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by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg
I. ON THE DESIGNATIONS, CONTENTS, AND DIVISIONS OF THE PSALMS
THERE is no general name in Hebrew for the Psalms. This sufficiently appears from the circumstance, that where the whole should be designated, names are employed, which manifestly belong in strictness only to a part, and can be made to comprehend the whole only à potiori. Thus the name תפלות prayer-songs, in the closing formula of the second book, at the end of Psalms 72. So also the name commonly found among the Jews in the Masoretic superscription to the Psalms, תהלים , praise-songs, songs specially appropriated to the praise of God. It has, indeed, been remarked, with the view of representing the suitableness of the latter designation, that all the Psalms aim at the glorification of God. “All the Psalms (says F. L. Stolberg, Abh. über die Ps. in Bd. 2 der. Rel. G.) contain the praise of God; for even the deep abasement of the penitent sinner, who, with contrite heart and confiding love, flies up to the source of mercy, weeps his praise.” Clauss (Beitr. p. 2) rests on 2 Chronicles 31:2, Nehemiah 12:8, where the whole charge of the Levites in regard to singing is described as the giving of praise. But though it is certainly true, that an element of divine praise pervades the whole Psalms, as also that in them all there is, if not an express, at least a concealed, “Lord, have mercy on me”—though upon the existence of these elements the application of the two names to the entire collection proceeds, and would not otherwise have been generally followed; yet it is not the less to be maintained, that the designation תהלות or תהלים , as also that of תפלות , is one merely à potiori. In regard to the latter this was already probable from analogy. And that the name תהלה originally, and as distinguished from תפלה , the proper prayer-song, designates only such a composition as has the praise of God for its most prominent and striking character, is evident from the superscription of Psalms 145. But this character by no means belongs to all the Psalms. The passage, 2 Chronicles 5:13, shows that the designation is given only à potiori even in those passages which are quoted by Clauss. But its application was the more natural, as it is a distinguishing peculiarity of later times to speak of prayer in the proper sense as a giving of praise to God, so that to praise God and laud him always was then represented as the chief function of the Levites.
There is, therefore, no designation in Hebrew, which comprehends the whole, like the Greek ψαλμὸ?ς , which has been elevated by the LXX. to the honour of a general title—music on the string, and a song accompanied by such music—properly, indeed, only the first, ψά?λλειν signifying only to play, not to sing, excepting in the LXX., and those who took their usage from it. Stringed music is the natural accompaniment of such poetry as proceeds from an immediate gush of feeling. It is only to be remarked concerning this designation, that it does not specifically distinguish the Psalms from worldly lyric poetry; for example, from such, productions as David’s lamentation over Saul and Jonathan, This defect, however, is of less moment, as we stand here on holy ground, and the primary object is only to distinguish the collection in question from the other sacred writings, in particular from those which have in common with it the poetical characteristic.
The name שיר is partly too comprehensive, and partly also too narrow. Originally, it denotes the song in its widest compass, and is used of such songs as were sung without any musical accompaniment; comp. Isaiah 5:1; Song of Solomon 1:1. So also is it found in the superscriptions of the Psalms in combinations, such as Schir Hammaaloth, pilgrim’s song, and at Psalms 30, Psalms 45. But, on the other hand, where it is absolutely employed in the superscriptions (Psalms 46, Psalms 48, Psalms 65, Psalms 66, Psalms 67, Psalms 68, Psalms 75, Psalms 76, Psalms 83, Psalms 87, Psalms 88, Psalms 108), and also in the text of the Psalms, it always denotes the joyful song of praise, which alone deserves, in the fullest sense, the name of song, as only in that does the breast expand itself, and the voice become elevated to the full pitch. Comp. on Psalms 42:8, Psalms 137:3, and, in reference to the apparent exceptions in the superscriptions of Psalms 83, Psalms 88, see the Introd. to these Psalms. Indeed, שיר , when standing absolutely in the superscriptions, cannot have the signification of song in general. For, in that case, it would really have been meaningless, as every one could see at a glance, that there was here a song, and not a piece of prose. Especially in a collection of the sacred songs of the nation would the exceptions be extremely rare. The name שיר , therefore, expresses, on the one side, what is common to the Psalms with everything that is not prose, and, on the other, what belongs only to a particular class of Psalms.
The current view regards מזמור as the general name of the Psalms, exactly corresponding to ψαλμὸ?ς , by which it is rendered in the LXX. So, still, with a slight modification, Ewald, poet. B. Th. i. p. 25. He considers נגינה , Psalms 77:6, as most thoroughly agreeing with ψαλμὸ?ς . “But it is certain (he says) that מזמור indicates a melodious song, to be sung probably with an instrument, Gr. μελος , and as stringed instruments were the most common among the Hebrews, the rendering of the LXX. is accordingly justified.”
But a series of objections immediately present themselves against this view. 1. If מזמור were itself equivalent to ψαλμὸ?ς , it would not in the superscriptions be often coupled with בנגינות , Psalms 4, Psalms 6, Psalms 67, Psalms 76. One of the two must, in that case, have been quite superfluous; and least of all should we look for anything superfluous in the concise style of the superscriptions. 2. Even where it occurs without such a combination, the מזמור would, in that view of it, be unnecessary and superfluous, especially where it occurs absolutely, as in Psalms 66, Psalms 67, Psalms 92. It might fitly have been used as a designation of the whole, but not of the particular parts. It would be not less singular, than if in a church song-book, particular songs should bear the superscription of church-Song of Solomon 3. “מזמור does not occur excepting in the superscriptions of certain Psalms. All the Psalms in the collection are not so designated, nor is the plural מזמרים used as a name for the whole” (Clauss). These facts scarcely admit of any explanation, if the word has the general import of Psalm. The first fact seems to indicate, that מזמור , just as מכתם , and משיל , itself bore a poetical character; which is also confirmed by the circumstance that זמר , so far as it refers to playing and singing, is only to be met with in poetry. But if the verb without any addition, signified to sing and play, and the noun, Psalm, no reason could be discovered for the merely poetical usage. The two latter facts manifest, that מזמור is not a general name for the Psalms, but designates the characteristic peculiarity of a part of the whole. 4. Clauss has already noticed the circumstance as significant, that מזמור never occurs with משכיל or מכתם in one superscription, as also these two other designations never appear in conjunction. The solitary exception in Psalms 88 is only an apparent one. For, there two superscriptions are connected together, a general one for Psalms 88 and Psalms 89, and a special one for Psalms 88. This cannot be considered a mere accident. The only rational explanation is, that the three designations did not properly admit of being combined together, which might then, for example, have easily been the case, if מזמור , as also משכיל and מכתם , pointed to the worth and importance of the Psalms it is prefixed to, precisely as שיר השירים in the superscription of the Canticles. A twofold designation in this respect would scarcely have been proper. On the current view no reason can be given, why מזמור might not as readily occur beside משכיל and מכתם , as שיר , which is commonly found in connection with it. 5. It admits of no satisfactory explanation by the current view, that זמר should be used alike of singing and playing. A sense of this difficulty, as appears, has led to a denial of the fact, as to its being so used. Thus Meier in his Wurtzelwörterbuch, p. 213, says: “Because the song, according to the rule, was accompanied with playing on stringed instruments, זמר sometimes occurs in the sense of singing with the accompaniment of an instrument, the latter being connected with ב . This, however, never means to play upon the harp, but is a pregnant expression, as often occurs in Hebrew, for singing accompanied with the harp, or as we say with like brevity, for the harp to be sung.” But in disproof of this representation Psalms 98:5 is alone sufficient, where בכנור can only signify with the harp, not for it. It is also opposed by Psalms 27:6, where זמר cannot mean to sing, because the singing, שיר , goes before—comp. Psalms 101:1, Psalms 108:2, Psalms 104:33, Psalms 105:2, where in like manner זמר is united with שיר . Against this view is also זמרת נבליך in Amos 5:23, זמרא used of music in Daniel 3:5, and the Arabic, where the word possesses, besides the signification of singing, not merely that of playing, but that also of dancing. 6. Finally, the common construction of זמר with the accusative—the Lord, or the name of the Lord, his strength, or his glory—cannot but appear striking.
Having thus, by the way, brought into suspicion the view currently entertained regarding זמר and מזמור , if we examine more closely, we shall find, that it rests upon no solid foundation. זמר has originally the meaning, to dress, decorate, adorn, and in this sense alone does it occur in the oldest records, the Pentateuch. The verb itself is used of the dressing of a vineyard, in Leviticus 25:3-4. The undressed vineyard is, in Leviticus 25:5, called נזיר , incomtus. The noun זֶ מֶ ר occurs in Deuteronomy 14:5, as the name of a beast of the deer species, whose beauty and loveliness of form particularly attracted the notice of the orientals, comp. Proverbs 5:19, Genesis 49:21 (Gesen. s. v. יעל “it is customary with the orientals to compare graceful females to animals of the deer species, especially to the doe”)—properly, ornament, decoration, for the ornamented, decorated. In the same category is found also the name צבי , 1. splendor, decus; 2. caprea, dorcas, a formae pulchritudine dicta, Gesen.: then the name איל , the stag, the powerful. יעל , the wild goat, signifies properly the excellent. We also may compare the word זמרי , the elegant. In Genesis 43:11, occurs זמרת הארץ , the ornament of the land, for the best productions of it—commonly with a, far-fetched derivation, cantio terrae, for fructus celebratissimus. And also the זמרת in Exodus 15:2, comp. Isaiah 12:2, Psalms 118:14, is better explained by ornament = תפארת , than by song: my strength and ornament is the Lord.
In later times, זמר still occurs in the same signification. It is used of the dressing of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:6. In Isaiah 2:4, מַ זְ מֵ רוֹ ת denotes the pruning-knives by which the vineyards are cut; מְ זֶ מּ ְ רוֹ ת , usually rendered snuffers, from their accompaniments in 1 Kings 7:50, 2 Kings 12:14, 2 Chronicles 4:22, but rather instruments that served for dressing and cleaning. It occurs in Jeremiah 52:18, along with יעים , for the shovels that removed the ashes. Beyond doubt it means “the pans for the removing of the ashes,” in Exodus 27:3, there, precisely as in Jer., coupled with יעים , comp. 38:3. Then the זמרת in Isaiah 12:2, Psalms 118:14. The proper name Simri.
Now, in the song of Deborah, in Judges 5:3, the verb, in its current signification, was transferred to song and music, זמר ליהוה , adorn to the Lord, namely, in song and music, for: sing and play to him with grace, comp. היתיב נגן in Psalms 33:3, 1 Samuel 16:17.
From the song of Deborah, which we may gather also front other indications to have been highly esteemed by David, (comp. on Psalms 68), he borrowed the use of the verb in the same sense, (comp. on Psalms 101:1), which was by him formally incorporated with the Psalmodic poetry. The emphatic expression accorded peculiarly with his lively spirit, which could not endure to stand at the common measure of singing and playing. By him also, doubtless, was the noun מזמור formed, which is found only with him and those who copied after him.
They said, to adorn the Lord, the song and the harp, and also to adorn to the Lord, or to the name of the Lord, his strength, or his honour, for: to give praise to him or it in graceful speech, and with well-executed music, comp. Psalms 30:12, Psalms 7:17, Psalms 21:13, Psalms 66:2.
מזמור in so far as it denotes graceful song, song that displayed much art and skill, was well fitted to serve as a distinctive appellation for the productions of lyric poetry. For this, as the poetry of feeling and inspiration, soars farther above the prose of common life, and seeks also for the most part in the language it employs, the rare, the dark, the elevated, as will readily be found on a comparison of the prophetic style with that of the Psalms. Yet מזמור does not occur as such a distinctive appellation, excepting, perhaps, to some extent in the superscription of Psalms 68. It always rather denotes the artificial character of the Psalms, in the superscription of which it stands, in opposition to a class of lyric poems, in which the composition assumes a more negligent and humbler form. But the designation, as well as מכתם and משכיל , is to be understood positively and not exclusively, as appears even from this consideration, that מזמור is never used along with either of these other terms, because a double designation of worth, even though given from a different point of view, would have appeared unsuitable. Still there are Psalms to which, from their simple and artless character, it could not be prefixed, such as Psalms 25, Psalms 34, Psalms 37, and those generally in which David lets himself down to persons of lower capacities, and accommodates himself to the higher demands of popularity.
We turn now to a consideration of the contents of the Psalms. That the collection contains productions of Israelitish lyrics, and that we find ourselves here throughout on the territory of feeling, is clear as day. But this, after all, is not to say much. We require a still narrower limitation. 1. A hasty glance over the collection itself, a superficial examination of the whole of the writings to which it belongs, shows that we have not here a collection of all the productions of Israelitish lyric poetry, that it presents us only with such lyrics as belong to the strictly religious territory. The Song of David on the death of Saul and Jonathan, preserved in 2 Samuel 1, does not lie within this territory, and hence is not of this collection. 2. All the Psalms are songs of Israel, as David describes his Psalms in 2 Samuel 23:1. This implies the whole religious community to have been respected in them. They all not only bore a religious character, but were also appointed to be used in the services of the sanctuary, for which nothing can be proper, but what the individual sings as the organ of the church. The individual comes here into account only in so far as he presents a general aspect. One alone must come out more prominently, “the man, he who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob,” David—in whom the community was represented as in its head, and even in his case the general must always discover itself behind the particular. The last words of David, in 2 Samuel 23, however, were excluded from the Psalms, not because they were too personal, but because they bore a prophetical and not lyrical character, as is plainly indicated by the prophetical introduction. If we travel through the whole Psalms, we shall find that the personal occurs in them only in reference to David. Where this meets us in Psalms not of David’s composition, still the person is not to be regarded as that of the writer, which always retires modestly into the background, but that of David. So in Psalms 42, Psalms 43, Psalms 84 which were sung by David’s bards as from his soul. The Psalm of Hezekiah, Isaiah 38, from its personal character, could not be admitted to a place in the number of the Psalms; and, in like manner, Jonah’s song of thanksgiving. 3. The collection contains only such songs as the church was convinced had been composed under the special co-operation of the Spirit of God. That this, even in the remotest times, was held to be a necessary condition of such art as was employed in the service of the sanctuary, appears from Exodus 31:2-3. Even the founders of sacred music are regarded by the author of Chronicles, who wrote at the time the Psalms were collected, and probably had some hand in the collecting of them, not as mere ordinary musicians; they are, in his view, beings full of God, seers—comp. 1 Chronicles 25:1, where they are called “the prophets “of the sacred music, and 1 Chronicles 25:5, where Heman is named “the king’s seer in the words of God.” How much more, then, the sacred bards themselves! David describes himself, in 2 Samuel 23:1-2, as one who spoke under the impulse of the Spirit of God. That he disclosed a higher than human wisdom, is intimated by the Psalmist himself in the beginning of Psalms 49. Asaph, the composer of Psalms, is called a seer in 2 Chronicles 29:30. That David spake in the Spirit, was a principle alike held by our Lord and by the Pharisees, Matthew 22:41-46. The use which our Lord makes of the Psalms after the resurrection, Luke 24:44, rests on the supposition, that they, as well as the Books of Moses, and the writings of the prophets, were composed under divine direction. Only on the national conviction of this can the admission of the Book of Psalms into the canon have proceeded. For the divine co-operation was, with the collectors, the distinguishing mark of a canonical book—see Hävernick, Einl. i. § 10.
The bearing of the Psalms may be gathered from this view of their contents. They present no new doctrine. In this respect they rest upon the Pentateuch. The instruments used by God for the development of doctrine, were not the Psalmists, but the Prophets. Only with one of the writers of the Psalms, David, does the prophetical play into the lyrical, and in his productions we meet with new representations concerning Messiah and his kingdom, which served to the prophets themselves as the kernel of new developments. It is still, however, to be borne in mind, respecting these portions of the Psalms, that David owed the groundwork of them to the prophets. His Messianic Psalms throughout rest on 2 Samuel 7, and, if this had not been the case, would have belonged to another region than that of Psalmodic poetry. The peculiar value of the Psalms turns on this, that they give us an insight into the heart of the Old Testament saints—that they disclose their feelings to us in the most sacred and hallowed moments of their life—that they open for us a deep insight into the more hidden wonders of the true religion. It is certainly not to be overlooked that in one respect the songs of Christian poets have a great advantage over Psalmodic poetry. In the knowledge of the redemption brought in by Christ, in the facts of his life, sufferings, and death, they possess much richer materials. Accordingly, the practice of the older Reformed churches of confining sacred music to the singing only of the Psalms, sprung from the misapprehension of a Scriptural principle, and was itself a mistake. But never can the Psalms be supplanted by “the new song” which the Christian church has sung and should still sing. Their peculiar distinction is the buoyancy and freshness of feeling, which here first had its tongue in a manner loosed, and also the very quality which places them at a disadvantage; their simplicity; for there exists a profound necessity for the religious spirit falling back from time to time on the simplest principles of religion. There is also something very consolatory and elevating in the thought that what brings us down and lifts us up again, has powerfully affected the souls of God’s people centuries before. We are wonderfully moved when we accompany the sacred bards from Moses to Nehemiah and everywhere discover ourselves and our God. Finally, the Psalms have in this a high distinction above our church songs, that they form a part of the word of God. But this we can only indicate here, not enlarge upon.
In regard to the division of the Psalms, the difficulties of a complete and proper classification are much greater here than in respect to Christian songs. In the latter, the division must always be formed primarily upon the succession of facts in the life of Christ and the festivals therewith connected. Other kinds stand plainly distinct from these, in that they exhibit the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, and represent the life of believers under the New Testament as rising to its full development. Still one must not despair, as some do, of making out any division of the Psalms, the less so, as the principles of a very simple one, and such as is alone suited to the nature of the case, to the embryo character of the Old Testament, are obvious enough in the Psalms themselves. The collection falls into three great divisions. 1. Such Psalms as proceeded from a spirit chiefly moved and actuated by joy, showing itself in lively admiration of God, or gratitude for his astonishing goodness in bestowing gifts on the people generally, or on individuals, declaring the sense inwardly cherished of his love, or celebrating in glowing terms the majesty, glory, and grace of God. The most descriptive name for this class is תהלה in the superscription of Psalms 145. Other designations are לתודה , for ascription of praise in Psalms 100, and שיר in the superscriptions of an entire series of Psalms. In some Psalms the place of such an expressive designation is transferred from the superscription to the beginning of the Psalm itself. Thus: שירו ליהוה , sing praise to the Lord, in Psalms 94; ברכי נפשי את יהוה , bless my soul the Lord, in Psalms 103, in contrast to the תפלה , the prayer-song in Psalms 102; ליהוה הודו praise the Lord, in Psalms 105, and often besides. As a substitute, also, for an express designation is the halleluiah in a number of Psalms written during the period of the exile and subsequently. 2. Another great division consists of such Psalms as proceeded from a depressed and mournful frame of mind, variations of the “Lord have mercy on us,” which alternates with the halleluiah in the lives of the saints. The technical designation of Psalms of this class is תפלה prayer-song; see on its sig. at Psalms 110, Psalms 102. Besides this there are also the designations לזכיר , for bringing to remembrance, i.e. putting God in mind of his people’s necessities, Psalms 38, Psalms 70; לענות , touching the temptation, Psalms 88; אל תשחת , destroy not, as an address to God, in Psalms 57-59, and Psalms 75:3. Psalms which proceeded from a more quiet reflective state of mind, religious-moral, or didactic Psalms; for example, Psalms 1, Psalms 15, Psalms 24, Psalms 32, Psalms 49, Psalms 73. The term משכיל , instruction, which is found at the head of thirteen Psalms, is a suitable designation for all of this class. The prefixing of this term, however, is no proof of the Psalm being apportioned to this class to the exclusion of the two others, nor does the want of it indicate that the Psalm is not of this class. It was chiefly prefixed to such Psalms as had the instructive design more concealed, so that it might easily have been overlooked. The Psalms of this class belong for the most part to the time of David. In the later periods, when the struggle was for the existence or nonexistence of the people of God, the Psalmodic poetry almost entirely spoke the language of lamentation, hope, and thanksgiving. What engrosses the whole heart, that always resounds in a nation’s songs—as with us the songs which were composed during the thirty years’ war are chiefly songs of trial and conflict—and, as even now, in times of deep depression, persons would naturally give vent to their soul in songs of this description, when looking forward to and sighing for times of refreshing. It is also worthy of remark, that the necessity which at the first was met by Psalms of a didactic nature was latterly in great measure removed by the didactic poetry of the Proverbs which flourished in the age of Solomon, and afterwards by the prophets. The didactic poetry of the Psalms is distinguished from the latter not only by the form but also by the hearty character of the tone, the descending of the teacher into the soul of the taught—comp., for example, Psalms 49:5, “Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my supplanters compasses me about?” instead of the prophetic Thou. The prophet speaks as the representative of God, the Psalmist as the better self of the person to be instructed; or where this is not the case, as paternal friend. The didactic poetry of the Psalms is again distinguished from that of the Proverbs by the overflow of feeling, the gushing forth of a moved heart, as opposed to the repose, the objective and reflective character of the wise sayings, in which the poetical was connected with no internal necessity, but was only a suitable form, and hence was not accompanied by song and music.
II. ON THE HISTORY OF THE PSALMODIC POETRY
The source of a popular lyrical poetry flowed so richly even in the age of Moses, that an entire collection of such songs then sprung into existence called the Book of the Wars of the Lord, Numbers 21:14, Numbers 21:17-18, Numbers 21:27, &c. They re-echoed the impression which the Lord’s dealings with his people were fitted to produce, but in a manner as different from the Psalms as the songs of Körner differ from church songs; see my Beitr. iii. p. 223, ss.
A second collection of this sort is that cited in Joshua 10:13, and 2 Samuel 1:18, “The Book of Jasher” (the upright.) We might conceive this collection to have been identical with the Book of the Wars of the Lord, which may not have been closed in the time of Moses, but continued the national song-book for later generations. Nor would the diversity of the title of itself prove the reverse; comp. upon the various forms of citing the same book, Keil comm. on B. of Chron., p. 24. But it is against the supposition now made, that the Book of the Wars of the Lord contained songs in celebration of the wonders wrought by the Lord for his people, while the book of the upright, from its title, and the two examples given of its productions, contained songs in praise of distinguished: servants of the Lord. The second collection was certainly indebted to the time of the Judges for much of its matter. The last mention made of it is in the age of David. It appears, that in this age, the popular lyrical poetry suffered a check in consequence of the mighty elevation which the poetical talent then received from being turned into a spiritual direction; although David himself, as his song on Saul and Jonathan shows, took an active part in the former. This kind of song was still farther removed from the Psalms, than the songs of the Book of the Wars of the Lord. It had no religious colouring, but bore an entirely worldly character. It was distinguished from similar poetry in profane literature only by its more refined tone of feeling. An accompaniment to it is found in the specimen given of a popular song in 1 Samuel 18:7, where undoubtedly we have only the kind of catch words which formed the burden of the song. It would seem that such a power had been wielded by David over the minds of the people by his spiritual songs, that the mere worldly song afterwards sunk into the lowest region, occupied by the drunkards, comp. Isaiah 5:12, Amos 6:5, or at most served only for a harmless private gratification, comp. Psalms 65:13, Job 21:12, without having anything like a national standing. Solomon’s attempt also to introduce the poetry of the world among the Israelities—comp. 1 Kings 4:32, “And his songs were a thousand and five,” and 1 Kings 4:33, “And he spake (probably still in his proverbs and songs) of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop, that springeth out of the wall; and he spake of beasts and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes”—was for the same reason productive of little result.
Spiritual and especially devotional poetry had its origin among the Israelites. It is of itself incredible, that a people whose soul was formed by religion, whose whole existence had grown up in such close union with faith in their God, if they had poetry at all, should have abstained from employing it in the service of God. Among the Egyptians, whose customs the Israelites followed, music had obtained predominantly a religious use (Rossellini Mon. ii. 3. p. 78, Wilkinson Manners and Customs of Egypt. ii., p. 316.) At the feast also of the golden calf there was singing of music, Exodus 32:18. The high place, which was attained by poetry in the divine service under David, can scarcely be accounted for without an earlier foundation of some sort having been laid. It seems to be implied in 1 Chronicles 15:16, that David found a faculty of song and music already in existence among the Levites. But we have several remnants of sacred lyric poetry, land in particular of that which was adapted for divine worship, from the times before David. Moses’ Song, indeed, and his blessing on the tribes of Israel, are not of the sort now under consideration; for these possess not a lyrical but a prophetical character. The priestly benediction, however, in Numbers 6:22-26, deserves a place here, for it is re-echoed in various ways in the Psalms. So also the words which Moses, according to Numbers 10:35-36, uttered when the ark of the covenant began to move and again rested; but more particularly the song of the children of Israel after the passage through the Red Sea, Exodus 15, though it was too closely connected with the occasion that gave rise to it, to be permanently used in the divine service, and so has its proper place in the history, and not in the national song-book. Next to these, we have Deborah’s Song in Judges 5, to which the last remark also applies; but its near relation to the Psalms is evident alone from the fact, that David has almost literally adopted some of its passages. Then, finally, the Song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2 contains a proof of the early cultivation of religious poetry, and in, particular of such as was adapted for public worship. This moves far more nearly along the beaten path than either the song at the Red Sea, or the Song of Deborah. It further contains much, that though originally referring to the national relations, is here transferred to the personal—passages, which have given occasion to modern criticism, in opposition to the veritable character of the books of Samuel, entirely to reject the Song of Hannah. Everything that at first sight wears a strange aspect, admits of an easy explanation, if we conceive the Song of Hannah to have been an echo of the songs to which she had just been listening in the tabernacle.
