Eve of Pentacost
Clarke's Commentary Clarke Commentary
by Adam Clarke
This book is termed in Hebrew ספר תהלים 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.
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 Psalms 1:1-6 to Psalms 41:1-13 inclusive.
Book II. From Psalms 42:1-11 to Psalms 72:0 inclusive.
Book III. From Psalms 73:0 to Psalms 89:0 inclusive.
Book IV. From Psalms 90:0 to Psalms 106:0 inclusive.
Book V. From Psalms 107:0 to Psalms 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 Psalms 9:0 and Psalms 10:0 make only Psalms 9:0. Hence there is one Psalm less in the reckoning as you proceed to
Psalms 114:1-8, Psalms 115:0, which make Psalms 113:1-9 in all those versions. Hence two Psalms are lost in the reckoning.
Psalms 116:0 is divided at Psalms 116:9, the versions beginning Psalms 115:0 at Psalms 115:10. Hence one Psalm is gained on the above reckoning.
Psalms 119:0 makes Psalms 118:0 in all the versions.
Psalms 147:0 they divide at Psalms 147:11, and begin Psalms 147:0 with Psalms 147:12. Here then the reckoning becomes equal, and all end alike with Psalms 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.
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 Psalms 1:0, Psalms 2:0, Psalms 32:0, Psalms 42:0, Psalms 70:0, Psalms 90:0, Psalms 92:0, Psalms 93:0, Psalms 94:0, Psalms 95:0, Psalms 96:0, Psalms 97:0, Psalms 98:0, Psalms 99:0, Psalms 103:0, Psalms 115:0, Psalms 136:0, Psalms 147:0 ... 18
David's Psalms 3:0, Psalms 4:0, Psalms 5:0, Psalms 6:0, Psalms 7:0, Psalms 8:0, Psalms 9:0, Psalms 10:0, Psalms 11:0, Psalms 12:0, Psalms 13:0, Psalms 14:0, Psalms 15:0, Psalms 16:0, Psalms 17:0, Psalms 18:0, Psalms 19:0, Psalms 20:0, Psalms 21:0, Psalms 22:0, Psalms 23:0, Psalms 24:0, Psalms 25:0, Psalms 26:0, Psalms 27:0, Psalms 28:0, Psalms 29:0, Psalms 30:0, Psalms 31:0, Psalms 33:0, Psalms 34:0, Psalms 33:0, Psalms 35:0, Psalms 36:0, Psalms 37:0, Psalms 38:0, Psalms 39:0, Psalms 40:0, Psalms 50:0, Psalms 51:0, Psalms 52:0, Psalms 53:0, Psalms 54:0, Psalms 55:0, Psalms 56:0, Psalms 57:0, Psalms 58:0, Psalms 59:0, Psalms 60:0, Psalms 61:0, Psalms 62:0, Psalms 63:0, Psalms 64:0, Psalms 67:0, Psalms 68:0, Psalms 69:0, Psalms 85:0, Psalms 100:0, Psalms 102:0, Psalms 107:0, Psalms 109:0, Psalms 133:0, Psalms 137:0, Psalms 139:0, Psalms 140:0, Psalms 141:0, Psalms 142:0, Psalms 143:0, Psalms 144:0 ... 70
Solomon's Psalms 71:0, Psalms 124:0 ... 2
Sons of Korah Psalms 41:0, Psalms 43:0, Psalms 44:0, Psalms 45:0, Psalms 46:0, Psalms 47:0, Psalms 48:0, Psalms 83:0, Psalms 84:0, Psalms 86:0 ... 10
Asaph Psalms 49:0, Psalms 72:0, Psalms 73:0, Psalms 74:0, Psalms 75:0, Psalms 76:0, Psalms 77:0, Psalms 78:0, Psalms 79:0, Psalms 80:0, Psalms 81:0, Psalms 82:0 ... 12
Heman Psalms 87:0 ... 1
Ethan Psalms 88:0 ... 1
Moses Psalms 89:0 ... 1
No Name Specified: A Song or Psalm, Psalms 65:0. A Song or Psalm, Psalms 66:0. A Psalm or Song, Psalms 91:0. A Prayer of the Afflicted, Psalms 101:0 ... 4
Hallelujah Psalms 104:0, Psalms 105:0, Psalms 106:0, Psalms 110:0, Psalms 111:0, Psalms 112:0, Psalms 113:0, Psalms 114:0, Psalms 116:0, Psalms 117:0, Psalms 118:0, Psalms 134:0, Psalms 135:0, Psalms 145:0, Psalms 146:0, Psalms 148:0, Psalms 149:0, Psalms 150:0 ... 18
Psalms of Degrees Psalms 119:0, Psalms 120:0, Psalms 121:0, Psalms 122:0, Psalms 123:0, Psalms 124:0, Psalms 125:0, Psalms 127:0, Psalms 128:0, Psalms 129:0, Psalms 130:0, Psalms 131:0, Psalms 132:0 ... 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.
Jerome gave two editions of the Latin Psalter, one from the Hebrew, and the other corrected from the Septuagint. Both of these may be found in his WORKS, and in the Quincuplex Psalter mentioned above. I shall now add a table, on a similar plan with the above, taken from our present authorized text.
A Classified Table of the Psalms taken from the text in common use
Psalms which have no inscription of any kind: Psalms 1:0, Psalms 2:0, Psalms 5:0, Psalms 33:0, Psalms 43:0, Psalms 71:0, Psalms 91:0, Psalms 93:0, Psalms 94:0, Psalms 95:0, Psalms 96:0, Psalms 97:0, Psalms 99:0, Psalms 104:0, Psalms 105:0, Psalms 107:0, Psalms 114:0, Psalms 115:0, Psalms 116:0, Psalms 117:0, Psalms 118:0, Psalms 119:0, Psalms 136:0, Psalms 137:0 ... 24
Psalms to which David's name is prefixed: Psalms 3:0, Psalms 4:0, Psalms 5:0, Psalms 6:0, Psalms 7:0, Psalms 8:0, Psalms 9:0, Psalms 11:0, Psalms 12:0, Psalms 13:0, Psalms 14:0, Psalms 15:0, Psalms 16:0, Psalms 17:0, Psalms 18:0, Psalms 19:0, Psalms 20:0, Psalms 21:0, Psalms 22:0, Psalms 23:0, Psalms 24:0, Psalms 25:0, Psalms 26:0, Psalms 27:0, Psalms 28:0, Psalms 29:0, Psalms 30:0, Psalms 31:0, Psalms 32:0, Psalms 34:0, Psalms 35:0, Psalms 36:0, Psalms 37:0, Psalms 38:0, Psalms 39:0, Psalms 40:0, Psalms 41:0, Psalms 51:0, Psalms 52:0, Psalms 53:0, Psalms 54:0, Psalms 55:0, Psalms 56:0, Psalms 57:0, Psalms 58:0, Psalms 59:0, Psalms 60:0, Psalms 61:0, Psalms 62:0, Psalms 63:0, Psalms 64:0, Psalms 65:0, Psalms 68:0, Psalms 69:0, Psalms 70:0, Psalms 86:0, Psalms 101:0, Psalms 103:0, Psalms 108:0, Psalms 109:0, Psalms 110:0, Psalms 122:0, Psalms 124:0, Psalms 131:0, Psalms 133:0, Psalms 138:0, Psalms 139:0, Psalms 140:0, Psalms 141:0, Psalms 142:0, Psalms 143:0, Psalms 144:0, Psalms 145:0 ... 73
Psalms attributed to Solomon: Psalms 72:0, Psalms 127:0 ... 2
Psalms attributed to the sons of Korah: Psalms 42:0, Psalms 44:0, Psalms 45:0, Psalms 46:0, Psalms 47:0, Psalms 48:0, Psalms 49:0, Psalms 84:0, Psalms 85:0, Psalms 87:0 ... 10
Psalms with the name of Asaph prefixed: Psalms 50:0, Psalms 73:0, Psalms 74:0, Psalms 75:0, Psalms 76:0, Psalms 77:0, Psalms 78:0, Psalms 79:0, Psalms 80:0, Psalms 81:0, Psalms 82:0, Psalms 83:0 ... 12
A Psalm to which the name of Heman is prefixed: Psalms 88:0 ... 1
A Psalm to which the name of Ethan is prefixed: Psalms 89:0 ... 1
A Psalm to which the name of Moses is prefixed: Psalms 90:0 ... 1
Psalms with titles without any name specified: A Song or Psalm, Psalms 66:0. A Psalm or Song, Psalms 67:0. A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath day, Psalms 92:0. A Psalm or Song, Psalms 98:0. A Psalm or Song, Psalms 100:0. A Prayer of the Afflicted, Psalms 102:0 ... 6
Hallelujah Psalms: Psalms 106:0, Psalms 111:0, Psalms 112:0, Psalms 113:0, Psalms 125:0, Psalms 146:0, Psalms 147:0, Psalms 148:0, Psalms 149:0, Psalms 150:0 ... 10
Psalms or Songs of Degrees: Psalms 120:0, Psalms 121:0, Psalms 123:0, Psalms 125:0, Psalms 126:0, Psalms 128:0, Psalms 129:0, Psalms 130:0, Psalms 132:0, Psalms 134:0 ... 10
Sum total of all kinds: Psalms having no inscription, 24. Psalms having David's name
prefixed, 73. Psalms having Solomon's name, 2. Ditto, sons of Korah, 10. Ditto, Asaph, 12.
