Reference: Psalms, Book Of
This book has been called the heart of the Bible. It expresses sentiments produced by the Spirit of Christ, whether of prayer, sorrow, confession, or praise, in the hearts of God's people, in which the ways of God are developed, and become known, with their blessed issue, to the faithful. The book is distinctly prophetic in character, the period covered by the language of the Psalms extending from the rejection of Christ (Ps. 2; Ac 4:25-28) to the Hallelujahs consequent on the establishment of the kingdom. The writers do not merely relate what others did and felt, but expressed what was passing through their own souls. And yet their language is not simply what they felt, but that of the Spirit of Christ that spoke in them, as taking part in the afflictions, the griefs, and the joys of God's people in every phase of their experience. This accounts for Christ being found throughout the Psalms: some refer exclusively to Him, as Ps. 22; in others (though the language is that of the remnant of His people), Christ takes His place with them, making their sufferings His sufferings, and their sorrows His sorrows. In no part of scripture is the inner life of the Lord Jesus disclosed as in the Psalms. The Psalms may be called 'the manual of the earthly choir.' They commence with "Blessed is the man," and end with "Praise ye Jehovah." Man is blessed on earth, and Jehovah is praised from earth.
1 Chr. 16 and 2 Sam. 22 are examples of the immediate occasions on which psalms were composed, and in the headings of the psalms other instances are mentioned; yet these things in no way hinder the Spirit of God from leading the psalmist to utter things that would be fully accomplished in Christ alone. David said, "The Spirit of Jehovah spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." 2Sa 23:1-2. Great pains have been taken sometimes to arrange the psalms in a supposed chronological order, but the effect of this is to spoil the whole, for God has Himself ordered their arrangement, and in many places the beauty of the order can be seen.
It must not be forgotten that the O.T. prophets did not grasp what "the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify." 1Pe 1:11. David's experience could not have caused him to indite Ps. 22. But being a prophet, it was clearly the Spirit of Christ that was in him that furnished words which would be uttered by Christ on the cross. We have in it a plain instance of a prophetic psalm, and doubtless the spirit of prophecy runs through all.
If this is the main characteristic of the Psalms, they have an aspect entirely different from that in which the book is regarded by many, namely, as a book of Christian experience. The piety that the Psalms breathe is always edifying, and the deep confidence in God expressed in them under trial and sorrow has cheered the heart of God's saints at all times. These holy experiences are to be preserved and cherished; but who has not felt the difficulty of calling on God to destroy his enemies? What Christian can take up as his own language such a sentence as "Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." Ps 137:9. And how can such a sentence be spiritualised? But such appeals are intelligible in regard to a future day, when, apostasy being universal and opposition to God open and avowed, the destruction of His enemies is the only way of deliverance for His people.
Unless the difference of the spirit of the Psalms from that of Christianity be observed, the full light of redemption and of the place of the Christian in Christ is not seen, and the reader is apt to be detained in a legal state. His progress is hindered, and he does not understand the Psalms, nor enter into the gracious sympathies of Christ in their true application. When the attitude of the Jews at the time the Lord was here is remembered, and their bitter opposition to their Messiah, which exists to this day, light is thrown upon their feelings when, under tribulation, their eyes will be opened to see that it was indeed their Messiah that they crucified. Great too will be their persecution from without, from which God will deliver a remnant and bring them into blessing. Into all their sorrows Christ enters, and He suffers in sympathy with them. All these things, and the experiences through which they will pass, are found in the Psalms. But these experiences are not properly those of the Christian.
As the Psalms form a part of holy scripture, their true place and bearing must be seen before they can be rightly interpreted. The writers were not Christians, and could not express christian experience; though their piety, their confidence in God , and the spirit of praise may often be the language of a Christian, and even put a Christian to shame. Christ must be looked for everywhere, either in what He personally passed through, or in His sympathy with His people Israel, which can only end in His bringing them into full blessing on earth, when He will be hailed as "Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace."
The Book of Psalms is in the Hebrew divided into five books, each of which has its own prophetic characteristics. The more these are grasped, the clearer it becomes that God has watched over the order of the psalms. Each book ends with an ascription of praise or doxology.
