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A Commentary On The Psalms From Primitive and Mediæval Writers Volumes 1 To 4 by Rev. J.M. Neale D.D.

Almighty GOD,* the Preserver of Thy people in their invisible wars, Who permittest not them that put their trust in Thee to be oppressed by their enemies, wipe away, we beseech Thee, the tears of sin from the eyes of Thy servants; to the end that, We through Thy grace may both now conquer in every carnal battle, and may finally walk before Thee in the Light of the Living. Through.

O GOD,* we set forth to Thee, our Life, that Life which by death destroyed death; so that Thou, regarding not our merits, but His love, may both put our tears into Thy bottle in this life, and may everlastingly wipe them away in the Land of the Living. Amen. Through Thy mercy.

We beseech Thee,* Almighty GOD, that we, suppressing all carnal desires, and conquering all the allurements of the world, may be found worthy to behold Thy SON JESUS CHRIST in the Land of the Living. Through the same.

DISSERTATION IV

HAVING now reached that part of the Psalter in which the references to the details of David’s life become more particular and express, it will be well if we endeavour to form a chronological table of their sequence. It is evident that any such attempt must of necessity be involved in a good deal of uncertainty. That which follows is based on the scheme proposed by my late grandfather, Dr. Mason Good, in his introduction to his translation of the Psalms. It has been familiar to me for many years, and the more I have had occasion to study it, the more I am convinced that in its main features it is correct. Some of the passages, in which allusions to historical details in the books of Samuel and Chronicles are seen have not, to the best of my knowledge, been noticed by any other writer. It will be interesting to trace the parallel, so far as it holds good, between the Psalms, as composed in the consecutive periods of David’s exile, humiliation under Absalom, and final triumph, with the words spoken by the Son of David, followed also consecutively: nothing would perhaps bind the Psalms and Gospels more firmly together, than such a parallelism.

PERIOD OF MOSES.

 

Psalm.

             

              Author.

             

              Occasion.

 

90

             

              Moses*

             

              (?) After the fiery serpents. Compare Numb. 21:7.

 

91

             

              Moses

             

              (?) After the condemnation of the man twenty years old and upwards. Numb. 14:29.

 

PERIOD OF SAMUEL.

 

(?) 115

             

              (?) Samuel

             

              (?) After the victory over the Philistines at Mizpeh. 1 Sam. 7:8.

 

PERIOD OF DAVID.

 

1. His early Pastoral life.

 

1

             

              David

             

             

 

26

             

              David*

             

             

 

23

             

              David*

             

              Soon after his unction by Samuel. 1 Sam. 16:13.

 

19

             

              David*

             

             

 

(?) 139

             

              David*

             

             

 

8

             

              David*

             

              At Winepress-tide, and after his victory over Goliath. Ver. 2.

 

2. His outset in Political life.

 

35

             

              David*

             

             

 

64

             

              David*

             

             

 

36

             

              David*

             

             

 

59

             

              David*

             

              “When Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him:” hence address to the GOD of frustration, Saul’s plot having been frustrated by Michal’s stratagem.

 

140

             

              David*

             

             

 

143

             

              David*

             

             

 

141

             

              David*

             

             

 

3. His Exile.

 

131

             

              David*

             

              (?) On his march to Nob.

 

52

             

              David*

             

              “When Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech.”

 

120

             

              (?) David

             

              (?) After the destruction of the Priests by Doeg. Compare ver. 3–4. “What shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?”

 

86

             

              David*

             

             

 

40

             

              David*

             

              Probably in Keilah. Compare 1 Sam. 23:2, “The LORD said unto David, go and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.… So David and his men went to Keilah,” with ver. 9, “Then said I, Lo, I come, in the volume of the book” (? Ahimelech’s ephod, expressly said to have been brought to Keilah) “it is written of Me, that I should fulfil Thy will, O my GOD.”

 

(?) 13

             

              David*

             

             

 

31

             

              David*

             

              Almost certainly after his departure from Keilah. Compare “Thanks be to the LORD, for He hath showed me marvellous great kindness in a strong city.”

 

(?) 28

             

              David*

             

             

 

62

             

              David*

             

             

 

54

             

              David*

             

              “When the Ziphims came and said to Saul, Doth not David hide himself with us?” 1 Sam. 23:19.

 

27

             

              David*

             

             

 

22

             

              David*

             

              “In the midst of gloom.”

