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The wife of a king was regarded as the mother of his children; the king's mother is always emphasized. Thus in the Historic Outline each king at his accession is described as the son of such and such a mother. Compare in Solomon's Song (page 364): “The crown wherewith his mother hath crowned him in the day of his espousals.”
Page 279. The Covenant of David, etc.—The impressive point in this poem is the burst of sublime rapture with which the idea of the covenant with David is welcomed, made the more prominent by the despondency that follows.
Page 281. Thoughts from the Song of Moses.—The traditional title to psalm 90, A Prayer of Moses the man of God, is sufficiently explained by the fact that this psalm and the one that follows it seem to be expansions of two lines in the Blessing of Moses in Deuteronomy (page 50):
The Eternal God is thy dwelling place,
Psalm 90, in its first section, starts with the expression of the first line of that couplet, and expands the contrast between the eternal dwelling place and the passing generations. The second section, still on the gloomy side of the topic, leads with the further thought that the passage of life's moments is the wrath of God upon man's iniquities. Then comes a change in the spirit of the meditation. The third leading couplet connects the numbering of our days with the bringing of wisdom: the past of affliction is as night, let the present moment be the morning of blessing, which shall extend to the whole day of remaining life, a day of established works and reflection of Divine beauty.-Psalm 91 develops the other line of the couplet, the protection of the everlasting arms. Each strophe starts from the main idea of dwelling place (or its synonym), crowds together expressions of protection, and finds a climax, the first in the reward of the wicked, the second in God's own word of protection for the good.—He shall deliver thee, etc. The psalmist is addressing himself.-We bring our years to an end as a tale that is told. The word tale has been understood in the sense of story; thus Shakespeare paraphrases, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But there is another usage of the word: a shepherd “telling the tale of his sheep” would mean counting the number of them. This would be peculiarly effective in this context: we spend our years as the counting of numbers, one, two, three, up to seventy. The original Hebrew does not settle the question between these two interpretations, as it is a word only used in this passage, and of uncertain etymology.
Page 285. Psalms of Nature.- Biblical poetry does not, like Greek poetry, delight in the beauty of nature for its own sake. Nature is always regarded as a manifestation of God. The Thunderstorm in the very Voice of the Lord. The restless rise and fall of the waves suggests in contrast Jehovah's Immovable Throne. Man has dominion over nature as the Viceroy of God. And the two principal psalms of this order put together the world without and the world within: the starry heavens and the moral law.
Page 285. Song of the Thunderstorm.—This Song of the Thunderstorm is constructed upon the envelope figure. The opening and closing quatrains are
subjective, conveying the feelings of the poet observer, first, as the signs of the coming storm move him to thoughts of the grandeur of God; then at the close, when he feels himself enveloped in the peace of God's protection. The intervening triplets are objective, and realize a thunderstorm, rising out of the waters, sweeping through the forests, dying away over the wilderness, and leaving a freshness which makes nature seem like a temple where all things are crying Glory. The voice of the LORD has made a crashing refrain for this body of the poem, seven times repeated.--The LORD sat as king at the flood: although the expression in the original is peculiar to the Genesis account of the Deluge, yet it seems impossible to see in this place an allusion to an historic event. The flood is either the waters from which the tempest arose; or it is an expression suggesting the fountains of the deep broken up, and the opening of the windows of heaven, which were an element in the description of the Deluge, and which threaten to recur in every furious tempest.
Page 286. Man the Viceroy of God. The interpretation of this psalm will be discussed in the notes on the envelope Figure and Direct Metaphor (pages
Page 287. The Heavens Above and the Law Within.-Antistrophic form is here applied to the antithesis (it might almost be called an apposition) between the revelation of God in the Heavens above and in the Law within. The question whether the author of this poem in its present form incorporated a lyric of an earlier age cannot affect the literary unity of the whole. The union of the two ideas has impressed the most diverse thinkers of diverse ages. Zoroaster has it (Yasna, xxxi. 9):
He who first planned that these skies should be clothed with lights,
It was a saying of the German Kant that the starry heavens above and the moral
within him were the perpetual onders to his soul. So Wordsworth, addressing Duty:
Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong;
In a modified form the same combination inspires the companion psalms on page 287, which celebrate the God of the world within and the world without. For the device of setting two contrasted thoughts side by side without any connecting words, compare Evil Unbounded (p. 324).—More in detail: we have first the general revelation of the heavens, wordless but extending their sphere (image of the measuring line) over the whole earth; then this specializes to the sun as the chief figure in this world-wide revelation; again, there is general celebration of the Law of the Lord, and recognition of its special function to warn against sin: a conclusion dedicates the whole meditation to God.
