Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures

















Dr. MOLL’S Commentary on the PSALTER appeared, in two separate parts, in 1869 and 1870. It was concluded during the stirring events of the Franco-German war. It is regarded as one of the best parts in LANGE’S Biblework, especially in the Doctrinal and Ethical sections. Dr. MOLL was formerly Professor of Theology in Halle, and is now General Superintendent of the Evangelical Church in the Province of Prussia. We insert the author’s Preface to Part II., dated November, 1870:

THE mighty convulsions of the present war, while they have cast down a glittering throne from its proud elevation, have buried, too, much unobtrusive and quiet happiness, and have opened wounds that must long keep bleeding. Yet, from out of desolation and tears, does the goodness of the Eternal evoke renewed safety and a joyful future for a people tried and purified in the fire of affliction. Nor can we fail to discern in the events of those days a visitation of God. Many an ear, which has long been accustomed to other sounds, has heard the footsteps of the Almighty as He marches through the world in judgment, and has been inclined to listen to the word of the only true and living God. And many a hand, too, will be stretched out, with special eagerness, for the Book of Psalms, full as it is of those poems, of which such a poet as Byron said, that they are as lofty as heaven and deeper than the ocean. From such fulness as this has the Church ever drawn, and it affords instruction as well as delight, to trace through the course of the ages its inexhaustible adaptation to the needs of the people of God, to the varying tastes of different periods, and to the progress of the science of interpretation. May its own teachings and the accompanying remarks and suggestions realize the aim of the Bibelwerk, and afford spiritual aid to the brethren in the ministry.

In the department of Practical Exposition we have now further to note: Der Psalter, erklärt von L. HARMS, weil. Pastor in Hermannsburg, 1800 (The Psalter explained by L. Harms, late Pastor in Hermansburg, 1869). CASPARI, Des Gottesfürchtigen Freud und Leid, Wochenpredigten über den Psalter (The Joy and Sorrow of those who fear God; Weekly Sermons on the Psalter), with a preface by DELITZSCH, 1870. W. STERN, Fünfzehn Messianische Psalmen, für Verständniss, Belehrung und Erbauung der Freunde des göttlichen Wortes erklärt, 1870 (Fifteen Messianic Psalms, explained for the enlightenment, instruction, and edification of the friends of the Divine Word).

In the department of Textual Criticism we have to mention that the Monumenta Sacra Inedita, published by CONST. TISCHENDORF, contain in Vol. IV. of the Nova Collectio, 1869, the Psalterium Turicense, important for the criticism of the Text of the Septuagint. It was written upon purple parchment, in silver and gold, about the 7th century. It consists of 223 leaves, and comprises 118 Psalms, together with 9 Biblical Hymns and 1 Church Hymn. Its readings show more agreement with the Cod. Alex. than with the Cod. Vat., and often confirm those of the Aldine and Complutensian texts. The relation which it exhibits to one of the correctors of the Cod. Sinait. is worthy of special attention. The insertion, in elegant red letters, of the first word of each verse in Latin from the Vulgate of JEROME, by the side of the Greek Text, goes to show that it was executed in the West.”

I had a strong desire to prepare the Commentary on the Psalter myself, but could not command time. To avoid delay, I divided the work among several scholars, as follows:

The Introduction was prepared by the Rev. JAMES B. HAMMOND, with additional Notes by the Rev. CHARLES A. BRIGGS.

Psalms 1–41, and 51–72, by the Rev. CHARLES A. BRIGGS, Pastor at Roselle, New Jersey.

Psalms 42–50, by the Rev. JOHN FORSYTH, D. D., Chaplain and Professor of Ethics in the National Military Academy at West Point, New York. Dr. F. had assumed the entire second Book, but could not finish his task in time, on account of his removal to West Point.

Psalms 73–150, by the Rev. J. FRED. MCCURDY, of Princeton, New Jersey. In this last part, Dr. GREEN, Professor of Hebrew and O. T. Exegesis in the Princeton Theological Seminary, has taken special interest, and aided his friend, Mr. MCCURDY, with linguistical and exegetical helps from his own library and other sources.

The contributors were instructed carefully to consult the well-known German Commentaries of Hupfeld, Ewald, Delitzsch, Hengstenberg, as well as the English and American works of Perowne, Wordsworth, Alexander, Barnes, and others. The Homiletical department has been condensed to make room for extracts from English sources, including Spurgeon’s Treasury of David, as far as published.

As to the text, I have given the reader the benefit of two translations. The Authorized Version has been retained as the basis of the Commentary, but arranged according to the laws of Hebrew parallelism and the stanza divisions of MOLL.

The New Version of the Psalms, with brief philological notes, which follows the Commentary of MOLL, is the work of the veteran Hebrew scholar, Dr. CONANT, of Brooklyn. It is substantially the same with that originally prepared by the author for the “American Bible Union,” but differs from it by numerous corrections in the renderings, suggested by further comparison of the Hebrew text, and certain changes in form, and additional matter, to adapt it to the present work; namely, the use of the termination th for the 3d pers. sing. of the verb, and of a small initial letter in lines continuing a sentence; and the addition of critical and philological notes, at the end of each Psalm, on points of more special interest and difficulty.

A revision of the English Scriptures intended for public and devotional use should, in my opinion, retain the idiom of our Authorized Version, and depart from its grammar and vocabulary as rarely and as little as is consistent with the true meaning of the original and the present state of the English language. But the merits of a version which forms part of a critical commentary, must be measured by the degree of its fidelity to the original Hebrew, and not to King James’ or any other translation. Judged by this standard, Dr. CONANT’S version and notes will be found a very valuable addition to this commentary.

By these numerous additions the volume on the Psalms exceeds both Parts of the German original by 264 pages, and is much larger than any other volume of the English edition of Lange. Nevertheless, the price is the same.

The Psalter is the first Hymn-Book of the Church, and will outlive all other hymn-books. Its treasury of pious experience and spiritual comfort will never be exhausted. And as it will continue to be used in public worship, and for private devotion everywhere, so commentary will follow commentary to the end of time. May this volume contribute its share towards a fuller understanding and application of the Psalms.






The Psalter stands at the beginning of the third division of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Kethubim1 or Hagiographa) in most of the Hebrew MSS. of the German class, followed by our printed editions. Philo 2:475 and Luke 24:44 seem to favor this position. The Spanish class of MSS., however, like the Masora, place the Chronicles at the head of this division (which in the prologue of Sirach is co-ordinate with the Law and the Prophets under the name τῶν ά̓λλων πατρίων βιβλίων);2 whilst the Talmud informs us that even the little book of Ruth had the first place.3 Still another Jewish canon mentioned by Jerome in his Prologue Galeatus begins with the book of Job, and places the Psalter second in this series of sacred writings. This arrangement was made with reference mainly to the subject matter, and is the one which was adopted by the Alexandrian version, and followed by the Vulgate, the German and English Bibles. Comp. Herzfeld, Geschichte des Volkes Israel 3:102 sq.4

The Position of the Psalter among the Hagiographa is in accordance with its nature, not so much on account of the lateness of its completion, as rather its thorough-going joy and peculiar lyrical character which springing from the soil of revelation, in the sacred history of Israel; nourished by the revealed word of Jehovah in closest connection with the public worship of the covenant people, discloses the throbbing heart of the Israelites’ life of faith, and speaks the language of revelation as subjectively appropriated by the inmost feelings. The position of the Psalter among the Hagiographa does not at all indicate that it was esteemed inferior to the “Prophets,”—the second great division of the Hebrew canon (embracing the prophetic books and those historical books following the Thorah). The view of some theologians, that there were different degrees of inspiration among the sacred writings, at least in the form which ascribed the origin of the Hagiographa simply to the Holy Spirit, whilst the remaining canonical books were ascribed to the Prophetic Spirit (Carpzov, Introduct. i. 25), was an unhistorical theory of a few Rabbis (Hävernick, Einleitung i. 66 ff). For the Holy Spirit was frequently and expressly represented as inspiring the Prophets; the term “Holy” Spirit was explained by the term “Prophetic” Spirit; and the appellation “Prophets” was frequently given to the Hagiographa and by Josephus (Contr. Ap. i. 8) even to the historical books. Moreover, not only were the legal prescriptions ordained for the Prophets extended to the Hagiographa, but all the writers of the Psalms were expressly numbered among the Prophets (Herzfeld iii. 17) for the reason that the Bible designates them as Prophets and seers, 1 Chron. 25:1 sq.; 2 Chron. 29:30; 35:15; 1 Sam. 5:10. The Targum of Jonathan on the latter passage reverses the expression and styles the utterance of that which the prophetic Spirit inspires the “making of psalms.” According to the fourfold Ethiopic division of the Old Testament into Octateuch, Kings, Solomon and Prophets, the Psalms were classed with the second division.

From the Alexandrian version originated also the title Psalter (ψαλτήριον, Old German Salter), a collective term for the “Book of Psalms” (Luke 20:42; Acts 1:20), or “The Psalms” (Luke 24:44). The latter word originally meant the music and playing of a string instrument; the former, the instrument itself; then by transfer the song sung to it, finally the collection of these songs, as Euthymius Zigabenus (Prœf. in Psalm. Ed. Le Moyne, pp. 172) rightfully remarked. It corresponds fully to the Hebrew mizmôr, which occurs, however, only in the title of particular Psalms, and not as a title of the collection. It does not appear at all in the plural form in the Bible, being simply used to indicate the recital of certain Psalms (vid. § 8, 2). The contents, and especially the religious character of these songs, is brought out more prominently by the word teffiloth. In Ps. 72:20 all the preceding Psalms are collectively designated by this word as “prayers of David,” although Ps. 17 is the only one within this division in which it is found in the superscription (Septuag. προσευχή). Later still, it characterizes Pss. 86, 90, 102, 142, as also Hannah’s Psalm of praise, 1 Sam. 21:1.5 The title tehillim is the usual superscription of the entire collection, in shortened form tillim, tillin, tilli, sometimes with, sometimes without sefer, i.e. (Book of) Hymns, which designation Philo and Jerome also employ. The Masora employed the plural sefer tehilloth, and also constructed from the same root the form hallêla, but only to designate Pss. 113–119, and not the entire Psalter, as since Buxtorf has been often erroneously stated (cf. Delitzsch Commentar. ii. 530). [The Psalter is still the common Prayer and Hymn Book of the Christian Church, as it was that of the Jews.—P. S.]

That these songs were designed to glorify God, is strikingly indicated by this superscription. The word occurs however with this special reference only in Ps. 145. (Septuag. αἴνεσις), but its appropriation as the title of the whole book, points to the fact, that we are not dealing with a lyrical Anthology of the Hebrews (De Wette), but with the original hymn-book, especially designed for the worship of God in the congregation of Israel.6 Vid. further § 3 and 5.


It is undoubtedly true, that the Psalms, collected in the library of the Temple, 2 Macc. 2:13, by Nehemiah, were designated τὰ τοῦ Δαυίδ, and that the Psalms are cited in the New Testament as the words of David. But we are not obliged on that account to assume, that David was the author of all the Psalms. This opinion has been defended of late by Clauss (Beiträge 1831, S. 4 sq.), and among the Jews by M. Randegger (Hist. krit. Versuche 1841), after the Talmud (Tract. Pesachim, c. 10) and a few of the Church fathers, (Augustine, Chrysostom, Euthym.)

Neither are we obliged to explain those cases, where other persons, than he, are referred to with Lamed in the superscriptions, by assuming that those persons were the subjects of, or the occasions of his writing these Psalms; nor that David was prophetically speaking in their stead. This is quite as ungrammatical as it is unhistorical. For the Lamed before the proper name does not always indicate strictly the authorship, but properly relationship or dependence. We shall have occasion to make use of this remark in those cases where the contents of the Psalm correspond neither with the personality nor the period of the one, whose name it bears. The Psalm may be referred to him perhaps in a wider sense as being composed after his model or in his style; or the reference is to the musical director or the choir (e.g., Ps. 39.), to which the Psalm had been given for practice and recital. In most cases, however, the ל prefixum indicates the author, and there are historical grounds for the view that other historical persons than David, distinguished likewise in the domain of sacred song, were by this designation to be put in the same relation to certain Psalms, and that it was by no means the intention of the authors of the superscriptions to make David the author of all the Psalms. And when the collection is generally designated as a Davidic composition, or when, as in later days, it was superscribed or collectively characterized in the language of the Church as the Psalter of David, or abbreviated as at the end of the Ethiopic translation, e.g., Finitus est David (Dorn De psalterio Ethiop. 1825, p. 9)—or when in occasional citations it is briefly called David; these are not historical or critical statements, but simply show a prevailing usage of certain periods, traces of which are found as early as 2 Chron. 7:6. Comp. 23:18; Ezra 3:10. Its justification is found in the maxim “A potiori fit denominatio.” It probably originated from the statement at the close of Ps. 72, which was also the final statement of the oldest collection of Psalms. Comp. § 4. A spurious writing, called “David,” is mentioned in Constit. Apost., vi. 16; but is otherwise unknown.

From a historical point of view, however, there are but seventy-two Psalms ascribed to David by superscriptions of the kind referred to. These are partly associated with statements concerning their historical occasion, contents, and purpose, and their liturgical and musical use (comp. § 8 and 12). The value of the superscriptions is disputed, their origin being uncertain, their contents frequently obscure, if not entirely unintelligible, whilst their influence in enabling us to understand the Psalms in question is unimportant. It is not surprising, therefore, that doubts should have been advanced respecting them as early as the time of Theodoras Mops. But the thoroughgoing doubts of their authenticity which have been advanced since Vogel, (Inscrip. psalmorum serius demum additas videri, 1767) which with De Wette and still more decidedly Hupfeld, have advanced to the unreasonable extreme of entirely rejecting the use of these titles as unreliable and therefore worthless, as being for the most part additions which have originated from the mere conjectures of later readers and compilers (so previously Rudinger), are entirely unreasonable.

The assumption on the other hand, that all these superscriptions originated with the authors of the Psalms, and are therefore inseparable from the text, cannot be consistently maintained. It can, at most, be held only of a few, and it is all the more important, that individual cases should be strictly scrutinized. This has been done in earlier times by Venema, and more recently by all the most eminent commentators. Useful remarks on these critical investigations may be found in Lutz, Biblische Hermeneutik, S. 461, who, however, regards the most of these superscriptions as later scholia. On the whole an opinion favorable to the antiquity and value of these superscriptions has again been wrought out, which ascribes them for the most part to tradition, and indeed a very ancient one, because they were generally unintelligible to the Septuag., were variously constructed, and divided by these translators, and sometimes in their reference to the occasion and contents of the Psalms, they rather produce difficulties than remove them. Comp. Fr. Bleek, Einleitung in das A. T., 1860, S. 613 f. There is now a disposition to admit, that some of them may have originated with the authors themselves. It is true, that among the Israelites, poets were still less accustomed than among the Arabians and Persians to prefix their names to their songs. But when we compare the superscription of Ps. 60. with 2 Sam. 1:18, we cannot deny the possibility of David’s having done so; and when this is seen to have been the case with the prophet Habakkuk (3:1), shall we not conclude that the Psalmist also may have done the same? The writings of Sonntag on the Tituli Psalmorum 1687, Celsius 1718, and Irhof 1728, have become antiquated. J. A. Starck, Davidis aliorumque poetarum Hebr. carminum libr. V. (incomplete), 1776, 1, 2, p. 411 ff., however, is still worthy of attention. The best work is Delitzsch Symbolœ ad Psalmos illustrandos isagogicœ, 1846. He points in his Comm. II., 393, to the “Annals of David” as a work different from the books of Samuel, and yet made use of as one of their sources.

Moreover the Psalms which bear the name of David, contain an abundance of references, expressions, and peculiar turns, which do not at all make the impression of mere poetical figures, but bear the stamp of the liveliness and truth of individuality, they refer to personal experiences and frames of mind, and the statements of the sacred Scriptures about David’s fortune, character, and utterances, often present the only key to their historical interpretation. J. J. Stähelin (Das Leben Davids, 1866) acknowledges this, under many limitations, it is true, while according to Zunz (Die synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters, 1855, S. 4) they are only the legends of the chiefs of the Levites, and those who are said to have been the originators of the temple music, who made David the author of the Psalms, and even raised him to the dignity of a seer. These Psalms are as manifold in contents, tone, and color, as the agitated life of David himself, and reflect most instructively, as in a mirror, the changing emotions of a heart as tender as it was brave. We hear his cry of anguish and his shout of joy; the tearful wail of sorrow and the courageous expression of his trust in God; the penitential prayer of the broken-hearted sinner, the joyful thanksgiving of the favored one, the wisdom of an experienced sufferer who knows that his life is hid in God, the shepherd’s voice of the prince, the royal word of the hero, the prophetic utterance of the seer. And here let us remember, that the rise of a sacred literature among God’s people of Israel is not simply a matter of literary and historic interest, but an important factor in the history of the Divine Revelation and the kingdom of God. The person of David, moreover, occupies such a prominent place in this history, that, in connection with his poetical talent, clearly attested by his song of mourning at Jonathan’s death, 2 Sam. 1:19–27; his youthful musical endowments according to 1 Sam. 16:17 f.; the daily cultivation of his art according to 1 Sam. 18:10, the assertion of Lengerke (Comm. p. 26. sq.) that David was not a religious poet, is as groundless as the statement of Vatke (Bib. Theol., I. 292) that not a single Psalm can with any certainty be put in the age of David and Solomon. On the other hand, Delitzsch’s remark is worthy of consideration (Comm. i. 59): “As the New Testament canon contains no writings of the Apostles before the day of Pentecost, so the Old Testament canon contains none of the songs of David prior to his anointing. Only when he has become ‘the anointed of the God of Jacob’ is he the sweet singer of Israel, on whose tongue is the word of Jehovah (2 Sam. 23:1 sq.).” Appropriate remarks are to be found in Fr. W. Krummacher’s “David, der König von Israel; ein biblisches Lebensbild mit fortlaufenden Beziehungen auf die Davidischen Psalmen,” 1866.

We have but a single psalm (90) of a date anterior to the time of David: one which in contents and language bears the mark of great antiquity, assigned in the superscription to Moses. Two Psalms are ascribed to Solomon, 72 and 127, against which nothing decisive can be urged, however difficult the removal of some objections may be, and notwithstanding the fact, that Ps. 127. has no superscription in the Septuag.

A prominent place in this department is taken by Asaph in the recollection of history (2 Chron. 29:30; Neh. 12:46). Twelve Psalms in our collection bear his name. Pss. 1. and 73–83. These cannot all, however, be assigned to Asaph, the Levite, son of Barechia, the renowned chorister of David. For Ps. 80. belongs to the time of Jehoshaphat; Pss. 75. and 76. to the time of Hezekiah; Pss. 74. and 79. to the beginning of the Chaldæan exile (comp. Keil in Hävernick’s Handbuch der Einl., III. 213 sq.). It has therefore been generally assumed, that Asaph is here a family name. This view is favored by the circumstance, that this family was in existence at the time of Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. 20:14, and that of the 245 singers, male and female, who returned from the exile (Nehem. 7:47), the majority were Asaphites; 128 according to Ezra 2:41, and indeed 148 according to Nehem. 7:44. The conjecture that an imitation of Asaph’s style simply is indicated by this superscription is less probable. The entire group has, in fact, a certain family likeness, not only in its freshness and liveliness of expression, and in individual peculiarities of its lofty style, but especially in a sort of prophetic way of treating historical events and the recognition of Divine providence in them.

It must however be admitted, that the imitation of a style stamped with the peculiarities of Asaph within his family, has a parallel in the common features of the Psalms of the sons of Korah.

Eleven Psalms are ascribed in the superscriptions to the sons of Korah, viz.: 42–49, 84, 85, 87, 88. (vide Carpzov, Introductio II., 97). Ps. 88. ought probably to be excluded from this group. The others, in the longings which they express for the worship of God in the holy city, have some similarity, it is true, with many of the Psalms of David, yet we are not, on that ground to ascribe their authorship to David, nor to suppose that their musical execution simply was assigned to the sons of Korah (Eichhorn). For they are not a mere echo of the songs of David. On the contrary, they move quite characteristically, with a lofty style, full of earnestness of soul, in songs of praise to Elohim, the king enthroned in Jerusalem. And while in the superscriptions of the Psalms of Asaph the family disappears in the name of its renowned ancestor and pattern, the personality of Korah does not appear at all in those of the group which bears the name. For Heman the Ezrahite, alluded to in Ps. 88, is not the leader of the Kohrite choir, 1 Chron. 6:18 sq., but one of the four wise men of Israel, 1 Kings 5:11, of the tribe of Judah. We must also bear in mind that Korah, the great-grandson of Levi, was taken away by a Divine judgment, Num. 16; that representatives of his family, however, were not only preserved (Num. 26:11), but were close adherents of David (1 Chron. 13:6) especially the watchmen at the gates of the temple (1 Chron. 9:17; 24:1–19; Neh. 11:19), furnishing also a portion of the singers and musicians of the sanctuary (1 Chron. 25.) The latter are alluded to in the time of Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. 20:19; the former even after the exile.

Ps. 89. has a strong resemblance to the Psalm of Heman the Ezrahite, Ps. 88. The superscription assigns it to Ethan the Ezrahite, who also appears to belong to the tribe of Judah, (1 Kings 5:11; 1 Chron. 2:6), and is only with violence identified by a few commentators with Ethan the Merarite, of the tribe of Levi, 1 Chron. 15:17; 6:29 sq., because he is mentioned alongside of Asaph and Heman as the leader of the Kohrite choir. There are fifty anonymous Psalms in our collection. Thirty-four of these have no superscription whatever, whence they have in the Talmud been called the orphaned Psalms. At all events, they are not to be assigned to the authors of the Psalms immediately preceding, according to the opinion of the Talmud, Origen, Hilarius, and Jerome, which has been controverted in detail by Jahn Einleitung II., 706. The Septuag. ascribes the authorship of several of them to the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, and Zechariah, apparently as mere conjectures (vid. Eichhorn Einleit., § 622).7


The present collection of Psalms was intended for use in the Divine service of the congregation of Israel (§ 1 and 5); yet this does not imply that all the particular Psalms were composed with this directly in view. This is undoubtedly the case with some of them; but with others we can scarcely imagine any other origin than that they originally sounded forth from the heart in the very times and circumstances referred to in the superscription, and that they were afterwards put into their present poetical form, and indeed by “their authors actually becoming absorbed in these circumstances, and with the definite purpose of affording to the entire church of the Lord, and especially to those who were afflicted and in need of consolation, a share in the grace which they had then received.” (Otto Von Gerlach: Das A. T. mit Einleitungen und erklärenden Anmerkungen herausgegeben, Bd. iii. p. 12:3 Ausg., 1854). Yet it seems to be inadmissible with Hengstenberg to extend this reference to the congregation, which is true of all the Psalms with respect to their liturgical use and their devotional application, likewise to their origin. At the other extreme of one-sidedness De Wette, following Eichhorn, attempts to explain almost everything from external events, historic occurrences and personal situations, and by this means frequently falls into wholly untenable references to later times and to the conflicts of Israel with heathen nations. In the search for occasions, however, the particular circumstances of the poet are worthy of all consideration. So likewise for the purposes of exposition, the historical surroundings and associations of individual Psalms deserve all attention. Even though sharp-sighted ingenuity in discovering and pointing out these circumstances may be carried to excess, as with Hitzig, they are yet of great importance for the understanding of the Psalms as even Hupfeld admits. Poetical endowment and religious vitality are to be brought into consideration as conditions of the origin of these spiritual songs, just as other kinds of poetical and musical productions are presupposed as the general historic basis of their poetical form. The proper source of their origin, however, is in the fructification of a poetically gifted Israelite by the Spirit of Jehovah. The generic conception of the Psalm therefore implies three things: 1. That it belongs to the lyric poetry of the Hebrews; 2. That it originated from a member of the Church of God in Israel. 3. That it be composed under the positive influence of the Spirit of Jehovah. Thus David designates his Psalms as songs of Israel, 2 Sam. 23:1. Thus the Psalmist described his poem as a song of Jehovah, Ps. 42:9, and himself, 49:5, as a man who must first attend to that which is unfolded to him, before he can venture to instruct; for the laying open, that is, revelation of the word of Jehovah, has a power of illumination, Ps. 119:130. The Psalms are therefore to be regarded as sacred poetry not simply on account of their religious character, but especially on account of their theopneustic origin. This peculiarity alone entitles them to a place in the canon of sacred scriptures; for while the second named peculiarity renders possible their use in the Divine service of the Church, the first secures for them their peculiar position in the canon, and that particular character of which we shall speak more fully hereafter. Two things, however, need to be emphasized here: first, that the degree of the Spirit’s influence upon the soul of the Psalmist may be very various without destroying its inspirational character; and secondly, that inspiration, as likewise in the case of the prophets, does not at all exclude the imitation of models, or the use of the works of their predecessors.