BOOK 1 extends to the end of Ps. 41, and is occupied with the state of the Jewish remnant of the future (Judah), before they are driven out of Jerusalem: cf. Mt 24:16. Christ is largely identified with this. The book recalls much of the personal history of the Lord, when He was here, though the bearing of it is future. The light of resurrection dawns for the faithful in this book, Christ having gone through death into fulness of joy at God's right hand: compare Re 6:11.
In Ps. 2 (and Ps. 1 and Ps. 2 may be said to be introductory to the whole) we have Christ rejected by Jew and Gentile, yet set as King in Zion, and declared to be the Son of God, having the earth for His possession, and judging His enemies, the nations. In a wider sense Psalms 1 to 8 are introductory; from Ps. 3 to Ps. 7 giving the principles that follow on the rejection of Christ in Ps. 1 and Ps. 2, and Ps. 8 giving His exaltation as Son of man, ending with "O Jehovah our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth." Ps. 16 brings in the personal excellence of Christ and His association with the 'excellent in the earth.'
In some places the appropriateness of the sequence of the psalms, as already remarked, is very apparent, as for instance Ps 22:1; 23:1; 24:1. Ps. 22 pictures the sufferings of Christ in the accomplishing of redemption. In Ps. 23 in consequence of redemption being accomplished, the Lord becomes the Shepherd and takes care of the sheep. In Ps. 24 is celebrated the entry of the King of glory through the everlasting gates. In Ps. 40 there comes forth from God One divinely perfect
Psalms, Book of,
The present Hebrew name of the book is Tehill'im, "Praises;" but in the actual superscriptions of the psalms the word Tehillah is applied only to one,
... which is indeed emphatically a praise-hymn. The LXX. entitled them psalmoi or "psalms," i.e., lyrical pieces to be sung to a musical instrument. The Christian Church obviously received the Psalter from the Jews not only as a constituent portion of the sacred volume of Holy Scripture, but also as the liturgical hymn-book which the Jewish Church had regularly used in the temple. Division of the Psalms. --The book contains 150 psalms, and may be divided into five great divisions or books, which must have been originally formed at different periods. Book I. is, by the superscriptions, entirely Davidic nor do we find in it a trace of any but David's authorship. We may well believe that the compilation of the book was also David's work. Book II. appears by the date of its latest psalm,
... to have been compiled in the reign of King Hezekiah. It would naturally comprise, 1st, several or most of the Levitical psalms anterior to that date; and 2d, the remainder of the psalms of David previously uncompiled. To these latter the collector after properly appending the single psalm of Solomon has affixed the notice that "the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended."
Book III., the interest of which centers in the times of Hezekiah stretches out, by its last two psalms, to the reign of Manasseh: it was probably compiled in the reign of Josiah. It contains seventeen psalms, from Psal 73-89 eleven by Asaph, four by the sons of Horah, one (86) by David, and one by Ethan. Book IV. contains the remainder of the psalms up to the date of the captivity, There are seventeen, from Psal 90-106 --one by Moses, two by David, and the rest anonymous. Book V., the psalms of the return, contains forty-four, from Psal 107-180 --fifteen by David, one by Solomon and the rest anonymous. There is nothing to distinguish these two books from each other in respect of outward decoration or arrangement and they may have been compiled together in the days of Nehemiah. Connection of the Psalms with Israelitish history. --The psalm of Moses Psal 90, which is in point of actual date the earliest, faithfully reflects the long, weary wanderings, the multiplied provocations and the consequent punishments of the wilderness. It is, however, with David that Israelitish psalmody may be said virtually to commence. Previous mastery over his harp had probably already prepared the way for his future strains, when the anointing oil of Samuel descended upon him, and he began to drink in special measure, from that day forward, of the Spirit of the Lord. It was then that, victorious at home over the mysterious melancholy of Saul and in the held over the vaunting champion of the Philistine hosts, he sang how from even babes and sucklings God had ordained strength because of his enemies. Psal 8. His next psalms are of a different character; his persecutions at the hands of Saul had commenced. When David's reign has begun, it is still with the most exciting incidents of his history, private or public, that his psalms are mainly associated. There are none to which the period of his reign at Hebron can lay exclusive claim. But after the conquest of Jerusalem his psalmody opened afresh with the solemn removal of the ark to Mount Zion; and in Psal 24-29 which belong together, we have the earliest definite instance of David's systematic composition or arrangement of psalms for public use. Even of those psalms which cannot be referred to any definite occasion, several reflect the general historical circumstances of the times. Thus Psal 9 is a thanksgiving for the deliverance of the land of Israel from its former heathen oppressors. Psal 10 is a prayer for the deliverance of the Church from the highhanded oppression exercised from within. The succeeding psalms dwell on the same theme, the virtual internal heathenism by which the Church of God was weighed clown. So that there remain very few e.g. Psal 15-17,19,32 (with its choral appendage, 23), 37 of which some historical account may not be given. A season of repose near the close of his reign induced David to compose his grand personal thanksgiving for the deliverances of his whole life, Psal 18 the date of which is approximately determined by the place at which it ia inserted in the history.