Page 288. The World Within and the World Without.—Unified by the ejaculation, Bless the LORD, O my soul, at the beginning, middle, and end, these two psalms make up a glorious ode, celebrating God as the God of the personal,
individual life, or the World Within, and of the external universe, or the World Without. The same rhythmic form obtains in each: stanzas of five strains, changing in the middle of each psalm, with a certain change of thought, into stanzas of four strains.
I (Stanzas of five strains.) Blessings from Jehovah for the personal, individual life: the reference to Israel is a suggestion how Israel from among the nations was brought into a personal relation with God.
(Third and fourth stanzas: of four strains.) The frailty and brief life of man: God's tenderness and contrasting everlastingness.
[Final stanza: of five strains.) From the personal life there is a rise to a climax in the higher personalities of angels and superhuman ministers of God.
II (Stanzas of five strains.) God and the external universe: it constitutes his dwelling place and attendant pomp—his creation—the sphere of his government, and exhibition of his glory and order in all living things.
[Sixth and seventh stanzas: of four strains.) The dependence of all these creatures on Jehovah: as he sends forth or withholds his spirit they flourish or droop.
(Final stanza: of five strains.] The eternal glory of God in nature.
Page 293. Psalms of Judgement.—The Scriptual word 'Judgement' expresses what the modern world calls ‘Providence.' In the group of psalms celebrating this idea we have: (1) Two Visions of God manifesting himself as Judge of the Earth; with a third psalm expressing the longing for this in the familiar phrase LORD, how long? (2) The great Song of the Redeemed. (3) Two psalms dealing with what was the great trial to the faith of the ancient world, the spectacle of Wickedness allowed to go on in prosperity. One of the two faces the mystery in the tone of quiet meditation; in the other, the poet almost loses his faith, yet recovers it.
Page 293. A Vision of Judgement.—The Introduction presents God emerging out of Zion in a blaze of glory, and summoning the world to judgment. (Compare the more elaborate parallel in Zion Redeemed: see pages 375 and 503.) A strophe gives the address of God to his saints; the antistrophe his remonstrance to the wicked. The thought of both sections is the same: that the spiritual things of thanksgiving and a righteous life are above all sacrifices.-Him that ordereth his conversation aright: conversation means behavior. It is a Latinization of our colloquial phrase ‘running about.'
Page 294. Song of the Redeemed.—This favorite psalm (besides introduction and conclusion) has two sections, distinguished by a marked difference of rhythm. In I, we have four types of trouble (wandering in the wilderness, imprisonment, sickness, perils of the sea): each is described in a few lines, fol
lowed by an (italic) refrain, the cry for help, and a (CAPITALS) refrain, the shout of thanksgiving. In II, there is a change to the pendulum rhythm: God bringing down [lines indented to the right) and setting up (lines indented to the left).
Structure like this lends itself to expression in music. For the descriptions of trouble (say) unison of men's voices; for the italic refrain and its following couplet, harmony of treble and alto; for the shout of thanksgiving, the full choir. For section II, alternation between two sides of the choir, or between men's and women's voices.
Page 297. Judgement of a Corrupt World. A rhapsodic picture of Divine Judgment. A world is displayed as totally corrupt; a stanza expresses the Divine astonishment at the blindness of the wicked; in the next stanza this very thought in the bosom of Deity is seen to reveal itself as panic spreading among the wicked on earth. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. This is sometimes misquoted to imply that an atheist is a fool. It means the converse; that a fool (one whose life is morally corrupt) is practically an atheist. Compare the elaboration of this thought in the psalm on “Evil Unbounded, etc.” (page 324, and note, page 500).
Page 300. The Mystery of Prosperous Wickedness.-This psalm, though fascinating to the reader, is difficult of interpretation. The topic is the great mystery of prosperous wickedness; and into the language of the closing verses it is only too easy to read the modern doctrine of a future world in which are redressed the inequalities of this life. Yet it appears to me certain that no such interpretation is possible in the present case. The general consideration applies: this conception of a future life is so revolutionizing that, if held at all, it must make itself prominent, and not appear merely as an allusion. In the present case we have, not (as might at first appear) a mystery and its sudden solution; but rather a failure of faith in a received doctrine which at the last moment is suddenly strengthened. The psalmist contemplates the prosperity of the wicked, and the scepticism as to a God of judgment which this tends to engender, until he is almost caught in the mist of doubt himself: nothing but loyalty to his faithful brethren hinders him from yielding. In this painful conflict he goes into the sanctuary of God: in a moment his failing faith is confirmed. Faith in what? That this prosperity of the wicked is only a dream: when God awakes he will overthrow them, but keep the pious by his side. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel all through the night of trouble, and afterward receive me with glory when the visitation is passed, and the righteous are found triumphant. The other view has been much assisted by the next line: Whom hove I in heaven but thee? But that this can have no reference to heaven as the sphere of immortal life is sufficiently shown by the parallel line: And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. Note again the threefold surely, as a guide to the critical points in the thought of the psalm: the first emphasizes the conclusion, God is good to Israel, whatever appearances may suggest; the second marks the nadir point of the psalmist's scepticism, that piety was all vain; the third marks the healing thought, the slippery prosperity of the wicked. One passage is difficult in its phraseology:
Therefore his people return hither;
Assuming the correctness of the text it is best to interpret: God's people from this spectacle of the untouched prosperity of evil men turn round to their own hard life, and wring out bitter tears at the contrast.
Page 303. Psalms of Religious Experience.—The religious experience in this group of psalms is mainly that of trouble and deliverance. In three of the psalms the deliverance is presented dramatically: that is to say, a change in the external circumstances making the trouble comes suddenly during the prayer for relief. (Anthem of Deliverance—Twice-told Deliverance-Salvation in Extremity.) In another (the Searcher of Hearts, etc.) there is an equally dramatic transition, but it is wholly in the psalmist's mind, not in external circumstances. The brooding over the Divine omnipresence as a burden touches the topic of childbirth; in the helplessness of the unborn babe the Divine omnipresence becomes a comfort, and at the close of the psalm the searching of heart is felt as an aspiration. One poem celebrates deliverance from the trouble of sin in the past; another (Prayer of a Sin-stricken Conscience) simply prays for the deliverance. In the great lyric, The Right Hand of the Lord changeth not, the despondent mind forces itself into confidence by meditating on God's deliverances of his people in the past. On the other hand, in The Struggle with Despair the speaker gets no further than the struggle; while in one psalm [The Declining Life, etc.) the sense of ebbing vitality is finely contrasted with contemplation of the eternally abiding God. In one poem (Exiled from the House of God) refrains convey the confidence of hope while the body of the poem dwells on the sense of trouble.
Page 308. Thy way, O God, is in holiness.—The main use of the word holiness in the 0. T. is to express the separateness of the chosen people from the nations. The thought here is that God's 'way' is seen in the case of his consecrated people. (Compare in the psalm King and Priest (above, page 273) the words On the mountain of holiness.] The situation of Israel at the Red Sea was a situation from which there seemed to be no outlet: sea in front, foe behind, thunderstorm above. Suddenly the way for the consecrated people opened through the sea itself, which they crossed as simply as a flock of sheep led by its shepherd.
Page 309.-Many bulls have compassed me. The first stanza has depicted internal trouble; in the second internal trouble is enhanced by external threatenings, under figures of bulls, robbers, lions: at its height deliverance suddenly comes.
Page 311.-Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, etc. The new train of feeling, that welcomes the never ceasing presence of God, at this point takes fire in a burst of purity: compare in the Answer to Prayer (page 320).
Page 313. Exiled from the House of God.—This psalm is often interpreted of actual exile; and this seems favored by the lines
Therefore do I remember thee from the land of Jordan,
But I prefer to read this as Metaphor Direct (below, page 512): Like a traveller taking his last look at the home land he is leaving, so does my memory yearn after the place of my God. The context is certainly metaphorical: Deep calleth unto