Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Psalter (Forbes 1888) #8

 The final post on the introduction. (I hope). These paragraphs recap what he wrote in the earlier pages. So there is some coherence in his writing. I will not go into much detail but I have found some links to the works that Forbes cites. At the moment of his writing, he is on the side of the established English theology, and is being challenged by a humbler knowledge that insists on reality rather than magic in prophecy.

Thus far the books of the Psalms have followed what may be called a quasi-chronological. arrangement. Book VI. still continues the same order, since it opens with the grand Te Deum (Ps. cxviii.) composed on occasion of the completion of the second temple. This again is succeeded by the great alphabetical Psalm (cxix., composed probably by Daniel, cf. vers. 9, 23, 46, 54, etc.) in praise of the law of God, which under the second temple received a prominence never before accorded to it ; after which follow the fifteen Psalms of Ascents, all of which, it is shown, apply exactly to the time of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah. Book VII. (cxxxvi.-cl.) forms a fitting conclusion to the Psalter. The prayer of the Ransomed Church of the Messiah melts away in the triumphant burst of praise which closes the book.

We return to Forbes division of Book 5 into three sub-books. I find this of marginal interest. It shows he is reading but I don't think it figures in any argument or lack thereof so far. I am curious that he thinks Psalms 119 was composed by Daniel (probably? i.e. 0.1% probable). And the association of the Psalms of Ascents with the rebuilding is a new one to me as well. 

 My aim in these studies has been to lay a sound foundation for the Christian interpretation and use of the Psalms, by avoiding the error of the older interpreters in reading in between the lines the additional knowledge which they received from the New Testament; and by beginning, on the contrary, with endeavouring to ascertain in each Psalm the meaning which the writers themselves, with the light which they possessed from previous revelations, must have attached to their own words,—and especially as that meaning is shown to have been understood, and is more clearly defined, by comparison with the group with which the Psalm is associated by those who arranged the Psalter as we now possess it. Such evidently was the only meaning and teaching of the Psalms to the Jewish Church for centuries antecedent to the New Testament period ; and such, therefore, must be the meaning of them with which we are to start in judging of the application of the quotations made from them by our Lord and His apostles.  

This assertion is not proven, merely stated again and again - 'lay a sound foundation' is a laudable aim, but why for a particular interpretation? 

It may be asked, Will not the habit of symmetrical and parallelistic arrangement of ideas to which the Israelites were thus accustomed, modify in part the estimate we should form of the intelligence and insight of the Old Testament writers, and even readers, if we consider the accurate comparison of thoughts and connection of ideas to which they were necessarily compelled ? We are inclined to think that the importance due to this consideration has not received the attention which it deserves. And in the following studies it will be found that considerable stress has been laid upon the additional new light which the Divine revelation made to David in Ps. cx. must have cast both on the preceding Messianic announcements and on many of the Psalms subsequently indited [sic]. It will be shown from the internal evidence of Psalm cx. itself how beautifully appropriate to the time and circumstances of David personally was the revelation now made to him ; thus forming an independent proof that David was the author of the Psalm, and that he was taught to look forward to the coming of an almighty king and " priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek," whom he styles " my lord." This revelation lets in a clear light from the very commencement of the monarchy, on the idea which David and every intelligent Israelite must have formed of the Messianic King who was to accomplish God's high purposes for Israel, as one infinitely superior to himself or Solomon, or any common mortal ; and it threw the fulfilment into a far remote future, since no king of the tribe of Judah could be a priest so long as Moses' dispensation lasted, which limited the priesthood to the sons of Aaron exclusively.

 He considers that 'intelligence' is required for the human insight into the purpose of the Psalter. I find this a problem, probably a sociological one. I cannot accept from anyone, even myself, any assumption of superiority with respect to a human or group of humans. Love countermands such a thought. The assumption of superiority is a false foundation.

The idea of the Messiah as a wholly distinct person thus stands out clearly from the very first, and dissipates at once the mistaken notion of Dr. Delitzsch, that David " regarded himself as the Anointed —sub specie Christi" (Messianic Prophecies, Lectures by Franz Delitzsch, translated from the MS. by Samuel Ives Cartiss, § 19, 20, p. 47. T. & T. Clark, Edin.) to the extent at least that he ever so identified himself with the Messiah as to imagine that he should never die, but " considered himself immortal, Ps. xvi." (Supra, § 23, p. 51.) Dr. Delitzsch must have forgotten that in the original notice given to David of the continuance of his race on the throne, it was distinctly told him that the first instalment of the promise in its lower sense was to be, not to himself, but to his seed which should proceed out of his bowels, " when thou shall sleep with thy fathers " (2 Sam. vii. 12). It is with reference to this original promise that St. Peter explains to us that David expressed the confident assurance, "Thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol, nor wilt Thou suffer Thine holy one to see corruption," etc. (Ps. xvi. 10, 11) ; not cherishing the idea of ever-enduring life in this world, but of being raised to eternal life from the grave. St. Peter's words are, David " being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne " (2 Sam. vii. 12), he "foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of Christ" (Acts ii. 30, 31)—and of his own resurrection as included in it. Observe the degree of insight into God's communications which St. Peter here attributes to David, and the process of reasoning which he presupposes to have passed in David's mind in order to reach the conclusion he deduces from it. The promise made to David of a " seed " whose " throne should be established for ever," must have led him to identify his seed with the " seed " promised to the woman who was by His victory over the serpent to undo the sentence of death, and regain the gift of eternal life for man ;—and again with the " seed " promised to Abraham, who was to extend the blessing to " all the nations of the earth."

