayer. Psalm 17, 68, 90, 102, 132, 142.
In prayer, with supplication for deliverance. Psalm 5,6,7, 12,13, 16, 25, 27, 31, 35, 38, 43, 54,55,56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 83, 86, 88,140,141, 143.
In supplication for deliverance alone. Psalm 3, 26, 69, 70,71, 74, 79,80, 123, 130, 131.
In confession of sins. Psalm 51.
If thou desirest to render thanks to ‘God’ for His many marvels, or on the accomplishment of some good work. Psalm 8, 81.
If thou desirest to know how others praise ‘God’. Psalm 113, 117, 125, 146, 147,148, 150.
If thou desirest to stir up thyself to bless GOD. Psalm 103,104.
If thou desirest to praise ‘God’. Psalm 92, 105,106, 107,108, 112, 136, 138.
If thou desirest to sing to ‘God’. Psalm 93, 98.
If thou desirest to remember the mercy and justice of ‘God’. Psalm 101.
If thou desirest to exhort to faith and obedience. Psalm 41.
If thou desirest to show to others of what kind is the man who is a citizen of heaven. Psalm 15, 24.
If thou desirest to ridicule heretics or Gentiles.2 Psalm 76.
If them beholdest heretics gathering together against the House of God. Psalm 83.
If thou desirest to convince heretics. Psalm 87.
If thou desirest to remember benefits of the redemption of man. Psalm 8, 87, 116 (v. 10 to end.)
If thou desirest to admire sermons, and the grace of the preacher. Psalm 19.
If thou wouldest remember the Incarnation of our Lord. Psalm 45, 110.
If thou wouldest remember the Lonn’s Cross. Psalm 22, 69.
If thou wouldest sing of the Resurrection. Psalm 16, 66.
If thou wouldest remember the Ascension. Psalm 24, 47.
If thou wouldest call to remembrance the future judgment. Psalm 50, 72.
If thou wouldest commemorate martyrs. Psalm 79.
If thou wouldest praise GOD on Festivals. Psalm 81, 95.
If thou wouldest sing on Good Friday. Psalm 93.
If thou wouldest sing on Saturday. Psalm 92.
If thou wouldest return thanks on Sunday. Psalm 34, 119.
32. We now turn to the arrangement of the Psalter which has been adopted by the Church at Constantinople. It is divided into 20 sections or cathismata as follows: Psalms:
I: 1-8; II: 9-17; III: 18-24; IV: 25-32; V: 33-37; VI: 38-46; VII: 47-66; VIII: 66-64; IX: 66-70; X: 71-77; XI: 78-86; XII: 86-91; XIII. 92-101; XIV: 102-105; XV: 106-109; XVI: 110-118; XVII: 119; XVIII: 120-132; XIX: 133-143; XX: 144-150
Each of these cathismata is divided into three “staseis;” and at the end of the latter only —not of each Psalm, as in the Western Church—the Gloria is said. The word “cathismata,” in this sense, must not be confounded with the “troparia” so-called.
33. The general arrangement for the lection of the Psalter for Psalms is as follows: In the weeks of the….so that the Psalter is said through once a week. In the six weeks of the Great Fast the quantity is doubled, the Psalter being repeated twice in each week. In Holy Week it is said once, but finishes on the Wednesday. From Maundy Thursday till the Eve of the Anti-Pascha (Low Sunday,) it is not said at all. At the first Vespers of Low Sunday it begins again, and, till the 20th of September, two cathismata are said at Matins and one at Vespers. From the 20th of September till the Vigil of the Nativity, three cathismata in Matins: one, namely the 18th, at Vespers, together with the 133rd and 136th Psalms. Thence, to the Octave of the Epiphany, two at Matins, one at Vespers. Thence, till the Saturday before the Apocreos, one at Matins, one at Lauds, and two at Vespers……
34. (Psalms Repetition at different Seasons, Feasts, Festivals, required different emphases:… “the same sun-ray from the ‘Holy Ghost’ rested, indeed, at all times on the same words, but the prism of the Church separated that colourless light into its component rays: into the violet of penitence, the crimson of martyrdom, the gold of the highest seasons of Christian gladness. Hence arose the wonderful system of Antiphons, which, out of twenty different significations, definitely for the time being fixed one: which struck the right key-note, and enabled the worshipper to sing with the spirit and to sing with the understanding also. Ancient as is the alternate chanting of Psalms in the Church, it may be doubted whether that of antiphons is not of even more venerable antiquity;…An Antiphon, then, in the original sense of the word, was the intercalation of some fragment or verse between the verses of the Psalm which was then being sung : one choir taking the Psalm, the other, the intercalated portion….42. I need scarcely point out to the reader the extraordinary beauty of this intercalation. But this kind of intercalation approximates as nearly to a “Farce” as it does to an Antiphon. A Farce, as is well known, is the insertion in a Gospel, Epistle, or Canticle, such as the ‘Gloria in Excelsis’, of intercalated sentences, intended to have the same effect as an Antiphon, and to fix a determinate sense for the time being, on the composition so farced. But the clauses thus inserted became in process of time thoroughly jejune and miserable; sometimes, in fact, utterly absurd. Hence, from the ludicrous character of the intercalation, the word came to be applied to anything ludicrous: whence its present use….
(Conclusion of Disertation): 81. I have thus endeavoured to sketch out, as briefly as the subject permits, an account of the manner in which the Psalter, while it has been employed in, has itself modified, the Services of the Church. Those who study it as Churchmen, can hardly enter into it as they should do, until they have been taught to consider it in the light in which it has been the aim of this essay to set it before them. I heartily wish that it were more perfect, and less unworthy of the subject; but I have been all along fearful of entering too deeply into minutiae, —interesting, indeed, to Ecclesiastical students, but not necessary in and by themselves to the study of the Psalms. I shall hereafter have occasion to direct the reader’s attention to a subject which will, perhaps, be more widely interesting —the general question of mystical interpretation: which I leave for the Third Dissertation in this work. I can only hope that the blessing of ‘God’ may have been bestowed on what has already been said, and may still accompany that which we yet have to observe.
(Dissertation II: Primitive & Mediaeval Commentators on Psalms:……….)
(Dissertation III: Mystical & Literal Interpretation of Psalms:)
1. Having now, through ‘God’s’ goodness, accomplished the fifth part of our task, it seems time to dwell at greater length than hitherto we have done on the system itself on which this commentary is based. Utterly different as it is from the modern style of interpretation, —liable to the charges of fancifulness, unreality, and of making anything out of anything,— I wish now to show that, whatever be the faults of its execution, its principle, at least, is the same as that on which the great commentators of primitive and mediaeval ages wrote, and which they would have recognised as their own. What that principle is, the reader has now had sufficient opportunity of judging; and while none can be more sensible than myself of the innumerable faults in detail for which the foregoing pages may be blamed, for the theory on which they have been composed I need —and I hope to show that I need— no excuse.
2. The mystical interpretation of Scripture, as every one will allow, is the distinguishing mark of difference between ancient and modern commentators. To the former, it was the very life, marrow, the principle essence of ‘God’s’ Word, —the kernel, of which the of early, literal exposition was the shell,— the jewel, to which the outside and verbal signification formed the shrine: by the latter it has almost universally been held in equal contempt and abhorrence; it has been affirmed to be the art of involving everything in uncertainty; to take away all fixedness of meaning; to turn Scripture into a repository of human fancies; to be subversive of all exactitude, and fatal to all truth….
3….The rule laid down by the strictest interpreters of this sort appears to be this: that in those histories of the Old Testament which are applied to our Blessed ‘Lord’ in the New, we may see a type of Him, but in those only. Thus, of the brazen serpent, the Paschal Lamb, Jonah in the whale’s belly, He was undoubtedly the antitype; but Joseph, taken from prison and from judgment, —but Elijah, fasting forty days and forty nights, and translated into heaven, —but David, in his victory over Goliath, —but Samson, destroying the Philistines by his own death,— these are historical characters only, and cannot, without presumption, be invested with a typical signification.
4. Now it is clear that, to those who entertain similar sentiments, the present work will present nothing but an aggregation of the wildest conceits, and the most worthless fancies. If Scripture has not an under-current of meaning, double, triple, quadruple, or even yet more manifold, I confess, not only that my work is a mere waste of labour, time, and paper, which would comparatively matter little, but it also follows that all primitive and mediaeval commentators, from the first century till the Reformation, have more or less been deceiving the Church of ‘God’, —have been substituting their changing fancies for His immutable verities, —have adopted a system which is alike the offspring and the parent of error,— that their folios have been a hindrance to the cause of truth, and the labours of their lives an insult to the to those who principles of genuine interpretation. If any one can believe this, it will matter little what he thinks of the preceding and following pages. I only wish to prove that the mystical principles on which this commentary on the Psalms is written are the principles of the great commentators from the beginning; and if I can show that, I have shown enough.
5. It is well known that, from very early times, a meaning fourfold meaning was attached to the plain text of Scripture. It is expressed in the lines: Litera scripta docet : quid credos, ‘Allegoria’: Quid speres, ‘Anagoge’: quid agas, ‘Tropologia’. And on this principle St Gregory the Great composed his Morals on Job, keeping his skeins of meaning separate, and with marvellous skill pursuing each to the end. Durandus explains the various terms with great neatness: “In like manner, ‘Jerusalem’ is understood, historically, of that earthly city whither pilgrims journey; allegorically, of the Church Militant; tropologically, of every faithful soul; anagogically, of the Celestial Jerusalem, which is our Country.”
6. Let us, in the first place, inquire from Scripture Arguments itself, what probability there is that the Holy Ghost intended such a system of interpretation to be applied to His own Word: then let us see how the early Church felt on the subject: and then what are the advantages, and what are asserted to be the dangers, of the mystical sense.
7. Now it cannot be denied, that to those who eschew the mystical or spiritual interpretation, —and whom we will in this dissertation call ‘literalists’,— a very large portion of Scripture can have nothing but an historical interest. The journeyings of the Israelites to their various encampments, — the genealogies of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, —the numbers of the tribes in the Pentateuch,— the prophecies against the nations whom it pleased ‘God’ to destroy before Nebuchadnezzar, and many such like passages, are to them all but a dead letter. Nay, the same Scott whom I lately quoted ventures, without any apology, to call one such collection of passages by a term which, when we remember Whose is the lightest word of Holy Scripture, can scarcely be called less than profane. He names the genealogies of the first book of Chronicles by the appellation of ‘Thorns’! He is but consistent with himself; but what kind of theory must that be which leads to such a conclusion?