These remarks are derived from the facts which reflect the historic course of their composition. Their historical origin synchronizes neither with the beginning of revelation nor of religious lyrics. Both are older than the establishment of the Israelitish Church. First among them resounds that most ancient of Psalms, “the prayer of Moses, the man of God,” as yet without strophaic members, yet striding with threatening tread above all the heights, and above all the depths of life. The Church shows itself to be the birth-place of the Psalter; its founder was the first who interpreted her emotions.8 But his powerful and dread-inspiring voice still remained for centuries solitary within its domain. Not until after the centuries of severe conflicts and complications which succeeded the entrance of the covenant people into the land of promise; not until the reformatory labors of Samuel, and indeed not without the influence of the Schools of the Prophets founded by him, with their exercises in music and in song; not until the establishment of the kingdom, when Israel had gained through rich experiences a new position in the world; and then in equally great strength, abundance and beauty, the sacred song resounded from David’s harp, and in this king of promise the singing and composition of Psalms found a master and a patron. Four thousand Levites, the entire fourth division of them, exercised their official functions as singers and musicians under his direction in the service of God; now in the tabernacle upon Zion, now in Gibeon, the place of the Mosaic tabernacle of the covenant, 1 Chron. 15:16. So likewise an organized culture was maintained under the choristers Asaph, Heman and Ethan, (identical probably with Jeduthun), 1 Chron. 24. No wonder, then, that the Davidic type of Psalms invited others to imitation, down to the latest times, nor that incited partly by the stimulus of new forms of culture, types so strongly characteristic, as those of Asaph and Korah should have arisen. Let us add to that which has already been remarked in § 2 concerning the character of these groups of Psalms, that both manifest their adaptation to the Church and to the worship at Jerusalem, associated with definite historic events. In the Psalms of Asaph, however, God appears predominant as the judge of His enemies, and repeatedly as speaking, whilst He is presented in the songs of Korah rather as the King who watches over Jerusalem. Comp. J. J. Stähelin, Zur Einleitung in die Psalmen, 1859, S. 14 f. Spezielle Einleitung in die Kanon. Bücher des A. T., 1862, S. 381, 391.

But we see from the history of Solomon how insufficient mere poetical endowments were to make a Psalmist. For this king was celebrated for his wisdom, and highly praised as a writer and a poet, even if the assertion of 1 Kings 5:12, (4:32) be not, that he composed 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs, but that he simply spake them. In any case the superscription to the Song of Solomon refers, according to Semitic usage (Ewald) to still other songs of Solomon. Among the Psalms, however, there are but two which bear his name.

This striking circumstance is explained by the character of the other Solomonic writings and by the statement of 1 Kings 5:13 (4:33) that he spake of trees, cattle, birds, creeping things and fishes. Whether this is an allusion to his acquaintance with natural history (Keil in Hävernick’s Einl.) or to secular poetry (Hengst.) or to proverbs and fables, classified according to the animal kingdom (Hupf.), in either case nature and human life were the subjects of which he chiefly treated, and proverbial wisdom (chokhma) especially in the form of sentences (maschal) is associated with his name, as the Psalms are with that of his father David, and both with good historic reasons. According to a statement in the Septuag. appended to 1 Kings 8:53, the matter there narrated, had been made the subject of a song.

The influence of David was so strongly felt still later acording to Amos 6:5, that the secular poetry and music bore traces of it. There the reference is to those who practiced tricks with the accompaniment of the harp, and believed themselves to equal David in their musical performances, or, according to another view devised for themselves similar things to those of David. But although prophetic discourse was now being powerfully developed, and although in the period of the Kings we have evidence of the exercise of the poetic art, we possess but two Psalms of the days of Solomon, those of the Ezrahites, Heman and Ethan. During the entire period of the division of the kingdom we have but two revivals of the composition of Psalms of the Asaphic and Kohrite types. For such Psalm-like fragments as Jonah 2, Is. 12, Habakkuk 3, are but transformations or free renderings of older songs. As such truly they are important witnesses both of the presence and of the vitality of the Psalms in the hearts of pious Israelites. Both of these revivals, however, fall precisely within the period of the restoration and purification of the worship of Jehovah, first under Jehoshaphat, then under Hezekiah, both times immediately following great deeds of judgment and deliverances of the Lord. Jehoshaphat had the education of the people especially in view, 2 Chron. 17:7 sq., Hezekiah [“the Pisistratus of Israelitish literature.” Delitzsch.—J. B. H.], the preservation of the remains of their literature and the restoration of their ancient sacred music and the liturgical use of the Psalms, 2 Chron. 29:25 sq. He was himself also a poet, intimately familiar with the Book of Job, as is clear from Is. 38.

Entirely in harmony with this is the fact that during the exile the composition of Psalms was not entirely suspended. Ps. 102. certainly belongs to this period, and others readily remind us of the prophet Jeremiah, although not to such an extent as Hitzig assumes, (Begriff der Kritik, S. 63 ff.) But their harps still hung upon the willows, Ps. 137:2, and a full and fresh stream of new Psalms burst forth from the heart of the Church, only when led back to their native land by the hand of God, and permitted to pray in the restored temple. The most of the Psalms in the last two books belong to this period of the second temple. The question now arises whether the religious exaltation of the Jewish people in the time of the Maccabees caused a new harvest of sacred song to sprout forth. Hitzig, von Lengerke and Olshausen, believe this to have been extensively the case, as Rüdinger, Venema, Bengel, et al. had previously maintained. The reasons for an opposite opinion are very fully developed by Ewald (Jahrb. der bibl. Wissenschaft, ii. 20 f.) and by E. Meyer, Geschichte der poet. Nationalliteratur der Heb. 1856, S. 496 sq., 571 sq. It is going too far, however, to affirm the impossibility of such being the case. The Psalm-like passages 1 Mac. 7:37 sq., 9:21; 2 Mac. 1:24 sq., 14:35 sq., 15:22 sq., have, it is true a very prosaic character, and various opinions may be held concerning Sirach 1:22–24, from which Martin Rinkart drew our hymn, “Nun danket alle Gott.” Thenius (Studien und Krit. 1854, Heft. 3), regards these words as the only proof of a temple Psalm of this period. Delitzsch (Zur Geschichte der nachbibl. Jüdischen Poesie, 1836, S. 182) regards it as a pithy fragment of a liturgical thanksgiving hymn of the Church. D. F. Fritzsche (Exeg. Handbuch zu den Apokryph., v. 303) however, regards it as the epilogue to the praise of the Father, a summons to the reader to give thanks. A prophetico-lyrical exaltation cannot but be recognized, however, in the pseudo-epigraphic Psalter of Solomon, consisting of eighteen Psalms, translated from the Aramaic into Greek, in Fabricius God. pseudoepigr. V. T. 1, 917, which Ewald Jahrbuch xi. 215; Geschichte, 3 Aufl. iv. 392, and Dillmann, in Herzog, Real-Encycl. xii. 305, place in the period of the Maccabees; Movers, in Kathol. Kirchenlexikon von Wetze and Welter 1:340, and Delitzsch, Comment, ii. 381, still later in the Herodian period, while Grätz, Geschichte der Juden iii. 3, 491, even regards it as Christian. We may also allude to the lyrical additions which have found their way from the Septuag. into the German Bible, as Apocryphal fragments belonging to Daniel and Chron. But all this furnishes no decisive answer to the question as to the existence of Maccabean Psalms in the canonical Psalter. Against such a supposition in general stands the circumstance, which even Hupfeld regards as decisive, that the Psalter was known as such as early as the time of the Chronicles ( Vid. § 4,) and the assumption of later interpolations is a pure hypothesis. Nevertheless, our decision in concreto must depend upon the result of our investigations in individual Psalms.


The Psalter begins in its present form with a pair of anonymous Psalms of a didactic and prophetic character, which were regarded, as early as the Jerusalem Talmud, Tract. taanith 2, 2, as one Psalm commencing and ending with beatitudes. The Psalter closes also with four anonymous Psalms (146–149) which similarly begin and end with hallelujahs. For Ps. 150 is simply an amplified doxology, similar to the shorter ones found at the end of each of the four preceding groups of Psalms. These doxologies, however, so like the liturgical beracha of the second temple, are not of the same date as the Psalms which immediately precede them. They were subsequently added for liturgical use, especially for public reading (Delitzsch, Symbolœ, p. 19). In this way five books arose, constituted as follows:9

The bulk of the first book, which closes with Ps. 41, consists of thirty-seven Davidic Psalms, among which, exclusive of the two introductory Psalms, only two are anonymous, (10, 33)10 Jehovah is the prevailing name of God. The second book (Ps. 42–72) begins with seven Kohrite Psalms, their succession uninterrupted except by one (43) anonymous Psalm. [This is without doubt a part of Ps. 42—C. A. B.] Then follows an Asaphic Psalm (59) followed by a succession of eighteen Davidic Psalms, interrupted by two (66, 67), anonymous [these are likewise Davidic, vid. in loco.—C. A. B.], concluding after Ps. 71. (anonymous) [Ps. 71 belongs to Ps. 70, vid. in loco.—C. A. B.], with a Psalm of Solomon (72) The prevailing name of God in this group is Elohim. The third book (Pss. 73–79) begins with eleven Psalms of Asaph, followed by four Kohrite Psalms, with one Davidic Psalm interposed (86), closing with the Messianic Psalm of Ethan. Here the name of God is sometimes Jehovah and sometimes Elohim. The superscriptions frequently contain, not so often however as in the second book, brief historic references to the occasion of their composition, often, moreover, musical references. The fourth book (Pss. 90–106) begins with the prayer of Moses, and then, with the exception of two Psalms of David (101, 103) introduces only anonymous Psalms, with now and then a brief notice of the purpose of their composition. The only name of God in this collection is Jehovah,11 The fifth book, finally, (Ps. 107–150) begins with a Psalm without superscription introducing then, three Davidic Psalms, three hallelujah Psalms, six without superscriptions, followed by fifteen Psalms of degrees, among which one (127) bears the name of Solomon, and two (121, 133) the name of David;—then again one hallelujah Psalm, two without superscriptions, seven Davidic, and finally the four hallelujah Psalms, introducing the closing doxology. Here also Jehovah is the prevailing name of Deity.

It appears, even in this general sketch, that the arrangement is not a confused mixture of an accidental or opportune aggregation, and that no classification, either by the order of their composition, their subject matter, or their authorship, is consistently carried out. This fact is confirmed in considering the contents, origin, and date of particular Psalms. Now, although a very early liturgical use of the Psalms may be proven (vid. § 5), yet apart from the above-mentioned division into five books, by concluding doxologies, no liturgical or dogmatic principle of arrangement is manifest. Hippolytus states that this fivefold division (Ed. de Lagarde, p. 193) was made with reference to the Pentateuch. The entire rejection of such a motive by Jahn and De Wette, is without grounds. We may say with Delitzsch, “The Psalter is also a Pentateuch,—the echo of the books of Moses, from the heart of Israel;—it is the five books of the Church to Jehovah, as the Thorah is the five books of Jehovah to the Church.”

But while this reference was in the mind of the Jewish church, and actuated the Redacteur, who added the doxologies, probably with reference also to the symbolical significance of the number five (Stähelin, Spez. Einl., S. 379 f.) it allows no parallelization of the separate books, and explains, neither their connection nor their sequence. With still less propriety can we adopt the language of the Midrash on Ps. 1: “Moses gave to the Israelites the five books of the Thorah, corresponding to which David gave them the five books of Psalms.” It can hardly be supposed that the present sequence and division of the whole collection was independent of preceding arrangements. It cannot certainly be shown that the first book was the oldest collection (Bengel),12 and that the four other books, originating from repeated gleanings, were successively added, (Jahn, De Wette, Hupfeld). Other combinations may be suggested, and attempts may be made at the discovery of special collections, with possible additions and supplements (vid. Berthold, Einl. V. 2020 f., Ewald, Poet. Bücher I., 187 f., Neue Ausarbeitung I.; 242 ff.; Jahrb IV., 252 f., VI. 20 f., and Delitzsch in Herzog’s Real-Encykl. XII., 267, who also alludes to Hofmann’s hypothesis of nine separate collections). Moreover it cannot be denied after the profound investigations of Delitzsch (Symbolœ, etc.) that it is more natural to ascribe to the hand of the last Redacteur the grouping in the second and third books of kindred Psalms of an earlier and later date, than to refer the rise of separate collections exclusively to later times or to assume a frequently repeated interpolation.

Although a classification of Psalms containing noticeably similar thoughts, or strikingly similar passages, especially at the beginning and close, has been proven in many series of Psalms, and rendered probable in others, yet we must admit that the last compiler (whom there is no reason for distinguishing from a Redacteur Herzfeld, III., 5, 6), arranged the entire material at his command according to certain points of view, and frequently violated the order of time in favor of an arrangement with reference to the subject matter. But this, however, could not have occurred except upon the basis of older collections, and in connection with classifications already existing.

Such a view is especially favored from the circumstance, that the second book concludes, after the doxology, with these words, “The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.” This sentence cannot have originated with the last compiler, for many Davidic Psalms are scattered through all the following books, singly, and in little groups. This sentence, then, points to another collection. There can also be no doubt that a collection of the Psalms of David, was begun soon after the death of the great royal singer (vid. Ewald’s Geschichte 3, Aufl. iii. 360.13) This expression, no longer applicable, was still retained, and for proof that this is not without a parallel vid. Stähelin, Zur Einl. S. 12, in opposition to Hengstenberg, iv. 2, S. 267, and Keil in Hävernick, iii. 295. The doxology was naturally placed before this closing sentence, and gives to God the name of Jehovah Elohim, in conformity with the character of the second book, and in contrast with that of the first. Since these doxologies are of later origin and have simply a liturgical significance, they furnish nothing conclusive in regard to the age and origin of the individual collections. But it had not escaped the notice of the ancient Jewish teachers, that this collection, expressly characterized as Davidic, not only contains Psalms of unknown authorship, several Asaphic and Kohrite Psalms (and among the latter, some which unquestionably belong to a very late period); but that the concluding sentence which we are considering, is found at the end of a Psalm of Solomon. The enigma thus presented to the Jews is exemplified by the narrative in the Midrasch, on Ps. 3. “When Joshua Ben Levi undertook to revise the arrangement of the Psalms, an echo from heaven cried to him, ‘Wake not the slumberer!’ ” Many of the Psalms, doubtless, received their present position from the final redaction, although it is conjectural that individual transpositions and insertions were made at each succeeding addition of new groups, to the original stem, which we have sufficient reason to regard in general as the first, (Ewald) or the first and second books (Delitzsch). Hitzig (ii, p. 12) finds an intentional reference to the Sanhedrists and the purported number of interpreters, and the days occupied in their labor, in the number of the Ps. (72) with which the second book ends. (Josephus, Archäol. Xii. 2, 6, 10.)

After the time of Solomon, that of Jehoshaphat or, with still more likelihood that of Hezekiah, may be regarded as the probable period of such a compilation and revision. For we read not only that the men of Hezekiah made a copy of the proverbs of Solomon (Prov. 25:1) but that he restored the use of the Psalms of David and of Asaph, 2 Chron. 29:30 sq. Carpzov, Introd. ii. 106 sq. The majority of the latter, however, are contained in the third book of the Psalms.

A subsequent collection of sacred literature took place under the direction of Nehemiah, 2 Mac. 2:13, in which the writings of David are especially alluded to, while in Zech. 7:12, they are closely associated with the Law and the Prophets; and Ecclesiastes 12:12, in contrast to profane literature, refers to a collection of genuine wisdom. Similar collections occurred finally under Judas Maccabæus, 2 Mac. 2:14. This must also have been the period of the final collection. For, contrary to the assumption of Olshausen, et al., that we must come down to the times of Simon, the Hasmonean prince (143 to 135 B. C.) or to the time of John Hyrcanus (135–107 B. C.) this circumstance seems conclusive; that the Psalter was known as such, to the author of Chronicles, who wrote in the fourth century B. C., towards the end of the Persian rule, and was accepted into the canon, at the latest, in the times of Judas Maccabæus (Ewald, Geschichte vii. 428 sq.) It follows, moreover, from 1 Chron. 16:35, that the liturgical doxology which precedes Ps. 106. was also associated with it at that period. Hitzig naturally enough, reverses this relation, and supposes that the Psalmist drew from the Chronicles. He regards the High Priest, Alex. Jannœos, as the author of the present arrangement and the composer of Psalms 1 and 2, as well as Ps. 150 and several others besides, and as having determined also the acceptance, the sequence and the division of the Psalms into five books.14

Were the time of the Alexandrian translation of the Psalms definitely known, this would furnish a fixed starting-point. But even if we reject Herzfeld’s assumption (Geschichte iii. 470, who believes we have Maccabean Psalms in the Psalter) of a piecemeal translation not completed until a very late period, the time of the translation of the Psalms still remains very indefinite, if we suppose the translation of the Pentateuch—the oldest of all—to have begun under Ptolemaus Philadelphus (284–247.) The statement of the Talmud given by Frankel (Vorstudien zu der Septuaginta, 1841, S. 25 ff.) is not decisive. We can only say that the threefold division of the canonical Scriptures was in existence when the grandson of Sirach in Alexandria wrote the Prologue to his Greek translation of the book of Proverbs. But this would lead to no new result, even if the investigations of Grätz (in Frankel’s Monatschrift 1875, S. 46 f., with whom Fuerst agrees, Geschichte des Karäerthums, 1862, S. 132,) had established the fact that the Book of Proverbs was collected in the beginning of the third century B. C., or according to Horowitz, (Das Buch Jesus Sirach, 1865), about 250 B. C. For the word grandson must not be taken too precisely. The author of the Prologue states that he arrived in Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of Euergetes. Now since Ptolemy iii. Euergetes ruled only twenty-five years, (246–221), we are obliged to think of Ptolemy vii, Euergetes ii, who was associate regent 170 B. C., so that Jesus the Siracide could not have arrived in Egypt until the year 132. If we assume, on the other hand, that his own grandfather compiled the Book of Proverbs, its compilation could not have occurred earlier than between 180 and 170 B. C. (Fritzsche, et al.) Nor does the fact that the book of Proverbs contains distinct references to individual Psalms bring us any nearer a result (vid. Beiträge zur Einleitung in das A. T. von H. Gelbe, 1866, S. 4). This circumstance, however, is significant, that the Septuagint concludes with the apocryphal Psalm (151) on the victory of David over Goliath, which is designated in the superscription as, “A Psalm of David written with his own hand, not of the number of the Psalms ascribed to him.” The number of the canonical Psalms (150) was therefore fixed before the addition of this apocryphal Psalm. “And yet the translator finding it in existence, clearly proves that between his time and the conclusion of the Psalter, as found in the canon, a considerable period must have elapsed” (Ewald, 1:266, Neu. Ausarbeit.). Now the liturgical use of the Psalms encourages the assumption of a very early translation, while Hitzig’s conjecture that it was made after the translation of the prophets, has no other motive than the interest of his hypothesis. The Septuag. itself assumes that the time of Nehemiah was the period of the cessation of the composition of Psalms, vid. Dillmann (Jahrb. für deutsche Theol. 1858, S. 457).

The numbering of the Psalms is variously given.15 Many Hebrew manuscripts unite Pss. 1 and 2, and likewise Pss. 42 and 43 and 116 and 117 Ps. 118 is on the other hand, divided sometimes in two and sometimes in three. In many cases the entire number is set down at 149. Delitzsch, in fact, refers to a numbering found in a Hagadabook in which there are but 147 Psalms, corresponding to the years of Jacob’s life. The Septuag. likewise originally united the first two Psalms, and still like the Vulgate unites Pss. 9 and 10, so that from Ps. 10 to 147 the numbering of the Septuagint remains one Psalm less than the Hebrew text, until it reaches the latter Ps. which it divides. By another variation Pss. 114 and 115 are united, while Ps. 116 is divided. Attention must be paid to this in the citations of the Church fathers.16


All the Psalms were not originally composed for liturgical use, nor with direct reference to the Church of God, as has been assumed from various grounds, by Dursch, Hengstenb. and Olshausen. They are adapted, however, by their contents and form, to such an application, and they served that liturgical purpose in part in the first temple, but especially in the second temple. Some Psalms, moreover, were destined from the first for the divine service of the temple. This will be more specifically set forth, hereafter, in its connection. At present we confine ourselves to a general survey.

Whatever our conclusion respecting the use of Ps. 106 in 1 Chron. 16, it, at least, establishes the custom of that period to sing Psalms in the temple on festal occasions (Hengstenb. iv. 1, 168). But the Chronicler must have been a contemporary of Ezra, or Nehemiah, in which case his labors fall between 536 and 400 B. C. (Hävernick, Keil, Movers, et al.) or he must have lived (from the genealogy 1 Chron. 3:18 f.), in the latter days of the Persian rule, or at the latest early in the Grecian period (Zunz, Ewald, Bertheau, Dillmann, Bleek, Stähelin). Now, in spite of the appearance of a didactic and parenectical treatment in his style, and the controversy concerning some of his statements, especially in our present text; his accounts are still regarded by our modern critics as essentially historical notwithstanding the opinions of De Wette and Gramberg to the contrary, (Stähelin, Spezielle Einl. in die kanon. Büher des A. T., 1862, S. 155). This is especially true of David’s regulations for worship, so that we may safely infer from the information given by the Chronicler, that the Psalms were in liturgical use during the period of the first temple. This is favored also by the vow of King Hezekiah to sing his songs in the house of the Lord, Is. 38:20, and apart from the prophet Jonah, by the remark in Jer. 33:11, that the voice should be heard again of those who say, “Praise the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good, for His mercy endureth forever,” and of those who should bring the sacrifice of praise to the house of the Lord. Even R. H. Graf (Die geschichtl. Bücher des A. T., 1866, S. 245), whose general opinion of the Book of Chronicles, as a source of historical information, is so unfavorable, admits that they approach nearer to history in referring many of the regulations of the temple service to Hezekiah and Josiah than in ascribing them to David.

Aside from the conclusion to be drawn from 1 Chron. 16 the formula employed in 1 Chron. 16:41, and reappearing 2 Chron. 5:13; 7:13; 20:21; Ezra 3:11, taken probably from Ps. 136, favors the view that the Psalms were liturgically employed during the period of the second temple, as songs for festal occasions. The same is true of the formula, “To sing with praise and thanksgiving,” which occurs frequently in connection with Ezra and Nehemiah, and which is certainly not without reference to the Hallelujah Psalms, and the “praise” in Psalms 105–107, 115, 136 (comp. Stähelin, Zur Einleit. in die Psalmen, § 3). Furthermore, the agreement of many Psalms, especially in the fourth and fifth books, with the prayers of Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 9; and finally the musical and liturgical remarks in the Psalms themselves, which are found, although in a somewhat enlarged and extended form, in the Septuag., which was composed during the period of the second temple, prove that the Psalms were at that time liturgically employed.

From the Talmud (Mischna, Tract, thamid; Gemara Tr. Kidduschim in Lud. de Dieu, Animadv. p. 389,) we learn more particularly, that on the first day of the week, at the morning sacrifice, Levites were appointed to sing Ps. 24; on the second day Ps. 48; on the third day Ps. 82; on the fourth day Ps. 92; on the fifth day Ps. 81; on the sixth day Ps. 93; on the seventh day Ps. 92. Respecting the ritual cf. § 11. For the chief and the intermediate feast days there were other Psalms prescribed concerning which tradition is partly at variance and partly silent. While, for example, at the present day, Ps. 65. is sung at the close of the feast of Tabernacles (schemini azereth) and the 29. on the feast of Pentecost, the Septuag. designates Ps. 29. for the close of the former festival, and the Talmud gives no account at all of the liturgy for the latter day, while the commentators are divided between Pss. 6 and 12. Pss. 29:1,16; 94:16; 94:8; 81:7; 82:5 b. are assigned for the intervening days of the feast of Tabernacles. Ps. 30 was appointed to be sung on the presentation of the firstlings. Eighteen times in the year, viz., on the first two days of the Passover, on the eight days of Succoth, i.e., the feast of Tabernacles, and on the eight days of the chanuka or festival of the dedication of the Temple, introduced by Jud. Maccab., the hallel Pss. 113–118 was a part of the festal service. Even as early as the Alexandr. version, they bore the superscription, Ἀλληλουΐα. This hallel, likewise called the Egyptian (hallel hammizri), was afterwards called the great hallel to distinguish it from the little hallel, in which Ps. 115:1–12; Ps. 116:1–11 were omitted. In the ancient ritual only Ps. 136, with its refrain repeated twenty-six times, “For his mercy endureth forever,” was called hallel haggadôl. In the Talmud and Midrash this title was also applied to Ps. 135:4–136, and to Ps. 120–136. On the feast of the Passover the hallel was so divided, that Pss. 113 and 114 were sung before the meal, before taking the second festal cup; Pss. 115–118 after the meal, after filling the fourth cup. At the time of the full moon, the hallel was customarily sung, although not legally prescribed (Tr. Soferim.)

As examples of the standing use of single verses of the Psalms at that period Delitzsch (Zur Geschichte, § 179), adduces, 1.) The hosanna which was sung by the priests, in marching around the altar of burnt offering, shaded with willow twigs, on the seven days of the Passover, the last day thereby receiving the name of the great hosanna; 2.) Ps. 44:24, as a daily cry of the Levites in times of need and apostasy; 3.) Ps. 127:1, which verse the nobles of Jerusalem used on the night preceding the day of atonement, in calling out to the High Priest repeatedly, lest sleep should overpower him.

