1902 Encyclopedia > Book of Psalms

Book of Psalms




BOOK OF PSALMS, or PSALTER, the first book of the Hagiographa in the Hebrew Bible.

Title and Traditional Authorship.—The Hebrew title of the book is _____, or ___, "the book of hymns " or rather " songs of praise." The singular _____ is properly the infinitive or nomen verbi of ____, a verb employed in the technical language of the temple service for the execution of a jubilant song of praise to the accompaniment of music and the blare of the priestly trumpets (1 Chron. xvi. 4 sq., xxv. 3; 2 Chron. v. 12 sq.). The name is not therefore equally applicable to all psalms, and in the later Jewish ritual the synonym hallel specially designates two series of psalms, cxiii.-cxviii. and cxlvi.-cl., of which the former was sung at the three great feasts, the encaenia, and the new moon, and the latter at the daily morning prayer. That the whole book is named " praises " is clearly due to the fact that it was the manual of the temple service of song, in which praise was the leading feature. But for an individual psalm the usual name is "toll? (in the Bible only in titles of psalms), which is applic-able to any piece designed to be sung to a musical accom-paniment. Of this word _____, "psalm," is a translation, and in the Greek Bible the whole book is called _____.' The title _____l or _____ is used in the New Testament (Luke xx. 42, xxiv. 44 ; Acts i. 20), but in Heb. iv. 7 we find another title, namely "David." Hippolytus tells us that in his time most Christians said " the Psalms of David," and believed the whole book to be his; but this title and belief are both of Jewish origin, for in 2 Mac. ii. 13 _____ means the Psalter, and the title of the apocryphal "Psalter of Solomon" implies that the previously existing Psalter was ascribed to David. Jewish tradition does not make David the author of all the psalms; but as he was regarded as the founder and legislator of the temple psalmody (1 Chron., ut sup.; Ezra iii. 10; Neh. xii. 36, 45 sq.; Ecclus. xlvii. 8 sq.), so also he was held to have completed and arranged the whole book, though according to Talmudic tradition he incor-porated psalms by ten other authors, Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, Heman, Jeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah. With this it agrees that the titles of the psalms name no one later than Solomon, and even he is not recognized as a psalmodist by the most ancient tradition, that of the LXX., which omits him from the title of Ps. cxxvii. and makes Ps. lxxii. be written not by but of him. The details of the tradition of authorship show considerable variation; according to the Talmudic view Adam is author of the Sabbath psalm, xcii., and Melchizedek of Ps. ex., while Abraham is identified with Ethan the Ezrahite (Ps. lxxxix.). But, according to older Jewish tradition attested by Origen, Ps. xcii. is by Moses, to whom are assigned Pss. xc.-c. inclusive, according to a general rule that all anonymous pieces are by the same hand with the nearest preceding psalm whose author is named; and Ps. ex., which by its title is Davidic, seems to have been given to Melchizedek to avoid the dilemma of Matt. xxii. 41 sq.

Origen's rule accounts for all the psalms except i. and ii., which were sometimes reckoned as one poem (Acts xiii. 33 in the Western text; Origen; B. Berakhoth, f. 9b), and appear to have been ascribed to David (Acts iv. 25).

The opinion of Jerome (Praef. in Ps. Heb.) and other Christian writers that the collector of the Psalter was Ezra does not seem to rest on Jewish tradition.

Nature and Origin of the Collection.—Whatever may be the value of the titles to individual psalms, there can be no question that the tradition that the Psalter was col-lected by David is not historical; for no one doubts that some of the psalms date from after the Babylonian exile. The truth that underlies the tradition is that the collection is essentially the hymn-book of the second temple, and it was therefore ascribed to David, because it was assumed, as we see clearly from Chronicles, that the order of worship in the second temple was the same as in the first, and had David as its father : as Moses completed the law of Israel for all time before the people entered Canaan, so David completed the theory and contents of the temple psalmody before the temple itself was built. When we thus under-stand its origin, the tradition becomes really instructive, and may be translated into a statement which throws light on a number of points connected with the book, namely, that the Psalter was (finally, at least) collected with a liturgical purpose. Thus, though the Psalms represent a great range of individual religious experience, they avoid such situations and expressions as are too unique to be used in acts of public devotion. Many of the psalms are doxologies or the like, expressly written for the temple; others are made up of extracts from older poems in a way perfectly natural in a hymn-book, but otherwise hardly in-telligible. Such ancient hymns as Exod. xv. 1 sq., Judges v., 1 Sam. ii. 1 sq., are not included in the collection, though motives borrowed from them are embodied in more modern psalms; the interest of the collector, we see, was not his-torical but liturgical. Again, the temple, Zion, the solemn feasts, are constantly kept in the foreground. All these points go to show that the collection was not only used but actually formed for use in the temple.