Rather than intelligence as intellect or being smart, I could allow intelligence in the sense of gift from the Spirit as the mode in which the psalmist often writes. It is not magic though or prediction, but presence. Here I am following Kimhi in his attribution of the work of the Spirit in David.

Here the distinction between the Messianic King, who is to obtain by his great conflict the boon of eternal life for himself and his people, and between David as a mere participator therein, is as evident as in trilogy Ps. xx—xxii., where the prize which he asks of God for all his suffering and conflict is, " Life he asked of Thee : Thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever." In short, the primary and direct subject, in the intention of the Psalmist, we hold to be the Messiah in Ps, ii., Ps. XX. - xxii., and Ps. xl., whatever might have been the immediate occasion that called forth the Psalmist's thoughts. The prominent subject before the mind of all psalmists and prophets is ever the contest which is going on between the supremacy and purposes of Jehovah and the powers of evil. The tendency, therefore, with the prophet is ever to pass on from the present and immediate event to the final victory of God's great purposes and the consummation of all. A similar remark to those made on Dr. Delitzsch's view of David's Messianic Psalms we must extend to Solomon's Ps. lxxii. His remarks on this Psalm are : " In the time of David and of Solomon, the hope of believers which was attached to the kingship of David had not yet fully broken with the present. At that time, with few exceptions, nothing was known of any other Messiah than the Anointed One of God, who was David or Solomon himself." Accordingly Dr. Delitzsch affirms that the words of Ps. lxxii. " were all fulfilled in Solomon."  (Need I say with reference to the remarks I have made on what appears to me to be errors on the part of Dr. Delitzsch, that they are made in consequence of the very high regard of the opinions generally of this deeply respected veteran, to whose criticisms on the Psalms and Isaiah particularly I have been so much indebted in common with every Biblical scholar. It is the weight so justly given to the authority of whatever falls from the pen of such a critic, that renders it necessary to enter a caveat against whatever tends to mislead, or to propagate mistaken ideas.)

 He is very critical of Delitzsch. I haven't read any of his work directly. His NT translation is available here.

On the contrary, we maintain that such views are altogether inconsistent with the revelation made in Ps. cx. In Ps. lxxii. the direct and primary subject is the Messiah, to whom alone the words of ver. 17 can apply, " And all nations shall bless themselves in him ; they shall call him blessed." It is the prayer of Solomon for the final establishment of that great kingdom of universal peace and righteousness which the Messiah was to introduce,—for his own kingdom only in the feeble measure in which his rule could foreshadow and hasten its coming. All this is in accordance with the teaching that Solomon received from his father. And the fulfilment in the higher and perfect sense alone lends point and significance to the epigraph which is subjoined to the doxology which closes Ps. lxxii. and the 2nd Book of Psalms, " Ended [or fulfilled] are the prayers of Jesse the son of David. [sic!]"

Psalms 72:17

יְהִ֤י שְׁמ֨וֹ לְֽעוֹלָ֗ם לִפְנֵי־שֶׁמֶשׁ֮ יִנּ֪וֹן שְׁ֫מוֹ וְיִתְבָּ֥רְכוּ ב֑וֹ
כָּל־גּוֹיִ֥ם יְאַשְּׁרֽוּהוּ
17 His name will be forever. His name will propagate in the presence of the sun, and they will bless themselves in him.
All nations will call him happy.

iz ihi wmo lyolm lpni-wmw iinon wmo vitbrcu bo
cl-goiim iawruhu
19
7
i/hi wm\v l/yvlm l/pn\i wmw i/nvn wm\v vit/brc\v b\v
cl gvi\m i/awr\vhv

I need to define forever, don't I. Look up ylm and all its uses. Notice that its first domain is in the idea of hiding or obscurity. It is not so obvious in any case that this 'ever' is a linear time 'with no term either end'. From Aquinas to Einstein is a long distance. Forbes has preceded our capacity for mass destruction.

