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Bible Commentaries

Adam Clarke Commentary
Psalms

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16
Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24
Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28
Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32
Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36
Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40
Chapter 41 Chapter 42 Chapter 43 Chapter 44
Chapter 45 Chapter 46 Chapter 47 Chapter 48
Chapter 49 Chapter 50 Chapter 51 Chapter 52
Chapter 53 Chapter 54 Chapter 55 Chapter 56
Chapter 57 Chapter 58 Chapter 59 Chapter 60
Chapter 61 Chapter 62 Chapter 63 Chapter 64
Chapter 65 Chapter 66 Chapter 67 Chapter 68
Chapter 69 Chapter 70 Chapter 71 Chapter 72
Chapter 73 Chapter 74 Chapter 75 Chapter 76
Chapter 77 Chapter 78 Chapter 79 Chapter 80
Chapter 81 Chapter 82 Chapter 83 Chapter 84
Chapter 85 Chapter 86 Chapter 87 Chapter 88
Chapter 89 Chapter 90 Chapter 91 Chapter 92
Chapter 93 Chapter 94 Chapter 95 Chapter 96
Chapter 97 Chapter 98 Chapter 99 Chapter 100
Chapter 101 Chapter 102 Chapter 103 Chapter 104
Chapter 105 Chapter 106 Chapter 107 Chapter 108
Chapter 109 Chapter 110 Chapter 111 Chapter 112
Chapter 113 Chapter 114 Chapter 115 Chapter 116
Chapter 117 Chapter 118 Chapter 119 Chapter 120
Chapter 121 Chapter 122 Chapter 123 Chapter 124
Chapter 125 Chapter 126 Chapter 127 Chapter 128
Chapter 129 Chapter 130 Chapter 131 Chapter 132
Chapter 133 Chapter 134 Chapter 135 Chapter 136
Chapter 137 Chapter 138 Chapter 139 Chapter 140
Chapter 141 Chapter 142 Chapter 143 Chapter 144
Chapter 145 Chapter 146 Chapter 147 Chapter 148
Chapter 149 Chapter 150

Book Overview - Psalms

by Adam Clarke

Introduction to the Book of Psalms

Section I - On the Names Given to this Book

This book is termed in Hebrew תהלים ספר Sepher Tehillim, which some learned men derive from הל hal or הלל halal, to move briskly, irradiate, shine; and translate, The Book of the Shinings forth, Irradiations, Manifestations, or Displays, namely, of Divine wisdom and love exhibited in God's dealing with his chosen people, or with particular. persons, as figures, for the time being, of what should be accomplished either in the person of Christ, or in his mystical body the Church. But as halal signifies also to praise, and praise arises from a sense of gratitude, is the expression of inward joy, and was often exhibited by brisk notes, sprightly music, etc., it may be well denominated The Book of Praises, as the major part of the Psalms have for their subject the praises of the Lord.

That the Psalms were sung in the Jewish service, and frequently accompanied by musical instruments, there is no doubt, for the fact is repeatedly mentioned; and hence the most ancient translation we have of the Psalms, viz., the Septuagint, as it stands in what is called the Codex Alexandrinus, is called Ψαλτηριον, The Psaltery, which is a species of musical instrument resembling the harp, according to the accounts given of it by some of the ancients. From this term came the Psalterium of the Vulgate, and our word Psalter, all of which are deduced from the verb ψαλλω, to sing, as the voice no doubt always accompanied this instrument, and by it the key was preserved and the voice sustained.

A Psalm is called in Hebrew מזמור mizmor, from זמר zamar, to cut off, because in singing each word was separated into its component syllables, each syllable answering to a note in the music.

General Division of the Book

The Hebrews divide the Psalms into five books, and this division is noticed by several of the primitive fathers. The origin of this division is not easily ascertained; but as it was considered a book of great excellence, and compared for its importance to the Pentateuch itself, it was probably divided into five books, as the law was contained in so many volumes. But where the divisions should take place the ancients are not agreed; and some of them divide into three fifties rather than into five parts; and for all these divisions they assign certain allegorical reasons which merit little attention.

The division of the Hebrews is as follows: -

Book I. From Psalm 1:1-6; to Psalm 41:1-13; inclusive.

Book II. From Psalm 42:1-11; to Psalm 72 inclusive.

Book III. From Psalm 73 to Psalm 89 inclusive.

Book IV. From Psalm 90 to Psalm 106 inclusive.

Book V. From Psalm 107 to Psalm 150:1-6; inclusive.

The First, Second, and Third Books end with Amen and Amen; the Fourth, with Amen and Hallelujah, the Fifth, with Hallelujah.

But the Psalms themselves are differently divided in all the Versions, and in many MSS. This is often very embarrassing to the reader, not only in consulting the Polyglots, but also in referring to theological works, whether of the Greek or Latin Church, where the Psalms are quoted; the Greek ecclesiastical writers following the Septuagint; and those of the Latin Church, the Vulgate. I shall lay a proper table of these variations before the reader, remarking first, that though they differ so much in the division of the Psalms, they all agree in the number one hundred and fifty.

A Table of the Differences in Dividing the Psalms Between the Hebrew Text and the Ancient Versions, Syriac, Septuagint, Chaldee, Arabic, Aethiopic, and Vulgate

In the above versions Psalm 9 and 10 make only Psalm 9. Hence there is one Psalm less in the reckoning as you proceed to

Psalm 114:1-8, 115, which make Psalm 113:1-9; in all those versions. Hence two Psalms are lost in the reckoning.