The question now arises, Was the collection a single act or is the Psalter made up of several older collections *? And here we have first to observe that in the Hebrew text the Psalter is divided into five books, each of which closes with a doxology. The scheme of the whole is as follows :—

Book T., Pss. i.-xli. : all these are ascribed to David except i.. ii., x. (which is really part of ix.), xxxiii. (ascribed to David in LXX.); doxology, xli. 13. Book II., Pss. xlii.-lxxii.: of these xlii.-xlix. are ascribed to the Korahites (xliii. being part of xlii.), 1. to Asaph, li.-lxxi. to David (except lxvi., lxvii., lxxi. anonymous ; in LXX. the last two bear David's name), lxxii. to Solomon ; doxology, lxxii. 18, 19 followed by the subscription "The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended." Book III., Pss. lxxiii.-lxxxix. : here lxxiii.-Ixxxiii. bear the name of Asaph, Ixxxiv., lxxxv., lxxxvii., lxxxviii. that of the Korahites, Ixxxvi. of David, lxxxviii. of Heman, lxxxix. of Ethan ; doxology, lxxxix. 52. Book IV., Pss. xc.-cvi. : all are anonymous except xc. (Moses), ci., ciii. (David),—LXX. gives also civ. to David ; here the doxology is peculiar, " Blessed be Jehovah God of Israel from everlasting and to everlasting. And let all the people say Amen, Hallelujah." Book V., Pss. cvii.-cl. : of these cviii.-cx., exxii., exxiv., exxxi., exxxiii., exxxviii.-cxlv. are ascribed to David, and cxxvii. to Solomon, and exx.-exxxiv. are pilgrimage psalms ; LXX. varies considerably from the Hebrew as to the psalms to be ascribed to David ; the book closes with a group of doxological psalms.

The division into five books was known to Hippolytus, but a closer examination of the doxologies shows that it does not represent the original scheme of the Psalter; for, while the doxologies to the first three books are no part of the psalms to which they are attached, but really mark the end of a book in a pious fashion not uncommon in Eastern litera-ture, that to book iv. with its rubric addressed to the people plainly belongs to the psalm, or rather to its liturgical exe-cution, and does not therefore really mark the close of a collection once separate. In point of fact books iv. and v. have so many common characters that there is every reason to regard them as a single great group. Again, the main part of books ii. and iii. (Pss. xlii.-lxxxiii.) is distinguished from the rest of the Psalter by habitually avoiding the name Jehovah (the Lord) and using Elohim (God) instead, even in cases like Ps. 1. 7, where " I am Jehovah thy God " _of Exod. xx. 2 is quoted but changed very awkwardly to " I am God thy God." This is not due to the authors of the individual psalms, but to an editor; for Ps. liii. is only .another recension of Ps. xiv., and Ps. lxx. repeats part of Ps. xl, and here Jehovah is six times changed to Elohim, while the opposite change happens but once. The Elohim psalms, then, have undergone a common editorial treatment distinguishing them from the rest of the Psalter. And they make up the mass of books ii. and iii., the remaining psalms, lxxxiv.-lxxxix., appearing to be a sort of appendix. But when we look at the Elohim psalms more nearly we see that they contain two distinct elements, Davidic psalms and psalms ascribed to the Levitical choirs (sons of Korah, Asaph). The Davidic collection as we have it splits the Levitical psalms into two groups and actually divides the Asaphic Ps. 1. from the main Asaphic collection, lxxiii.-Ixxxiii. This order can hardly be original, especially as the Davidic Elohim psalms have a separate subscription (Ps. Ixxii. 20). But if we remove them we get a continuous body of Levitical Elohim psalms, or rather two collections, the first Korahitic and the second Asaphic, to which there have been added by way of appendix by a non-Elohistic editor a supplementary group of Korahite psalms and one psalm (certainly late) ascribed to David. The formation of books iv. and v. is certainly later than the Elohistic re-daction of books ii. and iii., for Ps. cviii. is made up of two Elohim psalms (Ivii. 7-11, lx. 5-12) in the Elohistic form, though the last two books of the Psalter are generally Jehovistic. We can thus distinguish the following steps in the redaction:—(a) the formation of a Davidic collection (book i.) with a closing doxology; (6) a second Davidic collection (li.-lxii.) with doxology and subscription; (c) a twofold Levitical collection (xlii.-xlix.; L, lxxiii.-lxxxiii.); (cl) an Elohistic redaction and combination of (6) and (c); («) the addition of a non-Elohistic supplement to (d) with a doxology; (/) a collection later than (d), consisting of books iv., v. And finally the anonymous psalms i., ii., which as anonymous were hardly an original part of book i., may have been prefixed after the whole Psalter was completed. We see too that it is only in the latest collec-tion (books iv., v.) that anonymity is the rule, and titles, especially titles with names, occur only sporadically. Else-where the titles run in series and correspond to the limits of older collections.