 

142

             

              David*

             

              “A prayer when he was in the cave.” 1 Sam. 24:3. That is, while Saul was sleeping at the entrance of one of the huge caves in the wilderness of Engedi, while David and his followers were in the interior. Compare ver. 9. “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may give thanks unto Thy Name.”

 

57

             

              David*

             

              “When he fled from Saul in the cave.” That is, evidently, when he had made his escape; and thence, like 59, addressed to the GOD of frustration.

 

11

             

              David*

             

              Almost certainly at this time. Compare ver. 1, “How say ye then to my soul that she should flee as a bird unto the hill?” with 1 Sam. 26:20, “The King of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge upon the mountains.”

 

56

             

              David*

             

              When the Philistines took him in Gath, probably towards the end of his four years’ exile at Ziklag.

 

39

             

              David*

             

              Probably in his march after the Amalekites who had smitten Ziklag. 1 Sam. 30:6, “David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him.” This was the day, or the day but one, before the battle on Mount Gilboa.

 

4. His reign in Hebron.

 

101

             

              David*

             

              Probably, by its whole tenour, the first after his unction at Hebron.

 

(?) 138

             

              David*

             

             

 

(?) 95

             

              David* (Heb. 4:7.)

             

             

 

75

             

              Asaph*

             

              Probably after the murder of Ishbosheth. Compare ver. 4, “I said unto the fools, Deal not so madly,” and ver. 7, “GOD is the Judge; He putteth down one and setteth up another.”

 

5. His reign in Jerusalem.

 

80

             

              Asaph*

             

              Before his kingdom was firmly established. Compare ver. 2, “Before Ephraim, and Benjamin, and Manasseh,” &c., (the three tribes that, next to his own, were then his warmest partizans,) with 1 Chron. 9:3, “In Jerusalem”—that is, immediately after its capture—“dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim and Manasseh.”

 

(?) 33

             

              David* (According to LXX. and Vulg.)

             

             

 

83

             

              Asaph*

             

              Almost certainly during the danger from the great heathen confederation that attacked him at the beginning of his reign. Compare ver. 6, “The tabernacles of Edom and the Ishmaelites,” &c.

 

125

             

              (?) David

             

              Perhaps on his march from Jerusalem against the allies. If so, “as for such as turn back unto their own wickedness” will apply to the tribe of Asher. Compare 83:8, where Assur ought to be read Asher.

 

48

             

              The Korhites

             

              Almost certainly after the victory: “Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind,” referring to the storm which, Josephus tells us, dispersed the fleet which was to have assisted in the invasion.

 

(?) 144

             

              David*

             

              If this Psalm was composed at this time, then “Who subdueth my people that is under me” will again refer to the tribe of Asher.

 

(?) 9

             

              David*

             

              If on this occasion, the title is very appropriate: “To the Supreme, on the death-blow.”

 

98

             

              (?) David

             

              Probably when the Ark was brought up to Jerusalem.

 

96

             

              (?) David

             

              On the same occasion.

 

48

             

              The Korhites*

             

              Probably on the second bringing up of the Ark.

 

68

             

              David*

             

              On the same occasion.

 

24

             

              David*

             

              When the Ark was brought into the sanctuary prepared for it.

 

47

             

              The Korhites

             

              About this period.

 

15

             

              David*

             

              At least after the ceremony of introducing the Ark into the sanctuary. The opening question of this Psalm seems more appropriate to this than to any other part of David’s life.

 

27

             

              David*

             

              At the commencement of the great confederacy of the Syrians, Moabites, Ammonites, Philistines, and Amalekites. 2 Sam. 8:12.

 

20

             

              David*

             

              The same.

 

60

             

              David

             

              “When he strove with the Syrians of Naharaim, and with the Syrians of Zobah; when Joab returned and smote of Edom in the valley of Salt twelve thousand.” That is, while David was attacking the Syrians in the north-east, the Edomites took advantage of his absence, and made an irruption in the south; on which he despatched Joab and part of the army to meet them. Compare “Gilead is mine, and Manasses is mine,” as being just delivered from the Syrians, and now it is, “Who will bring me into Edom?”

 

108

             

              David*

             

              This is only the latter half of Ps. 60, with several verses prefixed from Ps. 57.

 

76

             

              Asaph*

             

              Probably at the same time.