40. In conclusion, do we ordinarily attach sufficient importance to such expressions as that with reference to our ‘Lord’ in the last days of His earthly life? “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.” Does not this infer a regular tuition in some system of interpretation of which hitherto they knew nothing? He expounded unto them ‘all’ the things concerning Himself. Some of those things, we have already seen, involved what would now be called the deepest mysticism, and forthwith we see its fruits. History is no longer a bare relation of facts —it is a parable. Agar is no longer the concubine of Abraham, but “Mount Sinai in Arabia.” The Mosaic law is a Christian Parable; “saith He it not altogether for our sakes?” Christ is everywhere, in Prophet, Psalm, History: every Old Testament Saint is the type of the Saint of Saints; every persecutor is the forerunner of the Destroyer of souls. And what follows? Observe the depth of study, the profound search, the intensity of investigation of the mystics, contrasted with the jejunity [dullness], the commonplace superficiality of the literalists! To the latter, Scripture is no mine: its treasures are at the surface; a first reading may exhibit as much of the meaning as a twentieth; and hence the stupid dictum of a marvellous genius (Lord Bacon), likening the first interpretation of the Bible to the first crush of the grape, which first crush is not wine, but a sickly and unwholesome must.
Conclusion. 41. In unison with the system which it has been the object of this Essay to unfold, the present Commentary is written. I know that it will be called, by many, fanciful, unreal, destructive of Scripture, will be said to put imagination in the place of reason, and to substitute the words of men for the word of ‘God’. But let this only be borne in mind. Our system is the system, as all must allow, of every saintly Commentator from St Barnabas to St Francis de Sales —the system, as I have endeavoured to show, not only of Isapostolic [?] but of Apostolic writers. The interpretations are none of them my own; their authors are given; they come with greater or less authority; but those that have least will be found to possess some considerable weight. I claim nothing but the poor thread on which the pearls are strung. To collect them has been the happy work of many years —work which has consoled me in trial, added happiness to prosperity, afforded a theme of profitable conversation with dear friends, furnished the subject-matter for numerous sermons. I pray ‘God’ to accept it as an offering to the Treasury of His Church; and to give that system, if it be His will, favour in the eyes of Scriptural students, which I know to be the only method whereby His own, be it declaration or command, can be fully acted out, (ereunate tas graphas….kai Ekeinai Eisin Hai Marturousai Peri Emou).
9: From: Critical & Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms by Charles A. Briggs, D.Lit., Emile Grace Briggs. International Crititical Commentary Old Testament. (1906)
Preface: “This Commentary is the fruit of forty years of labour. In1867, when making special studies in Berlin with Dr. Emil Rodiger, I began a critical Commentary on the Psalms, the Ms. of which is still in my possession….In the plan of the International Critical Commentary I undertook the volumes on the Psalms, and have been at work upon them ever since. In addition to my work on the theological terms of the new edition of Robinson’s Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon, BDB., I have made a complete lexicon to the Psalter, based on a revised Hebrew text, which I hope ere long to publish. I have spared no pains upon the text of the Psalter, not only in the study of the Versions, but also in the detection and elimination of the glosses in the search for the original texts as they came from their authors. The Theology of the Psalter has been carefully investigated ; only the limits of space prevent me from giving it in this volume….A public Version, in my opinion, should be less pedantic and literal than the Revised Version, and not so slavish in its adherence to the Massoretic text. In this respect the older Versions, especially the Version of the Book of Common Prayer, is to be preferred; for while it is less accurate than the later Versions, it preserves many readings of the Greek and Vulgate Versions which later English Versions unwisely rejected, and it is concerned to give the sense of the original in rhythmical devotional language well suited to the character of a book of prayer and praise….The Psalms are among the most wonderful products of human genius. No other writings but the Gospels can compare with them in grandeur and importance. The Gospels are greater because they set forth the life and character of our Lord and Saviour. The Psalter expresses the religious experience of a devout people through centuries of communion with God. I cannot explain either Gospels or Psalms except as Books of God, as products of human religious experience, inspired and guided by the Divine Spirit.”
Introduction: § 1. “The Psalter belongs to the third division of the Hebrew Canon, entitled Hymns or Prayers, from its chief contents. The Greek Version named it Psalms from the most frequent sub-title, and in this has been followed by other Versions”…..”In the Hebrew Canon the Psalter bears the title Praises, of Book of Praises, because of the conception that it was essentially a collection of songs of praise, or hymn book, to be used in the worship of God; or else Prayers, because it was a collection of prayers, a prayer book. In LXX it is entitled Psalms, doubtless because the word “psalm” was in the titles of such a large proportion of the poems. In early Greek writers it received the name Psalter, which seems a more appropriate name for a collection of Pss. for use in public worship.”….(Hebrew title: Tehillim, Sepher Tehillim; Aramaic Tehilyon; Hallels (Praises); Greek LXX Psalmoi (Psalms, Book of Psalms), (psalmos) is the translation of (mizmyr < zmr, zamir), used in the titles of 57 Pss., ‘song’ or ‘poem’, ‘play, musical instruments, more technical form & indicates a poem with measured lines & strophes, selected for public worship; the Psalter (Psaltërion) of David.
A. Text of Psalter:
§ 2. “The original text of the Psalter was written in the Hebrew language, and in letters which were subsequently abandonedfor the Aramaic script. This latter text has been preserved in Mss., none of which are older than the tenth century ; but they rest upon two important revisions of that century, those of Ben Asher and Ben Naftali, which differ chiefly in Massoretic material.”….
§ 3. “The Massora also gives evidences of variations of text, going back to primitive times, in marginal notes and signs, where the text remains unchanged. Citations in the Talmud and other early Jewish writings give little evidence of other variations of text.”….”These Massorites were so called as masters of Massora, or tradition. Their work was based upon the methods of the Syrian schools with reference to Syriac Literature. The differences between the so-called Babylonian and
Palestinian systems of vocalisation and accentuation show various stages in their work, which continued for several centuries. The earliest stages have left no record, but they may be inferred from the simpler forms of Syriac and Arabic Literature. It is important to notice that all these vowel points and accents are comparatively late in origin, and, although they rest on tradition going back to primitive times, they were still matters of opinion, and by no means have the venerable authority of the consonantal text. The view that they were equally inspired with the consonantal text, held commonly in the 16th century, has been universally abandoned. There are several Massoretic notes and signs which are of great importance, for they indicate variations of text in ancient tradition which the Massorites felt obliged to record, although they did not venture to change the traditional text. These are: (1) The variation between the (qeri) that which should be read, and the (kethibh, ketib, ketiv), that which is written. There are 70 of these in (Psalter).”….
§ 4. “The earliest printed edition of the Hebrew Psalter was published at Bologna in 1477. Independent texts based on Mss. were published at Soncino, in the Complutensian Polyglot, and the second Rabbinical Bible. All subsequent editions were mixed texts, until those of Baer and Ginsburg, which give accurate forms of the Massoretic text of Ben Asher.”….
§ 5. “The earliest Version of the Psalter was that of the Greek Septuagint (LXX), translated from the Hebrew in the second century B.C. at Alexandria, and preserved in many ancient codices, the earliest of the fourth century A.D., giving evidence as to an original Hebrew text, many centuries prior to any Hebrew authorities. The ancient Latin, Coptic, Gothic, Armenian, and Ethiopic Versions are based upon the Greek Version.”….
§ 6. “Several other Greek Versions were made in the 2nd, 3rd, & 4th centuries A.D., that of Aquila from the official Hebrew text of the school of Jamnia, that of Theodotion to improve (LXX) in the direction of that text; and that of Symmachus to give a better Greek style. Other minor Versions, indicated as Quinta (5th) and Sexta (6th), were also composed. None of these have been preserved, except in fragments.”….”(LXX) was used in a large proportion of the citations in the NT & Christian writings of the 2nd & 3rd centuries. The Jews of the school of Rabbi Akiba, owing to a literalistic tendency, threw discredit upon (LXX) among the Jews, and so gradually undermined the confidence even of Christians in its accuracy. Accordingly, many attempts were made to make a better Version. The first of these came from Aquila, a pupil of Akiba, who made a new translation from the official text established by the school of Jamnia. This is exceedingly literal and pedantic, and frequently transliterates rather than translates. This Version, indicated by Aq., is chiefly valuable for its evidence as to the official text which it translates. Theodotion (T.LXX) undertook a revision of (LXX) to make it more conformable to the Hebrew text of Jamnia. Its variations from (LXX) also help to the official Hebrew text of the second century rather than to an earlier text. Symmachus (S.LXX) had a later and a different purpose; namely, to improve the style and character of (LXX). It is therefore of value in helping to a text of &. It is difficult to determine the purpose of Quinta and Sexta, but so far as appears they do not give evidence of any knowledge of early Hebrew codd. These efforts did not succeed in producing a text suitable for universal adoption; they in fact increased the confusion and corruption among the Greek codd. by mixed texts. This evil was the chief reason for the masterly work of Origen in his Hexapla. Origen’s Hexapla was the most important Biblical work in ancient times. It gave in six parallel columns the original Hebrew text, the same transliterated, a purified text of (LXX), the Versions of Aq., (S.LXX), (T.LXX), and also, as a sort of appendix, Quinta, Sexta.”….
§ 7. “The Syriac Peshitto (Peshitta, Peshta, Pesht.,Syriac Vulgate) Version was made from a comparison of the Hebrew text with (LXX), and shows the influence of an early Aramaic Targum. It has maintained its integrity since the 4th century.”….”At an early date, probably in the second or third century, a translation of the Psalter was made for the use of Syrian Christians ( SyrcPesht). It was based upon a Hebrew text, but kept (LXX) constantly in view. It also shows traces of the influence of an oral Aramaic Targum earlier than the existing Targum. The author was a good Hebrew scholar, but his purpose was to give a Vrs. for practical use, rather than an exact verbal rendering. He therefore takes liberties with the original from a dogmatic as well as a practical point of view. (SyrcPesht) passed through a number of revisions, but has kept its integrity since the fourth century, as Aphraates in his Homilies uses it essentially in the same form that we now have.”….
