Bible Study: Old Testament Books
Widely considered the hymnbook of IsraelIn Hebrew 'Tehilim' or 'Praises'; this is but a generic title, and is only found in the title to Psalm 144. It would seem as though at one time the title 'Prayers' may have been in use, for the subscription to Psalm 61 runs 'The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended,' cf. infra.
The Psalter stands apart from all the other books of the Bible, both in contents and character. It has been compared in this respect to the 'Acts of the Apostles,' and with some reason; for just as 'Acts' marks the transition from the Gospels to the Epistles, so the Psalter stands as a link between the Law and the Historical Books on the one hand, and the Poetical and Prophetical Books on the other. But there are wide differences to be noted, for while 'Acts' shows the Gospel in action, the Psalter shows the Law in meditation; it is truly the hymnbook of Israel. In this sense it is the mirror of the religious sense of the people; for in the Law God spoke to His people, in the Psalter the Chosen People speaks to its God.
DIVISIONS.The Psalter is divided into five distinct 'books,' which are separated off from one another by a doxology; these Books are:
Book. I. Psalms 1-40.
Book II. Psalms 41-71.
Book III. Psalms 72-88.
Book IV. Psalms 89-105.
Book V. Psalms 106-150.
THE NUMBERING OF THE PSALMS.In all versions, as well as in the Hebrew original, there are 150 psalms, but as some of them are not divided in the same way in the original as they are in the LXX and Vulgate versions, the numbers attached to the individual psalms vary according as a particular version is made from the Hebrew or from the Greek or Latin text. Considerable confusion hence arises; for the Anglican versions — being derived from the Hebrew — have followed the enumeration there used. The following table shows the variant numbers:
|Hebrew, followed by the later English versions.||LXX, followed by the Vulgate, Catholic, and earlier English versions.|
10:1-18 'Ut quid Domine'
|11-113||=||10-112 'In Domino confido' — 'Laudate Pueri'|
|114:1-8. 'In exitu ...'
115:1-18. 'Non nobis ...'
|=||113:1-26 'In exitu ...'|
|116:1-19.||=||Ps 114 'Dilexi ...'
Ps 115 'Credidi ...'
|Ps 117-146||=||Ps 116 'Laudate Dominum omnes gentes' —
Ps 145 'Lauda anima mea Dominum.'
|Ps 147||=||Ps 146 'Laudate Dominum quoniam' —
Ps 147 'Lauda Jerusalem Dominum.'
|Ps 148-150||=||Ps 148-150|
In other words, since the Hebrew text divides Psalm 9 into two parts, it follows that the Hebrew and Anglican numeration is always one ahead of the Latin Greek, and Douay versions. This holds good as far as Psalm 113, 'In exitu Israel'; here the Hebrew again divides the Psalm into two, so that at this point the Hebrew, and the versions derived directly from it, are two ahead of the Latin, Greek, and Douay versions.
|Thus Psalm||114 (Heb.)||=||Ps 113:1-8.|
|115 (Heb.)||=||Ps 113:8-18.|
But the old order is at once restored, for Psalm 116 combines the two Psalms 'Dilexi' and 'Credidi,' viz. 114 and 115 of the Greek, Latin, and Douay versions, so that these latter are still one behind in the numbering. This continues until we reach Psalm 146 'Laudate Dominum quoniam,' which in the Hebrew text is united with the next Psalm 'Lauda Jerusalem Dominum,' so that the number of 150 Psalms is ultimately arrived at in both cases.
It should be noted that in the Douay version, the title is counted as a verse, hence the numbering of the verses is different from that in the original and in the other versions.
FURTHER DIVISIONS.The division into books has been given above, it is of the greatest interest from the point of view of the formation of the Psalter, cf. infra; but for the understanding of the Psalms it is not of so much value as are some of the following groups:
(a) Penitential Psalms. This is a purely ecclesiastical division, i.e. it has no foundation in the Bible beyond the fact that these particular Psalms, viz. Pss. 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142 particularly lend themselves to seasons of penance since they express the feelings of a contrite soul; many other Psalms, e.g. 7, 11, 12, etc., might equally well be termed 'penitential.'
(b) Imprecatory Psalms. These Psalms, so often on the lips of our Puritan forefathers, are, to many, a stumbling-block in reading the Bible; Pss. 34, 51, 53-58, 63, 68, 108, and 136 are generally counted as the 'cursing' psalms and they no doubt contain sentiments which are abhorrent to our more sensitive minds. But the truth is that these Psalms are essentially Jewish, they must be read in the light of the Old Law which begot them; when once we start trying to read 'the Law of Grace' into the Law of Moses we get into difficulties. The Lex Talionis was a reality for Israel as it was for Babylonia in the days of Hammurabi.
(c) The Didactic Psalms. This title is often given to those Psalms which contain a great deal of moral teaching, and which are not so much hymns as questionings of the soul; among them may be conveniently reckoned Pss. 36, 48, 49, 72, etc.
(d) Historical Psalms. In certain Psalms, e.g. in 77, 103-106, 113, 134, and 135, we find historical themes handled; this is done with the view of stirring up men to worship the God of Israel with renewed fervor.
(e) Liturgical Psalms. In some Psalms more than in others we seem to have the words of the Jewish liturgy, e.g. 66, 104, 133-135, 148-150.
