E. G. (Edward George) King.

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THE variety and excellence of Commentaries on the Psalter seem to
leave little room for fresh illustration of the text ; but the Psalter is
as inexhaustible as the aspirations of the human soul, and I cannot but
think that Dr King has made an original and suggestive contribution to
the understanding of it. It was my happiness to hear several expositions
of Psalms given by Dr King in sermons at Madingley and Gayton, and I .y

expressed a wish that he would publish, at least in outline, the substance '-— -
of what he said. The present book is an instalment of the work ; and I
trust that in due time the remainder will follow.

The notes require careful study, but, if I may speak from my own
experience, they will repay it. They are not designed to save the reader
from the trouble of thought, but to stimulate him to independent reflection
and enquiries which lie within his reach. They constantly remind me of
Bengel's pregnant sentences — and I know no higher praise — which point to
a conclusion rather than develop it. The scholar indeed if he is to profit
by his teacher's words must share his teacher's labour. The memorable
saying in which Heraclitus sums up the method of the Delphian king
describes the ideal method of the true master: He neither tells nor hides
but gives a sign.

In this lies the peculiar merit of the notes. Dr King appears to me,
as far as I may presume to judge, to have a natural sympathy with the
characteristics of Hebrew thought and of Hebrew poetry. For him, as for
the old Hebrew scholars, a single word suggests real if remote associations ;
and feeling, as they did, that 'all creation was one act at once,' he recognises
correspondences between different spheres of the Divine work and working.
Under this aspect the relations of the fortunes of the nation to the fortunes
of the individual, of the Messianic people to the Messiah, of the vicissitudes
of Nature to the vicissitudes of Life (see e.g. P.ss. xxix., xxx. ; xix.) offer
fertile subjects for reflection. Even the close analysis of the structure of a
Psalm brings out subtle and unexpected lines of thought (see e.g. Ps. xv. .
cxi., cxii.). Difference of opinion will naturally e.xist as to special applications
of the general principles, but the general principles will, I believe, commend
themselves if they are fairly weighed ; and in all these ways the student is



led to consider indications of the harmony which underlies ' tlie mighty sum
of things for ever speaking' in spite of the disorders wrought b)' tlie Fall;
and the frequent parallels which are drawn from great poets shew how men
have striven unweariedly in all ages towards the truth which the voice
of the Spirit has revealed to us.

It will be seen from what I have said that the book, while based upon
a critical foundation, is specially adapted for meditative and, in the fullest
sense of the word, devotional reading. It is this which gives it a peculiar
claim on attention at the present time. There is among us far more reading
about the Bible than reading of the Bible. Popular interest in questions of
pure criticism tends to divert thought from the Scriptures themselves to
problems, often insoluble, as to their origin and history. But, however
attractive and even important the investigations may be which arc thus
raised, we are spiritually concerned not with them, but with the meaning
of the texts which we have received. We have beyond question the Old
Testament as it was read in the apostolic age and accepted by the Lord
Himself as the Divine Charter of the hope of Israel. Our first duty therefore
is to spare no pains in order to understand its teaching, remembering the
necessary canon : Oiiiiiis Scriptura Sacra co Spiritu debet legi quo facta est.
And in this connexion it may be worth while to notice that with two
exceptions, all the primary passages which are quoted in the Epistle to the
Hebrews to illustrate the true nature of the Person and Work of Christ
are taken from the Psalms. Some of these may perhaps seem to the hasty
reader to be far-fetched, but I venture to hope that the course of interpre-
tation which Dr King points out will be found to fully justify the use
which is made of them, and that the apostolic usage itself in this respect
will open the way to a more intelligent apprehension of the place which
the writings of the Old Covenant occupied and still occupy, in the training
of the people of God.

It is, then, because I believe that Dr King's notes, which some at first
sight may be tempted to think obscure and mystical — a convenient excuse
for unwillingness to think— are fitted to encourage and to reward personal
study that I heartily commend them to those who hold that the secrets of
the Lord are disclosed to such as seek for them with watchfulness and
patience in living oracles. Just so far as we are enabled to learn how the
Spirit spoke to our fathers in the days of old, we shall come to recognise
the messages which He addresses to us to-day in our own language.