Date of the Collection.—A process of collection which involves so many stages must plainly have taken a considerable time, and the question arises whether we can fix a limit for its beginning and end or even assign a date for any one stage of the process. An inferior limit for the final collection is given by the Septuagint translation. But this translation itself was not written all at once, and its history is obscure; we only know from the pro-logue to Ecclesiasticus that the Hagiographa, and doubt-less therefore the Psalter, were read in Greek in Egypt about 130 B.C. or somewhat later. And the Greek Psalter, though it contains one apocryphal psalm at the close, is essentially the same as the Hebrew; there is nothing to suggest that the Greek was first translated from a less complete Psalter and afterwards extended to agree with the extant Hebrew. It is therefore reasonable to hold that the Hebrew Psalter was completed and recognized as an authoritative collection long enough before 130 B.C. to allow of its passing to the Greek-speaking Jews in Alex-andria. Beyond this the external evidence for the com-pletion of the collection does not carry us. It appears indeed from 1 Chron. xvi., 2 Chron. vi. 41, 42, that various psalms belonging to books iv. and v. were current in the time of the Chronicler,—that is, towards the close of the Persian or more probably in the earlier part of the Greek period. But it is not certain that the psalms he quotes (xcvi., cv., cvi., cxxxii.) already existed in their place in our Psalter, or that Ps. cvi. even existed in its present form. Turning now to internal evidence, we find the surest start-ing-point in the Levitical psalms of the Elohistic collection. These, as we have seen, form two groups, referred to the sons of Korah and to Asaph. At the beginning of the Greek period or somewhat later Asaph was taken to be a contemporary of David and chief of the singers of his time (Neh. xii. 46), or one of the three chief singers belonging to the three great Levitical houses (1 Chron. xxv. 1 sq.). But the older history knows nothing of an individual Asaph; at the time of the return from Babylon the guild of singers as a whole was called Bne Asaph (Ezra ii. 41), and so apparently it was in the time of Nehemiah (Neh. xi. 22, Heb.). The singers or Asaphites are at this time still distinguished from the Levites; the oldest attempt to incorporate them with that tribe appears in Exod. vi. 24, where Abiasaph—that is, the eponym of the guild of Asaphites—is made one of the three sons of Korah. But when singers and Levites were fused the Asaphites ceased to be the only singers, and ultimately, as we see in Chron-icles, they were distinguished from the Korahites and reckoned to Gershom (1 Chron. vi.), while the head of the Korahites is Heman, as in the title of Ps. Ixxxviii. It is only in the appendix to the Elohistic psalm-book that we find Heman and Ethan side by side with Asaph, as in the Chronicles, but the body of the collection distinguishes between two guilds of singers, Korahites and Asaphites, and is therefore as a collection younger than Nehemiah, but presumably older than Chronicles with its three guilds.

The contents of the Korahite and Asaphic psalms give no reason to doubt that they really were collected by or for these two guilds. Both groups are remarkable by the fact that they hardly contain any recognition of present sin on the part of the community of Jewish faith—though they do confess the sin of Israel in the past—but are exercised with the observation that prosperity does not follow righteousness either in the case of the individual (xlix., lxxiii.) or in that of the nation, which suffers notwithstanding its loyalty to God, or even on account thereof (xliv., lxxix.). Now the rise of the problems of individual faith is the mark of the age that followed Jeremiah, while the confident assertion of national righteousness under misfortune is a characteristic mark of pious Judaism after Ezra, in the period of the law but not earlier. Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah, like Haggai and Zechariah, are still very far from holding that the sin of Israel lies all in the past. Again, a considerable number of these psalms (xliv., lxxiv., lxxix., lxxx.) point to an historical situation which can be very definitely realized. They are post-exile in their whole tone and belong to a time when prophecy had ceased and the synagogue worship was fully established (lxxiv. 8, 9). But the Jews are no longer the obedient slaves of Persia; there has been a national rising and armies have gone forth to battle. Yet God has not gone forth with them: the heathen have been victorious, blood has flowed like water round Jerusalem, the temple has been defiled, and these disasters assume the character of a reli-gious persecution. These details would fit the time of re-ligious persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, to which indeed Ps. lxxiv. is referred (as a prophecy) in 1 Mac. vii. 16. But against this reference there is the objection that these psalms are written in a time of the deepjest de-jection and yet are psalms of the temple choirs. Now when the temple was reopened for worship after its pro-fanation by Antiochus the Jews were victorious and a much more joyous tone was appropriate. Besides, if the psalms are of the Maccabee period, they can have been no original part of the Elohistic psalm-book, which certainly was not collected so late. But there is one and only one time in the Persian period to which they can be referred, viz., that of the great civil wars under Artaxerxes III. Ochus (middle of 4th century B.C.). See PERSIA, vol. xviii. p. 580, and PHOENICIA, ib. p. 809. The Jews were involved in these and were severely chastised, and we know from Josephus that the temple was defiled by the Persians and humiliating conditions attached to the worship there. It would appear that to the Jews the struggle took a theo-cratic aspect, and it is not impossible that the hopeful beginnings of a national movement, which proved in the issue so disastrous, are reflected in some of the other pieces of the collection. All this carries the collection of the Elohistic psalm-book down to quite the last years of the Persian period at the earliest, and with this it agrees—to name but one other point—that the view of Israel's past history taken in Ps. lxxviii., where the final rejection of the house of Joseph is co-ordinated with the fall of Shiloh and the rise of Zion and the Davidic kingdom, indi-cates a standpoint very near to that of Chronicles. The fusion of the separate Korahite and Asaphic psalm-books in a single collection along with the second group of Davidic psalms may very probably be connected with the remodelling of the singers in three choirs which Chronicles presupposes.