(f) Alphabetical or Acrostic Psalms. Certain Psalms, viz. 9, 24, 33, 36, 110, 111, 118 and 144, have an artificial formation which was doubtless intended to serve as an aid to the memory; in some each verse, in others each half verse, in another every two verses, in another every eight verses, begin with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. The same feature is observable in Lament, 1-4, in Proverbs 31:10-31, and in the Hebrew text of the last chapter of Ecclesiasticus, q.v.
MESSIANIC CHARACTER OF THE PSALTER.It is usual to speak of certain Psalms as being 'Messianic,' e.g. Pss. 2, 8, 14, 15, 21, 44, 88, 109, 131, etc.; this is of course true, but it is sometimes misleading, for in a very true sense the whole Psalter is Messianic. That the Hebrews so regarded it will be evident from a study of the quotations in the Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. 1; in proof of the Messianic character of Jesus, Psalms are there quoted which we should not have otherwise regarded as Messianic. It must not be forgotten that Israel was the Chosen People, and that their king was a Theocratic king — the vicegerent of God in a peculiar way. Thus Israel is 'the son of God,' Exod. 4:22-23, Deut. 32:6, Isaias 63:16, Os. 11:1; he is also 'the servant of Jehovah,' Isaias 41:8, etc. And the Psalms are the expression of the people's sense of this glorious prerogative; it is precisely in the national hymn-book that we expect to find this feeling most clearly displayed. But more than this, what Israel in general was, that the Davidic king was in a special manner — he seemed to sum up in his own person what they were as a nation. Thus he is 'the Son of God,' II Sam 7:14; Psalm 2:7; 88:20-38, etc. He is also termed 'the Servant of Jehovah,' II Sam 7:5, and, in a marked way, he is the vicegerent of God, cf. Ps. 2:6, I Para 28:5, 29:23, II Para 9:8. And just as the nation was conscious of its prerogatives, so also was the Davidic king conscious of them, though he might at times forget their practical import, as did Achaz and others; cf. I Para 28:4-5.
But this prerogative was essentially not for the sake of the Hebrews themselves, they were chosen as the depositories of God's promises to the whole world: shall be converted to the Lord; and all the kindreds of 'In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.' It would be idle to suppose that the Hebrews as a nation were not perfectly conscious of this, indeed we see the opposite clearly brought out again and again, e.g. 'All the ends of the earth shall remember, and the Gentiles shall adore in his sight,' Ps 21:28; cf. Romans 3 and 9-11. In the same way, too, we must concede to the Davidic king a sense of his own position in the Divine plan, St. Peter indeed claims this explicitly for David, Acts 2:24-36; and in Ps 131 we have a clear commentary by David himself on the promises made to him in II Sam 7.
The Psalter, then, is the expression of these Messianic hopes. It is in no sense an historical book; it is a prayer-book, and as such is timeless. This explains the shadowy character of the 'king' who figures so frequently in its strains; and this, too, will show how futile it is to attempt to resolve the Psalter into a series of comments on different historical events. Perhaps it would be no exaggeration to say that hardly a single psalm can be dated with certainty; and this is because the allusions to contemporary or past events are so shadowy, for they are not referred to for their own sake but for the lesson they teach. While, however, we insist upon this Messianic character of the whole Psalter as embodying the hopes of Israel, we must not shut our eyes to the fact that certain Psalms are Messianic in a more striking way than others. Thus wc have a whole series of what we may call the 'King' Psalms, e.g. 2, 17, 19, 20, 44, 71, 88, 109, 131. It is worth noticing that in these psalms no individual king is mentioned, nor apparently even thought of; it is always the ideal king, the perfect ruler; and yet he is not put before us as an abstraction, he is a reality, he will one day rule; neither is it merely as something desirable that his advent is spoken of, it is an assured certainty. It should be noted further that these Psalms cover the whole Psalter, and are, according to the titles, attributed to different authors, and, apparently, to different periods in Israel's history. If we try and determine more closely who is meant by this 'king,' we are baffled; in 19 and 20, for example, it can hardly be question of God, yet in 44 and 109 it seems clear that the author passes beyond the shadowy king of whom he so often speaks, and addresses Him Whom the former, in some sense, typifies; only in this way can we explain such passages as 'thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever!' words which are addressed to the person who is the subject of the previous portion of the Psalm, and who has been spoken of from a purely human standpoint. The same must be said of Psalm 109, 'The Lord said to my Lord,' a psalm which has received, at least indirectly, a Divine commentary, cf. St. Luke 20:40-44; its key-note, too, is contained in the words, 'Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech,' words which no Rationalistic explanations have ever been able to whittle away. In these expressions, then, and in many others, the Psalmist seems to pass from the type to the anti-type, from the Davidic king to David's KING. This transition is still more marked when we turn to the Psalms numbered 92, 94-98. In all these is portrayed the 'Coming of the King to judge the world; it is nowhere made clear in the Old Testament that it is the same king who is here meant as in the preceding psalms; it was left for New Testament times and teaching to bring this truth into prominence and to show that the idealised 'Davidic' king, and 'the judge of the spirits of all flesh,' were one and the same.
