PSALMS, BOOK OF.
|I. Introduction.||The Process of Collection (§ 2).||Indications of Davidic Authorship (§ 4).|
|Names (§ 1).||The Date (§ 3).||Explanations of Title "of David" (§ 5).|
|Classification (§ 2). ||IV. The Ego of the Psalms.||Recognition of Late Psalms (§ 6).|
|II. Purpose.||Varied Explanations (§ 1).||Comparison with Psalms of Solomon (§ 7).|
|Relation to Worship (§ 1).||Solution Independent of Age and Purpose (§ 2).||VI. Theology.|
|Original and Adapted Purpose (§ 2).||V. Authorship and Date.||Doctrine of God and of Righteousness (§ 1).|
|Varied Voices of the Psalms (§ 3).||The Titles (§ 1).||Ideas of Sin and Eschatology (§ 2).|
|III. History of the Collection.||Modern Phase of the Problem (§ 2).|
|Indications of Early Smaller Collections (§ 1).||Are there Pre-exilic Psalms? (§ 3).|
In the present arrangement of the Hebrew Bible the book of Psalms stands at the head of the third division, the Hagiographa or Kethubhim. But this order is not invariable, since sometimes that division is headed by Chronicles or
by Ruth. According to the Hebrew, the title is Tehillim, from the word meaning "to praise," thus designating the psalms as songs of praise. But this designation expresses not so much the content as the external employment. At the end of Ps. lxxii.
occurs the term Tephillim,
"prayers," and this better fits the contents as expressing a larger portion of the subject-matter of the book. This term is, however, not altogether appropriate, since it does not include psalms of didactic purpose within its proper meaning. The Greek calls the collection the "book of psalms," "psalms," or Psalterion
—the latter term the name of a stringed instrument used by metonymy for the songs which the instrument accompanied. A word used by the collector of the book in the sense of the Greek psalmos
and the English "psalm" is the Hebrew mizmor,
used in the titles of fifty-seven psalms. The word comes from a verb which has the double meaning, "to trim vines" and "to sing or play," with perhaps an original sense, "to pluck." The Septuagint translates it by psalmos
, Aquila by melodema
, Symmachus by odk
, and Jerome by canticum
; within the Old Testament the word is used only of religious poems.
The Hebrew Psalter consists of 150 psalms divided into five books, each of which ends with a doxology except the fifth, in which the last psalm is a doxology in itself. The Septuagint has 151 psalms, the last one being a composite from I Sam. xvi. 1-14 and xvii.; the Hebrew psalms ix. and x. it counts as one psalm, also cxiv. and cxv., while it divides into two both Ps. cxvi. and cxlvii. The consequence is a disagreement in the numbering
of the Hebrew and the Greek psalms. Classification of the psalms is difficult because not a few of them partake of more than one characteristic. Thus many psalms begin with lament or prayer and change into thanksgiving and praise (e.g., Ps. xxii.). Hengstenberg divided the psalms into those in which the dominant note is praise, those in which it is lamentation because of private or national sorrow, and those in which the religious-ethical is most emphasized. From the material standpoint a division might take into account such psalms as are properly hymns, being songs of praise from personal points of view, and those which make some petition. A characteristic variety here is the poem of prayer, especially the lament which naturally issues in a prayer for deliverance. Hymns of thanksgiving may be included here, inasmuch as the principal note is thought of some special good. Of course this class is subject to many subdivisions.
Thus there may be taken into account the degree of subjectivity or objectivity, reference to the individual or the nation; also the idea of God expressed—whether he is regarded as Lord and Creator, or as savior, whether as guide of the nation or
of the soul, as the giver of his word and his law. Alongside of these classes may be placed the didactic psalms, such as xxxi., lxxiii.; these may be purely theological, or legalistic. So psalms may be considered as hymns, prayers of various sorts, liturgical pieces, dithyrambic poems, epic poems, moralistic pieces, or religious-philosophic poems.
1. Relation to Worship.
Little direct information has come down respecting the aim of the psalms and their relation to worship. It might be claimed that the connection with Hebrew worship is so loose that the psalms are a sort of private collection, an anthology of religious poetry. The titles in the Hebrew indicate for Ps. xxx. that its use was at the dedication of the temple, and that Ps. xcii. was for the Sabbath; the Septuagint titles of Pss. xxiv., xlviii., xciv., and xciii. indicate that these psalms were for use on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, later translations add lxxxii. for Thursday, and the Septuagint assigns xxix. for the Feast of Tabernacles; the Talmud prescribes lxxxii. for Tuesday. Besides these, the Talmud knows of assignments of five psalms and the Hallel collection
(see HALLEL.) for certain feasts, while the prayerbook of the synagogue makes a few additions to
these definite assignments of psalms for use in public worship. It appears, therefore, that until quite late only a very small proportion of the psalms bear the marks of definite relation to public worship. The more welcome then is indirect proof of such
use. The first place is taken in this direction by the fact that certain of the psalms are liturgical in character. Such appear in the first book, and the farther one goes in the Psalter, the more frequent do liturgical psalms become. Thus in this class belong the Hallelujah psalms (cf. I Chron. xvi. 36; Ps. cvi. 48); where the response of the people is given. The frequent mention of the chorus in Chronicles is further evidence of this sort, as well as Ps. cvi. 6; cf. Dan. ix. 5; Neh. ix. 16. Ps. cvi. is a psalm of public confession. When it is seen that some psalms by their titles, others by their inclusion in the Korahitic and Asaphic collections, and others by later titles are designated for public worship, the conclusion is clear that if not by first intent yet through their assembling in the present collection the psalms were intended for use by the community, which thus was enabled to take part in public worship.
2. Original and Adapted Purpose.
If one looks for the original purpose of the writer, in some cases public use appears to have been intended; though in many others such a purpose is excluded by the character of the composition, as when the psalm has a didactic or historical or epic character rather than a and lyrical. A striking case of this is Ps. cxix. Possibly such psalms were rather for free recitation, others seem to be purely literary in character, and the use of these in service may have come much later. The strongly individual character of many of these compositions is against the idea that they were written for public use; their suitability to express the feelings of others accounts for their adoption; or their expressions were generalized. On the other hand, many of these same psalms may have been individualized by recension. Two opposite directions may have been taken in the process of working over, in which the half-conscious tendency of the poet was elaborated in revision. Such results are suggested in the messianizing of many poems. Of special suggestiveness are those psalms which deal with the temple and with ritual, particularly those which deal with sacrifice. The question arises whether in these cases the reference is real or only illustrative or constructive. Jakob and Matthes (see bibliography) maintain that there was not merely adaptation but initiative and crea
tive purpose here, intending them for worship. Those psalms which refer to appearance in God's presence, or to abiding in that presence, indicate for themselves a relation to the temple and to worship. Examples of this significant type of expression are found in xv. 1, xxiv. 3, xxvii. 4, xxvi. 8, lxxxiv. 3.
As there can be no doubt that to the poets of these psalms the highest good results from intimacy with God, so this intimacy is achieved by presence at the services of the temple. Indeed, presence in the temple, lingering in the presence of God, enjoying the hospitality of his house, are often the external means of participation in communion with God. Indeed, relation to the temple and its services has a great part in the Psalter. Psalms such as those cited were written with the eye upon the center of worship and the cult there domiciled, and had their motive been other than this, had they been merely figurative, they would have read differently.
3. Varied Voices of the Psalms.
Nevertheless, such an impression is not derived from all the psalms. Some psalms exist which echo
the declaration that obedience is better than sacrifice—a purely prophetic thought (cf. Pss. xl., l., li.). Were there not such passages as Isa. i. 11 sqq.; Amos v. 21 sqq., proving that there was present in Israel a realization that the external cultus as opposed to the ethical content and intent to worship God was of little worth, there might be doubt how such psalms as those just cited are to be taken; as it is, their meaning can not come into question. The twisting of these into a sense friendly to sacrifice is a rabbinical achievement, the value of which is to show how Jewish exegesis made it possible to include such compositions in the Psalter; it shows us the course of rabbinic thought. That the rabbis would receive into the worship-book psalms which, as they were understood, opposed sacrifice seems very strange; the only way to account for the phenomenon is that the sense was taken as different from the literal. Matthes has rightly acknowledged the importance of the exegesis of Jakob in interpreting Ps. xl. 6, li. 17, as not referring to a slain victim but to a repast, and in xl. 6, eliminating the "offering" after "sin." Yet in the place of these conceptions something little better is placed. What is said here is simply that exactness of performance at a given time is not what God wants. During the exile and the Syrian persecution, for external reasons the office of sacrifice was suspended, and God was satisfied with repentance and fulfilment of the other requirements of the law. As soon as the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, then would God take delight in sacrifice (Ps. li. 18-19). To explain l. 14 as referring to personal, special, and private offerings in opposition to the regular and public sacrifices is opposed to the immediate context and to the drift of the entire psalm (cf. verses 12-13). In short, the Psalter is full of references to the service of the temple, but this does not justify one in calling it the hymn-book of the second temple, especially if he regards the original purpose of its songs; indeed originally not a few of its psalms were not suited for such a service, but were accommodated to that use by the secondary process of editing.
III. History of the Collection:
1. Indications of Early Smaller Collections.
The history of psalm composition as well as the discussion of the origin of the individual poems must start with a consideration of the origin of the collection. The points made by William Robertson Smith give the line of departure. The division of the Psalter into five books has already been mentioned. The first book (Pss. i.-xli.) is ascribed to David (except i., ii., x., xxxiii.); the second (xlii.-lxxii.) chiefly to David and Asaph; the third (Ixxiii.-Ixxxix.) to Asaph, Korah, and other temple singers (only lxxxvi. to David); the fourth (xc.-cvi.) is of psalms principally anonymous; the fifth contains many ascribed to David, and the "songs of ascents." This analysis shows a close connection between books two and three, in that those alone contain the psalms of the gilds of temple singers, which have a prominent position. There is implied either composition by these gilds or (more likely) a legitimate adaptation to service, perhaps by setting the compositions to music after the manner of modern makers of hymnological collections. In this case, the "of" of the superscriptions stands not for authorship but for possession. It is to be noticed that the hymns attributed to these authors or gilds stand in little collections. But there are other leading facts. Prominent among these is the verse lxxii. 20, indicating that at this point a Davidic collection once ended; alongside this must be put another fact that in this collection are psalms which are not ascribed to David (note the Asaphic and Korahitic psalms), and, still further, despite the ending of Ps. lxxii., other Davidic psalms are in the present collection in the books which follow. It looks, moreover, as though the Davidic collection consisted of Ps. i. (iii.)-xli. and li, lxxii., the last of which, ascribed to Solomon, was included because ascribed to David's son. Next is to be noted that the two parts named above, Pss. iii.-xli. and li.-Ixxii.">>li.-Ixxii. contain duplicates (Ps. xiv.=Iiii., and xl. 13-17=lxx.). This suggests two collections for the most part different, but in these cases containing identical pieces. Possibly the collections contained other identical psalms, which were eliminated when they were united, these two doublets alone being left. Tradition is firm that a division existed early after Ps. xli. And the indications are that there were two Davidic collections and two smaller Davidic books, embracing Ps. iii., xli., and li.-lxxii. (Ixxii.). A step in advance is made when it is observed that the change in the name of the deity familiar from study of the Pentateuch exists also here. Thus books two and three are prevailingly Elohistic, while books one, four, and five are prevailingly Jehovistic. This is noteworthy when it is seen that the doublets cited above are in different recensions in this respect, each corresponding in use of the divine name with the collection in which it stands. Of course this variation was not original, it must have come in through editorial work. Analogous phenomena in Chronicles reveal that there was a time when people began to avoid the name Yahweh and to use the more general term Elohim —passages from Samuel and Kings which are Jehovistic become Elohistic in Chronicles. This is not
accidental, it is part of a system; it is consonant with the substitution of Adonai for the tetragrammaton Yhwh
by the Masoretes, the difference is that the Chronicler did not hesitate to change the text; the Masoretes did not change this, but made their alterations in the margin. But a fact of importance is that the latest books become Jehovistic once more. In many cases the use of Elohim must be ascribed not to the poets but to the redactor. The two Davidic collections named show one the Jehovistic and the other the Elohistic trend. When it is seen that the Asaphic and Korahitic collections are prevailingly Elohistic, it may seem that the Elohistic character of Pss. li-Ixxii.
may have been gained from contact with the neighboring Psalms. Books four and five are much mixed. Along with many which have Davidic superscriptions are many anonymous, and with these the pilgrim psalms. In view of the various classes of poems here collected, it seems as though a collector had chosen from the various sources at his command such pieces as seemed to him worthy and suitable to transmit to the future.
2. The Process of Collection.
These data permit a view of the probable course of development of the Psalter. It appears that a Jehovistic redactor made a first collection of Davidic songs. An Elohistic redactor made from three or four prior collections (a Davidic, a Korahitic, and an Asaphic book), an Elohistic collection, to which as an appendix were attached various ethical pieces. A Jehovistic redactor made, out of various smaller aggregations such as the Pilgrim Psalms (cxx.-cxxxiv.), the Hallelujah psalms (cxi. sqq., and cxlvi.-cl.), the royal psalms (xciii.-xcix.),
and perhaps an independent Davidic collection—not to speak of other sources or aggregations—the collection which forms books four and five of the present Psalter. These three aggregations were then united, after an independent existence of uncertain duration, into one book, with Ps. i. or Pss. i.-ii. as preface, these two psalms together giving the two points of view of the whole Psalter, the Law, and the Messiah. If this view of the growth
of the Psalter is correct, it follows that the division into five books is not of early origin, but came about in imitation of the fivefold division of the Torah or Law. The relative age of the individual selections and the origin of the Psalter as a whole can be ascertained with only approximation to certainty. Indications are found in the fact that in the first (and oldest) book there exist exilic and postexilic compositions; in other words, this was not collected before the time of Ezra. If there were preexilic
psalms in greater number, they must either have existed in a special collection now lost, or they persisted as individual compositions until the collector of the first book included them in his aggregation.
3. The Date
So far as the terminus ad quem is concerned, the translators of the Septuagint found the Psalter existing not in scattered aggregations but as a whole. Still, it is not possible to say when the translation into Greek was made, and thus no absolute date is attainable. William Robertson Smith thought to obtain indications from the history of the temple singers and of the personnel of the attendants of that institution. He rightly infers that the superscriptions to the Asaphic and Korahitic psalms are weighty evidences which indicate that these psalms were once a collection or hymn-book of a gild named after the master, whose concern was with the musical setting. Further evidence he thinks is found in the Chronicler's work, showing that in the latter's period there were three gilds of singers, those of Asaph, Heman, and Ethan (or Jeduthun), which
were reckoned to the three great Levite families of Gerson, Kohath, and Merari. The Psalter is aware of Korah as a leader of a gild alongside of Asaph; but the Korahitic gild is believed by Smith to be one of doorkeepers in the Chronicler's time, while
the Asaphic gild is carried by him back to the time of the return (Ezra x. 23-24; Neh. vii. 1, 73). So that the Asaphic and Korahitic psalms are to be placed earlier than the Chronicler and later than
Nehemiah—between 430 and 300 B.C. Under Nehemiah Korah does not yet name a gild of singers; at the time of the Chronicler the gild has ceased to be such. On the other hand, a degradation of the Korahites is unlikely, since that period favored rather the elevation of the minor orders, and the retention of the Korah titles in the psalms speaks against it; though such degradation is not impossible under the influence of the story of Korah in the Pentateuch. The general situation in Chronicles does not permit of regarding the Asaphites as the one gild of singers, though they occupy the prominent place in the Chronicler's account; he knows also of the Korahites and Ethanites. The Korahites appear, however, as doorkeepers, but this is hardly to be thought of as the result of a degradation of the gild. The collections of the Asaphic and Korahitic hymn-books appear to have arisen, therefore, soon after 300 B.C. With this agrees the Elohistic character of those collections, thus comporting well with the same characteristic found in the Chronicler. From this same point of view would then be located the Elohistic Davidic collection, Pss. li.-lxxii. Of course this says nothing of the date of the individual psalms. In the time after the Chronicler and up to the period of the Septuagint and Sirach the Elohistic tendency was submerged; this accounts for the strongly Jehovistic character of books four and five.
IV. The Ego of the Psalms:
1. Varied Explanations.
The question of the person speaking in the psalms takes its place in Old-Testament exegesis with the problem of the
"I" of Job and of Deutero-Isaiah, and the tendency is to see in the pronoun a collective. It is natural to expect to see in this "I" the author, and in not a few cases this is unquestionably right. But in early times even there was a tendency to see in the pronoun not an individual but the community. Thus Theodore of Mopsuestia held that David had, in many psalms ascribed to him, entered into and expressed the soul of the people; and this opinion has at intervals since been several times repeated. The man of modern times who restated this proposition is Olshausen, who regards the "I" of many psalms to be the personified community, the expression of individual experience being taken
as adequate for that of the people. But Olshausen was in this matter not with his times, and he found more opponents than supporters. Grätz attributed a great part of the Psalter to the circle of Levites which he names Anawim.
He regarded Olshausen's theory as pointing in the right direction, since the Anawim spoke for their group, and in that sense for the entire people. But this idea found acceptance only in Jewish circles. Smend gave the idea once more a general currency, and found adherents for his view. The apparent agreement of the theory with the hypothesis of the late origin of the psalms is not hard to see. It sets forth an idea of the community in its dominating force as it first appeared in later times. Olshausen was wholly logical in pleading for a late origin of the Psalter; Smend's position had been prepared by the attribution of a large part of the Old Testament to postexilic times. This in turn led easily to the conception of the community as the speaking subject of the psalms. Smend's hypothesis was strongly supported by the musical titles prefixed to many of the psalms, and he came to the conclusion that "almost without exception the community speaks" in these compositions. He holds that a priori a psalm is an expression of the community; only under direct proof is a psalm to be considered the expression of an individual. Smend's conclusions nowhere found unconditional acceptance, and many scholars entered the lists against him.