Yet still the whole period that preceded David furnishes no materials for the collection of Psalms, excepting the one composed by Moses, Psalms 90. Though devotional poetry existed in the time of the Judges, it bore a sporadic character. What is said in 1 Samuel 3:1 in reference to prophecy, “And the Word of God was precious in those days, prophecy was not spread abroad,” might be said also of it. And its comparatively not very numerous productions still failed to rise to the full height of the Israelitish sacred song, so that latterly, when this height was reached, they fell into neglect, much as the church songs of the evangelical church almost entirely banished the productions of the preceding centuries. But that, they contributed their share to the accomplishment of this end, we cannot doubt, from the relation in which we find David standing with to the Song of Deborah and to that of Hannah.
The proper efflorescence of the Psalmodic poetry was dependent on a threefold condition. The first grand pre-requisite lay in a national religions awakening. Then this kind of poetry, precisely as the church song with us, had a thoroughly public character; [Note: We may say of the Psalms what Bodé (Gesen. der. Hellen. Dichkunst 2 Samuel 8), has said of the Doric Lyrical poetry: “One of its characteristic traits was its predominantly public character and its relation to the State. The stream of Doric national lyrics could, therefore, be as little directed upon individual acting or individual emotions, as it could enjoy itself in the representation of merely personal relations, tendencies, or passions. The matter of these lyrics had been of such a kind, as that, while it was derived from particular circumstances or events, it still admitted of these being treated in so general a way as to awaken the interest of the entire community, and especially stood in a close relation to the religious notions of the Dorians.”] the Psalmist appeared as the interpreter of the sentiments of the community. When these were cold, dead, and indifferent, the individual, however highly gifted, could perform nothing rightly. But if the community had first become alive, then it was of importance for it farther that its Lord should raise up for it a man, who, being endowed with an especial measure of his Spirit, and along therewith a creative poetical) genius, might give noblest utterance to the emotions of the community; so that, what in one respect was only a representation of what already existed, might in another serve as the means of preserving and quickening the religious spirit.
Now, the foundation for the prosperity of the Psalmodic poetry was laid by Samuel, in the religious revival that was brought about by him. Of great service in this respect were the schools of the prophets, which were instituted by him. How they became the floor and the centre of the spiritual life for Israel, appears from 1 Samuel 10:5 ss., where might sends Saul to the sons of the prophets, that his cold heart might be kindled by the flame of their inspiration. The overpowering influence these exercised is manifest from what is related to have taken place here and in 1 Samuel 19:20, etc. But these institutions stood apparently in a still closer connection with the flourishing of the sacred lyrics! That the prophesyings in them were very nearly allied to the sacred lyrics,—as of such an intercommunion between the two we have an older example in the predictions of Balaam, and a later in the songs of thanksgiving, which Isaiah has interwoven with his prophecies—discovers itself in the circumstance, that they prophesied with harps, pipes, and stringed instruments, which was not at all customary with the prophets. It is a proof also of their partly lyrical character, that those who went within the magical circle, themselves began to prophecy. This could scarcely have been the case, if their effusions had been regular prophecies.
The two other conditions were realized by the raising up of David. The connection which he held with the schools of the prophets, is manifest from 1 Samuel 19:19 ss. There can be no doubt, that he owed to his intercourse with Samuel, and his schools of the prophets, if not the first awakening, at least the further development of his religious life. It is not to be understood from 1 Samuel 16:6 ss., that Samuel was still unacquainted with David, when he came to anoint him. He probably had before this the human conviction, that he was the man after God’s own heart. But he leaves that here entirely out of view, in order more emphatically to convey the impression, that it was not that which decided the matter, but the express and authoritative command of God. How David became endowed with the Spirit of God, and thus received his higher consecration to be the singer of the songs of Israel, without which no poetical gift could have been of any moment, is related in 1 Samuel 16:13: “And Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward;” comp. 1 Samuel 16:14: “And the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him;” from which it is clear, that the Spirit of the Lord is not, with several, to be regarded as the kind of principle of the kingly gifts. David was already in the possession of this spirit when he was called to Saul, and the power to counteract the operation of the evil spirit in Saul without doubt proceeded from the good spirit that dwelt in him. As a pious singer, he is expressly recommended to Saul in 1 Samuel 16:18, a passage which shows, that he did not employ himself about common music. But it was the cross which first brought David’s gift into full development; his first Psalms were composed during the time of the persecution from Saul; and the old saying, “Where would have been David’s Psalms, if he had not been persecuted?” has its foundation in truth. A second great stage was David’s ascension to the throne, and the care which thence devolved upon him respecting the sanctuary, to have the courts of which at all times filled with the voice of prayer and praise, he took for one of the great objects of his life.
That the Psalmodic poetry should at once have struck its roots so deeply among the people, in the times of David, was owing partly to the distinguished gifts and the high position of the father of this poetry, and lastly to the important place which he from the first assigned it in the service of God. David instituted for the public performance of the Psalms a sacred chorus of singers, at the head of which he stood himself, comp. 1 Chronicles 25:2, 1 Chronicles 25:5-6; then followed the three masters of song, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun; then their twenty-four sons, namely, four sons of Asaph six of Jeduthun, fourteen of Heman. Each of these sons had a class of twelve singers under him, composed of their relatives. But while these are to be regarded as the proper artists, 1 Chronicles 25:7, distinguished again among themselves as to relative perfection and right of precedence, 1 Chronicles 25:8, they still formed only the kernel and the élite of the sacred musicians. Of the 38,000 Levites, not fewer than 4000 were set apart by David for this department of service. Asaph, with his company of singers, was stationed with the ark of the covenant on Mount Zion, with the introduction of which the whole of the arrangements took their beginning, Heman and Jeduthun with the holy tent at Gibeon, comp. 1 Chronicles 16:37 ss.
It appears from 1 Chronicles 16, 1 Chronicles 25, that the most accomplished persons, in this department of service, were those who were alike skilled in song and music; but that this was not universally the case, is clear from Psalms 68:25, where the singers and players on instruments are distinguished. For instruments, with the accompaniment of which the Psalms were sung, the Psalms themselves name only the harp and the cithara, as those which were to be constantly and regularly used, comp. Psalms 33:2, Psalms 49:4, Psalms 71:22, Psalms 92:3, Psalms 144:9. In Psalms 57:8, harp and psalter are used as a sort of compound noun, because the two together give the idea of music. Other instruments are mentioned only in festival and national songs of praise, as trumpets, at the thanksgiving for Jehoshaphat’s victory, Psalms 47:5, at the paschal feast in Psalms 81:3, at the consecration of the city walls, under Nehemiah, in Psalms 150. That the cymbals did not constitute a general component part of the sacred music, but only a necessary requisite of a feast of joy, appears from Psalms 150:5, “Praise him with loud cymbals, praise him with high-sounding cymbals.” The high-sounding or jubilee-tone is here marked as characteristic of the cymbals. Hence, they could only be used on joyful occasions, in connection with the instruments of a cheerful kind, as the schalmei in Psalms 150.
That the stringed instruments formed the fundamental ingredient of the sacred music, and that the others were only accompaniments added in certain circumstances, is also evident from the בנגינות in the superscriptions, Psalms 4, Psalms 6, Psalms 54, Psalms 55, Psalms 67, Psalms 76, comp. Psalms 61.
The intimations in the historical books further tend to conduct us to the same result. In 1 Chronicles 13:8, it is said, in reference to the bringing in of the ark of the covenant, which bore the character of a cheerful public festival, “And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, with songs, and with psalteries, and harps, and with tymbrels, cymbals, and trumpets.” Psalteries and harps are here mentioned as the general, then follow as the particular the instruments of a loud, shrill, joyful sound; comp. 1 Chronicles 15:16, 1 Chronicles 15:19, 1 Chronicles 15:28. The cymbals, with the exception of 1 Chronicles 16:5, 1 Chronicles 16:42, 1 Chronicles 25:1, 1 Chronicles 25:6, 2 Chronicles 29:2-5, where the discourse is of the sacred music in general, without everything there mentioned being understood to be employed in each particular case, are always named in connection only with joyful feasts, such as the introduction of the ark of the covenant, 2 Samuel 6:5, did consecration of the temple under Solomon, 2 Chronicles 5:12-13, the laying of the foundation of the new temple in Ezra 3:10. The “instruments of the song of the Lord” are in 1 Chronicles 16:42 distinguished from the cymbals. The trumpets were used at the bringing in of the ark, 1 Chronicles 15:24, “And the priests trumpeted with trumpets before the ark of the Lord,”—at, the consecration of the temple, 2 Chronicles 5:12-13,—at the solemn restoration of the worship under Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 29:26-27; finally, in Ezra 3:10, Nehemiah 12:35. They occur once besides as an essential part of the sacred music generally, 1 Chronicles 16:6. They are always mentioned in connection with other noisy instruments. In 2 Chronicles 30:21, it is said of the Passover under Hezekiah, that they “praised the Lord with instruments of strength, which were to Jehovah;” Mich. “musical instruments being employed of such a kind as gave forth a louder sound;” R. Salomo “with trumpets”—comp. 2 Chronicles 29:26-27. Hence the loud and hoarse sound was the characteristic. That the trumpets were always blown by the priests (comp. for example Ezra 3:10), had its ground in Numbers 10:8, where the blowing of the trumpets was committed to the priests. The use in the sacred music entirely agrees with Numbers 10:10, “And in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in your new moons, ye shall blow with the trumpets.”
What has now been said regarding the use of trumpets in the sacred music, plainly disproves the hypothesis of Sommer upon the Selah, Bibl. Abh. Bd. 1, according to which it must indicate the places at which the trumpets were to be sounded. It proceeds on the supposition, which we have shown to be erroneous, that the trumpets regularly accompanied the sacred song. The hypothesis is besides quite destitute of a historical and grammatical foundation; it has against it the Higgaion connected with Selah in Psalms 9:16, and also a great number of passages where the use of the trumpets would be unsuitable, for example, Psalms 52:3, Psalms 24:6, Psalms 55:7.
David’s great interest in the establishment of the sacred music is manifest from this, that, by him, or at least under his auspices, alterations were made in the musical instruments, perhaps the harp of ten strings introduced, comp. on Psalms 33:2, Psalms 144:9. This is clearly established, especially from Amos 6:5, where the luxurious in Samaria are characterized as those “who trifle to the sound of the harp, like David invent to themselves instruments of song.” With this are to be connected 1 Chronicles 23:5, “upon the instruments which I made to praise,” and 2 Chronicles 7:6, Nehemiah 12:36, where the discourse is of musical instruments of David, and if they do not assert the Davidic origin of the particular instruments, they must be understood to speak of the entire arrangement of the public devotional music by David—comp. Nehemiah 12:24, Ezra 3:10, 2 Chronicles 29:25-26,—which, according to these last passages, was formed under special direction from above, and the cooperation of the prophets Gad and Nathan.
To David himself belong 80 Psalms, to his companions, including Solomon’s, 14, (Asaph 5, the sons of Korah 7, Solomon 2). Of the remaining 55, there was composed in the time of Jehoshaphat (Psalms 47, Psalms 48, Psalms 83), four in the time of the Assyrian catastrophe (Psalms 46, Psalms 75, Psalms 76, Psalms 87), one at the carrying away of the ten tribes (Psalms 81), one unknown (Psalms 85), all the rest, altogether 46, in the time immediately before, during, and after the Babylonish captivity, namely, five Psalms of Asaph, and the sons of Korah (Psalms 77, Psalms 74, Psalms 79, Psalms 88, Psalms 89), then Psalms 91 -Psalms 150, with the exception of nineteen belonging to David and Solomon.
It may seem strange at first sight that the long space between David and the Captivity, furnished so few additions. But on closer investigation it will be found that this could not be otherwise. We have already remarked that the foundation of the Psalmodic poetry was the religious awakening of the people, binding them into one whole. But this began to disappear even in the time of Solomon; inclination to idolatry, internal divisions, indifference rose more and more to the ascendant. The Chaldaic catastrophe was what first brought a decided change to the better. The worship of idols was overthrown, and the whole nation returned as one man to the service of God. During the interval, indeed, there did occur religious revivals under Jehoshaphat, under Hezekiah, and under Josiah; these are also fully represented in the Psalter, and to the latter in particular belonged Psalms 77, 91-100, comp. on Psalms 94. But they were only of short continuance, and on this account they could not tell very largely on the Psalter. Viewed in the general it was the purpose of the middle age to build itself up on that which had been produced during the great past under David, comp. 2 Chronicles 29:30.
In the period after the Captivity the Psalmodic poetry does not go far down. It ceases after the last great occasion of singing a new song to the Lord, the completion of the city walls under Nehemiah. From that time matters fell much again into a beaten track, the movement of souls vanished, men came more and more to look back upon that which the spirit of God had spoken and sung by his instruments, in those times when the breath of inspiration pervaded the whole people. In the place of God’s living organs there was now substituted the learning of Scripture. The Psalter-productions, as well as the word of prophecy, had run their course, which the later Psalms indeed plainly indicate; so that nothing farther might be expected in that department, unless some new historical events of great moment should develop themselves.
Many writers have supposed, that there was a fresh revival of the Psalmodic poetry, in the time of the Maccabees. But this supposition not only has against it the history of the canon, but it is also disproved by an investigation into the particular Psalms, which can never, even with probability, be referred to the Maccabean period, and by a consideration of the construction of the Psalter, which does not admit of our descending below, the time of Nehemiah. Besides, while the Maccabees were good soldiers, and zealous for the law of their fathers, they were not men full of the Holy Spirit; not one example of this sort meets us throughout the whole period. But that the co-operation of the Spirit of God was considered as a necessary mark of a song, we have already seen. How deeply they were themselves conscious of the absence of this Spirit, appears from 1Ma_4:46 , 1Ma_14:41 , 1Ma_9:27 . Elsewhere the Psalmody goes always hand in hand with the prophecies. But prophecy is expressly renounced in the passages referred to in the Maccabees. It is also unto be overlooked, that the Maccabean period was not merely a time of external conflict, but one also of internal discord. Finally, the First Book of the Maccabees is so full in the communication of the speeches and prayers of its heroes, that it would be strange if it never so much as gave a hint of the new-made Psalms, especially as so many occasions for the purpose presented themselves. But there is never more than a general mention made of the songs, with which, at their thanksgiving solemnities, they praised God; comp. 1Ma_4:30 , 1Ma_4:54 , also 1Ma_4:24 : “And they sang and extolled the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.” But there is good ground for believing, that the Psalms 136 Ps., there quoted, belonged to the beginning of the new colony, so that the citation serves as a proof, that people were then accustomed to give utterance to their new feelings in the old consecrated words. At the lamentation for Judas, the people availed themselves of the welds of David on the death of Jonathan, 1Ma_9:21 , comp. 2 Samuel 1:19.
III. AUTHORS OF THE PSALMS
1. Moses is named as the author of Psalms 90.
2. David is the author of 80 Psalms, Psalms 1 -Psalms 41, Psalms 51 -Psalms 71, Psalms 101-102, Psalms 108-110, Psalms 122, Psalms 124, Psalms 131, Psalms 133, Psalms 138-145. The variety of circumstances, situations, and modes, is first of all peculiar in these Psalms of David. The other composers of Psalms only divide among themselves his riches. He embraces the whole territory of sacred lyrics, of which he was enabled from his rich poetical gift, the varied events of his life, and the relations of his time, to take a full survey, and did not need to confine himself to any particular department. There is also peculiar to David, a singular depth and liveliness of feeling, which manifests itself, as well in the utterance of pain, the cry out of the depths, in which cold temperaments find themselves so little at home, as in mirth on account of redemption, and more especially in the rapid transition from the one to the other. David has, beyond doubt, given the tone to the method so frequently adopted in the Psalms, of suddenly and immediately interposing a word of divine consolation. It is a consequence of the very profound and lively nature of his feelings, that David rises to greater elevation than all the other writers of Psalms, comp. Psalms 18, Psalms 29, Psalms 68, Psalms 110, Psalms 139; whence arises the greater difficulty of the Psalms that proceeded from his pen, and a predilection for rare forms and words. Yet, on the other hand, David had also a very peculiar faculty in adapting himself to the simple. It is also a consequence of the depth and freshness of feeling, that, as the consideration of the doctrinal matter of the Psalms will show, the Psalms of David are precisely those in which the greatest amount of instruction is contained. They are farther peculiarly distinguished by the union of child-like humility, such as reminds one of the unassuming shepherd youth, for example, Psalms 23, Psalms 131, with a heroic faith, the spirit of fortitude, which, in its God, could spring over walls, and was not afraid of myriads of people that lay encamped round about him—in which we again recognise the man of war, the hero David, the deforcer of the lion, and the conqueror of Goliah; comp., for example, Psalms 3, Psalms 18, Psalms 35, Psalms 60, Psalms 68. Peculiar, also, is the strength of consciousness regarding the retributive righteousness of God, which had established itself during the period of the Sauline persecution, when David found, in this more especially, a shield against despair. Peculiar yet again, that, amid the straits of life, the oppression through Godless enemies comes out so strongly, with whom David had to maintain so very hard a struggle. Then, a peculiar element was introduced into the Psalmodic poetry of David, by the promise of 2 Samuel 7. Upon the ground of this promise, David runs out through an entire series of Psalms, in particular, the cycle Psalms 138-145, into the future of his race, and accompanies it along its course of suffering, even to its final glorious issue. In regard to form, David was the first to introduce the alphabetical arrangement—an arrangement which was farther extended, in accordance with the import of numbers to the grouping of verses, and the use of the names of God. To him also belongs the formation of the pairs of Psalms, and the larger Psalm cycles. The distinguishing character of the Psalmodic poetry of David would have discovered itself still more strongly, if there had stood beside him other independent bards; if he had not been so decidedly the prototype of all others in this territory, so that, in a certain sense, David may be considered the author of all the Psalms.
3. The name of Asaph is connected with altogether twelve Psalms. Of these five, Psalms 50, Psalms 73, Psalms 78, Psalms 81, Psalms 82, belong to David’s chief musician, see on Psalms 50. The didactic-prophetical character is common to all these Psalms, see Introd. to Psalms 81. The other seven belong to later times, and proceeded from the family of singers, which had Asaph for its founder,—on which see the Introd. to Psalms 74. Delitzsch, in the Symbolis ad Ps. p. 80, has advanced the hypothesis, that these Psalms bear the designation לאסף , not because they were composed by members of the Asaph family, for then it would have been לבני אסף , comp. 2 Chronicles 20:14, 2 Chronicles 29:13, Ezra 2:41, but because the Psalms of Asaph have served as a pattern to them. But the ל before a name in the superscription is either entirely meaningless, or it must designate the proper author; notwithstanding that this has already been decided otherwise, comp. on Psalms 86, Psalms 88. The designation cannot be accounted for on the ground of resemblance to the Psalms of Asaph. For though, undoubtedly, a certain relationship can be traced between all the Psalms, which bear the name of Asaph, Introd. to Psalms 79, yet this is not at all of such a kind as to have led these Psalms to be ranged under the same name. It lies so little upon the surface, that we should hardly have suspected it, if we had not had our attention drawn to it by the resemblance of the name. What a diversity, for example, exists between Psalms 75 and Psalms 76, and, Psalms 50 and Psalms 73! That the historical books do not speak of Asaph, but of the sons of Asaph, proves nothing. It is carefully to be noted, what is but too often overlooked, that the superscriptions themselves bear a poetical character. But in poetry nothing is more common than for the descendants to be ranked under the name of their common father. And it is still further to be urged, in proof of the derivation of the Psalms from Asaph, the analogy of the Psalms belonging to the other Davidic school of song, that of the sons of Korah
Of the later Psalms of Asaph, one, Psalms 83, refers to Jehoshaphat’s war against the combined forces of the Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and other nations,
Psalms 80 to the carrying away of the ten tribes,
Psalms 75, Psalms 76, to the Assyrian catastrophe: Psalms 77 was sung in prospect of the Chaldean invasion, and Psalms 74, Psalms 79, after the devastation this had occasioned. All the later Psalms of Asaph, accordingly, are connected with a particular historical occasion, in accordance with the whole character of the later Psalmodic poetry. On the other hand, the Psalms ascribed to Asaph of the time of David are not so much tied to the historical ground; only Psalms 78 bears respect to determinate historical relations.
4. The name of the sons of Korah is attached to Psalms 42-49, 84-89. See the Introd. to Psalms 42, Psalms 43. In the genealogies, 1 Chronicles 6:16 ss. the family of Heman, who is named along with Asaph and Etham as a chief musician to David, is traced back to Korah. There, too, in 1 Chronicles 6:18, the sons of Heman are mentioned along with himself as having a share in the sacred music. The more minute distribution of the shares is given in 1 Chronicles 25, where the fourteen sons of Heman, given by name in 1 Chronicles 25:4, are reported to have been set by David as so many leaders in the twenty-four classes of singers, every one of which consisted of twelve members. According to 1 Chronicles 25:7, 1 Chronicles 25:9, ss., these classes of singers were formed, not only of the sons of the sons, but also of the brethren, i.e., of the relatives of the three chief musicians of David, who had to play the first parts in the songs of the sanctuary. (Lavater: Those twenty-four sons were masters of song, or precentors, and each had under them twelve brethren or relatives.) Comp. the similar case in 1 Chronicles 26:8, where, besides the sons, also the sons of the sons, and their brethren, or relatives, are mentioned.
With the family of the Korahites, David had appeared at an early period in close connection. In 1 Chronicles 12:1 ss., the valiant men are mentioned, who before the death of Saul came to Ziklag, to participate with David in his troubles, and espouse his cause—first, certain of the tribe of Benjamin, then, 1 Chronicles 12:6, five Korahites, and among those Asarel, who reappears in chap. 1 Chronicles 25:18, comp. 1 Chronicles 25:4, among the sons of Heman. From the companions of the conflict came latterly companions in the composition of sacred song. But the band which joined itself to David was perpetually the same, that of those who were associated in faith toward the God of Israel. The head of the Korahitic classes of singers, Heman, was musical, but not, like Asaph, at the same time poetically gifted, comp. Introd. on Psalms 88. Probably, in the times of David, the gift of sacred song was not participated by any of his sons, but by some one in the circle of brothers or relatives. This explains why, in the superscriptions of the Psalms, neither Heman is named, nor the sons of Heman, but the sons of Korah, whence it arose, that in the later history the distribution of the pieces appeared, not under the name of the sons of Heman, but under that of the sons of Korah, comp. 2 Chronicles 20:19.
The Psalms of the sons of Korah are, in all, fourteen, in striking and certainly not accidental agreement with the fourteen Korahitic classes of singers. Of these seven belong to the times of David and Solomon:
Psalms 44, composed on occasion of the invasion of the Edomites; Psalms 42, Psalms 43, Psalms 84, Psalms 86, at the period of Absalom’s rebellion; Psalms 49, without any historical reference, though the general character of the theme shows it to belong to an early period; it is a sort of appendage, indeed, to Psalms 37 and Psalms 73 of David’s time; Psalms 45, which belongs to, the age of Solomon. The other seven are of later date;
Psalms 47, Psalms 48, belong to the time of Jehoshaphat; Psalms 46 and Psalms 87 appear, from the lively expression, of joy in them, to have been called forth by the events of Hezekiah’s reign; Psalms 88 and Psalms 89, belong to the times immediately before the captivity; Psalms 85 is undetermined. The Psalms of the sons of Korah, on the whole, proceed in a manner strikingly parallel to those of Asaph.
The writers of the Korahitic school, not content with concealing their own names, and ascribing their productions to the entire school to which they belonged, go so far in their self-denial, as to sing from the bosom of David. Psalms 42, Psalms 43, Psalms 84, and Psalms 86, which last is also pervaded with references to the Psalms of David, and to the honour of Heman and Etham, in Psalms 88, Psalms 89—facts, for which nothing is to be found analogous in the productions of the other Psalmists.
5. Solomon is the author of Psalms 72, Psalms 127. 6. ” ” Psalms 91, Psalms 100. 7. ” ” Psalms 104-107. 8. ” ” Psalms 111-119. 9. ” ” the ten nameless Pilgrim-songs, Psalms 120, ss. 10. ” ” Psalms 135-137, and Psalms 146. 11. ” ” Psalms 147-150.
Thus, leaving out Moses, we have ten writers of Psalms, divided into two groups of five, one before, the other after the Captivity.
IV. THE SUPERSCRIPTIONS OF THE PSALMS
These refer first, though very rarely, much more rarely than is commonly supposed, to the musical accompaniments of the Psalms. Of this nature, besides the למנצח , only the following are בנגינות , Psalms 4, על עלםות , after the virgin manner, ??????????Psalms 46, , 6, על הגתית , Psalms 8, Psalms 84. All the other expressions which have sometimes been drawn into the same category, are rather to be taken as an enigmatical description of the subject. Secondly, the superscriptions name the authors. Or, thirdly, they indicate the character of the song, as is the case with ת&תפלה משכיל מכתם שיר תהלה , and the very common מזמור . Finally, the subject, Psalms 145, or the occasion, or the destination: for example, song for pilgrims.