Psalm 116 is divided at Psalm 116:9, the versions beginning Psalm 115 at Psalm 115:10. Hence one Psalm is gained on the above reckoning.

Psalm 119 makes Psalm 118 in all the versions.

Psalm 147 they divide at Psalm 147:11, and begin Psalm 147 with Psalm 147:12. Here then the reckoning becomes equal, and all end alike with Psalm 150:1-6. '

In the Syriac, Septuagint, Aethiopic, and Arabic, there is what they call an extra-numeral Psalm, said to have been composed by David after his victory over Goliath. A translation of this will be found at the close of these notes.

The Hebrew MSS. agree often with the versions in uniting Psalms which the common Hebrew text has separated, and thus often support the ancient versions. These things shall be considered in the course of the notes.

On the Compilation of the Book, and the Authors to whom the Psalms Have Been Attributed

After having said so much on the name and ancient divisions of this important book, it may be necessary to say something in answer to the question, "Who was the author of the Book of Psalms?" If we were to follow the popular opinion, we should rather be surprised at the question, and immediately answer, David, king of Israel! That many of them were composed by him, there is no doubt; that several were written long after his time, there is internal evidence to prove; and that many of them were written even by his contemporaries, there is much reason to believe.

That the collection, as it now stands, was made long after David's death, is a general opinion among learned men; and that Ezra was the collector and compiler is commonly believed. Indeed all antiquity is nearly unanimous in giving Ezra the honour of collecting the different writings of Moses and the prophets, and reducing them into that form in which they are now found in the Holy Bible, and consequently the Psalms among the rest. See this subject treated at large in the preface to Ezra, etc.

In making this collection it does not appear that the compiler paid any attention to chronological arrangement. As he was an inspired man, he could judge of the pieces which came by Divine inspiration, and were proper for the general edification of the Church of God.

The writer of the Synopsis, attributed to St. Athanasius, says that the friends of King Hezekiah chose one hundred and fifty Psalms out of the number of three thousand which David had composed, and that they suppressed the rest: he says farther, that this is written in the Chronicles; but it is not found in the Chronicles which we now have, though it might have been in other Chronicles which that author had seen.

That some Scriptural collections were made under the influence and by the order of Hezekiah, we learn from Proverbs 25:1; : 'These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out." But whether these were employed on the writings of the father, as they were on those of the son, we cannot tell. The above authority is too slender to support any building of magnitude.

The only method we have of judging is from the internal evidence afforded by several the Psalms themselves, and from the inscriptions which many of them bear. As far as time and facts are concerned, many of them can be traced to the days of David, and the transactions which then occurred, and in which he bore so eminent a part. But there are others in which we find no note of time, and no reference to the transactions of David's reign.

As to the inscriptions, they are of slender authority; several of them do not agree with the subject of the Psalm to which they are prefixed, and not a few of them appear to be out of their places.

In one of the prologues attributed to St. Jerome, but probably of Eusebius, at the end of Vol. II. of St. Jerome's Works by Martinay, we find a table in which the whole Book of Psalms is dissected, showing those which have inscriptions, those which have none, and those to which the name of a particular person, as author, is prefixed. I shall give these in gross, and then in detail: Psalms without any name prefixed, 17; Psalms with an inscription, 133; in all 150.

These are afterwards divided into those which bear different kinds of titles, without names; and those which have names prefixed. I shall give these from the Quintuplex Psalterium, fol. Paris, 1513, as being more correct than in the edition of Jerome, by Martinay.

No Inscription 1, 2, 32, 42, 70, 90, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 103, 115, 136, 147 18 David's 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, 34, 33, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 67, 68, 69, 85, 100, 102, 107, 109, 133, 137, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144 70 Solomon's 71, 124 2 Sons of Korah 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 83, 84, 86 10 Asaph 49, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82 12 Heman 87 1 Ethan 88 1 Moses 89 1 No Name Specified A Song or Psalm A Song or Psalm A Psalm or Song A Prayer of the Afflicted 65 66 91 101 4 Hallelujah 104, 105, 106, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 116, 117, 118, 134, 135, 145, 146, 148, 149, 150 18 Psalms of Degrees 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132 13 Grand Total 150 Supping that the persons already mentioned are the authors of those Psalms to which their names are prefixed, there are still fifty-three, which, as bearing no proper name, must be attributed to uncertain authors, though ii is very probable that several of them were made by David.

The reader will observe that as the preceding enumeration is taken from the Vulgate, consequently it is not exactly the same with ours: but the rules already given at page 200, will enable him to accommodate this division to that in our common Bibles, which is the same with that in the Hebrew text.

In order to make the preceding table as correct as possible, I have carefully collated that in the Benedictine edition of St. Jerome's Works, with professedly the same table in the Quintuplex Psalter, in both of which there are several errors. In the Works, though all the numbers are given at large, as primus, decimus, centesimus, &c, yet the sum total, under each head, rarely agrees with the items above it. This was so notoriously the table in Jerome's Works, that I thought best to follow that in the Psalter above mentioned, which had been carefully corrected by Henry Stephens.

After all, this table gives but small satisfaction, when we come to collate it with the Psalms in the Hebrew text, or as they stand in our common English Bible. That nothing might be wanting, I have made an analysis of the whole from our present text, collating this with the Hebrew where I was in doubt; and by this the reader will see how greatly these tables differ from each other; and that many Psalms must now come under different arrangement, because of their different titles, from that which they had in St. Jerome's time. For instance, in St. Jerome's time there were seventy, or, as in some copies, seventy-two Psalms that had the name of David in the inscriptions; at present there are seventy-three thus inscribed in the Hebrew text.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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