Ditto, Heman, 1. Ditto, Ethan, 1. Psalms and Songs, 6. Hallelujah Psalms, 10. Psalms of
Grand total 150 ... 150
After all that has been done to assign each Psalm to its author, there are few of which we can say positively, These were composed by David.
Most commentators, as well as historians of the life and reign of David, have taken great pains to throw some light upon this subject, particularly Calmet, Delaney, Chandler, and Venema. The former has made seven divisions of them, to ascertain the order of time in which they were written. I shall adopt this plan, and accommodate it to the Psalms as they stand in our present authorized version, after simply remarking that there are several Psalms which appear to be ill-divided, some making two or three, which in all probability made originally but one; and others, which formerly made two or more, now improperly connected.
This has been already noticed in comparing the differences of the numeration between the versions and the Hebrew text. See p. 201; see also at the end of the following table.
Psalms 1:0. "Blessed is the man," &c. This is generally considered as a Preface to the whole book; supposed by some to have been written by David: but others attribute it to Ezra, who collected the book of Psalms.
Psalms 4:0. "Hear me when I call."" The evening prayer of a pious man.
Psalms 8:0. "O Lord our Lord." The privileges and dignity of man.
Psalms 9:0. "The heavens declare the glory of God." God's glory in the creation. The excellence, perfection, and use of the Divine law.
Psalms 81:0. "Sing aloud unto God." Supposed to be a Psalm usually sung at the Feast of Trumpets, or the beginning of the year; and at the Feast of Tabernacles.
Psalms 91:0. "He that dwelleth in the secret place." The happiness of those who trust in the Lord. This Psalm might be placed during or after the Captivity.
Psalms 110:0. "The Lord said unto my Lord." The advent, birth, passion, priesthood, and kingdom of Christ. Probably composed by David.
Psalms 134:0. "O Lord, thou hast searched me." On the wisdom and providence of God.
Psalms 145:0. "I will extol thee, my God, O King." Thanksgiving for the general benefits bestowed by God.
In none of these is there any distinct notation of time.
Psalms 11:0. "In the Lord put I my trust." Composed by David when in the court of Saul, his friends exhorting him to escape for his life from the jealousy and cruelty of Saul.
Psalms 31:0. "In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust." Composed when David was proscribed, and obliged to flee from Saul's court.
Psalms 34:0. "I will bless the Lord at all times." Supposed to have been composed by David, when, by feigning himself to be mad, he escaped from the court of Achish, king of Gath.
Psalms 56:0. "Be merciful unto me, O God." Composed in the cave of Adullam, after his escape from Achish.
Psalms 16:0. "Preserve me, O God." David persecuted by Saul, and obliged to take refuge among the Moabites and Philistines.
Psalms 54:0. "Save me, O God, by thy name." David, betrayed by the Ziphims, escapes from the hands of Saul.
Psalms 52:0. "Why boastest thou thyself in mischief." Composed by David when Doeg betrayed him to Saul, who, not finding him, slew the priests at Nob.
Psalms 109:0. "Hold not thy peace, O God." An invective against Doeg, and the rest of his enemies.
Psalms 17:0. "Hear the right, O Lord." When Saul carried his persecution to the highest pitch.
Psalms 22:0. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me." Saul's persecution of David an emblem of the persecutions of Christ by the Jews.
Psalms 35:0. "Plead my cause, O Lord." Against Saul and his courtiers, who plotted his destruction.
Psalms 57:0. "Be merciful unto me, O God." While shut up in the cave of En-gedi; 1 Samuel 24:4.
Psalms 58:0. "Do ye indeed speak righteousness." Against the wicked counsellors of Saul.
Psalms 113:0. "I cried unto the Lord with my voice." David in the cave of En-gedi, 1 Samuel 24:4.
Psalms 140:0. "Deliver me, O Lord." Under the same persecutions praying for Divine succour.
Psalms 141:0. "Lord, I cry unto thee." Same as the preceding.
Psalms 7:0. "O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust." When violently persecuted by Saul.
Psalms 2:0. "Why do the heathen rage." Written by David after he had established his throne at Jerusalem, notwithstanding the envy and malice of his enemies. A prophecy of the reign of Christ.
Psalms 9:0. "I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart." Sung by David on bringing the ark from the house of Obed-edom.
Psalms 24:0. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." Sung on the same occasion, Psalm xviii. "Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered." Sung on bringing the ark from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem.
Psalms 101:0. "I will sing of mercy and Judgment." David describes the manner in which he will form his court, his ministers, and confidential servants.
Psalms 29:0. "Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty." Composed after the dearth which fell on the land because of Saul's unjust persecution of the Gibeonites; 2 Samuel 21:1.
Psalms 20:0. "The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble." Composed when David was about to march against the Ammonites and Syrians; 2 Samuel 10:16.
Psalms 21:0. "The king shall joy in thy strength." Thanksgiving to God for the victory over the Ammonites, &c.; a continuation of the subject in the preceding.
Psalms 38:0. "O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath." Composed during the time of a grievous affliction, after his transgression with Bath-sheba. See Psalms 6:1.
Psalms 39:0. "I said, I will take heed to my ways." A continuation of the same subject.
Psalms 40:0. "I waited patiently for the Lord." Thanksgiving for his recovery.
Psalms 41:0. "Blessed is he who considereth the poor." A continuation of the preceding subject.
Psalms 6:0. "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger." Supposed to be written in a time of sickness after his sin with Bath-sheba. See Psalms 38:1.
Psalms 51:0. "Have mercy upon me, O God." Written after he received the reproof by Nathan the prophet; 2 Samuel 12:13, 2 Samuel 12:22.
Psalms 32:0. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven." Written about the same time, and on the same subject.
Psalms 33:0. "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous." A continuation of the preceding Psalm.
Psalms 3:0. "Lord, how are they increased that trouble me?" When David was driven from Jerusalem by Absalom.
Psalms 4:0. "Hear me when I call." Composed at the same time.
Psalms 55:0. "Give ear to my prayer." When he was flying from Jerusalem before Absalom.
Psalms 62:0. "Truly my soul waiteth upon God." Exercising faith and patience during Absalom's rebellion.
Psalms 70:0. "Make haste, O God, to deliver me." During the same.
Psalms 71:0. "In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust." Continuation of the preceding.
Psalms 143:0. "Hear my prayer, O Lord." Written during the war with Absalom.
Psalms 144:0. "Blessed be the Lord my strength." Written after the overthrow of Absalom, Sheba, and other rebels.
Psalms 18:0. "I will love thee, O Lord, my strength." Thanksgivings for all the benefits which David had received from God. See 2 Samuel 22:1-51.