THE PSALMS OF THE PASSSON.In 21, 55, 68, 108, etc., the same shadowy personage who figures throughout the Psalter is presented to us as afflicted with the deepest suffering; and here once more, it is idle to attempt to find an historical occasion for each one of these Psalms, such attempts always have failed and always must fail. Similarly, it is idle to declare, as do many modern writers, that in the Psalms we have the cry of the nation and not of the individual sufferer. A just view of the essentially typical character of the nation and of its king would save us from such speculations as these, they only serve to obscure passages of consummate beauty and which are already, by reason of their typical character, sufficiently hard to understand. That they received their highest fulfillment in the Person of Him Who took upon Himself 'the chastisement of our peace,' is evident from the way in which He Himself made use of these very Psalms in describing His sufferings; the Evangelists, too, argued in the same way, cf. St. John 19:36-37, etc. These Psalms should be compared with Isaiah 52-53, and with those many passages of Jeremiah which the Church in her liturgy has consecrated to the services of the Sacred Passion precisely because She has always seen in that Prophet a figure and a type of the Suffering Messiah.
PSALMS OF 'THE SON OF MAN'.This title may well be given to certain Messianic Psalms which do not dwell upon the character of the Messias as King, nor as Judge, nor again, as the Expiator of the sins of the world, but rather upon His character as the true and undefaced Image of God, as The Unfallen Man in Whose Person alone was fulfilled the original Divine plan, 'let us make man to Our image and likeness, and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea,' etc. This last-named feature is prominent in Psalm 8; man's ultimate redemption from the curse of death in Psalm 16; the complete self-surrender of the Messiah in Psalm 40, etc.
THE TITLES OF THE PSALMS.The title of Psalm 60, (59) runs as follows: "Unto the end for them that shall be changed, for the inscription of a title; to David himself, for doctrine. When he set fire to Mesopotamia of Syria and Sobal, and Joab returned and slew of Edom in the Vale of the Salt-pits, twelve thousand men." This is the longest and fullest title in the Psalter, and for this reason we have chosen it as best illustrating the nature of the titles in general. It is composed of at least six distinct parts: thus 'unto the end,' in Hebrew lam-menatseach, a term which St. Jerome rendered 'victori,' or 'for the conqueror,' thus following Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, cf. the LXX version of Hab. 3:19; the LXX, how- ever, rendered it by eis to telos, the Vulgate 'in finem,' whence our Douay rendering 'unto the end.' St. Jerome was undoubtedly right in principle, for the Aramaic root natsach certainly does mean 'to conquer'; but the same root in Hebrew rather means 'to preside' or 'superintend,' as we see in II Paral 2:8, 18; 34:12, and Esdras 3:8-9 where St. Jerome has in the two former instances rendered the word by 'praepositus,' in the latter more forcibly by 'ut urgent." These facts justify us in rendering it in the Psalm-titles by 'for the chief cantor.' Thus the first part of the title is a liturgical one. The next portion is more difficult: 'for them that shall be changed' should probably be rendered 'the lilies of the testimony'; the same title, in part at least, occurs in Psalms 44, 68, and 79. It is highly probable that it, as well as the mysterious 'for the hidden things of the son,' 9, 'for the morning protection' (better 'for the hind of the dawn'), 21, 'destroy not,' 56, 57, 58, and 74, 'for Maeleth' 52, 'for Maeleth, to answer,' 87, should all be understood as references to the 'air' to which the psalm in question was to be sung.
The third part is perhaps the most obscure of all; 'for the inscription of a title,' in Hebrew miktam, in LXX and Theodotion eis stelographian. None of these renderings are too clear; the Targums have 'a most excellent inscription'; St. Jerome, following Aquila and Symmachus, writes 'David humble and simple' — the most astounding rendering of all!
The most important part now follows, viz. the words 'for David himself.' The question is whether the Hebrew preposition le means authorship. It clearly does so in Hab. 3:1, and presumably we should have no difficulty in conceding that in the Psalter it meant authorship but for one insurmountable difficulty, viz. that it is used also in the titles of those Psalms which are called 'for the sons of Core,' i.e., 41-48, 83-84, 86-87. The difficulty at once arises: how can a body of men be described as 'author' of any one psalm? Hence it is far more probable that in this portion of the title we are to see a reference, not so much to the author, as to the collection from which the psalm in question was taken, or to which it was to be assigned. We shall return to this point later on.
The next clause is 'for doctrine,' i.e. 'for teaching' or 'for learning'; we should probably see in this expression a reference to the custom of committing poetical pieces to memory, a practice of which we have two notable examples in the case of Moses' Canticle, Deuteronomy 31, cf. particularly verse 19; and in the 'Song of David' over Saul and Jonathan in II Sam 1:19. There then follows the historical allusion to David's campaigns in Edom and in Syria; it is by no means easy to identify these precisely but we may safely see in them a general allusion to II Sam 8:5-14; 10:15-19; and III Kings 11:15.
But though this individual title is a long one, it does not include all the terms which enter into the Psalm-titles. It will enable us, however, to group the various constituents of the titles as follows:
Liturgical titles. We have already referred to the use of the term 'for the chief cantor,' and also to the rubric 'for doctrine.' There remain, however, a number of titles which are probably vestiges of rubrics;
(1) In the Hebrew text only Psalm 92 is directed to be sung on a particular day of the week, viz. the Sabbath; but in the LXX version of the titles, Psalm 23 is set aside for the first day, Psalm 47, for the second, Psalm 93 for the fourth, and in the Old Latin Psalm 80 for the 'day before the Sabbath.' The same arrangement is to be found in the Talmudic treatise Tamid.
(2) in Psalms 37 and 69 we find the expression 'for a remembrance,' lehazkir; it is probable that we have here a reference to the 'memorial' sacrifices which are alluded to in Lev 2:2, 24:7, Numbers 16:46, and I Para 16:4.