After the destruction of the temple, prayer came to occupy more and more the place of sacrifice, and the synagogue service became the vital centre of Jewish life, “the only bearer and banner of their nationality, in the ruin of all their other institutions” (Zunz, Die gottesdienstl. Vorträge, S. 1). Its two parts consisted in the reading of the Scriptures and singing of Psalms and other psalm-like passages. The reading was conducted by the teachers, and those versed in the Scriptures, the “wise men,” and it was connected with expositions, (Midrash). The singing was conducted by the leaders in prayer, “the representatives of the assembly,” who delivered in a singing style, Psalms or songs of a psalm-like character which were introduced gradually, and grew up out of free renderings of passages from the Psalms and other biblical sentences. This poetry (pint) was like that series of exclamations and praises resembling litanies used on the day of atonement, or those declarations of Divine pardon composed of passages of Scripture which were connected with penitential prayers, and which were called selicha, and were accompanied with hymns in rhyme (pismon) in the recitation of which the congregation united, answering with passages from the Bible or other responses, (Zunz, Die synag. Poesie, S. 89). This poetry was originally composed of fragments without rhyme and metre, usually with an alphabetical arrangement of the lines or sentences. As it gradually became richer in contents, so it became more artistic in form and more difficult of expression, and finally as a whole was reduced to definite technical rules, (l. c. S. 60,) in which, however, the grand culmination of the strophe was in the biblical passage with which it concluded, (l. c. S. 95), which was selected with special reference to the significance of the day, or its striking effect upon the ear or mind. There was, however, for centuries, no fixed arrangement of prayers, and no prayer-book to which the leaders in prayer were restricted. They exercised, in fact, the greatest freedom in the choice of Psalms and hymns for divine service, and in the manner of their delivery, and not unfrequently appeared themselves in the character of poets or singers, with original productions. They were generally confined, however, to local usage (Minhag.), (Zunz, Die Ritus des synag. Gottesdienstes geschichtl. entwickelt, 1859, S. 2), until the middle of the ninth century (l. c. S. 7), when a prevailing type of festal poetry had been formed for the entire year. The usage of the West (Palestine) extended itself over the hymns of Christians, particularly German nations, whilst the usage of the East (Babylon) established itself in the countries of Islam and in Spain. For the Psalms at present used by the Jews, in family devotions and the worship of the synagogue, vid. in J. F. Schrœder, Satzungen und Gebräuche des talmudisch. rabinischen Judenthums 1851, S. 25, ff. Among the Karæans the 119. Ps. is read in seven divisions on the Sabbaths preceding the feast of weeks, and is used as a prayer in the month Tebet, on Monday and Thursday nights (Zunz, Die Ritus, S. 159).


The following indications of the special liturgical use of individual Psalms may be drawn from their superscriptions.

1. Psalm 92. was designed for the Sabbath. The Sept. represents other Psalms as designed for other days of the week.

2. The statement, Ps. 30, “A Psalm sung at the dedication of the house of David,” is referred by Venema, Hengstenb., Keil and Tholuck, to the consecration of the site selected for the future temple, upon which an altar had been erected provisionally, whence it was called the house of Jehovah, 1 Chron. 22:1. But David himself was not taken sick with the plague, which was visited upon the people as a punishment for the numbering, mentioned 2 Sam. 24:17, and which was the occasion of the erection of the altar, 5:18 sq. The Psalmist, however, speaks of his personal deliverance from a sickness which threatened his life. Such a reference is therefore inappropriate. Calvin, Clauss, et al. take it as referring to a consecration of the palace, which had been desecrated by Absalom, on David’s return. The word house, used absolutely, certainly may signify “palace,” as is clearly proved by the official title of the major domo, ascher al-labajith; but the Psalm does not speak of deliverance from the hand of an enemy, but of recovery from sickness. Most commentators, therefore, take it as a reference to the re-built citadel on Mount Zion, and call attention to the fact that David regarded this structure as a pledge of the firmness and greatness of his kingdom, (2 Sam. 5:12), the immediate occupation of which was prevented by a severe sickness. De Wette’s assumption that there was in general use a song appropriated to the consecration of houses (Deut. 20:5), and that this Psalm was to be sung to the melody of that song, is without foundation. Ewald regards it as an ancient song of thanksgiving, which was afterwards sung at the consecration of the second temple. The later superscription then says that this Psalm should be sung again at each anniversary of that day.

3. The statement, Pss. 38 and 52, lehazkir = to bring to remembrance, Septuag. εἰς ἀνάμνησιν περὶ (τοῦ) σαββάτου. This, according to some, refers to the sufferings in remembrance of which David is said to have composed this Psalm. Others apply the expression to the person of David himself, who brings himself in remembrance to Jehovah. Thus Gesenius in the Thesaurus. Olshausen regards it in general as a liturgical designation equivalent to “prayer.” Michaelis (Krit. Colleg., S. 419), on the contrary, gives it a more specific application=at the sacrifice; Ewald, with reference to Isa. 66:3, still more particularly=at the offering of incense; cf. Ps. 141:2; Rev. 8:4, as a supplicatory prayer in contrast with lethodah, Ps. 100= for the thank-offering. Delitzsch conjectures that the expression is not employed in a symbolic but in a proper liturgical sense=at the presentation of the askârah, and remarks (Comment. I. 297), “At the presentation of the meat offering (minchot) a portion, viz., a handful of meal mingled with oil and all of the incense, was consumed upon the altar; this portion was called אַזְכָּרָה ἀνάμνησις, because the ascending fragrance served to bring the offerer in remembrance with God.” Delitzch also regards the Hiphil as denominative, and believes that the Chronicler refers to the hazkir with the hodu and hallelujah Psalms, 1 Chron. 16:4. Concerning the later ritual, vid. § 11.

4. The superscription of Ps. 100, “A Psalm of praise,” is regarded by Mendelssohn, Ewald and Delitzsch as appropriate especially to the thanks-offering.

5. The superscription of Pss. 120–134, shîr hammaaloth; Septuag. ᾠδὴ τῶν ἀναβαθμῶν; Vulgate: cantica graduum, from which they have received the liturgical title, “Psalms of degrees,” signifies according to Luther, “songs in the higher choir,” which refers, according to Bake, to the singers who stood upon an elevated position. According to an uncertain tradition the opinion had prevailed that these fifteen Psalms were sung upon the fifteen steps, which led from the court of the women to that of the men of Israel, thus, according to Lyra one for every step. This, however, is not the statement of the Talmud. It simply compares the fifteen songs with those fifteen steps on which the music of the priests sounded on the first day of the feast of the Tabernacles, vid. § 11. The comparison does not justify the inference that the Psalms were sung on these steps or that the title, “Psalms of degrees” was taken from this locality. No more can we base on the Syriac the supposition that there is here a metrical designation (J. D. Michaelis, Zu Lowth, De sacra poesi, etc., prœlect. 25 nach Assemani), and that it indicates a rhythm advancing by degrees (Gesenius, zu Jes. 17:13; 26:1). Dietrich (in Delitzsch’s Comment. ii. 451, f.) has shown the error of this supposition and remarks that the Syriac seblatho (or, according to an easier pronunciation sebelto, plural sebloto) simply indicates the division of a greater whole, and occurs, therefore, with reference to the division of the Psalms for the use of the church (cf. § 13). E. Meier, (Form der hebr. Poesie, 1853, S. 31), understands by maalah, the simplest and smallest strophe, consisting of four members, and supposes these Psalms to have been designated from this, the prevailing form in this group. According to Herder, Eichhorn, Hengstenb., Reuss et al., these Psalms were composed at different times and for different purposes, but were afterwards appointed to be sung in the pilgrimages towards Jerusalem, for which they were especially adapted by their rapid rhythm and their contents referring mainly to Jerusalem and the sanctuary. The Syrian church and many of the fathers think especially of the return from Babylon (Ezra 7:9); Ewald (Jahrb. 6, 105 f.), with essentially the same view, translates, “Songs of the homeward marches.” He refers the plural, however, to the different journeys of those who returned from the exile, and designates them as their ancient and new pilgrim songs. Pss. 120, 122 and 126 do not in the least harmonize with this view. The explanation of Thenius (Stud u. Krit., 1854, Heft. 3, and Deutscher Psalter, 1859, S. 177 f.) is at present the most generally accepted; that maaloth, which is not used in the meaning of pilgrimage, refers to the different stations, or halting-places, where those who journeyed to the feast used to rest, in their upward march towards Jerusalem. We know, indeed, that the pilgrims moved up with music and song towards Jerusalem, Ps. 30:29. Yet whether just the 120. Ps. was sung on setting out from foreign lands; the 121 at the first sight of their native hills; the 122 on their first entrance to the holy land; whether Pss. 123–131. express the recollections and feelings which were called forth by fall and the restoration of the city of God; and Ps. 132 resounded at the first view of the city; Ps. 133 on their entrance and Ps. 134 as they went up into the temple; all this is very uncertain.


Some attempts have been made to characterize and group the Psalms with reference to their subject matter. These efforts have, however, only served to show the incompleteness as well as the inappropriateness of such classifications. They lose sight of the essential thing, viz., the lyrical religious, Hebraic character of this portion of the sacred Scriptures. Their lyrical character implies that the subjects treated are not mere matters of objective contemplation, but reflections rather of their influence upon the Psalmist’s soul. Inseparable from their religious character, is the thorough-going reference of all experience, knowledge and feeling to the Providence of God in the world, and the harmony of the Psalmist therewith in his station and in the frames of his soul. The Hebraic character of the Psalter secures the adherence of the Psalmist, although advancing with the historic progress of revelation, to the foundation of the Mosaic law, on the one side; on the other, their continual reference to the holiness of God, and to the destiny which was thereby presented to the entire covenant people, Lev. 19:2. Hence the Theocratic energy; the apprehension of Israel’s world-wide mission, and the prophetic glance of the Psalmist. Hence it occurs that the subjects treated of in particular Psalms are drawn from all the domains of nature and of history, of public and of private life; affecting the whole people, or one of its individual members only; pertaining to worship or doctrine and to life. But a formal division into doctrinal poems, temple hymns, national songs, royal Psalms, songs of joy or of mourning, can only lead to distorted representations, as several commentators, especially De Wette, have shown.

We may with more propriety distinguish three principal groups, according as the prevailing tone is one of joy, praise and thanksgiving to God, or of lamentation and petition, or indeed contemplative, narrative and didactic. Such divisions, with reference to the prevailing tenor of the Psalms, have been made by Hengstenb. and Hitzig, and, in part, also by G. Baur and Hupfeld. This is something quite different from the classification attempted by Augusti (Prakt. Einleit. in die Ps., S. 11), according to æsthetical categories into odes, elegies, &c. Such classifications, can be only formal, and the frequent mixture of emotions, and sudden transitions, in many Psalms, from one to another, present many difficulties to such attempts. They would be, perhaps, as Hupfeld remarks, more suitable as subdivisions of the above mentioned classes, than as independent classes. He divides them, however, into four leading classes, according to the subject matter: 1. Those Psalms which refer immediately to God and Divine things (godliness, worship, Divine order and government); 2. Those which refer to the King and the kingdom; 3. Those referring to the people and their lot; 4 Those referring to the poet and his circumstances.

With respect to the latter point, we cannot overlook the fact, that the circumstances of the Psalmist are occasionally alluded to in the superscriptions. That such statements are simply scholia, added by a later hand, is neither proven by the analogies of Arabic writings (Stähelin), nor from their apparent want of agreement in many cases, with the contents of the Psalms with which they are associated (Hitzig, et al.). The latter circumstance is rather against the hypothesis that the superscriptions were inferences drawn from the text. The subject of such Psalms is not the personal fortunes of the poet, but rather his religious experiences in the midst of those circumstances, and the religious hopes, fears and the desires cherished by him. For this reason Hilarius sees every where in the Psalms the tendency to educate the soul in the knowledge of God; to awaken fear and love towards Him, to call forth the praise of His glory. He therefore considers a believing heart (Prolegg. 21) essential to understand them, whilst to the worldly sense they are sealed with seven seals (Prolegg. 5, S. 9). The circumstances of the Psalmist, were simply the occasion of their utterance, and furnish no better ground for a division than the other categories mentioned above. For they never treat of God, His word, being, providence and government, merely in abstracto; never for their own sake as objects of theoretical contemplation, or general praise. They always spring from some special occasion, even though not expressly mentioned, and have particular reference to the experience of the people of God, their King, or other members. Hence their contents, in other respects so similar, possess a richness of individual application which renders them so inexhaustible in their use for edification.

The contents which pervade the Psalter, notwithstanding the diversity of particular portions in motive and treatment, are thus described by Zunz (Die synag. Poesie, 1855, S. 3), who regards the Psalter as essentially a manifest of the oppressed people of Israel: The poet begins with a cry of pain, a call to prayer and song; he portrays the sad condition of his people, their necessities, persecutions, bloodshed and grief; the contrast of the pious sufferers with their haughty oppressors and national enemies with their power, prosperity, wickedness, and dissimulation; with them are the rebellious; Israel is an object of scorn, &c. Now there is a retrospect of former times connected with considerations of national history, and they call to mind the covenant of God. Then there is a transition to the sense of guilt; confession, remorse and the power of prayer; castigatory discourse; the contrast of sinful, law-offending man with the Almighty, All-knowing, but also just and merciful God, who recompenses all. The praises of God, the Creator; His law; His people of Israel as the elect, held in remembrance; Zion and the sanctuary. Longings for the sanctuary, love of its teachings, confidence in the promises of God, humble dependence and trust are described. The value of a good moral life and walk, and the strength of prayer which is of more value than sacrifice. Desire for the humiliation of enemies; imprecations; the powerlessness of idols. God is with the oppressed; hopes, deliverance, victory, thanks, praise, summons to adore God. The conclusion is formed now of lamentation and now with rejoicing; now with thoughts of Israel, and now of the nations who all, one day, shall know God.

We miss three things especially in this description, the addition of which is of highest importance to the understanding and the use of the Psalms. We demand in the first place, a distinct recognition of the theocratic element in the national education of the Israelites. Only thus can we understand the much-discussed antagonism between the people of Israel and other nations, or appreciate the language threatening them with divine judgments and cursings in the so-called imprecatory Psalms, (vid., striking remarks of Hengstenberg and Tholuck )17 Only thus can we understand the actual progress in the earnest introduction into life of theocratic requirements and institutions; and not by seeking to resolve them into general religious ideas. De Wette (Ueber die erbauliche Erklärung der Psalmen, 1836), is particularly instructive on this point. Connected with this is our second desideratum, namely, the distinct reference of the righteousness often so strongly emphasized by the Psalmist, to an equal energy of theocratic action, rooted indeed in the revealed law, not supposing, however, that righteousness consists in legal acts, rites and ceremonies, but in fulfilling the will of God, and in striving against all merely external service, unfolding in its expressions concerning sacrifice, prayer, retribution and eternal life the germs of evangelical views. And precisely for this reason, we cannot dispense, thirdly, with the express recognition of the prophetical, Messianic feature in the Psalms. We say designedly feature, not features. For we are not now concerned with the exposition of individual passages of the Psalms and their—to a certain extent—controvertible application to the historic events of the life of Christ; but only with the recognition of the fact; that the Psalms, like the entire old Testament, are pervaded with the expectation of a coming kingdom and man of God’s good pleasure, and that this expectation was not an indefinite and general hope of better times, but a hope of faith founded upon definite promises of God, confirmed by His repeated assurances, gradually unfolded in its particular features by prophetic witnesses, prefigured and made manifest historically by definite persons and relations, and led victoriously to its fulfilment by special divine acts of revelation. The Psalms, on the one side, furnish evidence of the depth to which the Messianic hope had penetrated the life of the Israelites, and the power with which it had moved their hearts. On the other hand they have essentially contributed partly towards its preservation and extension, and in part also to its development, in its double form as typico-Messianic and as prophetico-Messianic (Sack, Christl. Apologetik, 2 Ausg. S. 278, f.; Keil in Hävernick’s Einl. iii. 101 f., Hengst. 4:647 f.).

The important distinction between the typico-Messianic and prophetico-Messianic passages which opens the way to a correct understanding of them, still needs to be more accurately defined. Thus if we regard as typico-Messianic those passages in which historic events are treated in such a way that they appear as a divinely-wrought type of Messianic relations; as prophetico-Messianic, on the other hand, such as arising from historical circumstances and in general from historical grounds (which factor was for the most part overlooked by the older Orthodox interpreters), yet are Messianic as such (which element was mistaken by the rationalist interpreters, who made a false use of history): then there arises the frequently neglected question which remains, whether the Messianic meaning was originally in the consciousness of the Psalmist, or was only afterward discovered in his words. In the first case, the type is itself prophetic in the narrow sense, and the prophetic word of the Psalmist is a direct Messianic prophecy, and the further question arises:—Are his words simply the comforting and warning repetitions of prophecies previously received and made public, or has the poet actually become a seer, the Psalmist a prophet, thus positively carrying the Messianic prophecies to a higher development. In the latter case, the general question arises as to the conscious or unconscious Messianic reference of the Psalmist’s words in a concrete and individual form.

If, for instance, it is recognized that in certain passages the Messianic meaning was not discovered until afterwards and was not intended by the Psalmist, it does not follow that it was first discovered by Jewish or Christian Theologians, or was attached to it by the authors of the New Testament, with subjective honesty but in actual error, and in consequence of methods of interpretation then prevailing in the schools. Nor is the supposition of Herm. Shultz, (Theol. Stud. und Krit., 1866, Heft. i.), that the Messianic meaning as a second sense essentially different from the grammatico-historical sense had previously arisen in the hearts of the believing congregation which understood the revelation of their God satisfactorily. That would show an earlier Messianic interpretation of those passages, and would transfer the introduction of this change in understanding and interpreting them from the schools of the Rabbins to the faith of the congregation. A transformation of their original sense, however, would still be admitted, which could hardly be as a factor of Revelation, but, at most, only an element in the historical process of development of Israel’s believing consciousness. We would then have an explanation which might, it is true, be connected with the passages in question, yet had changed their original meaning. We must, however, deal as earnestly with the idea of Revelation as with the supposition which is incontestably correct, of a historical progress therein. For there is no occasion to recognize in the Psalms the mere echo of the prophetic word and their Messianic promises like those of the law, and to exclude the prophetic utterance proper from them, and to put the Messianic interpretation of particular passages into an entirely different period of Revelation from that of the origin of these passages themselves, (Schultz, l. c. S. 41). We may confidently assume that the spirit of revelation wrought prophetically in the Psalmists and gave their words occasionally such a form of expression as must have driven their reflection to search for the sense intended by the Spirit of God. This is quite different from the subordinate or parallel sense, which Rud. Stier assumes along-side of the original and proper sense. But there is no double sense at all in them. On the contrary, the words in question give only one grammatical and historical sense which can be derived from them. Yet this is so constituted that, properly and strictly taken, it breaks through the limits of its association with the merely present events, and admits of no intelligible application to the circumstances, opinions and prospects of the speaker, and if such a restriction were attempted, it would lead to such assumptions of obscurity, exaggeration and hyperbole, as are found in no species of poetry, and in no language under heaven. It is under the influence of such views that Schultz says: “We may call this the hidden sense of the Holy Ghost, because it comes not so much through the will of its author, as it is involved from the power of the contents which dwell in his words, reaching far beyond the present, and thus from the Spirit, from whom the Psalm was born, and whose impress it bears.” So much the more forcibly does the question still press upon us, why the Messianic sense, which is as different from its parenetic and practical application, as from its typical use, should only have arisen after the Psalm had become a song of the church, and had been employed in its public worship; after the king had died by whom, or concerning whom the Psalm had been composed, and the occasion of its composition had been forgotten (l. c. S. 39). In this connection, we must say of the Psalms of suffering, what was recognized by Schultz: that they must contain that which not simply renders their later Messianic application possible, but fully justifies it. He says, S. 48, “Only those Psalms of suffering can be prophetic, in which the sufferings of the righteous are the basis of the highest triumph, of the conversion of the heathen, of the instruction of all nations,—in short, stand as a door of entrance to Messianic hopes and thoughts.” In such cases, however, the Messianic reference cannot be called a change in its interpretation, but is an explanation of its original sense. When this, however, occurs in obscure passages, or such as require searching investigations, this might be referable sometimes even to the Psalmist himself. For a searching of revelations received by the prophets, is alluded to as nothing extraordinary, 1 Peter 4. sq. Such searching had, at all events, not always immediately attained its end. On the contrary, it is well established, that the understanding of what the Spirit signified, Hebrews 9:8, was disclosed, frequently, only a long time afterwards and sometimes only after its fulfilment. But it must not be overlooked that the understanding of prophecy, like prophecy itself, has its degrees as well as modes, and that the former are not of necessity widely apart as the latter are not necessarily separate. Thus it might happen, under certain circumstances, that many of the same kind might be found together, not only in the same age, but in the life of one and the same person. If now, a Psalmist were at the same time a prophet, and we are especially informed that this was the case with David (2 Sam. 23:2; Acts 2:30); and if the same person had, moreover, received Messianic prophecies from other prophets, which also occurred to David (2 Sam. 7), we have then not only a historic foundation in Revelation for the appearance of Messianic prophecies in the Psalms, but a development upon this basis is provided for, not only through human reflection and the comparison and connection of various prophecies, but especially through an Acts of Revelation itself. The products of his own prophetic conception may therefore become for the prophet himself an impulse to reflection, by the fact that it transcends the contents of his previous consciousness. The word which gave this impulse appears no more to himself as a poetical production, but as the word of God, and thereby receives for his own consciousness, a deeper significance, not recognized at the time of its production.

Under these circumstances, if we would faithfully recognize the actual germination and growth of Messianic prophecy and the Messianic hope founded thereon, and likewise understand the concrete form, color and relation of individual passages of the Psalms, explained as Messianic, it is absolutely necessary to survey them closely in their historical situation and rhetorical connection. So long as this was neglected by the orthodoxy of the church as well as the Synagogue, they might indeed hold fast to the certainty of the Messianic prophecies in the Psalms, and affirm their right to do so; but they were unable to establish that certainty on sufficient grounds, and to show that their right was worthy of belief. They were also forced either to treat the prophecies as immediate, separate predictions without historical basis, occurring most wonderfully in the midst of expressions of an entirely different character; or else to refer whole Psalms, and series of Psalms, and even entire statements about prominent persons and relations of the Old Testament, directly to the person of Christ, His work, kingdom and history, in opposition to the original signification of the words and simply for the sake of some individual expressions and sentences.18 Thus Thomas Aquinas regards the first Psalm as directly Messianic. Here there is no other resource than earnestly to explore the connection of sacred Scripture, and the organism of Revelation and its history, that we may discover, in the difference between the economy of the old and the new covenant, the paths and threads which conduct from one to the other and recognize the prefiguration of the latter in the former. Especially may “The entire Psalter be compared to a great and beautiful city, with many and various structures, whose doors are each locked with a key of its own” (Hilarius, Prolegg. xxiv.). And as Origen (De la Rue ii. 525) says that the holy Scriptures are locked with the key of David, and sealed with the power of God, so Hilarius also remarks (Prolegg. 5–7): “the key of David is the theanthropic person of Jesus Christ, whose type is the Psalmist both in his inward and external experience, (vid. on Ps. 134) ever speaking by the Holy Ghost (vid. on Ps. 1) to which the prophetic tone of his discourse and his figurative language, frequently point” (vid. on Ps. 119: 1). Such a type was David himself, especially, whose fortunes in life were conducted and ordered by God’s appointment with particular reference to Christ. David stands as a fruitful, ever green olive-tree, in the house of God, both in the Law and in the Gospel, and is like an Apostle of the Evangelic faith (vid. on Ps. 51:22), and had himself a prophetical consciousness of the typical character of his sufferings (vid. on Ps. 58:1). It is in fact the form of the theocratic king, typified in David, Messianically announced in David’s son (Ps. 2) who is prophetically contemplated as the ruler of a priestly kingdom, as a royal priest, (Ps. 110), which forms the central point of the prophetic descriptions in Pss. 45 and 72, supported by earlier prophecies of the blessed and peaceful dominion of a righteous king, extending his sway over the whole earth, excelling all the might and glory of the world, who appears also in individual Psalms, Pss. 22, 109, as a sufferer without an equal, whose conflict leads to an all-embracing victory, spreading abroad salvation everywhere19 (comp. Hävernick, Vorlesungen über die Theologie des A. T., 2 Ausg. durch Herm. Schultz, 1863; Riehm, Zur Charakteristik der mess. Weissagung und ihres Verhältnisses zu der Erfüllung, Theol. Stud. und Krit., 1865, Heft 1–3).