Psalms 30:0. "I will extol thee, O Lord." Composed at the dedication of the threshing-floor of Ornan; 2 Samuel 24:25.
Psalms 72:0. "Give the king thy judgments." Composed by David when he invested Solomon with the kingdom.
Psalms 45:0. "My heart is inditing a good matter." Written by the sons of Korah, for Solomon's marriage.
Psalms 28:0. "Give ear, O my people." Sung by the choir of Asaph, on the victory gained by Asa over Baasha king of Israel; 2 Chronicles 16:4, &c.
Psalms 82:0. "God standeth in the congregation." Instructions given to the judges in the days of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.
Psalms 83:0. "Keep not thou silence, O God." Thanksgiving for the victories of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, over the Ammonites, Idumeans, and others. See 2 Chronicles 20:1, &c.
Psalms 76:0. "In Judah is God known." Sung by the choir of Asaph after the victory over Sennacherib.
Psalms 74:0. "O God, why hast thou cast us off?" Lamentation over the temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
Psalms 79:0. "O God, the heathen are come." On the same subject; composed probably during the captivity.
Psalms 10:0. "Why standeth thou afar off?" Lamentation of the Jews during the captivity.
Psalms 12:0. "Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth." Composed by the captive Jews showing the wickedness of the Babylonians.
Psalms 13:0. "How long wilt thou forget me." Continuation of the preceding.
Psalms 14:0. "The fool hath said in his heart." A prayer of the poor captives for deliverance from their captivity.
Psalms 53:0. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." This Psalm is almost verbatim with Psalm xiv., and, like it, describes the wickedness of the Babylonians, both having been composed during the captivity.
Psalms 15:0. "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?" This Psalm was probably intended to point out the character of those who might expect to return to their own land, and join in the temple service.
Psalms 25:0. "Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul." A prayer of the captives for deliverance.
Psalms 26:0. "Judge me, O Lord." Continuation of the same.
Psalms 27:0. "The Lord is my light and my salvation." The captives express their confidence in God.
Psalms 28:0. "Unto thee will I cry." Prayers and thanksgivings of the captives.
Psalms 36:0. "The transgression of the wicked." Complaints of the captives against the Babylonians.
Psalms 37:0. "Fret not thyself.' A Psalm of consolation for the captives.
Psalms 42:0. "As the hart panteth." Composed by the sons of Korah during the captivity.
Psalms 43:0. "Judge me, O God." Continuation of the same.
Psalms 44:0. "We have heard with our ears." Same subject.
Psalms 49:0. "Hear this, all ye people." By the sons of Korah: comfort for the captives.
Psalms 50:0. "The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken.' God's reprehension of the Jews, showing them the cause of their captivity.
Psalms 60:0. "O God, thou hast cast us off." The captives express their hope of a speedy restoration.
Psalms 64:0. "Hear my voice, O God." The captives complain of their oppression under the Babylonians.
Psalms 69:0. "Save me, O God." The captive Levites complain of the cruelty of the Babylonians.
Psalms 23:0. "Truly God is good to Israel." Asaph warns the captives against the bad example of the Babylonians, and against being envious at the prosperity of the wicked. Compare this with Psalm xxxvii.
Psalms 75:0. "Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks." Asaph prays for the deliverance of the people.
Psalms 27:0. "I cried unto God with my voice." Jeduthun and Asaph complain of the long duration of the captivity.
Psalms 80:0. "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel." Asaph prays for the deliverance of the people.
Psalms 84:0. "How amiable are thy tabernacles." The sons of Korah pray for their release.
Psalms 86:0. "Bow down thine ear." The same subject.
Psalms 88:0. "O Lord God of my salvation." The same subject.
Psalms 89:0. "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord." Ethan prays for the deliverance of the captive Jews.
Psalms 90:0. "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling." The Levites, the descendants of Moses, request their return from captivity.
Psalms 92:0. "It is a good thing to give thanks." The same subject, and by the same persons.
Psalms 93:0. "The Lord reigneth." The same, by the same persons.
Psalms 95:0. "O come, let us sing unto the Lord." The same.
Psalms 99:0. "Blessed are the undefiled in the way." A Psalm supposed to have been made by Daniel, or some other captive prophet, for the instruction of the people.
Psalms 120:0. "In my distress I cried." The captives pray for deliverance.
Psalms 121:0. "I will lift up mine eyes." The same subject.
Psalms 130:0. "Out of the depths have I cried." The same.
Psalms 131:0. "Lord, my heart is not haughty." The heads of the people pray for their return.
Psalms 132:0. "Lord, remember David." A prayer of the captive Jews in behalf of the house of David.
Psalms 122:0. "I was glad when they said." A Psalm of thanksgiving when they heard of the edict of Cyrus, permitting their return.
Psalms 61:0. "Hear my cry, O God " Thanksgivings when the Jews were about to return to Jerusalem.
Psalms 63:0. "O God, thou art my God." A Psalm of the people, now on their return to Judea.
Psalms 124:0. "If it had not been the Lord, who was on our side." On the same subject.
Psalms 23:0. "The Lord is my shepherd." Thanksgiving to God for their redemption from captivity.
Psalms 87:0. "His foundation is in the holy mountains." Thanksgivings by the sons of Korah for their return from captivity.
Psalms 85:0. "Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land." Thanksgivings for their return.
Psalms 46:0. "God is our refuge and strength." Sung by the sons of Korah at the dedication of the second temple.
Psalms 47:0. "O clap your hands, all ye people." The same.
Psalms 48:0. "Great is the Lord." A continuation of the preceding.
Psalms 96:0. "O sing unto the Lord a new song." This and the three preceding all sung at the dedication of the second temple.
Psalms 97:0. "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice." Thanksgivings of the Jews for their deliverance; sung at the dedication of the second temple.
Psalms 98:0. "O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things." A continuation of the above.
Psalms 99:0. "The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble." Sung on the same occasion.
Psalms 100:0. "Make a joyful noise." On the same occasion.
Psalms 102:0. "Hear my prayer, O Lord." A description of the sufferings of the captives while in Babylon; and thanksgivings for their deliverance.
Psalms 103:0. "Bless the Lord, O my soul." On the same subject.
Psalms 104:0. "Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God." On the same.
Psalms 105:0. "O give thanks unto the Lord." Thanksgivings for deliverance from Babylon.
Psalms 106:0. "Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord." On the same subject. A recapitulation of what God did for their fathers in Egypt and in the wilderness.
Psalms 107:0. "O give thanks-his mercy endureth for ever." A fine poetical description of the miseries of the captivity.
Psalms 108:0. "O God, my heart is fixed." The Jews, delivered from captivity, pray for their brethren yet beyond the Euphrates.
Psalms 111:0. "Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart." Thanksgivings of the Jews after their captivity.
Psalms 112:0. "Praise ye the Lord. Blessed is the man that feareth." A continuation of the same subject.
Psalms 113:0. "Praise ye the Lord. Praise, O ye servants." A continuation of the above.
Psalms 114:0. "When Israel went out of Egypt." The same subject.
Psalms 116:0. "I love the Lord." The same subject.
Psalms 117:0. "O praise the Lord, all ye nations." The same subject.
Psalms 126:0. "When the Lord turned again our captivity." A prayer for the remnant still remaining in captivity.
Psalms 133:0. "Behold, how good and how pleasant." Happy union of the priests and Levites in the service of God, after the captivity.
Psalms 134:0. "Behold, bless ye the Lord." An exhortation to the priests and Levites properly to discharge their duties in the temple, after they had returned from their captivity.
Psalms 135:0. "Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the name of the Lord." Same as the preceding.
Psalms 136:0. "O give thanks unto the Lord." Same as before.
Psalms 137:0. "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down." The Levites on their return, relate how they were insulted in their captivity.
Psalms 148:0. "Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens." Thanksgiving for deliverance from the captivity; and an invitation to all creatures to celebrate the praise of the Lord.
Psalms 149:0. "Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song." On the same subject.
Psalms 150:0. "Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary." A continuation of the preceding Psalms.