§ 8. “Jerome in the early fifth century issued his Latin translation, made from the Hebrew text of his times, but with all the other ancient Versions and Origen’s Hexapla in view.”….”Jerome, after the completion of the two revisions of the old Latin Psalter already mentioned, undertook c. 389 a translation of the entire OT from the original Hebrew, which he completed in 390-405 at Bethlehem. This Vrs. took the place of the old Latin Vrss. in all the books except the Psalter, and is known as the Vulgate (V, Vlg, Vulg, LatVulg, JermVulg). This new Vrs. of the Psalter could not overcome the use of the Gallican Psalter in the usage of the Church. Accordingly, (V) of the Psalter is the Gallican Version, and the Version of Jerome is distinguished from it in reference by the abbreviation (J, Jerm). This Vrs. is exceedingly valuable, especially in the study of the Psalter; for Jerome was not only an able Hebrew scholar, using the best Hebrew texts accessible to him in Palestine, at the time when the Rabbinical School at Tiberius was in its bloom ; but he was also familiar with Origen’s Hcxapla, and the full text of all the ancient Vrss. in earlier Mss. than those now existing. (J) in the main gives evidence as to the Hebrew text of the fourth Christian century. Where it differs from (V) and (LXX) its evidence is especially valuable as giving the opinion of the best Biblical scholar of ancient times as to the original text, based on the use of a wealth of critical material vastly greater than that in the possession of any other critic, earlier or later.”….
§ 9. “The Aramaic Targum of the Psalter in its present form dates from the 9th century, but it rests upon an oral Targum used in the synagogue from the most ancient times.”….”The Targum on the Psalter (T, Targ, Targm, AramTarg) represents a traditional oral translation, used in the services of the synagogue from the first century A.D. The original Hebrew text was constantly kept in view, for it was the custom to read the original before the Targum was read. Therefore the Targum gives evidence as to the traditional Hebrew text, with all the development that that tradition had from the 1st till the 9th century, ever restrained, however, by the original text. The Targum, however, was not simply a translation, but at the same time an explanation of the original, enlarging upon it to give the sense by way of paraphrase. It avoids anthropomorphism, and entirely disregards the poetic form & style.”….
§ 10. “The critical use of Hebrew texts and versions leads back in several stages from the official text of Ben Asher of the 10th century, through the text used by Jerome of the 4th century, the official text of the School of Jamnia of the 2nd century, to the unofficial codices of the 2nd century B.C., which gave the Canonical Psalter in its final edition. But it had already passed through centuries of transmission by the hands of copyists and editors. We have to distinguish, therefore, between the original text of the Psalter of the Canon and the original text of the psalms themselves as they came from their authors.”….
§ 11. “There are several Psalms which appear in different texts in the Psalter itself, or in the Psalter and other Books of the Old Testament. These give evidence of originals differing in some respects from the varying texts that have been preserved.”….”(A) Hebrew poetry is dominated by the principle of parallelism of members. The simplest form is seen in the couplet; but it is extended to a considerable number of lines. There are three primary forms of parallelism: (1) the synonymous, (2) the synthetic, and (3) the antithetic; the synonymous having a more ornate variety which may be called (4) emblematic; the synthetic a more vigorous variety which is (5) stairlike in character. An important variation appears in what is called (6) introverted parallelism. But within these six varieties there are still a great number of combinations in accordance with the nature of the parallelism, whether it extends to entire lines or to the more emphatic words in them. Bishop Lowth (‘De Sacra Poesi Heb’. 1753; cf. Preliminary Dissertation to ‘Isaiah’, 1778) was the first to establish the principle of parallelism in Hebrew poetry, although he based his conclusions on older writers, Rabbi Asarias and especially Schottgen (‘Horae Heb’. Diss. VI. ‘De Exergasia Sacra’). Lowth’s views were at once accepted and have maintained themselves. Lowth distinguished three kinds of parallelism, — the synonymous, the antithetical, and the synthetic. Bishop Jebb (‘Sacred Literature’, § IV. 1820) called attention to a fourth kind, which he properly named “introverted.” Lowth had already recognised it (Prelim. Diss. ‘Isaiah’ 14), but did not name it or emphasize it. Other scholars have noted the stairlike and the emblematic.”….”The Pss., as Philo, Josephus, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome tell us, were composed in several kinds of meter. The measures, however, were not of feet, as in classic Latin and Greek, or of syllables as in Syriac poetry; but of words or word accents, as in Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and the most ancient poetry of other nations. The simplest measure is: (1) the trimeter, measured by three tonic beats; (2) the tetrameter, which has four tones, usually with a caesura in the middle; (3) the pentameter, which has five tones, the caesura usually coming after the 3rd tone, but sometimes for variety of effect after the 2nd; (4) the hexameter, which has six tones, with the caesura usually in the middle, but sometimes for variety after the 2nd or the 4th tones, and occasionally with two caesuras dividing the line into three parts. In the estimation of tones we have to consider that on the one side monosyllabic words are usually not counted, but are attached to the following word and not accented; and on the other side that words of four or more syllables have a secondary accent which is counted in the measures. This is true occasionally of words of three syllables.”….”…To Ley, more than to any other scholar, is due the credit of leading to a correct conception of the measures of Hebrew poetry. I accepted the principle of measurement of Hebrew poetry by accents soon after I began to teach as Professor of Hebrew and cognate languages in Union Theological Seminary, in 1874; and from that time I have given much attention to the subject. My views were published in 1881 (‘Homiletic Quarterly’; ‘Biblical Study’, first edition, 1883).
§ 12. “The Psalms were composed in the parallelisms, measures, and strophical organisations of lyric poetry. When these have been determined with reference to any particular Psalm it is not difficult to see the changes that have been made in the original text.”….
§ 13. “Several Pss. give evidence that they were parts of longer Pss.”….
§ 14. “Many Pss. are composite of two or more original Pss. or parts of Pss. combined for liturgical purposes. Usually the original Pss. were of different poetic structure, and they are combined in various ways by editorial seams.”….(Examples: Psalms: 19; 24; 40; 60; 89; &c.)….
§ 16. “The text of the Psalter shows a large number of errors, just such as one would expect from its transmission through the hands of many different editors and copyists. There are essentially the same kinds of errors and subject to the same rules and principles of classification as those that are found in all Literature.”….”The most of the Pss. were composed in the ancient Hebrew script, resembling the Samaritan letters. They were transliterated into the Egyptian Aramaic script, and finally into the later square Aramaic letters. In each of these scripts errors arose from mistakes as to similar letters both in form and in sound; the transposition of letters in a word or of words in a sentence; the wrong attachment of letters to words, or of words to sentences; the transposition of clauses; and conjectures in the case of defective or illegible Mss.”….
§ 17. “A very large proportion of the changes in the text of the Psalms was due to corrections of the scribes and glossators, who for various reasons endeavoured to improve the text to make it more intelligible and useful.”….”The scribes corrected the text to make it more intelligible. The older writers were concise, and left many things to be inferred by the attentive reader. In the unpointed consonant text the words were not distinctly separated, and forms were written as briefly as possible, so that various interpretations were possible. There were also many abbreviations which might easily have been misunderstood.”….
§ 22. “With the rise of the Higher Criticism, the traditional opinion as to the Davidic authorship of the Psalter was questioned, and soon abandoned by all critics. At first editorship by Ezra and the Davidic authorship of only those Psalms which have David in their titles was proposed; but subsequently internal evidence showed this to be impossible, so that critical opinion gradually came to the result that the final editorship of the Psalter could not have been earlier than the Maccabean period, and that David wrote few, if any, of the Psalms, the most of them being postexilic.”….
§ 23. “The Higher Criticism of the Psalter depends chiefly upon the internal evidence of the Psalms themselves. The titles are valuable for traces of the history of their use ; but their contents, their interrelation, and their relation to other writings of the OT., give the only reliable evidence as to their origin and transmission.”….
§ 24. “The earliest term to appear in the titles was doubtless “Song” (shirah, shr, shiri, shirim) which, in some cases at least, was attached to the originals. It indicated a lyric poem used for singing, especially on joyous occasions; in later times especially in religious worship of praise, and by the Levitical choirs.”….(Examples: Psalms: 18:1 = 2nd Sam 22:; 45; 69; 46; 30;; 92; 108; &c.)….
§ 41. “Selah indicates the abbreviation of a psalm in liturgical use, and marks the place where the closing benediction might be sung. The word itself means: Lift up (the voice in praise). This
interpretation explains the tradition of & that it called for an “interlude,” and the Palestinian tradition, which represents it by the last word of the doxology, “forever.” The term was first attached to psalms in the Psalter of the Mizmorim. ft was used in the Director’s Psalter, and in the Collection of the Elohist, and it continued in use at least until the time of the Psalter of Solomon and the earliest portions of the Jewish Liturgy.”….