Now books iv. and v. are, as we have seen, later than the Elohistic redaction of books ii. and iii., so that the collection of the last part of the Psalter must, if our argument up to this point is sound, be thrown into the Greek period, and probably not the earliest part thereof. And this conclusion is borne out by a variety of indications. First of all, the language of some of these psalms clearly points to a very late date indeed.2 The Jews had even in the time of Nehemiah (Neh. xiii. 24) been in danger of forgetting their own tongue and adopting a jargon com-pounded with neighbouring idioms; but the restorers of the law fought against this tendency with vigour and with so much success that very tolerable Hebrew was written for at least a century longer. But in such a psalm as cxxxix. the language is a real jargon, a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic, which, in a hymn accepted for use in the temple, shows the Hebrew speech to have reached the last stage of decay. Again, though no part of the Psalter shows clearer marks of a liturgical purpose, we find that in books iv. and v. the musical titles have entirely disap-peared. The technical terms, that is, of the temple music which are still recognized by the Chronicler have gone out of use, presumably because they were already become un-intelligible, as they were when the Septuagint version was made. This implies a revolution in the national music which we can hardly explain in any other way than by the influence of that Hellenic culture which, from the time of the Macedonian conquest, began to work such changes on the whole civilization and art of the East. Once more the general tone of large parts of this collection is much more cheerful than that of the Elohistic psalm-book. It begins with a psalm (xc.) ascribed in the title to Moses, and seemingly designed to express feelings appropriate to a situation analogous to that of the Israelites when, after the weary march through the wilderness, they stood on the borders of the promised land. It looks back on a time of great trouble and forward to a brighter future. In some of the following psalms there are still references to deeds of oppression and violence, but more generally Israel ap-pears as happy under the law with such a happiness as it did enjoy under the Ptolemies during the 3d century B.C. The problems of divine justice are no longer burning ques-tions ; the righteousness of God is seen in the peaceful felicity of the pious (xci., xcii., &c). Israel, indeed, is still scattered and not triumphant over the heathen, but even in the dispersion the Jews are under a mild rule (cvi. 46), and the commercial activity of the nation has begun to develop beyond the seas (cvii. 26 sq.). The whole situation and vein of piety here are strikingly parallel to those shown in Ecclesiasticus, which dates from the close of the Ptolemaic sovereignty in Palestine. But some of the psalms carry us beyond this peaceful period to a time of struggle and victory. In Ps. cxviii. Israel, led by the house of Aaron— this is a notable point—has emerged triumphant from a desperate conflict and celebrates at the temple a great day of rejoicing for the unhoped-for victory; in Ps. cxlix. the saints are pictured with the praises of God in their throat and a sharp sword in their hands to take vengeance on the heathen, to bind their kings and nobles, and exercise against them the judgment written in prophecy. Such an enthusiasm of militant piety, plainly based on actual successes of Israel and the house of Aaron, can only be referred to the first victories of the Maccabees, culminating in the purification of the temple in 165 B.C. This restora-tion of the worship of the national sanctuary under cir-cumstances that inspired religious feelings very different from those of any other generation since the return from Babylon might most naturally be followed by an extension of the temple psalmody ; it certainly was followed by some liturgical innovations, for the solemn service of dedication on the twenty-fifth day of Chisleu was made the pattern of a new annual feast (that mentioned in John x. 22). Now in 1 Mac. iv. 54 we learn that the dedication was celebrated with hymns and music. In later times the psalms for the encaenia or feast of dedication embraced Ps. xxx. and the hallel Pss. cxiii.-exviii. There is no reason to doubt that these were the very psalms sung in 165 B.C., for in the title of Ps. xxx. the words "the song for the dedication of the house," which are a somewhat awkward insertion in the original title, are found also in the LXX., and therefore are probable evidence of the liturgical use of the psalm in the very first years of the feast. But no collection of old psalms could fully suffice for such an occasion, and there is every reason to think that the hallel, which especially in its closing part contains allusions that fit no other time so well, was first arranged for the same ceremony. The course of the subsequent history makes it very intelligible that the Psalter was finally closed, as we have seen from the date of the Greek version that it must have been, within a few years at most after this great event. From the time of Hyrcanus downwards the ideal of the princely high priests became more and more diver-gent from the ideal of the pious in Israel, and in the Psalter of Solomon we see religious poetry turned against the lords of the temple and its worship. (See MESSIAH. )

All this does not, of course, imply that there are not in books iv. and v. any pieces older than the completion of books ii. and iii., for the composition of a poem and its acceptance as part of the Levitical liturgy are not necessarily coincident in date, except in psalms written with a direct liturgical purpose. In the fifteen "songs of degrees" (Pss. cxx.-cxxxiv.) we have a case in point. According to the Mishna (Middoth, ii. 5) and other Jewish traditions, these psalms were sung by the Levites at the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteen steps or degrees that led from the women's to the men's court. But when we look at the psalms themselves we see that they must originally have been a hymn-book, not for the Levites, but for the laity who came up to Jerusalem at the great pilgrimage feasts; and the title of this hymn-book (which can be restored from the titles derived from it that were prefixed to each song when they were taken into the Levitical connexion) was simply "Pilgrimage Songs."2 All these songs are plainly later than the exile; but some of them cannot well be so late as the formation of the Elohistic psalm-book, and the simple reason why they are not included in it is that they were hymns of the laity, describing with much beauty and depth of feeling the emotions of the pilgrim when his feet stood within the gates of Jerusalem, when he looked forth on the encircling hills, when he felt how good it was to be camping side by side with his brethren on the slopes of Zion (cxxxiii.), when a sense of Jehovah's forgiving grace and the certainty of the redemption of Israel triumphed over all the evils of the present and filled his soul with humble and patient hope.