Psalms 146:0. "Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul." Supposed to have been composed by Haggai, and Zechariah, to comfort the people when the edict of Cyrus was revoked. See the notes on this Psalm.
Psalms 147:0. "Praise ye the Lord: for it is good." Thanksgiving of the same prophets after the long dearth mentioned by Haggai, Haggai 1:5-11. In the Vulgate this Psalm is divided at ver. 12, "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem;" and is supposed by Calmet to have been sung at the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem. The whole Psalm is suitable to the occasions mentioned above.
Psalms 59:0. "Deliver me from mine enemies." Probably sung about the same time. See Nehemiah 4:1-23, and following chapters.
Psalms 65:0. "Praise waiteth for thee, O God." Composed by Haggai and Zechariah, after the Lord had sent the rain promised by Haggai, Haggai 1:12-15; and when they had begun the repairs of the temple. See Psalm cxlvii.
Psalms 66:0. "Make a joyful noise." A continuation of the above.
Psalms 67:0. "God be merciful unto us." The same subject.
Psalms 118:0. "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good." A song of praise after the death of Cambyses, or probably after the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem. Supposed to have been written by Nehemiah.
Psalms 125:0. "They that trust in the Lord." The Jews encouraging each other to resist Sanballat and Tobiah, and their other enemies.
Psalms 127:0. "Except the Lord build the house." Composed to encourage the people to labour at the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem; and to put their confidence in the Lord.
Psalms 128:0. "Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord." A continuation of the preceding.
Psalms 129:0. "Many a time have they afflicted me." A description of the peace and comfort enjoyed by the Jews under the reign of Darius.
Psalms 138:0. "I will praise thee with my whole heart." A continuation of the same subject.
For the reasons of the above chronological arrangement the reader may refer to the notes, and see also another table, page 214. This arrangement is better than none; and I hope will in the main be found as correct as can reasonably be expected, and a great help to a proper understanding of the Psalms.
The Hebrew Psalter is the most ancient collection of poems in the world; and was composed long before those in which ancient Greece and Rome have gloried. Among all the heathen nations Greece had the honour of producing not only the first, but also the most sublime, of poets: but the subjects on which they employed their talents had, in general, but little tendency to meliorate the moral condition of men. Their subjects were either a fabulous theology, a false and ridiculous religion, chimerical wars, absurd heroism, impure love, agriculture, national sports, or hymns in honour of gods more corrupt than the most profligate of men. Their writings served only to render vice amiable, to honour superstition, to favour the most dangerous and most degrading passions of men, such as impure love, ambition, pride, and impiety. What is said of the Greek poets may be spoken with equal truth of their successors and imitators, the Latin poets; out of the whole of whose writings it would be difficult to extract even the common maxims of a decent morality. I am well aware that fine sentiments, strong and terse expressions, and luminous thoughts, may be found in different parts of their writings; but compared with what is of a different kind, it may be well said of these:—
That there were several authors, and that the Psalms were composed at different times, is sufficiently evident from the compositions themselves. The occasions also on which they were written are frequently pointed out by their contents; and these things have been kept constantly in view, in the construction of the preceding table.
There is a difficulty which should not be overlooked, and with which almost every reader is puzzled, viz., How is it that in the same Psalm we find so many different states of mind and circumstances pointed out? These could not be the experience of one and the same person, at the same time. The answer that is commonly given is this: Such Psalms were composed after the full termination of the events which they celebrate. For instance, David had fallen into distress-his sorrows became multiplied-he was filled with torturing fears. He called earnestly on the Lord for help; he was heard after a long night and fight of afflictions; and he most feelingly and sublimely praises God for his deliverance. Now all these different circumstances he describes as if then existing, though considerably distant in point of time; beginning the Psalm with the language of the deepest penitential distress, almost bordering on despair; and ending it with the strongest confidence in God, and thanksgiving for his deliverance. The thirtieth Psalm is a case in point; to the notes on which the reader is referred. Now it is possible that the psalmist, having obtained deliverance from sore and oppressive evils, might sit down to compose a hymn of thanksgiving to celebrate God's mercies; and in order to do this the more effectually, might describe the different circumstances enumerated above, as if he were then passing through them.
But I own that, to me, this is not a satisfactory solution. I rather suppose that such Psalms, and perhaps most of those called acrostic, were composed from diaries or memoranda; and in forming a Psalm, materials out of different days, having little congruity with each other as to the time in which they happened, would necessarily enter into the composition. This supposition will, in my opinion, account for all anomalies of this kind, which we perceive in the book of Psalms. On this rule we can account for apparent contradictions in several Psalms: taken as metrical compositions formed from memoranda of religious experience for different days, they may well express different states; as the state of the author's mind was not likely to be precisely the same in all those times on which he made the memoranda. I can illustrate what I mean by the following extract from the Spiritual Diary of Doctor John Rutty:—
"Seventh month, 1768, 3d day: Amidst our palpable desolations, matter of some comfort appeared. An inward voice of thanksgiving to God for the gift of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to us Gentiles; the mystery hid from ages, adorable, incomprehensible, unutterable, and unmerited; and if the sweet singer of Israel had occasion to say, 'Awake, sackbut, psaltery, and harp, and praise the Lord;' so had I, so had we, so had every one whose eyes the god of this world had not blinded.
"My native fierceness seemed, in the clear vision, to be the chief sin of my bosom, not yet wholly subdued: good Lord, and God of love, subdue it!
"7th. Soul, awake! the everlasting antitypal Sabbath I trust is at hand, the end of all labours, sufferings, and sins; see and prepare for it by letting the earth now enjoy its Sabbaths, even in a gradual relaxation and holy carelessness in all the special concerns of flesh and blood.
"8th. Protracted my vesper beyond the usual tissue, by reason of a sweet inspired song of thanksgiving to a gracious and ever adorable Providence.
"10th. Thy work is not yet done; the war in the members is still felt. Patience hath not yet had its perfect work. O my poverty! Lord, help me!
"11th. In the midst of various discouragements I was induced, even from observation, to believe that our late labour had not been wholly in vain; yea, on the 15th and 20th, I was a witness to some effects thereof.
"19th. A silent meeting with a loaded atmosphere; great heaviness, and the holy fire almost but not quite out.
"22d. I am a wonder of God's mercy and bounty. He is, as it were, renewing my youth, and giving, in old age, to enjoy and sweetly apply the labours of my youth, whilst multitudes of my equals and associates are dropping into eternity, or else various ways distressed. Awake, soul, and work; for the eleventh hour is come!
"23d. In a religious view, suffering is my portion. Lord, sustain!
"25th. A sweet song of thanksgiving.
"31st. The tenor of the drawing or proper steerage this day was, to keep carefully the holy medium between a criminal remissness in temporals on the one hand, and an anxiety about them on the other." Spiritual Diary, vol. ii, p. 235.
One sentence excepted, which is not relevant, here are the whole memoranda of the eminent man's religious experience for one month, in which we find the following states distinctly marked:
1. Mourning over the small progress of religion in the place where he dwelt, yet receiving encouragement from other quarters, day 3d.
2. Exulting in God for redemption by Christ Jesus, ditto.
3. Humbled on a view of his natural fierceness of spirit, ditto.
4. Rejoicing at the prospect of being soon released from earth, day 7th.
5. Thanksgiving for providential blessings, day 8th.
6. Fighting against inward sin, day 10th.
7. Encouraged in the performance of his duty, days 11th, 15th, 20th.
8. Mourning over the heavenly flame, almost extinct, day 19th.
9. Triumphing in a restoration of mental and bodily vigour, day 22d.
10. Complaining of his suffering lot, day 23d.
11. Happy in his soul, and giving praise to God, day 25th.
12. Forming holy resolutions for the government of his future life, day 31st.
Let us compare this with Psalms 30:0, to which I have already referred in this introduction.