We cannot therefore be surprised, that as Luther in his preface to the Psalms says, many holy fathers have praised and loved the Psalms more than the other books of the sacred Scriptures. It might well be called a little Bible, embracing like a manual in the shortest and finest way, all the rest of the Bible; so that it seems as if the Holy Ghost had taken pains to set together a little Bible, a sample book of the whole of Christianity, or of all the saints, in order that he who cannot read the whole Bible, might have here almost the whole substance of it, in one little book. But more than all, the noble virtue and art of the Psalms consists in this, that while other books have much to tell about the works of the saints, they give us few of their words. In this respect the Psalter is a pattern. And there is no nobler or more powerful work in man than discourse. Besides the Psalter does still more, in that it dotes not set before us the poor, common-place discourse of the saints; but the very best, even those which they held with God Himself, in the greatest earnestness, and on the most important matters. By this means, it lays before us, not simply their words and works, but their hearts and the deep treasures of their souls, so that we may look upon the foundation and fountain of their words and works, that we can see in their hearts, what noble thoughts they had, and how their hearts were affected in all kinds of affairs, dangers and necessities. For a human heart is like a ship upon a wild sea, driven by the storm winds from the four quarters of the earth.—But what else is the Psalter, chiefly, than earnest discourse in all such storm-winds? Where do we find finer words of joy than the Psalms of praise and thanksgiving contain? There you see in the hearts of all the saints, as in beautiful and pleasant gardens, yes, as in heaven—what delicate, loving, cheerful flowers of all kinds of beautiful joyous thoughts of God and His kindness grow there. Again, where do you find more plaintive, pitiful, words of sadness than the Psalms of lamentation contain? There you look into the hearts of all the saints, at times, as into death, yea, into hell itself. How dark is it there, with all kinds of troubled views of the wrath of God. Hence, when they discourse of fear and hope, they employ such words that no painter could paint the fear and hope for you, no Cicero, or any other orator, could represent them. And (as was said) the best of all is that they speak such words to God and with God as give them a two-fold earnestness and life. For when a man discourses with men in such matters, it does not come so strongly from the heart, does not burn, is not so lively or so urgent. Hence it is, that the Psalter is the book of all the saints, and each, in whatever station he is, finds in it, Psalms and expressions, which are suited to his condition and which seem as if they were put there for his own particular use, alone, in so much that he could neither put them better himself, nor find them better put elsewhere, or yet desire to do so. And what is also excellent, when such expressions please him, and suit his estate, he is sure that he belongs to the company of the saints, and that what has happened to him, has happened to all the saints, because they all sing the same song with him; and, wonderfully he can also discourse with God, as they did, which must be done by faith, for an ungodly man has no taste for them. And lastly, there is in the Psalter a security and a well assured safeguard that we may follow all the saints with safety. For other examples, and legends of dumb saints give us many a work which we cannot, and many a one which it were not safe to follow, and usually produce sects and divisions, and lead away or tear away from the society of the saints. But the Psalter keeps you from divisions within the society of the saints; for it teaches you to think and discourse, in joy, fear, hope and sadness, as all the saints have thought and discoursed. In short. would you see the holy Christian Church painted in living form and color, in a little picture, then lay the Psalter before you, and you have a mirror, fine, pure and bright, which will show you what Christianity is. Yes, you will find yourself, therein, and the true knowledge of yourself as well as of God and all creatures.” Luther had previously remarked in the same preface: “There have in times past, been many legends of the saints composed, and people have carried them about and filled the world with passional books of exemplars, and histories, and the Psalter the while, has lain under the bench, and in such darkness, that one could not understand a single Psalm aright, and yet it gave forth such an excellent savor, that all pious hearts have found devotion and strength from the words they did not comprehend, and have therefore loved the little book. But I hold that no finer book of Exemplars, or legends of the saints, has appeared or will appear on earth than the Psalter. And if one wished that the best out of all legends, exemplars and histories should be called out, set in order and presented in the best way; it could be none other than our present Psalter. For we find here, not what one or two saints have done, but what the chief of all saints himself has done, and what all the saints still do;—how they stand towards God, towards friends, and enemies; how they act in all dangers and suffering, and besides this, we find therein all kinds of wholesome doctrines and commands. And the Psalter should be dear and cherished on this account, that it so clearly foretells Christ’s death and resurrection, and typifies His kingdom, and the whole estate and nature of Christianity, so that we may well call it a little Bible,” etc.

[We will add here the words of the other great Reformer, Calvin, from the preface to his Commentary. “This book, not unreasonably, am I wont to style an anatomy of all parts of the soul, for no one will discover in himself a single feeling whereof the image is not reflected in this mirror. Nay, all griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, and anxieties—in short, all those tumultuous agitations wherewith the minds of men are wont to be tossed—the Holy Ghost hath here represented to the life. The rest of Scripture contains the commands which God gave to His servants to be delivered unto us. But here the Prophets themselves, holding converse with God, inasmuch as they lay bare all their inmost feelings, invite or impel every one of us to self-examination, that of all the infirmities to which we are liable, and all the sins of which we are so full, none may remain hidden. It is a rare and singular advantage when every hiding-place having been laid bare, the heart is cleansed from hypocrisy, that foulest of plagues, and is brought forth to the light. Lastly, if calling upon God be the greatest safeguard of our salvation, seeing that no better and surer rule thereof can be found anywhere than in this Book, the further any man shall have advanced in the understanding of it, the greater will be his attainment in the school of God. Earnest prayer springs first from a feeling of our necessity, and then from faith in the promise. Here the readers will both best be awakened to a due sense of their own evils, and warned to seek the proper remedies for them.”20—C. A. B.]

The contents of individual Psalms are briefly condensed, and often with great sententiousness, in a superscription of two words by J. H. Alsted, Theologia casuum 1630, in part also by Georg. Christoph. Renschel, Citharœdus mysticus, 1665, and 66, 2 Vols. in 4. The Biblical Summ., particularly that of Würtemberg, are especially worthy of consideration.


1. Shîr, standing alone or in connection with other statements as to their purpose, contents, origin, or their liturgical and musical treatment. This word gives prominence, in general, to their lyrical character, which the Septuag. renders by ᾠδή; Comp. Is. 5:1, Song of Sol. 1:1. It is more specifically, not so much a joyful song of praise (Hengstenberg) as a “song,” a piece for singing (Delitzsch) in distinction from mizmôr with which it is connected at times, (Pss. 66, 67, 68, 83, 88, 92, 108.)

2. Mizmôr (Septuag. ψαλμός) is the technical designation, originating probably with David, for a song intended for musical accompaniment (μέλος). It is found in this form, in only fifty-seven psalms, ascribed to David, or belonging to the Davidic group. The derivation of the word is controverted. With reference to the Piel of זמר, it is established that it embraces the two significations “to sing” and “to play” like the Latin canare. Its radical meaning was formally assumed to be “to cut,” thence “to divide,” and thence referred to rhythmical divisions, or cæsura, whence it was transferred to the delivery itself, or the singing. Ewald, however, starts with the meaning, “to prune the vine,” Lev. 25:3, and derives therefore, like the Latin, putare, computare, the sense of pure, arranged,—i.e., to play and sing in definite numbers, in rhythm and time. Hengstenberg adopts the meaning to dress in the sense of to adorn, to ornament, and since the verb stands sometimes with the dative and sometimes with the accusative, and is frequently connected with the sentence, To the Lord, and His honor, strength and names, he assumes the signification to sing praises in ornate discourse; to sing artistically in distinction from an artless, simple manner. Keil translates it, “Song of Praise.” Hupfeld formerly supposed the original signification to be “to pluck.” Thus also Böttcher and Gesenius in the Thesaur. Hupfeld at present (Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenl. Gesellschaft iii. 394 f.; iv. 139 f.) starts with the primitive meaning, “to hum.” The application of the verb to music and song in praise of God, is found as early as Exodus 15:1; Judges 5:3 sq.; referring to music in general, Amos 5:23; in Aramaic form, Dan. 3:5. In Ps. 100. the noun is connected with the word lethôdah (εἰς ὁμολόγησιν, Sept.), = to the praise; in other cases the lamed of the author follows, occasionally the beth of the instrument, generally the either (Pss. 4, 6, 67 and 76). The verb in its double meaning, Ps. 98:5 is, sound with the cither and with the voice of song. Musical playing, in distinction from singing, is made especially prominent in Pss. 27:6, 101:1, 104:33, 105:2, 108:2.

3. Maskîl (Septuag. συνέσεως or εἰς σύνεσιν), Luther, “an instruction.” It is the superscription of thirteen Psalms. Michaelis explains it, following the Arabic as “a discourse in verse;” De Wette prefers “an intricate figurative discourse,” and refers us to other oriental languages in which the idea of poem is developed from the meaning, “wisdom,” “insight,” “doctrine.” Gesenius in the Thesaurus, refers the expression to the purpose of the song, to produce insight, wisdom (and piety), whence every carmen sacrum ad res divinas spectans might have been thus named. Calvin, Keil, et al. interpret the word as a “didactic poem,” referring us to Pss. 32:8; 47:8. Hengstenberg understands it specifically of “instructing the church,” but this is appropriate only to the contents of two Psalms, (32 and 78.). Ps. 45. connects it with the leading title of Psalms shîr jedîdoth, “song of love,” and Ps. 142. as tefillah, “prayer.” It is, however, decisive that maskîl in Ps. 47:8, is in the accusative, the object of the singing, (Hupfeld who is inclined rather to the view of Gesenius and De Wette). Ewald regards it as a closer definition of its musical recitation and thinks of a skillfully rendered song, because a clever, melodious song is equivalent to a finely artistic one. He defines it more exactly in the Jahrb. 8:65, as a song with cheerful music, to be accompanied by clear sounding cymbals, keeping time. This is certainly preferable to the former interpretation, against which Pss. 54 and 142 are especially opposed. Ps. 47:8, however, is unfavorable even to this latter opinion. Delitzsch, referring to the Hiphil signification, interprets it as “reflective contemplation,” pia meditatio, Ps. 106:7, cf. 41:2; Song of Sol. 16:20, because the word occurs almost always with reference to persons, and in 2 Chron. 30:22, praises the Levite musicians. According to Hitzig, the word cannot possibly be a participle, and scarcely an object to which the meaning “insight” could be given; but signifies, according to an Arabic derivation, “form,” something “formed,” in general, “a poem.”

4. Mikhtam occurs in the superscriptions of six Psalms (16, 56–60.), sometimes preceding and sometimes following the words, “of David.” Jerome and the oldest Rabbins, to the time of Isaki resolve it into two expressions, according to Aquil. τοῦ ταπεινόφρονος καὶ απλοῦ τοῦ Δαυίδ. According to Symmach. 1 and 2. ταπ. καὶ άμώμου. The Hollander Vorstman alone, of recent commentators, (in his Comm. in Ps. 16, 1829), adopts a similar interpretation, “the unfortunate, delivered.” Since Isaki, most of the Rabbins, and the older Christian expositors, suppose the word to be allied to ketem = gold and to signify either a golden poem, i.e., a treasure = a priceless poem, (Luther and Geier), like the sayings of Pythagoras, Ali, et al., or “written in golden letters,” like the moallakât of the Arabs. Others derive the idea of a treasure from the Arabic “to hide” = to preserve carefully (Grot. Simon et al.). Hitzig, following the Arabic, points to the meaning “to keep for one’s self,” = “not to make known,” an ἀνέκδοτον, or a hitherto unknown poem, which the compiler had for the first time added to the canon of Davidic Psalms then existing. Ewald in the Jahrb. 8:6, 7, explains it as “a song accompanied with the dull music, with roaring, dull-sounding music of the cymbals.” Most of the recent commentators since Rosenmüller and Gesenius follow the translation of the Septuag.: στηλογραφία or εἰς στηλογραφίαν; Vulg.: Tituli inscriptio; Chald.: Sculptura recta, and regard mikhtam = mikhtab in the superscription of the song of Jeremiah 38:9. It means then either “Inscription,” (F. H. Michael), now “Tomb inscription,” again, “memorial of victory,” or, writing=song, (De Wette), or “Song of Inscription,” or better still, catch-word poem, (Delitzsch), because in these Psalms two features are prominent, which are found united in the Psalms of Hezekiah. This is partly the prominence given to memorial words Pss. 16:2, 58:12, 60:8 (cf. Is. 38:10, 11), and partly the repetition of such words, in a sort of refrain, Pss. 56, 57, and 70. It must be considered, however, that the change of m into b never occurs elsewhere in the roots of these words. Hengstenberg assumes an intentional change of these letters by David, in order to give, through the superscription, a deeper sense to the song,—to announce a secret. In Ps. 60, the superscription has the additional expression lelàmmed (Septuag. ἐις διδαχήν) to teach. It is generally referred to the instruction imparted by the Levitical precentor, by De Wette and Delitzsch, on the contrary, it is referred especially to 2 Sam. 1:18, according to which it was to be sung, during instruction in the use of the bow.

5. Schiggajôn (Septuag. ψαλμός), only as superscription of Ps. 7. and in the plural, Habak. 3:1. Since it is preceded in the latter passage by the preposition על the older Rabbis, and even Kimchi applied it to an instrument, some sort of string instrument, and others to the kind of tone, or the style of playing upon it. But the expression “which he sang” refers to a song. De Wette, following the Arabic, adopts the meaning, “a song of lamentation,” Paulus, “a responsive song,” Gesenius, a “song of Praise.” Hengstenberg finds an indication of its contents, referring to the confession of Saul to David, 1 Sam. 26:21, and as likewise Aquil., Symmach., Chald., and following them, Jerome and many Rabbis, state that “Error, confusions, forgiveness,” is its meaning and they associate it with historical allusions. The majority translate it, “dithyrambus” (the wandering poem, ode erratica of ancient poetry), and explain the plural in Hab. from the manifold and confessedly mingled rhymes. Hupfeld offers the conjecture that the word is a cognate form,—a play upon the similarly formed higgajôn 9:17=“Poem,” “song.” Hitzig points to the Arabic “exact rhythmical discourse in contrast with prose.”


The poetical form of the Psalms stands in opposition neither with their religious nor their theopneustic character, when rightly understood. The influence of the Spirit of God upon the soul of the Israelitish poet, brings his poetical endowments rather, into their proper current, and controls the pulsations of feeling in his aroused soul. These pulsations, however, find a natural expression in the vibrations of his discourse, the regularity of which is sufficiently expressed in the parallelism of members, as the swelling of his thought is in general expressed in the characteristic choice of language, cf. Lowth, De Sacra Poesie Hebrœorum prœlect. cum notis, J. D. Michaelis, Ed. Rosenmüller 1815, whose observations in laying the foundation of the correct view have been more fully developed by Herder, Gesenius, De Wette, Köster, Ewald and Hupfeld. For a collection of older opinions cf. Carpzov (Introd., p. 3 f.) and Saalschütz, Von der Form der hebr. Poesie nebst einer Abhandlung über die Musik der. Hebr., 1825. The matter is excellently presented by De Wette, Comm. § 7, with the remarks of G. Baur, § 78, f. Independent investigations, worthy of mention, are Bellerman, Versuch einer hebr. Metrik., 1813. Saalschütz, Form und Geist der hebr. Poesie, 1853. E. Meyer, die Form der hebr. Poesie, 1853.21

It is self-evident, that the sounds of the words, as they are brighter or gloomier, and the shading of the tone in general, stand connected with the feeling expressed in them. The same is true of the rhythm, the movement of the thought, or the pulsations of feeling, expressed in the more tardy or more rapid sequence of syllables and words. And the Hebrew language is particularly adapted, by its pregnant brevity and dignified simplicity, to indicate the writer’s feelings, by sound and emphasis. This allows the conjecture, that the employment of similarly sounding expressions, such as are frequently found in the prophets, associated with the language of ordinary discourse, in satirical addresses, and in pithy connections of thought (Knobel, Prophetismus der Heb. 1:406 f.), was not confined to this species of writings. This is true also of those similarities of sound which frequently occur in the prophetic writings, on the last syllable of the verse. Sommer (Bibl. Abhandl. 1:85 f.) has actually proven, an intentional rhyme (in a wider sense) in many passages of the Old Testament, while Van Till (Dicht-Sing-und Spielkunst der Hebr. 2:6, § 4), Carpzov (Introd. 18), Saalschütz (Von der Form u. s. w., § 61) and Ewald (Poet. Bücher 1:104, und 269 der Neuen Ausarb.) ascribe such appearances merely to accident. But Sommer has restricted this intentional rhyme, which moreover seldom occurs, to the songs of the common people, to the prophetic expressions of earlier times, and to epigrammatic rules of life, which had orally come down to the time of the authors and compilers, preserved only in single passages, perhaps, not in their original form. This limitation was directed against the opinion of older writers, who following the example of Clericus regarded rhyme as the essential form of all poetry, and sought to discover it in the Old Testament, as Schindler (De accentu Hebr. p. 81 f.) and Leutwein, Versuch einer richtigen Theorie der bibl. Verskunst, 1775, § 51 f. The similarity of sound which frequently occurs in the Psalms, is not regarded by Sommer as intentional rhyme, from the fact that the similarity of suffixes and of nominal and verbal endings, might very easily produce, undesignedly, something similar to rhyme, in the parallel sentence of Hebrew poetry. Jul. Ley (Die metrische Form der hebr. Poesie systematisch dargestellt 1866) has attempted to prove, unsuccessfully, that alliteration, was the formal means of binding together the individual series.

A metrical significance in the syllables can be as little inferred from this, as from the fact, that the Psalms were sung with a musical accompaniment (Van Till, p. 24). For the song was recitative singing, vid. § 10. This musical delivery, therefore, does not point to a rhythm, dependent upon quantity and number of syllables, but only to a general rhythmical movement in which the rising or falling, the more rapid or more tardy movement of the voice, was dependent partly upon the quality and partly upon the position of the words. The lack of metre, properly so called, is not however to be ascribed as De Wette says, to their rudeness, as songs of the common people. It is a peculiarity of the Hebrew songs, just as in genuine German verse (Meier, Form u. s. w. S. 24 ff.) a free rising of the voice concludes with one or more falling passages. It is the breathing of the pulsating breast, which finds its simplest rhythmical expression in a single line, whose sense is complete in itself; and frequently constitutes the beginning of the Psalm, but becomes dismembered in connection with the parallelism of thought and passes over to a parallelism of sentences, and thereby becomes enlarged into the verse of two lines.

But although this rhythmical progression, presupposes a correspondence of members, it does not follow that this division of the members of the verse into two which rests upon the parallelismus sententiarum, is the original and essential rhythm of the poetry, in general (Herder, et al.) which, is at the basis of the structure of the Psalms (Hupfeld, Zeitschrift der d. morg. Gesellschaft, 1852, S. 53 f.). For the rising and falling in the line of thought constitutes the necessary movement for the members of the sentence, just as syllabic feet mark the progression for words. Syllabic metre must not be smuggled in on the other side from this remark. For all attempts which have been made, and repeated from the time of Philo and Josephus, to discover a metre, analogous to that of the Greeks and Romans, either in the number of syllables (Buxtorf) or their quantity (Franc. Gormarus, Davidis lyra, 1637), have been as fruitless as the attempt of Jones, (Poeseos Asiaticœ comment. p. 72 f.), to apply the rules of Arabic metre to the poetry of the Hebrews. In the most intelligent attempts of this sort, we find only a certain numbering and difference of syllables, brought out by emphasis, and according to Bellermann, a prevailing iambic emphasis, placing the accent upon the last syllable; while according to Saalschütz, there is a prevailing trochaic, with an occasional spondaico-dactylio-rhythm, in which the penultimate is emphasized. In either case, the divisions of the words are brought by accentuation into rhythmical movement, without possessing a strictly metrical character. This is true also of the divisions of the sentences, where the accent is determined by the sense of the words, the position of which in the sentence is of importance to the rhythm. The frequent assertion of the Rabbis that in Hebrew poetry, there is only a rhythm of sentences, and not of syllables, is by this fact more definitely established; and also their other statement, that the rhythmical quantity is originally and essentially determined by the contents, i.e., partly by the repetition of the same thought, in similar or allied expression, and, in part by the prominence which is imparted to them by antithetic and synthetic terms of expression. We do not infer from this with Hupfeld, that the rhythm was purely an internal one, i.e. a parallelism of thought or of logical sentences. In the structure of Hebrew Psalms, there is not only a measure of thought, but also a relation of form, and a parallelism, which arises from an evenness of language, which De Wette (Comm. p. 52) calls rhythmical, and Weinrich (De poeseos hebr. et arab. origine, indole nutuoque consensu atque discrimine, 1843), syntactical, to which G. Baur also has called attention. Sommer in his proof of the development (Bibl. Abh. 1:93 f.) of a formal principle in different kinds of verses and strophes, proceeds from the alphabetical songs.

Sommer is right in seeing in the alphabetical songs, not mere play words, nor the signs of a degenerate taste, (De Wette), nor evidence of a late date (Ewald); but, in part, helps for the memory, and in part, symbolic reference to their completeness, and wholeness, since only instructive poems and Psalms of lamentation present this alphabetic arrangement. Their more definite consideration belongs to the exposition of the particular Psalms. Here the general remark suffices, that an alphabet is formed by the initial letters of the lines Pss. 111, 112. by double lined strophes in Pss. 25, 34, 145, by four lined strophes in Pss. 9, 10, 37, by the longer strophes of Ps. 119, in which every two lined verse begins with the same letter, which is eight times repeated.22

How particular verses are to be divided, and joined together in strophes, is in individual cases, questionable. For the particular members are not always easily distinguished, as, e.g., in the graded rhythm of Pss. 121 and 123. and partly in Ps. 136, where a prominent expression is repeated in the following verse while the thought is still further developed. The logical parallelism of the strophes of which Ps. 1. may be taken as an example, is not always clearly discernible, nor always carried through consistently, so as to render the strophaic parallelism a safe guide, as Köster assumes. Yet the fact is incontestable, that the Psalms are not poetic prose, but they possess, a poetical structure, of rhythmical members, though not always thoroughly carried out. In the different editions of Luther’s translation accordingly, this feature is no longer to be perceived (with the exception of Hommel’s edition arranged in 1859, for song and recommended for evangelical family devotions, in which the parallelism, at least, is made apparent); nor has it been restored in the numerous earlier and later versified paraphrases. In the Latin Psalters, arranged for public worship, the individual verses have been, as a general rule, written consecutively.

In order to restore as far as possible their poetic structure, which is important to the understanding of the Psalms, and their impression upon us, and which is essential to their musical rendering,—we must not be confined to the masoretic division of the verses as an immovable foundation as Peters demands (Psalmen in der Urgestalt, in the Zeitschr. der d. morg. Gesellsch. xi. 533). The so-called masoretic division of the verses, is certainly older than the pointings of the Masora (Hupfeld), but not always correct, as Ewald has proved (in Jahrb. iii. 128; viii. 68) from the structure of the turns of expression in the Psalms. Neither do the Hebrew manuscripts furnish anything decisive. They generally break the verses arbitrarily, without determined rules, or reference to the sense, usually into two parts so that the line in space (στίχος) is entirely indifferent to the line in sense (κῶλον); and by thus mutilating the text, the meaning is often much obscured, cp. Bär ii. f. quoted by Delitzsch in his Comm. ii. 452 f., who introduces passages from the Talmud and the Rabbis which require that the three so called poetic books should be written in a song style, with short lines, and even in hemistichs. He remarks that such a division of the Psalter is no longer to be found in the Masora, and shows by examples, the irregular procedure of the manuscripts. He for this reason, in his masoretic, critical, edition of the Psalms abandoned the division by verses, and reproduced the usual masoretic form, only in Ps. 18. The number of verses in the Psalter is also variously stated. They are generally put at 1612. But from a statement of Bär which Delitzsch quotes in his Comm. ii. 474, in the 19, sedarim, i. e., classes and series, into which the Psalms were divided, the number of pesukim or verses is given at 2527, the middle verse being Ps. 78:36. The restoration of the members of the so called verses, is most easily accomplished on the basis of their parallelism. To discover their strophaic structure, the only recourse left, is to proceed from the unity of the thought, in a greater number of lines of sense, taking care not to be led astray, by our failure always to find a regular and homogeneous structure. It is quite reasonable to suppose, that changes from short lined to long lined verses, may occasionally appear, as characteristic of the Hebrew lyrics, such as we may recognize in the different groupings of strophes in the same Psalm.23 The method of procedure, here proposed, harmonizes with the little which we know of the manner of rendering the Psalms.


The Psalms were not simply poems, originally thought out, and intended to be read, according to Hupfeld’s appropriate remarks, Comm. iv. 439. They were rather sung, or intended to be sung, and that with musical accompaniment. This is manifest not merely from “the analogy of all the most ancient poetry,” but from their liturgical purpose and use (vid. § 5). The delivery of the Psalms however was not so much a singing as “an oriental style of declamation, with a lively modulation of the voice (Saalschutz, Archäologie I. 287) and depended on the accents. Simon Durau even alludes (Delitzsch’s Comm. II. 479) to three styles of delivery for the Bible, one for the Pentateuch, one for the Prophets, and one for the metrical books (Psalms, Proverbs and Job). He remarks, however, that the melodies alluded to have not been preserved. In ancient ritual books, two styles of singing, are indicated by the accents (Zunz, Die synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters i. 1855, § 115), but we have no definite knowledge in regard to them, and the entire theory of accentuation, is obscure and open to controversy. We are only sure, that the accent did not simply indicate the emphasis and division of sentences; but referred also to the tones in which they were to be delivered, and furthermore that the metrical accents were from the most ancient time, different in figure and position from those of the other twenty-one sacred books. A representation of the later system is given by Heydenheim, in the Hebrew book, Mischpetê ha-Teámim, 1808, full of important information drawn from Jewish grammarians. S. Bär, rendered a similar service with reference to metrical accentuation in the Hebrew work, Thorath Emeth, 1852. He has furnished also an independent treatise, important on all questions of accentuation, in an appendix to Delitzsch’s Comm. ii. 477 f. But while we may infer from the names of the several accents, which refer for the most part to their intonation, yet sometimes to both this, and the figure, their musical significance, yet the ancient metrical modulation is still unknown, and the investigation of original sources, gives us but a fragmentary knowledge of the intonation of a few metrical accents. To this connection belongs, the distinction referred to the Rabbis Acha and Mocha, between the Babylonian and Tiberian systems of accentuation, which although referring to but a few points, have yet been connected with other differences between Oriental and Occidental Jews. Upon these matters the influence of the Sect of the Karœans becomes more and more apparent. Cf. besides the references to later discoveries in Delitzsch’s Comm. ii. § 519 f., especially J. Fürst’s Geschichte des Karärthums bis 900 der gewöhnlichen Zeitrechnung, 1862. Jost (Geschichte des Judenthums und seiner Sekten, 1858, ii. 336) had previously pointed out the peculiar methods of employing these accents, in singing the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Sol. It is still uncertain, however, whether the Occidental chanting of the German and Polish Jews, or the Oriental style of the Jews of Italy and Spain, have preserved most accurately their original character. The assumption of Haupt (Sechs Alttestam. Psalmen mit ihren aus den Accenten enzifferten Singweisen, 1854) that the accents are numerical signs to be combined with the Hebrew letters, furnishing in the series of tones thus given, the original melody, is highly improbable. It is, moreover questionable, if the present accentuation represents any more than the style of delivery at the period of the Herodian temple; not to speak of the earlier method. It may be conjectured, that the style of singing was formerly more diversified, than that which is indicated by the present accentuation. The Jewish traveller Petachia, of Regensburg, in the 12th century states (Literaturblatt des Orients iv. 541) that in Bagdad (where Benjamin of Tudela in the same century, also found a peculiar style of singing Psalms with musical accompaniment) there were several traditional melodies, yes several for particular Psalms. The Rabbis, also, frequently refer the numerical references contained in several superscriptions, e. g., Pss. 6, 12, 42. to the number of its melody. The conjecture of Gerberti (De oantu et musica sacra, 2 vols., 1174), et al., is especially worthy of attention, comp. Saalschütz (Geschichte und Würdigung der Musik, 1829, S. 121) and Ferd. Wolf (Ueber die Lais, Sequenzen und Leiche, 1841, S. 285), that the eight so-called Church tones of the Gregorian chants, have preserved the remnants of the ancient temple song. The Jewish tradition, was simply a further development, under the influence of Grecian musical instruction, cf. § 13. Not only are eight musical accents frequently alluded to, by the Rabbis (neginoth), but the eight Church tones, are to be found in the Armenian Church (Petermann in Zeitschrift für die d. morg. Gesellsch. V. 368 f.), and a kindred style of singing also in the Greek Church. Ewald and Hupfeld, in their praiseworthy efforts to represent scientifically, the difficult and obscure doctrine of accentuation, and to deduce it from one leading principle, are agreed in this;—that the accentuation was neither purely logical nor purely musical, but of a rhythmical character, every masoretic verse forming a rhythmical period, whose members were marked by a rising and falling inflection. They disagree however in this, that Hupfeld regards the rhythmical period as double, i. e., consisting of a rising and falling inflection, and proceeding from this basis to a still farther dichotomy, while Ewald regards them as progressing in three movements, each growing more difficult than the preceding, until the course is ended. Ewald suggests a special scheme of poetical accentuation in which the falling inflection occurs in the middle of the verse.