We would plead, therefore, with our modern critics to grant to the psalmists and prophets of the Old Testament a little more intelligence and insight into their own utterances than they seem inclined to allow them. The great function of this class whom the Spirit of God raised up was to explain the meaning and purposes of God's dealings with His people, that they might learn the lessons these were intended to teach them, and might be prepared to do their part, both in abstaining from whatever would obstruct, and in striving to promote the accomplishment of God's great purposes. They must therefore have been men accustomed to look before and behind them, and to take an enlarged and comprehensive view of God's kingdom.

We claim this intelligence for them partly on St. Peter's authority, whose reasoning on the grounds upon which David based his hope of a resurrection to eternal life, expressed in Ps. xvi. 10, 11, has, as we have seen, consistency only when founded on the promise made to him in 2 Sam. vii., as St. Peter shows. Yet one of the latest of our commentaries on the Psalms, (The Psalms, with Introductions and Critical Notes, by Rev. A. C. Jennings, M.A., assisted in part by Rev. W. H. Lowe, M.A., Cambridge. Macmillan & Co., 1877.) and one which contains many thoughtful and judicious observations, says of Ps. xvi. 10, "All that is implied in this verse is that the Psalmist, in that he has Jehovah at his right hand, is confident that he shall escape death, i.e. probably the violent death with which his adversaries menaced him."

If this was all that David contemplated, what has his prophetic knowledge of a future Messiah, to which Peter refers, to do with his hope of present deliverance from death ? The only reply we find is a reference to one of those tantalizing comments of Dean Alford, in which he says and straight unsays his words, leaving the difficulty in greater obscurity than he found it. Alford well remarks in Acts ii. 31, " The word προϊδὼν distinctly asserts the prophetic consciousness of David in the composition of this Psalm. But of what sort this prophetic consciousness was, may be gathered from the same apostle, 1 Pet. i. 10-12. It was not a distinct knowledge of the events which they foretold, but only a conscious reference in their mind to the great promises of the covenant, in the expression of which they were to be guided by the Holy Spirit of prophecy to say things pregnant with meaning, not patent to themselves but to us."

 Forbes clearly has an aversion to historical critical thought.

Never has statement been more completely misrepresented than this of St. Peter generally is, as if he meant to assert that because some things in the prophetic utterances were obscure and indistinct to the prophets, the whole, or main part, was so. Though they sought and searched diligently, they knew not " the time, nor the manner of the time, that the Spirit of Christ that was in them did point to ; " but this they knew distinctly, that it testified beforehand " the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them." And though they knew not the exact time or way when all this should take place, yet they knew distinctly that it was not to be in their own time , or that of their contemporaries that the fulfilment was to take place. To them " it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you [of the apostle's days], did they minister these things." To conclude, we are very much inclined to turn the tables against our modern critics, and to question whether the want of insight and discernment which they attribute to the ancient psalmists and prophets be not rather chargeable on themselves in not taking the connected and comprehensive view of the whole circumstances of God's ancient people which they ought.

They judge of each Psalm too much as an isolated production, without taking into account the enlarged meaning which it immediately received on being introduced into the Public Manual of Devotion for the Church in all future time, and thus being connected in living articulation with other Psalms. In like manner the prophecies are judged of too frequently by looking only at an isolated chapter, the tendency being on the part of the more advanced critics, wherever a difficulty occurs in tracing the connection, to split up a Psalm into " fragments," or in prophecy to suppose a break in the MS. here, or an interpolation there.

 Curious, I agree with Forbes that the Psalter has form and structure and purpose, just not the purpose he is determined to attribute to it.

To what other cause are we to refer the miserable state of confusion in which the two great prophecies of Isaiah appear in the commentaries of the present day ? Of the Immanuel prophecy no satisfactory explanation has been given by the critics, one main reason being, because they coniine their attention to chap, vii., instead of seeing that they must extend their view to the whole six chapters, vii. to xii.- (Let me refer to my exposition of the whole prophecy in a publication too little known in this country, the Presbyterian Review for October 1886, pp. 690-713. C. Scribner's Sons, New York'; and T. K. T. Clark, Edinburgh.) With regard to the still more magnificent prophecy of the " Servant of the Lord " (Isa. xl. to Ixvi.), notwithstanding the great care which the author has taken from the first to map out his great subject into three distinct divisions or stages, and to mark out the transitions from the one to the other, the rationalistic critics have muddled up all three together, and thereby so confused their own minds and those of others as to render it difficult to trace out the beautiful arrangement and line of argument which runs through the whole. If spared to pass the present work through the press, I may attempt to clear away some of the mistaken ideas which render this prophecy a reproach to the present state of criticism. The short sketch now given of the line of argument pursued in these studies may, it is hoped, prepare the reader to follow with greater ease and interest the details in the book itself, from seeing beforehand their bearing on the whole.

The review he notes is here. (Enjoy this early debate between the assumption of superiority and the need for humility of knowledge.)

Here endeth the extensive introduction to Forbes. This must at least be an insight into the mind of 1888 at the height of Empire and the beginning of the disintegration of Christendom. 



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