The Psalm begins with "I will extol thee, O Lord." And we find in it seven different states distinctly marked:
1. He had been in great distress, and nearly overwhelmed by his enemies; implied in Psalms 30:1.
2. He extols God for having lifted him up, and preserved him from his adversaries, Psalms 30:1, Psalms 30:3.
3. He is brought into great prosperity, trusts in what he had received, and forgets to depend wholly on the Lord, Psalms 30:4-6.
4. The Lord hides his face from him, and he is brought into great distress, Psalms 30:7: "Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled."
5. He makes earnest prayer and supplication, and pleads strongly with the Lord, Psalms 30:8-10.
6. He is restored to the Divine favour, and filled with joy, Psalms 30:11.
7. He purposes to glory in God alone, and trust in him forever, Psalms 30:12.
Now it is impossible that David could have been in all these states when he penned this Psalm: suppose them to be the memoranda taken from one week's journal, and dressed in this poetic form; for it is possible that he might have passed through all these states in one week. Let us examine the month's experience, extracted from the diary of Dr. Rutty; and let an able hand clothe that in a poetic dress; and we shall find it as apparently contradictory as Psalms 30:0 Suppose both formed from memoranda of a diary, and all is plain.
I have spent the more time on this subject, because it is important to have some general rule by which we may account for the apparent inconsistencies often occurring in the same Psalm.
There is another class of Psalms to which this mode of interpretation is not applicable: I mean those composed in the dialogue form. There are several of this kind; and as the several interlocutors are not distinguished, it requires considerable attention to find out the different parts which belong to the speakers. I shall give an example of this class.
The ninety-first Psalm contains, in general, a description of the happiness of those who trust in the Lord: but is evidently divided among three speakers: the psalmist; another whom we may call his friend; and thirdly, Jehovah. I shall endeavour to assign to each his part.
The psalmist begins with asserting, in general terms, the happiness of the godly: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty," Psalms 91:1.
His friend states his own experience, and replies, "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge," &c., Psalms 91:2.
The psalmist answers: "Surely he shall deliver thee," &c., Psalms 91:3; and goes on to enumerate the great privileges of the godly, to Psalms 91:8.
The friend then resumes, and shows how blessed the psalmist must be, who has an interest in the same God; and enters into a detail of his privileges, Psalms 91:9-13.
This speech concluded, Jehovah speaks, confirms what was said concerning the blessedness of the godly; and to such persons he promises the highest spiritual honours, long life, and endless salvation, Psalms 91:14-16.
Other Psalms of this class, such as Psalms 20:0 and Psalms 30:0, &c., will be particularly pointed out in the course of the notes on this subject.
Some have imagined that the book of Psalms is to be understood mystically, in reference to the Christian system; and, indeed, on this plan they have been interpreted and applied by many fathers, both ancient and modern. To this opinion I cannot subscribe: and therefore cannot frame a commentary in this way. That several of them are quoted, both by our Lord and his apostles, we have the fullest proof; and where they have shown the way, we may safely follow. Bishop Horne, who contends for the spiritual sense of this book, gives an interesting view of the principal passages that have been quoted in the New Testament; and from his preface I shall select a few paragraphs on this part of the subject: "No sooner," says he, "have we opened the book, than the second Psalm presents itself, to all appearance, as an inauguration hymn composed by David, the anointed of Jehovah; when by him crowned with victory, and placed triumphant on the sacred hill of Sion. But let us turn to Acts 4:25, and there we find the apostles declaring the Psalm to be descriptive of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, and of the opposition raised against his Gospel, both by Jew and Gentile.
"In the eighth Psalm (Psalms 8:0) we may imagine the writer to be setting forth the pre-eminence of man in general above the rest of the creation: but by Hebrews 2:6, we are informed that the supremacy conferred on the second Adam, the man Christ Jesus, over all things in heaven and earth, is the subject there treated of.
"St. Peter stands up, Acts 2:25, and preaches the resurrection of Jesus from the latter part of the sixteenth Psalm (Psalms 16:0); and, lo, three thousand souls are converted by the sermon.
"Of the eighteenth Psalm (Psalms 18:0) we are told in the course of the sacred history, 2 Samuel 22:1, that 'David spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul:' yet, in Romans 15:9, the ninth verse of that Psalm is adduced as a proof that the Gentiles should glorify God for his mercy in Christ Jesus: 'As it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.'
"In the nineteenth Psalm (Psalms 19:0) David seems to be speaking of the material heavens and their operations only, when he says: 'Their sound is gone out into all the earth, and their words into the ends of the world.' But St. Paul, Romans 10:18, quotes the passage to show that the Gospel had been universally published by the apostles.
"The twenty-second Psalm (Psalms 22:0) Christ appropriated to himself, by beginning it in the midst of his sufferings on the cross: 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' Three other verses of it are also applied to him; and the words of the eighth verse were actually used by the chief priests when they reviled him: 'He trusted in God,' &c., Matthew 27:43.
"When David says, in the fortieth Psalm (Psalms 40:0), 'Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire-Lo, I come-to do thy will;' we might suppose him only to declare, in his own person, that obedience is better than sacrifice; but, from Hebrews 10:5, we learn that Messiah in that place speaks of his advent in the flesh to abolish the legal sacrifices, and to do away sin by the oblation of himself, once for all.
"That tender and pathetic complaint in the forty-first Psalm (Psalms 41:0): Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me,' undoubtedly might be, and probably was, originally uttered by David upon the revolt of his old friend and counsellor Ahithophel, to the party of his rebellious son Absalom. But we are certain, from John 13:18, that this scripture was fulfilled when Christ was betrayed by his apostate disciple: 'I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.'
"The forty-fourth Psalm (Psalms 44:0) we must suppose to have been written on occasion of a persecution under which the Church at that time laboured; but a verse of it is cited, Romans 8:36, as expressive of what Christians were to suffer on their blessed Master's account: 'As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'
"A quotation from the forty-fifth Psalm (Psalms 45:0) in Hebrews 1:3, certifies us that the whole is addressed to the Son of God, and therefore celebrates his spiritual union with the Church, and the happy fruits of it.
"The sixty-eighth Psalm (Psalms 68:0), though apparently conversant about Israelitish victories, the translation of the ark to Sion, and the services of the tabernacle; yet does, under those figures, treat of Christ's resurrection; his going upon high leading captivity captive, pouring out the gifts of the Spirit, erecting his Church in the world, and enlarging it by the accession of the nations to the faith; as will be evident to any one who considers the force and consequence of the apostle's citation from it, Ephesians 4:7, Ephesians 4:8: 'Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.'
"The sixty-ninth Psalm (Psalms 69:0) is five times referred to in the Gospels, as being uttered by the prophet in the person of the Messiah. The imprecations, or rather predictions, at the latter end of it, are applied, Romans 11:9, Romans 11:10, to the Jews; and to Judas, Acts 1:20, where the hundred and ninth Psalm is also cited as prophetical of the sore judgments which should befall that arch traitor, and the wretched nation of which he was an epitome.
"St. Matthew, informing us, Matthew 13:35, that Jesus spake to the multitude in parables, gives it as one reason why he did so: 'That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, Psalms 73:2, I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
"The ninety-first Psalm (Psalms 91:0) was applied by the tempter to the Messiah; nor did our Lord object to the application, but only to the false inference which his adversary suggested from it; Matthew 4:6, Matthew 4:7.
"The ninety-fifth Psalm (Psalms 95:0) is explained at large in Hebrews 3:1-16, as relative to the state and trials of Christians in the world, and to their attainment of the heavenly rest.
"The hundred and tenth Psalm (Psalms 110:0) is cited by Christ himself, Matthew 22:44, as treating of his exaltation, kingdom, and priesthood.
"The hundred and seventeenth Psalm (Psalms 117:0), consisting only of two verses, is employed, Romans 15:11, to prove that the Gentiles were one day to praise God for the mercies of redemption.
"The twenty-second verse of the hundred and eighteenth Psalm (Psalms 118:22): 'The stone which the builders refused,' &c., is quoted six different times as spoken of our Saviour. See Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11.
"And lastly: 'the fruit of David's body,' which God is said in the hundred and thirty-second Psalm (Psalms 132:0) to have promised that he would place upon his throne, is asserted, Acts 2:30, to be 'Jesus Christ.' " Bishop Horne on the Psalms, preface, p. xi.
