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inscriptions are undoubtedly very ancient; for they existed when the Septuagint version was made, about 280 B. C.: but they are not to be regarded as of equal authority with the text. Some of them are evidently not correct; but others are confirmed by internal evidence. In some instances they specify either the author, the subject, or the occasion of the Psalm; in others they appear to refer to the style of poetry or of music, or to the class of singers to whom they were allotted in the temple service. The knowledge of the temple music having been lost, it is almost impossible to fix the meaning of all the terms employed in these inscriptions. Our trauslators have generally retained the Hebrew words. They are explained, as far as is practicable, in the notes.
The Psalms exhibit all the characteristics, and most of the varieties, of Hebrew poetry. The external form of this poetry differs widely from that which is found in modern or in classic verse.
It is not composed in syllabic metre, such as is found in the poems of Greece and Rome. Rhyme certainly is not required, perhaps not allowed, in its composition; although some writers evidently delighted in the occasional recurrence of similar sounds. Its chief peculiarity is a PARALLELISM or verse-rhythm, which consists in such an arrangement of the word's composing the sentence, or verse, that when complete it resolves itself into two or more symmetrical members, generally of nearly equal length, between which there is a certain relation of resemblance, correspondence, or contrast, as to thought or language, or both. The juxtaposition in which the several propositions, or sets of ideas, are thus placed, is capable of being beautifully modified by poetical art. In the simplest construction of the parallelism, the first member, forming the rise of the verse, is succeeded by its counterpart which forms the fall; as in Psa. xxiii. 1:
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want. Sometimes the second member is an echo or an expansion of the first, expressing nearly the same sentiments in a varied as in Psa. xix. 1:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
In other cases, the proposition, being too long for one member, is extended through two or more, the first breaking off abruptly at an important part of the sentence; as in Psa. cx. 5 :
The Lord at thy right hand
Shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. Or an accessory sentence is subjoined in a second member; as in Psa. cxli. 10:
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
Whilst that I withal escape. Or, to deepen the impression, the main idea is expressed in contrast or in comparison with some other; as in Psa. i. 6:
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous :
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Blessed is the man
Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Fret not thyself because of evildoers,
And wither as the green herb. In stanzas of four lines, sometimes the members have an alternate correspondence, the first line answering to the third, and the second to the fourth; as in Psa. xix. 7:
The law of the Lord is perfect,
Making wise the simple. It is worthy of notice, that this peculiar characteristic of Hebrew poetry is one which is not lost in translation, and is therefore specially valuable in a book designed to be published in all the languages the earth.
The parallelism affords important aid in interpretation by exhibiting the salient points of the passage in their true relation. It is especially useful where the construction is complicated or elliptical, or where uncommon words occur; as one member of a sentence which is clear contributes much towards determining the sense of another which is ambiguous.
Besides this parallelism, there is sometimes an alphabetical arrangement of the verses; the initial letters of the successive lines or stanzas following the order of the letters of the alphabet. This is found in Psalms xxv., xxxiv., xxxvii., cxi., cxii., cxix., cxlv. This device was perhaps intended to assist the memory: it is found chiefly in poems consisting of detached thoughts on one subject.
The poetry of the Hebrew Scriptures possesses that elevation of style, that emphatic collocation of words, that animation and richness of thought, and that force and delicacy of feeling which distinguish the best poetry of all languages; and, like Eastern poetry in general, it surpasses that of the Western world in the boldness of its figures and metaphors. But its chief excellence is undoubtedly to be found in the sublime sentiments, and the great moral and spiritual truths by which it is pervaded.
BOOK OF PSALMS.
PSALM I. [Psalm i. was placed at the beginning as an introduction to the whole
collection, probably on account of its general character. It exhibits the connection between piety and true happiness ;—describing the characteristics of the godly man, both what he is not (ver. 1), and what he is (ver. 2); and his blessedness (ver. 3), which is con
trasted with the state of the ungodly (vers. 4–6).] 1 BLESSED is the man
That walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
And in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so:
But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. Psalm i., ver. 1. The terms here word is an evidence of real piety, employed seem to denote a progres- and a source of spiritual vigour. sion in wickedness;—first occasional Ver. 4. The chaff, etc. Intrinsiconformity to the practices of sin-cally worthless, and liable to easy ners, then constant association with and complete destruction. them, and, at last, haughty and pre- Ver. 5. In the judgment; i. e., at sumptuous profanity.
the bar of God. Stand' is a forensic Ver. 2. The 'law' frequently term, denoting to stand acquitted. means the whole revealed will of Nor sinners in the congregation of God. Habitual delight in God's | the righteous. They shall not con
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous : But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
PSALM II. [Psalm ii. is a sublime vision, representing, l. The nations in
tumultuous revolt against the kingdom which Jehovah is establishing in the world (vers. 1–3): 2. Jehovah securely despising and severely threatening the rebels, and repeating his determination to sustain the Anointed King (46): 3. The Sovereign proclaiming his rights and power (7—9). The psalmist closes by exhorting all rulers to submit, pronouncing wrath on the disobedient, and a benediction on all who confide in the King (10—12). This Psalm may have been suggested David's coronation and the conquest of Zion (2 Sam. v. 3—10). It cannot, however, be applied to him without the greatest license of explanation. But it is perfectly appropriate to our Lord, the true 'Messiah' (ver. 2); to whom it is expressly referred in Acts iv. 25; xiii. 33; Heb. i. 5; v. 5; Rev. ii. 27. The first of these passages clearly shows David
to be its author.] 1 WHY do the heathen rage,
And the people imagine a vain thing, 2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD, and against bis anointed? saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder,
And cast away their cords from us. tinue intermingled with the right- | against Jesus Christ; but the terms eous, as at present. Whatever appa- are general, and may be applied to rent confusion may now exist, the every combination against Christ time is coming when an entire sepa- and his religion. It need not be ration shall be made between the supposed that the rebellion is always righteous and the wicked.
avowedly against the Lord. Many of Ver. 6. Knoweth. In Scripture, the worst efforts against the kingdom to know often signifies to regard of God have been professedly for it. with interest, approbation, or affec- His anointed. Or, ‘his Messiah ;' tion. See Matt. vii. 23.
which is a modified form of the The way; that is, his course of | Hebrew word here used, and correconduct.
sponds to the Greek word 'Christ.' Psalm ii., ver. 1. The heathen. Anointing was used to inauguOr, the nations. In the next rate priests (Exod. xxx. 30), kings clause the word 'peoples' is also in (1 Kings i. 39), and in some cases the plural, meaning large commu- prophets (1 Kings xix. 16). The nities, or masses of mankind. name Messiah' was in use among
Ver. 2. In Acts iv. 25—27, this the Jews, long before the incarnation is applied to the union of Herod of our Lord (see Dan. ix. 26), as a and Pilate-Jews and Gentiles- common designation of the expected