§ 43. “The Psalter represents many centuries of growth in the historical origin both of its Psalms, extending from the time of David to the Maccabean period, and of the various minor and major Psalters through which they passed, from the early Persian to the late Greek period, before the present Psalter was finally edited and arranged, in the middle of the second century B.C.”…. (Evolution of Psalter:) “We may assign 7 Pss. in their original form to the early Hebrew monarchy, before Jehoshaphat : 7, 13, 18, 23,24, 60, 110; 7 to the middle monarchy: 3, 20,21, 27, 45, 58, 61; and 13 to the late monarchy: 2, 19, 28, 36, 46, 52, 54,55,56, 60, 62, 72, 87; thus 27 to the period of the Hebrew monarchy. During the Exile 13 were composed: 42-43, 63, 74, 77, 79, 81,82, 84, 88,89, 90, 137, 142. In the early Persian period there was a great outburst of psalmody. As many as 33 Pss. were composed: 4, 6, 9-10, 11,12, 14 (=53), 16,17, 22, 25, 31,32. 34,35, 37,38,39, 41, 57, 59, 64, 69, 70 (= 40) 75,76, 78, 80, 83, 101, 109, 140, 143,144. This was due to several influences. The conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, which aroused the enthusiasm of the exilic Isaiah, called forth lyric songs. The rebuilding of the altar and temple, with the restoration of the worship in Jerusalem, as it was accompanied by prophetic voices, so also by those of lyric poets. The struggles of the pious with the unfaithful in the community, and with the neighbouring little nations, whose jealousy and hatred constantly interfered with the growth and prosperity of the people in Jerusalem, also naturally expressed itself in song. Toward the close of this period the collection of ‘Miktamim’, or golden poems, was made after the example of the older collection of the Book of Yashar. To the middle Persian period, the times of Nehemiah, we may assign 16 Pss.: 5, 8, 15, 26, 29,30, 40, 47, 51, 57, 65,66, 69, 138,139, 141; to the late Persian period, in which internal and external trouble was renewed, 11 Pss.: 27, 36, 44, 48,49,50, 68, 81, 85, 89, 102. In this last period the collection of ‘Maskilim’, or religious meditations, was made; also (DavidPss) was edited as a prayer-book for use in the synagogues, and soon after (KorahPss), more ornate in character. The conquest of Alexander introduced the Greek period, which in its early part was advantageous to the Jews. At the beginning of this period the great royal advent Ps. was composed, 93, 96-100, and soon after 8 other Pss.: 66,67, 73, 86, 91, 95, 108, 145. The Psalter of (AsaphPss) was prepared in Babylonia; and later in Palestine the Psalter of the ‘Mizmorim’, the first of the major Psalters, as a hymn-book for use in the synagogues. Toward the close of this period (DavidKorahPss) was made, using all the earlier Psalters, as a prayerbook for the synagogues, and directions were given for musical rendering. The later Greek period was troublous in Palestine, owing to the constant strife between the kings of Egypt and Syria, and to internal dissensions resulting therefrom. But in the East the Jews were less troubled. There in the early part of this period (ElhmPss) was prepared for synagogue use. To this period we may ascribe 11 Pss.: 1, 19, 24, 71, 77, 89, 92, 94, 103, 139, 144, and the elaborate praise of the Law, 119. In addition 14 Pilgrim Pss., 120-128, 130-134, were composed, and the Pilgrim Psalter collected in this period. Also 16 of the Hallels, 104-107, 111-117, 135-136, 146, 148, 150, were composed and edited in a collection. The Maccabean period began with the persecution of Antiochus and the rise of the Maccabees at the head of the patriotic party. They gradually triumphed, and organised the Maccabean dynasty & kingdom. To this period we may ascribe Pss. 33, 102,109,118, 139; also 129 of the Pilgrim Psalter, & 147, 149 of the Hallels. After the rededication of the temple the present Psalter was prepared, combining Pss. appropriate for use in the synagogue and in the temple, and using all the previous Psalters, especially (David’s, David Director’s,Elham’s Psalters) the Hallels, and the Pilgrim Pss. The collection was divided into three books. Toward the close of the second century the final editor divided it into five books and 150 Pss., in accordance with the same divisions of the Law, allowing for variations in usage.”….
(C. Canonicity of Psalter):
§ 44. “The Psalter was the first of the Writings to win canonical recognition, and it has maintained this recognition in the unanimous consent of Jew and Christian until the present day. The testimony of representative Jews and Christians in all ages is that the Psalter is a holy Book, divinely authoritative, the norm and guide of worship and religious experience.”….
(Briggs Commentary is very scholarly, & lexically thorough, perhaps more than any others, the 1st Psalm (“orphan” Psalm) is explored in 9 pages of small print; however Psalm 145:1-21 is only given 5 pages; but Psalms 119 is covered in 35 pages. His Translation is excellent.)
10: From: Treasury David, Original Expositions, Book of Psalms, etc. 7 Volumes by Charles H. Spurgeon. (1882)
Preface (vol.1): “The delightful study of the Psalms has yielded me boundless profit and ever-growing pleasure; common gratitude constrains me to communicate to others a portion of the benefit, with the prayer that it may induce them to search further for themselves. That I have nothing better of my own to offer upon this peerless Book is to me matter of deepest regret; that I have anything whatever to present is subject for devout gratitude to the Lord of grace. I have done my best, but, conscious of many defects, I heartily wish I could have done far better. The Exposition here given is my own. I consulted a few authors before penning it, to aid me in interpretation and arouse my thoughts; but, still I can claim originality for my comments, at least so I honestly think. Whether they are better or worse for that, I know not; at least I know I have sought heavenly guidance while writing them, and therefore I look for a blessing on the printing of them. The collection of quotations· was an after-thought. In fact, matter grew upon me which I thought too good to throw away. It seemed to me that it might prove serviceable to others, if I reserved portions of my reading upon the various Psalms; those reserves soon acquired considerable bulk, so much so that even in this volume only specimens are given and not the bulk. One thing the reader will please clearly to understand, and I beg him to bear it in mind; “I am far from endorsing all I have quoted’. I am neither responsible for the scholarship or orthodoxy of the writers. The names are given that each author may bear his own burden; and a variety of writers have been quoted that the thoughts of many minds might be before the reader. Still I trust nothing evil has been admitted; if it be so it is an oversight……..It may be added, that although the comments were the work of my health, the rest of the volume is the product of my sickness. When protracted illness and weakness laid me aside from daily preaching, I resorted to my pen as an avail able means of doing good. I would have preached had I been able, but as my Master denied me the privilege of thus serving him, I gladly availed myself of the other method of bearing testimony for his name. O that He may give me fruit in this field also, and His shall be all the praise.”
Expositions of Psalms:
Title: This Psalm may be regarded as The Preface Psalm, having in it a notification of the contents of the entire Book. It is the psalmist’s desire to teach us the way to blessedness, and to warn us of the sure destruction of sinners. This, then, is the matter of the first Psalm, which may be looked upon, in some respects, as the text upon which the whole of the Psalms make up a divine sermon.
Division: This Psalm consists of two parts: in the first (from verse 1 to the end of the 3rd) David sets out wherein the felicity and blessedness of a godly man consisteth, what his exercises are, and what blessings he shall receive from the Lord. In the second part (from verse 4 to the end) he contrasts the state and character of the ungodly, reveals the future, and describes, in telling language, his ultimate doom.
Title: We shall not greatly err in our summary of this sublime Psalm if we call it The Psalm of Messiah The Prince: for it sets forth, as in a wondrous vision, the tumult of the people against the Lord’s Anointed, the determinate purpose of God to exalt His own Son, and the ultimate reign of that Son over all His enemies. Let us read it with the eye of faith, beholding, as in a glass, the final triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ over all His enemies. Lowth has the following remarks upon this Psalm: “The establishment of David upon his throne, notwithstanding the opposition made to it by his enemies, is the subject of the Psalm. David sustains in it a twofold character, literal and allegorical. If we read over the Psalm, first with an eye to the literal David, the meaning is obvious, and put beyond all dispute by the sacred history. There is indeed an uncommon glow in the expression and sublimity in the figures, and the diction is now and then exaggerated, as it were on purpose to intimate, and lead us to the contemplation of higher and more important matters concealed within. In compliance with this admonition, if we take another survey of the Psalm as relative to the person and concerns of the spiritual David, a noble series of events immediately rises to view, and the meaning becomes more evident, as well as more exalted. The colouring which may perhaps seem too bold and glaring for the King of Israel, will no longer appear so when laid upon his great Antitype. After we have thus attentively considered the subjects apart, let us look at them together, and we shall behold the full beauty and majesty of this most charming poem. We shall perceive the two senses very distinct from each other, yet conspiring in perfect harmony, and bearing a wonderful resemblance in every feature and lineament, while the analogy between them is so exactly preserved, that either may pass for the original from whence the other was copied. New light is continually cast upon the phraseology, fresh weight and dignity are added to the sentiments, till, gradually ascending from things below to things above, from human affairs to those that are Divine, they bear the great important theme upwards with them, and at length place it in the height and brightness of heaven.”
Division: This Psalm will be best understood if it be viewed as a fourfold picture. (In verses 1,2,3) the Nations are raging; (4 to 6) the Lord in heaven derides them; (7 to 9) the Son proclaims the decree; and (from 10 to end) advice is given to the kings to yield obedience to the Lord’s Anointed. This division is not only suggested by the sense, but is warranted by the poetic form of the Psalm, which naturally falls into four stanzas of three verses each.
….”The first Psalm was a contrast between the righteous man and the sinner; the second Psalm is a
contrast between the tumultuous disobedience of the ungodly world and the sure exaltation of the righteous Son of God. In the first Psalm, we saw the wicked driven away like chaff; in the second Psalm, we see them broken in pieces like a potter’s vessel. In the first Psalm, we beheld the righteous like a tree planted by the rivers of water ; and here, we contemplate Christ the Covenant Head of the righteous, made better than a tree planted by the rivers of water, for ‘He’
is made King of all the islands, and all the heathen bow before Him and kiss the dust; while He Himself gives a blessing to all those who put their trust in Him. The two Psalms are worthy of the very deepest attention; they are, in fact, the preface to the entire Book of Psalms, and were by some of the ancients, joined into one. They are, however, two Psalms; for Paul speaks of this as the second Psalms (Acts 13:33). The first shows us the character und lot of the righteous; and the
next teaches us that the Psalms are Messianic, and speak of Christ the Messiah —the Prince who shall reign from the river even unto the ends of the earth. That they have both a far-reaching prophetic outlook we are well assured, but we do not feel competent to open up that matter, and must leave it to abler hands”……
11: From: Family Prayer Book, Book Common Prayer, Psalms, etc. Protestant Episcopal Church, by Thomas C. Brownell, LLD. (1868)
Order for Daily Morning & Evening Prayer: Minister shall begin Morning & Evening Prayer, by reading one or more of the following Sentences of Scripture: (Hab. 2:20; Mal. 1:11; Ps. 19:14; Ezek. 18:27; Ps. 51:3; Ps. 51:9; Ps. 51:17; Joel 2:13; Dan. 9:9,10; Jer. 10:24. Ps. 6:1; St Matt. 3:2; St Luke 15:18,19; Ps. 143:2; 1st John 1:8,9.)
