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cylopædia of the most blessed and fruitful knowledge and experience of my life; to thoroughly understand them will be the occupation of eternity, and our second life will form their commentary.”
Though our days are not rich in testimonies of this kind, they are by no means wanting-nay, they are not wanting on the part of those lofty minds, whom our nation counts among her classics. Prominent amongst these is Herder, of whose manifold statements, setting forth the value of the Psalms, we insert here but one expression, which recommends itself both by its freedom and truthfulness. “The use of the Psalms became the blessing of humanity, not only on account of their contents, but also on account of their form. Just as no lyric poet among the Greeks and the Romans furnished such a mass of doctrine, consolation, and instruction, so there is hardly anywhere to be found so rich a variety of tone in every species of song as here. For two thous sand years have the Psalms frequently and differently been translated and imitated, and still there are many new formations of their much-embracing and rich manner possible. They are flowers, which change their appearance in every time and in every soil—but always bloom in the beauty of youth. Just because the Psalter contains the simplest lyrical expressions of the most diver. sified feelings—it is the hymn-book for all times."*
Herder's observations in his “Spirit of Hebrew Poetry,” concerning the Psalms as a whole, and particular classes of them, contain many excellent hints for expositors. Andrew Cramer, who as a poet ranks among our classics, and as a preacher stands as a model for all times, has in a yet higher degree merited of the interpretation of the Psalms. The treatises which accompany his Translation of the Psalmst are so many testimonies of their religious and poetic value. To the testimony of Cramer, we string that of Stolberg, in his Treatise on the Psalms, contained in vol. iii. of his History of Religion. John Mueller, the historian, has many beautiful sayings on the spirit and influence of the Psalms. Writing to his brother, he says :-"David yields me every day the most delightful hour. There is nothing Greek, nothing Roman, nothing in the West, nor in the land towards midnight, to equal David, when the God of Israel chose to praise him higher than the gods of the nations. The utterance of his mind sinks deep into the heart, and never in my life, never have I thus seen God." "The Psalms,” he says elsewhere, “teach one to
* Treatises and Letters on the Belles Lettres. Works, vol. xvi. p. 17.
† Poetical Translation of the Psalms, with Treatises. Leipsic, 1759. It must not be confounded with the Lyrical Translation of the Psalms, by Joseph Anthony Cramer. Hildesheim, 1787. This work of a Catholic author has no value.
prize a much tried life.'*. Even Lichtenberg, though not exactly a man who would suffer his mind to be captivated by his feelings, expresses himself with earnestness and warmth concerning the moral and religious tendency of the Psalms.† Songs, which like the Psalms have thus stood the test of three thousand
years, contain a germ for eternity.
OF THE FORM, DIVISION, DESIGN, AND USE OF THE PSALTER
IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES.
The poetry of the Old Testament is of a twofold kind. It embraces Lyric songs, which originally streamed forth as the emotions of the heart for the personal gratification of the singer, and Didactic poems, which were composed with a view to others, and were on that account
aided by reflection. The latter are either brief sentences, as the Proverbs of Solomon, or more extensive poems, as the Book of Job, which possesses however a lyrical character, because it describes the personal struggles of its author. The lyric songs of the Old Testament, with one exception, (2 Sam. i. 19,) are all of a religious kind, and go by the term of “Psalms," i. e. songs sung with musical accompaniment. Such songs were offered to the Lord when be led Israel out of Egypt. The people sang the
song of deliverance, and Miriam and the women, singing and playing the timbrel, repeated the first verse. (Exod. xv. 20, 21.) Psalm xc. is a psalm of Moses. The song of Deborah is another ancient psalm. (Judges v.) The prophets of Samuel's school used to sing, (1 Sam. xix. 20, 21;) but above all, David united from his earliest youth the art of singing with that of playing the harp, and practised daily, (1 Sam. xviii. 10.) The instrument which he used was the harp or guitar; he played it with his hand, (1 Sam. xvi. 23; xviii. 10.) His beautiful funeral ditty on the death of Jonathan shows that he also used to tune his strings for other themes than the praise of God. (2 Sam. i. 19–27.) The Psalter being a collection of religious songs, has only preserved the spiritual songs of David.