The titles which ascribe four of the pilgrimage songs to David and one to Solomon are lacking in the true LXX., and inconsistent with the contents of the psalms. Better attested, because found in the LXX. as well as in the Hebrew, and therefore probably as old as the collection itself, are the name of Moses in Ps. xc. and that of David in Pss. ci., cii., cviii.-cx., cxxxviii.-cxlv. But where did the last collectors of the Psalms find such very ancient pieces which had been passed by by all previous collectors, and what criterion was there to establish their genuineness 1 No canon of literary criticism can treat as valuable external evidence an attestation which first appears so many centuries after the supposed date of the poems, especially when it is confronted by facts so conclusive as that Ps. cviii. is made up of extracts from Pss. lvii. and Ix. and that Ps. cxxxix. is marked by its language as one of the latest pieces in the book. The only possible question for the critic is whether the ascription of these psalms to David was due to the idea that he was the psalmist par excellence, to whom any poem of unknown origin was naturally ascribed, or whether we have in some at least of these titles an example of the habit so common in later Jewish literature of writing in the name of ancient worthies. In the case of Ps. xc. it can hardly be doubted that this is the real explanation, and the same account must be given of the title in Ps. cxlv., if, as seems probable, it is meant to cover the whole of the great hcdlel or tehilla (Ps. cxlv.-cl.), which must, from the allusions in Ps. cxlix., as well as from its place, be almost if not quite the latest thing in the Psalter.

Davidic Psalms.—For the later stages of the history of the Psalter we have, as has been seen, a fair amount of circumstantial evidence pointing to conclusions of a pretty definite kind. The approximate dates which their con-tents suggest for the collection of the Elohistic psalm-book and of books iv. and v. confirm one another and are in harmony with such indications as we obtain from external sources. But, in order to advance from the con-clusions already reached to a view of the history of the Psalter as a whole, we have still to consider the two great groups of psalms ascribed to David in books i. and ii. Both these groups appear once to have formed separate collections and in their separate form to have been ascribed to David; for in book i. every psalm, except the introduc-tory poems i. and ii. and the late Ps. xxxiii., which may have been added as a liturgical sequel to Ps. xxxii., bears the title " of David," and in like manner the group Pss. li.-lxxii., though it contains a few anonymous pieces and one psalm which is either "of" or rather according to the oldest tradition "for Solomon," is essentially a Davidic hymn-book, which has been taken over as a whole into the Elohistic Psalter, even the subscription lxxii. 20 not being omitted. Moreover, the collectors of books i.-iii. knew of no Davidic psalms outside of these two collec-tions, for Ps. lxxxvi. in the appendix to the Elohistic collection is merely a cento of quotations from Davidic pieces with a verse or two from Exodus and Jeremiah. These two groups, therefore, represented to the collectors the oldest tradition of Hebrew psalmody ; they are either really Davidic or they passed as such. This fact is im-portant ; but its weight may readily be over-estimated, for the Levitical psalms comprise poems of the last half-cen-tury of the Persian empire, and the final collection of books ii. and iii. may fall a good deal later. Thus the tradition that David is the author of these two collections comes to us, not exactly from the time of the Chronicler, but certainly from the time when the view of Hebrew history wdiich he expresses was in the course of forma-tion. And it is not too much to say that that view— which to some extent appears in the historical psalms of the Elohistic Psalter—implies absolute incapacity to understand the difference between old Israel and later Juda-ism and makes almost anything possible in the way of the ascription of comparatively modern pieces to ancient authors. Nor will it avail to say that this uncritical age did not ascribe the Psalms to David but accepted them on the ground of older titles, for it is hardly likely that each psalm in the Davidic collections had a title before it was transferred to the larger Psalter; and in any case the titles are manifestly the product of the same uncritical spirit as we have just been speaking of, for not only are many of the titles certainly wrong but they arc wrong in such a way as to prove that they date from an age to which David was merely the abstract psalmist, and which had no idea what-ever of the historical conditions of his age. For example, Pss. xx., xxi. are not spoken by a king but addressed to a king by his people; Pss. v., xxvii. allude to the temple (which did not exist in David's time), and the author of the latter psalm desires to live there continually. Even in the older Davidic psalm-book there is a whole series of hymns in which the writer identifies himself with the poor and needy, the righteous people of God suffering in silence at the hands of the wicked, without other hope than patiently to wait for the interposition of Jehovah (Pss. xii., xxv., xxxvii., xxxviii., &e.). Nothing can be farther removed than this from any possible situation in the life of the David of the books of Samuel, and the case is still worse in the second Davidic collection, especially where we have in the titles definite notes as to the historical occasion on which the poems are supposed to have been written. To refer Ps. liii. to Doeg, Ps. liv. to the Ziphites, Ps. lix. to David when watched in his house by Saul, implies an absolute lack of the very elements of historical judgment. Even the bare names of the old history were no longer correctly known when Abimelech (the Philistine king in the stories of Abraham and Isaac) could be substituted in the title of Ps. xxxiv. for Achish, king of Gath. In a word, the ascrip-tion of these two collections to David has none of the characters of a genuine historical tradition.





