Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

INTRODUCTION.

bably have been written by him, which have not his name. Twelve bear the name of Asaph, two that of Solomon, one that of Moses, and two others those of Hemau and Ethan. David is described in the New Testament both as a patriarch and a prophet, (Acts ii. 29, 30,) and he was unquestionably an eminent type of the Messiah, as we shall have frequent occasion to observe as we proceed.

In the New Testament, the whole number of the Psalins are considered as one book, (Luke xx. 42; Acts i. 20.) but the Jews divide it into five, as follows:-Book I. Psalm i. to xli.-II. Psalm xlii. to lxxii.-III. Psalm 1xxiii. to lxxxix.-IV. Psalm xc. to cvi.V. evii. to cl. Each of these books closes with Amen or Hallelujah: but the antiquity of this division is uncertain, as is also that of the titles of some of the Psalms, which we shall consider as they occur. All the Psalms are admitted to be poetical; and on the Hebrew poetry we have offered a few suggestions in our Intoduction to the book of Job. Seven of these are in a peculiar form, which we call Acrostic, namely, Psalms xxv., xxxiv., xxxvii., cxi., exii., exix., cxlv., two of which are ascribed to David (Psalm xxxiv. and exlv.) and are the earliest specimens of that kind of composition in the Bible, and in the world. The only scriptural acrostics beside these, are part of the thirty-first chapter of Proverbs and the book of Lamentations; and they were so written probably with a view to assist the memory, and to be learned by rote.

*t

We have said, the Psalms are poetical; and, as Mr. Hartwell Horne remarks, they present every possible variety of Hebrew poetry. They may all, indeed, be termed poems of the lyric kind; that is, adapted to music: but with great variety in the style of composition. Thus some are simply odes. An ode (according to Bishop Horsley) is a dignified sort of song; a narrative of the facts, either of public history, or of private life, in a highly adorned and figured style. Others, again, are ethic, er didactic, delivering grave maxims of life, or the precepts of religion, in 'solemn, but, for the most part, simple strains.' To this class we may refer the 119th, and the other alphabetical Psalms, which are so called because the initial letters of each line or stanza followed the order of the alphabet. Nearly one-seventh part of the Psalms are elegiac, or pathetic compositions on mournful subjects. Some are enigmatic, delivering the doctrines of religion in enigmata; sentences contrived to strike the imagination forcibly, and yet easy to be understood; while a few may be referred to the class of idyls, or short pastoral poems. But the greater part [of the book], according to Bishop Horsley, is a sort of “dramatic ode, consisting of dialogues between certain persons sustaining certain characters."*

These remarks naturally lead to some observations on the Hebrew Music, and on the manner of performing the Psalms in public worship. There can be no doubt that the first music attempted by man, was that of the human voice,

[blocks in formation]

It is also highly probable that the first exertions of that voice were (as the same great poet expresses it)" unmeditated," and could only, therefore, be in the form of chant, unquestionably the only method adapted to unmeditated strains; which has been adopted in the public worship of almost all nations, and is still retained among both Jews and Greeks, and in the cathedral worship of both Roman Catholics and Protestants. As to Musical Instruments, none seem to have been originally used in the tabernacle service, but the silver trumpets of the priests; though on festival occasions, and in public processions, we read of the timbrel and harp, as accompanying the sacred dances, and the devotions of the prophetic schools ‡ David, however, who was himself a practical musician, a poet, and a prophet, invented some instruments,§ and doubtless improved others. He also established regular choirs of Levites, who, in the Dialogue Psalms, replied to each other. (See Ps. xxiv.) The one choir, probably, being accompanied by stringed instruments, as the psaltery and harp; and the other by wind instruments, as the organ, &c. Of these instruments we shall take some further notice, as the names occur, and hope to throw some little light on points which have been miserably obscured by learned men, totally unacquainted with the science or history of music.

Solomon greatly enlarged the number of performers, and had the worship of the temple conducted on a more magnificent scale ;* yet the temple itself was so small as

[blocks in formation]

+ Exod. xv. 20; 1 Sam. x. 5; 1 Chron. xiii. 8.