The frequent use in the Psalms of words signifying to play (often with the name of the instrument) points, apart from the testimony of the superscriptions, (cf. § 12), to the fact that the rendering of the Psalms was with musical accompaniment. The frequent occurrence of strophaic members, with refrains, points in like manner to their rendering by choruses or even with the dance (Hupf. iv. 440). The oldest reference of this kind is found in Exodus 15:20, Judges 11:34. The division of entire Psalms, however, into responsive choruses by Nachtigall (Gesänge Davids und seiner Zeitgenossen, 1797), and others, is un-historical. The chorus repeated only the refrain, vid. Pss. 92, 93. It appears, nevertheless, from the description of the Book of Chronicles, associated with isolated statements in the Psalms themselves that the liturgical singing was antiphonal, even during the period of the first temple, cultivated by persons specially appointed to that office, and led, if not exclusively conducted by the Levitical singers, accompanied by the music of the priests. These arrangements were based essentially upon usages introduced by David, 1 Psalm 25:2; which were preceded only by the regulations in Num. x., for the use of two silver trumpets to be sounded by the priests. The leading instrument which marked the time was the cymbal, zalzal in the Talmud zelazal, referred to in 2 Sam. 6:5, as one of the sacred instruments. These can scarcely have been the clapping castanets (Pfeifer, Ueber die Music, p. 54), but the ringing cymbals (Septuag. κύμβαλον) of which there were two kinds, Ps. 150:5, the clear-sounding and the dull-sounding (Ewald, Jahrb. viii., 67 f.). Harp-playing was often employed minnim, Ps. 150:4; perhaps also 45:9. The highest part was led by the nebel (νάβλα, ναῦλα, ψαλτήριον) indicating, it may be, the lyre, 92:4, which Josephus tells us, in his Jewish Antiquities, had twelve strings, and was played with an ivory plectrum, in distinction from nebel, asor, or simply asor, the harp of ten strings, which was played with the hand, 1 Sam. 16:23, 18:10, 19:9. The lower part was played upon the cither, kinnôr (κινύρα, κιθάρα), an octave lower (1 Chron. 15:21). The straight metallic trumpets were especially prominent as wind instruments, chazozrah (σάλπιγξ), whose number, according to 1 Chron. 5:12, amounted to 120; then came the crooked ramshorns, shôfar (σάλπιγξ κερατίνη), Pss. 81:4, 98:6, 150:3; probably identical with queren=horn, Jos. 6:5; finally the shepherd’s flute or reed-pipe, ‘ugab, 150:4, which was also called chalíl, probably a hollow reed, vid. Hupfeld on Ps. 5:1; Delitzsch on Gen. 4:21. Their use during the period of the first temple is established by Is. 30:29; comp. 1 Sam. 6:5; 1 Kings 1:40. The chief instrument which accompanied festal dancing was the tof (τύμπανον) Arabic duff, whence the Spanish adufe through the Moorish, the handdrum or tamborine, 150:4, cf. Ex. 15:20. The menaannim (Vulg.: sistra, Luther: Schellen), alluded to in 1 Sam. 6:5, in the bringing back of the ark of the covenant, were bended rods of iron, hung with loose rings, which rattled on being shaken. Likewise mentioned but once, 1 Sam. 18:6, are the schalîschîm, i. e., triangles (Luther erroneously, “violins”). It is doubtful whether we may infer from the expression “in the full choir,” 26:12; 68:72; that the song was partly sung by the congregation. Such a reference is favored rather by 2 Chron. 7:3, while Jer. 33:11, Ez. 3:10, certainly refer to certain responses. With respect to the amen, vid. 1 Chron. 16:36, (cf. Ps. 106., the concluding doxology), Nehemiah 8:6, (cf. Judith 13:25). But this has already brought us down to a late period.

At the time of the second temple the congregation responded amen to the Levites, who sung the Psalm for every day of the week, with the accompaniment of music (cf. § 5). According to the tradition of the Talmud, a sign was given upon the cymbals, whereupon at least twelve Levites, standing upon the broad step (dûkhan) of the short stairway leading from the place of the congregation to the outer court of the priests, at the conclusion of the morning prayer, while the officiating priests poured out the wine offering, and playing together upon nine cithers, two harps, and one cymbal, began the Psalm to be sung, while the younger Levites not joining in the singing, stood at the feet of the older Levites, strengthening the music with their instruments. By the side of the latter stood also the Levitical boys, who represented the treble. Two priests who stood at the right and left of the cymbal-players, and appear to have accompanied the singers with trumpets during the period of the first temple, (2 Chron. 5:18, 7:6; 29:26 f.), indicated the pauses of the song with nine blasts of the trumpet, at the time of the second temple. Lightfoot distributed the latter (in his Ministerium templi Hierosol. c. vii. § ii.), following Maimon., between three divisions of the song. Grätz on the contrary, (Geschichte der Juden, iii. 116), interposes them between nine divisions of the song, and that only from the Hasmonæan period. The people fell down in adoration between these pauses of the song, Lev. 9:24, 1 Kings 18:39; cf. Herzfeld (Geschichte iii. 164 f.), who alludes to the gradual omission of the priestly trumpets from the Levitical music, and conjectures that the people frequently raised a shout of joy (terna) which is indicated by the word simcha (1 Chron. 15:16; 2 Chron. 29:30, and elsewhere frequently), and thus only does Num. 10:10

become intelligible.

In the hallel and some other Psalms, the congregation joined in the singing after the first sentence, which it repeated, and after the second sentence, with the hallelujah. The rendering of the hallel was predominantly recitative.

The daily Levitical call of prayer, taken from Ps. 44:24, was not accompanied with music at the time of the Maccabees, nor the priestly blessing, Num. 6:24–26, with which Psalm 67 begins, which was sung in the temple at the close of each morning service, in such a melodious manner that the name of God (of twelve letters) was lost in the sound of that in four letters, which was sung by the other priests (vid. Delitzsch, i. 487).

The first fruits, on the other hand, were brought to the temple mount with the music of the flute, which began when they were carried up in baskets, Ps. 30. The hallel was accompanied by a flute, with a reed for a mouth-piece, and indeed before the altar, on twelve days in the year, namely, on the 14th of Nisan, at the killing of the Paschal lamb; on the 14th of Ijjar, on the killing of the subsequent Paschal lamb; on the first and seventh days of the Passover, and on the eight days of the feast of Tabernacles. On the first day of this feast, at the rejoicing in the drawing of the water, the type of Pentecost, the Levites performed, standing upon the semi-circular stair-case of fifteen steps, leading from the court of the men to that of the women, but probably not previous to the time of Herod’s temple, while two priests stood above in the Nicanor gate with trumpets. Concerning the dancing which was then conducted with the swinging of torches and with responsive songs, cf. Delitzsch, Zur Geschichte der jüdischen Poesie, 1836, S. 193 f.

In the temple of Herod there was an organ—a real wind organ with a hundred different tones, whose thundering sound, according to Jerome, could be heard beyond the Mount of Olives, cf. Saalschütz, Archäologie, i. 281.


There are a few expressions in the body of the Psalms, which can scarcely be applied to anything other than their musical execution. This is in many cases established, even when their definite significance is a matter of question. Only a few are free from obscurities. Of those whose meaning is questionable we may mention:

1. Selah. The word occurs seventy-one times in the Psalms; and three times besides in Habakkuk.24 It stands generally at the end of a strophe, yet sometimes in the middle. It does not follow from this, however, that it belongs to the text, and should be translated “ever” or “forever,” (Chald., Aquil., Symm. Jerome). The word stands by itself, however uncertain its vocalization, and however contestable its origin and significance may be. In the Cod. Sin. it stands always in a separate line, and is written in red characters. The expression of Justin Martyr (against Trypho, c. 37) that the word in question in the 66 Ps. stands ἐν διαψάλματι points to such a position, as if a division were indicated thereby. In the Apocryphal Psalter of Solomon, also 17:31; 18:10, judging from the translation διάψαλμα, it had the same position as in the Septuagint. The word is, not, however, a syntactical designation, = section, as Pfeifer following the Arabic supposes, (Musik der alten Hebr. S. 17); but it is a musical term. It is most probably to be derived as Kimchi suggests, from Salal = lift up, not an imperative, however, “up!” “on high,” which Ewald applies to the strengthening of the tone = loud; and supposes, at the same time, the cessation of the song ordinarily accompanied with softer, gentler music. Kimchi, Forkel (Geschichte der Musik i. 144), Herder, and Gesenius in his Lexicon, refer to a repetition of the melody in a higher key. Böttcher (Ideen zur hebr. Wortforsch.) translates it, “cease! stop!” regarding it as indicating a pause. In view of Ps. 9:17, it is rather to be understood as a noun, elevatio, and to be referred to the instruments. The word calls for a stronger application of musical means (Delitzsch, forte) especially from the choir of priests, with their long trumpets, (represented on the triumphal arch of Titus at Rome) standing opposite the singers’ stage, in connection with the loud sounding of harps and cithers from the choir of the Levitical orchestra, (Sommer, Bibl. Abh. i. 1–82). Böttcher has also since translated it “playing with full power” (De inferis, i. 198). The derivation which Gesenius proposes in the Thesaurus (following Rosenmüller) from a word which signifies to keep silence, but which refers only to the cessation of the song, and the commencement of the harp-playing, has less to recommend it. We must entirely reject the assumption that this word contains an abbreviation of the initial letters of three words meaning sign to change the tone, and likewise the view which discovers here a summons to the singers to “return above,” = towards the beginning, i. e., da capo. Hitzig, after the Arabic, refers the word to the bending of the body in prayer.25

2. Higgajôn. This word is associated with Selah in Ps. 9:17, where the Septuag., Aquil., Symmach. translate ᾠδὴ διαψάλματος as if they had read it hegjôn. In Ps. 92:4, on the contrary, it is connected with musical instruments, describing their tone, however, rather than the instrument; yet not as roaring music (Gesenius, De Wette), but as a summons to harp-playing (Delitzsch), for the etymology only points to the meaning “to hum,” (Hupfeld). The same word may also mean “to think,” e. g., Ps. 19:5, in connection with libbi. Hengstenberg for this reason assumes that there is in Ps. 9:19 a summons to meditation, during the cessation of the music; and Hitzig finds the bowing of the head prescribed, associated with meditation, and hence somewhat protracted as in the silent use of the Lord’s prayer. Keil interprets it = piano.

3. Lamenazzeach is found in fifty-five Psalms and in Hab. 3:19 at the beginning of the superscription. Ps. 88, where two superscriptions are joined together, constitutes only an apparent exception. The word is composed of the sign of the dative and the partic. Piel of a verb, whose original idea is “to be strong;” in Piel, “to overpower;” or according to Ewald “to be pure, perfect;” in Piel “to put anything in a perfect condition, to arrange, to have the supervision over something;” hence the construction with על, or, as with all verbs of ruling and leading with בּ. Both derivations point to a leader or master, and more especially according to 1 Chron. 15:21, to the temple music, and the word is generally connected with such “leading” or “conducting” as was entrusted to the Levites. The dative designates him either as the Author of the musical accompaniment of those songs, (Olsh.); or, better, as the leader of the choir, to whom the song thus designated was given for liturgical use, who was either to execute it himself, or to exercise the choir in singing it (Saalschütz, Delitzsch), cf. 1 Chron. 15:21, with 5:19. The interpretation of the word as an infinitive = to lead the choir (Chald., Luther), is not grammatically admissible. Some expositors, following the Syriac, regard the radical meaning to be that of “brightly shining,” and thence, through the intermediate conception “shine upon,” derive that of “distinguishing oneself,” and hence the signification mentioned above. Herzfeld (Geschichte i. 415) interprets it: “A bright sounding song,” and supposes it to refer to the person who was to sing it solo. The translation of the Septuagint, ἐις τὸ τέλος, indicates according to Theodoret; that the Psalms so designated are to be sung, at the final time when that which is foretold in them should be fulfilled. The Talmud Tract. Pesachim 117 a. takes the same view, and Hilarius’ interpretation is similar, at least, since he indicates by the title in finem, that he understands the Psalms so characterized as prophetic, since they must necessarily contain the absolutely perfect doctrines, and the types of eternal good things.

4. Bingînôth, follows the word just considered in Pss. 4, 54, 55, 67, 76. It was probably inserted according to Delitzsch, before the leading title, which designated the class to which the Psalm belonged, and the author, by the hand of the musical director of the Temple. For this expression indicates “with the accompaniment, 49:5, of harp-playing “rather than” with string instruments.” Ewald supposes it to depend upon the following למנצח and at present adopts the interpretation (Die Dichter, 1:251): to the leader of the musical instruments, and more specifically of “the harps,” that is of the temple music. Hupfeld regards this connection as possible, while Delitzsch contests it on account of Hab. 3:19. Hitzig also translates it, “to the leader of the harp,” which the parallel expression ál negînath Ps. 61 might seem to favor. It is ordinarily taken as status construct, which is regarded as standing for the absolute, or is supposed to require the pointing of the plural (ath), which is purely arbitrary. Hengstenberg accordingly joins this word to the following and translates. “To the leader of the harps of David.” But the termination ath is rare in Hebrew, and the prevailing feminine form in the Phœnician (Gesenius, § 80 Anm. 2 a). This expression therefore decides nothing It may mean “upon stringed instruments.” The opinion, that the technical expression above continually and inaccurately translated, ἐν ὕμνοις, by the Septuag. contains the beginning of a model song, is scarcely probable.

5. El-hannechîlôth, follows the expression lamenazzeach in Ps. v. The Septuag., refers it to the contents of the Psalm, translating it, ὑπὲρ τῆς κληρονομούσης, which is followed by the Vulgate and Luther in the translation, “For the inheritance.” Among the recent expositors Keil translates it, “In reference to the inheritance;” Hengstenberg, who adopts the adj. pass. translates “That which is inherited,—possessed;” in the plural “the possessions, the lots,” and in fact those of the righteous and sinners. A musical significance, however, is suggested by the position of the words. Now the flute, as a hollow reed (Hupfeld) is called chalîl, and its use in the service of the second temple cannot be doubted, vid. § 11. It is not to be translated, as many modern commentators, following the Chald. have done, “for flutes,” but for “flute playing” (Delitzsch); hence el is added (Redslob) and not ál. In answer to the objections of Ewald and Hengstenberg, Hupfeld remarks that the flute occurs among the instruments of sacred song of the sons of the prophets 1 Sam. 10:5; and again at the anointing of Solomon 1 Kings 1:40, and on the festal pilgrimages, Is. 30:29; and the possibility of their earlier use in the temple music is not to be contested. Saalschütz (Archäol. i. 280), erroneously refers to Ps. 88:7, as an example. But a more recent Jewish commentator referred to by Delitzsch, regards it as the first word of a song of the bees, according to which melody this was to be sung.

6. After lamenazzeach, in Ps. 39., follow the words lîdîthûn = to Jeduthun, Septuag. Ἰδυθοῦν. The form with ith for this proper name is found in 1 Chron. 16:38; Nehem. 11:17; yet, in every case, with the qri of the fuller form ûth. The words ál-jedûthûn, Ps. 62, ál-jedûthûn, Ps. 67, are to be explained with reference to this. Maurer’s remark on the superscription to Ps. 6, that all the titles introduced with ál contain the name of an instrument, is without foundation. The preposition àl stands before the model after which something is patterned or sung, in the Syriac also, vid. Eichhorn in Jones, Poes. Asiat. Comment. prœf. 32. The name of an instrument, therefore, is not given here, as Gesenius and others, following the Rabbis, have maintained; but the chorister of David, 1 Chron. 16:41 f.; 25:1 f.; 2 Chron. 5:12, who appears, however, to have received the name Jeduthun, only after his appointment in Gibeon, 1 Chron. 16.; while this is undoubtedly the same person who in 1 Chron. 15. is called Ethan. It is therefore the name of the one to whom the practice of the song was entrusted (Delitzsch), or the name (2 Chron. 35:15; Nehem. 11:17) of the family of Jeduthun (De Wette, Keil, Hitzig) as that of a choir of singers, to whose leader the Psalm in question was assigned for liturgical use.

7. ‘Al-haggittith. This, the superscription to Pss. 8, 81 and 84, according to some (vide Michael. Suppl. ad lex. Hebr.), signifies a song sung at the treading of the grapes. The Septuag. ὑπὲρ τῶν ληνῶν, favors the interpretation. The contents, however, although of a joyous nature, do not harmonize with such an interpretation. Redslob translates it: “for playing on stringed instruments.” This derivation is, however, forced. The majority take it as the adj. fem, of the name of the town of Gath; not Gath-Rimmon, in the tribe of Dan (Chald., De Wette), but Gath of the Philistines. There is a difference of opinion, however, whether to refer it to an instrument from that place (Chald.) or to a kind of tone and melody (Forkel i. 1 ff.).

8. ‘Al-haschemînîth, Septuag., ὑπὲρ τῆς ὀγδόης, the superscription of Pss. 6 and 7 cannot mean, as is generally assumed, that the song was designed to be played upon an instrument of eight strings. It can only refer, philologically, to something arranged according to the number eight. To this, a tone is more appropriate than an instrument. In considering 1 Chron. 15:21, the choice of the base tone, the octave, that is, the base voice, seems to be recommended (Gesenius, Delitzsch, et al.). The tone of both Psalms and the contrasted expression in Ps. 46. seem to favor this interpretation.

9. Ps. 46, namely, is to be rendered ál álamôth. According to 1 Chron. 15:20, this designates the higher part; “maiden-like style.” It is certainly not to be translated with Böttcher (De inferis, p. 192), ad voces puberes, instead of ad puellas puberes for the sake of obtaining the expression, tenor voice. But we may be justified in supposing it to refer to the real soprano voice, since Ps. 68, at least, alludes to damsels who played upon timbrels at the temple festivals. But we cannot interpret it “youths,” like the Arabic translation of Saadia (comp. Haneberg on this transl., S. 47). We may think, with Delitzsch, that the compass of the tenor voice extends into the soprano, and that the singers were of different ages—some as young as twenty years, and that the Orientals, including the Jews, were fond of the falsetto voice. Delitzsch introduces from the Mishna, Tr. Erachin 13 b, the statement, that while the Levites sang to the string instruments, their boys, standing at their feet beneath the pulpits, joined in their song, thus adding to it the harmony of higher and lower voices. Certainly the passage in the Chronicles excludes the supposition of “a musical instrument,” which Simonis, in his lexicon, conjectures to have been the Phrygian flute of boxwood. But we are not confined by the Septuag., περὶ κρυφίων, to the derivation from *àlam = to hide, which led the older expositors to the thought of a “still, gentle style.” Forkel, i. 142 compares it to the maiden-like style of the chief singer.

10. In the superscription of Ps. 9, aʿl-mûth labben, many recent commentators, following Gesenius, have found simply a corruption of the word just explained. The fact that in many manuscripts, as also in 48:15, the first two parts of the expression are written as one word, and that the Masora does not decide the matter, while most of the old translators have so understood it, although with different renderings, are the grounds on which this view rests. The Septuag. ὑπὲρ τῶν κρ̀υφίων τοῦ ὑιοῦ, Vulgate, Proverbs occultis filii. Similarly the Arab, and Ethiop., De mysteriis. M. Heidenheim (Deutsche Vierteljahresschrift für engl. theol. Forschung und Kritik, Nro. 8., 1865, S. 470) traces this translation to an old Midrash, for Jalkut ii. 613, after alluding to the two readings, here considered, translates it, “The secret (sins) which the son commits and the day of atonement expiates.” The derivation from àlam = to conceal, is likewise at the basis of this view. Aquil., on the contrary, νεανιότητος. Theod. and the five Greek translations ὑπὲρ ἀκμῆς think of “youth” and “youthful vigor.” Similarly a pesikta in Isaki, according to Hupfeld. Luther also “of beautiful youth;” Ewald: “The son has youthful vigor. Viewed in this sense, the word following is most naturally taken as a proper name, especially as among the Levites, 1 Chron. 15:18, which sang 5:20 to Nibla aʿl álamôth a Ben is introduced. According to the present Masoretic reading only the words of an ancient song, in the style of which the Psalm was to be sung, could be suggested. Grammatically the translation “to the (song), die for the son” is most appropriate, which many expositors understand as referring to the martyrs, or “to the (song) dying to the son” = “death of the son” (Symmach., Jerome), or “to the (song), die, expire” (Hitzig). Most of the Rabbis translate it “on the death of the Ben,” which to Kimchi suggests the Levitical singer, already referred to; the other Rabbis find here the name of a hostile prince. Some, following the Chald., take ben = bên, and understand it as referring to Goliath, who is called, 1 Sam. 17:4, 23, Isch habbenim = champion. Some, however, translate it, on the death of the son, referring it either to the death of Absalom, or to that of the Messiah. A few only understand by it “an instrument,” or like De Wette and Winer, the name of a melody. On the assumption of an intentional displacing of the letters, Grotius, following a few Rabbis, mentioned by Isaki and Kimchi (whose views, however, are contested by them), refers it to the death of Nabal, 1 Sam. 25:38. Hengstenberg formerly assumed Nabal to be equivalent to “fool,” and to contain also, as a typical prophecy, according to 1 Sam. 25:26, an allusion to that Nabal. Delitzsch remarks, “If we give up the traditional pronunciation, the song may have treated of the death of the miserly Laban; or it may have begun Death makes clean.’ ” But why must the traditional pronunciation be regarded as false? Heidenheim explains it, from 1 Chron. 15:20, and assumes it to have been a corrupt reading of the genuine על עלמות נבל (יס).

11. ‘Al-ajjeleth haschachar. This the superscription of Ps. 22. cannot possibly designate an instrument (Maurer). Its sense is (upon or) “to the tune of the hind of the dawn.” The translation of the Septuagint ὑπὲρ τῆς ἀντιλήψεως τῆς ἐωθινῆς, Vulgate, Proverbs susceptione matutina, rests upon its having been confounded with אילות, 5:20. The Midrash discovers in it a symbolic reference, and points to the Song of Solomon 2:8, and also the Chald. Targum, which refers it to the “lamb of the morning sacrifice,” when the watcher, mounted to the pinnacle of the temple and cried “the first beams of the morning shine.” Luther also gives it a symbolic interpretation (of the hind which is early hunted) and refers it to Jesus, who was taken in the night and led before the high council. Hengstenberg also discovers in the hind, the picture of persecuted innocence, and in the dawn finds an allusion referring us to 5:20, and 5:2, as figurative of the prosperity which follows immediately after adversity;—in this case to the resurrection of Christ at early dawn. Most of the expositors, nevertheless, following Aben Ezra and Calvin, assume that it referred either to the name of a certain kind of tone or to the first word, or, at least, the catch-word of a song, to the melody and rhythm of which the Psalm was to be sung and which may have been selected on account of a correspondence with its contents or expression. Nevertheless, the “hind of the dawn,” is not the “hind Dawn” which is chased, like a frightened deer by the sun, the huntsman (Olshausen); nor “the morning star,” (Kimchi) but the dawn which precedes the early light, whose first beams are compared to the horns of a hind. Comp. David Löwy’s Wörterbuch des talmud. Hebr., 1845, S. 33.

12. The words of the superscription to Ps. 53. *ál machalath, (to which are added in Ps.58. the words leannôth = to sing, Ex. 22:18; Is 27:21), are not to be explained by altering the pointing, “upon flutes” (the majority); nor, following the Arabic, “a song for stringed instruments” (Gesen.); rather likewise after the Arabic, “in a tardy manner” = piano (Hitzig). Delitzsch, appealing to Ex. 15:26, regards machalath, as either the name of an elegiac tone, or the first word of a popular song of lamentation (according to Ewald, a very ancient song of contrition). Keil also supposes it to be the designation of a song, of which Ps. 53 is the translation, “concerning sickness,” with the addition, in Ps. 88. referring to the trial. Hengstenberg gives the same translation, (and the etymology allows of it), but refers the superscriptions not to the catch-word of other songs, but to the contents of the Psalms themselves. He regards the expression “sickness” in Ps. 103. as symbolical of spiritual sickness, Ps. 138. (to be closely associated, in his view, with Psalm 89.) as a designation of severe suffering, in which comfort was secured, through the praise of God. No use can be made of the Septuag. translation ὑπὲρ Μαελὲθ τοῦ ἀποκριθῆναι.

