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1. Their Authors.
The Book of Psalms has sometimes been classified according to authors. For example, the titles indicate that seventy-three were written by David; fifty are anonymous twelve have the name of Asaph, and ten that of Korah, or the sons of Korah; two are associated with Solomon and one each with Moses, Heman and Ethan.
A comparison of Acts 4:25 and Hebrews 4:7 shows that Psalms 2 and 95 respectively, were also written by David, though not ascribed to him in the book, and the question arises whether he may not have been the author of a still larger number of the anonymous Psalms. As some with the name of the sons of Korah were evidently written for them, may he have been their author as well? The same query arises about the 72d Psalm, one of the two to which Solomon's name is attached. It might be added here that the titles of the Psalms are regarded by many as of equal authority with the text, and hence if we can ascertain what the title means, we may venture to build conclusions upon it.
2. Their Subjects.
The book again, has been classified according to subjects. Angus, in his Bible Handbook, has a convenient classification, giving the subject, and in each case the numbers of a few Psalms illustrating it. For example, there are Psalms of
Instruction, like 1, 19, 39.
Praise, 8, 29, 93, 100.
Thanksgiving, 30, 65, 103, 107, 116.
Penitence, 6, 32, 38, 51, 143.
Trust, 3, 2.-], 31, 46, 56, 62, 86.
Distress and Sorrow, 4, 13, 55, 64, 88.
Aspiration, 42, 63, 80, 84, 137.
History, 78, 105, 106.
Prophecy (Messianic), 2, 16, 22, 24, 40, 45, 68, 69, T2, 97, no, 118.
3. Their Books.
It may seem strange to speak of the "Books" of the Psalms, but that expresses another kind of classification. The whole book has been divided into five books, each ending with a similar doxology, as follows:
Book I, Psalms 1-41.
Book II, Psalms 42-72.
Book III, Psalms 73-89.
Book IV, Psalms 90-106.
Book V, Psalms 107-150.
Notice the close of each of these books for the doxology.
There are those who question the value of this division, however, on the ground, first, that the title of the book itself in the Hebrew, (Sepher Tehillim), is singular rather than plural. It is not the "books" but the book of Psalms. Second, the numbers of the Psalms continue unbroken from the beginning to the end of the book. Third, there are other doxologies than those especially referred to, e. g., Psalms 117 and 134.
4. Their Unity.
The view of others, therefore, is that the Psalms comprise but one book with an order and unity throughout, the key to which is found in its final application to the millennial age and establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth. According to these, this explains what are known as the imprecatory or cursing Psalms. These have puzzled many, but when we consider them as terminating on that period when the era of mercy for the Gentile nations closes, and the time of their judgment begins, it lightens their problem very much.
In the same connection we should remember that the author is speaking in the prophetic spirit, and that the enemies are enemies of God whose permanent rejection of Him is implied. This view, moreover, explains those like the 91st Psalm which promise exemption from such things as pestilence and war. This Psalm was written doubtless on the occasion of Israel's deliverance from Egypt, but its language seems to indicate that it is a type of their greater and permanent deliverance in the time to come. This is strengthened if we conceive of the preceding Psalm as a picture of Israel today.
The opinion which sees the key to the Psalms in their millennial application also furnishes an explanation of the frequent references to Christ found in the Psalms.
Urquhart, who maintains the above view, regards the whole book as formed of a combination of twelve sections. Each of these contains a continuous recurring story of the establishment of God's kingdom on earth, in which Psalms of complaint and pleading on Israel's part are followed by those of jubilation for deliverance. In some of these jubilations the whole earth is seen to join. These twelve sections are indicated to him by the following jubilant Psalms: 10, 18, 24, 30, 48, 68, 76, 85, 100, 118, 136, 150. "In the first cycle of ten there is progress from the announcement of judgment (1), and manifestation of Christ (2), through His rejection (3-7), suffering and ascension (8), the waiting and persecution of His people (9), to the consummation of all things (10")." This analysis will not commend itself to all, but it is interesting and may lead to further thought.
5. The Messianic Psalms.
These are Psalms in which not only is the Messiah referred to, but in which He Himself in the Spirit is heard to speak. It is His feelings and experiences that are expressed rather than those of the human author. To know David it is necessary to study the Psalms as well as the historical books that refer to him, but this is even more necessary in the case of Jesus. In the Gospels we read what He said and did, and what was said and done to Him: in other words, we obtain a view of the outside of His life, but in the Psalms we see the inner side, and learn how He felt and how He lived in the presence of His God and Father.
1. How many Psalms, according to their titles, were written by David?
2. Classify the Psalms according to subjects.
3. Into how many books would some divide the Psalms? Give the Psalms in each.
4. What, in the judgment of others, is the key that unifies the Psalms?
5. What lightens the problem of the imprecatory Psalms?
6. How would you define a Messianic Psalm?
7. What is their value as applied to the Messiah Himself?
True happiness is the theme of this Psalm, whose author is unnamed. The negative side of true happiness is stated (v. 1), and then the positive (v. 2). Its reward follows (v. 3). Its nature and value are emphasized by a sharp contrast. Such a man is godly, his opposite ungodly (v. 4). The first is marked by stability, the second by instability (v. 4). The first has endless fruitfulness and blessing, the second has nothing and worse than nothing (v. 5), for he can not be acquitted at the judgment day. The secret of it all is found in Jehovah (v. 6). The Psalm is a summary of the whole book, and is appropriately placed at the beginning as a sort of preface.
Is prophetic and Messianic in one (see introductory lesson). It had a partial fulfillment at the first advent of Christ (Acts 4:25; 13:33), but a complete one is to follow at the second advent, as will be seen in the study of the prophets. The nations will rage and the kings of the earth again set themselves against Jehovah and His Christ under the lead of the Antichrist (vv. 1-3), but they will be regarded with contempt and terrified by divine judgments (vv. 4, 5). God's purpose will not be altered, which is to establish His Son upon His kingdom in the earth at Jerusalem (v. 6).
