INTRODUCTION TO PSALMS
The title of this book may be rendered "the Book of Praises", or "Hymns"; the psalm which our Lord sung at the passover is called an "hymn", Matthew 26:30; and the one hundred forty fifth Psalm is entitled תהלה, "an Hymn of David"; and the psalms in general are called "hymns" by Philo the JewF1De Mutat. Nom. p. 1062. , and songs and hymns by JosephusF2Antiquitat. l. 7. c. 12. s. 3. ; and to these several names of this book the apostle manifestly refers in Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16. The Jews divided the writings of the Old Testament into three parts: the first division is the Law, or five books of Moses; the second is the Prophets, former and latter; and the third, the "Hagiographa", or holy writings; to which division Christ has a regard in Luke 24:44; and because the book of Psalms stand first in the last division, the whole goes by its name. This book by the Apostle Peter is entitled as here, Acts 1:20; the title in the Syriac version is,
"the Book of the Psalms of David, King and Prophet,'
with which agrees the Arabic version. As to the divine authority of it, that it was written by inspiration of God, we have not only the testimony of David, who says, "the Spirit of God spake by me", 2 Samuel 23:2; but the testimonies of Christ and his apostles, Matthew 22:43; and, as Aben EzraF3Praefat. in Psalm. observes the whole of it was spoken ברוח הקודש, "by the Holy Ghost". Concerning the penman or amanuensis, employed by the Spirit of God in writing it, there are different opinions. The Jews make mention of ten, which are differently reckoned by them. According to JarchiF4Praefat. in Psalm. , they were Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah. According to KimchiF5Praefat. in ibid. , they were Adam, the first, Melchizedek, Abraham, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, Moses, and the three sons of Korah; Asir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph. Some ascribe all the Psalms to DavidF6R. Hona in Midrash Tillim, fol. 2. 1. , and think that those which are said to be a psalm of Asaph, or of Heman, &c. should be rendered "a psalm to Asaph", &c. and only signify that they were psalms delivered to them, to be sung in a public manner. But the truest opinion seems to be, that the greater part of them were written by David, and for the most part those that have no title; and the rest by those whose names they bear. Some were written at and after the Babylonish captivity, as Psalm 126:1 and Psalm 137:1. The manner or form in which they were written was metreF7Vid. Lowth de Sacr. Poes. Heb. Praelect. 3. s. 32, &c. , though some deny it that the Jews had metre: as appears by the different accentuation of them from other writings, and from their being sung vocally and on musical instruments. JosephusF8Ut supra. (Antiquitat. l. 7. c. 12. s. 3.) , the Jewish historian, says, that
"David being free from war, and enjoying a profound peace, composed songs and hymns to God, of various metre; some trimeter, and some pentameter;'
that is, some of three feet, and others of five feet: for the Psalms of David are thought to be of the "lyric" kind; and Gomarus, in his Lyra, has given many instances out of them, which are of the "iambic", "trochaic" kind, &c. though the Jews for many years have lost the knowledge of the sacred poetry. R. BenjaminF9Itinerar. p. 70, 71. indeed says, that in his time there were at Bagdad R. Eleazar and his brethren, who knew how to sing the songs, as the singers did when the temple was standing. The subject matter of this book is exceeding great and excellent; many of the psalms respect the person, offices, and grace of Christ; his sufferings and death, resurrection, ascension, and session at the right hand of God; and so are exceeding suitable to the Gospel dispensation. The whole book is a rich mine of grace and evangelical truths, and a large fund of spiritual experience; and is abundantly suited to every case, state, and condition, that the church of Christ, or particular believers, are in at any time.