(1.) Under the Law, daily morning & evening devotions were enjoined by God, on all the Israelites. —”Thou shalt offer upon the altar two lambs of the first year day by day continually; the one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning, & the other lamb thou shalt offer at even.” This ordinance was constantly observed by the Jews, during the continuance of their city & polity. It was probably on this account that the primitive Christians set apart these periods as times for solemn worship. And like all the divine ordinances their institution is most consonant to reason, & the fitness of things. Every morning when we awake, we receive, as it were anew, our life from God. —When We arise from our beds, to go forth amidst the cares & temptations of the world, & the dangers & business of the day, nothing can be more reasonable than that we should offer to our merciful Preserver our thanksgivings for his care over us during the unguarded moments of sleep, & for all the blessings He is constantly conferring on us; & that we should supplicate his guidance & protection through the day, as well as his favour & blessing on the work of our hands. —In the evening, too, the same reasons call us to a renewal of the same duties of devotion. Retiring from the labours & vanities of the day, & when our exhausted spirits dispose us to sink down upon our beds, in the attitude & image of death, reason requires of us, that as dying men, we should supplicate the pardon of “God for our omissions of duty, as well as for our follies and positive transgressions; & that we should again commend ourselves to His protection who never slumbers nor sleeps.
But besides the public devotions of the morning & evening, many of the devout Jews were in the habit of retiring to their closets, in the middle of the day for the purpose of private worship. And we have reason to believe that this custom was adopted by the early Christians. We learn that St Peter, “went upon the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour,” which corresponds with our noon. And we find that this was a common period of Christian worship, in the time of St Cyprian, & Clement of Alexandria. It was not long after, that the Monks, who professed to be more devout than other Christians, added other hours of stated prayer. These stated periods of daily devotion had increased to seven, in the time of Pope Pelagius the 2nd, who established them by a decree, & provided offices of devotion for the several “Canonical hours.” —At the period of the Reformation, our parent Church of England brought back the periods of public worship to the primitive usage, and enjoined only “daily morning & evening prayer.”
But though the Church has appointed these two periods of public worship, she does not thereby excuse any of her children from the essential duty of private devotion. Stated periods for retirement to the closet are salutary for all men. We may worship God, indeed, at any period of the day, & in the midst of our business, by short mental ejaculations, but the use of stated times for private devotion cannot be too highly estimated. Such is the constitution of our nature, that a duty, which we think can be performed at any time, we are apt to defer altogether, unless we regulate our conduct by fixed rules.
In the Cathedral Churches, in England, the regular morning service is constantly performed. But the circumstances of country parishes will not admit of this daily public worship; nor is it practicable in the Parish Churches of this country. But though the dispersed residences, and the secular avocations of Christians, will nor permit them to assemble daily for public worship, none ran be excused for the neglect of Family Devotions. And the American branch of the Church, has set forth “Forms of Prayer to be used in Families,” well suited to their circumstances and their wants. —Those heads of Families, therefore, who live in the habitual neglect of these daily morning & evening devotions, frustrate the benevolent intentions of the Church, & lose one of the most interesting bands of the domestic state: while they are deficient in a duty enjoined not less by the dictates of reason than the authority of Scripture. (T.C.B)
(2.) Prayer is the elevation of the soul to a communion with God; & is commanded by Him as a duty, through the pious & faithful performance of which we obtain all the especial blessings we enjoy. It is a high honour to us that we are permitted & assisted to hold this intercourse, and it is also a source of inestimable benefits to us. But it is a duty of difficult performance. Our attention should be wholly engrossed in the solemn act we are engaged in. The worldly objects which commonly occupy our thoughts must be excluded. Our souls must be suitably humbled under a sense of our unworthiness, & brought to a proper state of serenity by a contemplation of the paternal goodness of God, and the atonement and mediation of the Saviour. [page 62] Hence it results that some preparation of the mind is necessary before we enter upon the sacred duties of devotion.—It is the custom of the Jews, when they enter their synagogues for worship, to stand silent for some time, to meditate on the presence and perfections of God. And in the early ages of Christianity, it was the custom of the Priest to prepare the people’s hearts for worship, by the use of a suitable preface. In imitation of this primitive usage, the Church has prescribed the sentences of Scripture, the reading of which are enjoined by the foregoing Rubrick…….
(18.) The Book of Psalms, is that collection of sacred hymns, which were composed by devout members of the Jewish Church, for the purpose of praising God, both on public and private occasions. They are usually called the Psalms of David, from his composing the greater part of them. The other authors, whose names are mentioned, are Asaph, Ethan, Heman, Moses, and Solomon, but to each of the four last is ascribed only a single psalm; except we suppose that Solomon wrote the 72nd as well as the 127th. Of the 150, about 70 are expressly attributed to David; and there is internal evidence that others, which do not bear his name, are of his composition. From the number and excellence of David’s psalms, he is, in the records of his own times, styled “the Sweet Psalmist of Israel.”
Being not merely works of human ingenuity, but dictated by the Spirit of God, they are adapted to ail states and conditions of the Church. They are found to be as useful to Christians of the present day, as they were formerly to the Jews, or even to the persons themselves by whom they were originally written. From this comprehensive character, and from the intrinsic merits of subject and composition, the psalms have always deservedly been held in the highest estimation. Whatever difference of opinion may have existed among the ancient Christians, either with regard to speculative points of theology, or external forms of worship, all agreed in the use of these hymns, as the most effectual instrument of devotion.
“The ancients, when they speak of the psalms,” says Hooker, “use to fall into large discourses, shewing how this part, above the rest, doth of purpose set forth and celebrate all the considerations & operations, which belong to God: it magnifieth the holy meditations and actions of divine men: it is of things heavenly & universal declaration, working in them whose hearts God inspireth with a due consideration thereof, an habit or disposition of mind, whereby they are made fit vessels both for receipt, and for delivery of whatsoever spiritual perfection. What is there necessary for men to know, which the Psalms are not able to teach? They are to beginners an easy and familiar introduction, a mighty augmentation of all virtue & knowledge in such as are entered before, a strong confirmation to the most perfect. Heroical magnanimity, exquisite justice, grave moderation, exact wisdom, unwearied patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of Providence over this world, and the promised joys of that world which is to come, all good necessarily to be either known, done, or had, this one celestial fountain yieldeth. Let there be any grief, or disease incident to the soul of man, any wound, or sickness named, for which there is not in this treasure house a present comfortable remedy at all times ready to be found. This is the very cause, why we iterate the Psalms oftener than any other part of Scripture besides; the cause wherefore we inure the people together with their minister, and not the minister alone, to read them, as other parts of Scripture he doth.” (Shepherd)
It is certain the temple service consisted chiefly of forms taken out of this Book of Psalms, 1st Chron.16:1, 7-37; 1st Chron. 25:1,2; & the prayers of the modern Jews are also most chiefly gathered from thence. The Christians undoubtedly used them in their public service in the Apostles’ times. 1st Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16; and in the following ages it is plain, that they sang the Psalms in the Church by turns, each side answering the other, indeed it appears the Psalms were placed about the beginning of the Prayers, soon after the Confession; & that they were so often repeated at Church, that the poorest Christians could say them by heart, and used to sing them at their labours, in their houses, & in their fields. The author of them, holy David, first set them to vocal & instrumental music; & pious antiquity did use them in their assemblies with music also; & so we may very fitly do, where we have convenience, for this makes our Churches the very emblem of the heavenly choir, which is always represented as praising God in this manner: and experience shews, that music works very much on the affections of well tempered men; it calms their minds; composes their thoughts; excites their devotion; & fills their soul with a mighty pleasure, while they thus set forth his praise.
The Church having thus fitted the Psalms for daily use, it is our duty to say or sing them with great devotion; & if we have performed the foregoing parts of the Liturgy as we ought, nothing can fit us better to sing David’s Psalms with David’s spirit; for all that hath been done hitherto was to tune our hearts, that we may say, “O God, my heart is ready,” or fixed: “I will sing & give praise,” Ps. 108:1. And, as St. Basil notes, this frame of spirit is more necessary in the use of the Psalms, than of any other part of Scripture, the rest being only read to us, but every man is to repeat these as his own words. (Dean Comber.)
As it is so primitive and useful an order to have the Psalms thus read; & as this “Psalter” is an entire body of devotion, having different forms, to exercise several graces, by way of internal act & spiritual intentions, containing in it, confessions, thanksgivings, prayers, praises, and intercessions; let every one be sure to do it standing, sitting being only allowed whilst the Lessons or the Epistle is reading. (Collis.)
(19.) The Christian Church has uniformly appointed the Psalms to be repeated oftener than any other part of Scripture, excepting only that divine form of prayer, which was taught by our Lord Himself, & in our Church makes apart of every service. “Christians,” says Chrysostom, “exercise themselves in David’s Psalms oftener than in any part of the Old, or New Testament —Moses the great Law-giver, who saw God face to face, & wrote of the creation of the world, is scarcely read through once a year. The Holy Gospels, where Christ’s miracles are preached, where God converses with man, where devils are cast out, lepers are cleansed, & the blind restored to sight, where death is destroyed, where is the food for immortality, the holy sacraments, the words of life, holy precepts, precious promises; these we read over once or twice a week. What shall I say of blessed Paul, the preacher of Christ ? His Epistles we read twice in the week. We get them not by heart, but attend to them while they are reading. —But as to David’s Psalms, the grace of the Holy Spirit has so ordered it, that they are repeated night & day. In the vigils of the church, the first, the midst, the last, are David’s Psalms. In the morning, David’s Psalms are sought for, & the first, the midst, & the last, is David. At funeral solemnities, the first, the midst & the last, is David. In private houses the first, the midst, & the last, is David. —Many that know not a letter can say David’s Psalms by heart.”
Jerome tells us, that “in the morning, at the 3rd, 6th, & 9th hour, in the evening, & at midnight, David’s Psalms are sung over in order, & no man is suffered to be ignorant of David’s Psalms.”
From the times of the Apostles, the recitation of Psalms has every where formed one principal part of the service of the Church. Some of the early Christians, in particular those of the East, rehearsed sometimes 20, sometimes 60 psalms in a day. About the year 350, in the Churches of Egypt, 12 were repeated in the morning, and the same number in the evening. This practice made its way into the western Church; for from Jerome we learn, that the whole Book of Psalms was read over once in 7 days. If 24 were read every day, the whole would be read in somewhat less than a week.
With us the Psalms are recited much oftener than any other part of Scripture, & thus far our established practice corresponds with the usage of the ancient Church. At the same time, that all the Psalms may be read in course, and that our Morning & Evening Prayer may not tire or disgust by its prolixity, we assign, for this purpose, the term of thirty days. (Shepherd.)