13. The superscription *ál Shoshannim of Pss. 45, and 69, liked ál shûshaneduth of Ps. 60 and el schoshannim ‘eduth of Ps. 80. is referred by many to a lily-shaped instrument (De Wette); by others to a hexachord, of the shape of a turtle (Eichhorn, in Simon Lex. hebr.). The recent expositors however, refer it to well known songs designated by catch-words—thus to “the song of the lilies,” “the lily of the testimony;” and “lilies are witnesses.” Ewald translates it “like lilies,”—i. e., pure, and innocent is the Law. Hengstenberg finds here a symbolic designation of the lovely bride, alluded to in Ps. 45. This, however, does not accord with the contents of other Psalms thus designated, and is also, unnecessary, from the fact, that Ps. 45., is also designated shîr jedîdoth, i. e., “the song of loveliness” (Aquil. ᾆσμα προσφιλίας), or “song of the beloved,” so that beloved persons (Olshausen, like the Septuag. ᾠδὴ τοῦ ἁγαπητοῦ), or beloved objects (Delitzsch), are the contents: or, as a song of love (Ewald, Hitzig) or a bridal song (Luther); yet, certainly not in a worldly erotic sense, since the same superscription marks also a Korite Psalm, which is also, designated as maschal. It is particularly this statement, connected only with this Psalm (in the Septuag. εἰς τὸ τέλος ὐπὲρ τῶν ἄλλοιωθησομένων, departing entirely from the text), which the superscription under consideration, does not touch at all. Luther puts always erroneously “roses” in place of lilies. His translation of Ps. 60 however, “of a golden band of roses to instruct” refers to a rose-shaped ornament for the head, which patrician women and maidens (noble women) wore (vid. Bake), and which David is supposed to have employed as a symbol of his well organized government. In Ps. 80. the words are separated by athnach; and instead of על we have אל Hupfeld and Hitzig therefore join ‘eduth = testimony, with the following words “of Asaph.” Hengstenberg thinks of the Law, as the way of attaining salvation, the loveliness of which is referred to in the preceding words.

14. ‘Al jônath elem rechokîm. This superscription of Ps. 56 has been generally regarded, since the time of Aben Ezra, as the beginning of a song, to the melody of which the Psalm was sung and has been translated to the (song) “the dove of silence” (dumb dove) among the distant ones; namely: either men or places; but with a change of pointing as proposed by Bochart, to the song of “the dove of the distant Terebinth.” Many, however, from the earliest times, have referred these words symbolically to the contents of the Psalm, and understood them either of David (Aquil., Jerome, Kimchi, Calvin) with reference to his flight before the Philistines; or of his despised race (Symmach.); or of the exiled Israelitish people (Alex., Chald.). Knapp refers the words to the contents, but departs from the original in his translation: “On the oppression of foreign princes.” He reads elim Ex. 15:11. Hitzig adopts the pointing אֲלֹם taking it as a transposition of לְאֹם, and translates: “Dove of people in the distance.” Septuag. ὐπὲρ το͂υ λαοῦ τοῦ (ἀπὸ τῶν ἁγίων) μεμακρυμμένου.

15. Finally the words al taschcheth = “spoil not” are found in three Davidic Pss. 57, 58, 59, and in the Asaphic Psalm 75. They are taken by most commentators, since the time of Aben Ezra, as the beginning of a song, in the key of which, or after the melody of which, it was to be sung. Still in that case, we should have to assume that al or *ál was omitted, for the sake of euphony, or syntactic smoothness. Others, following the Chald. understand the words, either as the motto or the epitome of the Psalm and regard it as a maxim, which David had at this time especially laid to heart. Cocceius adds also, that David, when he afterwards wrote out this Psalm left it to the Church and believers of all times, that they also might employ it in the midst of opposition and persecution. Hengstenberg finds the basis of this maxim in Deut. 9:26, and its echo in 1 Sam. 26:9. Hitzig supposes the author of the superscriptions to have referred directly to the latter passage. J. H. Michaelis associates as also parallel to this, Ex. 18:28; Is. 65:8. But the occurrence of the same words decides nothing. It must be admitted, on the other hand, that the opinion which has become current under the sanction of Aben Ezra, is with this, as in the case of other superscriptions, nothing but hypothesis.


As in general the Divine service of the temple and the synagogue were the models of the earliest ordinances and usages of the Christian Church (comp. Vitringa De synagoga vetere) so with respect to the singing of Psalms this is especially clear. The transition was all the more natural, since the example of Christ and His apostles, Matt. 26:30; Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 14:15 sq. 26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; James 5:13; to which Augustine appeals expressly (Epist. 119) to prove the necessity of Psalm singing, must have already prepared the way for it.

In the responsive chants of the Christians to which Pliny alludes (Ep. x. 98), and the songs of praise and spiritual hymns to which the older church writers frequently refer, in connection with Psalms (as Paul had done, Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), we are, at all events, to recognize an allusion to newly composed songs, simply resembling the Psalms—the models and beginnings of the later church songs. Cp. Eusebius, H. E., 5:28. Apart from the question whether such hymns are alluded to in Eph. 5:14; 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:11; Rev. 4:11; 5:9, 10; 7:12; 11:15–19, there are frequent allusions to original hymns, called ἰδιωτικοὶ ψαλμοί, which are by some (Rheinwald, Kirch Archäologie, 1830, § 270, Anm. 8) declared equivalent to apocryphal Psalms. They designate, at any rate, songs which had come to be used in public worship, but were not entirely free from suspicion, since the council of Laodicea, Can. 59, in the year 365, prohibited their further use in the church, and later councils also at least limited and regulated their use. This was particularly the case at the fourth council of Toledo, A. D. 633, Can. 13, in opposition to the rigorism of the Conc. Bracarens. i, A. D. 563, Can. 12, which had ordained “ut extra psalmos vel canonicarum scripturarum, N. and V. T. nihil poetice compositum in ecclesia psallatur.” Cp. Fr. Armknecht, Die heilige Psalmodie, 1855, S. 60 f. Zacharias’ song of praise, Luke 1:68 f., on the contrary, continued to be used in public worship, as likewise that of Mary, Luke 1:46 sq., that of the heavenly host, Luke 2:14; the angelic greeting Luke 1:28; and Simeon’s words of leave-taking, Luke 2:29; likewise the Trishagion, Is. 6:3; the song of Moses, Deut. 32; his song of praise, Ex. 15; Hannah’s song of praise, 1 Sam. 2; the song of thanksgiving, Is. 12; Hezekiah’s song of praise, Is. 37; Habakkuk’s prayer, Hab. 3, and the song of the three men, Dan. 3. Cp. Bona, Dedivina psalmodia ejusque causis, mysteriis et disciplinis, 1643, cxvi., § 13. It is, however, quite as certain, that individual Psalms were not only so extensively in private use, that psalm-singing could be heard everywhere from the laborers in the field and garden (Jerome, Ep. ad Marcell.), in the house (Tertul. Ad uxor. ii. 9); at meal-times (Cyprian, Ep. ad Donat.; Clemens Alex., Pæd. ii. 4; Chrysost. in Ps. 41); at morning and evening prayer (Ambros., Hæxæm., v. 12; De jejun., 15; Clemens Alex., Pædag. 2:41; Chrysost., Hom. 1 de precant.), and from the lips of martyrs (Augustin, De civ. dei 18, 52; Rufin., Hist. eccl. 1, 35; Theodoret, Hist. eccl. 4, 10); but their use in public worship was regulated from an early period, and they were employed to a wide extent. Cp. Th. Harnack, Der Christliche Gemeindegottesdienst, 1854, S. 221 sq., and Ludw. Schöberlein, Ueber den liturg. Ausbau des Gemeindegottesdienstes, 1859, S. 22–29.

Even in the Peschito there are found liturgically marked passages, six of which correspond to the masoretic Sedarim, that is, arrangements, series, of which there are nineteen in all. According to these, the whole Psalter, “the heart of God” was sung through during the vigils preceding the festivals by the Syrian Church, which began almost all its public services with Ps. 41 (Fr. Dietrich, De psalterii usu publico et divisione in ecclesia syriaca, 1862, p. 3). To break the monotony of the singing, a decree of the Conc. Laodic. A. D. 365, Can. 17, ordained that prayers and the reading of the Scriptures should be introduced between the Psalms. Later, among the Nestorians, songs also were introduced. References to the prayers appropriated to the several Psalms are found in the manuscripts. The first prayer which preceded the Psalms with which the service began, was called the “foundation prayer.” The same name was thence transferred to every prayer preceding a new series of Psalms. In the recitation of the entire Psalter, such a prayer preceded each of the fifteen customary divisions. From this fact the division itself received the appellation marmitho=“founding.” Each marmitho was again separated into four sub-divisions or subhe (sing. subho), thus making, in all, sixty sub-divisions. Cp. Dietrich, in Delitzsch, Comm. ii. 475 f. Among some of the Syrian clergy, the custom had formerly prevailed of praying through the entire Psalter daily; as also among certain Egyptian monks. The time afterwards established for this devotional exercise was the week.

In the Greek Church likewise, the entire Psalter was prayed through every week, and was divided for this purpose into twenty καθίσματα, that is, sections, after which the congregation was seated. Each of these again fell into three στάσεις, that is, subdivisions, during the recitation of which the congregation was standing. In this case, likewise, sixty divisions arose, each one of which ended with the doxology after Rev. 1:6. This is manifestly modelled after the Syrian custom alluded to. At the beginning of the third century, twelve Psalms were usually sung at each public service. According to Athanasius (De virginit.), this began with the singing of the 63d Psalm, after each one present had offered a silent prayer of confession, whereupon the recital of Psalms proceeded, beginning at the point where it had ended at the previous service. Then followed biblical readings, originally without definite order, alternating from the Old and the New Testament. It was only afterwards that readings were first from the Epistles, and then afterwards from the Evangelists. Between these readings, a Psalm was sung (Constit. apost. ii. 57), usually a hallelujah psalm, and most frequently the 150th (comp. Alt, Der christliche Kultus i. 184 f, 210 f; Daniel, Codex liturg. 1:4).

In the Æthiopic Church the employment of the Psalms prevailed so extensively, that eminent women not only learned to repeat the whole by heart, but the instruction of youth was begun in it, and in Amharic the primary scholars are called pueri psalmorum (comp. Ludolf, Comment. ad hist. Æthiop., 1691, p. 352; Dorn, De psalt. Æthiop., p. 10).

In the Latin Church, Jerome, in his charge to the priest Damasus, divided the Psalms into seven parts, one for each day in the week, to be used in the horis canonicis, which were also symbolically divided by the number seven, or perhaps eight, with reference to the division of the days into three times eight hours. In the breviary arranged for the daily use of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, the leading feature was the distribution of the Psalms throughout the week, connected however with hymns, and the reading of Scripture, and prayers. The restriction to the priests and friars is connected, on the one side, with the fact, that in the earlier vigils, which were participated in with animation by persons of all stations, the women were excluded by the Council of Elvira, A. D. 305, to avoid offence and abuse (vid. Calvoer, Rituale eccl. ii. 640). But by the Council of Laodicea, Can. 16, the obligatory and active participation was limited strictly to the singers belonging to the clergy. Cp. Aug. Neander’s Church History, ii. 679.

The service which Jerome rendered in prescribing the hours in which the Psalms were to be sung was supplemented by Gregory the Great († 604) with reference to the chief services of public worship, which had already been opened with the singing of one or more Psalms, from the time of Pope Celestin. For the difference in practice of the oriental and occidental churches, comp. J. Bingham, Origin. eccles., 1722 sq., 6:12, 34. With reference to the employment of passages from the Psalms in the mass of the Roman Catholic Church, beginning with Ps. 42, vid. in Daniel, Codex liturgicus i. 48 sq. Gregory selected from each of the Psalms which had been previously employed two verses which he associated with the Epistles and Gospels already prescribed to be read. These initiatory verses, connected with the Psalms from which they were taken, and with the Gregorian melodies for the use of the Church, are given in Reithardts, Psalmen für den evang. Hauptgottesdienst, Berlin, 1856, and have still retained their original Latin names, for the Sabbaths preceding and following Easter, Esto mihi, from Ps. 31:3; Invocavit from Ps. 91:15; Reminiscere from Ps. 25:6; Oculi from Ps. 25:15,16; Lœtare from Is. 66:10; Judica from Ps. 43:1; Domini ne longe (usually Palmarum) from Ps. 22:19; Dies viridium (Maunday Thursday) from Ps. 23:2 (on Good Friday the introitus, intonations and doxologies were omitted; at Easter, the newly baptized catechumens, clothed in white garments, were frequently received by the assembled, church with Ps. 118.); Quasimodogeniti, referring to 1 Peter 2:2, followed by Ps. 81.; Miserecord. Domini, from Ps. 33:5; Jubilate, from Ps. 66:1; Cantate, from Ps. 98:1, 2; Rogate, from Is. 48:20; Exaudi, from Ps. 27:7. Cp. Fr. Strauss (Das evang. Kirchenjahr in seinem Zusammenhange, 1850). Gregory, in a similar manner, abbreviated and arranged the Graduale, that is, the verses of the Psalms which were sung upon the steps of the reading desk, after the reading of the epistle, followed usually with the hallelujah; likewise the offertorium and the communio, that is, the Psalms which were sung during the presentation of the offerings by the church between the credo and the prayer of thanksgiving, as also during the communion. He retained, however, for the secondary services the use of the unabbreviated Psalter, regulating however more precisely its use. The customary morning song was here also Ps. 63, the evening song, Ps. 141, or the nunc dimittis, Luke 2:29. The division of the Psalms for the week days, according to the regulations of the Benedictines, associated with explanations of certain passages, is given by Cartier in the Psalmodiæ ecclesiasticœ delucidatio, 1734. On their suitability to the present time vid. Armknecht, Die Haupt=und Neben=Gottesdienste der evang. luther. Kirche vom liturgischen Standpunkte 1854; L. Schöberlein, Der evang. Hauptgottesdienst in Formularen für das ganze Kirchenjahr, 1855; and the information imparted by the Evang. kirchlichen Anzeiger of Berlin. A division of the Psalms for use as a prayer-book is given also by O. Thenius, Der Psalter, 1859, p. 11–12, and G. Chr. Dieffenbach, Ev. Hausagende, 2 Aufl., 1859, p. 840.

Gregory labored no less sedulously with reference, to the manner of rendering the Psalms. The singing constantly alluded to, was at first, simply the transfer to the Church of the chanting of the synagogue, with its responses (Isidor. Hispal, De ecclesiast. offic. i. 5), which was neither an invention of the Therapeutæ (Philo), nor an institution of the Emperor Constantine, and the monks Diodor. and Flavian of Antioch (Theodoret, H.E. ii. 24; Suidas, s. v. χορός). These can only have been the cultivators of this style. Ignatius even, had introduced the responsive style of singing into Antioch, (Socrates H.E. vi. 8, prompted by a vision) and Basil the Great († 379) refers (Ep. 96 ad Christian.) to the agreement of all the Churches in this custom. But partly in connection with the effort to counteract the errors in doctrine, which had been introduced among the people by means of attractive melodies and pleasant songs, especially by the Arians (Sozomen. H.E. viii. 8); there was the song proper, already prevalent in the Orient, and although the ψαλτάι, the appointed Church choristers, had from the middle of the fourth century Conc. Laod. Can. 15, chiefly to do with the leading of the customary Psalm-singing; there was nevertheless rapidly developed a more artistic song, in part affected and theatrical, in part passing over into a sweet and tender style, which called forth the censures of Jerome (Ad Eph.v. 19) and Chrysost. (Opp. vi. 97). References and warnings, occasioned by such phenomena are found in Augustine (Confess. x. 33) associated with the lively recognition of the great influence and rich blessings, which he had personally experienced (l. c. ix., 633) in Milan, from the melodious Church songs, introduced there by Ambrose, and from thence scattered throughout the entire Occident. He did not learn to sing Psalms, properly so called, until later (Proem. in Ps. 21), probably in Africa. In contrast with this artificial alternating style of Church music, abounding in rhythm and metre; but, secundum morem orientalium partium (l. c. ix. 7) which afterwards fell into disuse, and became greatly deteriorated (Forkel ii. 164), Gregory returned to a uniform and somewhat monotonous, though severe and earnest Psalmody. He selected, from the earnest and dignified tones of the ancient Greeks, four, from which he derived by changing the position of the fundamental tone, four other tones. These are the so-called eight Church tones. From each of these Gregory arranged one of the melodies of the Psalms of the Old Testament, still in existence, and in use, to which he added for the remaining songs, of the Old Testament and the Psalms of the New Testament a ninth, the so-called “foreign tone” (Cf. Bona, De div. Psalm. xviii. § 4; Gerbert, De cant. lib. ii. P. I. p. 250; Antony, Lehrbuch des Gregor. Kirchengesangs, S. 4). “The melody rests essentially upon one tone, the first as the second half of the verse concludes with a cadence of from two to five tones, under which an equal number of closing syllables were put, while all the preceding syllables were upon the chief tone of the melody, only the first verse, begins with three or four ascending tones. The length of particular notes, was determined by the value of individual syllables. (O. Strauss, Ueber den Psalter als Gesang=und Gebetbuch, 1859, S. 19). These nine Psalm tones are also given by Fr. Ad. Strauss (Liturg. Andachten der Kön. Hof=und Domkirche, Berlin, 3 Aufl., 1856) and by Armknecht (Die heil. Psalmodie, 1855) in the present style of musical notation, according to the Psalmody of Lukas Lossius, the enthusiastic advocate of the Gregorian song in the Lutheran Church. The tonus peregrinus was originally intended only for Ps. 113. (Hebrew numbering 114 and 115) and was transferred on the part of the Protestants to the Benedictus, and the Magnificat. By numerous deviations in the cadences which gradually became familiar, the nine chief tones were extended, to more than fifty melodies; but the power of the parallelism of numbers passed out of view since the ninth century, because from that period, as at present in the Anglican as well as in the Roman Church, the changes were made in accordance with entire verses. Against the assertion of E. Naumann (Ueber Einführung des Psalmengesanges in der evang. Kirche, 1856, S. 17 f.) that this was the original arrangement vid. O. Strauss, Ueber den Psalter, S. 30 f. Gradually a solemn style of chanting for the feast days separated itself from the ferials of the week days. The voice of the congregation, whose active participation is alluded to as late as the time of Basilius and Chrysostom, was gradually silenced first in the vigils, then restricted in public service, to the cry of Kyrie eleison since the ninth century, from which the softlies so-called, in the courses of prayer, and the like were gradually brought to silence. The clergy, it is true, were instructed, in their own singing-schools, whose rules descended to the most minute prescriptions, as to the inward frame, and outward delivery of the songs (Gerbert, Scriptores eccles. de mus. sacra, 1784, 1:5; Antony, Lehrbuch, S. 150), but they soon however, dispatched their business, with a rapidity, contrary to all purposes of edification, which Luther styles “a howling and a sounding” (“Lören and Tönen”). On the relation of the Gregorian to the Ambrosian singing vid. Wackernagel, Das deutsche Kirchenlied, S. 24.

In the Anglican Church, the Psalter is distributed through the month for daily morning and evening service without the distinction of hours. It is delivered partly according to the Gregorian tones, partly according to numerous yet similar melodies, either by a double choir, or alternately by the clergy and the congregation, or simply by the congregation, sometimes with and sometimes without the support of the organ (cf. O. Strauss, l. c. S. 25). The list of Psalms appropriate in part for daily morning and evening prayers, in part for the higher festivals, is printed from the Common Prayer Book by Em. Ohly (Evang. Haus=und Handbuch für gute und böse Tage, 1866). On the peculiarity of the Psalm tunes employed in the Church of England, vid. Herm. Oesterley (Der Gottesdienst der englischen und der deutschen Kirche, 1863, S. 73). [Comp. also the Psalter and Canticles with the Ancient Church Tones as pointed in the Book of Common Prayer with Ritual Song. Ed. Richard Redhead.—C. A. B.]

In the Evangelical Churches of the Continent the liturgical use of the Psalter was still more limited and rightly confined to the subordinate service, in which, after the general shipwreck of the eighteenth century, it begins again to be revived. For the chief Divine services, Luther himself had especially abbreviated the graduale in the Formula missœ, and assigned the longer forms to private use. This thorough-going change was wrought, however, by the introduction of congregational singing to which the German Hymn Book at present so fully appreciated, was adapted. This was not simply a restoration of the old hymnology, but an enlargement and deepening of its evangelical tone, rendering it suitable for systematic employment in public service. In the Lutheran Church several Psalms were added,—the following by Luther himself, Pss. 12, 14, 46, 67, 124, 128, 130. They were entirely transformed, however, into new songs, adapted to music, partly to songs already existing, and partly to melodies newly composed. In the Reformed Church, on the other hand, the Psalter itself was employed as the Church Hymn Book, translated into rhymed verses in the languages of different countries (vid. § 14), and provided with melodies. It is however to be noted, that the latter system has not been entirely foreign to the Lutheran Church. But it acquired only a local prevalence, and gradually disappeared as out of harmony with the fundamental view mentioned above. The churches of the reformed confession, on the other hand, frequently recurred to the use of hymns, properly so called. According to the records of the chief Lutheran Church of St. Maria at Elbing, the Lobwasser version had ceased to be sung in the year 1655, cf. G. Döring, Choralkunde, 1865, S. 52, Anm.26


Among the numerous translations of the Psalms, we can here allude to those only which have acquired an importance, either from their extensive employment in Divine worship, or from their scientific value in understanding the Psalms. Sometimes they are of value in both respects. This is conspicuously true, of the oldest, the Alexandrian version of the Psalms. For this translation, which, at the earliest arose, not before the middle of the third century B. C. (vid. § 4), among the Hellenic Jews of Egypt, has enjoyed the highest estimation, not only among the Alexandrian Jews, but also among those of Palestine, and it is of special significance to the Christian Church also, from the fact that by far the greater part of the citations from the Psalms in the New Testament are from the text of the Septuagint; partly on this account also, that it has been the basis of the most celebrated of the ancient translations in the Church. It was made from a Hebrew text which cannot have deviated in many passages, from the readings of the present well-known texts, which it renders with essential truthfulness, and often most happily, sometimes, however, lacking in clearness, even to the point of being unintelligible from being too literal. Since the latter had, however, not yet been pointed, we find here and there renderings which do not harmonize with the text established by the Masora. Occasionally there are slight interpolations, and sometimes again, we find slight omissions. Its poetical character has entirely disappeared. We must add to this the fact, that a very early (Frenkel, Vorstudien, S. 62 f.) and continually increasing corruption of the text had arisen, which could be prevented neither by the gigantic labors of Origen in the Hexapla (preserved to us only in fragments), nor by the labors of the Presbyter Lucianus of Antioch, which are entirely lost to us, nor by those of the Egyptian Bishop Hesychius.

And this has become all the more important, since from this Alexandrian version,—and in fact, after the κοινή, the old Latin translation, the so-called Itala has sprung, to the text of which, the expositions of the Latin fathers refer, viz., Augustine, Hilar., Ambros., Prosper, and Cassiodor. As revised by Jerome, it formed the Psalterium Romanum which again revised in Bethelem, after the Hexapla text of the Septuag. became the Psalterium Gallicanum, and has remained as the text of the Vulgate. For, while the independent translation of Jerome of the other books of the Old Testament, from the Hebrew text, became about two hundred years after his death, the Vulgata of the church; his translation of the Psalter, of so much scientific importance, juxta hebraicam veritatem (printed Opp. ed. Vallarsi ix. 3), was excluded, because the general liturgical use of the text already in existence, constituted an inseparable obstacle.

The Alexandrian Version, was followed with more or less faithfulness (the Hexaplian Recension, in part) in the fourth century, by the Lower Egyptian, or (Coptic) Memphitic; the Upper Egyptian or Sahidic and the Ethiopian translations; in the fifth century by the Armenian; in the sixth by the Gregorian or Grusinian, and likewise by the Syrian of Polycarp, in the seventh by a Syrian translation made by a Monophysite which is identical according to Pococke’s translation from Abulfaragii hist. dynast., 1663, p. 100, with the commonly called versio figurata (vid. Keil, Lehrbuch der histor. kritisch. Einl., S. 551), still later by several Arabic translations and the Gothic translations of Ulfilas. Yet we must remark that both the Coptic (M. G. Schwartze, Psalterium in dialect. copt. ling. memphiticam translatum, 1843, p. 42) as well as the Æthiopic version (Dorn, De Psalt. Æth., 1825, p. 17 sq.), do not follow, as is generally affirmed the Cod. Alex., but frequently the Cod. Vatic., and sometimes a text deviating entirely from that of the Septuagint, containing sometimes also, matter quite peculiar to itself.

Originating in the second century, we have the Peschito, independently translated however from an unpointed text, although, frequently drawing from the Septuag. and sometimes from a Chald. paraphrase. This was the prevailing translation of the Syrian Church, and several Arabic translations have directly originated from it. Tropical expressions it frequently changes, and aims generally at expositions, and the removal of difficulties. It omits the historical and musical references in the superscriptions, substituting others occasionally, which originated with the Church fathers, and contains many departures from the Hebrew text, besides its peculiar division of the verses.

