« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Formerly, when God led their multitudes into the desert, "the earth shook"-"Sinai was moved"-and the heavens, by clouds and darkness, and "an horrible tempest," announced the awful presence, and the omnipotent power, of " the Lord of Hosts"-but now,
"Thou, Lord, givest us a plentiful rain,
Whereby thou revivest thy people, after their weariness.”
Formerly, thy people were as outcasts among men, soiled in their apparel, taking up their temporary abode in places of desolation, and themselves like broken vessels, fit only to be trodden under foot. But now, their places of abode, as they lie peaceful and glancing over the land of their inheritance, are
"Like the wings of a dove, covered with silver,
And her feathers with yellow gold."
Formerly, thy people struggled with the kings and armies of many surrounding nations and were often overthrown, and in trouble-or if they gained the victory, it was through much bloodshed and strife-but now "The kings of the armies of the heathen are friendly;
At thy command, what was darkness has become light ;
"The housewife, that remained at home, divideth the spoil." Formerly, the hill of Zion was of little estimation among the surrounding mountains-but now
"It shineth like Salmon, when its summit glittereth with snow."
And proceeding with this patriotic allusion to the importance of Mount Zion among the neighbouring mountains, the Psalmist thus continues his song of triumph
Why leap ye, ye little hills?
The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan,
An high hill, as the hill of Bashan;
This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in
Yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever."
Again, reverting to the means of triumph possessed by the Almighty and divine Leader of their armies, the Psalmist proceeds with this magnificent burst of lyrical exultation, which leads to the first Diapsalma, or Selah, and concludes the first section of the Hymn,—
"The chariots of God are twenty thousands,
The Lord commandeth them, as in holy Sinai
Thou, Lord, hast ascended on high,
Thou hast led captive the conqueror;
Thou hast received gifts, on the part of men,
Even from those that were rebellious,
That thy dwelling-place among men might still be established."
This first section of the Psalm ends with this soft and heart-consoling invitation to confidence and joy,—
"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with his benefits,
Even the God of our salvation."
Or, as it is rendered in another and very approved translation,-
We cannot afford space for following out this Psalm into its remaining sections. What we have said seems sufficient for shewing the high triumphant and lyrical spirit-and at the same time, the confiding tone of piety and thankfulness, by which the entire composition is pervaded. The critical reader may find a very profitable exercise of his powers in the further development of the meaning of this celebrated compositionbut our object at present is not so much to deal with hazardous conjectures respecting the precise meaning of doubtful passages, as to point out the pervading spirit of the entire composition, respecting which there can be no ambiguity or doubt.
The following short critical observations, however, on some of the phraseology or imagery which occur in the course of the Psalm, may perhaps be usefully submitted to the attention of the reader-especially as the phraseology to which the remarks apply is illustrative of the state of early warfare among the Jewish people, and therefore peculiarly appropriate, in a Hymn designed for the celebration of warlike triumph. "The housewife sitting at home, and dividing the spoil," is an image remarkably expressive of a victory that had been thoroughly achieved, and that left behind it no fears of future reprisals.
"The Lord gave the word-great was the company of those that published it." When an announcement of victory in any of their wars was made, the first intimation was received by a succession of criers, chiefly of women, who hastened to the house-tops, and other elevated places, and who thus spread the "joyful news" over all the towns and villages of the land. Thus, in order to shew the perfection of their victory, as alluded to in this Hymn, it is said, that the Lord himself first gave the announcement, and great was the company of those who published the good news,"-in the Greek of the Pentateuch it is, evayyeλıçoRevv. No doubt the words had a prophetic meaning, but the original signification is as we have given it.
To shew the fierceness of the struggle that had been terminated, the following striking imagery is employed," Thy foot shall be bathed in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs shall lick the
In the 30th verse we have the words of the original thus rendered,— "Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people.' In the original it is, "Take vengeance on the beast of the reeds, the multitude of bulls, and calves of the people, who come with their gold." The phrase is confessedly obscure, but we humbly submit, that "the beast among the reeds" refers to the people inhabiting the banks of the great rivers-and that "the bulls and calves of gold," relate to the idolatrous images which these nations were known to bear upon their armour and on their standards. We give this, however, only as a conjecture.
In the conclusion of the Psalm we have a description of a military triumph, as celebrated by the Hebrew nation," The singers go before -after them the players on instruments-amongst them are the damsels playing with timbrels." Then follows the procession of the tribes in their appointed orders. "There is little Benjamin with their rulers, the princes of Judah with their council, the princes of Zebulon, and the princes of Naphtali."
The Psalm is concluded with a lofty celebration of the power, and the victorious progress, of "the Lord of Hosts,”
"For thy temple's sake at Jerusalem
Kings shall bring presents to thee;
Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto thee.
Sing praises to the Lord."
Here occurs the musical interlude-or Selah-and then the concluding
burst of harmony,
"He who has gone forth in heaven, everywhere,
From the beginning
Behold, he will give power to his thunder.