At the same time it is clear that the two collections do not stand on quite the same footing. The Elohistic redaction—the change in the names of God—extends only to the second. Now the formation of the Elohistic Psalter must have been an official act directed to the consolidation of the liturgical material of the temple, and if it left one of the so-called Davidic collections untouched the reason must have been that this collection had already a fixed liturgical position. In other words, book i. is the oldest extant liturgy of the second temple, while there is no evidence that the Davidic psalms of book ii. had a fixed liturgical place till at least the close of the Persian period.

And now the question arises : May we suppose that the oldest liturgy of the second temple was also the liturgy of the temple of Solomon 1 We have it in evidence that music and song accompanied the worship of the great sanctuaries of northern Israel in the 8th century B.C. (Amos v. 23), but from the context it appears probable that the musicians were not officers of the temple but rather the worshippers at large (compare Amos vi. 5). So it certainly was in the days of David (2 Sam. vi. 5) and even of Isaiah (xxx. 29); the same thing is implied in the song of Hezekiah (Isa. xxxviii. 20), and in Lam. ii. 7 the noise within the sanctuary on a feast-day which affords a simile for the shouts of the victorious Chaldasans suggests rather the untrained efforts of the congregation than the disci-plined music of a temple choir. The allusion to "chambers of singers " in Ezek. xl. 44 is not found in the Septuagint text, which is justified by the context, and the first certain allusion to a class of singers belonging to the sacred min-isters is at the return from Babylon (Ezra ii. 41). The way in which these singers, the sons of Asaph, are spoken of may be taken as evidence that there was a guild of temple singers before the exile ; but they cannot have been very conspicuous or we should have heard more of them. The historical books, as edited in the captivity, are fond of varying the narrative by the insertion of lyrical pieces, and one or two of these—the "passover song" (Exod. xv.) and perhaps the song from the book of Jashar ascribed to Solomon (see vol. xi. p. 598)—look as if they were sung in the first temple; but they are not found in the Psalter, and, conversely, no piece from the Psalter is used to illustrate the life of David except Ps. xviii., and it occurs in a section which can be shown to be an interpolation in the original form of 2 Samuel. These facts seem to indicate that even book i. of the Psalter did not exist when the editing of the historical books was completed, and that in music as in other matters the ritual of the second temple was com-pletely reconstructed. Indeed the radical change in the religious life of the nation caused by the captivity could not fail to influence the psalmody of the sanctuary more than any other part of the worship; the book of Lamenta-tions marks an era of profound importance in the religious poetry of Israel, and no collection formed before these dirges were first sung could have been an adequate hymn-book for the second temple. In point of fact the notes struck in the Lamentations and in Isa. xl.-lxvi. meet our ears again in not a few psalms of book i., e.g., Pss. xxii., xxv., where the closing prayer for the redemption of Israel in a verse additional to the acrostic perhaps gives, as Lagarde suggests, the characteristic post-exile name Pedaiah as that of the author; Ps. xxxi., with many points of resem-blance to Jeremiah ; Pss. xxxiv., xxxv., where the " servant of Jehovah" is the same collective idea as in Deutero-Isaiah; and Pss. xxxviii., xli. The key to many of these psalms is that the singer is not an individual but, as in Lam. iii., the true people of God represented as one per-son ; and only in this way can we do justice to expressions which have always been a stumbling-block to those who regard David as the author. But, at the same time, other psalms of the collection treat the problems of individual religion in the line of thought first opened by Jeremiah. Such a psalm is xxxix., and above all Ps. xvi. Other pieces, indeed, may well be earlier. When we compare Ps. viii. with Job vii. 17, 18, we can hardly doubt that the psalm lay before the writer who gave its expressions so bitter a turn in the anguish of his soul, and Pss. xx., xxi. plainly belong to the old kingdom. But on the whole it is not the pre-exilic pieces that give the tone to the collection; whatever the date of this or that indivi-dual poem, the collection as a whole—whether by selec-tion or authorship—is adapted to express a religious life of which the exile is the presupposition. Only in this way can we understand the conflict and triumph of spirit-ual faith, habitually represented as the faith of a poor and struggling band living in the midst of oppressors and with no strength or help save the consciousness of loyalty to Jehovah, which is the fundamental note of the whole book.

Whether any of the older poems really are David's is a question more curious than important, as, at least, there is none which we can fit with certainty into any part of his life. If we were sure that 2 Sam. xxii. was in any sense part of the old tradition of David's life, there would be every reason to answer the question in the affirmative, as has been done by Ewald (see DAVID) ; but the grave doubts that exist on this point throw the whole question into the region of mere conjecture.