 

20

             

              David

             

              Probably before he marched against the united Syrians and Ammonites. 2 Sam. 10:16. Compare “Some put their trust in chariots, and some in horses,” with 2 Sam. 10:18, “David slew the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen.”

 

6. Decline of David’s power.

 

51

             

              David*

             

              “When Nathan the Prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

 

32

             

              David*

             

              One can hardly doubt that “when I kept silence” refers to 2 Sam. 12:16, the seven days that he was interceding for the child.

 

21

             

              David*

             

              After the fall of Rabbah. Compare “Thou shalt set a crown of pure gold upon his head” with 2 Sam. 12:30, “And he took the king’s crown from off his head, the weight thereof was a talent of gold … and it was set on David’s head;” and again, “Thou shalt make them like a fiery oven,” &c., with 2 Sam. 12:31, “He made them (the Ammonites) pass through the brick-kilns.”

 

18

             

              David*

             

              This is inserted, towards the end of David’s reign, in Samuel; and yet this period, that of the last great success which he ever won, seems the latest to which it can be assigned.

 

97

             

              (?) David

             

              (?)

 

92

             

              (?) David

             

              This is the first Psalm in which mention is made of the infidel faction at court, which culminated in the temporary success of Absalom. Sec ver. 6, “An unwise man,” &c.

 

16

             

              David*

             

              It speaks still more strongly of that faction.

 

25

             

              David*

             

              No doubt after the matter of Tamar: for it was not written at an early period of his life. See ver. 7. “O remember not the sins and offences of my youth:” while “the sorrows of my heart are enlarged” seems an expression very applicable here.

 

14

             

              David*

             

              The general wickedness still continues to gain ground.

 

53

             

              David*

             

              (A recast of Ps. 14.)

 

12

             

              David*

             

              The same.

 

10

             

              (?) David

             

              Here for the first time a complaint is made that the courts of justice were affected by the increasing wickedness. Compare 2 Sam. 15:4, “Absalom said, moreover, O that I were made a judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice.”

 

58

             

              David*

             

              The opening of this Psalm, “Are your minds set upon righteousness?” seems exactly to apply to that wish of Absalom’s; and, probably, with reference to the troubles manifestly about to arise. It also is addressed to the GOD of frustration.

 

17

             

              David*

             

              Compare especially ver. 13 and 14a, “Up, LORD, disappoint him,” &c.

 

70

             

              David*

             

              “A recollection.” A re-edition of part of Ps. 40.

 

73

             

              Asaph*

             

             

 

82

             

              Asaph*

             

              In both these we have the general profligacy, and especially the corruption, of the judges strongly set forth.

 

38

             

              David*

             

              “A recollection.” We learn from Josephus that at this time David was seized with a dangerous illness. Compare ver. 3, “There is no health in my flesh.”

 

30

             

              David*

             

              At the dedication—or, as it should be, the opening—of the house of David: the opening, that is, to his court after his recovery. “O LORD, my GOD, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast healed me,” &c.

 

7. Rebellion of Absalom.

 

7

             

              David*

             

              “Which he sang unto the LORD concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite:” or rather, the perfidious Benjamite—no doubt Shimei; the rather that no such name as Cush occurs elsewhere.

 

3

             

              David*

             

              “When he fled from Absalom with his son.”

 

5

             

              David*

             

              This seems so completely the counterpart of 3, that it is impossible to doubt that it was written about the same time.

 

(?) 6

             

              David*

             

              As this comes in between 5, probably, and 7, certainly, composed in the wilderness, it may be referred to the same period.

 

42

             

              The Korhites*

             

              This was clearly written after the king had passed over Jordan. 2 Sam. 17:22, “Therefore will I remember Thee concerning”—or rather, from—“the land of Jordan:” that is, from the tribe of Gad, where was Mahanaim. And doubtless, “One deep calleth unto another,” refers to that very passage of Jordan, always a boisterous river, and then perhaps swollen by the equinoctial torrents.

 

43

             

              David

             

              This is so clearly a continuation of 42, that it must of necessity come here.

 

41

             

              David*

             

              This was manifestly written after the treachery of Ahithophel, ver. 9: “Yea, even mine own familiar friend,” &c.: therefore it is extremely probable that the blessing on him that considereth the poor and needy refers to Barzillai, and the others, who with him assisted David at Mahanaim.

 

109

             

              David*

             

              This also manifestly refers to Ahithophel; and therefore, like the preceding, must have been written on one of the two or three days which elapsed between David’s knowledge of his treachery and the tidings of his suicide.