The form of the lyric poetry of the Old Testament deserves to be noticed. The definition of poetry as “bound speech," points to the fact that the poet imposes fetters and prescribes a measure, both to the expression of his sentiments and to the sentiments themselves. This renders the utterance of the most stirring emotions harmonious and beautiful. This fetter is in the poems of classical antiquity the syllabic measure or metre, while it appears in the songs of several Eastern nations, (who are however not unacquainted with measure,) as e.g. the Hindoos, Persians, and Arabs, as rhyme, and in those of the Icelanders and Spaniards as assonance. The parallelism of the verse-members binds the speech of Old Testament poetry. This form of poetry obtains also among the Chinese. We can easily conceive that the most impassioned speech did not only assume a metrical form, but involuntarily pass into it, since enthusiasm has an invariable tendency for rhythmical expression, even in outward movements; hence we find the dance joined to worship and singing;* hence David danced before the ark of the covenant.f It strikes one as strange, that a poet should fetter himself with searching
* Jno. of Mueller's Works, vol. v. pp. 122. 244. † Lichtenberg's Works, vol. i. pp. 15. 37. * “Prophesying," i. e. a prophetically inspired recitation or song.
for like-sounding words in the moment of most vivid excitement. But is not the musical effect of likesounding words clearly seen? as is the case with assonance and the parallelism of members, where the words frequently correspond in so exact a manner that they actually rhyme in the original. But this is not all. The origin of that poetic form may be accounted for on other grounds. Under the impulse of strong emotion, thought ignores to express itself in simple proportions: it either separates into synonymous members of a qualifying tendency, or into antithesis. What, then, is more natural than that these members thus mutually related in thought, should by rhyme, assonance, or parallelism, become equally so in form? (Gen. iv. 23. Psalm viii. 5; xxv. 4.) In Hebrew poetry a thought most frequently resolves itself into symmetrical and synonymous members till it gets exhausted. Sometimes a second or third member adds some new and closely allied defining remark; or proposition and counter-proposition (thesis and anti-thesis) are placed together symmetrically.
Thus we have in Psalm i. 1, three, and in verse 2, two propositions, exactly corresponding in sense, and used only for the exhaustion of the idea: in verse 3, we find there is first the leading thought which advances through the succeeding three propositions in such a manner, that the last expresses in a direct form the indirect statements of the former. In Psalm ii. the two
* Exod. xv. 20. Psalm cxlix. 3; cl. 4. The opinion which refers the rhyme of romantic poetry to Arabic origin must be held as obsolete. Rhyme may be found in Latin ecclesiastical hymns as early as the fifth century: it exists also in the earliest Celtic songs, and flows successively through many verses, as in Oriental poems. Vide Wolf, p. 279.
+ 2 Sam. vi. 16. On the connection between music and dancing, vide Herder's Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, vol. ii. p. 266.
members of the first five verses are respectively synonymous: in verse 12, the first two members are synonymous, the third continues the idea, while the last introduces the antithesis. Not unfrequently word corresponds to word in the two members of a verse; this, however, does not necessarily belong to the law of parallelism. Such parallelisms occur also in the prophets, when their language gets impassioned, which otherwise is rather rhetorical than poetical. Compare in particular the Book of Lamentations with the Prophecies of Jeremiah. In Hab. iii. Isaiah xii. Jonah ii. may be seen some psalms of the prophets. (Isa. xxxviii. Hezekiah's.)