Ascribe strength unto God
His glory is in Israel, and his power in the clouds ;
God is wonderful in his holiness,
He is God in Israel,
He will give strength and power to his people;
Blessed be God."
So much for the Psalms which we have characterised as peculiarly and highly LYRICAL.
Of those Psalms which are pervaded by a PROPHETIC, and PENITENTIAL spirit, we can only select one or two specimens though these veins of prophecy and penitence are found running abundantly through almost all the Psalms of the "Monarch Minstrel"-and though these portions of his compositions are deservedly among the chief favourites, as they are also the most familiarly in use, with all classes of common readers.
Of the PROPHETIC spirit generally considered-that is to say, so far as it manifested itself simply in a strong tendency to "look far into futu rity"-we may remark, that it belonged more or less to all the Hebrew writers and was the offspring, not merely of their education in the schools of the prophets-an institution peculiar to that people-but was the necessary result of the very peculiar nature of their religious ceremonies and forms of worship-which were, in every instance, of a symbolical character, and so far, necessarily pervaded by a prophetic spirit.
We need not hesitate, therefore, to give the amplest interpretation to any passages that seem, in the sacred writings, to bear this spirit impressed upon them, even in its inferior degrees. But the compositions of "the Royal Psalmist" are marked by this spirit, in its loftiest, its most significant, and its most intelligible form;-and as one of the first
characteristics of his impressive writings is their constant allusion to incidents of his personal history, so his compositions are at least equally distinguished, by their sublime anticipations of the coming of a great Prince, who was to spring from his loins-of the future glory of Jerusa lem, as the centre of the dominion which that Prince was to exercise and to diffuse-of a "reign of righteousness and peace" which he was to establish among men-and of the wide or universal prevalence of "the blessings" of which he was to be the dispenser.
In the HUNDRED and TENTH PSALM, which we know from the highest authority to be truly prophetic, all the particulars now mentioned are brought together with very beautiful effect.
"The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
Until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
The Lord shall send the sceptre of thy kingdom out of Zion;
Rule thou among thine enemies.
After thy victory thy people shall willingly make offerings to thee,
In the beauties of holiness;
Children shall be born to thee like the dews of the morning.
The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent,
Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.
The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings,
In the day of his wrath.
He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with dead bodies; He shall wound the head over many lands.
He shall drink of the brook in the way;
Therefore shall he lift up the head."
The last verse, "He shall drink of the brook in the way, therefore shall he lift up the head," contains an image peculiarly Hebrew,-and is finely expressive of the rapidity and fervour, as well as of the completeness of the victory which this great conqueror was to achieve.
The SEVENTY-SECOND PSALM, in which the "righteousness and peace" that were to characterize the reign of this Prince are more amply unfolded, concludes in a strain resembling that of the Psalm we have now quoted.
"Gold shall be given to him of the riches of Arabia; Prayer shall continually be made before him,
And daily shall he be praised.
On earth, on the tops of the mountains,
The crops of grain shall stand thick and rustling,
They shall rustle like Lebanon, when the winds shake its cedars;
There shall be greenness in all the cities,
Like the grass of the summer's fields,
His name shall endure as long as the sun,
Men shall be blessed in him,-and all nations shall praise him."
The beautiful imagery of this passage is so well given by Buchanan, that both for the excellence of his verse, and as a confirmation of the exactness of our own translation, we submit the following short specimen to the attention of the classical reader:
"Per feros montes segetem refundet
Terra, tam densis crepitans aristis,
Quam gravi cedros Libani flagellant
Augeat prolem numero carentem
Nomen æterno juvenescat ævo," &c.
Of the penitential Psalms we may safely say, that had David been less a sinner, some of the most heart-searching tones that have flowed from his "Harp," would probably have been wanting, or indeed that have ever flowed from any harps swept by the hands of men. So true is it, that God makes even the errors of his children to praise him,-and that from the troubled fountain of a broken and contrite heart, he sometimes causes streams to arise, which refresh, and console, and purify the souls of countless multitudes of his erring creatures.
All readers are familiar with the deep tones of penitence which breathe throughout the FIFTY-FIRST PSALM.
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness; According to the multitude of thy tender mercies,
Blot out my transgression.
Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it,
A broken and a contrite heart,
O God, thou wilt not despise."
Nor is the unfailing and heart-sustaining trust which the Psalmist had in the forgiveness and coming favour of his God, less remarkably manifested, as a constant concomitant of these penitential effusions. Thus in the THIRTY-SECOND PSALM :—
"Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity,
I acknowledge my sin unto thee,
And mine iniquity have I not hid;—
I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord,-
For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee,
In a time when thou mayest be found;
Surely, when floods of great waters come,
They shall not reach him.—
Thou art my hiding place, thou shalt compass me from trouble,
We have thus finished our very cursory review of some of the most remarkable of the Sacred Odes, which have been, on the best evidence, attributed to the "Royal Minstrel." His poems or sacred Songs are distinguishable from all the rest of the same collection, by the fervour of the spirit with which he seems to sweep the strings of his harp,-by