Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and races of Christendom in the same essential features, as by Jewish prophet or psalmist in his ancient and peculiar covenant with the Lord Jehovah.

PSALMS NOT IN THE PSALTER.-The "Psalmic element" of the Old Testament is not confined to the Psalter. Psalms, in this general sense of the word, are found scattered through the historical and prophetic books. Thus in the time of the Exodus we find the Psalm of triumph (Ex. xv.1-21) after the passage of the Red Sea ; the Song of the Well (Num. xxi. 17, 18); the quotation from the Song of the “Wars of the Lord” (Num. xxi. 14, 15); and the magnificent Song of Moses (" taught to the children of Israel in Deut. xxxii. In Josh. X. 13 (as also in 2 Sam. i. 18) we find reference to the “ book of Jasher," probably the “ book of the Upright," a celebration of the worthies of Israel, somewhat resembling in tone the Psalm properly so called. The Song of Deborah (Judg.v.) is a magnificent specimen of a patriotic hymn of triumph and rejoicing over victory; the Song of Hannah (1 Sam. ii. 1-10) of deep religious thanksgiving; the Elegy of David over Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam. i. 19—27) of religious mourning. In the book of Job a large portion is of the nature of the Psalm, as being direct address of pleading with God (see chs. iii., X., xxxi.). Turning to the books included with the Psalter in the Jewish division, we find grand passages of didactic and meditative poetry in the Book of Proverbs (see Prov. i. 20-32; ii. 1-22 ; iii. 13—26); of allegorical poetry in Ecclesiastes (see Eccl. xii. 1–7); and the whole of Canticles is an Idyll of pastoral life and love, under which ancient interpreters delighted to read a religious meaning. Interspersed again in the prophetic books are passages virtually Psalms ; in which the prophet turns from his usual task as messenger of God to men, to speak either for himself or for them to God. Such is the song of thanksgiving in Isa. xii.; the lamentation of remonstrance in Jer. xx. 7--18; the cry of faith in the very face of death in Jonah ii. 1–9; the psalm of glad resignation before the Divine Majesty in Hab. iii.; the thanksgiving of Hezekiah for restored life in Isa. xxxviii. 9–20. The Book of Lamentations is one long Psalm of mourning, full of Confession and Prayer--the greater part being cast into an acrostic form. Even of David himself we have (2 Sam. xxiii. 2-6) a notable Psalm-the “last words of the sweet Psalmist of Israel” --not included in the Psalter.

THE PSALTER IN RELATION TO TEMPLE WORSHIP.-The contents of the Psalter were, no doubt, determined by use in the worship of the Tabernacle and of the Temple. Of such use we have traces in the record of the first dedication of the Temple (2 Chr. v. 13 ; vii. 3); where we find described the burst of instrumental music, with

cymbals and psalteries, and harps and trumpets,” from the Levites “which were the singers," and the response of the people, “Praise the Lord : for He is good : for His mercy endureth for ever"

INTRODUCTION (see Ps. cxxxvi. 1). Similarly at the restorations of the worship of the Temple by Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah (2 Chr. xx. 19, 21; xxix. 27-30) we find mention of the same offering of “praise to the Lord, for His mercy endureth for ever,” and of the Song of the Lord "with the instruments ordained by David, king of Israel," and expressed “in the words of David and of Asaph the Seer." Again, in Ezra iii. 10 and Neh. xii. 40, 45, 46, we find the revival of the Psalmody of the old Temple made a prominent part of the worship, which hallowed the building and dedication of the new.

This destination is also indicated in the headings to the Psalms. These headings-found in the Hebrew MSS., and translated in our “ Bible Version"-though not, perhaps, to be taken as of absolute authority, yet embody ancient and most interesting traditions, and are recognised as of high historical value. In these no less than fifty-five Psalms are inscribed, “For the chief Musician," clearly for use in worship; and (as will be seen hereafter) several are attributed to the authorship of those, who are known to have been the heads of the families of the Levites attached to the Temple. Subsequently the Talmud enumerates particular Psalms, as accompanying particular sacrifices, and appointed, at least in the Second Temple, for the Service of particular days. In the time of Our Lord and His Apostles it would appear that the use of the Psalms in the Temple Service regularly followed the meat and drink offering (which had been preceded by Prayers, Readings, and Blessing); that for each of the six days of the week was appointed a special Psalm, viz., Ps. xxiv., xlviii., lxxxii., xciv., lxxxi., xciii., while to the Sabbath was appropriated Ps. xcii., which in the ancient heading bears the title "a Psalm for the Sabbath Day." Besides these there were Psalms appointed for days and occasions of special solemnity; such as the “Great Hallel” (Ps. cxiii.-cxvii.) at the chief yearly Festivals. It was no doubt by such use that the Psalms, beyond all other parts of Holy Scripture, became familiar in the Jewish, as afterwards in the Christian Church; and it is a remarkable evidence of such familiarity that of all the quotations from the Old Testament in the New it has been calcu. lated that about two-fifths are taken from the Psalms alone.