Standing has usually been considered as the most proper attitude for praise & thanksgiving. Accordingly we find that, in the ancient Church, the Psalms were almost universally recited in this posture. (Shepherd.)
The alternate recitation of the Psalms is not, as far as I at present recollect, enjoined by any Rubrick, nor by any other injunction of our Church. But we uniformly adopt it, & in defence of our practice, we have to allege, that it is perfectly congenial to the usage of antiquity, is sanctioned by the recommendation of the wisest and best among the fathers, has been ratified by respectable councils, & the most approved ecclesiastical laws, & is obviously calculated to keep up the attention, & assist the devotion of the people. (Shepherd.)
(20.) In some parts of the eastern Church Gloria Patri was formerly repeated at the end of the last psalm, which was called Alleluja, because they always selected for the concluding psalm one of those which had the title Alleluja (Hallelujah, Hallelu-Yah) prefixed. The concluding psalm was likewise called Antiphona, or the Antiphonial Psalm, from its being recited in alternate portions, that is, nearly in the same manner in which we repeat all the Psalms.
The ancient practice, however, of all the western Churches, (that of Rome alone excepted) was to repeat Gloria Patri at the end of every psalm. There is a peculiar propriety in this. The Doxology serves for a general application to each psalm. And as a penitential psalm may be followed by a psalm of thanksgiving, & that succeeded by one of adoration or prophecy, if they were not separated by this Doxology,or something of the like nature, subjects very distant and distinct might be strangely & improperly united. (Shepherd.)
(22.) From the Exhortation, at the opening of the service, we learn that one principal end of our meeting together in the house of God, is, “to hear His most holy word.” After reciting a portion of the Psalms there is a peculiar propriety in reading other parts of Holy Scripture. Our minds being elevated, & our affections warmed, by celebrating the praises of God, we are prepared to listen with attention & reverence to the history of His providence, the dispensation of his grace, and the rules of our duty. Here therefore follow, with the intervention only of a hymn, two lessons, the first taken from the Old Testament, the second from the New. The course pursued by the Church points out the order & disposition of the two covenants, and shews the harmony and connexion that exists be tween them. (Shepherd.)
After the Psalms follow the Lessons. For having, according to the Exhortation, “set forth God’s most worthy praise,” we proceed to ” hear His most holy word.” And then a respite is given to the bent of the mind: for, whereas in the work of praising it was active, in hearing it is only attentive. Besides, a different faculty of the soul is now called into employment. In the Psalms the will and affections were employed; but now in the Lessons chiefly the understanding. And, as with the members of the body, so with the faculties of the mind, a change of employment prevents weariness, & affords relief. (Dr. Bisse, Dr. Bennet.) He, which prayeth in due sort, is thereby made the more attentive to hear; and he, which heareth, the more earnest to pray. (Hooker.)
That they, who are blessed with a revelation from God, should read & hear it with reverence, when they assemble to worship Him, is a plain dictate of reason and religion. Accordingly the Jews “read Moses & the Prophets in their synagogues of old time,” as the book of Acts informs us, Acts 13:27, 15:21; & so indeed do writers of their own, in the same age with it: who boast of the practice as a most useful & honourable distinction peculiar to their nation, that the laws of life were thus published to all the people. The primitive Christians, as one of the earliest apologists for them, Justin Martyr, tells us, read at their meeting, both the Jewish prophets, and the writings of the apostles, in proper portions. And when the Church of Rome had broken them into small fragments, interrupted with other things; & had continued to read even these in Latin, after it was no longer understood; our Church rectified both errors; & hath taken care that the Old Testament should be gone through once a year and the New thrice. Only we omit some parts of the former; which are repetitions of what is related in other parts, or bare lists of genealogies and families, or too mystical & abstruse to be edifying in publick; on which last account we omit also the book of Revelation, excepting two or three chapters; matters of such difficulty being wisely thought fitter for the private meditation and study of those, who are qualified to engage in them…….(Abp. Secker.)
Notes Introductory to Psalms:
“The Psalms are an epitome of the Bible, adapted to the purposes of devotion. They treat occasionally of the creation and formation of the world; the dispensations of Providence, and the economy of grace; the transactions of the patriarchs; the exodus of the children of Israel; their journey through the wilderness, and settlement in Canaan; their law, priesthood, and ritual; the exploits of their great men, wrought through faith; their sins and captivities; their repentances and restorations; the sufferings and victories of David; the peaceful and happy reign of Solomon; the advent of Messiah, with its effects and consequences; His Incarnation, Birth, Life, Passion, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, Kingdom, and Priesthood; the effusion of the Spirit; the conversion of the nations; the rejection of the Jews; the establishment, increase, and perpetuity of the Christian Church; the end of the world; the general judgment; the condemnation of the wicked, and the final triumph of the righteous with their Lord and King. These are the subjects here presented to our meditations. We are instructed how to conceive of them aright, and to express the different affections which, when so conceived of, they must excite in our minds. They are, for this purpose, adorned with the figures, & set off with all the graces, of poetry; & poetry itself is designed yet farther to be recommended by the charms of music, thus consecrated to the service of God; that so delight may prepare the way for improvement, & pleasure become the handmaid of wisdom, while every turbulent passion is calmed by sacred melody, & the evil spirit is still dispossessed by the harp of the son of Jesse. This little volume, like the paradise of Eden, affords us in perfection, though in miniature, everything that groweth elsewhere, “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, & good for food :” & above all, that was there lost, but is here restored, the tree of life in the midst of the garden. That which we read, as matter of speculation, in the other Scriptures, is reduced to practice, when we recite it in the Psalms; in those, repentance & faith are described, but in these, they are acted; by a perusal of the former, we learn how others served God, but, by using the latter, we serve Him ourselves. “What is there necessary for man to know,” says the pious and judicious Hooker, “which the Psalms are not able to teach? They are to beginners an easy & familiar introduction a mighty augmentation of all virtue & knowledge in such as are entered before, a strong confirmation to the most perfect among others. Heroical magnanimity, exquisite justice, grave moderation, exact wisdom, repentance unfeigned, unwearied patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of Providence over this world, and the promised joys of that world which is to come; all good necessary to be either known, or done, or had, this one celestial fountain yieldeth. Let there be any grief or disease incident unto the soul of man, any wound or sickness named, for which there is not, in this treasure-house, a present comfortable remedy at all times ready to be found.” In the language of this divine Book, therefore, the prayers & praises of the Church have been offered up to the throne of grace, from age to age. And it appears to have been the manual of the Son of God in the days of His flesh; who, at the conclusion of His last supper, is generally supposed, and that upon good grounds, to have sung a hymn taken from it who pronounced, on the cross, the beginning of the 22d Psalm; “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” and expired with a part of the 31st Psalm in His mouth; “Into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” Thus He, who had not the Spirit by measure, in Whom were hidden all the treasures of wisdom & knowledge, & who spake as never man spake, yet chose to conclude his life, to solace himself in his greatest agony, and at last to breathe out his soul, in the Psalmist’s form of words rather than his own. No tongue of man or angel, as Dr Hammond justly observes, can convey a higher idea of any book, & of their felicity who use it aright. (Bp. Horne.)
The Psalms very justly make a principal part of the joint praises, that we offer up to God. For though several of them were composed on particular occasions, yet they are plainly fitted for general use; & their insertion into the canon of Scripture proves them to be designed for it: the Jews anciently recited them in the temple, and do still in their synagogues: the New Testament hath recommended them to the Christians , & the whole Church hath sung them ever since. Indeed the subject matter of them is very different: but those of joy are much more numerous, than any other sort: & all of them afford ground of praise at least; the doctrinal, the exhortatory, the historical, as well as the rest. Even the plaintive & petitionary minister cause of thanksgiving to Him, who hath promised to hear, & support, & deliver; & make all “things work together for good to them, that love Him.” Rom. 8:28. Glory therefore to the blessed Three (in) One is a fit conclusion to every Psalm.
But in reading them it must be carefully observed, & may with moderate care be commonly distinguished, in whose person the several sentences are spoken. In some Psalms, or portions of Psalms, it is God, or Christ; in others it is wicked men, that speak. These we must repeat as their sayings: & none as our own, but what were intended for us. Even the words of the Psalmist, if we are to adopt them, may frequently seem so unapplicable to the outward condition, or inward frame, of many in every congregation, that, if they attend to them, they cannot say them with truth. ‘But most of them all good people may say, even of themselves singly, with much truth. For they have constantly enemies, temporal or spiritual, afflictions more or less heavy, valuable mercies, & at times warm feelings of pious dispositions: which, if not present, may be so recalled, & made their own again, as to be very sincerely expressed to God. And what they cannot say in their own name separately, they may truly say in the name of Christ’s Church, of which they are members: & they ought, & surely do, bear some share of the mercies & sufferings, the fears & desires, of every part of it, in every state. And as David, in some of his Psalms, takes on him the person of Christ; in others he seems to take that of his disciples; & to speak, not in any one particular character, but as representing the whole body of believers. Or if there be any passages, which neither of these methods will suit: still we may rehearse them as expressing the case of some eminent worthy of old times, and be affected by it accordingly: for we often are strongly affected by the circumstances, well described, not only of distant but of imaginary persons. We may consider, as we go on, the likeness, or the difference, between his situation, his temper, & our own: and raise from it many reflections of sympathy & caution, of humiliation, encouragement, & thankfulness. Thus, at least, we may bring every thing we say, home to ourselves: & by so doing furnish our minds with a most valuable store of devout thoughts and language, perhaps for many future occasions of our own or others. For the Book of Psalms is so in exhaustible a treasure of every branch of piety, that a more constant use of it, than of any other in the whole Bible hath, with very just reason, been appointed in public forms of prayer, and recommended in private ones.
