Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/553

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537
PSALMS, BOOK OF


century, B.C.). But there is no evidence that the Jews were involved in these; for the account which Josephus gives of Bagoses' oppression of the Jews represents the trouble as having arisen originally from internal dissensions, and does not hint at anything of the nature of a rebellion against Persia. Moreover the statement of Eusebius (Chron. anno 1658 Abr.) that Artaxerxes Ochus in the course of his campaign against Egypt transported a detachment of Jews to Hyrcania does not prove that Judaea as a whole had revolted. There is nothing even to connect these Jews with Palestine; they may have formed a part of the very considerable Jewish community which we know to have been settled in Egypt as early as the 5th century B.C. On the other hand, it is extremely improbable that the Jews of Judaea, whom Nehemiah had entirely detached from their immediate neighbours, would have taken part in any general rising against Persia. Between them and the Samaritans on the north and the Edomites on the south there was the most implacable hostility, which would probably be sufficient in itself to keep them from joining in the revolts in which other parts of Syria were involved., Moreover, even if the Jews had revolted, it cannot fairly be maintained that such a revolt must necessarily have had a religious character. Even Josephus does not say that the Persians tried to interfere with the Jews in the exercise of their religion; and nothing less than this would satisfy the language of Ps. xliv. 22: “ Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long, " &c. On the other hand, not only is the atmosphere of the second collection of psalms as a whole the atmosphere of godly Judaism in the 2nd century B.C., but it may fairly be claimed that this collection contains many psalms which may naturally be interpreted in the light of the history of that period, of which no satisfactory explanation (in their details) can be given if they are assigned to any other time. Thus, 'for example, Ps. xliv., with its description of the sufferings of the righteous for God's sake, would be perfectly appropriate in the mouth of one of the " godly " (Hasidfm) about 167 B.C. Ps. xlv., though the unsoundness of the text in certain parts makes it difficult to speak with certainty would suit the marriage of Alexander Balas at Ptolemais in 150 B.c., at which the high priest Jonathan was present as an honoured guest In this connexion verse IO is particularly appropriate as addressed to an Egyptian princess whose forefathers, though their rule had not on the whole been tyrannical, had been regarded by the Jews as heathen oppressors. Again, Ps. lx., with its ideal description of Jehovah's kingdom as including Gilead, Samaria, Moab, Edom and Philistia, though the ideal was not realized till the days of John Hyrcanus, would be quite appropriate in the mouth of a Maccabaean patriot. The author of Ps. lxviii. would seem to have been inspired by the sight or the description of the never-to-be-forgotten procession of the victorious Maccabees in 164 B.c. to rededicate the desecrated Temple. Hence the taunt to Bashan, the stronghold of the Seleucid government; hence the mention of Judah and Benjamin with the two Galilaean tribes Zebulon and Naphtali (as in Isaiah ix. I-a passage which on independent grounds has been assigned to the time of Simon Maccabaeus), while schismatic Samaria is completely ignored. The historical background of Ps, lxxix. is apparently the same as that of Ps. xliv. Again, Ps. lxxxvii. would seem to date from a time when the Jews, having won freedom to worship God, were able to look forward to the conversion of their former oppressors (cf. Isaiah xi., xix.). That this psalm was composed at least as late as the 3f°d century B.C. is made probable by the name here given to Egypt, Rahab. Having regard to Job. ix. 13, xxvi. 12, Isaiah li. 9, there can belittle doubt that Rahab is the (P Palestinian) name of Tiamat the dragon of the abyss. the natural symbol of the power of darkness, or of the kingdom of the world as opposed to the kingdom of the people of the saints of the Most High God. It is extremely improbable that such a name was applied to Egypt simply because Egypt possessed the crocodile. The origin of its application must be sought in a time when Egypt was regarded as hostile to the people of the Lordthat is to say, during the Ptolemaic rule over Palestine. These considerations, in addition to numerous phrases and expressions which cannot here be noticed, of which the full force can only be felt by those who have specially studied the Maccabaean period and those other portions of the Old Testament, such as Zechariah ix.-xiv., which may plausibly be assigned to it, make it almost certain that the second collection of psalms was made not earlier than the time of Jonathan or even of Simon.