In regard to the existence of the superscriptions and their fulness, there is a marked difference between the different authors of the Psalms. They appear in the most regular and extended form in the Psalms of David. Peculiar to him is (1) the announcing of the historical occasion, which is given in thirteen Psalms, and, following the chronological order, as follows: “When Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him,” Psalms 59; “On account of the words of Kush, the Benjamite,” Psalms 7; “When Doeg the Edomite came,” Psalms 52; “When he feigned himself mad before Abimelech, and he drove him away and he departed,” Psalms 34; “When he fled before Saul into the cave,” Psalms 57; “When the Ziphites came,” Psalms 54; “When the Philistines found him at Gath,” Psalms 56; “When he overcame Aram of the two rivers,” Psalms 60; “When Nathan the prophet came to him, as he had come in to Bathsheba,” Psalms 51; “When he fled before Absalom his son,” Psalms 3; When he was in the wilderness of Judah,” Psalms 63; “A song for the consecration of the house,” Psalms 30; finally, Psalms 17, “When the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul,”—a superscription which is not entirely of the same sort as the others, as they are simply historical; they also make up the number twelve. These superscriptions are not designed to illustrate the Psalms to which they are prefixed, but to form a memorial of those events which had gone most deeply to the heart of David. This is rendered clear by the circumstance, that such superscriptions are frequently wanting in the Psalms, which have a historical bearing, such as Psalms 32, Psalms 61, Psalms 62, Psalms 68, and again stand at the head of some, which are of a more general character, for ex. Psalms 59, Psalms 34. It is also a confirmation of what we state, that no two notices ever refer to the same situation, as also the fact, that it is only in the Psalms of David that the historical occasion is given, which admits of explanation only on the latter supposition, not on the former. (2.) Peculiar to the Psalms of David is the enigmatical designation of the subject-matter and object, which is but rarely to be met with besides, and these obviously as a matter of imitation only in the Psalms of David’s singers. (3.) The למנצח , to the chief musician, which, besides, is prefixed only to those of David’s signers; and they Selah also occurs only in the same. This last, according to the reckoning of Delitzsch, occurs 17 times in the First Book, 30 times in the Second, 20 times in the Third, 4 times in the Fifth Book, in all 71 times, and not 73 as was stated, after Gesenius, in vol. i., p. 46.
The superscriptions appear in their regular and extended form in the Davidic Psalms of the First and Second Book, and in the serial Psalms of the two last books, only with this difference, that in the latter, no historical occasions are given, for this simple reason, that Psalms of an individual character are less appropriate for having a place assigned them in the Psalmodic cycles. Psalms 143 forms but an apparent exception. From the simple: Of David, the superscriptions rise in the Psalms that are framed as Psalms of David, through various intermediate stages, comp. Psalms 141, Psalms 40, Psalms 42, up to the extended one of Psalms 102. “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and poureth out his complaint before the Lord,” which in originality is not to be compared to any of the superscription’s of the Psalms of David’s singers. Precisely the same gradation is to be found also in the Davidic Psalms of the two first books. The: “To the chief musician,” reappears too in the third division of the Psalms of David, as does also the Selah, while in the fourth and fifth books neither of the two occurs.
Next to the Psalms of David, as concerns the regularity and fulness of the superscriptions, stand those of the singers. But there is found here the wonderful result, that all the peculiar designations used in the superscriptions of these Psalms, with the solitary exception of: A song of the beloved, in Psalms 45, and of the על עלמות in Psalms 46, have been borrowed from the superscriptions of the Psalms of David. The singers of David thus designed to indicate their dependence on their master, out of whose soul they wished even in front to be regarded as singing in Psalms 42, Psalms 43, Psalms 84, Psalms 86. They pleased themselves with bending and applying that which had proceeded from him. They borrowed from him the למנצח , Psalms 42, Psalms 44, Psalms 45, Psalms 47, Psalms 75, Psalms 88; and the משכיל , Psalms 42, Psalms 44, Psalms 45, Psalms 74, Psalms 78, Psalms 80, Psalms 81, Psalms 88, the Davidic source of which is to be found in Psalms 32—see Introd. to that Psalm. The title: Upon lilies, in Psalms 45, Psalms 80, rests upon Psalms 60 and Psalms 69, which is perfectly obvious, especially in Psalms 80. The: Destroy not, in Psalms 75, is taken from Psalms 57-59, “The chief musician upon Jeduthun,” in Psalms 77, is from Psalms 62. The: “A testimony of Asaph,” in Psalms 80, rests upon Psalms 60; those: “After the manner of Gath,” in Psalms 81, Psalms 84, is from Psalms 8; “A prayer of David,” in Psalms 86, from Psalms 17; and “Upon sickness,” in Psalms 88 from Psalms 53.
In the other Psalms (such as were composed by others than David and his singers) the superscriptions are either short and incomplete—in particular they all want the names of the author—as Psalms 92 : “A song for the Sabbath;” Psalms 98, “A psalm;” Psalms 100, “A song;” the “Song of the pilgrims,” in Psalms 120 ss.—or they are entirely wanting, Psalms 91, 93-97, Ps 99, 104-107, 111-119., 135-137, 146-150.
In recent times, since Vogel in his treatise
Inscripiiones Psalmorum series demum additas videri, Halle 67—commenced the assault on the superscriptions, they have been in great disfavour. It has become usual to deny, that they were affixed by the authors of the Psalms, nay even to maintain that they do not rest upon any proper historical tradition, but were attached merely on conjecture by persons of later times. This is one of the many points, in regard to which we can easily suppose tradition to exert a power, and that, too, quite improper, unreasonable over those, who boast of being entirely free from its influence, and who disdain to regard it, where it has a just claim to be heard. The origin of the opposition to the superscriptions, belongs to a period when rationalism blindly fought against all that was settled and acknowledged, without carefully inquiring whether rationalism actually required such a conflict to be maintained. By-and-by the opposition contracted itself, and became more and more confined to what rationalism as naturalism could not allow to stand. People had meanwhile been accustomed to attach so little value to the superscriptions of the Psalms, that this return to sober thought has been of small avail for them. Ewald still says, Poet. B. i. p. 224, “Of all these appended notices there is not one which we can venture to ascribe to the author himself.”
We shall not repeat here, what others, in particular Eichhorn, Einl. p. 627, has said in favour of the superscriptions, nor what has already been urged in particular Psalms in proof of the originality of the superscriptions. We shall at present only endeavour to supplement these by a few appropriate general remarks.
If the superscriptions were added in later times from conjecture, how is it then to be explained, that they are not found precisely in those Psalms, in regard to which conjecture might so readily have supplied an occasion, the non-Davidic Psalms of the fourth and fifth book, while they very frequently occur, where conjecture is utterly destitute of a handle? Ewald cannot conceal from himself the embarrassment in which he would be placed by the question, “By what marks a collector of later times attributed the one Psalm to David himself, the other to some one or other of his singers?” And again he says, “Why this song has been ascribed to the Korahites, that to Asaph or Etham, I know not.”
The rejection of the superscriptions belongs to a period when little respect generally was had to the text of the Old Testament. But it is unreasonable to endeavour still to perpetuate the arbitrariness, which arose in a time of general scepticism, now that this has come to be abandoned—unreasonable to withhold from the superscriptions of the Psalms that regard which is willingly accorded to the superscriptions of the Prophets.
The facts as already represented in connection with the superscriptions demands their originality. The similarity in the superscriptions of all the Psalms ascribed to David, cannot be explained if they were appended by this person or that after his own fancy; it can be so, only on the supposition of David himself being the author. By no other supposition, also, than the originality of the superscriptions, can a satisfactory explanation be given of the fact, that the superscriptions stand in the most regular and complete form before the Psalms of David, then in those of the singers of David, while in the remaining Psalms they occur more sparingly, and in a humbler style. David was the originator of the superscriptions. In the consciousness he possess of his personal position, as “the man, who has been raised on high, lovely in the songs of Israel,” he had a determinate occasion to prefix his name to his songs, which only as Psalms of David were entirely to the church that which they actually were, and which partly had a quite personal origin—for ex. Psalms 138, Psalms 45. It was natural for him to erect a memorial of the leading events of his life, by mentioning these in the superscriptions of the Psalms, of which they furnished the occasion. The enigmatical devices, which are but the natural productions of his thoroughly poetical mind, were by much too poetical, spirited, and profound, for any later collector. It is very natural that David should connect himself with those who sang under “his directing hand” ( 1 Chronicles 25:2, and on the על ידי there, see in Introd. to Psalms 118) Their names could the less be wanting, as the mention of these served to bring out their relation to David, and reflected honour upon him. As thus the designating superscriptions properly belong to David, it is very natural that we should not find them in the case of those writers of Psalms, who were not led, like the singers of David, through their position to point immediately to him, or to connect themselves with him. We ought to consider the extended superscriptions, in particular the designation of the authors, as a privilege of David and those belonging to him. It is only on the supposition of the originality of the superscriptions, that we can also explain the fact of everything peculiar, with some unimportant exceptions, in the superscriptions of the Psalms of David’s singers being borrowed from David’s own. With the singers themselves such a borrowing was quite natural, and indicative of their intimate relation to David. But for a collector of later times the very idea was too fine, and altogether the way and manner of the borrowing and the application was too profound and original. These superscriptions could be regarded as the productions of hands accidentally employed, only so long as their close relation to the Davidic was not properly perceived and duly considered. Nor is the correspondence of the Selah with the superscriptions to be overlooked. The fact that this occurs only in the Psalms, which are ascribed to David and his singers, is easily explained on the supposition of the originality of the superscriptions. The Selah belongs, both as to the word and the meaning expressed by it, originally to David, and from him passed to his singers. The other Psalmists did not consider themselves justified in appropriating this distinctive mark of royalty. But on the contrary supposition, that the superscriptions were added conjecturally by later hands, this riddle is just as incapable of explanation as the other, why the halleluiah is not found in any of the Psalms, which bear the name of David or his singers. In like manner, if the superscriptions have proceeded from collectors of later times, how can it be explained that the למנצח , to the chief musician, stands merely in the superscriptions of such Psalms as are ascribed to David and his singers? That the word could only be regarded as coming from the author himself, has been already proved in the Introduction to Psalms 4.
A series of reasons for the originality of the superscriptions is presented by the Books of Samuel, which were composed in the earlier part of the king-period, and, at all events, before the Babylonish captivity. Comp. 1 Samuel 27:6, where the author mentions that Ziklag had belonged to the kings of Judah till his day.
That David was in the habit of prefixing superscriptions appears incontestably from his last words, 2 Samuel 23:1.
The introduction to the song of David upon the death of Saul and Jonathan, 2 Samuel 1, possesses a character nearly allied to the historical superscriptions of the Psalms—for example, to that of Psalms 18. The “to teach” there used also exactly agrees with Psalms 60; and the קשת , bow, as an emblematical designation of the subject, corresponds to the enigmatical devices in the superscriptions of many of the Davidic Psalms. The author probably, by an easy variation, changed the superscription into an introduction—a supposition that is rendered the more credible from his having done something quite similar in 2 Samuel 22, as compared with Psalms 18 : the “Of David, who spake,” being changed into “And David spake,” in order to make the song accord with the historical connection. The substitution of “And he spake, that one teach the children of Israel the bow,” instead of “the bow-song, the song upon Jonathan, the man excellent in the use of the bow” (comp. Psalms 18:22), is certainly one that did not come from the hand of the author of the Books of Samuel. It bears entirely the character of the superscriptions of David, in which the poetical spirit breaks out even in the introduction to the song, not first in the song itself.
If all the poetical pieces of David which are preserved in the Books of Samuel, are provided with original superscriptions, the conclusion is not far to seek, that David generally wrote nothing without a superscription.
There occur, farther, in the Books of Samuel, some references to particular superscriptions of the Psalms of David. We have already noticed the reference to the superscription of Psalms 18. A reference to that of Psalms 34 is to be found in 1 Samuel 21:14, comp. Introd. to that Psalm. According to these analogies we would also explain the literal agreement between 1 Samuel 23:19 and the superscription of Psalms 54, on the supposition that the author of the Books of Samuel had respect to the superscription. So also 1 Samuel 19:11 in relation to Psalms 59.
The circumstance of the Song of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:9 possessing a superscription, which manifestly formed an original part of it —“writing of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, when he was sick and recovered from his sickness,” this alone constitutes a strong case against those who deny the originality of the superscriptions. The closer examination, however, of the construction of this superscription yields still more important results. It is evidently formed after those of the Psalms of David. Let the superscriptions especially be compared of Psalms 56.—“Of David, a secret, when the Philistines found him in Gath;” Psalms 57. “Of David, a secret, when he fled before Saul in the cave;” Psalms 59. “Of David, a secret, when Saul sent.” The ל is common in both cases before the name of the author—although here it was not necessary, as the stat. const. would have served well enough to indicate with כ the occasioning circumstance. But of quite peculiar import is the מכתב here, in relation to the מכתם there. The somewhat bald expression מכתב , writing, points to some original passage to which it alludes, and from such allusion it is to derive its meaning and become pregnant. It is manifestly a variation of מכתם in the superscriptions of the Psalms of David, as in the Song itself the חלד of the Psalms is changed into חדל . Hezekiah, with whom it was very natural to borrow from his great progenitor, as he also restored his Psalms to their proper place in the public worship or God, 2 Chronicles 29:30, did not venture to designate his song after his prototype, a מכתם , a secret, or song of deep import. He weakened the מכתם into מכתב , humbly to indicate the distance at which he stood front David. In fitting accordance with this reference to the superscriptions of the Psalms of David proceed the references to the same Psalms and those of David’s singers in the song itself. The very beginning, “I spake, in the midst of my days must I wander through the gates of hell,” rests upon Psalms 102:24, “I said, O my God take me not away in the half of my days.” The first half of Isaiah 38:11 rests upon Psalms 27:13. The חדל in the second member is a variation of חלד in Psalms 49:1, comp. on Psalms 17:14. Isaiah 38:18 rests upon Psalms 6:5; Psalms 30:9. The beginning of Isaiah 38:20 is from Psalms 70:1.
The fact that all these references are made to the Psalms, which, according to the superscriptions, belong to David and his singers, and which, therefore, already existed in the time of Hezekiah, as they also formed a model to which he would naturally look, is likewise a proof of the superscriptions. The caprice of later times would certainly not have managed it so. We find precisely the same thing in the Song of Jonas, which belongs to the first period of written prophecy; comp. on Jonah 2:4 Psalms 42:7; on Jonah 2:5 Psalms 31:22; on Jonah 2:6 Psalms 18:4; Psalms 69:1-2; on Jonah 2:8 Psalms 18:6; on Jonah 2:9 Psalms 31:6.
A very strong proof in favour of the originality of the superscriptions is afforded by the beginning and close of the third chapter of Habakkuk. The תפלה לחבקוק is in imitation of the תפלה לדוד of Psalms 17. The expression: upon errings, carries an allusion to the: erring in the superscription of Psalms 7. The למנצח בנגינתי , to the chief musician upon my stringed instrument, of the close alludes, to the superscription of Psalms 4 and Psalms 6. We have the less reason to doubt an imitation of David, as besides the למנצח , the Selah is also borrowed from him, which never occurs elsewhere, excepting in the Psalms of David himself and those of “his singers.” Add, that the Song of Habakkuk itself contains a number of undeniable references to the Psalms, quite parallel to those in the superscription. The most distinct is the quotation from Psalms 77; comp. on that Ps. The two last verses are mere echoes of the Davidic Psalms, especially of Psalms 18, from which Psalms 18:19 is wholly taken, with which stands also in immediate connection the conclusion formed after the superscriptions of David. Psalms 18:14 rests upon Psalms 10:8-10. Finally, in this imitation of the superscriptions of the Psalms we have the key to this portion of the writings of Habakkuk. Such borrowings evidently indicate that here prophecy goes hand in hand with the sacred lyric, and was designed to raise such emotions as the sacred lyric was employed to awaken among the community. That the song was actually sung in the sanctuary is manifestly but a fiction. Behind the lyrical character, which it carries on its front, the prophetical lies concealed; and it stands in such close connection with the foregoing prediction that it cannot be separated from that. Here, too, has an unpoetical realism mistaken the proper exposition.
Having now set forth our reasons for the originality of the superscriptions, we shall farther cast a glance at the reasons which hitherto have been and still are urged against them.
“If thus,” says Ewald, Poet. B. i., p. 214, “all the songs, whose authors are designated, must be derived only from David and his singers, how does it then happen, that the Psalter names no other writers from the many other ages and centuries?
How are we to explain it, that the Psalter has announced no other poets in the superscriptions?” But would we gain the missing names, if we should set aside those given in the superscriptions? That the problem is not to be solved at the expense of the superscriptions, is clear from the circumstance which stands side by side with the other, that in the historical books no other composers of sacred songs have been named, excepting David and his singers. But both problems admit of an easy explanation on the ground, that the royal Psalmist with his train was so indisputably regarded in Israel as the master of sacred song, that beside his name and that of his singers, who were linked to him, and his successor upon the throne, no other name could appear, nor would any one venture to mention one. The want of names at the non-Davidic Psalms goes hand in hand with other facts—as, that none of these Psalms possess an individual and personal character, that in all of them the Psalmist appears only as the organ of the community, that the later groups of Psalms for the most part form but a kind of setting to the precious stone of the Davidic Psalms, that they often borrow from these in particular points, and refer back to them, that the entire mass of the later poetry proclaims itself as an echo of that of David. Even in regard to the productions of the singers of David the individual authors, with the exception of Asaph, did not venture out of their concealment; and he is precisely the one individual whom the history also mentions beside David; see Introd. to Psalms 50, 74. Behind his name, again, the timid and unpretending members of his singing families of later times, who composed Psalms, concealed themselves.
“The LXX. omit the name of David in the group, Psalms 120-134, manifestly because their Hebrew copy had not that appendage.” Ewald p. 219. So also V. Lengerke in his compilation upon the Psalms. But allegations of this sort proceed upon an entire misapprehension as to the nature of the Alexandrian version, and can now no longer be recognised as just. With perfect right has the circumstance, been urged for the antiquity of the superscriptions, that they already lay in great part beyond the comprehension of the LXX. How can it be imagined, then, that some of them were introduced into the text after their time? But a proof is here to be found for the originality of the superscriptions in the fact, that the arrangement of the pilgrim-songs takes for granted the composition by David of the Psalms which bear his name; see Introd. to Psalms 120-134.
“There is so great a dissimilarity among many of those songs, that they cannot possibly be all ascribed to the same writer.” But as soon as we abandon the wrong supposition, that all the Psalms bearing the name of Asaph are to be ascribed to the same individual, then all that can be alleged in this respect limits itself to the Psalms which bear the name of David. But David would never have had such a call, nor attained to such glory upon this territory, if his poetical gift had not been a comprehensive one—if it had been only of a limited description, if he had not made his voice roam at large. What enabled him to rise so singularly high above the other sacred bards, also gave him the capacity of sinking among the lowest. With all his variety a thread of unity still runs through all his Psalms, as has already been sufficiently pointed out in the exposition, [Note: What Ewald in his Prophets i., p. 73, has said of Isaiah, may be applied analogously to David: “The chief point here is, that we cannot ascribe to Isaiah, as to the other prophets, a peculiar idiosyncrasy, and some favourite tinge pervading the whole representation. He is not the pre-eminently lyrical, or the pre-eminently rhetorical and hortatory prophet; but constantly as the subject requires, he has ready at command every kind of speech and every variety of mode; and it is precisely this that here constitutes his greatness; as it is generally one of his most distinguishing characteristics.”]
But this always remains the chief ground of the opponents of the superscriptions—that the contents of the Psalms in a great many cases prove the incorrectness of the superscriptions. But confidently as their criticism comes out on this point, it may still be permitted us to indulge at least very serious doubts regarding its solidity, until they succeed in coming to an agreement, not merely on the negative, but also on the positive side of the matter. So long as those who rank as our opponents, such as Ewald and Hitzig, differ so immensely from each other regarding the proper age of the several pieces, the thought will be very natural that the opposition to the superscriptions is to be sought, not in any flaw in them, but in the arbitrariness of the critics. Our exposition has endeavoured to show, that in no one Psalm does the matter stand at variance with the superscription; but, on the contrary, that the two are always in perfect harmony with each other.
V. THE FORMAL ARRANGEMENT OF THE PSALMS
The Psalms are destitute of the most important means, through which poetry in other countries acquires for itself the character of that artificial structure, which is so closely connected with its nature,—the employment of metres and rhymes; to which last there are only some feeble and merely accidental approaches. As a substitute for this want, the parallelism of the numbers of the verse has primarily been employed, corresponding to the necessity of an alternate rise and fall. On this we need not enter into any investigation, as it has already been sufficiently elucidated. But that the necessity has been felt for a formal arrangement also beyond the narrow pounds of a single verse, is perfectly obvious from the existence of a number of alphabetical Psalms. Proceeding from this fact Köster sought with considerable power to establish the existence of a strophical arrangement also in the other Psalms. But he did not perceive the true principle of this. The arrangement—so the author believes he has proved in his commentary—is formed in the non-alphabetical Psalms with few, and these even doubtful exceptions, by means of the numbers, which were regarded by the Israelites as having a kind of sacred and important meaning—viz., 3, 4, 7, 10, 12; see on the origin of such numbers the author’s work on Balaam, p. 70 ss. These numbers often also determine, besides the groups of verses, the position of the names of God.
A very simple arrangement by the numbers already exists in the song composed by Moses, Psalms 90. But the principle on which it proceeds was carried out by David, and improved to the development of its inexhaustible variety. The later writers trode, in his footsteps, though without any slavish imitation. Even the last produce some new forms.
One can have the less difficulty it recognizing this principle of numbers, as of all others it has the closest relation to the alphabetical arrangement. Then also, as the meaning of certain numbers undoubtedly plays in other respects a very important part in ancient Israel, this arrangement may be regarded as the peculiarly Israelitish one. Admitting that what Bähr in his Symbolik of the Mosaic religion, and what Bertheau still more at large has since remarked, in his seven groups of Mosaic laws, regarding the import of numbers in the Pentateuch, stands much in need still of criticism and careful consideration—admitting also that the application of this principle as made by Bertheau, will not hold to the full; there will after all be found no inconsiderable part of precious metal to result from the process. Already the fact, that the fundamental law, the decalogue, has is form determined by a regard to number secures a firm starting point for all future investigations. Kurtz, in his Einheit der Genesis, p. lxvii. ss., has noticed, that Genesis consists of ten groups or books of narratives. David paid regard to the principle of numbers, even in his public arrangements. Thus he divided, according to 1 Chronicles 25, the singers into twenty-four classes, each one of twelve members, and the twenty-four was divided by ten and fourteen. In the account given of Job’s children and flocks, in (Job 1) ch. 1, the numbers three and seven, and the number ten, arising from the combination of these, and of the double five, are employed, and both these numbers and the number twelve play an important part in the arrangement of the book, which it would take us too long to point out at length here. In the (Isaiah 1) first chapter of Isaiah the representation made of the sinful revolt of the people is completed in the number seven, divided into three and four —four designations for the idea of sinfulness, and three for that of revolt. So also do the designations applied in Isaiah 1:6 to the miserable condition of the people, which their apostacy entailed upon them, make up the number seven, and the seven is here again divided into three and four. How in that prophet the grouping also is regulated by a regard to numbers, we shall show by the example at least of one section. In Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12, the two concluding verses coincide with the introduction, ch. Isaiah 52:13-15, in the number five, the signature of the half, the incomplete. The main part Isaiah 53:1-10, completes itself in the number ten. This again is divided into seven, which comprises the humiliation and suffering, and three, which refers to the glorification of the servant of God. The seven is divided by three and four. In the three the suffering of the servant of God is represented in itself, in the four its cause, its vicarious nature. In the gospel of Matthew the genealogy is regulated by a respect to numbers—the blessings in the sermon on the mount—the Lord’s prayer—the parables in (Matthew 13) ch. 13. That the structure of the Apocalypse is entirely determined by them, has at last been established by Züllig, Th. i. p. 115 ss.
This principle of number has been charged with super-refinement, and more than cabalistical foolery. But when it is understood, that the numbers were used for the most part without respect to the original ground of their sacredness and significance, and merely in a formal point of view, this objection loses all its force. Any kind of measured discourse, not usual among ourselves, is exceedingly apt to assume the appearance of over-refinement. A people unacquainted with rhyme would find great difficulty in regarding that as a legitimate form of measured discourse.
Then the further objection has been passed against the theory of number (comp. Sommer, Bibl. Abh. s. 148), that it rests upon the false ground of the correctness of our present division into verses. But this division, which in other respects also has strong reasons on its side (comp. Ewald, Poet. B. s. 90), is on this account placed beyond doubt, that the arrangement everywhere comes clearly and distinctly out. It does not rest on the discernment of later editors of the text, but upon the stability of tradition, to which we also owe the correctness of our vowel punctuation.
Besides the arrangement from numbers, there is found in the Psalms also another from the alphabet. But that this is secondary in relation to the former, appears from this, that no traces exist of it before the time of David, and that the greater part of the Psalms are arranged on the principle of number, without respect to the alphabet; while in the alphabetical Psalms according to the rule, in the older ones without any exception, there can be pointed out at the same time a respect to the import of numbers. A doubt can scarcely be entertained that David is the author of this arrangement. For it is first employed by him, and speaking comparatively, with great frequency; so that the later instances may on this account alone be regarded as bearing an imitative character: (if this method of arrangement had possessed a national root, it would have been more commonly employed in later times); and it is a further proof of the same, that it occurs with David in the simplest and the most natural forms.