(3) The title of Psalm 99 is 'a psalm of praise,' thoda, this title is more significant than might appear at first sight, it is really a summary of the 'Confitemini' psalms as they are called, viz. Psalms 104, 105, 106, 117, 135; cp. 55:11-12.
(4) Ps. 29 is entitled 'at the dedication of David's house'; it is remarkable that so many modern critics see in this an allusion to the dedication of the Temple, and endeavour to assign it to the dedication of the Maccabean Temple, in 164 B.C. There is nothing in the Psalm to favour either the late date or its reference to the Temple rather than to the palace which David built for himself. It should be noticed that in the LXX, Psalm 28 has a similar title, viz. 'at the finishing of the tabernacle,' this may be referred to the tabernacle which David, II Sam 6:17, had pitched for the reception of the ark. It is commonly held that these, and similar liturgical titles, only indicate the rubrics directing the use of these particular psalms on certain anniversaries; but there is no proof of this, and it seems an unnecessary shirking of the plain teaching of the title. The psalms of the first book are all, with the exception of the first two and the thirty- third, attributed to David (for a discussion of this point see infra), and it is worth while noting the similarity in tone between Psalms 25 and 29, many expressions in them occur repeatedly.
The Gradual Psalms. This title may be conveniently included among the liturgical or rubrical titles. Its precise meaning has been much disputed; it has been suggested (a) that we have in it an allusion to the fifteen steps which, in the second temple — that of Zorobabel, led from the court of the women to that of the men ; but this view seems based upon a false understanding of a reference in the Talmud which merely draws a parallel between these steps and the fifteen Gradual Psalms, (b) Others see in the title an allusion to the 'ascending' structure of these psalms; but though such a structure can be determined in some of them, in Psalm 120 for instance, it is next to impossible to see any trace of it in the rest, (c) Others, again, endeavour to see in this title a reference to the Return under Esdras, cf. Esdras 7:9, but it is hard to justify this. (d) Lastly, it is suggested that we have in this title a reference to the hymns which were commonly sung by, the pilgrims as they 'came up' to Jerusalem for the yearly feasts; this view seems to have much in its favour, cf. Isaiah 30:9, 29; Psalm 41:5, 121:4; I Sam 1:3. These psalms are real lyrics, and have always been favorites.
Besides liturgical titles, we have the mysterious term 'Selah,' which has been much discussed. It is clearly a musical term; this seems to follow from the fact that twenty-nine out of the thirty-nine psalms in which it occurs bear the title for 'the chief cantor,' and that the remaining ten also bear musical titles. Its occurrences in the psalter are not without interest for the investigation of the steps which led to the present form of the psalter, cf. infra; it will be sufficient to remark here that the 'Selah' occurs in nine psalms of Bk. I., in seventeen of Bk. II., in eleven of Bk. III., in none of Bk. IV., in two of Bk. V. Its meaning will per- haps always remain a mystery; the LXX., Symma- chus, and Theodotion, rendered it diapsalma or 'pause,* thus clearly regarding it as a musical term; the Jewish tradition, the Targums, Aquila always, the Greek versions known as the fifth and sixth, Theodotion and Sytnlnachus sometimes, rendered it aei or 'always,' and this rendering was preferred by St. Jerome who, however, omitted it in his corrections of the Psalter, hence its non-occurrence in our Douay version. Modern writers are inclined to see in it a direction to the cantor to 'raise the tone,' it is doubtful, however, whether the grounds for this view are sufficiently strong to win for it universal acceptance. The only place in which Selah occurs outside the Psalter is Hab 3, where it appears three times. In Psalm 9:17, it is found in conjunction with a peculiar word, Higgaion, which also occurs in 91:3, and probably means 'meditation,' cf. 19:15.
Titles indicating musical instruments. (a) 'In verses,' 'in carminibus,' in Hebrew binginoth; this term is found in Psalms 4, 6, 55, 53, 54, 66, 75, and in Hab 3:9; in Job 30:9, it is rendered 'song'; it is probably to be referred to the root nagah, meaning 'to finger,' and hence 'to play on an instrument.' (b) in Psalm 5 only we have el-han-nechiloth, 'pro ea quae haereditatem consequitur,' a rendering taken over from LXX; it is probable that this rendering is due to a false etymology, the root nachal means to inherit,' but our word is better referred to the root chalal, 'to perforate,' whence the noun, which will then mean a 'flute,' cf. 'with a pipe,' Isaiah 30:29.
Titles indicating the intch or tone. In Psalm 24 we have the expression al-alamoth, 'for the hidden,' a translation taken directly from the Vulgate and LXX. St. Jerome rendered it in his version 'pro juventutibus,' thus following Aquila; he appears to have understood it as referring to the voices of maidens and would thus indicate that it was to be rendered 'soprano'; a comparison with the next term, 'for the octave,' which occurs in Psalms 6 and 11, will perhaps make this meaning clearer. In I Para 15:19-21, both terms occur in juxtaposition 'Zacharias ... sung mysteries upon psalteries, bin-nebalim al-alamoth (R.V. 'with psalteries set to Alamoth), and others ... sung a song of victory for the octave upon harps,' al-hash-sheminith lenatseach (R.V., 'with harps set to the Sheminith'). It is possible that these two terms indicate the higher and the lower octaves respectively; it is interesting to note the various terms which occur in this passage in illustration of the musical tides of the psalms. The term 'for the presses,' in Psalms 8, 80, 83; in Vulgate, 'pro torcularibus,' was rendered by Aquila and Theodotion, Getthididos, by which they presumably meant a Gethite instrument, it has even been suggested that it refers to the 'march' of the Gethite guard, cf. II Sam 15:18. In Psalms 61 and 76, the expression 'for Idithun' is difficult; the Hebrew preposition here is 'al, which we should rather render by 'upon,' hence some have proposed to see in 'Idithun' an instrument; it must be confessed that this is unlikely, in Psalm 39:1, we have 'for Idithun,' with the preposition le which may signify authorship, see above, and from I Para 16:41, it seems clear that Idithun was one of David's cantors, hence it is possible that in these titles the term means 'set to a melody composed by Idithun.'