 

(?) 94

             

              (?) David

             

              This has so much in it of the spirit of 109, that it is only reasonable to place it here.

 

88

             

              Heman the Laureate*

             

              It would seem that like so many others of the king’s friends, Heman remained in Jerusalem—and was there thrown into prison: “I am so fast in prison that I cannot get out.” And this may account for 88 being the only Psalm which is unmingled gloom from beginning to end.

 

69

             

              David*

             

              Observe how this is in the very spirit of 6 and 109, with the one exception, that no reference is made to any treachery. David having now probably heard of Ahithophel’s death. Observe also the reference to “the waters,” in the first verse, as if the writer was still by Jordan.

 

4

             

              David*

             

              This would seem to have been written after Absalom’s defeat. Both 3 and 4 are night Psalms: but notice the difference of the safety in one, and the danger in the other.

 

61

             

              David*

             

              The expression, “From the ends of the earth,” that is, the outskirts of the land,—proves that David was still on the cast of Jordan; while “Thou shalt grant the King a long life,” or rather, “Thou shalt prolong the King’s life,” and the general cheerfulness of the Psalm would lead us to think that it must have been written after the victory in the wood of Ephraim.

 

63

             

              David*

             

              “When he was in the wilderness of Judah.” Almost certainly at this time; the longing to be once more in the sanctuary; the reference to “those that seek after my soul to destroy it,” and so manifestly pointing to Sheba, the son of Bichri; and the clause “all they that swear by him shall be commended,” or, as it might be, “Every one that taketh the oath to him shall triumph:” all these can lead to no other conclusion.

 

8. Close of David’s monarchy.

 

124

             

              David*

             

              The whole spirit of the Psalm would point out the time of David’s return to Jerusalem; and notice (5:4,) the reference to “the waters” again.

 

(?) 66

              (?)

              David

             

              Observe in ver. 6, “There did we rejoice thereof;” a very probable reference to the passage of Jordan at the very place where, under Joshua, “they went through the water on foot.” And written at Jerusalem, because of ver. 13–14.

 

(?) 118

              (?)

              David

             

              The whole tenour of the Psalm answers admirably to this period; and compare ver. 5 with Psalm 66, ver. 13–14

 

(?) 49

             

              The Korhites*

             

              (?)

 

110

             

              David*

             

              Here there seems a manifest reference to some crushed rebellion; while the last verse, “He shall drink of the brook,” &c., would seem to point out David’s triumphant passage over Jordan on his return.

 

50

             

              Asaph*

             

              All that can be said of these Psalms is, that they were manifestly composed for the Feast of Weeks.

 

65

             

              David*

                                         

 

99

              (?)

              David

                                         

 

114

              (?)

              David

                           

 

81

             

              Asaph*

             

              These two Psalms, by their titles, were written for the winepress-tide or Feast of Trumpets.

 

84

             

              The Korhites

             

130

              (?)

              David

             

              (?)

 

78

             

              Asaph*

             

              All that can be said of these Psalms is, that they appear to have been composed for the Feast of Tabernacles; and 29 manifestly refers to one of the equinoctial hurricanes, so common at that season, and to another, of which reference is made in Ezra 10:9, 13.

 

29

             

              David*

                           

67

              (?)

              David

                           

100

              (?)

              David

                           

103

             

              David*

                           

104

              (?)

              David

                           

111

              (?)

              David

                           

112

              (?)

              David

                           

117

              (?)

              David

                           

145

             

              David*

             

119

             

              David*

             

              It is absolutely impossible to assign any period for these Psalms.

 

120

 

122

 

133

 

134

 

37

 

71

              (?)

              David

             

              If this Psalm be David’s, it manifestly belongs to the close of his reign; compare ver. 20, “Now also when I am old and grey headed,” &c.

 

72

             

              David*

             

              The last Psalm, as we learn from the conclusion, of David’s composition, and manifestly written, not only as the title tells us “for Solomon,” but after his coronation.

 

REIGN OF SOLOMON.

 

132

             

              (?)

             

              This Psalm was plainly written after David’s death; compare vers. 10, 11a, and before the dedication of the temple.

 

127

             

              (?)

             

              “For Solomon.” And plainly referring (compare ver. 2,) to his marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter.

 

45

             

              The Korbites*

             

              Acknowledged by all to have been composed for the same occasion.