We have four Psalms of David in which the commencement of the verses is marked by the letters of the alphabet in their regular order, Psalms 25, Psalms 34, Psalms 37, Psalms 145, and the three number of whose verses corresponds to the number of letters in the alphabet, Psalms 33, Psalms 38, Psalms 103. This last can the less be regarded as accidental, since also in the Lamentations, (Lamentations 5) ch. 5 is alphabetical only as to the number of verses, since Psalms 33 stands close beside the properly alphabetical Psalm, Psalms 34, since in the closing verse of Psalms 38, there is an express allusion to the alphabetical character, and, finally, Psalms 103 is a sort of side-piece to Psalms 145. To this heptad of Davidic Psalms, divided as usual into three and four, a later bard, the only one that in this respect trode in David’s footsteps, added three more alphabetical Psalms, Psalms 111, Psalms 112, Psalms 119—the first and the last that belonged to him of his cycle, which is opened with three Psalms of David; so that the supposition of his dependence upon David on this point also can the more readily be entertained. These later alphabetical Psalms make up with those of David the total number of ten, while the more strictly alphabetical Psalms of David are contained in the number seven. If we add besides the two Psalms of David, in which there is an attempt at alphabetical arrangement, we shall have altogether a dozen of alphabetical Psalms; so that the significant numbers will thus be found coming all distinctly out in the Psalms of this description.
The assertion, already refuted in the Introd. to Psalms 25 and Psalms 37, that the origin of the alphabetical arrangement belongs to a very late period, is sufficiently disproved by the fact, that by much the greater proportion of the alphabetical Psalms are ascribed to David. Whatever value we may attach to the superscriptions, this would certainly have been very rarely done, if such Psalms had all been the productions of a later period. To this we may add the circumstance noticed by Sommer, Bibl. Abh. s. 94, that the alphabetical arrangement in the Lamentations of Jeremiah bears so refined and artificial character, that it necessarily presupposes a simpler form.
The alphabetical arrangement in the alphabetical Psalms of David is distinguished by strong peculiarities from that in the later Psalms—a fact which cannot be explained by those who deny the originality of the superscriptions, and consider them to be of arbitrary fabrication. (1.) Those Psalms are peculiar to David, which are alphabetical as to number, and nothing analogous to them exists in all the Old Testament, excepting the (Lamentations 5) fifth chapter of Lamentations. (2.) In the alphabetical Psalms of David, the simplest forms are found—for every letter of the alphabet a verse, or a pair of verses, while in Psalms 111 and Psalms 112, every half verse is distinguished by a letter, and in Psalms 119, each letter has a portion of eight verses appropriated to it, every one of which commences with the same letter—a pretty difficult matter. The measures, which may be regarded as both smaller and larger than the natural one, belong to the same author: so that the intention of departing from the already existing simple form is the less to be mistaken,—an intention which discovers itself still more manifestly in Jeremiah. (3.) In the later alphabetical Psalms, the alphabetical arrangement is carried through with perfect regularity, as it is also in Jeremiah, with a single exception, where still, however, there is no omission of a letter, but only a transposition. On the other hand, in all the Davidic Psalms there are, to be found irregularities, the attempt to account for which lately by Von Sommer, from the corruption of the text, is put to flight by the fact, that they occur only in the Psalms of David, while the very long Psalms 119 is entirely free of them. But if this supposition is to be rejected, so also, and more decidedly is another, that the deviations proceeded from the difficulty of preserving entire the alphabetical arrangement without injury to the sense, and unnatural constraint; which is disproved by the observation that, with a single unimportant exception, all these deviations can be explained on the same ground, viz., that in these Psalms, besides the alphabetical arrangement, that also after the significant numbers has a place which required a certain sacrifice of the other. That in Psalms 34, Psalms 37, Psalms 145, all the deviations have arisen from this concurrence of the two arrangements, has been already shown in the Introd. to the respective Psalms. The two first are regulated by the decimal division, which stands in a very close relation to the alphabetical, which we are also the less entitled to overlook, as it unquestionably exists in the alphabetical Psalms, Psalms 111, Psalms 112, and, still further, in Psalms 38, which is alphabetical as to number. The connection of the decimal division and the alphabetical arrangement is also, in Psalms 25, the object aimed at. It must fall into two decades, and, at the same time, have the entire number of its verses to correspond to the letters of the alphabet. This was accomplished so, that the Psalm was made to possess a commencing and concluding verse out of the alphabetical arrangement. But, then, two of the twenty-two letters of the alphabet must thereby disappear. The lot is made to fall upon ו as the least important of all the letters; and then א and ב are made to divide between them one verse; see the Introd. to the Psalm. Thus all the deviations admit of being explained from the concurrence of the two arrangements, with the solitary exception of the double ר instead of ק and ר—the only case in which the Psalmist has abandoned the alphabetical arrangement for the sense.
We shall now speak of the two Psalms, in which there is found a mere approach to the alphabetical arrangement, Psalms 9, Psalms 10. Notwithstanding the greatness of their deviations, the opinion has also been propounded in regard to them, that the alphabetical arrangement was there also originally preserved with exactness, and was only disturbed afterwards by negligence and caprice. But besides that this view proceeds upon an entirely false opinion of the state of the Heb. text generally, and, in particular, of that of the Psalms, the integrity of which is established by indisputable facts, such as the preservation of the names of God in their original position, and the arrangement according to the significant numbers; besides this, the following grounds decidedly oppose the opinion in question: (1.) These Psalms could not have been originally purely alphabetical. They are distinguished from all other alphabetical Psalms by this, that they have a regular continuity of thought, a steady progression, while the contrary of this is the case with a purely alphabetical Psalm: see Introd. to Psalms 25, Psalms 37.—(2.) That the alphabetical character was not stringently maintained, and might, therefore, be easily interrupted, is already indicated by the apparent anxiety to draw attention to it, both at the beginning and the close. In the two first verses of Psalms 9, each member of the verse begins with א ; and also the last letter, the ת does not rest satisfied with the first word of Psalms 10:17, but occurs twice besides. In the regular alphabetical Psalms nothing of a like kind is to be found. (3.) We have not some sort of fragments merely of an alphabetical arrangement before us, but the alphabetical always occurs in an important place. It concentrates itself at the beginning and the end, so that the three first and the four last letters of the alphabet stand in quite regular order. The second of the two Psalms begins with ל , the middle letter.—(4.) Along with the alphabetical arrangement, there proceeds another according to the significant numbers, of so artificial a kind that a strict adherence to the former could, on this account alone, scarcely be expected. Before we point out this more minutely, we must first give a representation of the strophe-division of those Psalms, and also exhibit the result, which presents itself in them respecting the names of God.
Psalms 9 consists of a great strophe, Psalms 9:1-12, falling into two parts, thanksgiving and praise, each of six verses—three pairs of verses, and four small strophes, expressing prayer and confidence, each consisting of a pair of verses. In like manner, Psalms 10 consists of a great strophe, Psalms 10:2-11, the lamentation, and, four small strophes, the prayer and confidence, each of a pair of verses, with the exception of the second in Psalms 10:14, which has only one verse, but that composed of four members. Psalms 10:1 stands unconnected with the formal arrangement, and corresponds to the superscription in Psalms 9, the originality of which is borne witness to by this fact.
The name Jehovah occurs nine times in Psalms 9, the name Elohim once; in Psalms 10 Jehovah five times, Elohim twice; in the whole, therefore, Jehovah occurs fourteen times, Elohim thrice; in Psalms 9 ten names of God, in Psalms 10 seven.
All the significant numbers, too, are found in the two Psalms. The second part of Psalms 10 is completed in the number seven—manifestly on purpose. For with the design merely of not exceeding the number seven, only one verse of four members is there assigned to the ר , instead of the otherwise common two verses of four members. Farther, the regular alphabetical commencement of verses, at the beginning and the close, also consists of the number seven. The whole has seventeen names of God, fourteen of the name Jehovah Psalms 10, seven names of God, and how much of design there as in this, is evident from the interchange of Jehovah and Elohim, which was obviously managed so as to bring out for the whole the Numbers 17, 14, and for Psalms 10 the number seven.
The number seven is commonly in the Psalms, as also in the Apocalypse (comp. Bengel s. 66, ff.. 213, Züllig Th. i. s. 123), divided into three and four. In the second part of Psalms 10, Psalms 10:12-14 are of one piece, as are also Psalms 10:15-18. The beginning has three, and the conclusion four alphabetical commencements of verses. In Psalms 10, three names of God stand in the main strophe, and four in the smaller strophes.
The whole has ten strophes. Psalms 9 has twenty verses, two decades. In Psalms 10 the main strophe ten verses. Psalms 9 has ten names of God. With the tenth letter of the alphabet, י , the alphabetical arrangement in Psalms 10 ceases, and there follows afterwards another strophe, without the alphabet.
The ten is regularly divided by the five. Each Psalm has five strophes. In the main strophe of Psalms 10 this division is rendered manifest by the correspondence of Psalms 10:6 with Psalms 10:11. Of the ten names of God in Psalms 9, five are contained in the main strophe, and five in the smaller strophes. Both numbers, that of ten and seven, appear combined in the number of verses of Psalms 10, and in the entire number of the names of God.
The main strophe of Psalms 9 is completed in the number twelve. So also in the same number are comprised the entire parts of the Psalm, ten strophes, then the superscription to that Psalm, and the introduction to Psalms 10. The twelve is both times divided by the six. The main strophe of Psalms 9 has six couplets of verses, and falls into two parts, each of six verses. This division is referred to in the circumstance, that Psalms 9:7-11; Psalms 9:9-11, all begin with ו , the sixth letter of the alphabet, the introduction of which begins precisely at the commencement of the second part, and the peculiar prominence given to which (it is the only letter to which four verses have been assigned, and indeed so, that it returns at the commencement of all the verses) must point to the import attached to it.
As to the object of the alphabetical arrangement in this Psalm, there is first to be recognised the intention of pointing to the connection between the two Psalms, which form a pair. That this object has been accomplished, is evident from this, that the perception of the connection between the two Psalms, which undoubtedly proceeded on a recognition of their alphabetical character, led the LXX. to form them into one. Another purpose was to direct attention to the beginning and the compass of the particular strophes. The alphabetical arrangement is so far carried through, as completely to attain these two objects.
The criticism, which now again, looks as if it would return, in its treatment of the text of the Old Testament, to the arbitrariness of the last quarter of the preceding century (Movers, Thenius, Sommer, etc.) might learn prudence from this example! It is of importance also here not to judge, but to know.
VI. THE ORIGIN OF THE EXISTING COLLECTION OF PSALMS, THEIR DIVISION INTO FIVE BOOKS, AND THEIR DIFFERENT NUMBERING
There can be no doubt that collections of the Psalms of David and his singers were made at an early period. The deep and important bearing which they had from the outset in respect to the faith of the community, and the distinguished place that was assigned them in the services of the sanctuary (see 2 Chronicles 29:30), does not permit us to entertain the idea that single psalms were left for centuries to fly about as scattered leaves. But it is equally certain that our present collection presents no traces of being formed out of such early collections. It has in no respect the character of a work done piecemeal, but is arranged from points of view that embrace the whole field. Its author, living at a time when psalmodic poetry had already ceased, had the entire body of existing Psalms before him, and formed the collection after those points of view.
The point of view that presented itself most readily, was the chronological. But the stringent application of this order could not on reflection be approved. David was unquestionably the founder of this kind of poetry. But by the chronological principle his glory in that respect would have been darkened, and the entire matter placed thereby in a false position, since in that case the Psalm of Moses must have stood at the head of the whole, while he still was only the solitary precursor of the Psalmodic poetry, a prophecy of it, and one which was to find its accomplishment in David. Then the character of a good many of David’s Psalms, and those of his singers, raised great difficulties in the way of a chronological arrangement. These songs of David and his singers were not always of a personal cast, they not unfrequently left the historical ground, concerned themselves for the necessities of the church of all ages, and generally rose to the comprehensiveness and elevation of our church songs. For songs of this kind, which have no historical starting point, the chronological arrangement would have been unsuitable, even if the date of the composition of particular Psalms had been exactly known. But this consideration applied only to the songs of David and his singers. All the others had a historical basis, so that the chronological arrangement in them is the most natural, and in all respects the most advantageous.
The collector, however, endeavoured at the same time to avoid the objections which the chronological arrangement was fitted to suggest, and to make use of its advantages. After the model of the Pentateuch, to which the Psalms are already, on this account more nearly related than all the other books of Scripture, inasmuch as they, like it, were employed in divine worship, but still more as they contained in a manner the answer of the people to God is address to them in the law, and disclose the pious feelings which are called forth in the minds of believers by the word of God, he divided the collection into five books, the end of which, with the exception of the last, where no external mark was required, is indicated by a doxology. In the front he placed the Psalms of David and his singers, which occupy the three first books. In the two last books he put, in exact chronological order, all that remained from Moses to Nehemiah.
In the arrangement of the Psalms of David and his singers, the collector has allowed a marked influence to the distinction that exists among these Psalms as to the use respectively of the names Jehovah and Elohim. This distinction is confined to those Psalms, including also the later post-Davidic Psalms of Asaph and the sons of Korah, which in this, as in other respects, remain true to the older type. In the whole fourth book Elohim does not occur once, in the fifth only seven times, while Jehovah, according to the reckoning of Delitzsch (Symbolae ad Ps. illustrandos) occurs 236 times. In all those seven cases Elohim is found only in the Psalms of David—in Psalms 108 six times, and once in Psalms 144. We merely notice, in passing, what important results grow out of these facts for the correctness of our text, and, at the same time, for the originality of the superscriptions. If these had been appended, as modern criticism would have it, by this person and that from mere conjecture, how should it then happen that precisely all the Elohim-Psalms have been assigned to David and his singers, and that not one of such Psalms has been left without their names?
Not merely are the Elohim-Psalms peculiar to the three first books, but also another characteristic, the sporadic occurrence of Elohim in the Jehovah-Psalms. Elohim had become so strange in later times, that only the Jehovah-Psalms of David were taken for insertion into the later cycles, with the exception alone of Psalms 108, which could not have been omitted if Psalms 109 and Psalms 110 were to have a place.
That the origin of the Elohim-Psalms is to be ascribed to David is evident from the single fact, that these belong only to him and his singers, who show themselves throughout dependent upon him. It is a farther evidence, that we can also give historical proof elsewhere of David’s special predilection for this name; from the prayer of David in 2 Samuel 7, where it occurs redundantly, and also from passages, such as 1 Chronicles 28:20, where David says to Solomon, “Fear not, for Jehovah Elohim, my God, is with thee,” 1 Chronicles 29:1.
Allusion was made in my Beitr. Th. II. s. 299, to the ground of the predilection exhibited in certain Psalms for the name: “In a multitude of passages, especially in the Psalms, Elohim was chosen with respect to the abuse of the name Jehovah, whereby the name, that properly was the stronger of the two, was changed into the weaker. The surrounding heathen, and the heathenishly inclined in Israel itself, recognized in Jehovah, indeed, the God of Israel, but not God absolutely, the possessor of the whole fulness of the Godhead. But better the Godhead than a God. In all such passages Jehovah is thrown into the background; Elohim by itself is equivalent to Jehovah Elohim. It was not necessary always expressly to name Jehovah, because he was the unquestionable property of Israel; it was only contested whether he was Elohim.”
Upon the import of the collocation Jehovah Elohim, it is said in the same vol. s. 312: “The ground of the collocation is always to be found in the opposition it presents against partial representations of Jehovah, in the endeavour to explode the error that Jehovah was merely the God of Israel—an error by which Jehovah, in itself the higher appellation, became relatively the lower, so that it was elevated by the addition of Elohim, though strictly of inferior import. In this collocation the name Elohim stands upon the same line with Zebaoth, the God of worlds. A circumlocution of Jehovah Elohim is given in such passages as Psalms 18:31, “who is God but Jehovah,” and Isaiah 44:6, where Jehovah says, “Besides me there is no God;” Deuteronomy 32:39, “There is no Elohim besides me.” We are presented with a formal commentary on the Jehovah Elohim in the words in which David breaks forth after he had received the promise through Nathan ( 1 Chronicles 17:16 ss., comp. with 2 Samuel 7:18 ss.): “Who am I, Jehovah Elohim, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hither. And this was even little in thine eyes, Elohim.
Jehovah, for thy servant’s sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all this greatness. Jehovah, there is none like thee and there is not Elohim beside thee. And now Jehovah thou art Haelohim.” In these last words David explains why he addresses God as Jehovah. What Jehovah had done was so great that it could not be attributed to a limited national God, and therefore he ascribes it to a God, in whom the highest, the most personal, living individuality is combined with the largest infinitude. It afforded the matter of fact proof, that the God of Israel was at the same time the Godhead, since he concentrated in himself whatever existed anywhere of divine.”
Partial representations of Jehovah, a tendency to overlook the absolute in him, was extremely natural to Israel, as polytheism prevailed all around, and it was a very bold, a prodigious idea, to ascribe nothing to the gods of the neighbouring and sometimes far more powerful nations everything to their own God. If we transport ourselves into the relations of those times we shall find it very natural, that even in the earliest records of revelation the Elohim beside Jehovah, and as a safeguard against confined notions of him, should play an important part.
That in the Elohim-Psalms the Elohim was equal to Jehovah Elohim, the Jehovah being regarded as the invisible accompaniment of Elohim, was recognized by the author of the doxologies at the end of the books. He puts at the close of the second book, which contains the Elohim-Psalms, not Blessed be Elohim, but Blessed be Jehovah Elohim. To the same also points the circumstance, that Jehovah or Jah is commonly even the visible accompaniment of Elohim, and in the larger half of the Elohim-Psalms is once at least expressly named with unmistakeable intention, while in the Jehovah Psalms the Elohim scarcely ever occurs.
The introduction of Elohim in the Elohim-Psalms proceeds from no imperative necessity. For, in the name JEHOVAH is contained the import, which Elohim only brings expressly and prominently out. Elsewhere Jehovah is not unfrequently found in a like connection. Indeed, the Elohim-Psalms might have been carried, without any exception, through the entire Psalmody. But it is likewise certain that the Elohim in the Elohim-Psalms is everywhere used with consideration. It only occurs where the occasion renders it proper to express the absolute in Jehovah.
The Elohim is a soothing balsam, which was dropt into the wound of the despondency of the people of God in the presence of the world. It was a shield held up against the assaults of despair in times of trouble, raised by the honourers of the so-called Elohim, who railed at the poor Jehovah of Israel. In this way is the Elohim in Psalms 44 explained. In Psalms 60 Elohim is the battle-cry in the expedition against Edom. At every encroachment upon its boundaries Israel must be awakened anew to the consciousness that Jehovah is God Elohim.
But in the pressing emergencies also occasioned by domestic enemies the soul flies to Elohim. When all on earth is leagued against it, when the waters rise “even to the soul,” it finds in this name a sure guerdon for deliverance, which represents its God as the one in whom the whole fulness of Godhead dwells, to whom therefore nothing is impossible, who is rich in resources. Thus David, in Psalms 52, sets Elohim over against Saul, the hero, who was employing all instruments devil for his destruction, and, in like manner, in a series of other Psalms belonging to the same period of persecution, Psalms 54-59. During Absolom’s revolt, also, David retreats for refuge to Elohim, in Psalms 42, Psalms 43 (where the sons of Korah speak as from his soul), Psalms 61-63. To this, too, betakes the suffering righteous one in Psalms 69-71.
The Elohim, further, is used in connection with instructive facts, which show that Jehovah is God, in such Psalms as celebrate the victory which Israel, the weak and little, the “worm Israel,” obtained over the heathen world, proudly boasting of their might. Thus in Psalms 46:10, where in Psalms 46:7 and Psalms 46:11 Jehovah Zebaoth corresponds to the (Jehovah) Elohim: Psalms 47, where to the Elohim is added: “the Most High, a great King over all the earth;” Psalms 48, where also comp. the Zebaoth in Psalms 48:8; Psalms 68.
The Elohim stands likewise in Psalms which unfold the idea of the future supremacy of the God of Israel, the pledge of which was the fact that Jehovah is Eiohim, Psalms 45, Psalms 67, Psalms 68, Psalms 72.
Psalms 65 praises God as the God of the whole world and nature; to the Elohim correspond the words: “Thou art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the sea of the far off.” In Psalms 51 David makes his complaint to Elohim, because, being plunged into the great deep of sinful conviction, he stood in need of the entire fulness of the divine compassion. The expression: “according to the greatness of thy mercy,’’ forms a sort of commentary on the Elohim.
In Psalms 50 the name Elohim is proclaimed with a voice of thunder to those who, after the manner of servants of a God, imagined that they could feed their God with their pitiful sacrifices—not reflecting that they had to do with the Lord of the whole world. To the Elohim corresponds the allusion to the sovereignty of God and his spiritual nature, in Psalms 50:9-13.
This indication of the internal grounds, which have given occasion to the use of Elohim, suffices also for a refutation of the strange hypothesis of Ewald, already disposed of by Delitzsch, p. 21, who attributes the predominance of the Elohim to the hand of the collector.
That the Elohim-Psalms possess in general a more elevated character than the Jehovah-Psalms, admits of an easy explanation, from what has already been remarked. It is a consequence of this character, that the Selah should be of more frequent occurrence in them (according to Delitzsch’s calculation, it occurs in the first book seventeen times, in the second, thirty times, and twenty times in the third), and it further results, that the announcement of the historical occasion, in the superscription, should be more common in them, or the reference to it in the Psalms themselves. This use of the Elohim sprung up at a time when the honouring of Jehovah in Israel was quite predominant. When latterly the honouring of the so-called Elohim also began to prevail among the Israelites, the Elohim, which was used in a bad sense by them, was forbidden to the true fearers of God. It was retained only in the school of David’s singers, who everywhere copy the example of David’s time. The necessity, which gave rise to the use of Elohim, was met in another manner.
The arrangement, then, is as follows:
The first book, Psalms 1 to Psalms 41, contains the Davidic Jehovah-Psalms; the second, Psalms 42-72, the Elohim-Psalms of the singers of David—of the sons of Korah, Psalms 42-49, of Asaph, Psalms 50; then his Elohim-Psalms, Psalms 51-71, and an Elohim-Psalm of his son Solomon, Psalms 72; the third, the Jehovah-Psalms of his singers, of Asaph, Psalms 73-83, of the sons of Korah, Psalms , 84-89.
The collector might have made the Elohim-Psalms of David follow his Jehovah-Psalms, then the Jehovah-Psalms of the singers of David, and then, again, their Elohim-Psalms. But in that case, the Elohim-Psalms would not have been enclosed on both sides by the Jehovah-Psalms, while still it was of importance that this should be the case, so that the truth might stand prominently out, that Jehovah is the fundamental name, and everywhere the invisible attendant of Elohim, which only gave distinct prominence to one important idea in the nature of Jehovah. The collector was here guided by the same reasons which determined him in the doxology of the only Elohim-Psalm contained in the second book, not to put: Let Elohim be praised, but: Let Jehovah Elohim be praised. Or, again, the collector might have made the Elohim-Psalms of David follow his Jehovah-Psalms, then the Elohim-Psalms of his singers, and finally the Jehovah-Psalms of his singers. In that case, too, the Psalms of David, and those of his singers, would have stood each by themselves. But then, the distinction of Jehovah and of Elohim-Psalms would not have come so broadly out. It is precisely the existing arrangement, the separation of the Davidic Jehovah, from the Davidic Elohim-Psalms, and likewise the separation of the Jehovah and the Elohim-Psalms of Asaph and the sons of Korah, which sets the device clearly before the reader’s eye, and calls upon him to investigate the principle of the collector.
The principle, indeed, has been expressed by the collector himself in the doxologies of the three first books. In the first book, the doxology begins with: “Let Jehovah be praised;” in the second book, with: “Let Jehovah Elohim be praised;” and in the third, with: “Let Jehovah be praised.” Delitzsch, who was the first to point out the bearing of the first two doxologies on the subject under consideration, did not perceive that the third presents as good a proof that the third book, according to the view of the collector, contains only Jehovah-Psalms, as the second, that it contains only Elohim-Psalms.
There are three objections that may present themselves against the above view of the arrangement of Psalms 1-89. The first is this, that in Psalms 73-83, [Note: Nobody will go along with Delitzsch, Symbolae, p. 22, in regarding Psalms 84 an Elohim-Psalm, see Introd, to that Psalm.] the Elohim so frequently occurs, that one might even feel tempted to include these in the Elohim-Psalms. But, considered even in an external point of view, this could not be immediately done. Including Psalms 84, with Delitzsch, who adopts this view, Jehovah and Jah are found twenty-two times in these twelve Psalms while in the thirty-one Psalms of the second book, they occur only thirty-two times, and among the thirty-one Psalms of the second book, there are not less than sixteen in which Jehovah is entirely wanting, while in those twelve it fails only in a single one.
It is also from the first improbable, that as the first book contains only Jehovah-Psalms, the second only Elohim-Psalms, the third should be formed of both. The collector would, in this way, have destroyed his own principle.