... It was probably at this period that he finally arranged for the sanctuary service that collection of his psalms which now constitutes the first book of the Psalter. The course of David's reign was not, however, as yet complete. The solemn assembly convened by him for the dedication of the materials of the future temple, 1Chr 28, 29, would naturally call forth a renewal of his best efforts to glorify the God of Israel in psalms; and to this occasion we doubtless owe the great festal hymns, Psal 65-68, containing a large review of the past history, present position and prospective glories of God's chosen people. The supplications of Psal 69, suit best with the renewed distress occasioned by the sedition of Adonijah. Psal 71 to which Psal 70 a fragment of a former psalm, is introductory, forms David's parting strain. Yet that the psalmody of Israel may not seem finally to terminate with hint, the glories of the future are forthwith anticipated by his son in Psal 72. The great prophetical ode, Psal 45, connects itself most readily with the splendors of Jehoshaphat's reign. Psal 42-44, 74 are best assigned to the reign of Ahaz. The reign of Hezekiah is naturally rich in psalmody, Psal 46,73,75,76 connect themselves with the resistance to the supremacy of the Assyrians and the divine destruction of their host. We are now brought to a series of psalms of peculiar interest, springing out of the political and religious history of the,separated ten tribes. In date of actual composition they commence before the times of Hezekiah. The earliest is probably Psal 80 a supplication for the Israelitish people at the time of the Syrian oppression. All these psalms --80-83-- are referred by their superscriptions to the Levite singers, and thus beer witness to the efforts of the Levites to reconcile the two branches of the chosen nation. The captivity of Manasseh himself proved to be but temporary; but the sentence which his sins had provoked upon Judah and Jerusalem still remained to be executed, and precluded the hope that God's salvation could be revealed till after such an outpouring of his judgments as the nation had never yet known. Labor and sorrow must be the lot of the present generation; through these mercy might occasionally gleam, but the glory which was eventually to be manifested must be for posterity alone. The psalms of Book IV. --bear generally the impress of this feeling. We pass to Book V. Psal 107 is the opening psalm of the return, sung probably at the first feast of tabernacles. Ezra 3 A directly historical character belongs to Psal 120-134, styled in our Authorized Version "Songs of Degrees." Internal evidence refers these to the period when the Jews under Nehemiah were, in the very face of the enemy, repairing the walls of Jerusalem and the title may well signify "songs of goings up upon the walls," the psalms being from their brevity, well adapted to be sung by the workmen and guards while engaged in their respective duties. Psal 139 is a psalm of the new birth of Israel from the womb of the Babylonish captivity, to a life of righteousness; Psal 140-143 may be a picture of the trials to which the unrestored exiles were still exposed in the realms of the Gentiles. Henceforward, as we approach the close of the Psalter, its strains rise in cheerfulness; and it fittingly terminates with Psal 147-150 which were probably sung on the occasion of the thanksgiving procession of Nehe 12, after the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem had been completed. Moral characteristics of the Psalms. --Foremost among these meets us, undoubtedly, the universal recourse to communion with God. Connected with this is the faith by which the psalmist everywhere lives in God rather than in himself