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those which were given by the poet from those which were added by a later hand.”
To indicate the species of composition with respect to the sentiment, the metre, or the music to which it was adapted, the Hebrew terms Mismor, Shir, Shir-Mismor, Mismor-Shir, Maschil, Michtam, Shiggaion, and Shir-Hammachaloth are used.
With the exception of the last term, it is doubtful whether it can be ascertained in what respects these titles differ, and still more doubtful, whether there are words in English to express their difference. What is certain is, that they all denote a species of psalm, with respect to the sentiment, the measure, or the music. I have thought it better to translate all of them by the next generic term which is applicable to all of them, rather than to puzzle the English reader with the Hebrew terms Michtam and Maschil, or the barbarous English psalm-song or songpsalm. *
The title Maschil is very probably derived from the verb signifying to be wise, and hence translated by some critics a didactic psalm. It occurs as the title of thirteen psalms. But several of those to which it is prefixed have not the character commonly understood by didactic, and it is not prefixed to some that have that character. Thus, it is prefixed to Psalms lv., lxxxviii., and cxlii., and not to the fiftieth.
Michtam is sometimes translated golden, but it is difficult to perceive any peculiar excellence in the six psalms, namely, Ps. xvi., lvi., lvii., lviii., lix., lx., to which it is prefixed, which should gain for them the distinguishing epithet of golden. According to modern taste, there are many others far more deserving of this appellation. The same objection may be made to the supposition, that they derive their appellation from their being hung up in the temple in golden letters, like the Moallacat in the temple at Mecca. Besides that there is no evidence of such a Hebrew custom, what is there in these six psalms which should give them such a distinction above the rest ? On the whole, there seems ,מִכְתָּב
* See Dr. Geddes's Version.
to be no more probable derivation of the word, than that which makes it denote writing, that is, composition, psalm ; on??, by a change of the labials and a being written for ,
which occurs in Is. xxx. 9, in the title of a song.
The hundred and forty-fifth is called Tehillah, Praise; and so excellent was this psalm always accounted by the Jews, that the title of the whole book of Psalms, Sephir Tehillim, The Book of Praises, was taken from it. The Jews used to say, 6. He cannot fail of being an inhabitant of the heavenly Canaan, who repeats this psalm three times a day.”
Some suppose Shiggaion to denote a song of lamentation. But this is very uncertain.
Fifteen psalms, cxx. - cxxxiv., are entitled Shir-Hammachaloth, literally, Song of steps, or of ascents; in the common version, Song of degrees. By some they are termed Odes of ascension, or Pilgrim songs, and are supposed to have derived their name from the circumstance, that they were sung when the people went up to worship in Jerusalem, at the annual festivals. To go up to Jerusalem, was a common expression with reference to journeys to the metropolis. Thus, our Saviour says, “ Behold, we go up to Jerusalem.' It is supposed that they travelled in the Oriental manner, not single, but in companies, and chanted these psalms by the way. Psalms.cxx. and cxxiii., however, do not seem suitable for such an occasion.
Others suppose them to refer to the return from the captivity, that return being styled an ascent, or going up.
Ez. vii. 9. To this supposition it is objected, that Ps. cxxii. 1 speaks of going up to the house of the Lord, which of course was in ruins when they were returning from the captivity.
Others suppose the term steps to refer to a peculiarity in the structure of some of these psalms, according to which a sentiment or expression of the preceding verse is introduced and carried forward in the next, so that there shall be a sort of climax, or ascending series of similar sentiments. Thus, Ps. cxxi., –
" I lift
eyes to the hills;
He will not suffer thy foot to stumble,
Doth neither slumber nor sleep,'? &c. But this peculiarity is found in only a few of the psalms to which the title is prefixed.
Michaelis has intimated that the word steps may have reference to a particular species of metre; and denote something like feet in English. He refers to the poetry of the Syrians, in which one species is distinguished by the term denoting steps. But what the metre is cannot be ascertained.
Luther, Hammond, and others, suppose the word to be a musical term, denoting that these psalms are to be sung in a higher tone of voice or key.
Other parts of the titles denote the air or tune to which the psalm is to be sung, by referring to the first words, or to the name, of psalms which are now lost. See Ps. lvii., lviii., lix. Others relate to the instruments of music, the choir of singers, and the leader, as may be understood from the translation and the notes.