If we regard Psalms 73-83 as Elohim-Psalms, then Asaph must have composed Psalms only of that description. This is in itself improbable, apart altogether from the circumstance, that then Psalms 50 would not have been separated from the others. The Elohim indicates a particular idea in the nature of the God of Israel, and it could scarcely occur to an Israelitish bard to elevate it to sole supremacy. Only when found as an accompaniment of Jehovah is it in its proper place.
If we look more closely to the Psalms in question, the result discovers itself, that their Elohistic character rests merely upon appearance, and that persons come to maintain its reality only because they forget, in their enumerations of the names of God, the import and meaning of them. The Jehovah-Psalms of Asaph have this distinguishing peculiarity about them, that the glory of the name of Jehovah is an internal, and not a merely external one, a concealed, and not a manifest one; but on that very account so much the more essential.
In Psalms 73 the whole runs out with such emphasis in the names: the Lord Jehovah, that the unaccented preceding threefold Elohim does not come into notice; it has only the character of an antechamber. Also in Psalms 74:18, the Jehovah, on which a special emphasis rests, and for which Elohim cannot be substituted, should be written in large capitals, while the Elohim before it, though occurring four times, falls into the background. In Psalms 75 the double Elohim stands only as stepping stones to the simple Jehovah in Psalms 75:9. The cover, which till then lay on the face of God, is taken away at the end, and it beams forth in all its glory. Precisely the same is true of Psalms 74; there too the Jehovah, which should be written large, forms the conclusion. In Psalms 77 the precious name is found exactly in the words which form the beating heart of the Psalm, “I will declare the deeds of Jah,” in Psalms 77:11; and the one Jah in this passage, more emphatical than Jehovah (see on Psalms 68:4, Psalms 89:8), weighs more than the six Elohims which serve only to make it shine firth the more brightly. In Psalms 78 Jehovah occurs, indeed, only twice, while Elohim is used eight times; but Jehovah stands at the head, and in the announcement of the theme in Psalms 89:41, “the wonders of the Lord,” are the centre of the following representation; so that Jehovah is the constant though invisible accompaniment of the succeeding Elohims. Then it recurs again in a very emphatic connection in Psalms 89:21. In Psalms 79 Elohim is used in the representation given of the poor suppliant. But in the prayer he rises immediately to Jehovah, and with him alone has he to do through the whole Psalm, from Psalms 79:5. That in Psalms 80 Jehovah has really the supreme place, though it occurs only twice, while Elohim is used five times, is evident from what has been already remarked in the Introd. to the Psalm. In Psalms 81 Jehovah is the prevailing name even externally. Psalms 82, in which Jehovah is altogether wanting, and Elohim, which must stand there (see on Psalms 82:2) occurs twice, seems to have been considered by the collector as a prelude and introduction to Psalms 83 (the conclusion of both Psalms is to be compared) which also indeed has Elohim only once, but runs out into a double Jehovah.
Through the whole, therefore, Jehovah has the primas partes, and Elohim is thrown by it into the shade. The Elohim also in these Psalms is essentially different from that in the Elohim-Psalms. Here it is everywhere the more general, less pregnant, lower name of God; whereas in the properly Elohim-Psalms, it is used with great emphasis, inasmuch as it is the idea of the absolute in Jehovah which it expresses, and opposes that abuse of the name, which overlooked this idea, so that relatively it becomes the higher name.
A second consideration suggests itself in the fact, that in the midst of the Psalms of David and of his singers, certain nameless Psalms are inserted, which seems inexplicable, if the collector was guided by the principle indicated above. But it is found on nearer examination, that with the solitary exception of Psalms 1 and Psalms 2, the namelessness is only apparent. It occurs only in regard to such Psalms as are united with the preceding into one whole, so that the naming of the author in these communicates itself to the others. Thus Psalms 10 stands connected with Psalms 9, Psalms 33 is formed into a pair with Psalms 34. From these analogies we are already inclined to the supposition, that Psalms 66 and Psalms 67, to which the name of David is not prefixed, form with Psalms 65, a triology; so that its superscription extends also to them. And this supposition is favoured by the למנצח at the head of both, which elsewhere never occurs but in the songs of David, of Asaph and the sons of Korah—by the שיר , song of praise, which the whole three have in common—and by the contents of the Psalms; they contain a treasury of praise to God, divided into three parts—two Psalms, which magnify the benefits of God in natural things to his church, inclose a third which celebrates his praise on account of historical benefits. This view is little affected by the fact, to which too much importance was attached in the Introd. to Psalms 66, that the words, “Come, behold the works of the Lord,” in Psalms 66:5, appear to have been literally borrowed from Psalms 46:8; the relation is rather the reverse. Psalms 71 forms a pair with Psalms 70; as likewise Psalms 43 with Psalms 42. There remain only Psalms 1 and Psalms 2. That this pair stands without any superscription, is perhaps to be explained on the ground, that it originally served as an introduction to a collection of sacred songs collected by David himself, which, besides his songs, contained those also of his chief musicians. The introductory character must have appeared less, if they had borne the name of David. Standing without superscription at the head of an entire collection, all the parts of which had superscriptions, they presently gave themselves to be understood to be an introduction. Our collectors, who only produced what they found, did not venture to affix to them a superscription. The Davidic origin was also sufficiently indicated by their position at the head of the Davidic Jehovah-Psalms.
A third consideration presents itself in the circumstance, that in the midst of the Korahite-Elohim-Psalms, in Psalms 86, David is named as the author, as also in the naming of Heman and Ethan in Psalms 88 and Psalms 89. But this objection has already been obviated by the remarks made on those Psalms.
Regarding it, then, as settled, that viewed generally and collectively, the Psalms of David and his singers were arranged according to the distinctive use of the names of God, a further question arises, after what principles did the collectors within these limits assign to particular Psalms their place? The answer is, they put those Psalms in juxtaposition which had some bond connecting them together, and sought to present in each particular group a kind of Psalmodic chain, the links of which ran into each other. I. They always joined together the pairs of Psalms, or rather they did not separate what had from the first been internally united. Such pairs of Psalms are Psalms 1, Psalms 2; Psalms 9, Psalms 10; Psalms 20, Psalms 21, Psalms 23, Psalms 24; Psalms 25, Psalms 26; Psalms 28, Psalms 29; Psalms 32, Psalms 33, Psalms 34; Psalms 42, Psalms 43; Psalms 70, Psalms 71; Psalms 88, Psalms 89. They likewise left the larger group of Psalms, Psalms 65-68, united together. In this the trilogy, formerly referred to, Psalms 65-67, forms the introduction to Psalms 68, the solemn Te Deum, which was sung in the temple after a great victory had been obtained. All the four Psalms have, as a proof of their original connection, the character of praise-songs, and the שיר מזמור , in the superscriptions is common. The idea, that what the Lord had done for Israel, would exercise a powerful influence upon the heathen, connects Psalms 68 with the two preceding ones. Psalms 65:5-7 already contains in it the kernel of Psalms 61, Psalms 68. Comp. besides Psalms 65:1: “and to thee one pays vows,” with Psalms 66:13: “and to thee will I pay my vows;” the conclusion of Psalms 65 : “they shout and they sing,” with the beginning of Psalms 66 : “shout to God all lands;” then the resembling conclusions of Psalms 66, Psalms 67, Psalms 68. II. They place together Psalms which were united together by a similar occasion. Thus Psalms 47 and Psalms 48 stand beside each other, because they both refer to the deliverance of Jehoshaphat, the first for being sung in the Valley of Thanksgiving, the second at the solemn service in the temple. In like manner Psalms 75 and Psalms 76 the two Jehovah-Psalms of Asaph, stand together, which refer to the Assyrian oppression, the first sung in prospect of the catastrophe, the second after its accomplishment. But here we must be content to remain with the similarity of the occasion. That the collectors were not guided by a strictly chronological respect is evident alone from the fact, that among the Korahite Elohim Psalms, Psalms 46, which refers to the Assyrian catastrophe, precedes Psalms 47 and Psalms 48, which belong to the time of Jehoshaphat. III. They joined together those which have a common superscription. Thus the whole Korahite Elohim Psalms stand together which bear the name משכול , instruction, Psalms 42, Psalms 43, Psalms 44, Psalms 45. On this ground also it is clear that Psalms 43 is combined into a pair with Psalms 42, otherwise it would not have stood here. So also with Psalms 52-55, the whole Elohim-Psalms of David, which possess the superscription לדוד משכיל , an instruction of David. Then the Davidic Elohim-Psalms, which have in the superscription מכתם , secret, Psalms 56-60. Among these, again, those which have besides the אל תשחת , destroy not, in common, Psalms 57-59, all the three belonging to the Sauline period, of like matter and like character, and by David himself destined to go together. IV. A coincidence in the thoughts has also in many ways influenced the arrangement. Thus Psalms 3 and Psalms 4 follow Psalms 2, because they represent the personal experiences and feelings of David, on which as its foundation the prophetic representation in Psalms 2 is raised. Psalms 5 connects itself as a morning prayer with the evening prayers in Psalms 3 and Psalms 4. A respect to the ideas has also led to the juxtaposition of Psalms 14 and Psalms 15.
See the Introd. to the former. Psalms 34 and Psalms 35 have been placed together on account of the mention in both Psalms of the angel of the Lord. Psalms 51, the first Davidic Elohim-Psalm, follows the Elohim-Psalm of Asaph, Psalms 50, because both agree in the worthlessness of sacrifices, in which the heart is not. V. Much more common, however, than such internal relationships is the juxtaposition made to rest upon particular expressions or images common to the united Psalms. Thus Psalms 77 and Psalms 78, which otherwise have nothing to do with each other, have been placed next each other on account of the comparison of Israel with a flock made at the close of both. Psalms 6 has only the mention of evil-doers in common with Psalms 5; Psalms 5:5, Psalms 6:8. As this ground of connection lies upon the borders of accident, and is only the collector’s last make-shift in striving after an arrangement, we shall not attempt by an exposition of particular Psalms to point it out in individual cases, and must refer those who feel interested in the matter to the Symbolae of Delitzsch, whose induction of proofs has at least established the result “that it cannot be concluded from the mere juxtaposition of two or more Psalms, and their resemblance to each other, that they were written by the same author, which conclusion has been very frequently urged by Hitzig.” Another conclusion of Delitzsch, that one must be very cautious in the admission of pairs of Palms, the author believes that he, at least, has no occasion to bring into account. He has never rested the admission of such pairs upon merely external points; but simply regards the fact of the existence of nameless Psalms in the midst of those, whose authors are all designated, as providing for them a strong ground of support.
One thing, however, is manifest from all that has been established regarding the arrangement in the three first books, that we find ourselves here everywhere on the territory of design, contrivance, and reflection, and that, therefore, all hypotheses must be rejected, which proceed on the supposition, that the collectors gave free scope to accident, indolence, and carelessness.
This remark conducts us to the last point, which still remains to be noticed in regard to the three first books—the words דוד בן־ישו כלו תפלות at an end are the prayer-songs of David, the son of Jesse, which are found at the close of the second book, and follow the doxology of it appended to Psalms 72. This formal announcement cannot, as Delitzsch has supposed, be the conclusion of an original collection which contained the Psalms of David and his singers, and which the authors of our present collection still retained, though they introduced afterwards a number of Psalms of later date. For, 1. It presupposes a great carelessness on the part of the later collectors, since after the enlargement of the original collection, in which an entire series of later Psalms appears bearing the name of David, they had not expunged a completely unsuitable conclusion. Such a thoughtlessness is absolutely without analogy in the canon of Scripture, and is the less to be credited in regard to the collection of the Psalms, as this everywhere manifests plan, intention, and care. 2. It is supposed without reason, that under the name of the Psalms of David (which here à potiori are designated by the appellation of prayer-songs, because there was no general Hebrew name for the Psalms) those also of his singers are comprehended. The passages, Ezra 3:10, 2 Chronicles 23:18, which are adduced in support of this, cannot prove it. Such a naming, which otherwise had even already been unjustifiable, was the less proper to be adopted, after the older collection had been still farther enlarged by the late additions; so that the slender ground then gave way on which Delitzsch seeks to justify the ascription of the Psalms of David’s singers to David himself—viz., “That they were such as, whether written by David or his contemporaries, had been publicly sanctioned by the authority of David.” 3. This announcement stands at the close of the doxology of the second book. Now, if the doxologies belong to those who formed our present collection in five books (see Delitzsch, p. 19) then this announcement also must be referred to them. Otherwise, it would certainly have stood before the doxology. 4. Of David’s singers we have only up to Psalms 72, the Elohim-Psalms. But this is as good as an express intimation, that we might still expect from them the Jehovah-Psalms. Or, could the older collector have given merely the Elohim-Psalms known to belong to them? [Note: Several, and recently V. Longerke, have sought to raise Psalms 3-41 to the rank of an original collection, to which was afterwards added as a second part, Psalms 42-72. This hypothesis vanishes before the single consideration that Psalms 1-41, as it only contains Psalms of David, from which no collector would certainly have separated those of his singers, so closely connected with him, 2 Chronicles 29:30, so it contains merely the Jehovah-Psalms of David. These could only have been associated together by the same person, who afterwards subjoined the Elohim-Psalms of David. And as this person at the same time communicated the Elohim-Psalms of David, he must again be identical with the collector of the third book. The reason for the making up of the Psalter from different collections, because Psalms 53 could not have been admitted by the same person who received Psalms 14, and in like manner Psalms 70, as compared with Psalms 40, Psalms 108 with Psalms 57, 60, is disposed of by the remarks formerly made upon those Psalms.] 5. That in Psalms 1-72, there are found only Psalms of David and his singers, is an indication that others might be expected from different authors. Or, could the author of the original collection have known only these, and been ignorant especially of the Psalm of Moses, the man of God? 6. Among the Psalms of David in the two last books there are some of such distinguished import, that they could not possibly be unknown to those who formed the original collection. How deep the Davidic Psalms in particular of the two last books had penetrated into the life of the community, appears from this, that they were raised at a later period to become the centre of a series of cycles of Psalms. But it is in itself an improbable supposition, and one incapable of proof, that collections of the Psalms of David existed of different compass. Everything that proceeded from David on that very account drew upon it the general attention, and just as little as part of his compositions could remain unknown, as little would any one have taken upon him to select only that which accorded with his own private taste. What bore upon it the name of David was thereby stamped as good, as edifying as a sacred treasure. The man who was placed on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, lovely in the Psalms of Israel, he, through whom the Spirit of the Lord spake, and had his words upon his tongue, 2 Samuel 23:12, was elevated far above either forgetfulness or criticism. 7. There is an utter want of analogies for marking by an express and formal conclusion an end, which of itself might be discerned to be such. The canon is free from any such loquacity as this. Therefore, the announcement: at an end are the prayer-songs of David, carries with it an intimation, that other Psalms besides were to follow. Nay, still more, it would have been superfluous, if Psalms had not been to follow, which bore on their front the name of David. To this, indeed, it must point, bearing the character of an enigma, that these additional Psalms stood in other relations than those given in the two first books.
We shall reach perfect clearness and certainty by perceiving that all the Psalms of David in the two last books are inserted as component parts into the later cycles. The subscription at the end of the sacred book must have been designed to separate the free and the bound, the scattered and the serial Psalms of David, from each other. Analogous in some measure the subscription: at an end are the speeches of Job, in Job 31:40, which is not contradicted by the fact, that Job appears again speaking, it (Job 40) ch. 40 and Job 42; it should rather be regarded as serving to give us a right understanding of that formal conclusion.
Turning now to the last two books of the collection, we remark at the outset, that in them the chronological principle of the arrangement strongly predominates. At the head stands “the prayer of Moses, the man of God,’’ Psalms 90. Then follows Psalms 91-100, a decalogue of Psalms very closely related to each other, sung in prospect of the Babylonian catastrophe—see Introd. on Psalms 94. The great chasm between Psalms 90 and Psalms 91-100 is explained by this, that the collector wished to place in the front the productions of David, the man who had been placed on high, &c., who was fitly regarded as the proper author of this branch of literature, and of those who had been stirred up by him and their schools. Into this chasm fall, with few exceptions, (the Psalms of the exile by Asaph and the sons of Korah, see the section on the authors of the Psalms) all the Psalms of the first three books. it is only about the times of the exile that the Psalmodic poetry works itself free from this connection with the schools of David’s singers. The author of Psalms 91-100 was the first who, without being a member of their body, received the gift of sacred song; after the exile, Asaph and the sons of Korah are no more to be thought of.
Then follows in Psalms 101-107, a heptad, consisting of a trilogy of David, with which a bard of the time of the exile associated some new ones, and a seventh added by another bard after the return from exile.
See Introd. to Psalms 107. As the collector in the arrangement of the Psalms from Psalms 90 follows the chronological principle, so he determines here by the same principle the division of the books. Though Psalms 107 forms a component part of the heptad, yet the fourth book, which was made to contain the Psalms from Moses to the Babylonish captivity, not composed by David and his singers, or their schools, is closed by Psalms 106, the doxological conclusion of which was at the same time intended by the collector as a formal conclusion to the book,—comp. on Psalms 106:48.
A dodecade of Psalms 108-119, introduced, like the preceding cycle, by a trilogy of David, to which were then added nine later Psalms, contains those Psalms which were sung on the occasion of laying the foundation of the new temple—see Introd. to Psalms 118.
In Psalms 120-134, the pilgrim’s little book, consisting of four Psalms of David, one of Solomon, and ten without names, we have the productions that belong to the time of the interrupted temple-building.
In Psalms 135-146, there is a group of twelve Psalms sung after the happy completion of the temple, and probably at the consecration of it—three nameless Psalms at the beginning, and one at the end, in the middle of Psalms of David.
The closing portion is composed of Psalms 147-150, four Psalms, which were sung at the consecration of the city walls under Nehemiah.
The completion of the Psalmody could not have been made before the consecration of the walls under Nehemiah, to which the last Psalms refer. But neither can we bring it clown to a later period—partly on account of the history of the canon, which was terminated in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, partly on account of the character of Psalms 150, which was manifestly intended to form a full-toned close to the whole. [Note: Without foundation some have sought to find a conclusive proof of the completion of the present Book of Psalms in 1 Chronicles 16:30; comp., on the contrary, p. 285 of this volume, where it has made appear that Delitzsch lies incorrectly argued from this passage for the antiquity of the division of the Psalms into five books.] To the same period the collection of the Psalms is ascribed by tradition—although this by itself would not be entitled to much weight. In 2Ma_2:13 , the collection of the productions of David is ascribed to Nehemiah. Jerome, epist. ad Sophronium, and the synopsis found among the works of Athanasius, ascribe the collection to Ezra (comp. Stark, carm. Dav. i. p. 425, 6.) Meanwhile, there are reasons which ender it probable that the collection of the Psalms was only completed then, and had been begun at an earlier period. Of special significance is it here, that in the last group of Psalms there is not found, as in all the cycles since the exile, a trunk of Davidic Psalms, out of which the shoot of the new song might spring up. This seems to indicate, that then the Davidic Psalms had been already all disposed of in the collection. Further, the last group, Psalms 147-150, connects itself with the close of the immediately preceding one, just as Psalms 135 commencing the group, Psalms 135-146 intentionally connects itself with the last Psalm of the Pilgrim Book, Psalms 134; so that the collection must already have been increased up to that point. Accordingly, the forming of the collection might be set down, for the time of the completion of the second temple. For, that we must not ascend higher is evident from the circumstance, that, with respect to the enrolment in the cycle of the Psalms, which were for being sung at the consecration of the temple, the eight Davidic Psalms were not received among the Psalms of David, but were purposely thrown back. That the collection of the Psalms stands in a close connection with the finishing of the temple is clear as day. Finally, that the existing collection was only completed, and shut up in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, may still farther be presumed from the fifth book wanting the doxology at the been wanting here, too, if the same collector had brought the work to a close, which is found at the first four books, and which would not have final termination. But this fact admits also of another explanation. The close of the last book did not require to be expressly indicated, as it was sufficiently evident of itself, and a doxology was here the less necessary, as the whole of the last Psalm bears the character of a high-sounding doxology.
In regard to the numbering of the Psalms, there is a diversity, yet so that the entire number of them, 150, which certainly was not accidental, but was intentionally made up by the last composer of Psalms, remains uninjured. The LXX., and the translations which follow it, in particular the Vulgate, connect together Psalms 9, Psalms 10, then Psalms 114 and Psalms 115, but separate Psalms 116:1-9 from Psalms 116:10-19, Psalms 147:1-11 from Psalms 147:12-20. The last division especially was made on purpose to secure the number 150, which must, therefore, at the time of the LXX., have been regarded as indispensable This diversity must be remembered, on this account more particularly, that learned men among the Catholics for the most part cite by the Vulgate. They commonly are one Psalm behind the Hebrew original in their citations; for example, they cite Psalms 22 as Psalms 21.
VII. ON THE DOCTRINAL MATTER OF THE PSALMS
The Book of Psalms is full of the noblest testimonies to the being of God, and his perfections. It has contributed, in this respect, vast materials for developing the consciousness of mankind, and the Christian church rests far more upon them for its apprehensions of God than might at first sight be supposed. To perceive to what an extent this is the case, we have only to search out the traces of the Psalms in our liturgies and church-songs. Even the French Deists, the theo-philanthropists, sworn enemies of the Bible, could only make out their liturgy by the help of the Psalms. This is one chief reason why the Psalter is so precious to the afflicted. It presents God so clearly and vividly before their eyes, that they see him, in a manner, with their bodily sight, and find thereby the sting taken from their pains. In this, too, lies one great element of the importance of the Psalter for the present times. What men now most of all need is, that the blanched image of God should again be freshened up in them. This, not the denial of particular tenets of revelation, which is only a consequence of the other, and which can never be thoroughly eradicated so long as the fundamental evil remains, is the deepest grief of the church, and one which believers will still have to bear with. Those who would strive to effect, in this respect, a reformation in themselves or others, will find in the Psalms a mighty help. The more closely we connect ourselves with them, the more will God cease to be to us a shadowy form, which can neither hear, nor help, nor judge us, and to which we can present no supplication.
Among the heathen, every divine perfection has its contrast (see Nägelsbach, Homer. Theol. p. 13.) Here everything is of one piece and mould. From the calls, indeed, which we so often meet with in these writers of inspired song, upon God to hear, to see, to think of them, not to forget—and their complaints, that he does not hear, &c., the accusation has often been brought against them, of rough and childish representations of God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and superintending providence. But we have only to look somewhat deeper in order to discover the agreement that exists between these passages and others which contain the most elevated representations of God’s omnipresent being and providential agency. In the latter, the voice of the Spirit makes itself heard; in the former, that of the flesh. The radical character of the Psalms is feeling. This is uttered in faithfulness and truth before God, as it arose in the heart of the singers, and it is precisely through this that they exercise so strong an influence. We are drawn to them in the first instance by finding our own weakness, our own fainting under tribulation repeating itself, and then suffer ourselves to be gently conducted by them to the strength of God. The feeling, however, in weak man is often very different from the conviction. He may be firmly convinced of God’s providence, may be ready to defend it with vigour against all who assail it, and yet if tribulation befall him, if God withdraw from him the tokens of his favour, it then comes to be in the feelings of his soul, as if God knew nothing of him, as if he concerned himself not at all in the conflict of joy and sorrow, as if these were an impassable gulf fixed between heaven and earth. In this contest faith must be strengthened. It exists in the godly of the New, not less than in those of the Old Covenant, and that superficiality and strangeness to spiritual experience, which accuses David and other sacred bards of having had rough ideas of God’s ever present and watchful providence, may with equal propriety be brought against a Luther and Paul Gerhard, and against all our religious poets and men of devotion. How along with that voice of the flesh in the Psalms there was perpetually raised also the voice of the spirit, appears even from the single fact, that the writers pour out their supplications before the very God who hears and sees and regards not.
The mystery of the Trinity is not yet plainly declared in the Psalms. This doctrine, as to its finished form, belongs, to the times of the New Testament. It presupposes historical developments, which could then only come into being. The fuller understanding of it and its blessed practical operation rests upon the incarnation of the Word. Its too early manifestation would have been attended with the worse consequences, as Israel was surrounded on every hand by heathen neighhours and was itself inclined to polytheism. Under the Old Covenant it was of importance primarily to lay stress upon the unity of God, and to have the knowledge and belief of this deeply impressed upon the minds of the people, so that they might courageously maintain it against all the formidable assaults, of the spirit of the then world and age. By this means the best foundation was laid for the doctrine of the Trinity. Still, however, we find here, as in the case of all the doctrines, the full revelation of which was reserved for the New Testament, the germ and point of connection for the New Testament dogma. How even the divine name Elohim is to be viewed in this light, since it indicates that the unity of God is not one of poverty, but of richness and fulness, has already been pointed out in the second part of my Contributions. In unison with Genesis 1:2, the Spirit of God, whose personality was certainly not yet recognized, appears as the source of all physical life, Psalms 104:30, as penetrating and filling all things, Psalms 139:7, as the creative principle that made the world, Psalms 33:6, as the administrative power and presence of God in Israel, Psalms 106:33, finally, as the source of all moral life, Psalms 51:12; Psalms 143:10. But the most direct indication of the doctrine of the Trinity is to be found in those passages which contain a reference to the superhuman nature of the Messiah,—passages on which we must the less think of forcing another meaning, as in the prophets (for example, in Isaiah 9, where even Hitzig is obliged to recognise it), there is found something unquestionably similar. Such indications pervade all the Messianic Psalms; and quite naturally. For, the more deeply the knowledge of human sinfulness, impotence, and nothingness sunk in Israel (comp. for example Psalms 103:14-16), the less could men remain satisfied with the thoughts of a merely human redeemer, who, according to the Israelitish manner of contemplation, could do extremely little. A human king (and all the strictly Messianic Psalms have to do with Messias as king), even of the most glorious description, could never accomplish what the idea of the kingdom of God imperiously required, and what had been promised even in the first announcements respecting the Messiah, viz., the bringing of the nations into obedience, blessing all the families of the earth, and acquiring the sovereignty of the world. In Psalms 2:12 the Messiah is presented as emphatically the Son of God, as he in whom confidence brings salvation, whose wrath is perdition. In Psalms 45:6-7 he is named God, Elohim. In Psalms 72:5, Psalms 72:7, Psalms 72:17, eternity of dominion is ascribed to him. In Psalms 110:1 he at last appears as the Lord of the community of saints and of David himself, sitting at the right hand of the Almighty, and installed in the full enjoyment of divine authority over heaven and earth.
We turn now to the doctrine of angels. This doctrine, which is so contrary to the friends of a mere temporal religion, belongs to the first foundations of true religion. Already in Genesis do we meet with angels, first in the history of Abraham, then of Jacob. There was a danger, however, in this doctrine of angels to monotheism, as the temptation might very naturally arise of ascribing to them, from solemn awe respecting the almighty and holy God, a portion of the glory due only to him, and of seeking through them to obtain the favour and blessing of God. But this danger was met by throwing their personality quite into the shade, and making them appear only as the instruments and servants of God. All speculations, too, were cut off respecting their nature and their origin by passing over these topics in profound silence. How narrow the limits are within which the doctrine of angels is confined in Scripture, how strictly the practical bearing of the matter is adhered to, is manifest alone from the name usually given to them, messengers, which points, not to the nature, but to the office. The Psalms, also, while they not rarely make mention of the angels, keep scrupulously within the limits observed by the earlier revelation, so much so, that in several places we might feel tempted to suppose a personification, if other passages did not forbid the supposition, in particular Psalms 103:20, where the angels appear as conscious instruments of God, who do free and loving service to him. Besides that name they also receive in the Psalms the appellation of sons of God, Psalms 29:1-2, Psalms 89:7, as being the most glorious amongst God’s creatures, and those that stand nearest to himself; that also of the holy ones = the dignities, in Psalms 89:7. They are presented to us as patterns in respect to the adoration of God, whose glory commends itself to our regard, through their ascriptions of praise, Psalms 29:1-2, Psalms 89:6-7, Psalms 103:20. Their watchfulness and support are for us the source of consolation, Psalms 91:11-12, where, however, there is nothing said of guardian angels to individual persons, a doctrine which has no place in Sacred Scripture. As God’s servants, they bring destruction upon the wicked, Psalms 78:49, so that the disproportionate superiority as to strength on the part of the wicked need not terrify the righteous, for behind it the spiritual eye discerns the innumerable host of the Almighty, and his “strong heroes,” Psalms 103:20. The two passages, Psalms 34:7, Psalms 35:5-6, show, that the Psalmists were also acquainted with the doctrine, which pervades the whole of the Old Testament, and which represents the angel of the Lord as his mediator in all his transactions with the world, and especially with his kingdom and people—a truth which is disclosed in its full import in the prologue to he gospel of John. In the former Psalm the angel of the Lord appears attended by hosts of ministering angels, as the captain of the host of God ( Joshua 5:15), as the protector of those that fear God, and in the latter as the judge and destroyer of the wicked. The passage Psalms 104:4, does not refer to the angels.
The doctrine of fallen, bad angels, or mere properly spirits, and especially of the head of these, Satan, has a place even in the Pentateuch. That under Asasel, to which, according to Leviticus 16, on the great day of atonement, a goat was sent away laden with the forgiven sins of the people into the wilderness, Satan is to be understood, was proved in my :Egypt and the Books of Moses,” and more recently by Kurtz in his work on the Mosaic offerings. On clearer grounds it can also be demonstrated, that Moses, though under a cover, represents Satan, “the murderer from the beginning,’’ as taking an active part in the seduction of the first pair. However, the object there was not so properly to establish this doctrine in the consciousness of the subjects of revelation, as rather to indicate its place. It was above all important, that the one true God should acquire form among his people, and should be vividly recognized as the one and all. Till this was done, there was a danger lest a part of the honour due to him should be transferred to Satan, lest by propitiatory gifts they should seek to be at peace with him, the rather so as Israel had before his eyes the example of the worship paid to the evil God Typhon in Egypt. But the doctrine respecting Satan could not acquire its full significance till it was brought into connection with the doctrine of Christ, nor could it be fully disclosed till the manifestation of the word in the flesh. It need not, therefore, surprise us, that we find no trace of this doctrine in the Psalms. For that the passages, Psalms 78:49, Psalms 109:6, have been improperly referred to it, has been already shown. We must not from this, however, conclude, that the Psalmists were ignorant of the doctrine, but only that it exercised no important influence upon their spiritual life, and the more so as the silence in question is found in the later, not less than the earlier Psalms, while we know the doctrine had assumed, at the period of their composition, an explicit and regular form, and meets us in a very striking and finished form in the introduction to the Book of Job and in Zechariah.
Next to the doctrine respecting God, there is none to which the Psalms bear more ample testimony than that respecting sin; and the former rests upon the latter. It is only where sin is rightly understood, that the shadows vanish which hinder us from attaining to the right apprehension of God. For then only does there come to be an earnest seeking after God, the one Saviour, which is the necessary condition to finding him. In the deep experience of human sinfulness, the Old Testament religion differed from all heathen religions, whose foul stain it was that they did not endeavour to produce this, but allowed sin to be regarded as a calamity, a fate, whereby the proper notion of sin was destroyed, and the idea of God at the same time annihilated. And this felt apprehension of sin meets us in the Psalms in the liveliest manner. The law and the prophets sought to awaken it; the Psalmists show us in their own living experience what it was to them. “There seest thou (says Luther) into the heart of all saints as into death, nay as into hell. How dark does it appear, troubled on all hands by the wrath of God.”
In regard to the doctrine of the origin of sin, any express reference to it lay quite out of the way of the authors of the Psalms, who only utter the feelings of their hearts, and hence had far more to do with the fact of sinful corruption, with its depth and magnitude, than with its origin. We find no passage upon the relation of our sin to the sin of Adam. The fall, which first receives it proper elucidation in consequence of the atonement wrought out by Christ, is never thought of. Still a hereditary, inborn corruption, propagated by ordinary generation, is quite explicitly maintained. According to Psalms 51:6-7, the sin of human nature is deeply rooted; man is tainted with poison even in his first origin, and hence incapable of attaining, by his own power, to the true and internal righteousness required by God. In Ps. Psalms 58:3, the fruitfulness of human corruption is derived from the consideration of its springing from original sin, and consequently having its root in the innermost depths of the human heart. The Psalms coincide also in this point with the Pentateuch, according to which the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, Genesis 8:21. But while man brings with him the germ of corruption into the world, the Psalmists are very far from acquitting him of guilt respecting it, and of ascribing it to God—which they could not have done without directly contradicting the doctrine they so clearly unfold of God’s holiness and purity. Without investigating how man comes to participate in inherited corruption, they abide merely by the fact of his consciousness, which makes man responsible for his whole sin as guilt. All suffering, even the most severe, appears as deserved punishment for sin, comp. for ex. Psalms 40:12, Psalms 38:4.
The universality and depth of human corruption is painted in lively colours in Psalms 14:1-3. The poison of this has so thoroughly penetrated human nature, that we are even unconsciously led to commit violations of the divine law. The holy singers pray to God that he would pardon even their hidden faults, Psalms 19:13; and the righteous also stand in need of preservation from great and presumptuous sins, Psalms 19:14. Before God no one is righteous; all need his pardoning mercy, Psalms 143:2; Psalms 130:3. Peculiarly important also are Psalms 32 and Psalms 51, as testimonies to the deep sense of sin, in which David outshone all others.
The most profound source of this characteristic of the Psalms, as of the Old Testament generally, lay in the apprehension of the holiness of God, by the contemplation of which, through the contrast it presented to man himself, he became alive to his own unrighteousness—comp. Isaiah 6. In the heathen world, as in the natural conscience generally, there was an utter want of this apprehension of the divine holiness. Their gods were even not free from moral necessity, from the chains of sin and evil. “Heathenism forms a god after man’s image, and though we find there the divine personality, and that also regarded as standing high above the human, yet in point of fact it still appears compassed about with all sorts of limitation and defects.” (Nägelsbach s. 11.) The difference was further increased by the existence in Israel of a revealed, stern, and unbending law standing over against the sinner while the natural law becomes altered to the worse by the inclination. Then the consciousness of sin had from the very earliest existence of the people struck its roots deep among them through the fearful threatenings of law and the actual judgments of God. Finally, it is still farther to be taken into account that, by virtue of the Mosaic law, God was placed in the centre of all relations, so that every sin against one’s neighbour became also an offence against him. This manner of considering sin must have put an end to all levity—comp. on Psalms 51:5.
Sin is not kept merely in the territory of the deeds, but also brought into that of the words and thoughts—comp. on Psalms 24:4, Psalms 73:1, Psalms 73:13, Psalms 125:4, Psalms 101:5, etc. God proves the heart, Psalms 17:3. David particularly shows himself to have been deeply penetrated by the conviction that, above all, the heart, with its inclinations, must be brought into conformity with the law of God. The conviction that nothing could be done by mere human strength in keeping the commandments of God—that God alone could here effect the willing and the doing, as is declared, for example, in Psalms 119, can belong only to one who apprehends the necessity of the inmost disposition being in harmony with the law. Where this is not the case, the thought will readily spring up, that one can manage without God. Pelagianism always goes hand in hand with a disposition to look at sin in an external point of view.
It has been sought to rob the Psalms of the glorious characteristic now described, or at least to lessen it, by a double accusation. First, it has been alleged that the representation given of sin is often of a grossly external nature—that in a multitude of Psalms the righteous are the Jews as such, sinners the heathen, and especially the Chaldeans, as such. To justify this allegation, a number of Psalms, containing personal lamentations, have been turned, with a discarding of the superscriptions, into national laments, under the remonstrance even of some who, as to the main point, hold the same ground. So says Gesenius, in his preface to Gramberg’s History of the Religious Ideas of the Old Testament: “that he had abandoned that mode of criticism in regard to the book of Psalms, which transferred the greater part of the poems, especially the plaintive Psalms, if not to the period of the exile, at least to the times of the kings, and ascribed them to the prophets and pious men persecuted by the heathen.” By restoring, however, the superscriptions and the internal grounds to their proper place, every suspicion of that coarse external view of sin vanishes at once, in regard to a great number of the Psalms. It becomes manifest that the relation which forms the ground-work of them is a purely moral one—that of the righteous to the unrighteous, of the god-fearing to the godless. There certainly, however, remain Psalms in which the Israelites are represented as the righteous, the heathen as the wicked, of which examples are to be found also in the prophets—for ex. Habakkuk 1:13, comp. Delitzsch there. But it is soon perceived that this contrast does not proceed, as in the later and carnally-minded period, upon the national relation. It is entirely of the same kind as in the Psalms which refer to domestic relations, so that the determination whether the one or the other has place, is often difficult, often, indeed, absolutely impossible, as the Psalms must refer, according to the intention of the authors, to both relations, Such especially is the case with the whole cycle of the Psalms of David, which refer to the afflictions of the righteous, and have in view at once the relations of the individual and those of the entire people. It is not Israel as to skin and bone, but the invisible community in the visible, which is placed in contrast with the ungodly heathen world—comp. on Psalms 9, and the author’s work on Balaam, at Numbers 23:10, where Israel has the appellation given to it of “the upright.” In Psalms 73:1, Israel is more definitely characterised as, “the pure in heart.” Coarse externality is rather to be thrown as a reproach upon him, who, incapable of raising himself to the contemplation of the essential being, judges a society merely from its appearance. But how can we think of finding here any such coarse externality among the noblest spirits of a people, in whose first beginnings even the law had made itself felt in all its pungency, and among whom the most fearful threatenings were hurled against the heads of such as turned aside into iniquity. In the Psalms of David it is a fundamental principle, that before God the heart only is accounted of, and that sincere and internal piety is the indispensable condition of salvation—comp. on Psalms 15, Psalms 24. A pointed distinction in Israel itself, the restriction of salvation to the righteous, the excommunication of the wicked, meets us very frequently in the Psalms—comp., for example, Psalms 1, Psalms 78, Psalms 95, Psalms 99, Psalms 125.
The second accusation is the following: The consciousness of sin expressed in the psalms does not arise from sin itself; it is awakened only by misfortune; forgiveness of sin also is sought not on right grounds, but only in respect to freedom from misfortune, which was regarded as a punishment of sin, from the prevailing error as to visible recompenses. But they who object thus do not consider, that in speaking of men being brought through suffering to the knowledge of sin, it is only meant that this must be employed agreeably to its design—that the human heart is so hard, that vast multitudes are not brought even through this means to repentance, and that God can bring none of his own without it to a deep and well-grounded conviction of sin, which is the indispensable condition of a living appropriation of the freely offered salvation. For it is also said in the New Testament, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God;” “blessed are those that suffer now,” and “whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth.” It is to be considered farther, that the New Testament likewise places sin and suffering in the closest connection, that according to it also the discourse cannot be of a merely external misfortune, that the misfortune rather always bears respect, not it may be, to any particular sin, but still to the sinfulness, and consequently is always a punishment, and therefore a call to repentance. Among many passages to the point, let only John 5:14, and Luke 5:20 be examined. In the former passage disease is threatened by the Lord as a punishment for sin; in the latter it is taken away as a punishment. Then Luke 13:1, ss., where the Lord in a general way confirms most pointedly the Old Testament doctrine of recompense, which also lies at the bottom of all the threatenings of judgment against Jerusalem. But the recompense under the Old Testament comes out still more visibly, the impression produces more direcly and immediately the counter impression. For the recompense under it must be of force for all ages. The matter, however, is often very incorrectly represented, as if the Psalmist had to do merely with deliverance from the burden of tribulation—as if the forgiveness of sins was for them only a means to an end. The sting of tribulation was rather the matter-of-fact testimony it contained against sin; the refreshing character of deliverance lay especially in this, that it was considered as an actual justification, an evidence of the return of God’s favour. To have a gracious God was for them the highest good.
But that affliction was not the exclusive occasion of a sense of sin in their souls, that this sometimes arose with great power without any thing at all of the other, is shown in the most striking manner by the two Psalms, Psalms 32 and Psalms 51, composed after David’s adultery; with which also the historical circumstances mentioned in 1 Samuel 25:32, 1 Samuel 24:6, 2 Samuel 24:10, are to be compared. Far, therefore, from raising such accusations, we should rather be moved to shame by the depth of those convictions of sin which were experienced by the Psalmists, who were led by what a superficial world calls “the accidental sufferings and afflictions of life,” to earnest strivings after repentance, and humble prayer for pardon.
Still, it must not be overlooked, on the other hand, that the allegation, which is to be quite rejected in the form it is usually presented in, has a measure of truth lying at its foundation. The pressure of sin by itself but rarely meets us in the Psalms; the utterance, “I will turn from my iniquities to the Lord,” was very seldom spoken from the inward man alone under the Old Covenant. The prophets, too, make use especially of threatenings of judgment to awaken it. If we compare the penitent and confessional songs in Christian hymn books with the Psalms, we shall at once be sensible of the difference. The Old Testament wanted the most effectual means for producing the knowledge of sin, the contemplation of the sufferings of Christ. In the view of this the Christian poet exclaims, “O children of men, it is your sins alone that have brought about this, since you had quite destroyed yourselves by iniquity;’’ and to the question, “Who has so pierced thee?” replies, “I and my sins.” The New Covenant, besides, possesses a more powerful agency of the Spirit, which does not search more into the depths of God, than it lays open the depths of sin. Hence in Christian songs the sense of sin, as it is more independent of outward occasions than formerly, so it is also more openly disclosed, and more delicate in itself, its ground is felt to lie deeper, and also the particular manifestations. It was good that under the Old Covenant the cords of sinful conviction were not strung too tightly, as the full consolation was still not to be found. The gulph closed up again when the sufferings were gone. But the one-sidedness in question is not to be considered as a disadvantage in the Psalms. They have the destination for all ages of the church of bringing this side clearly out, which is of special importance for those who are only beginning the Christian life, and is also peculiarly valuable for the present time, when the edifying and even consolatory view of affliction which arises from regarding it as the punishment of sin, has been very much lost sight of. For the other points of view provision is made in another way.
The Psalms are full of strong representations of the punishment of sin, of the judgments of God upon the wicked. David especially, to whom for a long series of years the punitive righteousness of God served as a shield against despair, uses in this respect very strong language— see for ex. Psalms 7, Psalms 52, Psalms 109. The punishments, however, which are threatened to the wicked, are only temporal, not eternal, as could not indeed be otherwise from what we shall have occasion to remark, upon the doctrine of immortality in the Psalms, that is, so far as respect is had to the views which were distinctly entertained by the Psalmists themselves. Considered in regard to the matter itself, these threatenings certainly run beyond this earthly life. For the divine righteousness, from which the temporal punishment of sinners proceeds, is an eternal one, and consequently must manifest itself through all eternity, so long as its object, the sinner, exists. Every earthly judgment of God is a prophecy in fact of that which is extra-earthly; every threatening of the one passes also as to its substance into the other; so that in regard to the subject matter, it is the punitive righteousness of God alone that is to be thought of. The eternal recompense presently goes along with the temporal whenever the personal and self-conscious continuance of the sinner comes into view. But the Psalms had the mission of preparing the ground for the living apprehension of eternal recompenses, by planting the conviction of the temporal recompense deep in the souls of men—see the section on the doctrine of recompense in my Beitr. Th. iii. How energetically the apprehension of the divine righteousness as exercised in time works in the Psalms, not suffering itself to be moved by the greatest difficulties, and after a severe struggle still always at last rising into victory, is exhibited in a very vivid manner, among other places, in Psalms 73. As in the law, so also in the Psalms, the outward consequences of sin come out much more strongly than the inward, though these latter were manifestly very far from being unknown under the Old Covenant. We have only to think of the evil spirit from the Lord, which terrified Saul, and, apart altogether from his outward troubles, and before they began to fall upon him, rendered existence a source of misery to him. This stronger exhibition of the external consequences of sin may partly be explained from this, that the Psalms commonly have respect, not to individual sinners alone, but with whole communities of such; as, indeed, the internal consequences of sin and of righteousness could not be so prominently exhibited under the law, because its promises and threatenings for the most part have a national bearing. And it is also to be taken into account, that the external consequences are more appropriate for the vivid pictures, in which poetry delights. Yet the ground also lies deeper.
But the Psalms not only threaten hardened sinners with the divine judgments, they also show to penitents the way by which they may attain first to justification before God, and then to righteousness of life. This is avowedly done in Psalms 32, comp. Psalms 32:8, “I will instruct thee and teach thee the way that thou shalt chose.” In this Psalm and Psalms 51 the method of salvation under the Old Testament is contained in its most complete and concentrated form. The atoning divine compassion forms the objective ground of justification. This was imaged in the symbolism of the Mosaic law by the Capporeth. “The commentary on its name, the invisible inscription which it bore, were the words in which God himself, in Exodus 34:6, declared his essential character in relation to Israel: Jehovah, Jehovah, God gracious and merciful, longsuffering, and of great goodness and faithfulness, keeping favour for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and not annihilate will he,” Beitr. Th. iii. p. 642—words which in a great variety of ways, frequently as in a sort of new republication of the law, are re-echoed in the Psalms, compare on Psalms 103:8, Psalms 145:8. How deep in the Psalmists was the feeling of the divine compassion, striking its roots down into the under round of felt sinfulness and nothingness, is most vividly pourtrayed in Psalms 103—which, so long as the church of God exists upon earth, will never depart out of her mouth, and in which she will continually celebrate the divine compassion, as she has already done through centuries past. As the indispensable, subjective condition of justification al pears the thorough conviction and the free confession of sin
Compare Psalms 51:4, and also Psalms 32, which is wholly occupied with setting forth the high importance of confession of sin. Upon confession, and prayer which is naturally connected with it (comp. Psalms 51:8-10), follows the forgiveness of sin, a judicial act of God which he freely and righteously exercises in behalf of those who have fulfilled the subjective condition, and which manifests itself in the joyfulness that now succeeds to the deep prostration and consuming remorse of sin. This forgiveness is represented as the greatest of all boons, as the foundation of all salvation. “Blessed is the man (exclaims David in Psalms 32:1, who of all the Psalmists celebrates in the loudest and most joyfu1 strains the forgiveness of sins, as in him also are found the strongest passages upon sin) whose iniquity is taken away, whose sin is covered, to whom the Lord imputes not guilt.” “Praise the Lord, my soul (he says in Psalms 103:3), who has forgiven all thine iniquity, who heals all thine infirmities.” Comp. farther Psalms 130:4.
If we now inquire concerning the relation in which the doctrine of the Psalms here stands to the Christian doctrine upon the same subject, we soon perceive that the two essentially agree. According to the Christian doctrine, also, every thing in the way of merit is excluded; according to it, too the objective ground of justification is represented as standing in the divine compassion, while the subjective condition is the conviction of sin and the prayer of faith for its forgiveness. Along with this substantial agreement, however, there appears a twofold difference 1. In the Christian doctrine of justification the merit and satisfaction of Christ appears as the means of atonement provided by the divine compassion, as that through which it becomes possible for the divine righteousness to manifest itself in the forgiveness of sin. In the Psalms, on the other hand no evidence appears that the writers had obtained an insight into the sacrifice of Christ. In them, indeed, the doctrine of a suffering Messias is contained directly, if the Psalms referring to it, in particular Psalms 22, is taken in the strictest Messianic sense, or indirectly, if it is referred to the suffering righteous man. But we do not find that this doctrine is brought into connection with the doctrine of justification, that the suffering of the Messias was contemplated as vicarious and propitiatory. We are not, however, to infer from the non-appearance of this connection its entire non-existence, as the Psalms are by no means like doctrinal treatises, and there is found in other passages of the O. T., especially in Isaiah 53, an insight into this connection. Yet so much is certainly to be concluded from it, that the connection was kept in the back-ground—that the doctrine of justification through the future work of Christ had not taken hold generally of the conscience of believers—and that the forgiveness of sin, as a matter of common experience, was appropriated only per fidem implicitam. But this being the case, the lively faith with which the Psalmists lay hold of the forgiveness of sin, and the great joy with which it filled them, should awaken profound shame in us. For to them, who still had not Christ set before their eyes, it must have been immensely more difficult than to us to answer with confidence whether God’s grace is greater than man’s sins.
2. The second difference is of far less importance. With the ceasing of the ceremonial law in general sacrifices also ceased, the sin-offering and the thank-offering, which the faithful of the O. T. were required to present, as an outward expression of the internal conditions of justification, and the former, indeed, after even the smaller offences; comp. on Psalms 51:12. That this difference respects merely the form is evident from the doctrine of sacrifices, which pervades the Psalms. The true sacrifices are the internal; such as are merely external are not wellpleasing to God, Psalms 40:6, Psalms 50, Psalms 51:17, Psalms 141:2. It was only the sacrifices which were inspirited by the soul of the worshippers that were declared to be in proper harmony with the law, comp. Ps. 51:20, Psalms 20:4, Psalms 66:13-15. Now, considering sacrifices as only of a representative nature,— that the essential thing in them was the feeling represented by them of surrender to God (the burnt-offering), of repentance (the sin-offering), of thankfulness (the peace-offering), it is evident that the essence of the worship was not affected by the abolition of these. The substance remained, only its embodiment through an external form has ceased.
We pass now from the doctrine of justification to that of sanctification. Only the justified can do good works, and he must, do good works—both already taught in the symbolism of the law; comp. Beitr. p. 650. The Psalms are entirely pervaded by the doctrine, that God bestows nothing, not in particular the precious gifts, which justification brings, without being sought after; hence, vows stand in very close connection with prayers, and everywhere the sacred bards express themselves deeply grateful for the grace of God; comp. Psalms 51, the first part of Psalms 40, Psalms 66, Psalms 57. That they could do their part by the mere outward sacrifices, that they could feed God, could never be imagined by them with the insight they possessed into the nature of sacrifice. But their gratitude had also to show itself, along with the heartfelt and joyful confession of the mouth, in the maintaining of a new walk in righteousness. In respect, however, to this holiness of life, as little can be accomplished by one’s own powers as in the matter of justification. Here, too, must every thing proceed from God, who, through his Spirit, forms a new life in us. David, in particular, was deeply penetrated by this feeling. In Psalms 51:12, he expressly names the Holy Spirit as the principle of the divine life, and prays God not to take this Spirit from him on account of his sins. He does not make promise to God, that he would again, by his own good deeds, retrieve his misconduct, but entreats that God would give him a pure heart, and renew a right spirit within him, Psalms 51:11, so that he might serve God with a joyful spirit, Psalms 51:13. So also, in Psalms 143:10, he prays, that God would teach him to act so as to please him, and that his good Spirit might lead him by a plain path. According to Psalms 19:13 of Psalms 19, a Psalm of David, God alone can preserve even believers from heinous sin, because of the deep corruption dwelling in their natures, and he would himself inevitably fall into these, unless God’s grace continually upheld him. Among the other Psalms, the Psalms 119 th is most thoroughly pervaded by the conviction, that in the keeping of God’s commandments nothing can be accomplished by human power, that here God alone can give the will and the performance. Even the earliest of all the Psalms, the (Psalms 90) 90th, has the prayer: that the Lord would teach us to number our days, so that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. This conviction, that good thoughts and good works can have their source only in God, has its deepest ground in the insight of the Psalmists into the sinful corruption of haman nature. Whoever understands this as it really exists—and that the Psalmists did so we have already shown—he cannot possibly surrender himself to the delusions of Pelagianism.