[blocks in formation]

PSALMS.

to admit a part only of the Levites at a time;* and on grand occasions, as the dedication of the temple, the chief parts of the performance must have been in the open air. After this time, every thing degenerated, and when the Jews went into captivity, they "hung their harps upon the willows." The fame of their former musical excellence must, however, have reached their enemies, for they required of them a song," to which they properly replied, "How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?"+

In entering upon this important book, we acknowledge ourselves first and principally indebted to Bishop Horne, whose expositions we have generally compared with the previous labours of Mr. Ainsworth and Bishop Patrick. Nor shall we forget the evangelical paraphrase of Dr. Watts, whom we respect, both as an interpreter and a poet, and in whose first edition (now before us) are some useful hints, which, we regret to say, are omitted in all the modern editions. And we shall occasionally enrich our Exposition with a verse from him, as well as from Milton, and other poetical translators of the Psalms. The beautiful Lectures of Bishop Lowth will be consulted on this book, as well as on Job; and in our Notes we shall not neglect the original criticisms of Dr. Kennicott and Bishop Horsley, though we confess we never follow without hesitation commentators on the sacred writers, who are so bold, as to treat an inspired writer with the same freedom as a heathen classic. We would use all diligence to ascertain the meaning of the sacred writers; but we would also treat them with all reverence, carefully avoiding to attach to them any meaning, but that of the inspired authors. For this reason, we must be excused from following systematically, the scheme of interpretation adopted by Bishops Horne, Horsley, and other Hutchinsonian writers, though it will be seen we have seldom neglected to consult them.

We shall conclude this Introduction with another extract from the same learned and excellent writer with whose words we commenced. Speaking of David's Psalms, Bishop Horne adds, "His invaluable Psalms convey those comforts to others which they afforded to himself. Composed upon particular occasions, yet designed for general use; delivered out as services for the Israelites under the law, yet no less adapted to the circumstances of Christians under the gospel; they present religion to us in the most engaging dress, communicating truths which philosophy could never investigate, in a style which poetry can never equal; while history is made the vehicle of prophecy, and creation lends all its charms to paint the glories of redemption. Calculated alike to profit and to please, they inform the understanding, elevate the affections, and entertain the imagination. Indited under the influence of Him to whom all hearts are known, and all events foreknown, they suit mankind in all situations; grateful as the manna which descended from above, and conformed itself to every palate. The fairest productions of human wit, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands, and lose their fragrancy; but these unfading plants of Paradise become, as we are accustomed to them, still more and more beautiful; their bloom appears to be daily heightened; fresh odours are emitted, and new sweets extracted from them. He who hath once tasted their excellencies will desire to taste them yet again; and he who tastes them oftenest, will relish them best." (Pref. p. lix.)

See 1 Kings vi. 2, and Nots.

+ Ps. cxxxvii. 1-4. On the Music of the Hebrews, the Editor begs to refer to his "Historical

Essay on Church Music," which has been long or of print, but which, if his life is spared, may pro bably be presented to the public in a new form.

[blocks in formation]

PSALM I.

EXPOSITION.

(A) Introductory Psalm.-The blessedness of the righteous, and misery of the wicked. The author of this psalm is unknown; but many have ascribed it to Ezra, on the presumption that on his collecting these sacred poems into a volume, he might prefix this didactic (or preceptive) psalm, as a proper introduction to the whole. It does not follow, however, that it must have been his own composition, and we know nothing of Ezra as a poet.

This psalm contains a contrasted view of the character of the righteous and the wicked, with the blessings which attend the former, and the miseries which await the latter. The blessedness of the good man ariseth, not from riches, nor pleasures, nor gay companions, nor great connexions; but, on the contrary, from a total separation from sin and sinners. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly."

Ahaziah, we are told, "walked in the way of Ahab; for his mother (Athaliah) was his counsellor to do wickedly;" which led, as wickedness always does, "to his destruction." (2 Chron. xxii. 2-4.) Those who walk in the counsels of such men, will be found often 'standing," or stopping, in their way, and sometimes seating themselves in the chair of the scorners; those who make a scoff and ridicule of all religion.-Here is intimated a gradation in vice. "The way of iniquity, says Mr. Henry, "is down hill; the bad grow worse, and siuners them

selves become tempters to others, and advocates for Baal."