Now books IV. and V. are, as we have seen, later than the Elohistic redaction of books II. and III., so that the collection of the last part of the Psalter must, if our argument up to this point is sound, fall within the second half of the 2nd century B.C. And here it is to be noted that though no part of the Psalter shows clearer marks of a liturgical purpose, we find that in books IV. and V. the musical titles have entirely disappeared. This does not necessarily prove that “ the technical terms of the Temple music had gone out of use, presumably because they were already become unintelligible, as they were when the Septuagint version was made ”; for it does not follow that technical musical terms which had originated in the Temple at Jerusalem and were intelligible in Palestine would have been understood in Egypt. The absence of the musical titles, however, may be taken as an indication that the last collection of psalms was formed in a different place from that in which the earlier, collections had arisen; and if, as seems probable, we may identify this place with the Temple at Jerusalem, the absence of musical titles is easily explained, for the number of skilled musicians who there ministered, and who would, of course, possess the tradition of the various modes and tones, would make precise musical directions superfluous. On the other hand, in a collection intended for synagogue use—and the second collection of psalms is as a whole far more suitable to a synagogue than to the Temple—where there would not be a large choir and orchestra of skilled musicians, it would obviously be desirable to state whether the psalm was to be sung to a Davidic, Asaphic or Korahite tone, or to give the name of a melody appropriate to it. Again, the general tone of large parts of this collection is much more cheerful than that of the Elohistic psalm-book. It begins with a psalm (xc.) ascribed in the title to Moses, and seemingly designed to express feelings appropriate to a situation analogous to that'of the Israelites when, after the weary march through the wilderness, they stood on the borders of the promised land. It looks back on a time of great trouble and forward to a brighter future. In some of the following psalms there are still references to deeds of oppression and violence, but more generally Israel appears as happy under the law. The problems of divine justice are no longer burning questlons, the righteousness of God is seen in the peaceful felicity of the pious (xc1., xc11., &c.). Israel, indeed, is still scattered and not triumphant over the heathen, but even in the dispersion the Jews are under a mild rule (cvi. 46), and the commercial activity of the nation has begun to develop beyond the seas (cvii. 26 seq.). But some of the psalms refer to a time of struggle and victory. In Ps. cxviii. Israel, led by the house of Aaron-this is a notable pointhas emerged triumphant from a desperate conflict, ahd celebrates at the Temple a great day of rejoicing for the unhoped-for victory: in Ps. cxlix. the saints are pictured with the praises of God in their throat and a sharp sword in their hands to take vengeance on the heathen, to bind their kings and nobles, and exercise against them the judgment written in prophecy. Such an enthusiasm of militant piety, plainly based on actual successes of Israel and the house of Aaron, can only be referred to the first victories of the Maccabees, culminating in the purification of the Temple in 164 B.C. This restoration of the worship of the national sanctuary, under circumstances that inspired religious feelings very different from those of any other generation since the return from Babylon, might most naturally be followed by an extension of the Temple psalmody; it certainly was followed by some liturgical innovations, for the solemn service of dedication on the 25th day of Chisleu was made the pattern of a new annual feast (that mentioned in John x. 22). In later times the psalms for the encaenia or feast of dedication embraced Ps. xxx. and the hallel Ps. cxiii.-cxviii.; and though Ps. xxx. may have been adapted from a collection already existing, there is every reason to think that the hallel, which especially in its closing part contains allusions that fit no other time so well, was first arranged for the same ceremony. The course of the subsequent history makes it very intelligible that the Psalter was finally closed, as we have seen from the date of the Greek version that it must have been, within a few years at most after this great event? From the time of Hyrcanus downwards the ideal of the princely high priests became more and more divergent from the ideal of the pious in Israel, and in the Psalter of Solomon we see religious poetry turned against the lords of the Temple and its worship.

All this does not, of course, imply that there are not in books IV. and V. any pieces older than the completion of books II. and III., for the composition of a poem and its acceptance as part of the Levitical liturgy are not necessarily coincident in date, except in psalms written with a direct liturgical purpose. In the fifteen “songs of degrees" (Ps. cxx.-cxxxiv.) we have a case in point. According to the Mishna (Middoth. ii. 5) and other Jewish traditions, these psalms were sung by the Levites at the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteen steps or degrees that led from the women's to the men's court. But when we look at the psalms themselves we see that they must originally have been a hymn-book, not for the Levites, but for the laity who came up to Jerusalem at the great pilgrimage feasts, and who themselves remembered, or their fathers had told them, the days when, as we see in Ps. xlii., it was impossible to make pilgrimage to Zion. They are hymns of the laity, describing with much beauty and depth of feeling the emotions of the pilgrim when his feet stood within the gates of Jerusalem, when he looked forth on the encircling hills, when he felt how good it was to be camping side by side with his brethren on the slopes of Zion (cxxxiii.), when a sense of Jehovah's forgiving grace and the certainty of the redemption of Israel triumphed over all the evils of the present and filled his soul with humble and patient hope.

The titles which ascribe four of the pilgrimage songs to David and one to Solomon are lacking in the true LXX., and inconsistent with the contents of the psalms. Better attested, because found in the the Hebrew, and therefore probably as old as

LXX. as well as in

the collection itself, are the name of Moses in Ps. xc. and that of David in Ps. ci., cii., cviii.-cx., cxxxviii.-cxlv. But where did the last collectors of the psalms Iind such very ancient pieces which had 1 Possibly under Simon; compare the other hallel (Ps. cxlvi.~c1. with 1 Macc. xiii. 50 seq.