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terpretation of those whom he addressed, “For David is not ascended into the heavens, but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.”
Once more ; it appears to us to be a canon of interpretation absolutely indispensable to the right understanding of the prophetical character of the Psalms, that we should recognize not only (1) distinct prophecies applicable, in their primary or their exclusive sense, to Christ; and (2) prophecies presenting, under allusions to the history of the Jewish Church, unequivocal indications of the destinies of the Christian Church; but also (3) predictions which are inapplicable to the past or present circumstances of the Christian Church, and which can be consistently interpreted only of the future destiny of the Jews, and the concomitant manifestation of the Divine judg. ments and mercies to the nations of the earth.
Of this latter class of predictions those contained in the 98th and 102nd Psalms will suffice as illustrations. In the former of these Psalms the revelation of the righteousness of Jehovah before the eyes of the nations, and of His salvation to the ends of the earth, is expressly connected with the remembrance of His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel : whilst, in the latter, the building up of Zion, and the mercy hereafter to be shown to Jerusalem, are set forth in terms quite inapplicable (whatever the date of the Psalm) to the restoration from Babylon, inasmuch as they are immediately connected not only chronologically, but also in the direct way of cause and effect, with the appearance of the Lord in glory, and the universal homage which shall be rendered to His name:
“Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion : for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.” (Ps. cii. 13–16.)
Having thus stated some of the grounds on which we deem the right understanding of the Psalter to be of permanent and daily increasing importance to the universal Church of Christ, we shall proceed to offer a few remarks on some points of general interest, which we trust may be found serviceable to our readers in their habitual perusal and recital of this portion of Holy Scripture.
I. As regards the Divisions of the Psalms. Speaking generally, we may regard the Psalter as consisting of two chief divisions, viz., (1) the Psalms of David and his times, including a few Psalms belonging to a somewhat later period, 1–89; and
(2) of Psalms ranging, for the most part, from the times of Hezekiah to those of Ezra, 91–150, separated by the noble 90th Psalm, which is commonly ascribed to Moses, the man of God. A further division, resting alike on ancient tradition and on internal evidence, is that, in accordance with which the Psalter is regarded as consisting of five books, corresponding to the divisions of the Pentateuch, distinguished by the doxologies which are found at the end of Psalms xli., Ixxii., xcix., and cvi. respectively ; which doxologies, by reason of the absence of any special connexion with the Psalms to which they are appended, have been regarded as marking the respective terminations of different collections, made, probably, by different persons, and at different times.
Other indications exist that this latter division of the Psalter was not made on arbitrary grounds. Amongst these we may notice the following :
(1.) Of the forty-one Psalms which compose the first Book, all except Psalms i., íi., X., and xxxiii., are expressly ascribed to David, and it is probable that all were composed by him.* In this book the name Jehovah occurs 272 times, whilst Elohim occurs only 15 times.t
(2.) The second Book, which consists of Psalms xlii.- lxxii., is made up of eight of the Psalms of the sons of Korah, one of Asaph, nineteen of David, one inscribed “ to, or for Solomon," and two anonymous Psalms. At the end of this book we find the words, “The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." Moreover, Psalın liii., with very slight variations, is identical with Psalm xiv., the variations consisting chiefly in the substitution of Elohim (the prevailing word used in this book as a designation of the Almighty) for Jehovah. In like manner Psalm lxx, is but a repetition, with a few variations, of Psalm xl. 13—17, two of those variations consisting in the substitution of “ Elohim” both for “ Jehovah” and for “Adonai,” in verses 4,5—and one, in the substitution of " Jehovah” for “Elohai," “My God," in verse 5.
(3.) The third Book (Psalm lxxiii. - lxxxix.) consists chiefly of the Psalms of Asaph, and of the sons of Korah, with one only ascribed to David, viz. Psalm lxxxvi. “Elohim” preponderates in the earlier portion of this book," Jehovah” in the later portion.
(4.) The fourth Book (Psalm xc.-cvi.) is made up of anonymous Psalms, with the exception of Psalm xe., ascribed to Moses, and Psalms ci., ciii., ascribed to David. In this book the name Jehovah is exclusively employed.
* The 2nd Psalm is expressly as state of construction, or with pronominal cribed to David in Acts iv. 25.
suffixes, in which cases the word Je+ The Hebrew student will under hovah would be inadmissible; neither stand that these instances do not in- do they include the singular forms of elude the use of the word Elohim in a the word El and Eloah.
and words, Psalin the
(5.) The fifth and last Book (Psalms cvii.-cl.) consists chiefly of anonymous Psalms, composed probably, for the most part, at a late period, and many of them after the return from the Babylonish exile. In this book, as in the preceding, the sacred name Jehovah is almost exclusively used; the name Elohim occurring only in two places, both taken from earlier Psalms. · With regard to the further division of the Psalms into verses, it may be observed, that in the poetical portions of Scripture, the verse is generally a natural and obvious division.
In the greater number of cases the verse consists of a couplet formed by two parallel clauses, or of two clauses which have a direct and manifest connexion with each other. In many of the acrostic Psalms this division is clearly marked by the letter of the alphabet with which each verse begins; but in some, as in Psalms ix., X., xxxvii., and cxix., the acrostic portions consist of more than one verse. The Hebrew divisions of verses were first introduced into our western versions of the Bible at the beginning of the 16th century.