Auckland Casti.e,

Innocenti Dijy, 1897.


THIS book, which is the outcome of some years spent in lecturing on
Hebrew in Cambridge followed by many more years in a Country Parish,
does not claim to be a complete Commentary on the Psalms. Those who seek
for grammatical notes will find them abundantly supplied elsewhere. The task
that the writer has set himself has been to shew the leading thought and
poetical structure of each Psalm and to do this, as far as possible, by marginal
notes and by the arrangement of the text.

The book is intended for the devotional use of the educated English reader
and for such of the Clergy as are not afraid of reverent criticism.

The Arrangement of Psalms in the Psalter. It is now generally admitted
by competent scholars that the arrangement of the Psalter in Five Books is not

the original arrangement. "The natural division of the Psalter appears to

be in three ■^zxts, Ps. i. — xli., Ps. xlii. — l.xxxix., Ps. xc. — cl. : the division into
five parts is generally supposed to have been accomplished later, in imitation
of the Pentateuch, Ps. xlii.— Ixxxi.v. being broken into two at Ps. Ixxii. the sub-
scription to which would form a natural point of division, and Ps. xc. — cl. being
divided at Ps. cvi. where v. 48 was adapted by its contents to mark also the
conclusion of a Book" (Dr Driver, Introduction, p. 351).

Graetz quotes both the Midrash and Epiphanius in support of his assertion
that the Five Books of the Psalms were a Jewish imitation of the Pentateuch.
Graetz shews that even the number of the Psalms was determined by this
arrangement. The custom of the Synagogue was to read through the Pentateuch
once in a three years' cycle. Now, in a three years' cycle, the number of
Sabbaths, not coinciding with a Feast-day, will vary from 147 to 150; in order
therefore to provide a ' Lesson ' for each Sabbath the Pentateuch was divided
into 150 sections and was thus read through in the three years. A similar
arrangement was adopted for the Psalms which were thus made to vary from
147 (Jerusalem Talmud, Sabb. p. 15, quoted by Graetz) to 150. If in the three
years' cycle the number of Sabbaths was 147 instead of 150 certain Psalms
would be combined and read as one. This will explain the fact that different
Congregations had different divisions for the Psalter, e.g. the Babylonian Jews

K. /'


read I'ss. i. and ii. together, while the Septuagint read Pss. ix., x. as one Psahii
and also Pss. cxiv., cxv., while they retained the number 150 by dividing Pss. cxvi.
and cxlvii. each into two. To this question we shall have occasion to return ;
meanwhile the reader is asked never to lose sight of the fact that the present
form of the Psalter has been determined by the liturgical use of the Synagogue.

As Dr Driver has said, " the itatnyal division of the Psalter " would be in
Three Collections rather than in P'ive Books. The present work will follow this
natural division. It is impossible now to restore these Collections to their original
form, but the writer feels that something may be done to determine the conditions
under which each Collection was made, and that the historical method is the
truest and most profitable method of stud)-.

But though we are justified in speaking of the TItrec Collections we do not
mean to imply that the form in which they have come down to us exactly
corresponds with the form in which each Collection was made. Thus, for
example, Pss. i., ii. were added as an Introduction to the whole Psalter; Ps. 1.
was taken from its original position among the 'Asaph' Psalms probably because
each of the three cycles would end at the 'Asaph' or Feast of the Ingathering
(cf Pss. 1., c. and cl.). This will appear more clearly when we treat of the
' Asaph ' Psalms.

It is, so to speak, an accident tiiat the l'"irst Collection coincides with the
First Book (Pss. i.— xli.). In this Collection I have however included (pp. 40 — 66)
those alphabetical Psalms which properly belong to the Third Collection. This
seemed necessary in order that the whole group of alphabetical Psalms might
be studied together and that certain remarkable characteristics which I have
pointed out in the alphabetical Psalms of the First Collection might be com-
pared with those of the Third Collection.

Titles and Ant/iorskip of Psalms. The Psalms of the First Collection are
practically all assigned to David by their titles, but the reader is reminded
that the titles farm no part of the original Hcbrciv text and consequently that
the authorship of any Psalm is known only by tradition. These traditions are
most valuable and they are comparatively old since most of them were known
to the Septuagint translators (circ. 200 i:.C.). But, on the other hand, there
are several instances in which the title in the Septuagint differs entirely from
that of the Hebrew. Thus they assign Ps. cx.xxvii. to Jeremiah, Pss. cxxxviii.
cxlvi. — cxlviii. to Haggai and Zachariah. h'vidcntly the titles in the Hebrew
were not fully recognized as a binding tradition at the date of this translation,
viz. 200 l'..C.; but David's date is 1000 n.C, i.e. Soo years earlier. Every candid
reader will admit that such traditions of authorship are not to be accepted
against strong internal evidence of later date.

There was a growing tendency to ascribe Psalms tcj David even when


they were anonymous in the Hebrew text ; thus the Syriac translators add the
name of David to I'ss. xxxiii., xh'ii., Ixxi., xciii., xcix., civ., cxxiii., cxxxvii. (see
Graetz, p. 89), and the Septuagint do not hesitate to ascribe to David an
apocryphal Psalm cli., which docs not occur in the Hebrew text, and even to
give the circumstances under which he wrote it !

W/io is tJie speaker in the Psn/>ns.' It is difficult for the English reader
to realize that " I " in the Psalms can refer to anything except an individual.
Still the fact remains that, even in prose, " I " is used of the whole community
or nation. Thus Numb. xx. 19, " If we drink of thy water, I and my cattle,
then will I give the price thereof: let me only,... pass through on my feet":
Judg. i. 3, "And Judah said unto Simeon his brother. Come up with me into
my lot" etc. (see many other passages in Driver's Introduction, p. 336). Still
more frequent was this in poetry, e.g. Is. xii. i, 2, "In that day thou shalt say,
I will give thanks unto thee O Lord ; for though thou wast angry with me
thine anger is turned away ' etc. This is virtually a Psalm and the context
shews that the words arc put on the lips, not of an individual but, of Israel.
Jer. x. 19, 20, "Woe is me for my hurt!. ..my children are gone forth of
me" etc. See also Lam. i. 11 — 16, 18 — 22 and the whole of Chap. iii. These
are but a few instances out of many, but they may suffice to shew that in
certain and undoubted cases the Nation or Community of Israel was personified,
and that too in a most minute and striking manner quite alien to our Western

If we regard the same question from an historical point of view we note
that Revelation came rather through God's dealings with the Nation than with
individuals: God was the Father of Israel long before He was recognized as
the Father of the individual. The individualism of a modern Christian Hymn
would have been quite impossible in Old Testament times.

Since, however, the Psalms were written by individuals, even though they
were intended to express the voice of Israel, we should naturally expect that
the joys, hopes or sorrows of the time would be moulded in a personal form.

In a letter of Tennyson's, speaking of his poem In Meinoriatn, he says :
" ' I ' is not always the author speaking of himself but the voice of the human
race speaking thro' him" {Memoir, p. 305). If it be so in the case of a Poet
in an introspective age, how much more shall an Inspired Writer merge his
personality in that of the Nation whose future was to mould the whole religion
of the world.

The Christian believes that, in Christ, all God's thoughts for Israel have
found their completion. If this be .so, and if the Psalms arc the voice (not of an
individual Israelite however great, but) of Israel, then it follows that the Psalms,
though not all Messianic, will all become in a certain sense a voice of Christ.

I' 2


One great advantage of stud)ing the Psalms in Three Collections rather
than in Five Books is that attention is thereby directed to the remarkable
interchange of the Divine Names, the First Collection being Jeliovistic, the
Second Eloliistic, and the Third again Jclicvistk. If the most holy Name of
God had been, in the Second Collection, changed into Elohim through motives
of reverence, it is scarcely likely that it would again have appeared in the
Third Collection which is of still later date. I must not anticipate the
discussion of this point, but when the Three Collections are finished I shall
hope to shew the reason for the interchange of the Divine Names. In the
translation where the most holy Name occurs I have used the symbol YHVH
merely to indicate the letters of the Tetragrammaton. The word Jehovah is,
of course, an absolutely impossible form, while the modern pronunciation
Yahveh is, in my opinion, incorrect ; it has, however, the merit of consisting
only of two syllables and the reader may, if he please, give this sound to the
letters YHVH.

The Bishop of Durham, at whose suggestion I commenced this work, has
very kindly read the proof-sheets as they passed through the Press : while
thanking him for his kindness, I wish it to be understood that he is in no
way responsible for any opinions I may have expressed.

The labour has been to me a labour of love and of ever-growing interest
and delight. Most gladly would I communicate this delight to the reader in
the only way in which it is possible — by inciting him also to labour in the
same inexhaustible field.

Gavton Rectokv, Bmswokih.

The Fcstii'al flf Si 'I'lunnns, 1897.



N.r.. The letters S, \V, K, signify the use in the Synagogue, Western Church
antl English Church respectively.


I Easter Day (W). Ps. II Easter Day (E) : Christmas J W) ... 1-4

III, IV Used as Morning and Evening Hymns (W) 7-9

V A Psalm of the 'two ways'; v. 8 " Diiige..." was the origin of the word

Dirge 10, 11

VI Penitential Psalm (Ash-Wednesday (E)); application to Israel and to Christ 12, 13

VII A Psalm of Divine Judgement. Used for Piirim (S) .... i4i 'S

VIII A Pasan of Creation; ignores the Fall: Ascension Day (W, E) . . 16, 17

IX, X Partially alphabetical; Introduction to Alphabetical Psalms; the order of

the Hebrew alphabet not the same as now lS-25

XXV, XXXIV, XXXVII Alphabetical Psalms ; the use of the Covenant number Av/ ;
all Alphabetical Psalms of the First Collection are irregular after the
same type ; reasons for this 26-39

CXI, CXI I, CXIX, CXLV All being Alphabetical Psalms of the Third Collection,

are introduced here for purposes of comparison ..... 40-66

XI— XIV Sunday Matins (W) 69-75

XV Ascension Day (E) 76, 77

XVI Easter Eve (W) 78-80


XIX The Poets' Psalm: Christm as (W. E) : Ascension (W) .... 90-94

XX For days of tribulation (S) : Accession Service (E) 95, 96

XXI Accession Service (E): Ascension (E) 97-99

XXII Cood Friday (W, E) too- 103

XXIII At the Handwashing before meals (S) : at the distribution of the Bread

(Liturgy of St James) 104-107



XXIV For the first day of the week {Sept.): Ascension (E): Easter Eve (W) . 108-111
Tahmid {/lOSc/i /uisc/ntiia iv. 7; Bcracltoth iv. 1) quotes \'erse i as a
reason for Grace before meals ; of. I Cor. x. 26, 30.

XXVI At the Handwashing in the Mass the I'ricst repeated v. 6 to end 1 12-114

X.WII Another Altar- Psalm: Good Friday and Easter Eve (\V) 1 15-118

XXVIII 11. 10 used in the Suffrages at Morn, and Even. Prayer and in Tc Dt-ioii 1 18-120

XXIX For Feast of Tabernacles*: the Seven Voices explained 120-125

XXX For the Feast of Haiiucca: Easter Eve (W). Sung by the Levites when

the basket of firstfruits was brought into the Temple (T. B. Hikkurini

iii. 4) 126-130

XXXI 131-135

XXXII Day of Atonement (S): Ash-Wednesday (E) 135-138

XX.XIII Partakes of the nature of the Alphabetical Psalms 139-141

XXXV The imprecations compared with those of Jeremiah .... 142-146

XXXVI 147-150

XXXVIII Good Friday (\V) : Ash-Wednesday (E) iSi-iS5

XXXIX Burial Service (E) 155-160

XL Good Friday (W, E) 160-166

XLI Used as a Prayer for the Sick (S) 167-170

For the I.itur^ica! use of the Ps.'\lms I li.ive cliiefly Cf^tnsiilled (jriinwald.
l^ehcr (h'lt /'.ifi/lNss t/t'r r.uihfit'ii^ ^^1 .

* Ps. xxix. seems to have l)een iiseil in the Temple liolh on llie fnst ami Last d.ays of Tabernacles;
the Last verse was also simg at the Kvening .Sacrilice on New \'eai's Day (T. I!, /why// linsrlniiui 30'',
qiioled by Graet/.).



" Ah, poor Man, befooled and slow
And faint!
Ah, poorest Man, if so
Thou turn thy back on bUss
And choose amiss !
For thou art choosing now :
Sinner, — or Saint."



This is a Psalm of the " two ways " — the way that ends in blessing, and the
way that ends in the curse. Ebal and Gerizim (Josh. viii. 33). This thought of the
two ways is very widespread and is found in the Zoroastrian religion. " Thus in
a fragment of the Hadoklit Nask, which gives an account of the progress after death,
we find four steps mentioned in the advance of the soul. The first step of the
righteous he places upon good thought, the second upon good word, the third upon
good deed, and the fourth and last upon the eternal lights. The account of the
contrary progress of the unrighteous soul is lost, except the last clause, ' The soul
of the wicked man fourthly advanced with a step he placed on the eternal glooms'"
[Religion of Zoroaster, R. Brown, Jun.].

Possibly there may be some connexion between the four upward steps of the
good man in the Psalm and the four Zoroastrian steps — thus

(a) Good thought — not "in the counsel of the wicked."

{!>) Good word — not "in the way of sinners."

{() Good deed — not "in the company of the scoffers."

{d) The eternal lights— "the law of YHVH" (cf. Ps. xix.).

Certainly the " Law of YHVH " does not here signify the Law of Moses but rather
that Divine Revelation which fulfils the same part in the world of Spirits as the
sun does in the world of nature (see notes on Ps. xix.) and which may therefore
be fitly compared with "the eternal lights."

But whether our Psalm has been consciously influenced by the Zoroastrian thought
or no it has certainly been influenced by the following passage from Jeremiah :

"Cursed is the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his strength

and turneth away his heart from the Lord.
For he becomes like the heath in the desert,

that will not feel it when good comes,
For it dwells in the parched places of the wilderness,

a land not inhabited.
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord,

and the Lord becomes his confidence,


And he becomes like a tree established by the waters

and that spreadeth out its roots by the stream,
And that will not feel it wlien heat comes,

but its leaf becomes green.
And in the drought of the year it has no care

nor ceases from yielding fruit." (Jer. xvii. 5 — 8.)

The picture here is more complete than in the Psalm, since we have the bad
tree as well as the good. The had tree has no root and therefore the very sun
that should have brought it life brings death. The good tree is " rooted and
grounded," so that it is ever drawing fresh life from the sun.

At first it might seem that in the Psalm the simile of the tree was exchanged
in verse 4 for a new simile of the threshing-floor, but if we remember such passages
as " their root shall be as rottenness, etc." (Is. v. 24), " their root is dried up,
they can yield no fruit " (Hos. ix. 16), we shall, I think, conclude that the
Psalmist had in his mind Jeremiah's picture of " the heath in the desert." The
whole point of the picture is that the same sun which brings the wealth of the
seasons to the good tree dries up the root of the bad. Compare also the last verse,
where it is not said that God ^'destroys the way of the wicked" but that "the
way of the wicked perishes" — i.e. it is self-destroyed. Thus in our Psalm we find
already the germ of that doctrine so often set forth in St John tliat the real

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Online LibraryE. G. (Edward George) KingThe Psalms in three collections (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 19)