The Son Himself speaks at verse seven, the last clause of which refers to His inauguration as Mediatorial King, and does not in any way impugn His Deity. The Gentile nations are to be His in that day (v. 8), and although it will be the millennial day, yet its peace and righteousness will be secured through judgments and by the firmness of its Holy Ruler (v. 9). Kings and princes are warned to prepare themselves for its coming (vv. 10-12). "Kiss the Son" means submit to His authority, "lest He be angry and ye perish in the way, for His wrath will soon be kindled" (R. V.).
As its title indicates, should be read in connection with 2 Samuel 15. In his distress to whom does David appeal (v. 1)? Not only had men turned their backs upon him but it was charged that God had done so. Remember the possible reason for this suspicion in David's sin with Bath-sheba, preceding this rebellion of Absalom. Does David still retain his faith in God's promises notwithstanding (v. 3)? What is the ground of his confidence (v. 4)? And its expression (vv. 5, 6)? What is the nature of his further appeal (v. 7)? "Cheek-bone" and "teeth" represent his enemies as wild beasts ready to devour him. By faith he already sees these enemies overcome, and praises God as his deliverer (v. 8).
The word "Selah" at the close of verse two is obscure, and may denote a pause or rest, in the singing, or an emphasis to be laid on the particular sentiment expressed.
A cry of distress is this, composed by David, it may have been, on the same occasion as the last. He is not trusting in his own righteousness, but God's righteousness (v. 1). The doctrine of imputed righteousness was apprehended by the spiritually enlightened in Old Testament, as well as in New Testament, times. For a further illustration of this in David compare the opening verses of Psalm 32, with Paul's application of them in Romans 4.
David is encouraged to utter this cry by past mercies -- "Thou hast enlarged me," and I trust Thee again. Verse 2 shows the source of his trouble. His "glory" may refer to his kingly dignity now dishonored by exile. But the schemes of his enemies were "vanity," and brought about by lying "leasing").
His confidence was in the divine purpose towards him (v. 3), and they who are against him are cautioned to repent and turn to the Lord (vv. 4, 5). In the midst of his afflictions he values the divine favor (v. 6), which brings more experimental joy to him than the husbandman knows at harvest time (vv. 7, 8).
"To the chief musician on Neginoth," indicates the purpose for which it was set apart as a musical composition. "Neginoth" were the stringed instruments used in the Levitical service, and the "chief musician" was the leader of that part of the choir.
Is a morning prayer (v. 3). The words "look up" are rendered "keep watch" in the Revised Version. The psalmist would keep watch on himself, that his life and conduct might be such as to insure the answer to his prayer (v. 4-7). The need of the prayer is indicated in verse eight. The enemies referred to are then described (v. 9), and their judgment committed into God's hands who defends the righteous (vv. 11, 12). "Nehiloth," means flutes or wind instruments.
Represents David in deeper distress of soul than we have found him hitherto. Conviction of sin is upon him. Those who have studied 2 Samuel will not need to be reminded of occasions for this experience, though the connection with Bath-sheba will first suggest itself. He feels the justness of the divine rebuke (v. 1), but pleads for mercy (v. 2). The time of spiritual darkness has been long extended (vv. 3, 4). Will it end in death (v. 5)? He is heartbroken (vv. 6, 7). Enemies are rejoicing in his sorrow, but their glee is short-lived (vv. 7, 8). Light breaks, the morning dawn, tears are wiped away, for the Lord hath heard him! Begone, mine enemies, be ashamed and turn back (vv. 9, 10)!
Verse five need not be interpreted as expressing doubt of a future state, but may be simply a contrast between this scene of life and the unseen world of the dead symbolized by the "grave" (Heb. "sheol"). "Sheminith" means the "eighth," and perhaps this was a Psalm for the eighth key, or the bass of the stringed instruments.
1. Memorize Psalm 1.
2. What is an appropriate theme for it?
3. State the two-fold application of Psalm 2.
4. Will the millennium represent only peace and cheerful obedience to God and His Son?
5. Did you re-read 2 Samuel 15?
6. On what ground might God have forsaken David according to Psalm 3?
7. What may "Selah" mean?
8. What great Gospel doctrine finds illustration in the Psalms of David?
9. Define "Neginoth" and "Nehiloth."
10. What is the Hebrew for "grave"?
The length of our lessons in this book are determined rather arbitrarily by the length of the different Psalms, or the special interest found in them. We have in mind weekly classes wishing to study the whole Bible in a connected way, and yet avoid tediousness in the process. The six Psalms included in the last lesson might easily be read by the class in a week; and on the Lord's Day, the teacher with the assistance of the questions, would have little difficulty in fastening the facts and their application on their minds in a way both interesting and profitable.
At the same time the average person, independent of any class preparation, reading a Psalm a day for private meditation, will probably find the brief comments and questions upon it as much as he will be able to assimilate.
We commence this new lesson with this Psalm because it offers a point of beginning in the title. This, however, is rather obscure since it is not clear who may be meant by "Cush." The margin of the King James Version identifies him with "Shimei" of 2 Samuel 16:5-14, which story it would be well to peruse again, although there are several incidents in Saul's persecution of David which would fit about as well. The word "Shiggaion" in the title means "a plaintive song or elegy."
David is persecuted (vv. 1, 2), and charged with wrong-doing to one at peace with him (vv. 3, 4). The charge is so false that he can safely offer the challenge in verse five. Jehovah is appealed to, and asked to sit in judgment on this matter: "Return, Thou on high" (v. 7). "My righteousness" (vv. 8-10) means his innocence of this particular charge. A warning is uttered against the wicked (vv. 11-13), whose folly is described in serious wit (vv. 14-16). David's experience illustrates these concluding verses more than once.
If the whole book of Psalms be considered a mountain range of poetic prophecy, then this is one of the highest peaks. Observe in the margin how frequently it is quoted in the New Testament, and applied to Jesus Christ. Read Hebrews 2:5-9 especially.
"O LORD, our Lord," gives better sense as "O Jehovah, our Lord." His glory is in the Heavens as we see in verse three, and yet it is "above the heavens," both in kind and in degree. So great is His glory that He uses "the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." (Compare v. 2 with Matt. 11:25; 21:15, 16, and 1 Cor. 1:27).
Verses 4-8 find a partial fulfillment in man as created in the first Adam, but their complete fulfillment is seen only in redeemed and regenerated man in the Second Adam. The passage in Hebrews shows this, and particularly alongside of 1 Corinthians 15:22-28.
"Upon Gittith" is "set to the Gittith" (R. V.), which, some think, means a tune of a joyous character.
Is one of the cursing or imprecatory Psalms which, as stated in the introductory lesson, find their key in the millennial age and the events introductory thereto.
It opens with rejoicing (vv. 1, 2). This rejoicing is for victory over enemies (v. 3), but they are God's enemies rather than the psalmist's. It is His coming (presence) that has overcome them. Moreover, they are nations rather than individuals. ("Heathen" in verse five, is "nations" in the R. V.) Their cities are destroyed (v. 6).
At the same time the Lord is seen sitting as King (v. 7, R. V.), judging the world in righteousness, comforting the oppressed, dwelling in Zion (vv. 9-12). All these are millennial figures. Israel is lifted from the gates of death (v. 13), and the great tribulation is over. She is praising God in Zion for the deliverance from the Gentile nations which are sunk in the pit they had digged for her (vv. 13-16). And so on to the end of the Psalm.
"Muth-labbed" may refer like "Gittith" to the name or character of the tune.
Seems allied in thought with that preceding, and the two may have been one, originally. The psalmist is not referring to personal experiences, but to those which are more general. It seems as though the poor and oppressed of the nation and the whole world were uttering their complaint through him.
Because God seems far away, the wicked are flourishing (vv. 1, 2). It would not be out of place to conceive of the wicked in this Psalm as personified in the Antichrist at the end of this age, when, as we shall learn later, he will be persecuting Israel as God's witness in the earth. This is not to say that, in no sense, the Psalm is applicable to an earlier period in the history of that people, but that in its fuller sense, it is for the time to come.
The wicked one is described as boastful, covetous, proud, atheistic, self-opinionated, bold, deceitful, oppressive, and cunning (vv. 3-11, R. V.). The "poor" means, as is customary in the Psalms, "the poor in spirit," described by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. They are sad and sorrowful sufferers for righteousness' sake, even though they may be rich in this world's goods. "Meek" would be a better word to describe them than "poor."
The description of the wicked oppressor is followed by the usual appeal to God (vv. 12-15), who is represented as reigning over the millennial earth, punishing the wicked, establishing the meek, and judging the oppressed against "the man of the earth" who, as has been said, may well be taken for the Antichrist.
1. What is the title or inscription of Psalm 7?
2. What is the meaning of "Shiggaion" and "Gittith"?
4. What is the key to the imprecatory Psalms?
5. To what period does Psalm 10 seem to apply?
6. Who are usually meant by the "poor" in these Psalms?
7. What title is given to the wicked one in Psalm 10?
A song of trust. The declaration of verse one, "In the Lord put I my trust," is buttressed by the reason in verse seven, while all between is descriptive of the condition in which David finds himself. Urged to flee from his enemies (v. 1), he shows the futility of the attempt (v. 2). The moral foundations are being undermined (v. 3), and only Jehovah is able to discriminate and judge (vv. 4-6).
The evil speaker. The close relation between this and the preceding Psalm is easily discovered. David's enemy is the deceitful flatterer (vv. 1, 2). But his judgment is of the Lord (vv. 3-5), the sincerity of whose utterances are in contrast with those of the enemy (vv. 6-8).
Sorrow. The Lord seems long in coming to His servant's relief from the slanderers in the Psalms preceding (vv. 1, 2). Will He never come (vv. 3, 4)? Yea, He cometh soon, and faith and hope rejoice (vv. 5, 6).
The whole world corrupt. All sinners are fools (v. 1) because they think and act contrary to right reason. First, they think wrong ("in his heart," Gen. 6:12), and then soon they act wrong (Prov. 23:7). This is true of the world generally (vv. 2-4). "Eat up My People" is a phrase denoting the "beastly fury" of the Gentile enemies of Israel. Verses 5 and 6 show their indifference rather than their ignorance of God. If the closing verse seems to refer to the period of the Babylonian captivity and therefore raises a question as to the Davidic authorship (see title), we should remember that the language is typical of any great evil, and that David may be speaking as in other instances, in the prophetic sense. In that case the Psalm takes on a millennial aspect.
Holiness and its reward. Here a question is asked, verse one, which finds its answer in the verses following, the whole dialogue being summed up in the last sentence. To abide in God's tabernacle, etc., is to hold fellowship with God and enjoy the blessings incident thereto. These are for the man whose conduct is right, who is truthful, sincere, separate from the ungodly, and uninfluenced by covetousness and bribery.
Sometimes called "The Psalm of the Resurrection," is one of the great Messianic Psalms (see introductory lesson). While it is interesting to consider David as uttering the prayer, for it is a prayer, how much more so to think of Christ! On some mountain side, in the night's darkness, He may have poured out these petitions and praises. (For its Messianic application compare verses 8-11 with Acts 2:25-31, and 13:35). Observe the spirit of confidence (v. 1), loyalty to God (v. 2), love toward the saints (v. 3), separation from the world (v. 4), contentment (vv. 5, 6), obedience (vv, 7, 8), hope (vv. 9, 10), expectation (v. 11). The Revised Version throws light on the text. "Michtam" means "A Golden Psalm" (see margin) and such it is in its preciousness even above others.
Is a prayer in which vindication is desired. It makes such great claims that one thinks of it as Messianic also (vv. 1-4), and yet like Psalm 7, the writer may have some specific transaction in mind as to which his hands are clean. Note the testimony to the power of God's word (v. 4). What is asked is guidance (vv. 5, 6), and preservation (vv. 7, 8). The latter is desired from the wicked whose description follows as proud (vv. 9, 10), treacherous (vv. 11, 12), and yet prosperous in worldly things (v. 14). This prosperity is transient in comparison with his own expectation (v. 15). Have the Revised Version convenient in reading these Psalms, for the interpretation it casts on some obscure passages.
1. What is the leading thought of Psalm 11?
2. Against what class of enemies are the psalmist's words frequently directed?
3. Why are sinners called "fools"?
4. Which of the Psalms of this lesson are millennial and messianic?
5. Have you compared the passages in Acts?
6. What does "Michtam" mean?
A song of victory. It opens with ejaculatory expressions of triumph for deliverance. All nature is described as convulsed when the Almighty presses to the rescue. The next division is meditation on the principles involved, the whole closing with a further outburst of triumph and confidence. 2 Samuel 22 is a copy of this ode saving a few variations, and the student is referred to our treatment of it at that place.
God's revelation in the world and in the Word. We have a contrast between these two in this Psalm. In verses one to six there is the general revelation of the heavens, "wordless but extending their sphere over the whole earth," which then specializes to the sun as the chief figure of it all. But in 7-14, the law is celebrated, whose function is to warn against sin, and by conformity to which only can our thought and conduct become acceptable to God.
Observe the literary beauty as well as the spiritual teaching in the description of the law —- six names, six epithets and six effects. The clearer our apprehension of the law, so the Psalm teaches, the clearer is our view of sin, and the more evident that grace only can cleanse and keep us from it.
Psalms 20 and 21.
Are coupled in The Modern Reader's Bible, and called "An Antiphonal War Anthem." The first gives the prayers of the king and the people before the battle, and the second the thanksgiving after the victory.
As to the first, we hear the people (vv. 1-5), the king (v. 6), and then the people to the end. As to the second, the king is first (vv. 1-7), and then the people to the end. While this may be the historical setting of these Psalms, yet we are at liberty to apply their utterances in the spiritual scene to the experiences of believers in the Christian Church.
The Psalm of the Cross. Is this one of the great Messianic Psalms? Christ uttered the first verse on the cross (Matt. 27:46), and there is reason to think the words of the last were also heard. "He hath done it" (R. V.), in the Hebrew, corresponds closely to, "It is finished" (John 19:30). If this were so, may we suppose that the whole Psalm was the language of the divine sufferer as He bare our sins on the cross?
There are three strophes, or great poetical divisions, each associated with the phrase, "Far from me." The first covers verses 1 to 10, the second 11 to 18, the third 19 to 31. In the first, we have a cry of distress (vv. 1, 2), an expression of confidence (vv. 3-5), a description of the enemies (vv. 6-8), and a second expression of confidence (vv. 9-10). In the second, we have two descriptions, the surrounding enemies (vv. 11-13), and the sufferer's experiences (vv. 14-18). In the third the whole tone is changed to a note of victory (vv. 19-21), a testimony of praise (vv. 22-26), and a prophecy of resurrection glory (vv. 27-31).
The Psalm gives a graphic picture of death by crucifixion with circumstances precisely fulfilled at Calvary. As that form of death penalty was Roman rather than Jewish, we agree with the Scofield Reference Bible that the "proof of inspiration is irresistible." At verse 22 the Psalm breaks from crucifixion to resurrection (compare John 20:17).
The Shepherd Psalm is such a favorite with all as to make an attempted exposition almost an offence. Did David compose it as a youth tending his father's sheep? If not, it must have been when occupied in reminiscences of those early days.
Note the possessive, "my shepherd," and the future, "shall not want." Because the Lord is my Shepherd I am
Feeding on the Word -- "pastures"
Fellowshipping the Spirit -- "waters*
Being renewed -- "restoreth"
Surrendered in will -- "leadeth"
Trusting the promises -- "fear no evil"
Enjoying security -- "a table"
Doing service -- "runneth over"
Possessing hope -- "forever."
Is frequently defined as the Ascension Psalm. The Scofield Bible speaks of these last three Psalms, however, 22, 23 and 24, as a trilogy. In the first, the good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep (John 10:11), in the second, the great Shepherd "brought again from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant," tenderly cares for His sheep (Heb. 13:20), and in the last, the chief Shepherd appears as king of glory to own and reward the sheep (1 Pet. 5:4).
From this point of view the order is: (a), the declaration of title, "The earth is the Lord's" (vv. 1, 2); (b), the challenge (vv. 3-6), it is a question of worthiness and no one is worthy but the Lamb (compare Dan. 7:13, 14; Rev. 5:3-10); (c), the king takes the throne (vv. 7-10), (compare Matt. 25:31).
1. Where have we met earlier with the contents of Psalm 18?
2. What theme would you assign to Psalm 19?
3. Give the names, epithets and effects of the law.
4. What is the historical setting of Psalms 20 and 21?
6. Of what is this Psalm a picture?
7. What proof of inspiration does it contain?
8. By what name has Psalm 24 been called?
9. How may the last three Psalms be classified?
10. Amplify this last idea.
11. From this point of view, what is the order of Psalm 24?
12. What may have been the historical origin of the Psalm last named?
In the Hebrew this prayer is arranged as an acrostic, i. e., the first word of each verse begins with a letter in alphabetical order from A to Z.
Hereafter we shall not give as much attention to every Psalm as we have thus far, but trust the reader to do the analyzing after the examples given.
The purpose of the Commentary is not so much textual explanation as a stimulus to Bible study in a broader sense, and it is assumed that the reader has been studying the Bible side by side with the Commentary from the beginning.
The more difficult Psalms, some of the more familiar and popular, and those distinctively Messianic and millennial may be treated more at length, but others must be passed over.
In the present instance the prayer is for defence (vv. 1-3), guidance (vv. 4, 5), forgiveness (vv. 6-11), etc., intermingled with testimony to the divine goodness (vv. 12-15).
Is another appeal to God on the basis of avowed integrity and innocence of the charges of enemies. Note the features of righteous character of which the psalmist speaks, as well as the description of his enemies. The Modern Reader's Bible names this Psalm, "Searchings of heart before worship."
Is called by the volume named above "An Anthem of Deliverance," and throughout it exhibits confidence, hope and joy, in God's worship, with prayer for help and guidance in danger. The secret of the psalmist's confidence is given in verse four as his delight in divine fellowship expressed in worshiping in God's tabernacle. God will protect and deliver him (vv. 5, 6). He will be more to him than earthly parents (v. 10). All he craves is guidance (v. 11). He concludes with counsel to others in a like case (vv. 13, 14).
"The Song of the Thunderstorm," encourages confidence in God by the celebration of His power in His dominion over the natural world. "Discovereth the forests" (v. 9) means "stripping them bare." In the midst of this sublimity God's worshipers cry, "Glory!" (R. V.)
Is a cry of one in distress, which some have referred to as the period of David's persecution by Saul at Keilah. Read 1 Samuel 23:1-15, and then note in the Psalm, verses 4, 8, 10-15, 20-22.
Reads like "David's Spiritual Biography." It is thought to have been written after his sin with Bath-sheba (2 Sam. 11, 12). He has been brought to repentance for that sin and forgiven (Psalm 51), and now is praising God for that forgiveness, and telling what led up to it. It opens with a general declaration of his blessedness and why (vv. 1, 2). This is followed by his experience before forgiveness and when he was undergoing conviction of sin (vv. 3, 4). Confession brought forgiveness (v. 5). Let others act similarly in the same circumstances (v. 6). See what God is to him now (v. 7). The Psalm takes the form of a dialogue at this point, and God speaks at verses eight and nine, which should be read in the Revised Version. The whole concludes with a warning and exhortation (vv. 10, 11).
Is one of praise. It opens with a general chorus (vv. 1-3). This is followed by a semi-chorus (vv. 4-11), a second semi-chorus (vv. 12-19), and a final chorus (vv. 20-22). To follow this division suggested by the Modern Reader's Bible, is to obtain a good idea of the several subjects.
Has its occasion indicated in the title which refers to 1 Samuel 21:13. The name there is Achish, but some think Abimelech was the general name given the sovereigns of Gath at that time (Gen. 20:2). This is also an acrostic, and from a musical point of view consists of an introduction (vv. 1, 2), solos and choruses. For one solo, see verses 3-6, and for another 11-14.
May be read in connection with 1 Samuel 24, which some regard as its occasion. A comparison of that chapter will throw light on the meaning of several of its expressions.
Is one of the most popular of the Psalms of trust and confidence, whose contents are illustrated in David's personal history. It is an acrostic, which requires little in the way of explanation to any heart who really knows God through Jesus Christ. The theme is the prosperity of the wicked with counsel as to how the child of God should act in regard to it.
1. What is an acrostic Psalm?
2. What earlier Psalm is suggested by the theme of Psalm 26?
3. Point out the poetic descriptions of a thunderstorm in Psalm 29.
4. What experience is Psalm 31 thought to describe?
5. Have you again read 1 Samuel 23:1-15?
6. Give a title of Psalm 32, and a reason for it.
7. What idea is conveyed by "semi-chorus"?
8. Memorize Psalm 37:1-9.
Is an appeal to God from chastisement because of iniquity (vv. 1-4). The mental anguish is described in figures of physical disease, and yet it is not impossible that such disease may have been part of the chastisement (vv. 5-8). The desertion of friends and the opposition of enemies also entered into it (vv. 10-17). There are verses susceptible of an application to Christ, but others would prevent its application as a whole to Him.
Is Messianic (cf. Hebrews 10:5 and the following verses). To quote the Scofield Bible: "It opens with the joy of Christ in resurrection (vv. 1, 2). Verses 3 to 5 give His resurrection testimony. The others are retrospective." "Mine iniquities" (v. 12) may mean "penal afflictions." This meaning is common (Psalm 31:11; 38:4); (cf. Gen. 4:13; Gen. 19:15; 1 Sam. 28:10; also 2 Sam. 16:12; Job 19:29; Isaiah 5:18; 53:11). It is also favoured by the clause "taken hold of me," which can be said appropriately of sufferings, but not of sins (cf. Job 27:20; Psalm 69:24). Thus, the difficulties, in referring this Psalm to Christ, are removed.
The language of verses 14 and 15 is not imprecatory, but a confident expectation (Psalm 5:11). though the former sense is not inconsistent with Christ's prayer for His murderers, as their confusion and shame might be to prepare them for seeking forgiveness (cf. Acts 2-37).
Closes "Book 1" of the Psalms (see introductory lesson). It celebrates the blessedness of compassionating the poor (vv. 1-3) which the psalmist contrasts with the treatment he received both from avowed enemies and professed friends.
Psalms 42 and 43.