It is clear, even from this detail, what is to be thought of the allegation of self-righteousness, of irreligious pride, which in recent times has been raised against some of the Psalms—viz., that in the main it is entirely groundless. For it is impossible that there could have been so sheer a contradiction, and the less so, as the Psalms complained of are chiefly such as belong to David. In regard to these Psalms, such, namely, as ground the hope of salvation upon personal righteousness, or derive from this the salvation already received, without expressly bringing into notice its great imperfection, and without stating that we have nothing that we have not received, the remarks already made on Psalms 17:1, Psalms 18:20 ss., Psalms 44:17-22, may be consulted. We make here only a few additional remarks, by way of supplementing what was advanced there, and in order not to overlook the minimum of truth, which lies at the bottom of the allegation. Though the righteousness spoken of in the Psalms referred to is only one of endeavour, yet the strong emphasis laid on it will scarcely accord with our feelings. We naturally expect, that, at all events, the other side also—as, indeed, is very strikingly done in Psalms 143:2—the human weakness still cleaving to the righteous would have been brought distinctly out; and since, on account of this only, the humble suppliant, who seeks the divine forgiveness, becomes capable of salvation, we would also have expected that everywhere the eye should have been humbly directed to the heavenly author of the good experienced. As expressive of our subjective disposition, we shall not be able to appropriate to ourselves so thoroughly such portions of the Psalms; we shall scarcely be able, when we try to do so, to read them without stopping. But they will be the more edifying to us, and will so much the more carry with them the concurrence of our whole heart, if we regard them as an admonition, as they were certainly designed by the Psalmist. The point brought out so prominently in them certainly has eternal truth in it, and should be perpetually maintained in the church of God. They seek to impress upon us the truth, that those only can comfort themselves with the expectation of Divine aid, who glorify God in their walk; they meet the delusion, that the children of God and the children of this world are separated from each other merely by idle feelings and vain imaginations; and work against one of the most formidable enemies of salvation—hypocrisy. They are of great importance, especially for the present age, with its tendency towards Antinomianism, and a lazy sentimental Christianity.
In such Psalms as Psalms 1, Psalms 15, Psalms 24, the call to righteousness is pressed upon the people of God with unbending strictness, without any indication whence the power to comply with the call is to be derived, and how necessary for men, in respect to it, is the pardoning mercy of God; and there the Christian must be conscious of missing somewhat, without overlooking the deep import of that portion of the truth which is alone displayed.
It is not as if the Psalmist had not recognised such portions of divine truth as are not expressly declared, but for us it is natural to bring them always distinctly into view, at every opportunity to represent strongly the contrast between nature and grace. We find occasion here for the often-repeated remark of Amyrald.: Traxit aliquid ex legali aeconomia. The difference between the Old and the New Testament is everywhere very fine and delicate, and whoever misapprehends this, whoever in place of a difference puts a contrast, will be farther from the right than he who overlooks the difference altogether. The general canon here is this: only such a difference can be a well-grounded one, as does not compromise the dignity of the Old Testament as a part of the revelation of God.
According to the commonly-received opinion, the law must have been known to all the members of the Old Covenant only as a constraining letter; they must have submitted to it with dislike, in slavish fear of its punishment and, selfish expectation of its reward. But this view holds good only in regard to the great multitude, the rough mass. “Thy law,’’ says David in Psalms 40:9, “is within my heart”—comp. the remarks on this passage, land on Psalms 37:31. In Psalms 1:2, he pronounces the man blessed, whose desire is in the law of the Lord—comp. Psalms 112:1. According to Psalms 19:8 ss the law of the Lord quickens the soul, the commandments of the Lord rejoice the heart, they are more precious than gold, and much fine gold, and sweeter than honey and the honey comb. In like manner another Psalmist in Psalms 119 exclaims, “How do I love thy law! how agreeable to my taste are thy words! more than honey to my mouth,” comp. Psalms 119:97, Psalms 119:111, Psalms 119:127, Psalms 119:165.
The life of the holy singers was governed, not by slavish fear, but by love—not by a law after the letter, but by a law of liberty. Especially are the Psalms of David full of expressions of the most cordial, childlike love to God, of the most heartfelt confidence rooting itself in love, of a personal surrender growing out of this, of delight in God and his service; and so long as the church of God exists upon earth, she will be found warming herself this fire of love to God, comp. for example, Psalms 18:1, Psalms 16, Psalms 23, Psalms 26, Psalms 62, Psalms 63, Psalms 71, Psalms 103, Psalms 145; and among other Psalms than those of David, Psalms 42, Psalms 43, Psalms 73, Psalms 74, Psalms 91, Psalms 94, Psalms 95, Psalms 118, Psalms 121. Nowhere, not even in Psalms 119, Psalms 120, is there to be found a trace of slavish fear, which arises from a sense of internal separation from God. It is certainly not to be forgotten, however, that the Psalms are the productions of sacred hours of devotion, in which a higher spirit than their own fell upon the Psalmists, and they rose above their ordinary condition, In this last the spirit of sonship undoubtedly had often. to maintain a hard struggle with the spirit of bondage, as is very graphically depicted to us in Psalms 32 itself, which exhibits something of the conflict now referred to.
The tone of higher joyfulness which more especially pervades the Davidic Psalms—the exclamation, “I will sing and play to thee,” did not spring from the ground of slavish fear, which always carries itself with a sunk head and a rueful look, but from the ground of genuine love. This divine love of the Psalmists should tend the more to shame and edify us, as they had not before their eyes such a distinguished proof as we have of the love of God to his people—their love could still not kindle itself at this flame.
An accusation has been brought against the moral spirit of the Psalms in regard to the revenge which breathes in some of them. The writers very often pray to God for revenge upon their enemies, or speak of the joy which they and their companions experience upon the revenge executed by God—sometimes they even appear to express themselves the purpose of revenge.
But the latter part of the charge has already been answered on Psalms 41:11, by the distinction there pointed out between recompense from a spirit of revenge, which the distempered individual merely as such desires and inflicts, and recompense in the service of God, in defence of the blessings and privileges conferred upon us by him. It is recompense or retaliation only in the first sense, that is prohibited in Matthew 5:39-40. But the same distinction avails also in respect to the wish for recompense, and joy at its infliction. It is here also to be inquired whether the recompense sought and delighted in, was one of mere personal revenge, of irritated sensibility, or for the sake of the divine law, the reality of which must become doubtful when such recompense is allowed to fall into abeyance—with a reference to the nature of God, on which this law is founded, and which manifests itself by way of reaction against its violation—for the sake of the fear of God, which must die, if the praise of this and the punishment of evil should cease—from zeal for the house of God and the good of his kingdom. Desires of the latter kind could manifestly be cherished only by those who have the most sincere compassion for the trouble and distress that must alight upon the sinful. There are circumstances in which it is right and dutiful in the sense now mentioned, even to pay recompense; others in which one must confine oneself to the desire for it—as David’s, for example, in relation to Saul; comp. 1 Samuel 24:13, “The Lord will judge between me and thee, and the Lord will avenge me of thee, and my hand will I not lay upon thee.”
Now, that in the Psalms the prayer for divine recompense and joy on account of it, flows not from the first, but from the last source—that the facts respecting it must not be explained on the supposition, that the spirit of love and of placability on the part of the godly under the Old Testament, had not become so prevalent and powerful as it is now in the New Testament, is clear from the emphatic declarations of the law of God against revenge, upon which the holy singers meditated day and night, comp. Leviticus 19:18, Exodus 23:4-5. The opposition to revenge is so little peculiar to the New Testament, that we might rather say the strongest and most numerous passages against it are to be found in the Old, and Paul in Romans 12:19-20, finds that he cannot more strongly warn against it than in words borrowed from thence. Let the following passages only be examined, Proverbs 25:21, Proverbs 20:22, Proverbs 24:17-18, Proverbs 24:20. Job declares in ch. 31, that he was ready to take the curse of God upon himself, if he had rejoiced at the destruction of his hater, or exulted when misfortune befell him. He brings in revenge, and delight in evil, in the list of the most heinous crimes. In the apocryphal wisdom also of Jesus, the son of Sirach, the command to love one’s enemies holds a chief place, comp. Sir_28:1-11 . We might urge too in behalf of David, in whose Psalms the strongest of the passages in question are found, that in the most decided manner he pronounced his abhorrence and disavowal of revenge. In Psalms 7:4-5, he invokes the divine vengeance on his head, if he gave way to a spirit of revenge, nay, what is still more, David proved, even in the most trying period of his life, by actual deeds, how much he shuddered at the thought of revenge, comp. 1 Samuel 24:5, 2 Samuel 16:10. A memorial of his noble spirit, as abhorring anything like revenge, exists to this day in his lamentation upon Saul’s death in 2 Samuel 1. He, who could speak so of a fallen enemy, an enemy that had for years sought his life, and inflicted wounds in his soul, which were never properly healed again, could certainly not regard himself as having the privilege of revenge, and could least of all express this in songs which he sung before God, and destined for use in the sanctuary.
But we shall arrive still more determinately at the same result, we take into account the motives which prompted the sacred bards in their prayers for revenge, or the consequences which they expected to arise from such prayers being answered. They wished and hoped that the stumbling-block which the prosperity of the wicked occasions to faith and the encouragement which it gives to wickedness, would be taken away—comp. Psalms 10:12; that God would vindicate his endangered honour, Psalms 79:10; that he would manifest his greatness and his righteousness, and thereby awaken the apprehension of these in the minds of believers, and call the world at large to repentance,—comp. Psalms 35:27, Psalms 40:1, Psalms 58:11, Psalms 64:8-10, Ps 142:8. That by the overthrow of the bitter enemies of his church, he sought to have the church delivered from destruction, and along therewith the only party qualified to honour him, and all the spiritual goods he had committed to her, see Psalms 79:6, “Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that know thee not,” &c; where, according to the connection, by the heathen are to be understood the people who had raged against Israel, and whose destruction was the condition of Israel’s salvation—not the heathen world generally, for which the Psalmists bore a tender love, and whose reception one day into the kingdom and blessing of God they wistfully anticipated.
Now the question, whether the distinction we have drawn between personal vindictiveness and thirst for revenge, and recompense in the cause of God, and the affirmation that here the discourse can be only of the latter, is sufficient to justify the Psalmists, coincides with this other question, whether God’s righteousness, as it is taught in the Old Testament, was a plain reality, or was merely a rough O. T. representation supplanted by the New. The close connection of the two questions is admitted also by those who bring the accusation against the Psalms. Thus Bauer, in his Moral des A. T. Th. i, s. 295, says “How could David think otherwise, than that he had a perfect right to curse his enemies, when he had before him, according to his conviction, the example of God?” If God be such as he is represented in the Old Testament, then it was entirely proper for believers to wish that he should shew himself to be as he is, if they did this only in the right sense, not in their own, but in his interest.
There can be no doubt, however, that the idea of the divine compassion is essentially the same in both Testaments. The God of the New is also “a consuming fire,” Hebrews 12:29; “it is dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God,” Hebrews 10:31; to those who fall away after having received the knowledge of the truth, there is, according to Hebrews 10:27, “a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, to consume the adversaries.” The divine righteousness has lost so little of its vigour under the New Covenant, that he who despises the far richer means of grace offered under it, becomes the heir of a much sorer punishment than he who perished under the old, Hebrews 12:25. The heart which hardens itself against God’s grace, and remains impenitent, heaps to itself wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Romans 2:5. In Matthew 25:41, the Saviour represents himself as speaking to those on his left hand the awful word, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels;” and both Jerusalem and the world at large were also threatened by him with frightful judgments. In Matthew 7:1-2, he declared the law of recompense, which lies as the foundation of the so-called vindictive Psalms. The death, too, of Ananias and Sapphira was a matter-of-fact testimony to the continued energy of the divine righteousness under the New Testament. And whoever has any doubt respecting it, let him read Josephus on the Jewish war.
But there are found in the New Testament threatenings of the divine judgment in the form of a wish, which are quite analagous to the Psalms question. Of this kind is the woe upon Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernanm, Matthew 11:20, ss.; the manifold woes against the Pharisees, Matthew 23; the word of Peter to Simon the sorcerer, “thy money perish with thee, in Acts 8:20; Paul’s declaration in 2 Timothy 4:14, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil; the Lord reward him according to his works;” and his exclamation to the high priest in Acts 23:3, “God will smite thee, thou whited wall.” The souls of the martyrs cry under the altar for revenge.
Tholuck throws out the question, whether the Psalmists never and in no case mingled with what was in itself holy fire, the unholy fire of personal irritation. But there is furnished to this question a decided negative in the position, which our Lord and his apostles assign to the Psalms generally, by whom they are regarded as a portion of the word of God, and in particular to the so-called vindictive Psalms. It is precisely the most severe of these which are applied to Christ, and considered as spoken by him, and are therefore pronounced worthy of him,—see on Psalms 69, Psalms 109. Then, it is carefully to be considered, that here we cannot think of a momentary outburst of passion, that the fault, if anything of that sort exists at all, must necessarily lie in the fundamental principles. For in the Psalms we have before us not the aimless and inconsiderate expression of subjective feelings, but they were from the first destined for use in the sanctuary; and the sacred authors come forth under the full consciousness of being interpreters of the spiritual feelings of the community, organs of God for the ennobling of their feelings. They give back what, in the holiest and purest hours of their life, had been given to them. That David, like every child of Adam, was not free from impulses of revenge, which, from the liveliness of his feelings, must have been the readier to come upon him, is evident from what is recorded in 1 Samuel 25. But there was only needed a gentle stirring of his conscience, so that he might speak as he did to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me. And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou that I have not come against blood, and avenged myself with mine own hand.” And what Abigail effected, must not the presence of the holy One, before whom he stood when he indited his Psalms?—must not the thought of the community, which he would otherwise not have edified, but scandalized, have still more effected? The “passionate impress” which Tholuck would find in particular expressions, falls away as soon as it is Considered that we have poetry before us. This also is not to be overlooked, that fervent zeal for God’s glory is very apt, at those times when we do not ourselves participate in it, when we cannot sympathise with the sentiment, “The zeal of thine house consumes me,” to assume, in our view the appearance of passion. We should then rather make an attack upon our own breast, and complain of our lukewarmess and indifference.
The deepest ground of the offence, which has been so extensively spread in our day, against these Psalms, is undoubtedly this, that the curses of the Psalmists are regarded by the egotists as if they had proceeded from their own hearts.
Now it might seem, as if simply to recommend the conduct of the holy singers towards their enemies, were the proper way also to justify it. But this is not precisely the case. We must here keep in view the essential difference between the Old and the New Covenants. The righteousness of God is in both the same; but under the New the divine mercy comes more prominently out, while in the Old it retires more into the back-ground, as regards the disobedient (it is otherwise in respect to the faithful.) According to the procedure of God in this respect, according to his diverse position towards the world, as it has been influenced by the nature of the two economies, the procedure of his believing people must also shape itself. This is very strikingly brought out in the passage, Luke 9:5, ss. When the disciples would have had the Lord to call down fire from heaven upon a village of the Samaritans, appealing to the example of Elias, he answered, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of Man has come not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. ‘‘Olshausen remarks, erroneously: “The whole form of the expression bears an Old Testament impress; they spake from the standing point of the jus talionis.” The O. T. impress rather lies in this, that they should so readily have thought of punishment, whereas the thought of conversion and grace, for which the New Covenant had quite other means at command than belonged to the Old, should have come into the foreground: the Redeemer was to come first. That John himself understood thus the declaration of Christ, appears from the frightful threatenings of divine judgment in the Apocalypse, in which we again recognize the same disciple, who once besought that fire might come down from heaven. That the righteousness of God under the New Covenant has lost nothing of its severity, that it has only changed its position (the Revelation of John presupposes his gospel and his epistles) is clear, for example, from Revelation 6:16-17, “And they said to the mountains and rocks, fall on us and cover us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” The words of Christ, in which he pointed out to the disciples how, what was right in Elias, would not be right in them, are also spoken to us, in so far as we might be disposed to apply without consideration the Psalms in question to our enemies, and the enemies of God’s cause; even though we should do this, not from personal irritation, but in honest zeal for God’s glory, as was the case also with the disciples. Just as Christ did not at first come to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved, so also with the Christian, when he sees enmity against God’s word, his kingdom or his servants, the first movement of his soul should be to pray to God that he would soften these heard hearts and open these blind eyes—a movement to which the Psalmists also were not strangers, comp. in Psalms 7:12, “If he turn not,” and David’s mild address to the enemies in Psalms 4, though it is of rare occurrence in them. That cases might also certainly happen under the New Covenant, in which such confirmed hardness is manifested as drives the mind from thinking of the divine mercy, to think of the divine righteousness, is evident from the passages already quoted.
But this difference between the Old and the New Covenants by no means renders the vindictive Psalms superfluous for us. Viewed in regard to their essential matter, they are just as important for us as for the members of the Old Covenant; as we see also in Luther, Calvin, and others, who, so far from finding them barely tolerable, and with some difficulty vindicated, constantly derived from them a rich source of comfort and support. For us too, who are so much in danger of being infected by the lax views of sin and holiness, which have arisen from the corruption of the times, they are of special importance; and the more so, indeed, the stronger the current of our natural will runs against them. For this counter-will has its deepest ground in this, that we do not consider the sins without us as rebellion against God, as an offence against his majesty, because we do not so regard the sins in ourselves. The example of the holy Psalmists is also so far given us for our imitation, as it teaches us not to single out mercy from among the attributes of God, and hold it alone up to view, which cannot be so isolated without losing its essential nature; for the same living conviction of the recompensing righteousness of God, the same hatred against sin, against that primarily, and above all, which dwells in ourselves, is what must inspire us with like zeal for the glory of God, like fervent love for the prosperity and success of God’s kingdom.
We come now to the doctrine of the divine order and course of salvation in the Psalms. Moses had represented God as standing in a twofold relation—first, in his general relation to the world, as its almighty Creator and Governor, and then in his special relation to Israel as the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as the founder of a kingdom upon earth, as he who had chosen Israel out of all nations for his peculiar property, and had promised them, on condition of their fidelity and devotedness to him, the richest blessings. But there are not wanting even in Moses indications, from which the more discerning might conclude that the second relation, though for the present a rent one, was still only temporary, and intended to serve as a means for accomplishing the higher and more comprehensive design. This might have been inferred even from the doctrine of Moses upon the first general relation; for, if God is equally the Creator of all men, if they all in like manner bear the image of God, it was not to be supposed that he would abandon the greatest portion of them for ever to themselves. The same conclusion likewise was deducible indirectly from the fact, that from the creation down to Abraham the whole human race was the object of God’s direction and government. Such a beginning rendered it clear, that the later limitation could only be employed as means to a future comprehension. But there are not wanting also in the Pentateuch express declarations. Through the posterity of the patriarchs, blessings were destined to come upon all peoples
Israel was separated for the purpose of blessing all mankind; this idea pervades the whole of Genesis; and according to the conclusion of the book, Genesis 49:10, there was one day to arise out of the tribe of Judah a great Restorer and Prince of Peace, to whom all nations would be subject.
Now, if we compare with all this the declarations of the Psalmists upon the same subject, we shall find that they not merely apprehend correctly the instructions given by Moses, but that they also have attained through the enlightenment of the Spirit of God to greater clearness and distinctness of view. The Psalms were not in general designed to unfold new revelations of doctrine, but only to represent the feelings which were called forth by those already given. It is true, however, that a prophetical element also found its way into the Psalmodic poetry—though it is not to be overlooked, that between Moses and the Psalms there still lies an important intermediate link, the great promise in 2 Samuel 7, which exerted a most powerful influence afterwards.
When the Psalmists speak of the present, they celebrate with lively gratitude the pre-eminence which God had given to Israel over all the heathen through his election of them to be his covenant people, through the revelation of his law, the great proofs he had given of his goodness during the past, and his gracious presence still in the sanctuary. “He made known his ways to Moses, to the children of Israel his wonders,” Psalms 103:7. “God is known in Judah, in Israel his name is great; and his tabernacle was at Salem, and his dwelling in Zion,” it is said in a Psalm composed in the age of Hezekiah, Psalms 76:2-3; and in another composed in the time of Nehemiah,” He declared to Jacob his word, to Israel his statutes and judgments; he did not so to the heathen, and his statutes they know not,” Psalms 147:19-20.
But they are so far from suffering themselves to be led by this grateful joy into a narrow and one-sided particularism, that they rather anticipate with longing hope the glorious future, when all the heathen will repent of their apostacy from God, and return to him, when they shall become members of his kingdom. This view is especially dear to David, and of great account with him. It is brought out mainly, though not exclusively, in the Psalms of David.
The hope as to the future reception of the heathen among the people of God, has many grounds and occasions for itself in the Psalms. Sometimes it rises out of the experience then enjoyed of the victorious energy of the Lord, in which faith saw a pledge of the future subjection of the whole might of the world under his sceptre. Thus, in Psalms 68:29-32 of Psalms 68, it springs forth in connection with the victory of David’s most formidable enemies, the Syrians and Ammonites, by the help of the Lord; in Psalms 47 with Jehoshaphat’s victory over various heathen nations; and in Psalms 87 the joyful events under Hezekiah served to develop the germ which continually slumbered among the people of the hope of a converted world. In Psalms 91-100, this hope discovers itself in connection with another, and certainly in some respects opposite point of view. It is brought in here to meet the fainting and doubts of Israel on account of the frightful ascendancy of the worldly power then begun to which Israel was destined for a long time to succumb. The Psalmist looks onward to the future glorious manifestations of the Lord which turn upon this relation. In the Davidic Psalms 67, the confidence that the nations shall still some time be brought to praise the Lord, is grounded upon his good and righteous government, which they primarily apprehend from his procedure toward his people, in particular, from the bestowal upon them of rich blessings, by which they were drawn into close fellowship with him. In Psalms 72, the manifestation of the glory of the Lord in the vindication of suffering righteousness, exercises over all the heathen an attractive influence. In Psalms 102:22, David sees how the peoples gather themselves together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord, attracted and drawn through the salvation which Zion had experienced in the time of her distress. According to Psalms 138:4-5, of Psalms 138, composed by David, the kings of the earth will turn to the Lord, on account of the future elevation of the depressed David. Finally, the culminating point is formed by the Psalms, in which the conversion of the heathen is represented as the work of the Messias, and he himself as the great enlarger of the kingdom of God. To him belong, according to Psalms 2:8, the heathen, from one end of the earth to the other. In Psalms 110, he appears as the conqueror of the heathen world. “He reigns,” according to Psalms 72:8 of Psalms 72, the production of Solomon, “from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth,” and this universal supremacy he is to win, not by dint of arms, but by his righteousness and love, which he should show in behalf of the poor and oppressed. In Psalms 45, the heathen nations are introduced under the image of companions of the bride, with whom, not less than with her, the King is united in love.
That there must, be Messianic Psalms is evident alone from this, that the Lord, after his resurrection, proved to his disciples, that every thing which had happened to him had been announced before-hand, not only in the other books of Scripture, but also specially in the Psalms, Luke 24:44. It also presents itself as a thing that might certainly be expected, when we consider the large place which the revelation of the Messiah has in the law, and especially in the writings of the prophets. It is incredible, that an announcement which was uttered so repeatedly, and so expressly, by the servants of God, which, according to the testimony of history, had made so powerful an impression upon the minds of the people, had sunk so deeply into their views and feelings, should not have been often re-echoed in the Psalms, which contain the people’s answer to the divine revelations, and express the feelings which these served to call forth; in which all is presented to our view that powerfully stirred the minds of the people.
A great part of the Messianic Psalms connect themselves with the formative epoch in the history of the hope concerning the Messiah, and with the promise in 2 Samuel 7, which composed a large section in David’s spiritual life. First, those Psalms come here into consideration, which do not rise above the radical promise in definite intimations; which speak of the grace that God had shown to David’s seed, by assuring them of a dominion destined to survive all that is earthly, without expressly naming the Messiah, and without excluding a reference to the lower and immediate posterity of David. To this class belong among the Psahns of David himself: Psalms 18, where he celebrates the grace which God “shows to David and his seed for evermore,” and connects the thought of the salvation he had already received with that of the future, which was rendered sure to him by the promise in 2 Samuel 7; Psalms 21, where, in the name of the people, he gives thanks for the word of promise; Psalms 61, where, during the period of Absalom’s revolt, he prays for the deliverance of the kingdom of David on the ground of that promise; Psalms 101-103, where, in the name of his seed, he gives utterance to holy purposes, prays in the midst of afflictions, and at length, in a solemn Tedeum, renders thanks for the redemption, of which his faith in the promise made him assured. Finally, the cycle of Psalms 138-145, the prophetical legacy of David, in which, at the beginning, he thanks the Lord for his promise, at the close, rejoices over its accomplishment, and in the middle, warns his seed to beware of what would diminish the blessing of the promise, and consoles them under the afflictions that awaited them.