That several of the above quotations are directly prophetic, and were intended to announce and describe the Redeemer of the world and the Gospel state, there is not the slightest reason to doubt; that others of them are accommodated to the above subjects, their own historical meaning being different, may be innocently credited: but let it always be remembered, that these accommodations are made by the same Spirit by which the Psalms were originally given; that this Spirit has a right to extend his own meaning, and to adapt his own words to subjects, transactions, and times, to which, from similarity of circumstances, they may be applicable. Many passages of the Old Testament seem to be thus quoted in the New; and often the words a little altered, and the meaning extended, to make them suitable to existing circumstances. Every writer is at perfect liberty thus to employ his own words, which he might, have already used on very different occasions. I need not tell the learned reader that the finest, as well as the oldest, of the heathen writers, Homer, is full of quotations from himself; and Virgil, his imitator, has not unfrequently followed his steps. But still there is a great and weighty difference as the subject respects the Holy Spirit; to his infinite wisdom and knowledge all times and circumstances, whether past or future, are always laid open; and, as it is one of the perfections of the work of God to produce the greatest and most numerous effects by the fewest and simplest means, so it is one of the perfections of the Holy Scriptures to represent things that are not as though they were; and to make the facts which then existed the representatives of those which should afterwards take place. Thus the Holy Scriptures contain an infinity of meaning: the Old Testament, as it were, included and referred to in the New; as the New refers back to the Old, by which it was adumbrated; and refers forward, not only to all times and great occurrences during this mortal state, but also to the endless states of the just and the unjust in the eternal world.
The late learned Bishop Horsley, in his preface to the book of Psalms, says: "It is true that many of the Psalms are commemorative of the miraculous interpositions of God in behalf of his chosen people; for, indeed, the history of the Jews is a fundamental part of revealed religion. Many were probably composed upon the occasion of remarkable passages in David's life, his dangers, his afflictions, his deliverances. But of those which relate to the public history of the natural Israel, there are few in which the fortunes of the mystical Israel, the Christian Church, are not adumbrated; and of those which allude to the life of David, there are none in which the Son of David is not the principal and immediate subject.
"David's complaints against his enemies are Messiah's complaints, first of the unbelieving Jews, then of the heathen persecutors and the apostate faction in the latter ages. David's afflictions are the Messiah's sufferings; David's penitential supplications are the supplications of Messiah in agony; David's songs of triumph and thanksgiving are Messiah's songs of triumph and thanksgiving for his victory over sin, and death, and hell. In a word, there is not a page of this book of Psalms in which the pious reader will not find his Saviour, if he read with a view of finding him; and it was but a just encomium of it (the book of Psalms) that came from the pen of one of the early fathers, that 'it is a complete system of divinity for the use and edification of the common people of the Christian Church.'"
Of the compilation of this book the above learned writer speaks thus: "The Psalms appear to be compositions of various authors, in various ages; some much more ancient than the time of King David, some of a much later age. Of many, David himself was undoubtedly the author; and that those of his composition were prophetic, we have David's own authority; for thus King David, at the close of his life, describes himself and his sacred songs: "David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of Jehovah spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." It was the word, therefore, of Jehovah's Spirit which was uttered by David's tongue.
"The Psalms are all poems of the LYRIC kind, that is, adapted to music, but with great variety in the style of composition. Some are simply ODES. An ode is a dignified sort of song, narrative of the facts either of public history or private life, in a highly adorned and figurative style. Some are of the kind called ELEGIAC, which are pathetic compositions upon mournful subjects. Some are ETHIC, delivering grave maxims of life or the precepts of religion in solemn, but for the most part simple, strains. Some are ENIGMATIC, delivering the doctrines of religion in enigmas contrived to strike the imagination forcibly, and yet easy to be understood. In all these the author delivers the whole matter in his own person. But a very great, I believe the far greater, part are a sort of DRAMATIC ODES, consisting of dialogues between persons sustaining certain characters. In these dialogue Psalms the persons are frequently the psalmist himself, or the chorus of priests and Levites, or the leader of the Levitical band, opening the ode with a proem, declarative of the subject, and very often closing the whole with a solemn admonition drawn from what the other persons say. The other persons are JEHOVAH, sometimes as one, sometimes as another of the Three Persons; CHRIST in his incarnate state sometimes before, sometimes after, his resurrection; the human soul of Christ as distinguished from the Divine essence. Christ, in his incarnate state, is personated sometimes as a Priest, sometimes as a King, sometimes as a Conqueror. The resemblance is very remarkable between this Conqueror in the book of Psalms, and the Warrior on the white horse in the book of Revelation, who goes forth with a crown on his head, and a bow in his hand, conquering and to conquer. And the conquest in the Psalms is followed, like the conquest in the Revelation, by the marriage of the Conqueror. These are circumstances of similitude which, to any one versed in the prophetic style, prove beyond a doubt that the mystical Conqueror is the same personage in both."
There is an opinion relative to the construction of this book, which, though to myself it appear as fanciful as it is singular, yet deserves to be mentioned, especially as so great a man as Dr. Horsley supposes, that if it were kept in view, it would conduce much to a right understanding of the book.
The whole collection of the Psalms forms a sort of HEROIC TRAGEDY. The redemption of man and the destruction of Satan, is the PLOT. The PERSONS OF THE DRAMA are the Persons of the GODHEAD; Christ united to one of them: Satan, Judas, the apostate Jews, the heathen persecutors, the apostates of latter times. The ATTENDANTS: believers, unbelievers, angels. The SCENES: heaven, earth, hell. The TIME of the action: from the fall to the final overthrow of the apostate faction, and the general judgment.
I have already given different tables relative to the division chronological arrangement, and supposed authors and occasions on which they were composed. There have been some others made, in which they have been classed according to their subjects, and their uses for the godly and the Christian Church. The most circumstantial that I have seen is that in the Quintuplex Psalterium, printed in 1508, already noticed in the beginning of this introduction. The following, from Bishop Horsley, may be probably of most general use:—
Services of the Festivals of the Jewish Church
For the SABBATH, Psalms 19:0, Psalms 104:0, and Psalms 118:0. For the PASSOVER, Psalms 78:0, Psalms 105:0, Psalms 114:0. For PENTECOST, Psalms 111:0, Psalms 125:0, Psalms 136:0. For the FEAST OF TRUMPETS, Psalms 81:0. For the FEAST OF TABERNACLES, Psalms 65:0, Psalms 67:0.
A war song, Psalms 144:0. Thanksgiving for national deliverances, or successful war, Psalms 48:0, Psalms 66:0, Psalms 76:0, Psalms 115:0, Psalms 124:0, Psalms 125:0, Psalms 144:0. Thanksgiving after a storm, hurricane, or earthquake, Psalms 29:0, Psalms 46:0. Upon placing the ark in Solomon's temple, Psalms 132:0. Prayers in seasons of national calamity, Psalms 29:0. Prayers for help in war, Psalms 44:0, Psalms 60:0, Psalms 61:0. Thanksgiving for Hezekiah's recovery, Psalms 30:0, Psalms 116:0. Prayers in the time of Manasseh's captivity, Psalms 29:0, Psalms 80:0. Thanksgiving for Manasseh's return, Psalms 85:0. Prayers, lamentations, and confessions of the captives, Psalms 74:0, Psalms 77:0, Psalms 102:0, Psalms 106:0, Psalms 137:0. Songs of triumph and thanksgiving of the returned captives, Psalms 107:0, Psalms 126:0, Psalms 146:0, Psalms 147:0. A king of Judah's inauguration vow, Psalms 101:0. Grand chorus for all the voices and all the instruments, Psalms 150:0. The blessedness of the righteous, and the final perdition of the opposite faction, Psalms 1:0, Psalms 36:0, Psalms 37:0, Psalms 112:0. The extermination of the religious faction, Psalms 14:0, Psalms 53:0. True godliness described as distinct from the ritual, Psalms 15:0, Psalms 50:0. The believer's scruples arising from the prosperity of the wicked, removed by revealed religion, and the consideration of their latter end, Psalms 23:0. The pleasures of devotion, Psalms 84:0. Divine ænigmata; the subject, the Redeemer's divinity, the immortality of the soul, and a future retribution, Psalms 99:0. A mystical prayer of David in the character of the high priest, Psalms 16:0. Prayers of believers for protection against the atheistical conspiracy, Psalms 3:0, Psalms 4:0, Psalms 10:0, Psalms 12:0, Psalms 13:0, Psalms 17:0, Psalms 18:0, Psalms 54:0, Psalms 120:0, Psalms 123:0, Psalms 140:0. The believer's penitential confessions and deprecations, Psalms 6:0, Psalms 32:0, Psalms 38:0, Psalms 39:0, Psalms 51:0. Believer's prayer for the promised redemption, Psalms 130:0, Psalms 143:0.
Believers lament their afflicted state in this short and evil life, and pray for the resurrection, Psalms 90:0. Prayers for grace and mercy, Psalms 5:0, Psalms 15:0, Psalms 26:0, Psalms 131:0. Songs of triumph in prospect of the establishment of God's universal kingdom, Psalms 47:0, Psalms 67:0, Psalms 93:0. A believer's general praises and thanksgivings, Psalms 8:0, Psalms 19:0, Psalms 23:0, Psalms 103:0, Psalms 119:0. A believer's thanksgiving for the final extirpation of iniquity, and the idolatrous religions and persecuting power, Psalms 9:0, Psalms 11:0, Psalms 52:0, Psalms 66:0. The Church prays for preservation from corruptions, Psalms 28:0, Psalms 141:0; for deliverance from the persecution of her enemies, Psalms 7:0, latter part of Psalms 27:0, from ver. 7 to the end, and Psalms 31:0, Psalms 59:0; for Messiah's deliverance and success, Psalms 20:0. The Church gives thanks for Messiah's victory, Psa. xxi.; for her own final deliverance, Psalms 18:0; for the final extirpation of iniquity and idolatry, Psalms 92:0. Messiah's prayers, Psalms 22:0, Psalms 35:0, Psalms 41:0, Psalms 56:0, Psalms 57:0, Psalms 61:0, Psalms 62:0, Psalms 63:0, Psalms 86:0, Psalms 88:0; in agony. When taken and deserted, Psalms 142:0; thanksgivings, Psalms 40:0, Psalms 117:0, and Psalms 118:0, one Psalms 128:0; accusation of the impenitent Jews, his enemies, Psalms 55:0, Psalms 64:0, Psalms 69:0; prophetic malediction of the Jewish nation, Psalms 109:0; exaltation, Psalms 2:0, Psalms 24:0, Psalms 45:0, Psalms 95:0, Psalms 96:0, Psalms 97:0, Psalms 98:0, Psalms 99:0, Psalms 100:0, Psalms 110:0; comforts of the afflicted Israelites with the promise of the final excision of the idolatrous faction, Psalms 94:0, exhorts to holiness and trust in God by the example of his own deliverance, Psalms 34:0; predicts the final judgment, Psalms 75:0. God promises the Messiah protection and glory, Psalms 91:0. God's just judgment foretold upon the unjust judges of our Lord, Psalms 68:0, Psalms 82:0. The reign of the king's son, Psalms 72:0. Salvation is of the Jews, Psalms 87:0.
Of the Psalms, six are alphabetical, Psalms 25:0, Psalms 34:0, Psalms 37:0, Psalms 111:0, Psalms 112:0, Psalms 145:0.
Forty-five of the Psalms are called by the Masoretes Mizmor, Psalms 3:0, Psalms 4:0, Psalms 5:0, Psalms 6:0, Psalms 8:0, Psalms 9:0, Psalms 12:0, Psalms 13:0, Psalms 15:0, Psalms 19:0, Psalms 20:0, Psalms 21:0, Psalms 22:0, Psalms 23:0, Psalms 24:0, Psalms 29:0, Psalms 31:0, Psalms 38:0, Psalms 39:0, Psalms 40:0, Psalms 41:0, Psalms 47:0, Psalms 49:0, Psalms 50:0, Psalms 51:0, Psalms 52:0, Psalms 53:0, Psalms 54:0, Psalms 55:0, Psalms 73:0, Psalms 77:0, Psalms 79:0, Psalms 80:0, Psalms 82:0, Psalms 84:0, Psalms 85:0, Psalms 98:0, Psalms 100:0, Psalms 101:0, Psalms 109:0, Psalms 110:0, Psalms 139:0, Psalms 140:0, Psalms 141:0, Psalms 143:0.
Six are called Michtam, Psalms 16:0, Psalms 56:0, Psalms 57:0, Psalms 58:0, Psalms 59:0, Psalms 60:0.
Thirteen are called Maschil, Psalms 32:0, Psalms 42:0, Psalms 44:0, Psalms 45:0, Psalms 52:0, Psalms 53:0, Psalms 54:0, Psalms 55:0, Psalms 74:0, Psalms 78:0, Psalms 88:0, Psalms 89:0, Psalms 142:0.
Seven are called Mizmor Shir, Psalms 31:0, Psalms 65:0, Psalms 67:0, Psalms 68:0, Psalms 75:0, Psalms 77:0, Psalms 92:0.
Five are called Shir Mizmor, Psalms 48:0, Psalms 66:0, Psalms 83:0, Psalms 88:0, Psalms 108:0.
One is called Shir, Psalms 46:0.
Four are called Tephillah, Psalms 17:0, Psalms 86:0, Psalms 90:0, Psalms 102:0.
One is called Tehillah, Psalms 145:0; one, Shiggaion, Psalms 7:0; one, Lehazchir, Psalms 70:0.
Fifteen are called Shir Hammaaloth, or Songs of Steps, Psalms 120:0, Psalms 121:0, Psalms 122:0, Psalms 123:0, Psalms 124:0, Psalms 125:0, Psalms 126:0, Psalms 127:0, Psalms 128:0, Psalms 129:0, Psalms 130:0, Psalms 131:0, Psalms 132:0, Psalms 133:0, Psalms 134:0.
That our blessed Lord used the book of Psalms as he did other books of Scripture, and quoted from it, we have already seen; this stamps it with the highest authority: and that he and his disciples used it as a book of devotion, we learn from their singing the Hillel at his last supper, which we know was composed of Psalms 133:0, Psalms 114:0, Psalms 115:0, Psalms 116:0, Psalms 117:0, and Psalms 118:0; see Matthew 26:30, and the notes there: and that they were used by the Christian Church from the earliest times in devotional exercises, especially in praising God, we have the most ample proof. At first what was called singing was no more than a recitavio or solemn mode of reading or repeating, which in the Jewish Church was accompanied by instruments of music, of the nature of which we know nothing. The Christian religion, which delights in simplicity, while it retained the Psalms as a book Divinely inspired, and a book of devotion, omitted the instrumental music, which, however, in after times, with other corruptions, crept into the Church, and is continued in many places, with small benefit to the godly, and little edification to the multitude. What good there might have been derived from it has been lost in consequence of the improper persons who generally compose what is commonly called the choir of singers. Those whose peculiar office it is to direct and lead the singing in Divine worship, should have clean hands and pure hearts. To see this part of public worship performed by unthinking if not profligate youths of both sexes, fills the serious with pain, and the ungodly with contempt. He who sings not with the spirit as well as the understanding, offers a sacrifice to God as acceptable as the dog's head and swine's blood would have been under the Mosaic law.
I shall not enter into the question whether the Psalms of David, or hymns formed on New Testament subjects, be the most proper for Christian congregations; both I think may be profitably used. Nor will I take up the controversy relative to the adapting the Psalms to express an evangelical meaning in every place. I need only give my opinion, that I consider this a difficult, if not a dangerous, work. Where the Psalms evidently relate to the Gospel dispensation, the matter is plain; there it is proper and necessary to give them their full direction and meaning; but to turn those in this way that evidently have no such reference, I consider a temerarious undertaking, and wholly unwarrantable.