A translation, likewise independent, and following a text sometimes differently vocalized from our present text, was made in the first half of the second century, by the Jewish proselyte, Aquila of Pontus, exceedingly well versed in the Greek and Hebrew. The work was done for the benefit of the Jewish brethren and enjoyed among them an estimation above that of the Septuag. Jerome also, occasionally, conforms to it, although he censures it severely, for its opposition to the interpretation of the Church. He endeavors to render the Hebrew with the greatest possible faithfulness, and as much as possible to adhere to the etymology, in his translation.

Another Jewish proselyte, Theodotion of Ephesus, attempted soon afterwards with the assistance of Aquila, an improvement of the text of the Septuag. From this, the book of Daniel was actually taken into the Greek Bible, in place of the previous translation. The Hexapla of Origen has preserved to us of this translation, the book of Psalms, like the other books, only in fragments. This is also true of the freer translation of Symmachus the Ebionite of somewhat later date, who attempts to give the sense simply of the original; and of the anonymous Greek translations, which Origen could only designate as quinta, sexta, septima.

How the Psalms were understood by the Synagogue, in the first centuries of the present era, we can learn from the text of the Targum, i.e. the Chaldaic translation of the Psalms, which is known unfortunately only in a very much neglected form of the text. This was less paraphrased, than the other books of the Old Testament. This translation, the Aramaic idiom of which resembles that of the Syriac, belongs to the group of Jerusalem Targums (Geiger, Urschrift und Uebers. der Bibel in ihrer Abhängigkeit von der innern Entwickelung des Judenthums, 1857, S. 166 f.), but is under the influence of earlier traditions, since we may safely say “there were written Aramaic translations of the greater part of the books of the Bible, as early as the time of the Hasmonæans” (Zunz, Die gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden, 1832, S. 61.)

Luther’s German translation, does not, it is true, give us the Hebrew text, in its rhythmical numbers, and it is defective from some misinterpretations unavoidable in the state of Hebrew philology of his days, but it is written with such a spiritual experience, and theological insight drawn from the understanding of the heart that it breathes the original spirit and life of the text. By its side also, in the Lutheran Church, the Psalter is especially esteemed as published by Joh. Magdeburgius, Frankfort, 1565, with a preface by Tileman Heshusius “In the Form of Songs in German Rhyme,” and also in the Latin paraphrase and versified form, composed partly under the influence of Melanchthon, e.g., by Eobon Hesse, Joh. Major, Jak. Micyllus, Joh. Stigel et al., The Psalms by Hesse, which Veit Dietrich annotated, attained such an appreciation, that they went through forty editions in seventy years, serving, however, like all the paraphrases simply the uses of private edification, or æsthetic and literary ends.

In the Reformed Church on the other hand “The entire Psalter of David” was arranged in the form of hymns, and furnished with tunes, and was intended, in a narrow sense, from the beginning, for use in the Church, and obtained even in the Lutheran Church to the time of crypto-Calvinistic controversies extensive use and approval. Then the Psalter of Burcard Waldis, who after similar efforts by Joh. Zwick, 1536, Jak. Dachser, 1538, Hans Gamersfelder, 1542, brought out the Psalms in 1553, “With New Tunes and Artistic Rhymes in order to banish oppressive thoughts and devilish trials,” with for the most part excellent tunes, in spite of its songs of from nine to twelve lines, (von Tucher, Schatz des evang. Kirchengesanges Th. 2, S. 318). Then still more the French Psalter in verses begun by Clemens Marot, finished by Theodore Beza (1562) with melodies by Claude Goudimel (1565), the teacher of Palestrina, prepared in a German translation by Ambrosius Lobwasser, 1565, but first issued in 1573 (comp. A. Ebrard, Ausgewählte Ps. Davids naoh Goudimel’s Weise, 1852).

As Hymn Book of the Evangelical Churches, outside of Germany, there appeared during the period of the Reformation, various books of Psalms, in the languages of different countries. (Comp. G. Döring, Chloralkunde, 1865, S. 57 f.) Thus in the Flemish tongue, in 1540, with 159 tunes; 1562 in English;27 1567 in Dutch (as a translation from the French). The year 1579 brought out the first Dutch translation of the Lutheran Psalter; 1578 an Italian; 1580, a Polish translation, still in use, by Joh. Kochanowski, after the appearance in the same language in 1554–5 of a metrical translation by Nicol. Rey (Döring, S. 434); 1582 a Danish translation in which the previously published “Beautiful great Psalm Book by Hans Thomisen,” was alluded to; 1585 a Swedish.

More philological and literary interest than theological importance, is attached to the Psalms, verse by verse, with brief expositions from Augustine and Cassiodor., by Notker Labeo (†1022) in St. Gall (vid. H. Hattemar, Denkmale des Mittelalters, 1844 f. Bd. 2). The same is true, of the German interlinear versions from manuscripts of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, published by C. G. Graff, 1839.

Apart from the translations added, by almost all the commentators, to the Psalms or interwoven in their works, a considerable number of translations, mostly of a poetical or metrical character have been published, since the middle of the eighteenth century with short introductions and expository remarks, partly for the purpose of rendering them more thoroughly understood, partly to extend to a wider circle, a more correct appreciation of the Psalms. Among them, we refer to the following: Die (poet) Uebers. von J. A. Cramer with (instructive) treatises, 1763 f. 4 Theile; J. D. Michaelis with remarks for the unlearned (6 Th. des. A. T.), 2 Ausg. 1771; Gotth. Frang. Zachariä (free and explanatory), 1773; J. G. Hasse (in his Idiognomik Davids), 1784; G. C Knapp (with learned remarks, 1778, 3 Ausg. 1789; Mos. Mendelssohn (metrical in close dependence upon Luther’s version), 2 Ausg. 1788; Chr. Gotth. Kühnöl (metrical), 1799; J. Chr. Casp. Nachtigall, 1797; J. Rud. Schärer, 1812; Stuhlmann, 1812: Franz Volkmar Reinhard, 1813; K. W. Justi (Nationalgesänge der Heb., 1803–18, 3 Bde; Blumen althebr. Dichtkunst, 1809; Sionitische Harfenklänge, 1829); J. G. Eichhorn (after his death by E. G. von Hieronym.),1834; Mich. Sachs, 1835; J. B. Köster (in accordance with their strophical arrangement with introduction and remarks), 1837; W. Krahmer (metrical with expositions), 2 Bde. 1837; J. G. Vaihinger (rhythmical with expositions), 1845; 2 (Title) Ausg., 1856; G. Meier, 1850; Camphausen (as part of Bunsen’s Bibelwerk, retaining the Lutheran version as far as possible and with great skill), 1863. J. Maurer 1838 issued a Latin translation with grammatical remarks.28


The expositions of the Church fathers, including those of Origen himself, who was not unacquainted with Hebrew, are based entirely upon the text of the Septuagint, and from the translations originating from it. They do not give expositions of the passages in a strict sense, but simply devotional, and frequently very practical and valuable observations, based upon them. They were frequently also sermons, with partly a dogmatic, but more frequently an ethical development of the thoughts which were called forth by them; but written from a New Testament stand-point, and without historical discrimination, full of allegorical and mystical references, continually misunderstanding the economy of the old covenant. We possess, moreover, only fragments of Origen’s expositions of the Psalms, translated by Rufinus, and nothing but translations of Jerome (vid. § 14), for the Breviarium in Psalterium in his Opp., Ed. Vallarsi viii. 2 is not genuine. The commentary of Eusebius Pamphilii (on Ps. 1–114. hebr.) alluded to by Montfaucon (Collectio nova Patr. et Script. Græc. T. I.), is of special importance, on account of its citations from the Hexapla. The short expositions of Athanasius are entirely dependent upon Philo, in their references to Hebrew names and words: his letter to Marcellinus, however, ἐις τὴν ἐρμνείαν τῶν ψαλμῶν translated into Latin by Jos. Reuchlin, and into German by J. Spalatin, gives some statements on the use of the Psalms, classified according to certain points of view, and with reference to the riches of their contents, and their manifold adaptations to the various conditions of life and frames of mind. Most highly prized by the Greek Church, of all the works of Chrysostom, was his very comprehensive commentary on the Psalms, of which we possess little more than the third part. It is all homiletical, occasionally introducing the Hebrew text from Origen’s Hexapla, and comparing it with the various Greek translations. Comparisons with the latter were contained also in the Comm, of Theodoret, forming the much needed beginnings of grammatical and historical exposition. Little profit can be derived from Euthymius Zigabenus in the twelfth century. Compilations from all the Greek fathers, and from some whom we know only by name, are contained in the Catena of which the most complete collection was published in 1643 at Antwerp in 3 Vols. by the Jesuit Corderius. From the Latin Church, we must allude to the strongly allegorical Tractatus super Psalmos of Hilarius Piktav., drawn from Origen and Eusebius, also to the Enarrationes in Ps. of Ambrosius drawn partly from dictation, partly from notes of sermons, full of warmth, enthusiasm and vivacity, and finally to the Enarrationes of Augustine, likewise taken from sermons (Sermones) from which Cassiodorus drew chiefly his Expositiones in omnes Ps. Schlüter in 1865 drew from them “apothegms” and translated them into German. The younger Arnobius, the semi-Pelagian, based his paraphrastic Commentary, not on the Itala but upon the translation of Jerome.

In the middle ages, the labor on the Psalms did not cease. But being entirely ignorant of the Hebrew, wholly dependent upon the letter of the Vulgate, lost in mystical and allegorical references, given up to dogmatical views, (in which some independence was exhibited, as in the labors of Thomas Aquinas, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventura and Albertus Magnus), they could not really advance the proper understanding of the Psalms. They nevertheless in such labors as these of Alcuin, Haymo of Halberstadt, and Remigius of Auxerre of the ninth century, and of Bishop Bruno of Würzburg in the eleventh, and of Peter Lombard in the twelfth century, as compilations and Catena, preserved the treasures of the older interpretations of the Church, drawn as they were chiefly from Augustine, and a few others among his predecessors. The samples of Syriac Expositions of the Psalms, by Gregor Barhebræus of the thirteenth century, are quite similar in their character. The great prevalence of an allegorical tendency, is particularly manifest in additions of Paul. Burgensis to Postilles of the Franciscan, Nicol. of Lyra, whose expositions were of a more historical character. It was quite prominent also in the twelfth century in the words of Rupert of Deitz; less so in Hugo of St. Victor who uses the ascetic element and the popular and practical application especially in his exposition of the Psalms.

We have similar expositions also from the Synagogue which labored more upon the Midrash on the Psalms than with the text itself, carrying to still greater extremes the fancies and trivialities of the Talmud and the Rabbis (vid. Zunz, Gottesdienstl. Vortr., S. 266, on the Midrasch, Schôchar thôb, which according to Delitzsch ii. 442 the poet Jedaja Penini explained in the thirteenth century; and the Midrasch—catena under the title of jalkûth). But from the beginning of the tenth century, especially under Arabic influence, the grammatical and lexicographical studies of the Jews have gradually contributed to the explanation of the Psalms. We know but little, however, of the Arabic translation and expositions of the Saadia Gaon except from the selections by Haneberg (1840) and Ewald (1844); the same is true of the commentary of the Karaer Jefeth of Boszra known through the Abbot Bargès (1846) (comp. Delitzsch, Anekdota zur mittelalterlichen Scholastic unter Juden und Moslemen, S. 314). But the first expositions of the Church, which were founded upon the knowledge of the Hebrew, and have since been extensively used, were based upon the commentaries of the following distinguished Rabbis.—1. R. Salomon, ben Isaac (since the time of Zunz, cited as Isaki, but earlier erroneously cited as Jarchi; and even Raschi), † 1105; rich in correct explanation of words, but richer still in Judaistic frivolities, with traditions from the Midrash and the Talmud scattered through it in great profusion. 2. R. Abraham ben Meier, ben Ezra, usually Aben Ezra, † 1167, especially important for his citations from older commentators’ philological investigations, whose works are lost, but more ingenious than happy in his own inferences. 3. R. David Kimchi, † 1250, chiefly grammatical and historical in his expositions but consciously opposed to the Church, and especially to Messianic interpretations. Among the latter expositors, Delitzsch praises the conciseness and clearness of the commentary of Obadia Sforno, † 1550, the teacher of Reuchlin.

The value of the newly acquired philological helps to exposition, were in the Roman Catholic Church especially recognized in the sixteenth century by Aug. Justiniani, in selections from the Midrash and Sohar, by Pagnini and Felix Pratensis in reference to the text and translation, and by Genebrardus, with reference to their exposition; in the seventeenth century especially by Anton Agellius, De Muys, M. Este, and Bellarmin while by Cornel. a Lapide, and Joh. Maldonat, the usual views of their most eminent predecessors were treasured up: in the Analysis of the Jesuit Le Blanc and in the Commentarius in ps. in 6 folios, by John Lorinus, exposition was swallowed up in Scholasticism. In the eighteenth century the current turned in favor of the practical and religious tendency through the expositions of De Lacy, Berthier, and La Harpe, but especially in the Comment. Literalis of Calmet, the Benedictine, a learned and reflective method was again realized, which in the nineteenth century acquired a profounder and fresher tone, under the stimulus of Protestant exegesis. This is apparent in the translations of the Old Testament, began by Brentano and continued by Dereser and Scholtz; and particularly in the exposition of the Messianic Psalms by Joh. Bade (1851), and Laur. Reinke (1857); in Peter Schegg (1857 f.), Translations and Exposition of the Psalms for the “Information and Consideration” of a large circle of readers; and in the “Theologie der Psalmen.” by J. König (1857). As “Beitrag zum erbaulichen Schriftstudium” and as “Trost und Erbauungsbuch” there appeared the metrical translation of the Songs of David, Joh. Bapt., Knöig, 5 Bde., 1830, and W. von Gülick, 1858, described “das Psalterium nach seinem Hauptinhalte in seiner wissensch. und prakt. Bedeutung”.

There appeared in the period of the Reformation, important for all subsequent times, in this domain, the expositions of Luther (since 1519), especially on the penitential Psalms, and those of Calvin (1564), edited by Tholuck (1836). The former whose whole heart was in the Psalter was distinguished especially for his grasp of the unity of both testaments, although Messianic and at times allegorizing in opposition to the principles which he himself so energetically announced; the latter historical and psychological in prevailing typical exposition; and both were executed with warm appreciation of their religious and ethical contents.

A spirit kindred to that of Luther’s exposition of the Psalms, speaks forth from the Interpretatio in Librium Ps. (1524), by Joh. Bugenhagen, with a preface and commendatory notice by Luther. It has for two centuries fructified this field of labor. Upon it was based the commentary of Joh. Brenz (Opp. 1578 sq.), the Hypomnemata of Victorin. Strigel, 1563; the Brevis ac perspicua explicatio in the Biblia of Luc. Osiander 1588 sq. (many times also in German); the Comment, in Ps. passionales; decem priores; graduum; pœnitentiales of Joh. Tarnow since 1621; and the Adnotationes also of John Quistorp 1648, contributed by learned exegesis towards understanding the Psalms, whilst on their foundation, such comprehensive labors as “Der ganze Psalter,” by Selnecker in fol. (1565) 1581; the Enarratio Pss. by Moller in 3 vols. 1573 originating from lectures; “Auslegung aller Psalmen,” by Hieron. Menzel, 1594; the Commentary of Gesner in fol. 1609; along with his Meditatio generalis Psalterii, 1597; the Comment, aureus, by Erp. Schnepf, 1619; the Psalter, of Eckhard in fol. 1624; the Citharœdus mysticus by G. Chr. Renschel, 2 Bde. 4, 1665; the Labores psalteriales theoretico-practici, by Christ. Dauderstadt, in fol. 1679; and especially the Comment, exeget. practi. by Reinhard Bake, full of rich and interesting information (1664) 1683, explained their religious value, although at times very dogmatically and schemingly, and were the means of their practical valuation until finally Abrah. Calov in the Biblia illustrata 1672 sq. and Mart. Geier in the Comm. in Pss. (1688), 1709 fol.., employed the contributions of their predecessors in learned independent labors written from the stand-point of the dogmatics of the church, and Joh. Arndt expounded and explained “Den ganzen Psalter Davids, des Königs und Propheten,” in 451 sermons, 1686 fol. We must also here allude to Valer. Herbergers “Paradies-blümblein” from the pleasure garden of the 150 Psalms (2nd Aufl. mit Vorwort von C. M. Otto 1862) brought by the author only down to Ps. 23:3, and after his death in 1867, continued by his son Zacharias.

In the Reformed Church before the time of Calvin, the Pss. Libri V ad Ebr. veritatem versi et elucidati by Martin Bucer, originally published in 1526 in fol. under the name of Aretius Felinus, deserves a special mention; and also the Comment. of Conr. Pellicanus, 1532; after Calvin, besides the compilation of Aug. Marloratus 1562, and that of Wolfg. Musculus 1550, and Joh. Piscator, †1626, in the Comment, in omnes Libros V. T. 1646, that of Mos. Amyraldus, Paraphras in Pss. cum annott. et argum, 1662, is particularly valuable, on account of its careful presentation of the contents and their connection. Principally derived from Calvin, and appearing contemporaneously, (1556), is that of Rob. Stephanus, generally cited under the title of Vatabulus, and with an annotated translation of the Liber Pss. Davidis; afterwards republished with notes from Grotius by G. J. L. Vogel 1767. By false use of history and parallel expressions of heathen writers, the theological understanding of the Psalms does not receive its just value from Grotius (Annottat. 1644); while in spite of his linguistic attainments, the historical exposition of Joh. Coccejus (Comm. in Pss. Davidis, 1660) is spoiled by his false typology. Hence the judgment of former times, that Grotius finds Christ nowhere, Coccejus, everywhere in the sacred Scriptures. Richly suggestive, very peculiar but too much given to historizing is the Latin paraphrase with an Introduction and notes by Ezron Rüdinger (1580 and 81 in 4), first a pupil with Melanchthon at Wittenberg, and afterwards Prof. among the Bohemian brethren. Of permanent importance are the three vols. of the Critici sacri, and two vols. of Synopsis criticor., of Matthew Polus, expositions compiled from learned investigators of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The learned side of the Ps. was represented in the eighteenth century, by Joh. Clericus, in the style of Grotius, but with still greater theological shallowness (Libr. hagiograph. edited after his death by J. Barbayrac 1731); by Herm. Venema (Comment. in Pss. 6 vols. 4to, 1762 sq.), critical, but without taste; by J. H. Michaelis (Annott. uberior., 1720), with comparison of dialects and many selections from his predecessors; by J. A. Dietelmair (1755) in vol. 6 of the so-called English Biblework, predominantly practical and popular in its purposes; it acquired a deeper theological character in the style of Bengel through Phil. Dav. Burk (Gnomon 2 vol. 4, 1760) and Chr. Aug. Crusius (Hypomnemata, 1764), which was lost again in mere verbal exposition, with numerous untenable citations from the dialects, which Gottl. Ringeltaube, in his translation, with notes, 1790, of the first fifty Psalms, made use of in a more judicious manner. Among the interpretations in Germany intended especially for edification, the most prominent are those of Aug. Herm. Francke, published by his son, G. A. Francke, in two vols. 4to. Erklärungen der Psalmen Davids (1730) and Introductio in Psalterium generalis et specialis (1734 in 1 vol. 4); Joachim Lange, Davidisch-Salomonisches Licht und Recht 4 (1735); Sigm. Baumgarten, Erbauliche Erklärung 2 Bde. 4 (1759); Joh. Dav. Frisch, Neuklingende Harfe Davids (3 Aufl. 1731); C. Herm. Rieger, Kurze Betrachtungen (2 Aufl. 1859); Fr. Chr. Oetinger, Die Psalmen Davids nach den 7 Bitten des Gebets des Herrn, neue verbess. Aufl. 1776 (also in the Sämmtlichen theosophisch. Schriften Oetingers Bd. iii, newly edited by Ehmann). Valuable hints may be also found in the Beiträge zu J. A. Bengels Schrifterklärung, issued by Osc. Wächter, 1865. The Berlenburger Bible (1772 ff.), 2 Ausg. 1756 f. is to be used with even greater caution for the Old Testament than for the New; likewise Emanuel Swedenborg’s Condensed Exposition of the inner sense of the Prophetical Books of the Old Testament, and the Psalms of David, 1852.

The Scholia of E. F. C. Rosenmüller, especially in the 2d ed, 1821 sq., 3 vols. (condensed into 1 vol. 1831) have acquired a lasting value in the nineteenth century, on account of their selections from the ancient translations and Rabbis and rare treatises. De Wette 1811 (5 Aufl. by G. Baur 1856) gave a new impulse to the exposition of the Psalms, in representing them after Herder as the national poetry of the Hebrews; likewise J. B. Köster 1837, by emphasizing their strophic arrangement; H. Ewald also 1836, (3 Aufl. 1866 as the 2d part of “Die Dichter des A. B,” the 1st part of which, 1839, 2 Aufl. 1866, contains the important General Introduction to Hebrew Poetry), by his remarks respecting the origin and contents of the poetry of the Psalms, their turns of expression and the like; F. Hitzig in the Historical Commentary, 1836, attached to his Ueberstzung der Psalmen, 1836 (both fully revised 1863, ’65), by his ingenious, although sometimes far-fetched philological, critical, and historical remarks, which aimed to establish a positive criticism, in the place of the mostly negative criticism of De Wette; J. Olshausen, 1853, by philological minuteness and severity, which yet is accompanied with many complaints as to the corruption of the text, and a conjectural criticism, just as extended as in the spinning out of assumptions of Hitzig of Maccabean Psalms, falling into a groundless historical criticism; H. Hupfeld, 1855 to 1862 (4 Bde.) [II. Aufl. herausgegeben von Ed. Riehm, 1869 sqq. with many valuable notes by the editor.—C.A.B.], by his thoroughness as to the language and history with attempts at biblical and theological exposition, which, however, are frequently disturbed, and diverted from the right track by his opposition to Hengstenberg, which is carried out even to bitterness. The commentary of the latter is far richer in its contributions of every sort (4 Bde., 1842–47. II. Aufl., 1849–52) [Eng. translation, 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1857, J. B. H.], and is more judicious than L. Clauss (Beiträge 1831) and R. Stier (70 ausgewählte Psalmen, 1834–36, 2 Bde.), and has again decidedly resumed the path of the views of the Church. This, in connection with the Commentary of Fr. Delitzsch (2 Bde., 1859, ’60) [Neue Ausarbeitung mit Beiträgen von Prof. Fleischer und Wetzstein, 1867, in connection with the series of Comm. on the Old Testament by Keil and Delitzsch, English Translation, 3 vols. Edin. 1871.—C. A. B.] rich in spiritual perception and rabbinical learning, is especially to be commended to students. The Auslegung of C. von Lengerke (2 Bde. 1847), is a worthless compilation from Hitzig and Hengstenberg. G. Ph. Kaiser, Zusammenhängende historische Erklärung, 1827, is unimportant. Worthy of consideration, however, is the commentary of C. Böhl (12 Messian. Psalmen, 1862), and Kurtz, Zur Theologie der Psalmen, 1865; likewise Fr. Böttcher, Neue exegetisch-kritische Aehrenlese, Abtheil. 2, 1864, published after the author’s death by Ferd. Mühlau.

In addition to several translations with notes alluded to at the end of § 14, the following occupy the middle ground between the learned and practical exposition of the Psalms: Tholuck, “Uebersetzung und Auslegung der Psalmen für Geistliche und Laien” 1843 [Eng. Translation, Phila., 1858]; Fr. C. Umbreit, “Christliche Erbauung aus dem Psalter,” 2 Ausg. 1848; with which we have to compare the same author’s “Grundtöne des A. T.,” 1843, “Neue Poesie aus dem A. T.” 1848. Appropriate remarks and practical hints are found not only in the works of the Old Testament by Lisco and O. von Gerlach but also in H. and W. Richter, Erklärte Hausbibel, 1834–40.

From the number of works on the Psalms for practical use, the following are specially worthy of mention: Christ. Gottf. Köster, “Die Psalmen, mit Einl. und Anmerk. als Handbuch der Erbauung für fromme Gemüther,” 1832; Erich Stiller, “Die Psalmen als Erbauungsbuch” (1852), 3 Aufl. 1862 ff; Fr. J. Günther, “Christliche Andachten über die Psalmen 1856; G. J. L. Reuss, Die Psalmen zum Gebrauch in den sogenannten Betstunden” 1860; F. Schaubach, “Ausgewählte Psalmen im Anschluss an die Evangel. des Kirchenjahres” 1863; P. Diedrich, Die Psalmen kurz erklärt für heilsbegierige, aufmerksame Bibellese, 1862–64; E. Taube, Kurze Auslegung, 1858 ff. (for the present 4 Hefte embracing 25 Psalms each). We have finally to mention in this connection Irmler, Die Psalmen als Choralgesänge 1835; M. M. Zille, Die Psalmen meist nach kirchl. Sangweisen übersetzt, 1844; E. Müller, Davidsharfe, Für Kirche, Schule und Haus, 1844; Hofferichte, Deutsche Akkorde auf der davidischen Harfe, 1845; Fr. Aug. Köthe, Die Psalmen in Kirchenmelodien übergetragen, 1845; S. F. G. Schneider, Die Psalmen Davids in Kirchenliedern für die häusliche Andacht 1854; Chr. Blumhardt, Psalmlieder, oder die Psalmen in singbare Lieder umgesetzt (1848), 2 Aufl. 1864; H. von Sydow, Sabbathweihe, Bearbeitung der Psalmen Davids von frommen deutschen Dichtern, 1859; H. Eytel, Der Psalter im modernen Gewande, 1862; Jos. Hammer, Die Psalmen der Heil. Sehrift in Dichtungen, nebst Einleitung und Erläuterungen, 1861.