It may be objected, that in several of them David utters most bitter imprecations against his enemies: in which, to say nothing harsher, we cannot follow him; for the rule of the New Testament is, “Bless & curse not.” Rom. 12:14. But indeed most, if not all, the places, which appear wishes ot evil, may, according to the confessed import of the original, be understood only as predictions of it. Or, supposing them wishes, David might be directed by infinite wisdom to pronounce them even against the opposer of his reigning over Israel; who opposed, at the same time, the known decree of Providence. Repeating them in this view, solely as his, must be innocent: & strongly suggest an important admonition, “not to fight against God.” Acts 23:9. But perhaps in some of these, as well as other passages, he speaks in the person of the whole Church of God, against all its irreconcilable adversaries, whoever they be. Such was Judas: to whom therefore the two most dreadful of these Psalms are applied, (Acts 1:20:) &, with the utmost tenderness to the whole of God’s creation, we may & must desire the overthrow of them, who obstinately hate Him & His laws. For, though we ought much more to desire the repentance, than the death of a sinner, as He Himself doth: yet if they will not repent, we ought to think & speak with approbation & satisfaction, yet mixed with an awful concern, of their punishments here, & sentence hereafter: which last St Paul represents good persons, as joining to pronounce: “Do ye not know, that the saints shall judge the world?” 1st Cor. 6:2. ( Abp. Secker.)
Very few of the Psalms, comparatively, appear to be simply prophetical, & to belong only to Messiah, without the intervention of any other person. Most of them, it is apprehended, have a double sense, which stands upon this ground and foundation, that the ancient patriarchs, prophets, priests, & kings, were typical characters, in their several offices, & in the more remarkable passages of their lives, their extraordinary depressions, & miraculous exaltations, foreshewing Him who was to arise, as the Head of the holy Family, the great Prophet, the true Priest, the everlasting King. The Israelitish polity, & the law of Moses, were purposely framed after the example & shadow of things spiritual & heavenly; & the events, which happened to the ancient people of God, were designed to shadow out parallel occurrences, which should afterwards take place, in the accomplishment of man’s redemption, & the rise & progress of the Christian Church. For this reason, the Psalms composed for the use of Israel, & Israel’s monarch, and by them accordingly used at the time, do admit of an application to us, who are now, “the Israel of God,” & our Redeemer who is the King of Israel. (Bp. Horne.)
It would be an arduous and adventurous undertaking to attempt to lay down the rules observed in the conduct of the Mystic Allegory; so diverse are the modes in which the Holy Spirit has thought proper to communicate His counsels to different persons upon different occasions; inspiring and directing the minds of the prophets according to His good pleasure; at one time vouchsafing more full & free discoveries of future events; while, at another, He is more obscure and sparing in His intimations. From hence ariseth of course a great variety in the Scripture usage of this kind of allegory, as to the manner in which the spiritual sense is couched under the other. Sometimes it can hardly break forth & shew itself at intervals through the literal, which meets the eye as the ruling sense, & seems to have taken entire possession of the words & phrases. On the contrary, it is much oftener the capital figure of the piece, & stands confessed at once by such splendour of language, that the letter, in its turn, is thrown into shades, & almost totally disappears. Sometimes it shines with a constant equable light; & sometimes it darts upon us an a sudden, like a flash of lightning from the clouds. But a composition is never more truly elegant & beautiful than when two senses, alike conspicuous, run parallel together through the whole poem, mutually corresponding with, and illustrating each other. I will produce an undoubted instance or two of this kind, which will shew my meaning, & confirm what has hitherto been advanced on the subject of the mystic allegory.
The establishment of David upon his throne, notwithstanding the opposition made to it by his enemies, is the subject of the second Psalm. David sustains in it a twofold character, literal & allegorical. If we read over the Psalm first with an eye to the literal David, the meaning is obvious & put out of all dispute by the sacred history. There is indeed an uncommon glow in the expression, & sublimity in the figures, & the diction is now & then exaggerated as it were on purpose to intimate, & lead us to the contemplation of higher & more important matters concealed within. In compliance with this admonition, if we take another survey of the Psalm, as related to the person and concerns of the spiritual David, a noble series of events instantly rises to view, and the meaning becomes more evident as well as exalted. The colouring which may perhaps seem too bold and glaring for the king of Israel, will no longer appear so, when laid upon his great Antitype. After we have thus attentively considered the subjects apart, let us look at them together, and we shall behold the full beauty and majesty of this most charming poem. We shall perceive the two senses, very distinct from each other, yet conspiring in perfect harmony, & bearing a wonderful resemblance in every feature & lineament, while the analogy between them is so exactly preserved, that either may pass for the original, from which the other was copied. New light is continually cast upon the phraseology, fresh weight & dignity are added to the sentiment, till gradually ascending from things below to things above, from human affairs to those which are divine, they bear the great important theme upwards with them, & at length place it in the height and brightness of heaven.
What hath been observed with regard to this Psalm, may also be applied to the 72nd; the subject of which is of the same kind, & treated in the same manner. Its title might be, ‘The Inauguration of Solomon’. The scheme of the allegory is like in both; but a diversity of matter occasions an alteration in the diction. For whereas one is employed in celebrating the magnificent triumphs of victory, it is the design of the other to draw a pleasing picture of peace, & of that felicity, which is her inseparable attendant. The style is therefore of a more even & temperate sort, and more richly ornamented. It aboundeth not with those sudden changes of the person speaking which dazzle & astonish; but the imagery is borrowed from the delightful scenes with which creation cheers the sight, & the pencil of the divine artist is dipped in the soft colours of nature. And here we may take notice how peculiarly adapted to the genius of this kind of allegory the parabolical style is, on account of the great variety of natural images to be found in it. For as these images are capable of being employed in the illustration of things divine & human, between which there is a certain analogy maintained, so they easily afford that ambiguity which is necessary in this species of composition, where the Ianguage is applicable to each sense, and obscure in neither; it comprehends both parts of the allegory and may be clearly & distinctly referred to one or the other. (Bp. Lowth.)
The offence taken at the supposed uncharitable & vindictive spirit of the imprecations which occur in some of the Psalms, ceases immediately if we change the imperative for the future, and read not “Let Them Be Confounded,” &c, but, “They Shall Be Confounded,” &c, of which the Hebrew is equally capable. Such passages will then have no more difficulty in them, than the other frequent predictions of divine vengeance in the writings of the prophets or denunciations of it in the gospel intended to warn, to alarm, and to lead sinners to repentance that they may fly from the wrath to come. This is Dr. Hammond’s observation; who very properly remarks, at the same time, that in many places of this sort, as particularly in Psalm 109 (and the same may be said of Psalm 69) it is reasonable to resolve that Christ Himself speaketh in the prophet; as being the person there principally concerned, and the completion most signal in many instances there mentioned: the succession especially of Matthias to the apostleship of Judas. It is true, that in the citation made by St Peter from Psalm 109 in Acts 1:20, as also in that made by St Paul from Psalm 109 in Romans 11:9, the imperative form is preserved; “Let his habitation be void,” &c.; ” Let their table be made a snare,” &c. But it may be considered that the apostles generally cited from the Greek of the LXX version; and took it as they found it, making no alterations, when the passage as it there stood, was sufficient to prove the main point which it was adduced to prove. If the imprecatory form be still contended for, all that can be meant by it, whether uttered by the prophet, by Messiah, or by ourselves, must be a solemn ratification of the just judgments of the Almighty against his impenitent enemies, like what we find ascribed to the blessed in heaven when such judgments were executed. Rev. 11:17,18; 16:5,6,7. See Merrick’s Annotations on Psalm 109 & Witsie’s Miscellan. Sacr. Lib. 1 Cap. 18 Sect. 24. But by the future rendering of the verbs, every possible objection is precluded at once. (Bp. Horne.)
Greatness confers no exemption from the cares & sorrows of life. Its share of them frequently bears a melancholy proportion to its exaltation. This the Israelitish monarch experienced. He sought in piety that peace which he could not find in empire, and alleviated the disquietudes of state with the exercises of devotion.
His invaluable Psalms convey those comforts to others, which they afforded to himself. Composed upon particular occasions, yet designed for general use; delivered out as services for Israelites under the Law, yet no less adapted to the circumstances of Christians under the Gospel; they present religion to us in the most engaging dress; communicating truths which philosophy could never investigate, in a style which poetry can never equal; while history is made the vehicle of prophecy, and creation lends its charms to paint the glories of redemption. Calculated alike to profit, & to please, they inform the understanding, elevate the affections, and entertain the imagination, Indited under the influence of Him to whom all hearts are known, and all events foreknown, they suit mankind in all situations, grateful as the manna which descended from above, and conformed itself to every palate. The fairest productions of human wit, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands, and lose their fragrancy; but these unfading plants of paradise become, as we are accustomed to them, still more and more beautiful; their bloom appears to be daily more & more heightened; fresh odours are emitted, and new sweets extracted from them. He who hath once tasted their excellences, will desire to taste them again; and he who tastes them oftenest, will relish them best.
And now, could the author flatter himself that any one would take half the pleasure in reading the following exposition, which he hath taken in writing it, he would not fear the loss of his labour. The employment detached him from the bustle & hurry of life, the air of politics, & the noise of folly; vanity & vexation flew away for a season, care & disquietude came not near his dwelling. He arose, fresh as the morning, to his task; the silence of the night invited him to pursue it; and he can truly say that food & rest were not preferred before it.
Every psalm improved infinitely upon his acquaintance with it, and no one gave him uneasiness but the last; for then he grieved that his work was done. Happier hours than those which he spent upon these meditations on the Songs of Sion, he never expects to see in this world. Very pleasantly did they pass and moved smoothly & swiftly along; for, when thus engaged he counted no time. They have gone but have left a relish & fragrance upon the mind, and the remembrance of them is sweet. (Bp. Horne.)
That the reader may the more easily turn to such Psalms as will best suit the present state of his mind, according to the different circumstances, whether external or internal, into which, by the changes & chances of life, or the variations of temper & disposition, he may, at any time, be thrown, the common Table of Psalms, classed under their several subjects, is here subjoined.
I. Prayers for Pardon of sin. (Forgiveness) Psalm 6, 25, 38, 51,130. Psalms styled Penitential, 6, 32, 38, 51, 102,130,143.
II. Prayers composed when the Psalmist was Deprived of an opportunity for the public exercise of religion. Psalm 42,43, 63, 84.
III. Prayers wherein the Psalmist seems extremely Dejected, though not totally Deprived of consolation, under his Afflictions. Psalm 13, 22, 69, 77, 88, 143.
IV. Prayers wherein the Psalmist asketh Help of God in consideration of his own integrity, & the uprightness of his cause. Psalm 7, 17, 26, 35.