II. The authorship of the Titles of the Psalms is unknown. The most ancient Hebrew manuscripts contain them, and their antiquity is further proved by the fact, that in some instances the translators of the Septuagint (in the third century before Christ) copied the Hebrew words in Greek characters, without attempting to translate them. Some of the titles designate the author; some, the occasion on which the Psalm was composed; some, the musician to whom it was dedicated; some, the style of the poetry, or the tune to which the Psalm was to be sung, or the instrument of music to be employed. In the case of some of the Psalms, two or more of these particulars are combined; whilst in the case of the 60th Psalm, we have a combination of almost the whole of them.
Great difference of opinion exists as to the authority of these titles ; some holding them in no higher estimation than the subscriptions to the Epistles, and appealing both to internal evidence, and to the variations of the ancient versions, in support of their opinion; others, on the contrary, regarding them as of equal authority with the Psalms themselves. Without undertaking to pronounce any positive opinion on a subject of so much difficulty, we are disposed to adopt a midway position between the contending parties; and whilst prepared to weigh dispassionately any internal evidence which may be adduced of discrepancy between the titles and the contents of the Psalms, we are constrained to attach great weight to inscriptions, which, in addition to their remote antiquity, afford many indications that they were not carelessly and arbitrarily attached to the 116 Psalms at the head of which they are found. We will only add, with reference to this point, that, if such an amount of latitude be allowed, in the explanation of the inscriptions, as will permit a “Maschil of Heman,” or of “ Ethan,” a “Psalm of Asaph,” and possibly, in some cases, “ of David,” to be interpreted as applicable to the productions of their descendants, we are not aware of any objections to the general trustworthiness of the titles to which a sufficient answer may not be found.
III. It would carry us beyond the limits of ourimmediate subject, were we to treat at any length on the general character of Hebrew Poetry. With few and scanty exceptions, as in the songs of Moses, of Deborah, and of Hannah, we must regard the lyric poetry of the Hebrews as having sprung up, and at once attained its highest degree of perfection, in the times of David. The absence of any proof of David's acquaintance with Samuel, when the latter came to anoint him, creates a considerable difficulty in the supposition that David owed his proficiency in music and song to the schools of the prophets. Of that peculiar style of poetry which is evoked in times when a nation's life is stirred to its lowest depths, we have a striking specimen in the song of Deborah, which is admirably adapted to that heroic era inthe national history of the Hebrews at which it was composed. Poetry of this character, no doubt, prepared the way for the greater and higher development of the art in the days of David. The first golden age of Hebrew poetry appears to have been of short duration. We cannot, indeed, coincide in the opinion of De Wette, that after having been brought to perfection in the time of David, the lyric poetry of the Hebrews sank into a repose of nearly 500 years ; inasmuch as we think that many of the Psalms which breathe the highest spirit of poetry, may be traced, if not with certainty, at least with a high degree of probability, to the times of Hezekiah, and some to other intervening periods between the reigns of Solomon and the extinction of the monarchy. Speaking generally, we should be disposed to assign by far the larger portion of the Psalms to the times of David, no insignificant number to the times of Hezekiah, and the remainder to the period immediately succeeding the return from the Captivity. Nor do we think that there is any real discrepancy between this conclusion and that of De Wette, inasmuch as the latter, when endeavouring to account for“ a phenomenon hardly corresponding with the common course of events,” admits the high probability which exists that “ lyric composition flourished side by side with the prophetic poetry, and that many of the prophets themselves contributed to our present collection, and might reclaim their own productions from David and others."
IV. The fact that the greater portion, if not the entire number
of the Psalms was designed to be used in connexion with Instrumental Music, naturally leads us to make a few observations on the nature of those musical instruments to which reference is made in the Psalter. Now although there were other instruments used on certain occasions, more especially at the great national festivals, in connexion with their songs of praise, as “trumpets," “cornets,” “ cymbals,” and “organs," nevertheless we find only the harp (kinnor), and the psalter or psaltery (nebel or nabla), mentioned as the instruments with the accompaniment of which the Psalms were to be constantly used. (See Psalms xxxiii. 2, lvii. 8, lxxi. 22, &c.)
With regard to the former of these, it appears that the harp was the oldest stringed instrument known to the Hebrews. It is the only one mentioned in the Pentateuch; unless indeed, as Kalisch is of opinion, we are to regard it as the name by which all stringed instruments were known, in like manner as he considers the ugab, which is improperly translated “organ,” the type of all wind instruments. The earlier harps were probably triangular, with nine or ten oblique strings, and are supposed to have been introduced into the land of Canaan either from Syria or from Egypt. Josephus says that the harp was played with the plectrum, and the psaltery with the hand; but it seems more probable, from 1 Sam. xvi. 23, that David played the harp with his hand, and not with the plectram.
As regards the second of the two instruments, to which frequent reference is made in the Psalms, the nabla or psaltery is first mentioned in the books of Samuel. It is supposed to have been of Phænician origin, to have resembled a guitar in appearance, and to have been played with the plectrum. The number of strings appears to have varied at different times, and hence it is probable that the ten-stringed instrument which appears to be identified in the Psalter with the nabla, was that particular kind of psaltery, or guitar, which was chiefly used, perhaps introduced, by David.
V. It would be a long and unprofitable task to rehearse the various theories, which have been successively invented and refuted, on the subject of the Construction of Hebrew Poetry. It is important, however, to observe, that the doctrine of parallelism, which was developed by Bishop Lowth, and which has been further elucidated, and also unduly pressed, by Bishop Jebb, has materially contributed to the right interpretation of many of the Psalms. Signally as every attempt to discover and define the metre of Hebrew poetry has failed, there may generally be traced, as Bishop Lowth has remarked, “a certain conformation of the sentences, the nature of which is, that a complete sense is almost equally infused into every component part, and that every member constitutes an entire verse."