2. Solution Independent of Age and Purpose.
The question of the speaker in the Psalter has generally been brought into connection with the two questions of the age of the Psalter and its relation to worship, and it has been mistakenly held that the answer to one of these furnishes the answer to the others; in fact, clarity is subserved when the questions are considered separately. The problem of the "I" of the Psalms has no necessary connection with their age, as is shown by the contrary answers given by Duhm; and, with limitations, the same is true of the matter of the relation to worship. The fact that the collection was made for public service gives an initial air of probability to the theory of a collective subject. An approach is made to a solution of the problem when it is considered that the Psalter is a composite made from very dissimilar elements. From what has previously been said, it is seen that a number of psalms were from the beginning designed for use in the Temple, and the probability is that the "we" in these designates the community, and that "I" is used in the sense of "we." This is analogous with the use of "thou" in the Pentateuch, where the individual is only apparently addressed, while the precepts are for the entire community. But alongside the group of which mention has just been made is another the psalms in which were clearly not designed in the making for public worship; and it is then apparent that there is a large number of psalms for which the only conclusion is that the author speaks as an individual. The fact that these can be universalized and fitted for general use does by no means involve that they were composed for collective use and in a collective sense. In more recent compositions of this sort it is true that a writer may work with the view of suiting his composition.to the use of an aggregation of people, and his composition may none the less ring true, especially when the poet knows that his feelings are those of the people for whom he speaks. But where the general trend of life is individual, compositions of this sort are not the rule but the exception; and it is also a fact that a poetically endowed individual, at the moment when he expresses with emphasis the deepest experiences of his own soul, speaks of that which most intimately concerns himself alone. That what he says will fit other cases is not at the time within the range of consciousness. But just the literature which has arisen in this manner, expressing personal feeling and experience, has especial worth from the religious and ethical standpoint. Examples of this are Pss. xxxii., li., and lxxiii. The first is one of the most striking pictures in literature of the distress felt by a soul in dire need; while behind the idealism of the last is the ardent expression of one who feels that heaven, to say nothing of earthly joy, would have no worth were God not there. And these psalms gain in value when they appear as the personal expression of the situation and convictions of their author; if he spoke only of what was common experience and in the name of those whose hap was like his, something of worth seems to vanish from the psalms. On the other hand, if such experiences were general in early Israel, the intent to write for the people may be ascribed if only so the content is best explained. And after the time of Jeremiah such experiences were indeed the lot of the people. But there is a third group which deals not with the people as such, nor with the individual as such, but with a pious nucleus, the "poor," the "wretched," the "feeble," who appear as the upright and God-fearing and faithful. While it is not impossible that these designations should apply to the nation, when it is remembered that in Deutero-Isaiah this class does not constitute the whole people, that in many psalms this class is opposed to the godless in such a way that by the latter the heathen can not be meant, the conclusion of Grätz gains in probability that such psalms arose in this narrower circle which was oppressed by the godless and worldly and saw as imminent the judgment of God against their enemies. Psalms like xvi. and xxii, arose in this circle; the author himself may have been in mind or he may have considered the general situation in the manner in which the prophets viewed the characteristics of their times. Such an author was zealous for the law and foreshadowed the existence of the Hasidhim (the "pious") and the Pharisees before these parties as political opponents appeared on the scene.
V. Authorship and Date:
1. The Titles.
Most of the psalms in their present form possess superscriptions which profess to give information regarding the author or the circumstances of composition. In many cases the word "of" is meant to indicate authorship, in other cases this meaning is questionable. The persons to whom this applies are David with seventy three psalms, Solomon with two (lxxii. and cxxvii.), Moses with one (xc.), Asaph with twelve (l., lxxiii. lxxxiii.), the Korahites with eleven (xlii., xliv.-xlix.,
lxxxiv-Ixxxv., lxxxvii.-lxxxviii.), and Heman and Ethan with Pss. lxxxviii.-Ixxxix. The historical value of these titles is now rightly in question. The condition of the text shows that the titles were not originally a part of the text, therefore not by the authors of the psalms, and that they are probably the work of the collectors and arose out of a late tradition and hence have but the value of an early supposition. Proofs are at hand. In the Hebrew text Pss. cxxii., cxxiv., cxxxi.,
cxxxiii., and cxxxviii. are ascribed to David, while some Jerome, or the Targum, or other witnesses regard as not Davidic; on the other hand, early testimony claims Ps. xxxiii.
as Davidic while in the Hebrew text it is anonymous. This manifests a weakening of early tradition. In the Septuagint a number of psalms are ascribed to David which are not so ascribed in the Masoretic text, and Ps. cxxvii.
is moreover ascribed to Solomon. This indicates that in the time of the Seventy there was working a tendency to increase the number of Davidic psalms, although there was also a tendency to deny the tradition which gave him certain others. The source of the first tendency may be found in the prominence occupied by David in the Messianic expectation of a later time. This went to its extreme in Rabbi Meir's claim of Davidic authorship for all psalms. The position arrived at by criticism of the text is confirmed by study of the contents compared with the titles. Without going into a minute investigation it is sufficient to note that of the seventy three attributed to David by the Masoretic text a considerable number can not be his because the historic conditions presented point away from David's times, such as those which involve the existence of the Temple (v. 7, lxix. 9
) or those which presuppose the exile (xiv. 7, li. 18-19
). Pertinent is the fact that Asaph was a contemporary of David, yet the Asaphic psalms belong in large part to a late period. Of the attribution of psalms to David it is possible to give an explanation. Just as the psalms of the Korahites, a gild of singers, were attributed to their founder through the name of the collection being given to the individual psalms, so a collection named after David came to have its individual compositions called after the celebrated organizer of worship—possibly in the process of compilation into a larger collection. If this is the case, the superscriptions or titles often represent a tradition relatively late, sometimes oscillating and in many cases actually erroneous, perhaps sometimes arising through misunderstanding and consequently inconclusive. They may possibly point rightly to David as the author, but as evidence they are inadequate; only when title and internal evidence accord, or at least do not conflict, can the title play an important part.
2. Modern Phase of the Problem.
In recent times the question of authorship has assumed an entirely different form. It is no longer, how many psalms are preexilic and how many must be postexilic? but, are there any preexilic psalms? And the next question is, necessarily, was there a preexilic religious body of lyrics in Israel, and had it any relation to the Psalter? The first answer must come from Ps. cxsxvii. 3-4, where it is clear that the "songs of Zion" are "Yahweh songs," presumably dealing with. the relations of Yahweh and his people. A second piece of evidence is Amos v. 23, which unmistakably deals with songs of worship, showing that in the early prophetic days songs (psalms) to harp accompaniment belonged to the essentia of divine worship in the northern kingdom. Testimony is seen by some also in Lam. ii. 7. The force of these passages is disputed by William Robertson Smith, and perhaps rightly in the citation from Lamentations, on the ground that it deals not with official and regulated worship, but with the free spirit of worship by private individuals. But the passage in Amos, as evidently as Isa. i. 11 sqq., deals with the official worship for the benefit of the community. To be sure, Amos speaks of the service in the Northern kingdom; but it is not to be called in question that what was usual in divine service in the north was present in Jerusalem.The sanctuaries which were celebrated in the times of David and Solomon in all probability embodied the chief forms of worship customary at Jerusalem, and this is borne out by the already cited passage in Ps. cxxxvii. and by the lists in Ezra-Nehemiah of the returning gilds of Temple singers (Ezra ii. 41; Neh. vii. 44), mention of whom would be unintelligible if they had not in preexilic days had that position. Any other interpretation involves the strange hypothesis that the gild was modeled in exilic times after the Babylonian pattern. The conception of a preexilic Temple worship of song is the more reasonable since other themes had been richly treated in early times—one's memory lights upon David and Deborah—and undoubtedly song had been made a part of divine service (II Sam. vi. 5). It is therefore a priori probable that when Solomon made provision for worship in the new sanctuary, he included sacred song as a part of that worship, and Isa. xxx. 29 looks like the continuance of such an adjunct to divine service. The least that can be said is that song has a very close relationship to the cult of the period, as an essential part thereof.
3. Are there Pre-exilic Psalms?
This does not, however, involve necessarily that psalms in the present Psalter are preexilic. It is possible that all trace of preexilic psalms is lost, that the present Psalter has in it only postexilic compositions. But it can not be said that it is a probability, in view of the evident presence of song in the Temple and in view of the strong tradition of David as a hymnist, that no single exilic psalm survived the exile. And when the work of redaction is taken into account, and editorial changes of the text are considered, the improbability grows. Indeed many of the psalms, especially in the earlier parts of the Psalter, are best explained by referring them to Solomon's Temple (so the royal psalms xx., xxi, xlv.). With reference to Pss. xx. and xxi. it is to be remarked that only in preexilic times and after 105 B.C. did Israel possess a king, and it would take convincing evidence to refer a psalm to the later period. The exegesis which so relates them is forced not by the text but by a presupposition against their preexilie origin. Internal grounds
would lead to refer Pss. xx.-xxi.
to the earlier period; while Ps. xlv. does not involve thought of a (heathen) Seleucid or Ptolemaic lord, and the rugged and primitive tone with the poetic strength bespeak an early age. Another class of psalms which point to a preexilic origin are those which question the worth of the institution of sacrifice. While in general in the Psalter Temple and sacrifice are highly esteemed, there are single psalms which echo the prophetic cry, "Obedience is better than sacrifice." They are an energetic protest against the idea of opus operatum in religion. Psalms which show this reforming spirit are xl.,">>xl., l.-li. It is not unthinkable, indeed, that in postexilic times, even during a postexilic nomism, a sort of undercurrent of prophetism came to the surface to oppose the legalism of the times. Perhaps this is the explanation of Ps. 1.; and verses 20-21 look like the expression of an exilic or postexilic conviction, but this voice of protest interjected into the psalm bespeaks its existence before that time. But there is still another group of psalms which in form and content better fit the period of the kings and of the first Temple than of a later time (Pss. xix.a, xxix., xxxiv.b). So the majestic antiphony of xxiv. 7-10 brings before the eye the return of the ark, the old palladium of Israel, carried in triumphant return from a victorious war and with jubilant songs to its place on Zion. Similarly, in Ps. xix. 1-7, in a psalm of nature of unexampled beauty and sublimity, not only are the lordship of God and the glory and beauty of his creation celebrated, but the sun is pictured in a mythological fashion which, like the tone of Ps. xxix., carries back to early times and primitive conceptions. With this latter psalm should be compared the vision of Isa. vi. 1. When the originality and freshness of these compositions are taken into account, and also the poetic strength, it becomes difficult to attribute them to a late period.1