But the blessed man "delights in the law and in the word of God," and spends those hours in reading and meditation, which others spend in sinful pursuits abroad, or revellings at home. The good man makes the lively oracles of God his companion, and will (as the excellent Bishop Horne observes) "have recourse to them for direction in the bright and cheerful hours of prosperity;" and for "comfort in the dark and dreary seasons of adversity." The enemy, when advanc ing to the assault, will always find him well employed, and will be received with "Get thee behind me, Satan;" as he was repulsed by our divine Redeemer.

Such an one is compared to "a tree planted by the rivers :" He is planted by the "river of the water of life;" and as this nourishes his root, his leaves of profession are ever green, and his fruits of righteousness abundant. (Jer. xvii. 11.) But" the ungodly are not so." Like chaff winnowed in the open air, as in the eastern countries is the custom to this day, his hopes and expectations shall all be scattered. Neither his character nor his actions will stand the trial of affliction, or of death; much less shall he "stand in the judgment, or be numbered in the congregation of the righteous." "For the Lord knoweth them that are his :" (2,Tim. ii. 19.) his eye is upon the way of the righteous, both to guide them and guard them; and they are blessed, while sinners perish.

NOTES.

PSALM 1. Ver. 1. Blessed.-The Hebrew word is a noun plural, Blessings" on the man!

Ver. 2. The lan-is here not to be taken for the ten commandments only, but for the whole revealed Will of God.

Ver.3. Wither-Marg, "fade;" more literally, "fa" This may be rendered impersonally; "Its leaf shall not wither, and whatsoever it douth (or

produceth) shall prosper." "A tree is said to make fruit when it beareth it." Jer. xvii. 8.-Ainsworth,

Ver. 5. In the judgment-The judgment here intended, is evidently the last judgment; the congregation of the righteous, is their assembly at the judg ment-seat of Christ. Bishop Horne.

Ver 6. The Lord knoweth-That is, approveth and acknowledgeth. See Ps. xxxi. 7; Amos iii. 2;

Matt. xxv. 12.

The kingdom]

PSALM II.

PSALMS.

WHY do the heathen rage, and the

people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

[of Christ. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his

6 Yet have I set my king upon my wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are holy hill of Zion.

PSALM 11.

all they that put their trust in him. (B)

EXPOSITION.

(B) The kingdom of Messiah. A Psalm of David.-The kings of the earth (or of the land) are explained(Acts iv. 26, 27.) to be the Jewish and Roman governors, "Herod and Pontius Pilate," who "set themselves" against Messiah; particularly the former, who, as if purposely to fulfil this prediction, "with his men of war set him at nought, mocked him," and having arrayed him in a gorgeons robe, sent him again to Pilate; " and the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together." (Luke xxiii. 11.) "Thus they set themselves in array against him."

There is something peculiar in the manner in which the Psalmist represents the Lord JEHOVAH, as sitting upon the throne of the universe, and looking down with the most sovereign contempt upon all human

opposition. Ridicule can only be ascribed to Deity in the same figurative manner as grief and repentance are in other places: God is not affected by human passions; but his actions are explained in analogy with ours. Fools that scoff at God, and make a mock at sin," are given to know that they will reap the fruit of their own folly; and He whom they now deride, will then "have them in derision." (See Gen. iii. 20-24. and Exposition.)

But to apply to the great subject of this psalm: "The views which it gives of the Messiah (says Dr. P. Smith) are, that he should be, in a peculiar sense, the Son o God; that he should be entitled to th homage of the world; that, pursuant t the appointment of the Almighty Fathe he should support his own throne by th righteous exercise of authority and power

NOTES.

PSALM II. David's name is not prefixed to this psalm in our bibles; it is so in the Septuagint translation, and the whole assembly of the apostles attribute it to his pen, and apply it to his illustrious Son and Lord, as the anointed King of Israel, of whom David was a type only. (Acts iv. 25, &c. xiii.33.) The Targum also refers (it) to the Messiah. So do the Bereshith Rabba, the book Jalkuth, (Zohar) and others of the Talmudical writings." So Solomon Jarchi confesses, in these words. "Our masters have expounded (this psalm) of the King Messiah; but, according to the letter, and for furnishing answers to the Minim, (heretics, i. e. the Christians) it is better to interpret it of David himself." (Dr. Smith's Scripture Testimony to the Messiah, vol. i. pp. 213, 215.)

Ver. 1. Why do the heathen-Heb. " the nations." The Jews called all nations beside their own heathen we restrain it to pagan, or idolatrous nations. -Rage?-Marg. "Tumultuously assemble." Imagine-Heb. Meditate," design.

Ver. 3. Bunds. ... cords.-This implies rebellion, or renouncing all allegiance.

S

Ver. 4. The Lord-Adonai, not JEHOVAR, as ver. 2. As we shall frequently meet with both th words in this book, we may here observe, that wh the word Lord" occurs in small letters, it is former in the original; but the latter when in capit here, however, all the printed Bibles in Hebrew have consulted, read Adonai, " Lord;" yet m copies of our authorized version we have print the word in capitals, as if it were JEROV which Dr. Boothroyd says is the reading of n Hebrew MSS, and he thinks the true one. Ver. 5. Ver-Marg. "trouble:""rebuke," J..P. Smith: "confound," Dr. Chandler. Ver. 6. I have set-Heb. "anointed."hill-Marg. "Zion, the hill of my holiness." Ver. 7. I will declare the decree-Messiah is introduced as speaking in his own person. Ver. 9. A rod of iron-" A sceptre of iron," Note on Genesis xlix. 10.

My

Ver. 12. Perish from the way-Or" by the w Kissor" on the road." Dr. J. P. Smith.used not only as an act of submission, but a Idolatry. 1 Kings xix. 18; Hos. xiii. 2,

[blocks in formation]

and that the only way of safety and happiness would lie in submission to him, and confidence in him." (Testimony to Messiah, vol. i. p. 213.)

The august title," Son of God," is here announced by a divine decree; which certainly, in its peculiarity, raises the Messiah above men and angels; "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?" (Heb. i, 5.) But to him it is applied, 1. As the essential word and wisdom of God; he was " set up from everlasting" upon the throne of the divine glory: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever;" Heb.1.3-9.) and to this our great poet, Milton, thus alludes.

[ocr errors]

Hear, all ye angels, progeay of light, Thranes, dominations. princedoms, virtues, powers, Hear my decree, which unrevok'd shall stand. This day I have begot whom I declare My only Son, and on this holy hill Hua have anointed, whom ye now behold At my right hand; your head I him appoint; And by myself have sworn, to him shall bow All knees in heaven, and confess him Lord." (Par. Lost, bk. v. 1.600.)

2. This decree was repeated and confirmed at his incarnation; for "when he bringeth the first-begotten into the world, he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him." (Heb. i. 6.) And accordingly, "a multitude of the heavenly host attended,

[blocks in formation]

65

This may with great propriety be called a Missionary Psalm, since it relates especially to the conversion of the heathen. In verses 7 and 8, the Son of God himself is personally introduced, as announcing the decree by which he was declared to be "the Son of God," and the "Heir of all things." (Heb. i. 2.) And he is particularly encouraged to "ask" of his heavenly Father the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession." In this petition it is certainly the duty of Christians to unite with their Redeemer, and the more so, as we already see the dawn of its accomplishment; for now" verily" hath "the sound" of salvation gone forth" into all the earth," and "the words" of the gospel "unto the ends of the world."

The psalmist concludes with advising all nations, with their chiefs and princes, to do homage to the Son of God and as this homage was generally rendered by kissing the hand; so they are required to kiss the Son, which implied not only submission, but adoration.

NOTES.

PSALMIII Ver.2,4,8, Selah.-No less than 12 different senses have been given to this word; but elevation seems the radical idea, from which many have inferred that it signified an extraordinary elevation of the voice; but as this word generally occurs at the end of a verse, such an elevation seems most unnatural. We are not apt to speak confidently; but in this fase we have no doubt, that the elevation was not that of the voice, but of the hund; a common and very natural sign, made by the leader of a choir, when the performers are to hold a note beyond its Raper daration, or make a solemn pause. In the former case, with us it often intimates permission for the principal vocal performer to introduce an ex

tempore flourish, which the Italians call a cantabile; but whether any thing of this kind were intended here, we dare not say. The LXX render Selah by Diapsalma, which is explained to intimate a pause, or division in the performance.

Ver. 3. A shield for me-Marg. " About me." The shields of the ancients were sometimes so large that a man might be carried on them.-Orient. Lit. No. 742.

Ver. 7. On the cheek bone.-David's ungodly and profane enemies are here compared to ravenous beasts, who, being smitten upon the cheek bone, are obliged to give up their prey.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »