a little something on the Psalms

Do you study the Psalms? There is rich treasure here to lift your spirit in worship to God. We are studying the Psalms in our Wednesday evening service. We started this a couple of months ago. Each Sunday, I read the upcoming Psalm as our scripture reading in the AM service. I encourage our people to read ahead and think of the theme and the divisions (or outline) of the Psalm before they get there on Wednesday night.

On Wednesday’s, we begin with 15 minutes of favourites, then we launch into a guided discussion. I come away from these sessions extremely uplifted. Our people are showing good insight and I am deepening my understanding of ‘David’s hymn book’.

Tonight’s Psalm is Psalm 8.

Give it a read, but do study the NT tie-ins. They open the Psalm up fully. Truly, ‘how majestic is thy name’!

For your own study, I would like to recommend a couple of resources. The first is Derek Kidner’s fine commentary on the Psalms. His notes are brief, but every one is full of insight. If you are a preacher, you will find good help here for sermon preparation. I think that anyone would benefit by having a clearer understanding of the Psalms through using his commentary.

Kidner comes in two volumes. Here is a link for Volume I and one for Volume II.

Another resource is E. W. Bullinger’s The Chief Musician or, Studies in the Psalms, and Their Titles. Bullinger presents a unique point of view on the titles of the Psalms. The comments on the titles in various commentaries are all over the map on their meaning. I tell our people that means [usually], ‘Nobody knows!’ That is probably true about the titles of the Psalms, but Bullinger proposes an interesting theory he learned from a still earlier teacher, James W. Thirtle.

The theory is that the Psalm titles are being divided the wrong way in our versions. In the Hebrew, there were no breaks between the Psalms, just line after line of text, including the titles. Comparing Hab 3, Bullinger suggests that generally the Psalms should have superscripts and subscripts – in other words the titles should be divided between the preceding and following Psalms.

For example, in Psalm 8, the superscript before the Psalm is “For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David.” Bullinger assigns “For the choir director; on the Gittith” to Ps 7 and “A Psalm of David” to Ps 8. Before Ps 9, we have “For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.” This title should be divided the same way, the first half the subscript of Ps 8, the second the superscript of Ps 9.

In his elaboration of the terms in the titles, Bullinger, seizing upon ‘muth-labben’, connects the Psalm with David’s conquest over Goliath. Since the Psalm speaks of man’s dominion, and is connected to The One True Man’s dominion in the end of the Age (see Heb 2.5-9), seeing the Psalm in light of the conquest over Goliath seems to add to the high sense of worship the Psalm conveys all by itself. Or so it seems to me.

I don’t know if Bullinger’s theories are 100% correct, but they certainly do add a good deal to one’s consideration of the Psalms. I commend his work to you for your own study of the Psalms.

don_sig

Comments

  1. The first is Derek Kidner’s fine commentary on the Psalms. His notes are brief, but every one is full of insight. If you are a preacher, you will find good help here for sermon preparation. I think that anyone would benefit by having a clearer understanding of the Psalms through using his commentary.

    I like Kidner too. I think his introduction in volume 1 is worth the whole commentary in terms of understanding the Psalms, but have always found the commentary portions helpful. I’m sure there are other helpful introductions to the Psalms available, but Kidner first helped open up the book to me. The sections on Messianic psalms and imprecatory psalms were very helpful.

    I’m not sure about Bullinger’s theories. The parallel is tempting to apply to the Psalm divisions as well, but I’m not sure the Masoretes got it wrong the first time. I’m sure I’ll learn more about that someday.

    I did a little checking on the idea that עַלְמ֥וּת לַבֵּן (ʿalmût labbe̅n) might refer to Goliath. Kidner includes the possibility, but seems to prefer a more literal approach, noting that it literally means “upon, (or about, according to) the death for (or of) the son”. (p41)

    Anyway, this was interesting… hopefully nobody will take these thoughts too seriously (if you didn’t know already, I’m only in first year Hebrew). It was fun to experiment with Unicode for the first time too, I hope it actually worked… (I used Shibboleth from Logos for some help).

  2. OK, doesn’t look like the Unicode Hebrew quite displays the way it should, maybe I didn’t do it right. For people with the Bibleworks font, maybe this will work:

    !Beªl; tWmïl.[

  3. Duncan,

    Why don’t you ask Dr. Minnick about Bullinger when you get a chance? He had it listed in a recent Frontline as a recommended resource for Psalms. That’s why I got it.

    dad

  4. btw, dude, cool attempt on the fonts. Since I have BW the second one shows through fine. I suppose that wouldn’t work on a blog post. Of course, I am now probably behind you on my Hebrew…

    dad

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