Titles indicating different species of Psalms. (a) Fifty-seven Psalms are entitled 'Psalm,' in Hebrew Mizmor, derived from the root Zamar, meaning 'to vibrate,' hence 'to touch musical chords,' cf. 9:12, 33(32):2-3. (b) Thirty are called 'canticle,' shir, it may be implied in this title that the piece was not accompanied by music; the two terms are sometimes combined, and we have 'a canticle of a psalm,' or 'a psalm of a canticle, e.g. Psalms 65-68. (c) Thirteen psalms are called 'understanding,' maskil, this is perhaps to be understood of 'didactic' psalms since the root sakal means 'to teach,' cf. Dan 11:33, where the curious play upon the word should be noted; at the same time many of the psalms so entitled can hardly be called 'didactic,' hence it has been suggested that the word may indicate a psalm constructed with a certain technical art, (d) Six are termed 'the inscription of a title,' miktam, cf. supra. (e) In Ps 8 and in Hab 3:1, we meet with the word shig-gaion, rendered in LXX, Latin, and Douay version, simply 'a psalm' in Ps 7, but in Hab 3:1, al shig-gaion is rendered by LXX meta odes, 'with a song,' by Vulgate 'pro ignorantiis,' where St. Jerome has followed the lead of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion; the origin of this interpretation is not clear, the Hebrew root shagah may mean either 'to cry aloud' or 'to wander,' from this latter meaning some have derived the sense of a Dithyrambic poem for Shiggaion. (f) Five psalms are called 'prayers,' and the same term reappears in the subscription to Psalm 71, 'the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended'; it is unfortunate that in the Douay version we read 'praises' for 'prayers,' this rendering is in accordance with the LXX and Vulgate, but it leads to a confusion of two distinct words, viz. tehilim, 'praises,' i.e. the title of the whole Psalter, and tephil-lotk, i.e., 'prayers,' which, as remarked above, may once have been a title for the Psalter if we are to be guided by this subscription to Psalm 71.
Titles indicating the Authors of the Psalms. We have already referred to the difficulty regarding the Hebrew preposition which in Hab 3:1, clearly indicates the author of that hymn, but which in the Psalter cannot easily be thus interpreted since the 'Sons of Core' can hardly have been 'the author' of any one individual psalm. Leaving aside, however, this question of interpretation, seven 'authors' only are mentioned in the titles, viz.
Moses. Psalm 89, the opening psalm of Book IV.
David. Seventy-three psalms are attributed to him in the Hebrew text, eighty-five in the Vulgate; the Hebrew and all versions agree in assigning to him sixty-nine.
Solomon. Two psalms are assigned to him, viz. 71 and 126.
Asaph. Psalms 49 and 72-82; for allusions to him as one of David's cantors see I Para 6:39, 15:17, 16:5, II Para 5:12.
The sons of Core. Pss. xli-xlviii., Ixxxiii-lxxxiv., Ixxxvii-lxxxviii. ; for allusions to them as the chief singers, see I. Paral. xxv. 4-8, where fourteen of the sons of Heman who, as we know from I. Paral. vi. 33-37, was a Corahite, are named as the leaders in the teinplc-chant, cf. II. Paral. xx. 19, where in the time of Josaphat the Corahites were already known as singers.
Eman the Ezrahite and Ethan the Ezrahite are given as the (?) authors of Pss. Ixxxvii. and Ixxxviii.; presumably the great singers who are grouped with Asaph in I Para 15:19, are here intended, but the patronionic 'Ezrahite' has led some to think that they are to be referred to the tribe of Juda, cf. III Kings 4:31, and I Para 2:6.
THE HIST0RICAL VALUE OF THE TITLES.Hitherto we have taken the titles for granted, but since it is the fashion to throw discredit on them we must investigate their claims to authenticity. It has been objected that (a) the variations between the Hebrew text of the titles and that of the versions entitles us to disregard them; (b) that it is somewhat suspicious that psalms should be assigned only to Moses, David, Solomon, and the Levitical singers; it is urged that this shows a custom of referring the different psalms as far back as possible in order to give them a claim to acceptance; it would be more natural, so it is urged, to find the names of well-known prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah in the titles, these prophets were both of them hymn-writers, (c) Again, the historical notices in the titles are all referred to the books of Samuel, and hardly any of them can be called appropriate, (d) Similarly many of the historical allusions to David seem impossible to justify, eg. in the titles to Psalms 68 and 101.