In this connection we may say a word of the term Selah. Its signification is extremely doubtful. But its use is very generally admitted to have been that of a musical sign for the direction of the singers. But whether it denotes a pause, or slowness of time, or a change of tune, or a repeat, equivalent to the Italian Da capo, or a rest for the vocal performers, whilst the musicians were alone to be heard, critics are divided in opinion. The last seems the most probable opinion, namely, that the term denotes silence! or pause! and that its use was to direct the singers who chanted the notes of the psalm to pause a little, while the instruments played an interlude, or symphony.
IV. THE COLLECTION OF THE PSALMS, AND THEIR Division
The psalms appear to have been collected at different times and by different persons. This is manifest from the division into five books, which is certainly as ancient as the Septuagint version. For this version contains the doxologies which are placed at the end of the first four books, Ps. xli. 13, lxxii. 18-20, lxxxix. 52, cvi. 48. The cause of this division, says Jahn, may be gathered from the character of the psalms contained in each book. Almost all the psalms of the first book are the work of David. In the second, there are twenty-two of David, one of Asaph, and eight anonymous, ascribed to the Korahites. The third contains one, the eighty-sixth, ascribed to David, and this doubtful; the remainder are partly Asaph's, partly the work of an uncertain author, and partly anonymous. Two only in the fourth book are ascribed to David, and one, the ninetieth, to Moses, the others being anonymous. In the fifth, fifteen are assigned to David, one is ascribed njecturally to Solomon, and the rest are anonymous. These five books of the Psalms, therefore, are evidently so many different collections, following each other in the order in which they were made. The first person who began the collection put together the psalms of David ; the second, those psalms of David which it was still in his power to glean, admitting a few others ; the third had no psalms of David in view, and when he wished to join his own collection to the former, he added the note at the end of the second book, .Here end the psalms of David, the son of Jesse," lxxii. 20. The fourth collected anonymous psalms, and therefore his book exhibits only one of Moses, the ninetieth, and two of David, the hundred and first and the hundred and third, the latter of which, however, is certainly not his. The last made a collection of whatever sacred poems he could gather ; therefore, fifteen of David, and thirty anonymous. This view of the subject readily accounts for the fact, that some psalms contained in an earlier collection again occur in a later, as the fourteenth and fifty-third, the fifty-seventh and hundred and eighth. The age
and the authors of these collections it is impossible to ascertain. But as in the first collection, as well as in the rest, there are some psalms which appear to have been written during
the captivity, we may conclude that no one of them was made till | the time of the captivity. Some of the others must have been
made at different times after the return from Babylon. The last
he has, - We must,'
two books are supposed by several critics of eminence to contain psalms referring even to the times of the Maccabees.
says De Wette,“ suppose that the collection of the Psalms was made gradually. There is a prevailing want of order in it; pieces of like character are not brought together ; songs of David are found scattered in all the five books; those of Asaph are separated as widely from each other as those of the Korahites, etc. But again, in the midst of this disorder, we remark a certain order; the majority of David's psalms stand together, Ps. iii. - xli. It is so also with the songs of the Korahites, of Asaph, and the songs of degrees; a circumstance which evinces that they have been brought together from many separate collections. In this view, we may also account for the fact, that one psalm occurs twice. Ps. xiv. is the same with Ps. liii. But less satisfactorily does this account for the recurrence of separate portions of psalms, as in the case of Ps. Ix. and Ps. cviii.
“ It is as little possible for us to know who were the authors of the several particular collections, as who was the compiler of the whole. It cannot be true, as many suppose, that David himself prepared the first collection ; because among the first psalms there appear several of an altogether later date, as Ps. xiv., xliv., xlv., xlvi., xlviii. Besides, David would hardly have given himself the honorable appellation of " servant of Jehovah,” which is annexed to his name in two of the titles, Ps. xviii., xxxvi. Even Carpzov looked upon the first collection as a private undertaking. * The age of these collections may be determined with greater certainty. The first two, Ps. i. – lxxii., cannot have been completed until after the captivity, since pieces are found in them which belong to the period of the captivity, Ps. xiv., xliv., xlv. ; but the collection of the whole was certainly not finished until a considerable time afterwards, though it must have been completed before the translation of Jesus Sirac. 130 B. C., - as early as which the collection of Psalms was probably translated into Greek. As it respects the design of the collection of the psalms, be remarked, that they who suppose it was made in behalf of the
* Introd. ad Libr. Can., &c., Part II., p.