[English literature is rich in expositions of individual Psalms. The Puritan divines especially expounded them at length in sermons, often with judicious explanations and applications, but not unfrequently transcending the proper sphere of the text. These are mentioned and cited in Spurgeon’s Treasury of David (1870–72). The prince of devotional commentators is Matth. Henry, whose work on the Psalms is a model of its kind. Scott is likewise useful. Bishop Horne’s Devotional Comm. first ed., 1771, 2 vols, (often republished), with an introduction by Edward Irving (Glasgow ed., in 3 vols.), has found a wide circulation and appreciation. Among the translations and critical commentaries we may mention Hammond’s Paraphrase with notes (first ed., 1653, new ed., 1845); Bishop Horsley’s Translation and Notes (1815, posthumous); Dr. Mason Good’s Historical Outline and also his Translation with notes; J. Jebb’s Literal translation and dissertations (1846); Phillips’ Psalms in Hebrew text, with exeg. and phil. commentary for Hebrew students; J. Addison Alexander, The Psalms translated and explained (N.Y., 1850, 3 vols., mainly based upon Hengstenberg, yet with original and valuable suggestions and a thorough digestion of Hengstenberg’s views and a rejection of much that is inappropriate); Noyes’ New Translation with an Introduction (1851, 3d ed., 1867); B. Weiss, New Translation and chronological arrangement with critical notes on the Hebrew text (1858). Among the more recent works we may mention: Thrupp’s Emendations (Journal of Class. and Sacred Phil. 1850); J. M. Neale, Comm. on the Psalms from Primitive and Mediæval Writers and from the Various Office-books and Hymns of the Roman, Mozarabic, Ambrosian, Gallican, Greek, Coptic, Armenian, and Syrian rites, 3 vols. (London, 1860, 2d ed., revised by R. F. Littledale, 1869–71, a mystical and liturgical Commentary, a revival of the Mediæval methods of interpretation); Perowne, The Book of Psalms, a new Translation with Introduction and Notes explan. and crit. (London, 1864–8, 2d ed. revised, 1870, a very judicious, able, and valuable work); Wordsworth, The Book of Psalms (London, 1867, as part of his Comm. on the Holy Bible, a learned work full of citations from the fathers, yet fanciful and finding in the Psalms “a prophetic Creed,” “the great doctrine of Christian Faith gradually revealed with greater clearness and fulness”); Didham, A new Trans. of the Psalms, Part I., Pss. 1–25 (1869); W. S. Plumer, Studies in the Book of Psalms, being a critical and exposit. Comm. with doct. and pract. remarks on the entire Psalter (Phila., 1870); Wm. Kay, The Psalms translated from the Hebrew, with notes chiefly exegetical (Lond., 1871); Albert Barnes, Notes crit., explan. and pract. on the Book of Psalms (New York, 1871, 3 vols., an excellent work for the home and the school); Henry Cowles, The Psalms with notes crit. explan. and pract. designed for both pastors and people (New York, 1872). The most important homiletical and practical work of the age on the Psalter is the Treasury of David, by Charles H. Spurgeon, 3 vols, of which have been issued (London, 1870–72), full of the force and genius of this celebrated preacher, and rich in selections from the entire range of literature, especially from the Puritan divines. This work will probably be completed in six vols. The articles on the Psalms in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, and Kitto’s Cyclopædia may be consulted with profit and as a “pathway into the Psalter,” W. Binnie, The Psalms, their History, Teachings and Use (London, 1870); and for the peculiarity and genius of the poetry of the Psalter, the work of Isaac Taylor on the Spirit of Hebrew Poetry. We must finally mention the excellent Revised Version of Dr. Conant, with an introduction, pub. by the American Bible Union, 1871. An improved version with brief philological notes was prepared by Dr. Conant for this volume.—C. A. B.].



1[כְּתוּבִים means properly nothing more than something written, writings. It was probably not used for any class of writings at the first formation of the canon, but came gradually into use as a convenient designation of those other writings, which being of too much variety of form and character to have any characteristic title, were discriminated from the two fixed classes, the law and the prophets, by this general term (e. g. other writings).—C. A. B.]

2[This was probably that they might follow the Books of Kings, being parallel with them in subject.—C. A. B.]

3[This was because it was regarded as a prologue to the Psalms, David being a descendant of Ruth.—C. A. B.]

4[The natural order is that which places the Psalms first as representing the age of David, and then the Proverbs and Job as representing the Chokma-literature of the age of Solomon. Cf. Perowne, Introd. p. 69, and Delitzsch Com., Edinburgh, 1871, Introd. p. 4.—J. B. H.]

5[Delitzsch: “The nature of prayer is the direct and fixed looking to God, the absorption of the Spirit in thinking of Him. All the Psalms share in this nature of prayer, even the didactic and hymnic which have no prayerful address.”—C. A. B.]

6[Perowne: “A more suitable title could, perhaps, hardly be found; for thanksgiving is the very life of the Psalms, even of those in which there breathes most the language of complaint. ‘To the glory of God’ might stand as the inscription of each. The narrative Psalms praise, whilst they record His mighty deeds; the didactic Psalms declare His goodness as worthy of grateful acknowledgment; the Psalms of sorrow are turned into songs of joy, in the recollection or anticipation of His saving help.”—C. A. B.]

7[J. F. Thrupp, in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, adopts the following theory respecting the Psalms ascribed to David: “If, now, in the times posterior to those of David the Levite choirs prefixed to the Psalms which they composed the names of Asaph, Heman, and Ethan, out of a feeling of veneration for their memories, how much more might the name of David be prefixed to the utterances of those who were not merely his descendants, but also the representatives for the time being, and so in some sort the pledges of the perpetual royalty of his lineage! The name David is used to denote, in other parts of Scripture, after the original David’s death, the then head of the Davidic family; and so, in prophecy, the Messiah of the seed of David, who was to sit on David’s throne (1 Ki. 12:6; Hos. 3:5; Is. 55:3; Jer. 30:9; Ez. 34:23, 24). And thus, then, we may explain the meaning of the later Davidic superscriptions in the Psalter. The Psalms to which they belong were written by Hezekiah, by Josiah, by Zerubbabel, or others of David’s posterity.” This view has the analogy of the Psalms of Asaph and the sons of Korah in its favor, but it is unnecessary until some of the Davidic Psalms have been proved to be of a later time, which is not the case at present, at least with any certainty, with any of them. Of those Psalms without titles several of them are intimately connected with the preceding Psalms (Pss. 33, 71, etc.), some were originally one with them (Pss. 9 and 10; 42 and 43, etc.), and thus the same author is evident. Others show by their peculiarities of style, ideas, and expressions, that they belong to the same author, whether known or unknown. Thus the most of the orphan Psalms are in the last two books, and belong to groups. The group Pss. 92–100, belong to the same author, as Ewald (Dichter II., 349) shows. The group 111–118 he assigns to two authors, but there are some reasons why they should belong to the same author, especially the Egyptian Hallel (Pss. 113–118). Ewald likewise assigns fourteen of the Pilgrim songs (Ps. 120–134) to the same author as Ps. 87 (assigned in the title to the sons of Korah) and the remaining pilgrim song, Ps. 132, to the same author as Ps. 89 (assigned in the title to Ethan the Ezrahite). This might be accepted, save so far as the pilgrim songs assigned to David (Pss. 122, 124, 131, 133) and Solomon (Ps. 127) are concerned, the older ones of David and Solomon being the models after which the Levitical singers composed their later productions. Still further he regards Pss. 105, 135 and 136; 145–150 and 33, as from the same author. Now Ps. 145 is assigned to David, and Ps. 33 is closely connected with Ps. 32. He denies the authority of the title of the former and the connection of the latter, but his error in this respect does not overthrow his arguments for the same author. Hengstenberg finds six unknown authors: one of Pss. 91–100, another of Pss. 104–107, a third of Pss. 111–119, a fourth of the 10 pilgrim songs which are without titles, a fifth of Pss. 135–137, and Ps. 146, a sixth of Pss. 147–150. From these attempts of Ewald and Hengstenberg to group the Psalms under various unknown authors we may, whilst doubting some of their conclusions, be guided to more satisfactory results. A more careful comparative study of the Psalms as to their theological and ethical ideas, their figurative expressions, and their lyrical and strophaic forms, as well as their grammatical and etymological peculiarities will enable us to discern the authors of many of the Psalms without titles, and thus the number of the Psalms of David, and Solomon, and Asaph, and the songs of Korah, and Ethan may be increased rather than diminished.—C. A. B.]

8[“The time of Moses was the time of Israel’s birth as a nation, and also of its national lyric. The Israelites brought instruments with them out of Egypt, and these were the accompaniments of their first song (Ex. 15)—the oldest hymn, which re-echoes through all the hymns of the following ages, and also through the Psalter. …. If we add to this Ps. 90 and 32, we then have the prototypes of all Psalms, the hymnic, elegiac and prophetico-didactic. All three classes of songs are still wanting in the strophic symmetry which characterizes the later art. But even Deborah’s song of victory—a song of triumph composed eight centuries before Pindar, and far outstripping him—exhibits to us the strophic art approximating to its perfect development.” DELITZSCH’S Com. Introd., p. 8.—J. B. H.]

9[Hilary (likewise Cassiodorus, Jerome, and Augustine) mentions this division, but feels bound, on the authority of St. Paul (Acts 1:20) to reject it. No allusion to it is found in many of the English Commentaries, and it is mentioned by Alexander only to be rejected, although fully recognized by Hengstenberg (Com., Vol. IV., p. 596 f., 1852) upon whose labors his work is chiefly based. It is now, however, generally recognized, e. g., Perowne, Barnes, Wordsworth, et al. The latter even discovers a harmony of arrangement, and a progressive development of Chistological features, in the successive books, which, at least, in the form in which he presents them, appear more ingenious than well grounded.—J. B. H.]

10[And these really belong to David, Ps. 10 being the second part of Ps. 9, and Ps. 33 in close connection with Ps. 32, vid. in loco.—C. A. B.]

11[According to Ewald there is no reason why Ps. 107 should have been separated from Ps. cvii. It appears to have been so sundered by the last compiler or Redacteur to make up the five-fold division.—J. B. H.]

12[Perowne introduces strong reasons in support of this view in his Introd., p. 75 f., 2 Ed., 1870.—J. B. H.]

13[This labor is believed by Perowne to have been executed by Solomon, who would naturally provide for the preservation and transmission of his father’s poetry, as he is also known to have provided for the rendering of the musical services of the Temple in the utmost magnificence.—J. B. H.]

14[The division into five books was certainly the work of the last editor. The first three books were ready to his hand in essentially their present form. The last two books were formed by collecting various groups of Psalms then existing in separate collections. The division of the 4th and 5th books is not clear except from the arbitrary division of the doxology, for Pss. 106 and 107 really belong together as reciprocal to one another as Ewald shows (Die Dichter ii. 495.) These two latter books contain then the following groups with some intermediate Psalms of whose position it is difficult to see the reason. (1) Beginning with a Psalm of Moses (Ps. 90), one similar to it in many respects is added. Then follows a group of 7 Psalms (Ps. 92–100) of the same author as Ewald shows. Delitzsch regards this group as beginning with Ps. 91 and calls it the “Reihe deuterojesaianischen Psalmen.” “In them all is that mild elevation, sunny cheerfulness, serene spirituality and New Testament breadth of view, which we admire in the second part of the book of Isaiah, and they are likewise connected together by the use of the anadiplosis and many similarities in feeling and sound,” (Comm. 588.) This same group is called by Binnie (The Psalms; their history, teachings and use, 1870, p. 96) the songs of the Millennium. (2) Another group is formed by Pss. 103–107. Delitzsch regards Pss. 104–107. as a tetralogy. “Ps. 104 derives its material from the history of creation, Ps. 105 from the period before and at the beginning of the history of Israel, Ps. 106 from the history of Israel in Egypt, in the wilderness, in the land of promise until the exile, Ps. 107 from the time of the Restoration.” These Psalms follow Ps. 103 ascribed to David, of which Ewald (Dichter ii. 487,) says that it is in a reciprocal connection with Ps. 104 This group is followed by three Psalms ascribed to David, of which Ps. 108 may belong to the previous group as a song of praise (although the latter half of the Psalm is found in Ps. 60 of the 2d Book). (3) A third group is formed by Pss. 111–118 of which Pss. 113–118 is the Hallel. Delitzsch supposes that it follows Ps. 110, “because it puts the לעוֹלם of Ps. 110:4, in a more extended historical light, in that it adds one series of praises to another in praising the works and institutions of Jehovah.” Then follows the long alphabetical Psalm. 119. A fourth group is made up of the pilgrim songs Pss. 120–134, which are followed by Ps. 135 (which is sometimes regarded as a part of the previous Psalm, vid. Delitzsch in loco), and Ps. 136 the great Hallel. Delitzsch (Comm. p. 731) informs us that the entire group Pss. 119–136 was called the great Hallel in its widest significance; but that Ps. 136 ordinarily bore this name, whilst the ordinary Hallel was Pss. 113–118. We now have a song of the captivity and a group of Davidic Psalms (Ps. 138–145), the last of which, Ps. 145, begins the final group of doxologies (Ps. 145–150) which Ewald ascribes to the same author.—C. A. B.]

15[“The many divergencies in the numbering of the Psalms may be easily accounted for, if we remember that the original MSS. employed no other means of marking the beginning of a new Psalm, than a short space, or at most, the beginning of a new line, except in the case of those Psalms which were separated by superscriptions and these latter were doubtless many of them of late date. The noticeably similar contents of many of the Psalms and the sudden transitions of thought or feeling so natural to this kind of poetry, would render the copyist all the more likely to unite two Psalms in one, or to divide one Psalm in two quite unconsciously.” Perowne.—J. B. H.]

16[We add to this section some appropriate remarks of Perowne. “It is plain, then, that these ancient Hebrew songs and hymns must have suffered a variety of changes in the course of time, similar to those which may be traced in the older religious poetry of the Christian Church, where this has been adapted by any means to the object of some later compiler. Thus, hymns once intended for private use became adapted to public. Words and expressions applicable to the original circumstances of the writer, but not applicable to the new purpose to which the hymn was to be put, were omitted or altered. It is only in a critical age that any anxiety is manifested to ascertain the original form in which a poem appeared. The practical use of hymns in the Christian Church, and of the Psalms in the Jewish, far outweighed all considerations of a critical kind; or rather, these last never occurred. Hence it has become a more difficult task than it otherwise would have been to ascertain the historical circumstances under which certain Psalms were written. Some traces we find leading us to one period of Jewish history; others which lead to another. Often there is a want of cohesion between the parts of a Psalm; often an abruptness of transition which we can hardly account for, except on the hypothesis that we no longer read the Psalm in its original form.”—C. A. B.]

17[B. B. Edwards on the Imprecations in the Scriptures in his Life and Writings, by E. A. Park, 2:364 ff.; Prof. J. Owen, Imprecatory Psalms in the Bibl. Sacra, xiii. 551–563. Rev. Alb. Barnes’ Commentary on the Psalms, Introd. § 6, (1869). Vid. especially the articles of Prof. E. A. Park, in Smith’s Bible Dict. (Hackett and Abbot), 1870, 2625 f., and Imprecatory Psalms in the Bibl. Sacra, xix. 165–210, by the same author. A very satisfactory train of thought is suggested, if not fully developed, for the solution of the difficulties of the Imprecations in the Psalms, in Perowne’s Introduction to the Psalms, p. 61 sq., 2 Ed. 1870. Vid. also his fuller discussion in his note on the 35 Ps. Charles Taylor, The Gospel in the Law.—J. B. H.]

18[An able discussion of the Messianic element in the Psalms, as well as other matters considered in this section may be found in Perowne’s Introd., Chap. iii. 2 Ed., 1870.–J. B. H.]

19[“The interpreter of the Psalms,” says Delitzsch, “may establish himself either on the stand-point of the poet or the stand-point of the congregation of the Old Testament or on the stand-point of the church—a fundamental condition of progress in interpretation is the keeping of these three stand-points separate, and accordingly the distinction of the two Testaments and the different stages of revelation and the knowledge of redemption in general. For as salvation itself, so has its revelation and the knowledge of it, an advancing history which extends from paradise through all time even to eternity.” The congregation of Israel and especially the Christian church afterwards under the guidance of the Spirit, brought many of the different lines of development together, which in the Old Testament and to the inspired writers were entirely separate and apparently parallel, as it saw them converge in the person and life of Jesus Christ. Now from the stand-point of the poets we have to distinguish in Messianic prophecy two parallel lines of development, as Delitzsch shows: “The one has as its end the anointed of Jehovah, who rules from Zion over all nations, the other the Lord Himself enthroned above the cherubim to whom the whole world does homage. And of these two lines the Divine is predominant in the Psalms; hope is directed especially after the cessation of the kingdom of Israel, far beyond human mediation, at once to Jehovah, the author of salvation. The fundamental article of the faith of the Old Testament was ישּׁועתה ליהוה. The Messiah is not yet recognized as the God-man. Therefore the Psalmist knows of no prayer to Him or in His name. But prayer to Jehovah and for Jehovah’s sake is essentially the same. For Jehovah has Jesus in Himself. Jehovah is the Redeemer. The Redeemer, when He appears, is no other than the ישׁועה of this God in bodily manifestation, Is. 49:6.” The human line of Messianic prophecy in the Psalms is based upon Nathan’s prophecy, 2 Sam. 7. The Messiah is usually regarded as a king, but in Ps. 110 the unity of the prophetic, priestly and royal offices in one person after the order of Melchizedek is distinctly brought into view. In close connection with this Messianic king is His everlasting rule and His kingdom extending itself to the ends of the earth. But along-side of this conquering and glorious king there is still another distinct figure in the Psalms, the suffering servant of God (Pss. 22, 69, &100). These two figures are likewise kept distinct, they do not blend, although they approximate in the world-wide preaching of the delivered one and the universal significance of His redemption. There is likewise a reference to the Messianic offering in Ps. 40 which is, however, not further developed. Now with reference to these Messianic Psalms which have Jehovah and His salvation in view, we have a form of prophecy which differs very little from ordinary direct prophecy, save in its lyrical dress. But in those Psalms which have the royal and suffering Messiah in view, we have no direct prophecies except so far as the Psalmist cites a Divine decree as in Ps. 2, and an oath of promise, as in Ps. 110, not elsewhere mentioned, which, however, are there used as the basis of the Psalm which then passes over to the ordinary form. All these Psalms are typical in their character, yet we must distinguish between those that are simply typical, that is, where the expressions have a direct historical reference and are covered by the experience of the poet; and those that are more than typical, the type expanding, and breaking, and becoming transformed and transfigured in attempting to express that which is more than historical and which is beyond the poet’s experience. Hence the distinction between the typical and the prophetico-typical. This is beautifully expressed by Perowne with reference to the king: “In all, some Jewish monarch, either on his accession or at some critical period of his reign, is the immediate object before the eyes of the inspired poet. But in all, the monarch grows larger and fairer than the sons of men. He is seen ever in the light of the promise made to David, and in that light he is transfigured. Human he is, no doubt: many words spoken of him pertain only to a human king; but many also are higher; many cannot, except by force of exaggeration, be made to apply to one who wears the frailty, together with the form of man.” We may add with reference to the suffering Messiah that these Psalms are typical in that they are based upon the life and experience of David, and yet they are more than this, approaching at times to the direct prophecy in that they describe sufferings which transcend anything in David’s experience, and with a minuteness of exact detail which forbids anything like a figurative generalization or poetical hyperbolical expression of facts and experiences in David’s life or that of any other historic person than Jesus of Nazareth. We see the type as it is rooted in the experience and sorrow of David, expanding and bursting asunder, and growing up as a mighty tree towering above the earth, wrapt in the horror of a great darkness, and that tree is the tree of the cross. We can only understand these Psalms from the experience of David, and yet we cannot but feel that mingled with the experience of the Psalmist, entwined at times in an inextricable intricacy there is likewise the experience of our blessed Saviour. And of them all, we can say that on the New Testament stand-point, we see them united in the Messiah of the cross and the throne, the Divine and the human, the prince of suffering and the prince of glory.—C. A. B.]

20[Isaac Taylor, in his “Spirit of the Hebrew Poetry,” shows very clearly and forcibly “the relation of the Hebrew poetry to the religious purposes it subserves,” “the commixture of the Divine and the human element,” in it, and the peculiar adaptation of the Holy Land to be the birth-place of a poetry which touches the hearts of all races, from all lands and climes, by a natural imagery clothing celestial truth in such a form that they are intelligible and familiar to all.—C. A. B.]

21[Isaac Taylor, The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, Amer. ed., 1862. W. A. Wright, Art. Hebrew Poetry in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible. W. Binnie, The Psalms, their history, teachings and use.—C. A. B.]

22[Unsuccessful attempts have been made to preserve the acrostic form in German by Delitzsch, in English by Dalman Hapstone (The Ancient Psalms, in Appropriate Metres: a strictly literal translation from the Hebrew, Edin., 1867).—C. A. B.]

23[Since the time of Lowth the parallelism of Hebrew poetry has been generally regarded as of three kinds: the synonymous, the antithetical and the synthetical or constructive. But since the first two kinds are rare in their occurrence and many of them do not differ to any appreciable degree in some of their phases from those of the third class, and since it is very generally admitted that almost all Hebrew poetry belongs to the third class and some of the poetry cannot without difficulty be brought under either of the three classes, I do not see what advantage there is in the classification. The true idea of Hebrew poetry is that the rythmical flow of thought finds its natural expression, and is not checked by the external form, except in the acrostic. The thought ebbs and flows, and the expression ebbs and flows with it, both as regards the lines and the strophes. The lines are often of even length, but not unfrequently very uneven, and the strophes are but seldom uniform in their number of lines. There is no guidance for division into lines and strophes, except in the greater or lesser ebb and flow of the thought. As Dr. Binnie says (The Psalms, their history, teachings, and use, p. 137, 1870). “The pause in the progress of thought determines the point at which the verse or line must end. The poetical structure fits so closely to the thought, that a Hebrew poem can be reproduced in any other language, verse for verse and line for line.” Dr. Wright (Art. Hebrew Poetry, Smith’s Dict. of the Bible) cites from Bishop Jebb (Sacr. Lit. p. 20) with approval the following: “Hebrew poetry is universal poetry; the poetry of all languages and of all peoples: collocation of words … is primarily directed so as to secure the best possible announcement and discrimination of the sense; let then, a translator only be literal, and so far as the genius of the language will permit, let him preserve the original order of the words, and he will infallibly put the reader in possession of all or nearly all that the Hebrew text can give to the best Hebrew scholar of the present day.” Says Dr. Binnie, p. 152, “The Hebrew poems stand alone in all literature in this respect that, with the partial exception of the acrostics they can be transferred, in their form as well as their substance, in a literal translation, into any other language One may well trace in this the overruling hand and wisdom of Him who designed the Scriptures to be the fountain of spiritual light, and the rule of faith and manners to all nations. Suppose the poetry of the Bible had been metrical, what would have been the effect? Why, one half of the Old Testament would have been to the Gentiles a fountain sealed. The Paradise lost turned into prose is the Paradise lost no more. There are literal translations of Homer and of Horace into fair English prose; but, except for certain school-boy purposes, they are utterly useless. They convey no idea of the Greek and Latin originals. Had the Prophecies of Isaiah or the Psalms of David been written in the classical measure or our modern rhymes, they would have fared as ill at the hands of the translators. They must have remained untranslated till some man of genius arose to execute a metrical version, which would have been but a paraphrase after all. As the case stands, David and Isaiah may be transferred, without material loss, into any language by any scholarly pen. Not only their sense, but their manner and the characteristic felicities of their style, are reproduced, not unfairly, in our Authorized English Version.”—C. A. B.]

24[Of the thirty-nine Psalms in which this word occurs, twenty-eight have musical superscriptions, and all are ascribed to persons known for musical gifts, as well as for poetical endowments, i. e., David, Asaph, Ethan, Heman and the sons of Korah.—J. B. H.]

25 [For an admirable discussion of this subject, vid. the art. selah in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, by W. A. Wright. There has as yet been no satisfactory solution of this subject. It is certainly a musical term not belonging to the text proper, and this is all we know about it.—C. A. B.]

26 [Binnie: “The Psalms retain to this day something of their ancient prominence in the Genevan and French churches.—In Holland, a numerous party in the Reformed Church scruple, like the primitive African Church, to employ in public worship any hymns but those of the Psalter; and it is well known that the same scruple is somewhat extensively prevalent in Scotland and the United States of America. In the course of last century, the use of Watts’ Adaptations of the Psalms led the way to a general introduction of modern hymns among the English Nonconformists, to the exclusion of the Bible psalmody, and a similar change took place, contemporaneously, in the greater part of the American churches.”—C. A. B.]

27 [Wordsworth: “The English Version in our Book of Common Prayer was made in A. D. 1535 and revised A. D. 1539 It was not formed from the original Hebrew, but, for the most part from that Latin version which is called the Gallican Psalter, and which was derived mainly from the Septuagint and was due to St. Jerome (circa A. D. 390), and is in substance the Vulgate, or commonly received Version of the Psalms in the Latin Church. St. Jerome afterwards executed a translation of the Psalter from the Hebrew text; but, on account of the previous general reception of the Gallican Psalter in the musical services of the Church, this more correct translation has never obtained that popularity to which, on account of its greater accuracy, it was justly entitled. The same may be said of our own English Version of the Psalter, in our authorized Translation of the Bible, which was made by command of King James I. in A. D. 1610, from the original Hebrew. Inferior to the Prayer Book version in rhythmical beauty and musical applicability, but much superior to it in critical accuracy, it will never supercede that Version in the choral service of the Church.”—C. A. B.]

28 [The English translations will be mentioned in connection with the Comm. at the end of the next section.—C. A. B.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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