But the most difficult task is, throwing them into a modern poetic form, especially into metre; as in such cases many things are introduced for the sake of the poetry, and the final jingle, which were never spoken by the inspired penman; and it is an awful thing to add to or detract from the word of God, either in poetry or prose. And how frequently this is done in most metrical versions of the Psalms, need not be pointed out here. Perhaps one of the most faultless in this respect is an almost obsolete one in our own language, viz., that by Sternhold and Hopkins. Because of its uncouth form, this version has been unjustly vilified while others, by far its inferiors, have been as unreasonably extolled. The authors of this version (for it has been taken directly from the Hebrew text) have sacrificed every thing to the literal sense and meaning. The others, and especially that of Tate and Brady, which is no version from the original, sacrifice often the literal and true sense to sound and smoothness of numbers; in which, however, they are not always successful.
I shall add only one word on the subject of this very ancient version. I can sing almost every Psalm in the version of Sternhold and Hopkins AS the Psalms of David; I can sing those of the new version AS the Psalms of Dr. Brady and Nahum Tate. Either let one equally literal, with a better versification, be made; or restore to the people that form of sound words of which they have too long been deprived. But, to serve the purposes of devotion, we want a better translation of the Psalms; a translation in which the hemistich, or Hebrew poetic form, shall be carefully preserved; and with a very few expletives, (which should be distinguished by italics, or otherwise, in the printing, to bring the lines into those forms, to which our versification or musical measures may extend,) we might sing the whole, without singing any thing in sense or meaning which was not David's. Indeed a species of recitativo singing would be the most proper for these sacred odes; as it would answer much better the solemn purposes of devotion, than the great mass of those tunes which are commonly employed in Church music, in which the style of singing is rarely adapted to the grand and melting compositions of the sweet singer of Israel. Let the plan be copied which is adopted from the Hebrew MSS. in Dr. Kennicott's edition; let them be translated line for line, as Dr. Lowth has done his version of Isaiah; let a dignified recitative music be adapted to the words; attend to metre, and be regardless of rhyme; and then the Psalms will be a mighty help to devotion, and truly religious people will sing with the spirit and the understanding also. Were a version of this kind made and substituted for that most inaccurate version in the Prayerbook, a stumbling-block would be taken out of the way of some sincere minds, who are pained to find, not only important differences, but even contradictions, between the Psalms which they read in their authorized version, and those which are used in the public service of the Church.
As many persons are greatly at a loss to account for the strange varieties between these two versions, (that in the Bible, and that in the Prayerbook,) it may be necessary to give them some information on this head. Properly speaking, the Psalms in the Prayerbook, called the reading Psalms, are rather a paraphrase than a version. It was never taken immediately from the Hebrew, with which it disagrees in places innumerable. In the main it follows the Septuagint and the Vulgate, but often differs from then, even where they differ from the Hebrew, and yet without following the latter. And there are many words, turns of thought, and varieties of mood, tense, and person, in it which do not appear in any of the above.
In the prose Psalms in our authorized version our translators have acted very conscientiously, as they have done in all other cases where they have added any thing, even the smallest particle, in order to fill up the sense, or accommodate the Hebrew idiom to that of the English; they have shown this by putting the expletive or supplied word in the italic letter. Thousands of such expletives, many of them utterly unnecessary, are found in the prose Psalms in the Prayerbook; but they have no such distinguishing mark, and are all printed as if they were the words of the Holy Spirit!
There are some things in this version that are contradictory to what is found in the Hebrew text. I shall give one example.
In Psalms 125:3 we have the following words in the Hebrew text: כי לא ינוח שבט הרשע על גורל הצדיקים ki lo yanuach shebet haresha al goral hatstsaddikim, which is faithfully translated in our common version, "For the rod of the wicked (wickedness, marg.) shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous:" this is rendered in the prose Psalms in the Prayerbook thus: "For the rod of the ungodly cometh not into the lot of the righteous."
"This," say the objectors, "is neither Scripture nor truth.
1. It is not Scripture: the Hebrew is, as our authorized version hath it: 'The rod of the wicked shall not rest.' But your version saith, 'The rod of the ungodly cometh not.'
2. It is not truth: 'The rod of the wicked often cometh into the lot of the righteous;' but here is the difference: though it may come, and often doth come, into the lot of the righteous, yet God never permitteth it to rest there. Here therefore your reading Psalms contradict both Scripture and fact."
It may be asked, From what source is this objectionable reading derived? It evidently cannot be derived from the Hebrew text, as the reader will at once perceive. It is not in the Vulgate, which reads, Quia non relinquet Dominus virgam peccatorum super sortem justorum. "For the Lord will not leave the rod of sinners upon the lot of the righteous." It is not in the Septuagint, Οτι ουκ αφησει Κυριος την ραβδον των αμαρτωλων επι τον κληρον των δικαιων, which is precisely the same as the Vulgate. Nor does this strange version receive any support from either the Chaldee, Syriac, Æthiopic, or Arabic.
To attempt to vindicate such a translation will neither serve the interests of the Church, nor those of Christianity, especially when we have one so very different and so very faithful put into the hands of the people by the authority of the Church and the state. That in the Prayerbook should be immediately suppressed, and replaced by that in our authorized version, that the people may not have a different version put into their hands on the Lord's day, and in times of public devotion, from that which they find in their Bible; in consequence of which they are often confounded with discrepancies which it is out of their power to reconcile. It is passing strange that the rulers of the Church have slumbered so long over a subject of such vast magnitude and importance.
To be fully satisfied on this subject, I have collated this Prayerbook version in many places with the Hebrew text, the Septuagint, the Vulgate, the old Itala or Antehieronymian, and the oriental versions in general; and find much cause of complaint against its general looseness, and frequent inaccuracy; and would give that advice to the rulers of our Church, that the prophet did to the rulers of the Jewish Church, on a subject in which the best interests of the people were concerned: "Go through, go through the gates; cast up, cast up the highway; take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people; lift up a standard for the people;" Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10.
With respect to helps, I may say in general that I have occasionally consulted,
1. The Critici Sacri.
2. Venema; whom I should have been glad to have used more particularly, but his plan would have led me into such an extent of comment, as would have far surpassed my limits.
3. Rosenmuller's collections were of more use; but neither did his plan quadrate with mine.
4. Calmet afforded me most assistance, as he is, in almost all respects, the most judicious of all the commentators.
5. Could I have wholly agreed with the plan of the truly pious Bishop Horne, I might have enriched my work with many of those spiritual remarks with which his commentary abounds. Where I differ from his plan will best appear in a preceding part of this introduction, to which I must refer the reader.
6. From the very learned Bishop Horsley I have borrowed several useful notes, particularly of a critical kind.
7. But the work which I think may be of most use to masters of families, and ministers in general, is that excellent and judicious one by Dr. Wm. Nicolson, formerly bishop of Gloucester, with the quaint but expressive title, "DAVID'S HARP STRUNG AND TUNED; or an easy ANALYSIS of the whole book of Psalms, cast into such method, that the sum of every Psalm may quickly be collected and remembered." In many places I have introduced the whole of the analysis, with some corrections, leaving out the prayers at the end of each Psalm; which, though very useful for the family, or for the closet, could not properly have a place in a comment. This work was finished by the author, October 22, 1658.
8. From an old folio MS. on vellum in my own collection, I have extracted some curious notes and renderings. It contains the Vulgate, or more properly the Antehieronymian version, with a translation after each verse in the ancient Scottish dialect, and after that a paraphrase in same language. I have given the eighth Psalm as it stands in this ancient MS., after my notes on that Psalm. Most of my readers will find this at least an edifying curiosity. Extracts from it will appear in different parts of the work. I know nothing like the book of Psalms: it contains all the lengths, breadths, depths, and heights of the patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations. It is the most useful book in the Bible, and is every way worthy of the wisdom of God.
Readers may the Spirit of the ever blessed God make this most singular, most excellent, and most exalted of all his works, a present and eternal blessing to thy soul! - Amen.