Afford a good opportunity to speak of Hebrew poetry as illustrated in the Psalms. The rhythm of Hebrew poetry is not in the sound but in the recurrence of the thought. "Thought may be rhythmic as well as sound, and the full meaning of Scripture is not grasped by one who does not feel how thoughts can be emphasized by being differently re-stated." In this we see the wisdom of God as applied to the Scripture, for the poetry of the Bible can be translated into any tongue without serious loss to the thought, while of other poetry, depending as it does on the sound, this can not be said. The first of the two Psalms expresses the feelings of an exile from the altar of his God, and the spirit of the whole lyric is summed up in its refrain, a struggle between hope and despair:
Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
And why art thou disquieted within me?
Hope thou in God:
For I shall yet praise Him,
Who is the health of my countenance
And my God!
Quoting The Literary Study of the Bible: "This refrain is found to unify into a single poem Psalms 42 and 43; and the whole falls into "three strophies." Instead of "three strophies and a refrain," substitute "three verses and a chorus," and we have a more popular idea of the poetical form of the two Psalms.
The section of Psalms now entered upon introduces "The Sons of Korah," but whether they were written by them. Or for them, as a class of the Levitical singers, is difficult to say. The present Psalm was penned with reference to a national calamity, just when, or what, is not known. But the psalmist recounts past deliverances in such crises as a ground of confidence and hope now.
Is Messianic, for the proof of which, see the marginal references to the New Testament. The divisions are: The beauty of the King (vv. 1, 2); His coming in glory (vv. 4, 5); His Deity and the character of His reign (vv. 6, 7); the Church as associated with Him in His earthly reign (vv. 9-13); Her virgin companions (The Jewish remnant?) (vv. 14, 15); the whole concluding with an illusion to His earthly fame (vv. 16, 17).
The Scofield Bible thinks this Psalm might be classed with the two following, as all three look "forward to the advent in glory." The same might be said of all down to and including Psalm 50, with the possible exception of 49.
To speak of Psalm 46 particularly: Israel is seen in great trouble but firmly trusting in God (vv. 1-5). The cause is the gathering of the nations against her. (v. 6). But God is with her and overcomes the nations, visiting them with judgment (vv. 7, 8). Following these judgments there is peace over all the earth (vv. 9-1 1). This is clearly millennial in its ultimate application.
Is of the same character. Psalm 52 also can hardly be read by anyone familiar with the later revelations of the Bible concerning the Antichrist without thinking of that arch-despot. He is overcome by the Lord (v. 5), and exalted over by the righteous (vv. 6, 7), whose trust in the mercy of God has not been in vain (vv. 8, 9).
Is historical again, and grounded on the sad event in David's life dwelt upon in Second Samuel. The Scofield Bible characterizes it in its successive steps as "The mould of the experience of a sinning saint, who comes back to full communion and service." (1) Sin is judged before God, verses 1-6; (2) forgiveness and cleansing are secured through the blood, verses 7-19; (3) the restored one is now filled with the Holy Spirit for joy, power, service and worship, verses 11-17; and is at last seen in fellowship with God, not about self, but Zion (vv. 18, 19). "Personally, while it was David's pathway to restored communion, dispensationally, it will be that of returning Israel at the end of this age (Deut. 30:1-10).
The other Psalms in this lesson give their historical setting in their titles, and the student of those preceding will interpret them with little difficulty.
1. What verses of Psalm 38 would seem to prevent its Messianic application entire?
2. What Messianic Psalms are noted in this lesson?
3. In what does the rhythm of Hebrew poetry consist?
4. What advantage does this give the poetry of Scripture?
5. Repeat the "chorus" of Psalms 42 and 43.
6. Which Psalms of this lesson look forward to the millennial age?
7. On what historical event is Psalm 51 grounded?
8. What dispensational application is possible in its case?
The first half dozen of these Psalms form a group millennial and Messianic. The first is millennial. It is Israel who speaks, and the Psalm cannot be appreciated except as the word "us" in verse 1 is so applied. When God has mercy upon and blesses Israel in the latter days, His way will begin to be known upon earth, and His saving health unto all nations (v. 2). In other words, the present age is one of out-gathering, but the age to come (millennial) will be one of in-gathering. God is now calling out a people for His Name from all the nations to form the Church, the body of Christ; but then He will be gathering all the nations to Him through the witness and ministry of Israel. This is the age of the evangelism of the nations, that the age of their conversion.
Why will the people be praising God in that day? Let verse 4 answer. It will, however, not only be a day of righteous governing, but one of great material prosperity (v. 6). The cause of it all is again expressed (v. 7).
The Scofield Bible teaches that Psalm 68, which some think to have been composed at the bringing up of the ark, is from the prophetic view, entirely pervaded by the joy of Israel in the Kingdom, but a strict order of events begins with verse 18 which in Ephesians 4:7-16 is quoted of Christ's ascension ministry. Verses 21-23 refer to the regathering of Israel and the destruction of the Anti-christ and his armies, while verses 24-35 describe the universal Kingdom blessing.
Is Messianic as judged by the New Testament quotations indicated in the margin. It is the Psalm of Christ's humiliation and rejection (vv. 4, 7, 8, 10-12). Verses 14-20 point to Gethsemane, and verse 21 to the cross. The imprecatory verses 22-28, may refer to the present judicial blindness of Israel, verse 25 having special reference to Judas (Acts 1:20), who is typical of his generation which shared his guilt.
Is also Messianic. Whether composed by, or for, Solomon (see title), "a greater than Solomon is here." Millennial expressions prevail throughout, for it is a Psalm of the King when He comes in His kingdom. The difference in the imagery between this and Psalm 2 will be observed, but both conditions as thus outlined will prevail in the millennial age. That of Psalm 2 precedes that of this Psalm and makes this possible. There is difficulty in applying verse 15 to Christ as it speaks of prayer being "made for him," unless we translate "for" by "to" as some have ventured to do, although without good authority.
The first of the Psalms of Asaph (73) is the most familiar, and suggests the language of Job and Jeremiah under similar circumstances (see Jer. 12:1-4). The psalmist is complaining of the prosperity of the wicked and the affliction of the righteous; but as his eye of faith is opened to the sudden and fearful ruin of the former his misgivings are removed; and in the reassurance of his heart he chides himself for his folly and praises God's love.