We have already indicated the various parts which go to make up the titles, and it will be evident that arguments which will support the liturgical titles, for example, will not support the historical ones. First of all, then, with regard to the musical titles, (a) Their antiquity is apparent from the fact that the LXX did not understand them; (b) the later psalms, i.e. those of the last two books, are precisely those which have not got them; (c) Hab 3 where they also occur, shows the pre-exilic use of them. The Liturgical titles: it has been urged at times that these at least are post-exilic in date; the main ground for this assertion is that outside the Psalter they only occur in Paralipomena; but it may well be answered that they would have been out of place in any other book, and more-over, that they do not all occur in the Chronicles. The Historical titles: it is a fact that the occasions assigned in the titles are often obscure, but it must be remembered that in the historical books we only have a very incomplete history of David; we are not given his biography, but rather the divine ordering of his life. Hence it is illogical to make difficulties over a psalm-title merely because it does not always exactly fit in with the details furnished us in the Books of Kings. The titles of authorship: as this is the vital question, a few remarks about the titles in general will be of use; first of all it should not be too readily conceded that there exists a great deal of discrepancy between the Hebrew and the versions regarding the titles; the evidence is often unanimous. Secondly, it should be noted that the very paucity of names in the titles is in itself an argument for their authenticity; had they been due to a later age, many more would undoubtedly have been inserted; we find a confirmation of this in the additional titles inserted in the LXX, e.g., Psalms 92-98, are anonymous in Hebrew, but they are all attributed to David in LXX; similarly, Psalms 136-150 are most of them anonymous in Hebrew, but in LXX many of them are attributed to Zacharias and Aggeus, and one to Jeremiah. Hence it seems a legitimate argument that the titles in the Hebrew are not to be rejected without good authority, and such does not seem to be forthcoming.
We are now in a position to discuss the precise meaning to be attached to the expression 'for David' or 'for Solomon' in the titles; we have seen that it can hardly mean authorship as we understand it. In order to arrive at a clear view of the question, it will be necessary to pass in review each book of the Psalter. In Book I, viz. Psalms 1-40, all, with the exception of Psalms 1, 2, and 33 (32), are in the Hebrew attributed to David, hence this 'Book' must be regarded as a Davidic collection. In Book II, Psalms 41-48, are assigned to the sons of Core, 49 to Asaph, 64, 68-69 to David, 65, 66, and 70 are anonymous, 71 is assigned to Solomon. This book is then clearly a composite collection, half of it, roughly speaking, being assigned to David and half to the Corahites. In Book III, Psalms 72-82 are assigned to Asaph, 83-84 to the Corahites, 85 to David, 86-88 to the Corahites. Here we have quite a different state of things, only one psalm is assigned to David, and even that one is so clearly a cento of passages derived from other psalms that it is difficult to accept it as David's; this 'Book' then, is essentially a Levitical collection. In Book IV, Psalm 89 is assigned to Moses, 90, 101, 103, 100, and 102. are given to David, the rest are anonymous, though in the LXX, Vulgate, and Douay they are nearly all of them assigned to David. In Book V, while fifteen are said to be psalms of David, and one is assigned to Solomon, no less than twenty-nine are anonymous, though the LXX, followed by the Vulgate, has assigned many of them to later prophets. It will be noticed, then, that the psalms are more or less — especially in the first two books — grouped according to their authors, thus Book I is purely Davidic, Book II is so in great part, Book III is Levitical, Book IV is almost wholly anonymous, Book V is so in great part.
But there is another and most important feature in these different books and that is the strikingly different use of the Divine Names which characterizes them. The different usages may be tabulated as follows:
Thus we have, according to this use of the Divine names, three groups rather than five:
Book I is Jahvistic,
Books II-III may be considered Elohistic,
Books IV-V are Jahvistic.
In estimating these data another factor must be taken into account. Some psalms have been repeated, i.e. they occur in different books — and what is most remarkable — when so repeated, they, if they pass from a Jahvistic to an Elohistic book, assume the Divine Name proper to the book in which they now occur. Thus Psalm 13 is repeated in Book II as Psalm 52, but whereas it was a Jahvistic psalm in the first book, it becomes an Elohistic psalm in the second. The same is the case with Psalm 39:14-18, which is repeated in Psalm 69 where in the Hebrew text Jehovah is generally replaced by Elohim. The most interesting case, however, is that of Psalm 107 which belongs to Book V, a Jahvistic book; this Psalm is made up of portions of Psalms 58 and 59, i.e., two Elohistic Psalms taken from Book II. According to the analogy of the preceding examples, we should expect these two Psalms to undergo a change in the Divine Names employed; but no change is made, and we have the only instances of the Name Elohitn which occur in Book V; they are not, however, enumerated in the table given above since they are clearly taken over bodily from Book II and do not, properly speaking, belong to Book V.
THE COMPILATION OF THE PSALTER.The foregoing facts compel us to see in the Psalter, as we now have it, the work of a compiler. To repeat, we have a series of collections of psalms, viz, those of David, of Asaph, of the sons of Core, and those of anonymous writers; further, we find certain psalms repeated and undergoing certain striking changes in the process; lastly there is the fact that the different Divine Names are used with a definiteness which is startling, so much so that a Psalm, when transplanted, changes its vocabulary of Divine Names in some instances, and yet does not do so in another. And that these changes in the Divine Names were deliberate and mark the hand of an editor working on a definite principle is clear when we compare certain passages in the Psalms with the Pentateuchal or other texts from which they were derived, thus Ps 49:7 is a quotation from Exodus 20:2, but the 'Ego sum Dominus Deus tuus' of this passage is, in the Psalm, changed into 'Deus, Deus tuus, Ego sum.' Similarly in Ps 67:1-8, we have undoubted reminiscences of Numbers 10:35, and Jud. 5:4, 5, 31; yet all through, the Jehovah of the latter passages has become Elohim; lastly, a comparison between Ps 85 and the passages from earlier psalms, of which it is to a large extent composed, will show a consistent manipulation of the Divine Names.