4. Indications of Davidic Authorship.
With the probability thus established that in the present Psalter there are elements from preexilic times, the next question is where the upper limit of time of composition must be set. Or, to put the question in another form, what is known of David as a psalmist? and are there any reasons to ascribe to him any part of the existent Psalter? That David was a poet celebrating God's grace is generally recognized. As a master of song and of the harp he came to the court of Saul, and were nothing known of his compositions but the elegy on the death of Saul and Jonathan (II. Sam. i. 17 sqq.), his claim to be a master would have to be conceded. It is also known that he was a man of deeply religious character, and this fact even his own misdeeds and acts of tyranny or human weakness can not obliterate. That this religiousness was of a type different from that of later times is of course recognized. According to I Sam. xxvi. 19, he held that when he was driven into a heathen land he was obligated to serve the gods of that land; according to II Sam. xxi. 1 sqq., he yielded to a superstition and gave the heirs of Saul to the Gibeonites to be put to death; he wept and mourned during the sickness of his child in the attempt to swerve Yahweh from his purpose, but on the death of the child put away further mourning as useless (II Sam. xii. 22-23), and though the context shows his submission to the will of God, there is nothing which reminds of Ps. li. David's piety comes out in his relation to the Temple. The Chronicler ascribes to David the most complete preparations for its building, and this agrees with the interest in the establishment of divine service David showed from the beginning of his reign. This interest appeared in his removal of the ark from a lowly position to his capital with festal accompaniment, and with the view of furnishing for it a worthy abode. In thus transferring the ark, he laid aside his royal character and went as a simple servant of worship, thus earning the scorn of the haughty daughter of Saul. He showed himself ready to serve Yahweh to the utmost of his ability, and he assumed the functions of a sacrificer with the same purpose in view (II Sam. vi. 12 sqq.). If then David's piety does not take the form of later types, it yet shows an interest warmer and more personal; he is ready, in giving expression to his piety, to go to the verge of religious eccentricity. But the undeveloped and primitive type of his external manifestations of piety do not affect its essential character, though there may be present the same two-sidedness which he displayed as a man and a king. Given these characteristics in a man of his times, and the presumption is that the poet would also be in evidence; and the correct text of II Sam. vi. 5 shows that in David's time song was, at least on extraordinary occasions, an important element of religious worship. All probabilities are in favor of the supposition that David contributed to the development of this element. Viewed in this way the tradition of Davidic authorship, not especially forceful in itself, receives new light.
5. Explanation of Title "of David."
The superscription "of David" prefixed to many psalms may be due to a misunderstanding, and is to be traced perhaps to a book of psalms partly written and partly compiled by him and then supposedly extended to others brought into relation with him. But such a misunderstanding would be difficult to explain were there not a nucleus really in part composed by him, in part by him set to music. The attribution to David of seventy-three psalms can not be wholly without some historic basis. The inference naturally drawn from comparison of Ps. xviii., II Sam. xxii., and xxiii. 1 sqq., is sometimes without reason rejected on the ground that II Sam. xxi.-xxiv. was added in later times to connect the books of Samuel with the books of Kings. At any rate they were inserted by the redactor, who gives to four specimens of poetry David's name. Two of these are recognized as David's (II Sam. i. 17 sqq., iii. 33), two others are disputed (II Sam. xxii., xxiii. 1 sqq.). But had the redactor been concerned to make large claims for David, he could have attributed to him psalms
which could have been inserted without difficulty in various places such as I Sam. xxvi.-xxvii., and II Sam. vii., xii., and xv. sqq. The fact that, according to the opposing argument, the redactor added only two pieces wrongly attributed to David speaks for his sobriety. As to the Davidic authorship of psalms in the present Psalter, there is no absolutely stringent proof that any particular one is his, since in no case is there absolute security that the superscription is correct. But the probability is great that such exist. Were there once Davidic psalms in greater numbers, some might have been forgotten, some worked over; but it is improbable that no trace of them would have been left. A hindrance to the recognition of Davidic psalms is the fact that to him were attributed psalms which smack of later thought and ideals. But if psalms are found having the characteristics of II Sam. i. 17 sqq., there is to be found the type attributable to him. By this test poems like Pss. iii., iv., viii., xviii.a, xxiv., xxix., and many others may be regarded as Davidic.
6. Recognition of Late Psalms.
In answer to the question of the lower limits of psalm-composition it may be remarked that in early times Maccabean psalms were recognized. Thus Theodore of Mopsuestia [d. 428] placed seventeen psalms in that period, and Calvin also recognized Maccabean psalms. On the other hand, scholars like Gesenius, Ewald, Bleek, Hupfeld, and Dillmann controverted the position. The possibility and even the probability of the writing of psalms at that period must be admitted, the only question being how they could gain admission to the canon. So far as probability of composition is concerned, the late production of Daniel, Ecclesiasticus, and the Psalms of Solomon show literature still in course of composition down to the time of Pompey. In I Chron. xvi. 8-36 is a psalm which corresponds in part with Pss. cv.-cvi., and contains also the doxology of book four of the Psalter. This seems to show that the Chronicler (c. 300) already had the Psalter in practically its present form—at least so far as its division into five books is concerned. This does not preclude that individual psalms were added afterward, though hardly the majority of the present number. To the same conclusion points Ecclesiasticus, in its preface, when it speaks of the author knowing the law, prophets, and "other writings," that is, the threefold division of the canon. It is hardly likely that in the author's time Daniel was in the canon, though that the Psalter was there appears from the considerations just adduced from the Chronicler's narrative. Ecclus. xlvii. 8-10 seems to imply a Psalter, and yet psalms like xliv., Ixxiv., lxxix., lxxxiii., and others appear to belong to this period and may have come into the canon as did Daniel.
7. Comparison with Psalms of Solomon.
Duhm has set a lower limit as late as 70 B.C. or even the year 1, thinking that the period of Aristobulus and Alexander Jannæus was fruitful in the composition of psalms; this brings us down to the period of the Psalms of Solomon. It is known that the later Hasmoneans discarded more and more the earlier theocratic ideals of the original Maccabean movement; they adopted heathen customs and acted as did other princes. This aroused the opposition of the Pharisees, but induced the support of the Sadducees. Out of this contest arose the (Pharisaic) Psalms of Solomon, which regarded the conquest by Pompey as induced by Sadducean wickedness, led by the royal house. Now if canonical psalms arose out of this period, they should have the ring of the age of the Psalms of Solomon. This Duhm thinks he hears in psalms like ii., xviii., xx., xxi., xlv., and others, being the Sadducean compositions in praise of the king, while psalms like ix., x., xiv., lvi.-lviii. are the Pharisaic answers, which correspond in tone to the Psalms of Solomon. Now, that there are general similarities of thought in the canonical Psalter and in the Psalms of Solomon may be granted. But in their characteristics, especially in those characteristics which give ground for assigning to the collection a certain date, the latter stand by themselves and in distinction from the canonical psalms. Thus there is read in the Psalms of Solomon, i. 2, "Suddenly the alarm of war was heard before me"; i. 3, " their transgressions were greater than those of the heathen that were before them; the holy things of the Lord they utterly polluted"; ii. 15, (the daughter of Jerusalem was dishonored because) "she had defiled herself in unclean intercourse"; viii. 8 sqq., "in secret places beneath the earth were their iniquities, the son with the mother and the father with the daughter wrought confusion, . . they went up to the Lord's altar full of all uncleanness"; xvii. 5, "On account of our sins the godless (the Hasmoneans) rose against us, … they laid waste the throne of David in their triumph"; xvii. 21, "from the ruler to the vilest they lived in their sin, the king a transgressor, the judge in disobedience, and the people in sin." This is the trend of the psalms which Duhm puts about the year 70, and such a trend is absent in the psalms selected by him as representative of the "Pharisaic" canonical psalms, which say nothing of the characteristic sins of the Hasmoneans. Where echoes of the canonical psalms appear in the pseudo-Solomonic book, the fact is due to following the model set in the canonical productions. This is exemplified in the patterning of Ps. Sol. xi. upon Isa. xl. sqq. There is further to be reckoned the inherent improbability of the inclusion of Sadducean psalms in praise of the hated Hasmoneans finding entrance into the canon, apart altogether from the difficulty of so many psalms getting in at all in so late a time.
1. Doctrine of God and of Righteousness.
To speak in the strict sense of a theology of the Psalter is not permissible because of the fact that it is a collection covering centuries in time, the individual compositions coming from various circles, some written for use in the Temple, others for public or private use outside of the established cultus, some speaking for the community at large, others expressing private and personal joy, grief, or pain, and still others representing a narrow community of the pious and pietistic. It is often difficult to classify particular psalms, let alone to express the general
sense of the whole. One must be prepared to find as various religious presentations as in general are found in the Old Testament itself. Eras like that of the times of the early kings, that of the prophetic teachings, and that of the reign of the law and dealing with sacrifice, find their representative expressions here. Alongside this is the fact that in any one period individual feelings find vent in different tones. If one selects the doctrine of God as the chief point of interest, one finds him spoken of as a war deity or a storm god (Pss. xviii., xxix., xxiv.), and as an eternal and omnipresent being (Pss. xc., cxxxix.); as the God whose dearest love is the broken and bruised heart, and as the one again who wishes no offering, or, once more, as the God who gave the law, meditation upon which day and night brings the highest praise to the pious (Pss. l., li., i.). Between these different conceptions lie centuries of development. Similarly if the test be the ideal of piety, of a religious and ethical ideal of life, the results show not only a varied expression but one which embodies diverse individual experience. In Ps. i. true piety consists in meditation on the law day and night; and since this psalm heads the Psalter, and, so to speak, sets forth the program of the collection, this ideal has been taken as that for which the Psalter stands. Such a tendency does, indeed, appear in the Psalter (Pss. xix. 7 sqq., cxix.), and sets forth the ideal of the learned in the law. Hand in hand with this ideal is that which expresses joy in the Temple, "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand." In the hours of celebration of the Temple services the pious experiences the blessing of mystic nearness to his God. Yet this latter ideal is older than that which finds essential piety in contemplation of the law. But one can not fit the whole Psalter into this measure. Psalms which express delight in the Temple and in sacrifice are offset by those which protest against an overvaluation of sacrifice and cult. Alongside of emphasis upon cult is found the simple ideal of a religious and ethical course of life (Ps. xxiv. 4).
2. Ideas of Sin and Eschatology.
With the ideals of piety and of a pure course of life goes step by step the consciousness of sin. In the Psalter may be found the confidence of a person in his own integrity and piety (Ps. xxvi. 11), or who hopes for salvation because of his rectitude (xxv. 21), or who speaks of sin from the standpoint of ceremonial piety (xix. 12 sqq.). In Ps. xxv. 7, 18, the poet speaks almost vivaciously of his sins, but they are the sins of his youth for which he dares to bespeak forgiveness. He knows nothing of such a thought as that he is an unworthy servant, who after the Pauline type of expression is to be penitent and rely on faith (cf. also Ps. xix. 7 sqq.); two things alone can trouble him, ignorance and pride. But this is by no means the only view of piety found in the Psalter, as is seen on reading Pss. xxxii., li., which show not a superficial idea of sin, but a consciousness which is felt in the inmost self, which treat not of sacrifice, performance, or priests. Forgiveness of sin results from piety and righteousness—to the righteous only does it come, from it the wicked are excluded. Ps. li. makes forgiveness the correlative of renewal of heart, and reminds of the characteristic teaching of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. A similar state of things is found when one considers the eschatological and Messianic ideas. From the simple glorification of the king of Israel, who is exalted even by the heathen as God's son, is only a step to the thought that God will give the victory to his anointed on Zion over all his foes even to the end of the world. Such thoughts are in evidence in psalms like ii., cx., which reveal the trend of expectation during the historic kingdom. Similarly the beginnings of eschatology also reach back into early days, but it is continually unfolded, particularly after the exile. From the hope for the simple triumph of the king over his foes developed a transcendental expectation, assuming cosmical and eternal proportions. Indeed, the farther worldly expectations sank into the impossible, the more glowing became the hopes of a future glory, involving therein the world-judgment, after which was to come the kingdom of Yahweh, enduring forever (cf. Pss. i., v., vii., ix., xxii., xlvi., Ixxxii., xcvii., and others). And a clear distinction is possible between the portrayal of the Messiah in the canonical psalms and in the Psalms of Solomon.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The books named under HEBREW LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE are to be noted for the poetry of the Psalms, and for introduction the works on Biblical introduction (Driver, König, Cornill, and others) and on O. T. theology (e.g., Schultz). Questions of introduction are generally treated with more or less fulness in the commentaries; special works are:
C. Ehrt, Abƒassungszeit und Abschluss des Psalters, zur Prüfung der Frage nach Makkabäerpsalmen, Leipsic, 1869;
C. Bruston, Du texte primitif des Psaumes, Paris, 1873;
J. F. Thrupp, Introduction to Study and Use of the Psalms, 2 vols., London, 1879;
Messio, De la chronologie des Psaumes, Paris, 1886;
J. Forbes, The Book of Psalms, Edinburgh, 1888;
W. Alexander, Witness of the Psalms to Christ and Christianity, London, 1890;
T. K. Cheyne, The Book of Psalms, ib. 1888;
idem, Origin and Religious Content of the Psalter, ib. 1891;
W. Stark, in ZATW, xxii (1892), 91-151 (on the titles);
W. T. Davison, Praises of Israel, London, 1893 (one of the "good little books");
W. T. Dawson, The Praises of Israel, ib. 1893;
T. C. Murray, Origin and Growth of the Psalms, New York, 1894;
Jakob, in ZATW,
xxvi (1896), 265-291, xxvii (1897), 49-80, 263-279;
J. K. Zenner, Die Chorgesänge im … Psalmen, Freiburg, 1896;
H. Roy, Die Volksgemeinde und die Gemeinde der Frommen im Psalter, Gnadau, 1897;
J. Köberle, Die Tempelsänger im A. T., Erlangen, 1899;
J. Wellhausen, Skizzen and Vorarbeiten, vi. 163-187. Berlin, 1899;
H. Grimme, Psalmenprobleme, Freiburg in Switzerland, 1902;
Matthes, in ZATW, xxxii (1902), 65-82;
J. Achelis, Der religionsgeschichtliche Gehalt der Psalmen, Berlin, 1904;
F. W. Mosley, Psalter of the Church; the Septuagint Psalms compared with the Hebrew, New York, 1905;
J. Gurnhill, Companion to the Psalter, 2d ed., ib. 1907;
J. McNaugher, The Psalms in Worship, Pittsburg, 1907;
J. W. Thirtle, O. T. Problems; critical Studies in the Psalms and Isaiah, Oxford, 1907;
F. A. Gasquet and E. Bishop, The Bosworth Psalter, New York, 1909;
DB, iv. 145-162;
EB, iii. 3921-67;
JE, x. 241-250;
Vigouroux, Dictionnaire, fasc. xxxiii. 803-838; DCB, ii. 450-455.
On the "I" of the Psalms consult:
Smend, in ZATW, xviii (1888), 49-147;
Schuurmanns-Steckhoven, in ZATW, xix (1889), 131 sqq.;
G. Beer, Individual- und Gemeindepsalmen, Marburg, 1894; F. Coblenz, Ueber das betende Ich in den Psalmen, Frankfort, 1897; D. Leimdorfer,
Das Psalter-Ego, ib. 1898; I. Engert, Der betende Gerechte der Psalmen, Würzburg, 1902.
Of commentaries the best is by C. A. and Emilie Grace Briggs, 2 vols., New York, 1908.
Among the numerous others the following, devotional or critical, may be noted:
J. Calvin, Eng. transl., 5 vols., Edinburgh, 1845-49;
J. G. Vaihinger, Stuttgart, 1845;
H. Olshausen, Königisberg, 1853;
W. M. L. De Wette, Heidelberg, 1858;
A. de Mes-
tral, 2 vols., Lausanne, 1856-61;
P. Schegg, 3 vols., Munich, 1857;
L. Reinke, Die messianischen Psalmen, 2 vols., Giessen, 1857-58;
A. Tholuck, Gotha, 1873, Eng. transl. of earlier ed., Philadelphia, 1858;
E. W. Hengstenberg, in Eng. transl., 3 vols., New York, 1860;
J. M. Neale and R. F. Littledale, Commentary … from the Primitive and Mediæval Writers, 4 vols., London, 1860-1874;
F. Hitzig, Leipsic, 1863 (one of the classics);
W. S. Plumer. Philadelphia, 1867;
C. H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David, 7 vols., London, 1870-85 (homiletical);
J. A. Alexander, 2 vols., New York, 1873; J. G. Murphy, Andover, 1875;
W. R. Burgess, 2 vols., London, 1879-82;
A. R. Fausset, Horæ psalmica, ib. 1885;
A. C. Jennings and W. H. Lowe, 2 vols., ib. 1885;
G. H. A. Ewald, in Eng. transl., 2 vols., ib. 1880-81;
D. Thomas, 3 vols., ib. 1882;
H. Grätz, 2 vols., Breslau, 1882-83;
J. J. S. Perowne, 2 vols., London, 1886;
A. Coles, New York, 1887;
F. Delitzsch, 3 vols., London, 1887-88;
H. van Dyke, The Story of the Psalms, New York, 1887;
H. Hupfeld, 3d ed. by Nowack, Gotha, 1888 (one of the best);
F. W. Schultz, Munich, 1888;
W. P. Walsh, The Voices of the Psalms, London, 1890;
J. Bachmann, Berlin, 1891;
J. De Witt, New York, 1891;
A. F. Kirkpatrick, in Cambridge Bible, 3 vols., 1891 sqq.;
A. Maclaren, in Expositor's Bible, 2 vols., London, 1893-94;
W. K. Reischl, 2 vols., Regensburg, 1895;
J. Sharpe, London, 1896;
B. Duhm, Freiburg, 1899;
C. G. Montefiore, London, 1901;
A. F. Kirkpatrick, ib.1902;
F. Baethgen, Göttingen, 1904;
T. K. Cheyne, The Book of Psalms, or the Praises of Israel, London, 1904;
J. Wellhausen, in SBOT;
L. Hulley, Studies in the Book of Psalms, New York, 1907;
J. P. Peters, Notes on Some Ritual Uses of the Psalms, in
JBL, xxix. 2 (1910), 113-125;
W. O. E. Oesterley, The Psalms in the Jewish Church, London, 1910.