Among the Psalms of other authors, there belong to this class: Psalms 89, where, in the immediate prospect of the prostration of David’s throne by the Chaldeans, the people entreat the Lord, on the ground of his plighted word of promise, to remove the apparent contradiction between the reality and the word; Psalms 132, where, in times of deep depression, a new reanimation of David’s seed and kingdom was hoped for from the promise given in Samuel.
The second class consists of Psalms, in which the final reference of the original promise is alone brought prominently into view, which are occupied exclusively with the Messias, as the person in whom what was promised of glory to the seed of David must be found to reach its proper end and issue. We have no right to contend against the acknowledgment of such personal Messianic Psalms. The knowledge of the final reference of the promise to the Messias might very readily suggest itself to David even in a human way. The promise of the great Restorer could not be unknown to him, who was to spring out of the stem of Judah, and to whom the obedience of the peoples was to be rendered. The promise granted to him must have stood in opposition to this announcement, if the latter was referred to any individual that did not belong to his seed. It was quite natural to interpret the one by the other—to add to Genesis 49 the stem from 2 Samuel 7, and to 2 Samuel 7 from Genesis 49, the culminating of what was spoken of the stem in a person of great distinction. And why also—since it cannot be denied, that the prophets knew the allusion of the promise in 2 Samuel 7 to the Messias—should this knowledge not be attributed to David, who ascribes to himself prophetical dignity in 2 Samuel 23:1, to whom the same also is ascribed by our Lord in reference to Messianic objects and events in Matthew 22:43, and who says of himself in 2 Samuel 23:2, that the Spirit of the Lord spake through him, and his word was on his tongue. But the actual existence of personal Messianic Psalms is put out of all doubt by the declaration of our Lord in Matthew 22:41 ss., comp. on Psalms 110, and confirmed by the unforced interpretation of Psalms 2, Psalms 110, Psalms 72, Psalms 45, themselves.
The Messianic announcement in these Psalms takes its starting-point from the relations of the present. David must, according to 2 Samuel 7, represent the Messias as his successor upon the throne as king. All, therefore, that in this respect had been granted to him, the victories which he obtained, by God’s help, over the heathen nations, the enlargemerit of the boundaries of his kingdom, the splendour of his reign, must serve to him,—who understood that the gift conferred in the original promise could not be withdrawn, and that it made the boundaries of his empire as wide as those of the world—as a ladder upon which he might rise to the apprehension of a Messias in glory, of a conqueror over the heathen world, of the mighty hero, who would not rest till he had subjected the whole earth to his sceptre, and who would suppress with a powerful hand every attempt at revolt. Thus arose Psalms 2 and Psalms 110. While in these Psalms of David, the relations of his own time formed the groundwork, hence presenting the Messias to our view, as fighting, conquering, spoiling, extending the limits of his kingdom into the infinite, the Messianic representation given in Psalms 72, the composition of Solomon, rises upon the basis of his time. He presents to us the Messias as the true Prince of Peace, only imperfectly imaged by Solomon himself, his kingdom as a righteous administration of peace. The relations of Solomon’s time, also, form the ground of the representation given in Psalms 45, which is very closely connected with Psalms 72.
The bridge between the two classes of Psalms, which rested upon 2 Samuel 7, is formed by the declarations of David in 2 Samuel 23, where he beholds in the spirit a ruler out of his house, ruling in the fear of God, under whose government rises a cloudless sun, and the earth abounds in fruitfulness, while the wickedness that lifts itself up against him is reduced to subjection. The “ruler among men” is primarily an ideal person. This appears, from the corresponding expression in 2 Samuel 23:5, “my house.” But the ideal person points to the real, in whom what was here said of the kingdom of David was one day to find its full realization, and with an eye to this personage has the personification been applied.
Beside the Messianic Psalms which rest upon 2 Samuel 7, there are still to be considered the typical Messianic Psalms. Every truly righteous person is to be regarded as a type of Christ—of him who is the absolutely righteous one. Now, what might meet such a person in so far as he was righteous, what he received, how he conducted himself, this is justly to be viewed as a prophecy respecting Christ, in whom the idea was to be perfectly realized—with the very same right, indeed, with which we inversely apply to ourselves what is written of the manifested Christ, and consider it as a prophecy respecting his members. It lies in the nature of things, that the number of the Messianic Psalms in this sense cannot be very strictly bounded; the most of them contain a Messianic element, especially the plaintive Psalms, yet not exclusively these—as little as the suffering and humbled Christ is the whole Christ. The Messianic reference is found peculiarly strong in those of the typical Psalms, which bear respect, not to a single individual, but to an ideal person, that of the righteous, and represent his life, his sufferings, his feelings, and the divine aid, which was imparted to him. To this class belong a whole series of the Psalms of David, Psalms 6, Psalms 16, Psalms 22, Psalms 35, Psalms 38, Psalms 40, Psalms 41, Psalms 69, Psalms 70, Psalms 102, Psalms 109. These Psalms, which we see most explicitly referred to in the New Testament along with the direct Messianic Psalms to Christ, in particular Psalms 22, Psalms 41, Psalms 69, would stand in a very close relation to the others, even though no trace could be pointed out in them of a conscious reference to Christ on the part of the Psalmist. For, the ideal, which they describe, became in Christ a reality. Every other pious individual could appropriate their contents only in part and relatively—only under a constantly repeated: “Lord have mercy on me,” and “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Christ alone found himself perfectly delineated in them. Since in them righteousness and the deepest sufferings, springing from the enmity of the wicked world, are set forth as inseparably united, and suffering righteousness has salvation joined to it and the execution of judgment upon the enemies, he found in them his course plainly chalked out beforehand. We are conducted, however, still farther, and even to the very borders of the direct reference to the suffering Messias, by the fact, that in some Psalms, which refer to the suffering righteous, David evidently had in view, beside the individual and the people, his own seed also—comp. Psalms 102, and the person, in whom that seed was to culminate—comp. Psalms 109. These Psalms, from which also light falls upon the others, form at the same time the bridge between the Psalms of the suffering righteous, and those which lean upon 2 Samuel 7. For, that in them also such a leaning exists in regard to one side, appears from a comparison of Psalms 138-145. David was himself too much pierced through by his afflictions for this point not to present itself vividly to the eye of his mind and to be expressed in his Psalms, anxiously busied as he so often was, from the time he received the promise in 2 Samuel 7, with thoughts regarding the future state and destiny of his seed.
It has often been sought in regard to a number of these Psalms, in particular Psalms 16, Psalms 22, Psalms 40, Psalms 59, to refer them exclusively to the suffering Messias. But that this cannot be maintained, has been shown in the commentary on the Psalms. The reference to the suffering Messias occurs only as one of the different radii, which proceed from the centre of the righteous—the private individual, the people, the seed of David, the Messias; and is only indicated in a gentle and somewhat hidden manner, even in Psalms 109, where still it is brought out more distinctly than in the rest.
We come now, in conclusion, to the doctrine of immortality, or more correctly of eternal life. The belief of immortality and future recompense was in various ways prepared in the Pentateuch. The single fact is here of great importance, that according to its teaching, death is not the natural and necessary attendant of human existence, but the wages of sin. With this view of death, faith in an eternal life must of necessity break forth as soon as the hope of redemption enters—the hope of having the root restored that was lost in Adam. As death came through sin into the world, so must it again be abolished by redemption, which restores paradise—see Isaiah 11. Farther, man was made, according to Genesis 1:26-27, in God’s image; and in that lies the possibility, not merely of immortality in the general, but of a blessed or a wretched immortality, of eternal life, or condemnation. If we have in the doctrine of the divine likeness the anthropological foundation of the doctrine of immortality, the doctrine taught in the Pentateuch respecting God likewise points on all hands to the same conclusion. Even the absolute spirituality of God, his entire separation from everything earthly, points in that direction. For it delivers the soul from the most dangerous enemy of faith in respect to an eternal life, a necessary connection with what is seen and temporal. The unlimited omnipotence of God assures us of his being able, while the greatness of his love, as that discovers itself especially in his dealings with his people, assures us of his being willing—which was already indicated by our Lord in Matthew 22:31-32. That God should enter into so close and endearing a relation to man, as we find him doing with the patriarchs, would be a contradiction, if man’s life were to be bounded only by the present existence. But the most direct preparation made by the Pentateuch, consists in its constantly and diligently enforcing the doctrine of the temporal recompense—comp. on this subject my Contrib. to Pent. II, 577, ss., and the Introd. to Psalms 37. Experience shows that where this doctrine has struck its root, faith in an eternal recompense of itself springs up, but that where this foundation is wanting, the building of a belief in immortality rests upon the sand, and is liable to be thrown down by the first blast.
But while it is true that the Pentateuch contains the best preparation for a faith in immortality, it is not less true that it did little to call forth directly this faith. A considerable number of passages undoubtedly point to a simple immortality. But only one contains a distinct allusion to it—the narrative of Enoch’s translation; in which it is of special importance to remark that his walk with God is intentionally and expressly placed in a causal connection with his being taken by God. And this one passage also manifestly bears an enigmatical character. It tends still more than the want of any other positive declarations to give the impression, that the original revelation wished to spread a veil of secrecy over this doctrine, the blessed influence of which pre-supposed conditions, which could Inot then be formally brought out.
In the Psalms also there are preparations of various kinds for faith in respect to eternal life. To that, however, on which Œhler (V. T. sententia de rebus post mortem futuris, Stuttg. 1846, p. 72) lays so much stress, we cannot attach any weight. He has endeavoured to find passages in the Psalms, in which the authors raise themselves above the Mosaic doctrine of the inseparable connection between righteousness and a state of outward prosperity, in which they were so elevated by a sense of the favour and fellowship of God, as to regard such an external felicity as far beneath them. No such passages, when the subject is more narrowly considered, are to be found. The pure love of the mystics, and still more the resignation of the philosophers, is quite foreign to the Psalms. The old Mosaic doctrine of the inseparable connection between righteousness and prosperity pervades the Psalms from begining to end; and the sacred bards wrestle and fight to maintain it against all assaults. In Psalms 4:7, Psalms 63:3, the contrast is not between God and prosperity, but of prosperity without. God, and of adversity with God. The latter is better than the former. For, he who is united to God, is sure of what is really good even in the midst of trouble. On the other hand, prosperity without God is uncertain and transitory. How far Psalms 84:10, is removed from the pure love of the mystics, is evident from the connection with Psalms 84:11. The internal connection with God never appears in contrast with or even as a supplement to prosperity, but always as a pledge and security for this—comp. on Psalms 63 where the hope in regard to the future raises itself upon the ground of the internal connection with God. In Psalms 42:8: “The Lord commands his loving-kindness in the day time, and in the night his song is with me,” the Psalmist, indeed, rejoices in the internal consolations which remained with him in the midst of his outward troubles.But with the song the prayer for the return of prosperity is immediately coupled. Then, we can the less suppose such a preparation for faith respecting eternal life to have really existed, as there is found no trace of it whatever in the other scriptures. In the prophets, who first lifted off the veil, the foundation of this faith is not the abolition of the Mosaic doctrine of recompense, but the firm conviction of its reality which in the New Testament also is not opposed, but rather powerfully confirmed.
A real germ, however, of the faith in an immortal existence is con- tained in those passages which express a confident expectation of deliverance from threatening danger, whether in reference to individuals or to the whole community—such as Psalms 48:14, and the passages there quoted. He, who in the one could so confidently expect the other, could and indeed must have looked for redemption from the already existing desolation of death. In one of these passages, Psalms 16, the Psalmist raises himself in the face of such a danger by the power of faith into a triumph over death itself, certainly having respect to the very imminent danger of death, and in another, Psalms 73:26, he supposes the actual entrance of death in order to triumph over it.
There is a germ also of this faith of immortality in those places where the redemption of the community from political death is spoken of with undoubting confidence, on the ground of what is written in Deuteronomy 32:39, “I kill and I make alive;” for ex. Psalms 85:6, Psalms 80:18, Psalms 71:20; or those again which speak of the redemption of individuals, from the deepest distress, as of a resurrection from the dead—comp. Psalms 30:3; Psalms 18:5; Psalms 56:13; Psalms 86:13. The reviving of the dead in a figurative sense contains the pledge of it in a literal one.
Persons have often refused to be satisfied with such passages as contain the germ of a faith in immortality, but have sought to point out in various passages the full development of the doctrine. In reference to the passage Psalms 17:15, where even De Wette finds the hope uttered of a blessed immortality, to Psalms 90, on which Stier lays considerable stress, or to Psalms 48:14, Psalms 52:8-9, which Tholuck holds to be decided proofs we must here simply refer to our exposition. We would only enter a little into the consideration of the passages, to which importance is attached by Œhler in the work above noticed, and Böttcher de inferis. In Psalms 16 the Psalmist, indeed, triumphs over death itself; but in this he manifestly thinks, not of death as already entered, but of the danger of death by which he was surrounded. In Psalms 73:26, Œhler contends against the hypothetical construction of the words, “my flesh and my heart fails,” q. d., though it should fail, but by God’s grace matters will not come so far. But he overlooks that this is necessarily demanded by the for which connects the two following verses with that, and also by the parallel passages in the book of Job; farther, that by making Psalms 73:26 refer to a blessed immortality, the passage would be taken entirely out of connection with the whole Psalm, which bears throughout upon the territory of the present life; and finally, that the Psalm, according to Psalms 73:1, has, though not an exclusive, yet at least a concurrent national bearing. In like manner efforts have vainly been made to extract from Psalms 49:15 the hope of a deliverance from Sheol, though the whole Psalm has respect to the recompense on this side of eternity. In Psalms 49:7, to which Psalms 49:15 forms the contrast, the discourse is not of death in general, but of an untimely and violent death; and Sheol appears as the dwelling-place of the wicked, only in so far as they terminate their days before they are half spent, and descend thither before the time that the ordinary fate of mortality would have brought them to it. The whole misunderstanding has been occasioned by this, that the Psalmist draws a veil over the ultimate departure of the godly into Sheol, as a fact which had nothing to do with his design.
The fact that the Psalms, while they contained the germ of the doctrine of eternal life, did not give any clear and definite utterance to the doctrine, may appear extraordinary, as they partly belong to a later period than the prophetical passages, in which the doctrine is unquestionably propounded. Isaiah announces the taking away of death and the resurrection of the dead in Messiah’s time: “The Lord destroys death for ever, and the Lord wipes away the tears from off all faces,” Isaiah 25:8; and, again, in ch. Isaiah 26:19, “Thy dead shall live, my corpses shall rise up; for a dew of light (= of salvation) is thy dew, and the earth will give forth the deceased.” Ezekiel represents, in Ezekiel 37, God’s victorious energy over the death of his people, in colours which are so distinctly drawn from the resurrection, that the prophetical delineation, as it could only be drawn by one who was himself possessed of faith in the resurrection, could not but exercise an important influence on the establishment of this faith. Finally, the most explicit passage upon the resurrection of the dead is Daniel 12:1, ss. But the scattered nature of the prophetic intimations of the doctrine of eternal life is itself an evidence that we are not necessarily to expect any utterance of this faith in the Psalms. For the Psalms, and more particularly those of later times, which always formally speak from the consciousness of the community, present not the individual, but the general, that only which, though partly latent, yet existed in the consciousness of the whole community. But this was not the case with the doctrine of eternal life. It was a good while till the leaven of the prophetic declarations penetrated the while mass, which certainly it could not fail to do in its own time. If the Psalms, a some modern critics would have us believe, really reached down to the time of the Maccabees, and were in great part composed about that time, when the faith of eternal life had already become deeply rooted in the minds of the people, they could not possibly have failed to give utterance to this faith. But if, on the other hand, the time of Nehemiah formed the utmost limit, it cannot seem strange that such utterances are not found in them.
It may possibly seem as if the absence of the doctrine of immortality were hostile to the supposition of the Psalmists having been under the special influence of the Spirit of God. But this is not the case. They have not uttered anything erroneous; they have only not declared the whole truth. The former would only have been true, had they maintained the annihilation of man after death. They are far, however, from doing this. If we deny to the Psalmists the doctrine of immortality, it is only immortality in the Christian sense, the doctrine of the blessedness of the righteous, and of the condemnation of the wicked. According to them, all men go at death into Sheol. [Note: Against those who would identify Sheol with the graver Œhler, p. 26. Böttcher, p. 70. There is no instance of what the former seeks to maintain, that sometimes the things which properly belong to Hades, and those to the sepulchre, are mixed up in the description of the condition of the dead. In regard to the meaning of the word, there is no good reason for abandoning the simple and natural derivation from שאל , to demand; Mich.: a poscendo dictus quod non desinat postulare et homines alios post alios ad se trahere. Sheol, therefore, so named, because it demands all life; comp. Job 31:30, “to demand in cursing his soul.” It is precisely insatiableness which is represented as characteristic of Sheol, in Proverbs 27:20: “hell and the abyss are never satisfied;” 30:16; Isaiah 5:14. In Habakkuk 2:5, the Chaldean is compared to Sheol, because “he gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people.” This derivation, against which, in modern times, no proper proofs, but only strong affirmations, have been brought, has also the predominantly poetical use of Sheol on its side; and the fact, that the word never stands with the article, is to be explained by its being properly the infinitive.] That this is not a mere figment, but a real and proper existence, is confirmed by the doctrine of the New Testament, as also by the prophets, who plainly announce the doctrine of the resurrection, while neither class of writers thought of renouncing the old doctrine of Sheol, but rather express their belief in it;—see Matthew 12:40, Luke 16:22, ss., 1 Peter 3:18-19, 1 Peter 4:6, Php_2:10 , where, beside heavenly and earthly things, also the things under the earth are mentioned as being subject to Christ; Revelation 20:14, according to which Hades continues even to the final judgment, when the preparatory gives place to the ultimate. If in the New Testament the word Hades, = Sheol, is used only in reference to dead sinners (see, however, Acts 2:27, Acts 2:31), yet in point of fact there can be no doubt it exists also for the righteous. An intermediate state is taught also in reference to them. The removal of it takes place only at the second coming of Christ—see for ex. Hebrews 11:39-40. Wherefore, as far as the saints of the Old Testament attained in their knowledge, they were quite right, they were only excluded from farther light. But it is error alone which divine inspiration excludes, not the defect and imperfection of knowledge. There would, however, have been error in the O. T. here, only if it had put in place of the Christian doctrine of eternal life, the rationalistic belief; which denies the intermediate region, and regards the individual whom it entirely severs from connection with the whole, as immediately entering on the full enjoyment of blessedness. In regard to the doctrine respecting Sheol itself, there certainly is a difference between the O. and the N. Testament, inasmuch as in the N. Testament a separation is represented as already existing even there between the righteous and the wicked. This doctrine is contained only in two passages, Luke 16:22, ss., and 1 Peter 3:19, (See Steiger there). The others, in particular, “To-day wilt thou be with me in Paradise,” Luke 23:43, refer to the relations which were first introduced by Christ, who went away to prepare a place for his disciples, John 14:3; so that they might henceforth wish to depart and be with him, Php_1:23 . Here, then, lies a progress not in knowledge, but in the matter itself. But still in respect to this difference now pointed out, there is no error in the Old Testament, but only a less degree of knowledge. The other differences which Hahn (V. T. sententia de natura hominis) has sought to point out are found on examination not to be tenable. According to the author, the O. T. conducts the soul, נפש , into Sheol, and the N. T. the spirit, pneu?ma. But the passages which he has adduced in support of the first statement do not apply they only speak of a going down of the soul into hell, which does not necessarily import that it remains there, but rather the very reverse; for just on account of the danger of the soul might it be inferred, that it would be thought upon. The only passage quoted by OEhler, Job 14:22, in which the נפש must stand of the soul as existing in Hades, is to be regarded as throughout poetical. The soul of the dead in reality laments as little as the body in reality is sensible of pain. To both poetically the feeling is attributed, which they would have experienced if they had been susceptible of any. With how much greater an appearance of truth might we discover in a passage of the New Testament, Revelation 6:9, that ψυχαὶ? is a designation of souls in the intermediate state. But on closer examination it is found that this view would also be inadmissible. The ψυχαὶ? are the murdered souls, and the word blood might as well have stood.
See Revelation 5:10 and the original passage Genesis 4:10. The subject, in Revelation 5:10 is not the souls, but the races. If one of the two were found in the N. Testament, נפש or רוח , the latter might also stand there. For נפש is too closely connected with the body to be able to exist without it, to lead a purely incorporeal existence. No contrary meaning is yielded by such passages as Revelation 12:7, Psalms 104:29, Job 34:14. For they do not exclude this, that though the spirit returns to him who gave it, yet the ruin as it were of the spirit may remain.
See 1 Kings 10:5, Ecclesiastes 9:10. רוח is not merely the divine breath of life, but also the human spirit created by that ( Numbers 16:22, Zechariah 12:1) which may, indeed, become faint if it does not receive further supplies from the fountain-head, and incapable of action if it loses its organ, but still can never altogether cease to be. But if the matter were still doubtful, from the fact that the N. Testament speaks this without exception of the spirits, and not of the souls of the departed (comp. 1 Peter 3:18, where the πνεῦ?μα is the spiritual life common to all men with Christ; 1 Peter 3:19, where the discourse is of the spirits in,prison, whereas presently of living men ψυχαὶ? is used, 1 Peter 4:6, Luke 24:37, Hebrews 12:23), it may with certainty be concluded that in the O. Testament also the spirit only can be intended. For where a difference cannot be firmly established, there an agreement is to be supposed. The presumption is in favour of this.
A second difference, and even a manifest contrast Hahn would find in this, that according to the O. Testament the inhabitants of the intermediate state are without consciousness, while in the N. Testament they have not merely self-consciousness, but also the knowledge of things which take place on the earth. But the distinction vanishes when we have set aside what is here attributed of too little to the Old and too much to the New Testament. Certainly in the O. Testament the region of the dead does appear as noiseless; Psalms 94:17, Psalms 31:17; Sheol is “the land of forgetfulness,” where “one thinks of nothing,” Psalms 88:12, and in death there is no celebration of God’s praise and remembrance of him, Psalms 6:5, Psalms 115:17, Psalms 30:9. But that according to the O. Testament mode of contemplation, self-consciousness only slumbers, does not absolutely cease with the departed, that it continues as to ability in full energy with departed, this is shown more clearly and certainly, than could be done by any particular poetical passage, by the narrative in 1 Samuel 23, where Samuel is presented before us in the full vigour of his personal existence. The supposition, which has never been made but from felt difficulty or wrong bias, that the appearance of Samuel was regarded by the historian as a cheat, has been again repeated by Böttcher. But it is contradicted by the fact of the communication itself, which can only be explained, if the event was considered of deeper import by the author, by the circumstance that Samuel appeared unexpectedly to the woman herself, and to her horror, as also that he spike in perfect accordance with his character, and uttered a prediction which the event confirmed to be true. We see plainly here that those who went into Sheol were not lost; for what by a sudden excitation can be again roused into energy, that, being still secured in perpetuity of being, will sometime be awakened again out of slumber. But it does not follow from any of the Psalms in question that consciousness is to be regarded as one of complete repose. Were this the case, they would stand in opposition to other passages of the Old Testament, where the contrary is represented; in particular, to the description, given of the reception of the king of Babylon in Sheol in Isaiah 14. It is not to be overlooked that in all those passages of the Psalms there was a reason for bringing strongly out the one side of the truth, and to let the other, which still resides in the Sheol, fall into the background. In all of them there was a foundation to be laid for the prayer that God would not send the suppliant too soon into Sheol; so that the rendering prominent of the shadowy side of the picture was quite in its place. If we turn to the N. Testament, the only passage that properly comes into consideration is Luke 16:22, ss. For the others refer to those asleep in Christ, who has also for the intermediate state brought life to light, 2 Timothy 1:10. But from that passage straightway to conclude that the departed under the Old Testament possessed a clear self-consciousness, and even a knowledge of, what was passing upon earth, is entirely to overlook that we have here to do with a parable, in which only the fundamental relations are of material importance. But even with the dead in Christ the state up to the resurrection is represented pre-eminently as a rest from trouble and affliction, Revelation 14:13, as a blessed sleep, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15, 1 Thessalonians 5:10, or, however, as a blessed waking-sleep. We cannot think of it otherwise without making the resurrection superfluous, upon which Scripture lays such great stress, behind which it makes the intermediate state fall so decidedly into the background, without overlooking the importance of the corporeal part of our natures, and egotistically dissevering the individual from his connection with the general community.
It might appear farther, that the deficiency of faith in regard to eternal life must have deprived the holy singers of all vigour of faith and all joy in suffering. And certainly it is not to be denied that great and heavy temptations arose to the believers of the O. Testament, from their not having had a clear view opened up to them into a future state of existence (comp. Job 14:14, and the Introd. to Psalms 89, where it is shown how the instructive character of the Psalm is the greater on this very account, that its author still retained faith in the circumstances in which he was placed). (But it is also not to be overlooked that the substance of faith respecting eternal life, even though the clear apprehension of it failed, is everywhere found there, where the powers of the future world have sunk into the soul; and then, that under the Old Covenant the extraordinary sources of consolation flowed the more copiously that the ordinary ones were so scanty. An attentive consideration of the transition to the Psalms, shows us how powerful the workings of the Spirit then were, and how mightily he raised the soul above trouble and death and self.
the Fifth Week after Easter