The opening verse is the conclusion at which he arrives at the close, although it is stated first. He had nearly fallen into infidelity (v. 2), the reasons for which are stated (vv. 3-12). It seemed as if there were no use in being good (vv. 13, 14). He wisely kept his complainings to himself however (v. 15); and when he came to know God better, which is the meaning of verse 16, he understood the enigma (vv. 1820). His confession of the sin of unbelief follows (vv. 21, 22), and then the renewal of his faith and confidence to the end.
Some think Psalms 75 and 76 belong together, the one anticipating what the other commemorates, viz., the divine deliverance of Israel from their enemies on some signal occasion. Possibly 2 Kings 19:35 and Isaiah Z7 throw light upon them.
Is applied by some, to the removal of the sanctuary from Shiloh in the tribe of Ephraim to Zion, of Judah; and consequently, the transfer of eminence from the former to the latter tribe. Though this transfer was God's purpose from the beginning, yet the psalmist shows it to have been a divine judgment on Ephraim under whose leadership the people had shown the sinful and rebellious character that had distinguished their ancestors in Egypt. Read in this light, the Psalm becomes doubly interesting and instructive.
1. How would you characterize several of the Psalms of this lesson?
2. How is Psalm 67 to be interpreted?
3. On the question of salvation how may this age be compared with the one to follow?
4. When, presumably, was Psalm 68 composed?
5. What is its prophetic application?
6. Have you read Ephesians 4?
7. How is Psalm 69 characterized?
8. Which of the disciples is referred to prophetically in this Psalm?
9. Which is the great Messianic Psalm of the lesson?
10. What is the theme of Psalm 73?
The first Psalm in this lesson suggests Psalm 74 on which we did not dwell, but both of which depict the desolations of Judah by the Babylonians (cf. Jer. 52:12-24), On this supposition their date would be that of the captivity, and their author a later Asaph than the Asaph mentioned in David's time.
Has captivity features also, and some would say it relates to the ten tribes, as the preceding Psalm does to Judah, The next several Psalms are much alike in this respect and may easily be interpreted from that point of view.
Attributed to David, constitutes a break in the series, and is a prayer which we pause to analyze. Observe the touching picture in verse 1, a child with his arms round his father's neck. Observe the five requests for: preservation, joy, instruction, strength and encouragement, in verses 2, 4, 11, 16 and 17 respectively. Observe the grounds from the human side on which an answer is expected, his need, importunity (margin), trust, relationship to God (margin), verses 1, 3, 4 and 2. From the divine side he expected it because of God's goodness, greatness and grace, verses, 5, 10, 13.
Of the authors of Psalms 88 and 89 we know nothing save that their names are among David's singers (1 Chron. 6:18,33; 15:17). There is little to show the occasion when they were written, but the last-named has been assigned to Absalom's rebellion. From that point of view it may be a contrast between the promised prosperity of David's throne (2 Sam. 7), and what now threatens its downfall; but in any event it is full of helpfulness in spiritual application.
Psalms 90 and 91 (especially the latter).
Rank with 37, 51 and 103 in popular favor, being quoted almost as frequently. The first is a contrast between man's frailty and God's eternity, and the second, an outburst, of confidence in the presence of physical peril. Many a foreign missionary has found this last "a very present help in time of trouble"! The two Psalms are also capable of a dispensational application, the first referring to Israel's day of sorrow and repentance, and the second to her deliverance and protection from the tribulation to come. Satan's use of 91:11, 12, in the temptation of our Lord, will not be forgotten (Matt. 4:6).
Were applied by the Jews to the times of the Messiah, who had in mind His first advent only; but we in the light of subsequent events see their application to His second advent. In Psalm 93 He is entering on His reign; in 94 He is appealed to for judgment on the evil-doers; in 95 Israel is exhorted to praise Him, and warned against unbelief. The substance of the next four is found in 1 Chronicles 16, which was used by David's direction at the dedication of the tabernacle on Mt. Zion, which typified the dispensation of the Messiah.
A break appears at Psalm 101, where David is once more named, and is making a vow of consecration corresponding to Psalm 15. In Psalm 102 he is pouring out a deep complaint, prophetic of Israel's hour of tribulation and her deliverance therefrom (vv. 13-22). Observe that when the kingdoms of the earth are serving the Lord, men will be declaring His name in Zion and praising Him in Jerusalem. As we have seen earlier, that sacred city will be the centre of things in the millennial age.
Are all of praise. In the first, David rises from a thankful acknowledgment of personal blessings (vv. 1-5) to a celebration of God's attributes. In the next God is praised for His works of creation and providence. In the next Israel's special reasons for praise are enumerated, the thought being carried forward into the two succeeding Psalms, although the second of the two broadens out again into a celebration of God's mercy to all men in their various emergencies. It is one of the most beautiful of the Psalms and its structure affords another good opportunity to illustrate Hebrew poetry.
1. To what period of Israel's history may Psalms 74 and 79 apply?
2. What other Psalms may here be included?
3. Have you studied Psalm 86 with the aid of the outline in the lesson?
4. Memorize Psalm 91.
5. To what period does the group 93-100 probably belong?
6. How would you designate the next group?
7. What is the refrain of Psalm 107?
The first psalm in this lesson is one of the imprecatory or cursing psalms, in the interpretation of which we should keep in mind the principles already stated, (1) that the writer speaks as a prophet; (2), that the enemies are not merely personal to him but enemies of God; (3), that they are not individuals so much as nations; and (4), that they are considered at a time when the incorrigible condition has been reached, and they have become permanently fixed in opposition to the Most High. The allusion to Judas (v. 8), suggests a symbolical character for the whole, and it would not be difficult to discover under the surface the lineaments of the Antichrist.