V. Prayers expressing the firmest Trust & Confidence in God under Afflictions. Psalm 3, 16, 27, 31, 54, 56,57, 61,62, 71, 86.
VI. Prayers composed when the people of God were under Affliction or Persecution. Psalm 44, 60, 74, 79,80, 83, 89, 94, 102, 123, 137.
VII. The following are likewise Prayers in time of Trouble & Affliction. Psalm 4,5, 11, 28, 41, 55, 59, 64, 70, 109, 120, 140,141,142.
VIII. Prayers of Intercession. Psalm 20, 67, 122, 132, 144.
Psalms of Thanksgiving:
I. Thanksgivings for Mercies vouchsafed to particular persons. Psalm 9, 18, 21, 30, 34, 40, 75, 103, 108, 116, 118, 138, 144.
II. Thanksgivings for Mercies vouchsafed to the Israelites in general. Psalm 46, 48, 65, 66, 68, 76, 81, 85, 98, 105, 124, 126, 129, 135, 136, 149.
Psalms of Praise & Adoration, displaying the Attributes of God,
I. General acknowledgments & praise of God’s Goodness & Mercy, & particularly His Care & Protection of good men. Psalm 23, 34, 36, 91, 100, 103, 107, 117, 121, 145,146.
II. Psalms displaying the power, majesty, glory, & other attributes of the Divine Being. Psalm 8, 19, 24, 29, 33, 47, 50, 65,66, 76,77, 93, 95,96,97, 99, 104, 111, 113,114,115, l34, 139, 147,148, 150.
I. The different characters of Good & Bad men: the Happiness of the one, & the Miseries of
the other, are represented in the following Psalms, 1, 5, 7, 9,10,11,12, 14,15, 17, 24,25, 32, 34, 36,37, 50, 52,53, 58, 73, 75, 84, 91,92, 94, 112, 119, 121, 125, 127,128, 133.
II. The excellence of God’s Law (& Word). Psalm 19, 119.
III. The Vanity of human life. Psalm 39, 49, 90.
IV. Advice to Magistrates. Psalm 82, 101.
V. The virtue of Humility. Psalm 131.
Psalms more eminently & directly Prophetical. Psalm 2, 16, 22, 40, 45, 68, 72, 87, 110, 118.
Historical Psalms: Psalm 78, 105, 106. (Bp. Horne.)
Giving the signification of some old English words used in this translation, but not commonly spoken or written in this age, at least not in that sense in which our Translators took them.
(Abridged from ” Holy David and his old English Translators clear’d,” 8vo. 1706.)
Beast: ‘Any living creature, except man’; not only our Translators, but Mr. Ainsworth, calls serpents and fish “beasts.” Gen. 3:1; Psal. 104:25. And indeed our last Translators do the same; which shews that the word was taken in this sense for above sixty years after this translation was made.
Blaspheme: ‘To speak reproachfully either of God or man’. If we respect the etymology only it is more properly applicable to man, than to God: for it properly signifies to ‘hurt the fame or credit of another’. Ps. 4:2.
Blasphemy: ‘Reproach, or slander’, either against God, or man. Ps. 73:8.
Commune: ‘To discourse familiarly, to confer notes’.
Counsel: ‘Design, device, decree’, or ‘resolution’ & not only advice, or direction, as it is now commonly taken. Ps. 33:10.
Eschew: ‘Avoid, shun, decline’.
Fain: ‘Glad, merry’. We now use it adverbially, namely, ” I would fain,” that is, ‘gladly’ but we do not commonly use it as an adjective as our ancestors did. See Ps. 71:21.
Flitting: A ‘hasty removal’, or ‘flight’. It is still used in this sense in some parts of England. Ps. 54:8.
Flood: A ‘river’ or ‘stream’. See Ps. 72:8; 89:26. It should seem this word retained this signification commonly in our language at the beginning of the seventeenth century; for our last Translators use it in this sense. Josh. 24:3; Ps. 98:8.
Health: ‘Safety, protection, power of saving, salvation’ both spiritual and temporal. It evidently comes from the old English hael, which had the very same signification. Ps. xxii. 22:1, &c and our last Translators used the word “health” in this sense. Ps. 42:11.
Hell: Not only ‘the place of torments’, but ‘the place or state of deceased souls’, or what we commonly call ‘the other world’. It seems to come from “Helan,” to ‘cover’, or ‘hide’, as the Greek “Hades” likewise signifies ‘an obscure or unknown place’. Our Translators did well to retain the word in this sense, as they do in Ps. 30:3, and often elsewhere: for this helps us to understand those words of our Christian faith “He descended into Hell;” whereas, by losing the ancient signification of words, the people are
in danger to lose the sense and meaning of their Creed. Further, sometimes “Hell” signifies ‘death’ only, as in Ps. 18:4; 96:3.
Host: ‘Army’, or ‘very great company’, very often.
Imagine: To ‘contrive, plot, design’; so it signifies in the statute of treason, which makes it a crime punishable with death, ” to ‘imagine’ the death of the King,” &c. Ps. 2:1, and very often.
Instantly: ‘Importunately, zealously’. Ps. 55:18. We still say that a thing was done “at the instance,” that is, ‘at the earnest request’, of another. The adjective ‘instant’ signifies ‘importunate’, in our last translation, (Luke 23:23,) and in other places.
Leasing: ‘Lying, cheating, dissembling’. Ps. 4:2.
Lust: Not only ‘filthy carnal desires’, but any ‘eagerness of appetite’, or ‘violent irregular inclination’. Ps. 10:2. So to “lust,” and to “list” signify the same thing in this translation. Ps. 73:7.
Malicious: ‘Very bad, evil’, &c. Ps. 59:5. We now commonly understand by this word, ‘spitefid, envious’; the ancients did not so.
Nethermost: ‘Lowest’ Ps. 86:13. “Nether” is used for lower, by our last Translators. Deut. 24:6, &c.
Plague: Any ‘blow’ or ‘stroke’ of God’s correcting or punishing hand, (Ps. 38:17;) not the pestilence only. “To plague,” in common discourse, signifies, to ‘use any severe proceedings’.
Port: ‘Gate’, from the Latin “Porta.” We still call him who keeps the gate porter. Ps. 9:14.
Preacher: Not only ‘he that discourses publicly of religion’, but ‘any one that publishes’ or declares any thing. Ps. 68:11; 59:12. So “to preach” signifies to publish or declare.
Prevent: To go, or be before. There are two designs which one may have in “going before” another; either to guide and help, or to hinder or stop: accordingly the word signifies two contrary things, namely, to help forward, and to oppose, hinder, &c. In the Scripture and Liturgy, it is for the most part taken in the good sense, to ‘guide, help forward, assist’, or ‘be beforehand in kindness’, as in Ps. 21:3; sometimes in the bad sense, to ‘hinder, stand in one’s way’, &c. (Ps. 18:18:) at other places barely
to ‘go’, or ‘be before’, as in Ps. 119:148; and 1st Thess. 4:15.
Quick: ‘Alive’; & so to “quicken,” signifies to ‘give’ or ‘restore life’, to ‘revive’ or ‘enliven’. Ps. 34:2; 22:30.
Rebuke: Not only ‘severe reprehension’, but any manner of ‘hard’ or ‘reproachful language’. Ps. 69:21.
Reproof: is used in much the same sense with the former word ‘rebuke’, & does not only import,
‘grave’ & ‘severe admonition’, but any manner of ‘reproachful language’, any speech whereby we shew our dislike of another’s words or actions. Ps. 69:20.
Simple: ‘Unmixt, plain, without any fraud or guile’, or ‘worldly policy’; like a child, that has no art or cunning to help himself in any difficulty, and therefore is often oppressed and overreached by crafty & sharp men. It is generally used in a good sense in the Psalms and New Testament; namely, for ‘plain, undesigning, though abused’ men; but then, because such are subject to be caught & drawn into evil, by political & artificial men, therefore sometimes it denotes those who by this means are ‘betrayed to sin’, & ‘a fault’ committed through this ‘easy unwary temper’, is called “simpleness.” Ps. 69:5.
Well: A ‘spring, fountain’, or ‘small stream’, not only a ‘deep dug pit’, as now it commonly signifies. Ps. 36:9; 84:6.
Wholesome: ‘Safe’. We still say “wholesome food, air, law, counsel.” Ps. 20:6.
Wiliness: ‘Cunning, guile’. We still use the word “wiles,” from whence this comes. Ps. 10:2.
World: ‘Age, time’, not only the ‘universe’ or ‘earth’: thus it signifies in the doxology “world,’ that is ‘age’, or ‘time’, “without end.” So in the Nicene Creed, “before all worlds;” that is, before all ages, or before time itself was. Ps. 45:18.
Worship: ‘Majesty, dignity, excellency, what deserves to be honoured’, or ‘is honoured’; that glory and power in God, to which we pay our devotion: for so it signified to our Saxon ancestors. Our Translators use the word in this sense, (Ps. 3:3; 96:6;) and elsewhere. We now by “worship,” most commonly mean that ‘honour which we pay to God’; and our Translators often take it in that sense also. Further;
“worship” does not only signify, the eminent dignity which is in God, but that which is in a low degree ‘in man’; & this sense of the word is not yet lost even in our own common language: for we still call that honour & authority which belongs to a magistrate, “his worship.” Our Translators retain the word also in this sense, when they say, that “God gives worship,” that is, honour and dignity, “to them who lead a godly life.” Ps. 84:12. Nay, our last Translators use the word in, the same sense, (Luke 14:10;) where it is said, that the humble guest ” shall have worship in the presence of those who sit at meat with him.” Who can then wonder, that in the matrimonial office the husband is taught to “worship” his wife? that is, ‘to pay her all due respect’? for no one ever understood more by that expression, except he were blinded by unpardonable ignorance, or prejudice. There is then an honour, glory, dignity, or worship in the divine nature; and so there is, or may be, in men too. We must pay honour, glory, worship, principally to God, but in an inferior sense to men. It has been said that most controversies, now depending, are chiefly a strife about words, And from what has been said briefly concerning this & other words in this short vocabulary, it will appear, that several particulars which have been objected against in our Psalter, our Liturgy, & our very Creed, are far enough from being faulty in themselves, & have been thought so by some men, merely because they do not understand their own tongue……