THE HĐBREW TITLE.-The original Hebrew title of the whole Book, signifying "the Praises,” or “Songs of Praise,” and the title “the Prayers,” which in Ps. lxxii. 20 (“the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended ") seems to refer to the division of the Psalter (Ps. xlii.-Ixxii.) then closed, indicate this origin of the Psalter itself. It has been remarked that, considered strictly, many of the Psalms do not altogether fall under either category of praise or prayer. But these names are well justified by their use in worship, of which the higher element, marking the perfect worship of Heaven, is Praise, and the lower element, belonging to our present state of imperfection, is Prayer. The headings of special Psalms carry out this general description. Thus some Psalms (as Ps. xxxviii., lxx.) are "for Remembrance"-that is “Memo.

rial” of prayer and penitence before God. Others (as Ps. c.) cro for Thanksgiving.” Others again (as Ps. lx.) represent the didactic element in worship. They are "for Teaching,” perhaps, like the Song of Moses, to be committed to memory. Some of the Hebrew names, moreover, given to particular Psalms carry out this last meaning; as Maschil (Instruction” or “skill” in execution); Michtam, probably “a golden Psalm,"rendered in the Greek version by a word signifying "inscription for a pillar.” All these names, connecting the Psalms with the worship and teaching of the Service of God, describe them in their intrinsic character and purpose.

THE GREEK TITLE.-On the other hand the name “Psalms," originating in the Greek Septuagint version, and from it passing into all modern European languages, describes simply their poetical form and musical setting, as songs accompanied by stringed instruments.” It is a historical justification of the use of instrumental music in the Service of God; and from the different headings of Ps. iv., vi. ("for strings”), and Ps. v. (“for flutes"), it is clear that in practice it was held to include not only stringed instruments, but also the wind instruments, which in our own days furnish the most usual accompaniment. Some of the Hebrew designations attached to special Psalms mark varieties of musical style. Thus shir (see Ps. xlvi.) seems to mean simply “a Song,” while Mizmor (see Ps. xlviii.) is “a Song accompanied by music,” Shiggaion probably is rather an “Ode" of more imaginative and erratic style. (It is curious that these correspond remarkably to the “Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs,” described in Eph. V. 19, as belonging to early Christian worship.) Other headings, according to the usual interpretation, supply other musical details. In Ps. xlvi., the word Alamoth (after the manner of maidens”) is thought to indicate the use of treble voices, and in Ps. vi. Sheminith ("on the octave") the use of bass. In Ps. xxii., xlv., lvi., the Hebrew words signifying “the Hind of the Dawn,"

,“after the Lilies," and "the Silent Dove,” are generally supposed to represent the names of the tunes to which these Psalms were set. The word Selah, often interspersed, translated by the Greek diapsalma, or "interposed symphony,” is thought to be the signal “Strike up!” given for such musical interlude. All seems to show that the use of the Psalms in worship was to the ancient Israelites, not only an education of devotion, but a training also in sacred music.

THE DIVISIONS OF THE PSALTER.--This same use of the Psalter in worship is further indicated by its ancient division into five books, each ending with a solemn doxology. These books are as follows:

Book I. Ps. i.--xli.
Book II. Ps. xlii. lxxii.
Book III. Ps. lxxiii. lxxxix.
Book IV. Ps. xe.-cvi.
Book V. Ps. cvii.-cl.

INTRODUCTION The exact number five may probably have been suggested by analogy with the five Books of the Law and the five Books of the Prophets (the twelve Minor Prophets forming but one book). But in general these books appear to represent a gradual historical growth of the Psalter from time to time, in connection with the organisation or the restoration of the Temple Service.

The first book (Ps. i.-xli.), in which almost all the Psalms are referred to David, is by universal consent believed to have formed the original Psalter, collected by Solomon, to whom the First Psalm prefixed to the book is traditionally ascribed, and presumably forming the first body of Psalms for use in the Temple.

The date of the second book (Ps. xlii.- lxxii.), which contains twenty-one Psalms ascribed to David, and which ends with the words “the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended," is more doubtful. By some it is referred to the days of Solomon; by others to the revivals of Jehoshaphat or Hezekiah.