When speaking above of the various "collections" which go to make up the Psalter, we only mentioned the more important and evident ones, but a further examination will show the existence of a number of other smaller collections; thus it is remarkable that in the Elohistic Book III, Pss. 83-88 do not appear to have undergone an Elohistic revision, the Name Jehovah is constantly found among them; they seem, then, to belong to a separate series; again, the presence of two collections of Corahite Psalms, one in Book II, the other in Book III, seems to indicate that these collections were made at separate times; in Book IV we have a collection of anonymous Psalms, viz. the Psalms of the Judgement; in Book V, the Gradual Psalms appear to belong to a separate collection; so also the 'Confitemini' Psalms; so again the 'Alleluia' Psalms; notice, too, the two Davidic collections in Pss. 107-109, 137-144.
It is clear, then, that the Psalter is composed of a number of collections of Psalms, and that in the process of compilation certain changes were introduced — presumably for liturgical reasons.
Can we assign dates to any of these "collections"? And can we arrive at any conclusion with regard to the date of the final reduction of the whole to its present form?
It will be noticed that Book I is of a much more homogeneous character than the succeeding ones; with three exceptions all the Psalms contained in it are attributed to David and there is absolutely no ground for questioning the Davidic authorship of them. Psalm 17 occurs in II Sam 22 as David's, and the fact that there are a number of minute differences between the Hebrew text of the Psalm in Samuel and in the Psalter is in itself a proof of the solidity of the tradition regarding its Davidic authorship. And it is surely legitimate to argue that if David could pen Ps 17 he was equally capable of penning any other Psalm in the Psalter. In Book II we have what appears to be another Davidic collection with a Levitical collection prefixed to it; we have already had occasion to refer to the closing words of Ps 71, "the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended." These words can be nothing else than an editorial note, they are omitted in the Breviary edition of the Psalms. But as an editorial note they bear witness to an early period of literary activity, and we cannot be far wrong in regarding them as an editor's declaration that he can find no more Psalms of David; in proof of such literary activity, we have only to turn to Prov 25:1, or to II Mac 2:13. But the question at once presents itself: if this editor found no more Davidic Psalms how comes it that we have others in the Books IV and V? The answer must evidently be that, just as literary executors nowadays find, not all the 'literary remains' of David were at once forthcoming, and it was left to later researches to discover others as time went on. This need not be thought far-fetched, the age was a literary one, as the mere production of the Psalms show, and as is proved by the literary remains of Babylonia and Assyria.
The Levitical collections in Books II-III are of great interest, the Psalms are referred to Asaph and to the Sons of Core. Are we to see in these Psalms and in these names pre-exilic or post-exilic writings and writers? From the references given above it will be seen that the great Temple-singers were known long before the exile, hence there is no a priori difficulty in saying that these Psalms are rightly attributed to pre-exilic times. But what seems to us a striking confirmation of this view is forthcoming; in Books IV-V we have many Psalms which may with great probability be referred to the post-exilic period; now it is noticeable that none of these are said to be 'for the Sons of Core,' nor 'for Asaph'; in the Hebrew they are most of them anonymous, in the LXX, when names are given in the titles, it is precisely the post-exilic prophets whose names are singled out. Moreover, as pointed out above, the liturgical titles which are so plentiful in Books I-III. are wanting here, from which we might conclude that at the time these Books were compiled the true signification of these titles was unknown, as indeed the Greek attempts at translation of them would indicate. At the same time, how precarious are all attempts at dating the Psalms or collections of them, will be evident from a single fact the importance of which cannot be overrated; the expression "Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus" occurs only in Books IV and V, and is hence regarded as a characteristic feature of the Second Temple service; how precarious is such a conclusion will appear from the fact that Jer. 33:11, refers to it as a synonym for all singing of Psalms, and this of course at a period antecedent to the captivity.
But the most convincing proof of the comparatively late period at which at least Book V was compiled is to be found in the fact referred to already, namely that Ps 107, which is composed of two Elohistic Psalms, has been incorporated into this particular Book without being edited, i.e. it retains its Elohistic Names, even when incorporated into a Jehovistic Book. This points to a threefold distinction in the development of the Psalter. There was first the period when the Name Jehovah was in use; then came the period when the Name Elohim was used in preference to that of Jehovah and Psalms incorporated into Book II had to undergo a modification of their Divine Names; there then followed a period when Psalms were taken over as they were, when, though the Name Jehovah was in regular use, it was not thought necessary to change the Name of Elohim into that of Jehovah merely because a Psalm was to be inserted into a later Book.
The division of the Books into Elohistic and Jehovistic has shown that the Psalter, from this point of view, falls into three distinct parts, viz. Book I Jehovistic, Books II-III Elohistic, Books IV-V Jehovistic. These three divisions may be distinguished as the Personal, the National, and the Liturgical portions of the Psalter; and it is not impossible that the use of the Divine Names may be explained in accordance with this division. Thus the first part, Book I, is pre-exilic, the third part is — to a large extent — post-exilic, and these are the two Jehovistic parts; it is conceivable, then, that the Elohistic portion, Books II-III, may have been compiled during the exile, and that this fact may explain the elimination of the Ineffable Name Jehovah. At the same time it will not follow that the psalms found in any one Book were necessarily written at the time the Book was compiled they may have been written long before, and have been well known, but may owe their particular place in the Psalter to reasons which we cannot now discover; the period of compilation, in short, is no clue to the period of composition.
In discussing the date of individual psalms it must be remembered that (a) Psalmody dates from a very early period in Israel's history, Exodus 15, Deut 31, Judges 5, are sufficient proof of this. (b) Liturgical use can be shown to have existed long before the exile, cf. Isaiah 30:29, 64:11, Jer 33:11, Amos 5:23, 8:10, and Psalm 136. (c) David is repeatedly presented to us as a poet, cf. I Sam 16:18, II Sam 1:18-27, 22 and 23:1-7. In II Para 29:30, the ritual is attributed to him and to Asaph, cf. Esdras 3:10, Neh 12:24, (d) The Psalms in which the 'king' is specially mentioned cannot easily be referred to a period when the Davidic king was in exile, and it may be worth while to point out here a curious coincidence — if it be only a coincidence; in Psalm 146:10, we have a repetition of words found in Psalm 32:16-17, it is remarkable that the reference to the 'king' is omitted in the later Psalm which we should on independent grounds refer to the time after the exile.
"MACCABEAN" PSALMS.It is the fashion nowadays to say that several Psalms belong to the days of the Maccabees, viz. to the latest part of the Seleucidan period, i.e. from 166-130 B.C. An examination of this question will serve to bring out certain critical principles, and will thus be of service in investigating other questions.
The Psalms which are generally said to show the clearest marks of their Maccabean date are 43, 59, 73, 78, [and] 82. It may be safely maintained that there is very little in these Psalms to justify such an assertion with regard to them; as said at the outset, the Psalms are not cast into an historical framework, and any attempt to reconstruct history out of them is doomed to failure. The efforts of modern critics to read into these particular Psalms certain portions of history cannot be taken seriously; but it is with extrinsic arguments that we are more particularly concerned.
(a) Psalm 78:2-3 is quoted in I Mac 7:15-17, and the quotation is prefaced by the phrase "according to the word that is written"; it seems hardly credible that if the Psalm dated only from the period of the Maccabean wars it should be quoted as inspired Scrip- ture by the author of I Mac, a work practically contemporary with the events it records.
(b) In I Para 16, we have a Psalm which is a combination of Psalms 104, 95, and 105; at the close of 105, there is a doxology which is repeated in this composite Psalm. But this proves that at the time the Chronicler wrote, this doxology, and consequently the division between the Books IV and V at this point, existed already. But no one seriously proposes to bring down the date of the Chronicler later than about 300 B.C.
(c) We have seen that Books II-III, to which these so-called Maccabean Psalms belong, are Elohistic; but that this Elohistic section was already existing when Book V was formed is proved by the fact that two of them, 56 and 59, have been welded into one to form Psalm 107, and this without any change being made in the Divine Names contained in them — though forming an incongruous element in a Jehovistic book. But since in I Para 16, Psalm 105, as we have seen, has its doxology appended, it would be reasonable to suppose that the Psalter did not at that time end here but already had Book V added to it.
(d) The Psalms in question have musical titles, which are lacking in the later books and which were not understood by the LXX.
(e) While we have no certain data for fixing the time when the Greek translation of the Psalter was completed, we cannot put it later than the end of the second century B.C.; but this renders it increasingly difficult to suppose that Psalms bearing titles which the Greek translators did not understand had only been composed a few decades previously.
(f) The Prologue to Ecclesiasticus, with its thrice-repeated reference to the triple division of the Bible into 'the Law, the Prophets, and the other Books,' and with its insistence on the difference between the Bible in the original and in its Greek dress, shows that the translator (c. 130 B.C.), was acquainted with the LXX version, cf. the LXX variant which he has retained in 46:19 (22 in Douay); that he knew the LXX version of the Psalter follows from the fact that the Psalter is, in most "lists," the first book in the division termed "Hagiographa" or "writings," of St. Luke 24:44, and if there were any doubt about this it is set at rest by the discovery of the Hebrew text which inserts after 51:12, a Psalm of some fifteen verses made up of extracts from Psalms 117:1-4, and 135:1-26; if this Psalm formed part of the original text it follows that in the time of the author of Ecclesiasticus, i.e. about 180 B.C., the Greek Psalter was known in Egypt — twenty years before the Maccabean wars.
By Very Rev. Hugh Pope, O.P., S.T.M.
Doctor in Sacred Scripture,
Member of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, and
late Professor of New Testament Exegesis at the Collegio Angelico, Rome.
FR. R. L. JANSEN, O.P.
S. THEOL. LECT.; SCRIPT. S. LICENT. ET PROF.
FR. V. ROWAN
S. THEOL. LECT.; SCRIPT. S. LICENT. ET VET. TEST. PROF. AGGREG. IN UNIV. FRIBURGENSI (HELVET).
FRANCISCUS CARDINALIS BOURNE
FR. R. L. JANSEN, O.P.
S. THEOL. LECT.; SCRIPT. S. LICENT. ET PROF.
FR. V. ROWAN
S. THEOL. LECT.; SCRIPT. S. LICENT. ET VET. TEST. PROF. AGGREG. IN UNIV. FRIBURGENSI (HELVET).
FRANCISCUS CARDINALIS BOURNE