 

128

             

              (?)

             

              This coming close to 127, and on the same subject, was no doubt written at the same time.

 

REIGN OF REHOBOAM.

 

74

             

              Asaph

             

              This exactly answers to the state of Judah after the invasion of Shishak. Compare vers. 3–7 with 1 Kings 14:25, 26.

 

77

             

              Asaph

             

              Being by the same author and in the same tone as the last, it may fairly be thought to belong to the same time.

 

79

             

              Asaph*

             

              The same remark applies to this Psalm.

 

89

             

              Ethan the Laureate

             

              This Psalm must, have been written after David’s death, in a time of great public sorrow, such as certainly did not occur during the reign of Solomon, nor till the invasion of Shishak, and it could not well have been later, because, reckoning Ethan to have been but twenty-one when his earliest Psalm was written, he must now have been ninety-eight.

 

REIGN OF JEHOSHAPHAT.

 

46

             

              The Korhites*

             

              This so exactly corresponds with the victory gained by Jehoshaphat over the allied Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites, over the cliff of Ziz, that even from internal evidence alone, one could scarcely have doubted its place here. But when its composition is attributed to the Korhites in the title, and when we find in the history, 2 Chron. 20:19, that the Korhites did actually compose a Psalm on that occasion; its position here becomes morally certain.

 

125

             

              (?)

             

              All that can be said is, that this Psalm has very much of the tone of the other, while the reference to the hills standing round about Jerusalem, taking into connection that the great victory was won just beyond those hills, gives an additional likelihood to this being the right position of the Psalm.

 

REIGN OF HEZEKIAH.

 

116

             

              (?) Isaiah

             

              Jewish tradition has always attributed this Psalm to the time of Hezekiah’s recovery from his sickness. As the King’s own hymn of praise is given in the Book of Isaiah, it seems only natural to conclude that this Psalm was not written by him; and by none so likely as by the prophet himself.

 

135

             

              (?)

             

              This Psalm, at all events, corresponds very well with the repulsion of Sennacherib, and the destruction of his army.

 

87

             

              The Korhites*

             

              This is certainly of the time of Hezekiah; because the only one period in which Babylon was on friendly terms with the Jews, was that of the embassy from Merodach Baladan to Jerusalem; and the only one place in the Psalms where Babylon is mentioned in friendly terms is ver. 4b, “I will think upon Rahab and Babylon,” &c.

 

THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY.

 

123

             

              (?)

             

              The whole tenour of this Psalm amply proves that it must have been written at this period: which may also be said of the next.

 

44

             

              The Korhites*

             

             

 

137

             

              (?)

             

             

 

126

             

              (?)

             

              Manifestly from its opening verse, “When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion,” written just before the return.

 

129

             

              (?)

             

              The same thing may be said of this Psalm.

 

THE RETURN TO JERUSALEM.

 

85

             

              The Korhites*

             

              The first verse fixes its own period.

 

136

             

              (?)

             

              Vers. 23 and 24 seem to have reference to the return from captivity; and when we find from the history, Ezra 3:12, 13, that a Psalm was composed for the Dedication of the Temple, of which the chorus was “For His mercy endureth for ever;” there can be no reasonable doubt that this was it.

 

102

             

              (?)

             

              This almost fixes itself to the period when the Samaritans had obtained the counter edict which forbad rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Compare ver. 14, “Thy servants think upon her stones, and it pitieth them to see her in the dust;” and again, “When the LORD shall build up Zion,” which passages, taken by themselves, might refer to any time antecedent to the completion of the walls; but taken in connection with the deeply penitential character of the whole; and especially with ver. 10, “Thou hast taken me up, and cast me down,”—words so exactly applicable to the edict and the counter-edict—fix the Psalm with great certainty here.

 

146

             

              (?)

             

              The reference at vers. 7–8 and 8b, and the “loosing of the prisoners,” &c. would seem to point out the return from the captivity as the period of this Psalm.

 

147

             

              (?)

             

              During the rebuilding of the walls, or immediately after; see ver. 2, “The LORD doth build up”—(literally, “is building up”) “Jerusalem,” &c. And again, ver. 13, “For He hath made fast the bars of thy gates.”

 

148

149

150

              }

              (?) Ezra

              {

              As is well known, Jewish tradition ascribes these Psalms to the time when Ezra re-edited the Old Testament books and completed the Canon of the Psalms.

 








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