The Psalter, which the Jews of the later period divided as early as two hundred years before Christ* into five books, (Psalms i. xli. xlii. lxxii. Ixxiii. lxxxix. xc. cvi. cvii. and cl.) corresponding to the five books of the Pentateuch, is exclusively designed for religious purposes, and contains, therefore, religious songs only. The edification of individuals, however, was less contemplated than that of the congregation, as is the case with our hymn books. Hence many Psalms bear the title, “To the chief musician,” by which was meant the Levitical musician, whose office it was to conduct the worship of the congregation. That arrangement explains, firstly, why David's secular funeral ditty on Jonathan, recorded in the historic books, finds no place in the Psalter, and why but two psalms of Solomon, (Psalms lxxii. and cxxvii.) who, according to i Kings iv. 32, composed one thousand and five songs, have been inserted. It would indeed appear, from verse 33 of the passage alluded to, that Solomon's Song possessed a less religious character; and when it is said, in verse 29, that he possessed “largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea-shore," we may interpret that he compassed the boundaries of knowledge as the ocean does the shores of the earth. Even Psalm cxxvii. though piously conceived, contemplates social prosperity. Secondly, it may be inferred from the design of the Psalms, that the personal songs of David were intentionally excluded from the collection of the Psalms; hence the absence of his last song. (2 Sam. xxiii.) When the collection and arrangement into five books of the separate Psalms took place, we know not; that it was a gradual process is evident from the following details: The first book, excepting_Psalms i. ii. x. xxxiii. which are without titles, contains songs of David only; the second book, chiefly the songs of his musicians, the songs of Korah and Asaph, with a supplement of Davidic songs. (Psalms li.—Ixv. lxviii.Ixx.) The compiler of the third book has inserted the words, “The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended,"
* This division is that of the LXX. + Linguistic grounds show that the compiler of the second book did not add that sentence. See De Wette's Comment on the Psalms, p. 18.
between this and the second: it was therefore no longer his intention to collect Davidic songs. The fourth and fifth books, again, contain some of the psalms of David, but the number of those which appear to have been used in the services of the Second Temple increase, while some bear distinct marks of having been composed after the return from the captivity. (Psalms oxxvi. cxxxvii. exlix.) The hypothesis of a gradual collection alone explains the recurrence of the same Psalms with slight deviations. (Cf. Psalm xiv. with liii.; xl. 18 with lxx.) The restoration and rearrangement of the temple-worship took place during the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah. Songs of praise occupied a prominent place in the feasts; hence it is thought that the collections of the Psalms were, in all probability, if not earlier, then instituted. It appears from Prov. xxv. 1, that Hezekiah gave orders for a collection of Solomon's Proverbs; according to 2 Chron. xxix. 30, he caused the Songs of David to be sung; how probable, therefore, that he ordered a collection of the Songs of David and his musicians to be made. The Psalter, in its present form, however, cannot be traced to a time anterior to the Second Temple.
The titles of the Psalms did not originate with the compilers, but with those who first wrote them down, or in the authors themselves. For it is not uncommon with poets among the ancient Arabians and Syrians, to prefix their own names to their poems : thus the prophets frequently place their names at the head of their prophecies, (Isa. i. 2; Jer. i. 4; Hos. i. 2,) as e. g. Balaam, in Numbers xxiv. 3. 15, Habakkuk’s Psalm (Hab. iii.,) and the Song of Hezekiah, (Isa. xxxviii. 9.) That David adhered to the same practice is undeniably clear from 2 Samuel xxiii. 1, cf. also the title to Psalm xviii. which had been seen by the author of the Books of Samuel (2 Sam. xxii.)* Those titles may confidently be ascribed to David himself, which are couched in poetic language, and relate to the contents of the Psalm; e. g. Psalm xxii. if we render with Luther, “Concerning the early pursued hind,” and refer this to David himself; and Psalm lvi. where David describes himself as a mute, innocent dove in a foreign country. Those Psalms, however, which simply have, “Of David,” may have been added at their being written down for the first time, since the author's name was not immaterial to the admirer of a song. If the addition of the titles originated with the compilers in the days of Hezekiah, we should be shut up to the supposition that certain verbal traditions respecting the separate psalms had been transmitted, which certainly is the less probable case. The opinion has been diffused in modern times, that the compilers determined the titles from
* The Song of Lamentation (2 Sam. i.) is not likely to have beon recorded in “The Book of the Upright, without any account of the author and the theme: 17 and 18 verses furnish the words of the title.