The third book (Ps. lxxiii.-lxxxix.) is mainly ascribed to other authors, “Asaph,” and “the sons of Korah," and is evidently of later formation. From the labours of collection ascribed to the men of Hezekiah in Prov. xxv. 1, and the mention in the record of Hezekiah's Services of “the words of David and Asaph the Seer" (2 Chron. xxix. 30), it has been thought by many that the formation both of this and of the preceding book belongs to his time.

The fourth and fifth books (Ps. xc.--cvi. and cvii.-cl.) are generally referred to a later date, probably to the restoration of the Exiles in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Except a few Psalms ascribed to David and one to Moses, they are anonymous, and most of the Songs of Degrees (Ps. cxx.-cxxxiv.), and such Psalms as Ps. cxxxvii., evidently belong to the return from Exile.

It has been contended by many that some of the Psalms are of still later date, belonging even to Maccabean times. But the evidence for this supposition, which contradicts the constant Jewish tradition of the close of the Canon in the generation after the completion of the Restoration, appears to be insufficient.

(This division accountsfor the fact that some Psalms are repeated. Thus Ps. xiv. (in the Bible Version) in the First Book, and Ps. lii. in the Second Book are identical ; and Ps. cviii. in the Fifth Book is made up of passages from Ps. lx. and lvii. in the Second Book.)

ELOHISTIC AND JEHOVISTIC PSALMS. It might have been hoped that some clue to the relative date of the various parts of the Psalter would be gained from the well-known distinction between the Elohistic and Jehovistic Psalms-that is, the Psalms in which the more ancient and general name of God (Elohim) is used, and those in which it is replaced by the later and more distinctive title of JEHOVAH. But on examination this idea breaks utterly down. The Psalms of David, which are the earliest, and the latest Psalms in the Fourth and Fifth Books, are Jehovistic; while the Psalms of Asaph and the sons of Korah are Elohistic. The distinction is probably due merely to difference of authorship, or possibly difference of occasion and character; and there is, of course, no reason whatever, historical or theoretical, why the two names should not have been used side by side.

(II.) AUTHORSHIP OF THE PSALMS.--This gradual formation of the Psalter stretches over a period of about five hundred years, The Psalms are the work of many ages and many authors; their general unity of tone and character belongs to their unity of Inspiration and purpose. About a third of the Psalms are anonymous. The ancient headings prefixed to the Psalms refer the other two-thirds to various authors. Of these, seventy-three (Ps. ii.-ix.; xi.-xxxii.; XXXV.-xli.; li.- lxv.; lxviii.-1xx.; lxxxvi., ci., ciii.; cvii.-cx. ; cxxii., cxxiv., cxxxi., cxxxiii.; cxxxviii.-cxlv.) are ascribed to David ; two (Ps. lxxii., cxxvii.) to, Solomon; one (Ps. xc.) to Moses. Of the rest, twelve (Ps. l.,' lxxiii.-lxxxiii.) are attributed to “Asaph,” described in 1 Chron. vi. 39 as the head of the family of the Levites descended from Gershom the son of Levi, which was one of the three families set by David "over the Service of Song.” He seems to have stood out with special prominence as “the chief musician;" so that in Ezra ii. 41 “the sons of Asaph” seem equivalent to “the singers.” To the second of these families descended from Kohath, son of Levi, but called “the sons of Korah” (grandson of Kohath), are ascribed twelve Psalms (Ps. xlii.-xlix., lxxxiv., lxxxv., lxxxvii., lxxxviii.), of which one (Ps. lxxxviii.) is referred to Heman, their head, contemporary with Asaph. To Ethan, the corresponding head of the family of the Merarites, is ascribed one Psalm (Ps.lxxxix.).

The literal accuracy of these ascriptions has been matter of controversy; some have thought that a Psalm “ of David” or “of Asaph may indicate only composition “after the manner of David” or “of Asaph.” But although in some instances there seems considerable evidence of later date, yet in most cases the ascription is probably correct.

PSALMS OF DAVID.-Of the Psalms of David not a few can be referred, either by inscription or by strong internal evidence, to various periods of his life.

Some belong to the period of his early life till his accession to the throne. Of these Ps. viii. (the contemplation of the heavens), Ps. xxiii. (“the Lord is my Shepherd ”), and Ps. xxviii. (the vision of God in the storm), breathe the associations of his early shepherd life. The rest are of the days of flight and exile. Ps. vii. belongs to some persecution by “Cush the Benjamite;” Ps. lix, describes the time when the bloodhounds of Saul were watching his house ; Ps. lii. denounces the malice of Doeg at the time of David's flight; Ps. xxxiv. (as also perhaps xxxv.) praises God for deliverance, when he feigned madness before Achish; Ps. lvi., also composed in Gath, is a Psalm of anxiety and cry for help ; Ps. liv. describes the

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »