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“ For his anger endureth but a moment,
But his favor through life;
But joy cometh in the morning.” — Ps. xxx. 5. The antithetic parallelism agrees best with adages and acute sayings. It is therefore very prevalent in the proverbs of Solo
There is a third species of parallelism, in which the members of the period answer to each other, not by the repetition of the same image or sentiment, or the opposition of their contraries, but merely by the form of construction, in which word does not answer to word, and sentence to sentence, as equivalent or opposite ; but there is a correspondence and equality between different propositions, in respect to the shape and turn of the whole sentence, and of the constructive parts; such as noun answering to noun, verb to verb, member to member, negative to negative, interrogative to interrogative. To this, which may be called the synthetic or constructive parallelism, may be referred all such as do not come within the two former classes. Thus
“ The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul ;
Ps. xix. 7-9.
Triplets are frequently formed of this kind of parallelism. “ Thy thunder roared in the whirlwind;
Thy lightning illumined the world ;
I will be as the dew to Israel ;
And his fragrance as Lebanon.” — Hosea, xiv. 5, 6. The variety in the forms of the synthetic parallelism is very great, and the degrees of resemblance almost infinite ; so that sometimes the scheme of the parallelism is very subtile, and obscure, and must be developed by art and ability, in distinguishing the different members of the sentence.
“In this peculiar conformation, or parallelism of the sentences," says Lowth, “I apprehend a considerable part of the Hebrew metre to consist; though it is not improbable that some regard was also paid to the numbers and feet. But of this particular we have at present so little information, that it is utterly impossible to determine, whether it were modulated by the ear alone, or according to any settled or definite rules of prosody.”
“ The nervous simplicity and conciseness of the Hebrew muse,” says the poet Campbell, "prevent this parallelism from degenerating into monotony. In repeating the same idea in different words, she seems as if displaying a fine opal, that discovers fresh beauty in every new light to which it is turned. Her amplifications of a given thought are like the echoes of a solemn melody — her repetitions of it like the landscape reflected in the stream; and whilst her questions and responses give a lifelike effect to her compositions, they remind us of the alternate voices in public devotion, to which they were manifestly adapted."
The parallelism affords an important aid in interpretation. For sometimes the meaning of one member of a verse is clear, where that of the other is ambiguous. Thus the new translation of Ps. xxiv. 4, is confirmed by the parallelism, though it does not depend upon it. In Ps. lv. 15,
“ May sudden death seize upon them!
May they go down to Hades alive!” the second line is no doubt intended to be synonymous with the first, and is completely explained by it.
One other circumstance respecting the composition of the Psalms, which demands the reader's attention, is, that all of them were evidently designed to be sung ; and that too with suitable accompaniments of music. It is evident, also, that some of them are adapted to be sung by alternate choirs, by way of response to each other, and some by three or more different choirs. By keeping this circumstance in mind, we shall perceive a greater degree of propriety, spirit, and grandeur in many of the psalms. Thus in that, of which every other line is, For his mercy
endureth for ever, the repetition of these words might have had an excellent effect, when sung by way of response to a choir, which sung the other line, though to a mere reader such repetition may appear tedious. Ps. xxiv., cxxxv., cl., and others, are evidently adapted to the same mode of performance. It is however by no means probable that all the Psalms were sung in this way. For further information on this point, see Dr. Lowth's nineteenth Lecture, together with the Notes.
The last direction in regard to the mode of using the Psalms may be given in the language of Dr. Hammond, citing the opinion of the ancient fathers.
“ Form thy spirit by the affection of the psalm, saith St. Augustine. If it be the affection of love, enkindle that within thy breast, that thou mayst not speak against thy sense, and knowledge, and conscience, when thou sayst, I will love thee, O Lord, my strength ! If it be an affection of fear, impress that on thy soul, and be not thyself an insensible anvil to such strokes of divine poetry, which thou chantest out to others, O consider this, ye that forget God, lest he pluck you away, and there be none to deliver you. If it be an affection of desire, which the Psalmist in a holy transportation expresseth, let the same breathe in thee; accounting, as St. Chrysostom minds thee on psalm xlii., that when thou recitest these words, Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God! thou hast sealed a covenant, betrothed and engaged thy soul to God, and must never have a coldness or indifferency to him hereafter. If it be the affection of gratitude, let thy soul be lifted up in praises, come with affections this way inflamed, sensible of the weight of mercies of all kinds, spiritual and temporal, with all the enhancements that the seasonable application thereof to the extremities of thy wants can add to thy preservations, and pardons, and joys; or else the reciting the hallelujahs will be a most ridiculous piece of pageantry. And so likewise for the petitory part of the Psalms, let us be always in a posture ready for them, with our spirits minutely prepared to dart them up to heaven. And whatever the affection be, let the heart do what the words signify."
The translator leaves the principles and views, which governed him in his labors, to be inferred from the work itself. In one particular, however, some may be at a loss to know the reason for the translation which I adopt. I refer to the name of the Supreme Being, Jehovah. Perhaps the strict rules of interpretation require that it should be always translated by the same term. But as the same great Being is denoted, whether his name be translated the Lord, or Jehovah, I have thought it best, in many cases, not to alter the name, to which the feelings of the devout have been so long accustomed.
It has been my intention, during the progress of the work, to add to the translation a commentary critical and explanatory; and considerable progress has been made in preparing
But for various reasons, I have thought it expedient to abandon, at least for a time, the design of publishing a commentary, and to present the results of my labors without an exhibition of the process, by which they have been gained.
In the captions of psalms of doubtful interpretation, I have chosen to give the views of different interpreters rather than to indicate my own, so that the reader may be able, by comparing the contents of the psalm with the remarks prefixed to it, to judge of its meaning for himself. With the aid of the few notes, which have been added, and the helps, which have been recommended, the intelligent reader will understand this interesting portion of the sacred volume with as little difficulty as most of the poetry, which is published.
Brookfield, Massachusetts, May 5, 1831.
The happiness of the righteous and the misery of the wicked. This psalm
is supposed to have been prefixed by one of the collectors of the psalms
Nor sitteth in the seat of scoffers ;
And who meditates on his precepts day and night. 3 For he is like a tree planted by streams of water,
That bringeth forth its fruit in its season,
4 Not so the unrighteous ;
They are like chaff, which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the wicked shall not stand in judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the just.