"The explicit application of this psalm to the Saviour, by Himself (Matt. 22:42-45), and by the apostles (Acts 2:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; Heb. 1:13), and their frequent reference to its language and purport (Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 10:12, 13), leaves no doubt of its prophetic character.
"Not only was there nothing in the position or character of David to justify a reference to either, but the utter severance from the royal office of all priestly functions (so clearly assigned the subject of this psalm) positively forbids such a reference.
"The psalm celebrates the exaltation of Christ to the throne of an eternal and increasing kingdom, and a perpetual priesthood (Zech. 6:13), involving the subjugation of His enemies and the multiplication of His subjects, and rendered infallibly certain by the word and oath of Almighty God." [Jamieson, Faussett and Brown.]
Are frequently interpreted together, the first celebrating God's gracious dealings with His people, and the second carrying on the thought as an exposition of its last verse. Using that verse as a text, the whole of Psalm 112 becomes illuminative of it.
Of these psalms it may be said that the Jews used them on their great festivals, calling them the Greater Hallel, which means hymn. They contrast God's majesty with His condescension (113), they celebrate His former care of His people (114), they beseech Him to vindicate His glory over the vanity of idols (115), they praise Him for deliverance from peril (116), etc.
The last-named (116), is a particularly beautiful psalm, noting three distinct experiences of the Psalmist: love (vv. 1-6); rest (vv. 7-11) and gratitude (vv. 12-19). Love because God heard him, rest even when men are false to him, and gratitude expressed both with the lips and life.
Has several peculiarities. "It is divided into twenty-two parts, or stanzas, denoted by the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza contains eight verses, and the first letter of each verse gives name to the stanza.
Its contents are mainly praises of God's word, exhortation of its perusal, and reverence for it; prayers for its proper influence, and complaints of the wicked despising it. There are but two verses (vv. 122, 132) which do not contain some term or description of God's word. These terms are of various derivations, but used, for the most part, synonymously, though the variety seems designed to express better the several aspects in which our relations to the Word are presented.
The psalm does not appear to have relation to any special occasion of the Jewish nation, but was evidently "intended as a manual of pious thoughts, especially for instructing the young, and its artificial structure was probably to aid the memory." [Jamieson, Faussett and Brown.]
1. On what principles are the imprecatory psalms to be interpreted?
2. What New Testament character is typically referred to in Psalm 109?
3. What proves the prophetic character of Psalm 110?
4. What does that psalm celebrate?
5. What designation has been given to Psalms 113 to 118, and when and by whom are they used?
6. Name six peculiarities of Psalm 119.
This group is differentiated by the title attached to each, "A Song of Degrees," or "A Song of Ascents." The title seems derived from the going up of the people to Jerusalem at the great festivals which came three times a year. (Compare Deut. 16:16; 1 Kings 12:27, 28, etc.); the thought being that they chanted the psalms at different stages in their journey.
The pertinency of this application of these psalms is more apparent in some than others. For example. Psalm 121 represents the pilgrim looking towards the goal of his journey, and inspired by its contemplation to apply the thought of the strength of its hills to the care of God for His people, and especially His care for them on their journey, by night or day (vv. 3-6). The spiritual application is easily suggestive. Psalms 124, 126, 129 and 130, suggest the Babylonian captivity. Psalm 134 represents the companies arriving at the sanctuary and calling on the priests to unite in praising God on their behalf, to which the priests reply in the language of the Mosaic blessing which they only could pronounce (v. 3).
Of the whole group Psalm 132 is the most important in some respects. May Solomon have been its author? It opens with a declaration of his father David's zeal for the building of the temple (vv. 1-7). "Ephratah" (v. 6) is another name for Bethlehem (Gen. 48:7). "The fields of the wood" stands for "Jair" or "Kirjath-jearim" whence the ark was brought up by David to Jerusalem. The psalm next pleads with God for fulfillment of His promises to David concerning the temple (vv. 8-18). The Solomonic application is clear in verses 10-12, and yet, it has a typical reference to the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. How is this group of psalms designated?
2. What is the probable sense of that designation?
3. At what period may some of the group have been composed?
4. Show their pertinency, by the analysis of one or more of the group.
5. State the probable history of Psalm 132.
6. Interpret Psalm 134.
Praises God for choosing Jacob (vv. 1-4), extols His power in the natural world (vv. 5-7), and in the deliverance of His people from Egypt (vv. 8, 9) and bringing them into the promised land (vv. 10-12). All this is in contrast to the vanity pf idols (vv. 13-18).
Is of the same character as the preceding, but is notable for the chorus attached to each verse -- a chorus with which we have become familiar in other psalms (106:1; 118:1-4), and which may have been used by the people somewhat like the "Amen."
Is plainly identified as to its period and design.
Is perhaps the most sublime declaration of the omnipresence of God found in the Holy Scriptures. In the light of that attribute the Psalmist is willing to submit himself to the closest scrutinizing (v. 23), and for the reason indicated at the close. Who will follow in his train?
We have now reached another group of David's psalms (138-140) whose structure and style are like some of the earlier ones -- complaint, prayer, hope, praise.
Is unique in the historical note attached to it. The "cave" spoken of may have been Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1), or Engedi (1 Sam. 24:3), but it is not necessary to believe that the psalm was composed while David was in the cave. It may have been written later when his experience in the cave furnished a good illustration of his present need and an argument for his relief.
The last psalm is a fitting close to the book, "reciting the place, theme, mode and extent of Jehovah's exalted praise."
1. What is a familiar chorus to the psalms?
2. What is the period and design of Psalm 137?
3. What divine attribute is the theme of Psalm 139?
4. What group of psalms is contained in this lesson?
5. What gives a historic touch to Psalm 142?
6. Of what period are the last four Psalms commonly interpreted?
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