The contents of book i. make it little probable that it was originally collected by the temple ministers, whose hymn-book it ultimately became. The singers and Levites were ill provided for, and consequently irregular in their attendance at the temple, till the time of Nehemiah, who made it his business to settle the revenues of the clergy in such a way as to make regular service possible. With regular service a regular liturgy would be required, and in the absence of direct evidence it may be conjectured that the adoption of the first part of the Psalter for this purpose took place in connexion with the other far-reaching reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah, which first gave a stable character to the community of the second temple. In any case these psalms, full as they are of spiritual elements which can never cease to be the model of true worship, are the necessary complement of the law as published by Ezra, and must be always taken along with it by those who would understand what Judaism in its early days really was, and how it prepared the way for the gospel.

The second Davidic collection, which begins with a psalm of the exile (Ps. Ii.; see the last two verses), contains some pieces which carry us down to a date decidedly later than that of Nehemiah. Thus Ps. lxviii. 27 represents the wor-shipping congregation as drawn partly from the neighbour-hood of Jerusalem and partly from the colony of Galilee. In several psalms of this collection, as in the Levitical psalms with which it is coupled, we see that the Jews have again begun to feel themselves a nation and not a mere municipality, though they are still passing through bitter struggles ; and side by side with this there is a de-1 velopment of Messianic hope, which in Ps. lxxii. takes a owide sweep, based on tbe vision of Deutero-Isaiah. All these marks carry us down for this as for the other collections of the Elohistic Psalter to the time when passive obedience to the Achaemenians was interrupted. Several points indicate that the collection was not originally formed as part of the temple liturgy. The title, as preserved in the subscription to Ps. lxxii. 20, was not "Psalms" but "Prayers of David." Again, while the Levitical psalms were sung in the name of righteous Israel, of which, according to the theory of the second temple, the priestly and Levitical circles were the special holy representatives, these Davidic psalms contain touching expressions of con-trition and confession (1L, lxv.). And, while there are direct references to the temple service, these are often made from the standpoint, not of the ministers of the temple, but of the laity who come up to join in the solemn feasts or appear before the altar to fulfil their vows (Pss. liv. 6, Iv. 14, lxiii., lxvi. 13, &c). Moreover, the didactic element so prominent in the Levitical psalms is not found here.

Such is the fragmentary and conjectural outline which it seems possible to supply of the history of the two Davidic collections, from which it appears that the name of David which they bear is at least so far appropriate as it marks the generally non-clerical origin of these poems. But the positive origin of this title must be sought in another direction and in connexion with book i. From the days of Amos, and in full accordance with the older history, the name of David had been connected with musical skill and even the invention of musical instruments (Amos vi. 5). In the days of Nehemiah, though we do not hear of psalms of David, we do learn that instruments of the singers were designated as Davidic, and the epithet " man of God"(Neh. xii. 36) probably implies that agreeably with this David was already regarded as having furnished psalms as well as instruments. But it was because the temple music was ascribed to him that the oldest liturgy came to be known in its totality as "Psalms of David," and the same name was extended to the lay collection of "Prayers of David," while the psalms whose origin was known because they had always been temple psalms were simply named from the Levitical choirs, or at a later date had no title.

Musical Execution and Place of the Psalms in the Temple Service. —The musical notes found in the titles of the psalms and occasion-ally also in the text (Selah, Higgaion) are so obscure that it seems unnecessary to enter here upon the various conjectures that have been made about them. The clearest point is that a number of the psalms were set to melodies named after songs, and that one of these songs, beginning _____ (Al-taschith in E. V., Ps. Ivii. sq.), may be probably identified with the vintage song, Isa. lxv. 8. The temple music was therefore apparently based on popular melodies. A good deal is said about the musical services of the Levites in Chronicles, both in the account given of David's ordi-nances and in the descriptions of particular festival occasions. But unfortunately it has not been found possible to get from these accounts any clear picture of the ritual or any certainty as to the technical terms used. By the time of the Septuagint these terms were no longer understood ; it is not quite clear whether even the Chronicler understood them fully.

"al Jcdla, &c, in Syriac (Land, Anecd., iv. ; Ephr. Syr., Hymni, ed. Lamy).

The music of the temple attracted the attention of Theophrastus (ap. Porph., X>e Ahst., ii. 26), who was perhaps the first of the Greeks to make observations on the Jews. His description of the temple ritual is not strictlv accurate, but he speaks of the worshippers as passing the ni^ht in gazing at the stars and calling on God in prayer; his words if they do not exactly fit anything in the later ritual, are well fitted to illustrate the original liturgical rise of Pss. viii., exxxiv. Some of the Jewish traditions as to the use of particular psalms have been already cited ; it may be added that the Mishna (_____) assigns to the service of the continual burnt-offering the following weekly cycle of psalms,—(1) xxiv., (2) xlviii., (3) Lxxxii., (4) xciv., (5) lxxxi., (6) xciii., (Sabbath) xcii., as in the title. Many other details are given in the treatise /Sö/grim, but these for the most part refer primarily to the synagogue service after the destruction of the temple. For details on the liturgical use of the Psalter in Christendom the reader may refer to Smith's Dict. Chr. Ant, s.v. "Psalmody."

Ancient Versions.—A. The oldest version, the LXX., follows a text generally -closely corresponding to the Massoretic Hebrew, the main variations being in the titles and in the addition (lacking in some MSS.) of an apocryphal psalm ascribed to David when he fought with Goliath. Pss. ix. and x. are rightly taken as one psalm, but conversely Ps. cxlvii. is divided into two. The LXX. text has many " daughters," of which may be noticed (a) the Memphitic (ed. Lagarde, 1875); (b) the old Latin, which as revised by Jerome in 383 after the current Greek text forms the PsalteHwn Romanum, long read in the Roman Church and still used in St Peter's ; (c) various Arabic versions, including that printed in the polyglotts of Le Jay and Walton, and two others of the four ex-hibited together in Lagarde's Psalterium, lob, Proverbia, Arabice, 1876 ; on the relations and history of these versions, see G. Hoffmann, in Jenaer Literaturz., 1876, art. 539; the fourth of Lagarde's versions is from the Peshito. The Hexaplar text of the LXX., as reduced by Origen into greater conformity with the Hebrew by the aid of subsequent Greek versions,' * was further the mother (d) of the Psalterium Gallicanum,—that is, of Jerome's second revision of the Psalter (385) by the aid of the Hexaplar text; this edition became current in Gaul and ultimately was taken into the Vulgate (e) of the Syro-Hexaplar ver-sion (published by Bugati, 1820, and in facsimile from the famous Ambrosian MS. by Ceriani, Milan, 1874). B. The Christian Aramaic version or Peshito (P'shittä) is largely influenced by the LXX.; compare Baethgen, Untersuchungen über die Psalmen nach der Peschita, Kiel, 187S (unfinished). This version has peculiar titles taken from Eusebius and Theodore of Mopsuestia (see Nestle, in Theol. Literaturs., 1876, p. 283). C. The Jewish Aramaic version or Targum is probably a late work. The most convenient edition is in Lagarde, Hagiographa Chaldaice, 1873. D. The best of all the old versions is that made by Jerome after the Hebrew in 405. It did not, however, obtain ecclesiastical currency— the old versions holding their ground, just as English churchmen still read the Psalms in the version of the " Great Bible " printed in their Prayer Book. This important version was first published in a good text by Lagarde, Psalterium iuxta Hebrasos Hieronymi, Leipsic, 1874.

Exegetical Works.—While some works of patristic writers are still of value for text criticism and for the history of early exegetical tradition, the treatment of the Psalms by ancient and mediaeval Christian writers is as a whole such as to throw light on the ideas of the commentators and their times rather than on the sense of a text which most of them knew only through translations. For the Psalms as for the other books of the Old Testament the scholars of the period of the revival of Hebrew studies about the time of tbe Reformation were mainly dependent on the ancient versions and on the Jewish scholars of the Middle Ages. In the latter class Kimhi stands pre-eminent; to the editions of his commentary on the Psalms enumerated in the article KIMHI must now be added the admirable edition of Dr Schiller-Szinessy (Cambridge, 1883), con- taining unfortunately only the first book of his longer commentary. Among the works of older Christian scholars since the revival of letters, the commentary of Calvin (1557)—full of religious insight and sound thought—and the laborious work of M. Geier (1668, 1681 et swpius) may still be consulted with advantage, but for most purposes Rosenmiiller's Scholia in Pss. (2d ed., 1821-22) supersedes the necessity of frequent reference to the predecessors of that industrious conir piler. Of more recent works the freshest and most indispensable are Ewald's, in the first two half volumes of his Dichter des alten Bundes (2d ed., Göttingen, 1S66 ; Eng. tr., 1880), and Olshausen's (1853). To these may be added (excluding general commentaries on the Old Testament) the two acute but wayward commentaries of Hitzig (1836, 1863-65), that of Delitzsch (1859-60, then in shorter form in several editions since 1867 ; Eng. tr., 1871), and that of Hupfeld (2d ed. by liiehm, 1867, 2 vols.). The last-named work, though lacking in original power and clearness of judgment, is extremely convenient and useful, and has had an influence perhaps disproportionate to its real exegetical merits. The question of tbe text was first properly raised by Olshausen, and has since received special attention from, among others, Lagarde (Prophets? Chald., 1872, p. xlvi. sq.), Dyserinck (in the " scholia" to his Dutch translation of the Psalms, Theol. Tijdschr., 1878, p. 279 sq.), and Bickell (Carmina V. T. metrice, &c, Innsbruck, 1882), whose critical services are not to be judged merely by the measure of assent which his metrical theories may command. In English we have, among others, the useful work of Perowne (5th ed., 1883), that of Lowe and Jennings (2d ed., 1885), and the valuable translation of Cheyne (1884). The mass of literature on the Psalms is so enormous that no full list even of recent commentaries can be here attempted, much less an enumeration of treatises on individual psalms and special critical questions. For the latter Kuenen's Onderzoek, vol. iii., is, up to its date (1865), the most complete, and the new edition now in preparation will doubtless prove the standard work of reference. As regards the dates and historical interpretation of the Psalms, all older dis- cussions, even those of Ewald, are in great measure antiquated by recent progress in Pentateuch criticism and the history of the canon, and an entirely fresh treatment of the Psalter by a sober critical commentator is urgently needed. (W. R. S.)



The above article was written by: Prof. William Robertson Smith, LL.D., Lord Almoner's Professor of Arabic, University of Cambridge.



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