Among the apocryphal literature of the Old Testament which has been preserved to our time, the eighteen Psalms of Solomon, so called, are an interesting monument of later Judaism, giving glimpses of contemporary history and breathing Messianic hopes. Excluded from our English version of the Bible, they have been remarkably neglected in this country, and very few students have taken the trouble of mastering this important remnant of antiquity. Germany has dealt otherwise with them. For the last thirty years critics in that country have been investigating their origin, assigning their date, settling the text, examining the contents; so that we can enter upon the study of them with a critical and exegetical apparatus which a few years ago was unattainable. They were never included in the Canonical Scriptures of the Jews, though known to early authors, and occurring in several catalogues of Scripture. The Alexandrine Manuscript of the Greek Bible, indeed, inserted them at the end of the volume, a fact which probably proves that they were used in Divine worship in the Eastern Church; but where they are named, they are included among the Antilegomena, and are apparently debarred from the Canon by the Council of Laodicea. In the Stichometria of Nicephorus, and in the Synopsis Athanasii, they are classed with the Books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Maccabees, and other Apocrypha; in other lists they come in the same category as Enoch, the Twelve Patriarchs, the Apocalypses of Moses, etc. Being thus thrust aside in early times, they seem to have met with little attention, and to have been seldom transcribed. Hence the manuscripts which exhibited them were very few, and modern investigation has not discovered many fresh sources of information about them. Most unfortunately the leaves of the Alexandrine Codex, now in the British Museum, which once contained them, have perished, so that we are forced to rely on a late and inferior document for the exposition and correction of the text. The Editio Princeps of De la Cerda was printed from a MS. brought from Constantinople in the year 1615, which was once in the Augsburg Library, but has now disappeared. Three other MSS. known to exist have not been used in editing the work. Indeed, the only manuscript made available is a cursive of the tenth century, Codex Vindobonensis, called |V| in Fritzsche's edition, and now in the Royal Library of Vienna. In this our Psalms are found between the Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus. The title prefixed to the once existing Augsburg MS. was PsALTERION SALOMONTOS, and at the end occurred the colophon Psalmoi Salomontos ie. echousin epe ,a; Telos sun Theo. But the author himself never claims to be the son of David, and the various headings, now found in the Psalter, which attribute the Psalms to Solomon, are without dispute the work of later hands. The writer speaks of himself sometimes, e.g. Ps. i.3: |I reasoned in my heart that I was filled with righteousness, because I was prosperous and had become mighty in children;| Ps. ii.35: |Raising me up unto glory.| But even if these and such-like passages assumed more plainly than they do Solomonic authorship, they would show merely that the poet, like the writer of the Book of Wisdom, appropriated the name of Solomon for literary purposes, with no idea of deceiving his readers or causing them to give credence to so transparent a fallacy. Or, very possibly, the name of Solomon did not occur in the original title; but, as the Psalter became well known and used, because it could not be ascribed to David, or included in the canonical Psalm-Book, it was honoured with the name of Solomon in later times, and reached the early Christian writers under that designation. The fact that in 1 Kings iv.32 Solomon is said to have composed |a thousand and five songs| (odai pentakischiliai, Sept.), gave a colouring to the assumed authorship, and in uncritical times, when historical allusions were little investigated or weighed, the name gained an unquestioned currency.
The references to the Book in early writers are few and uncertain. In the Stichometria of Nicephorus it is named, as we have said, among the Antilegomena of the Old Testament: to the same category it is relegated in the Synopsis Sacræ Scripturæ appended to the works of St. Athanasius, the date of which is doubtful, and which may possibly be founded upon the Catalogue of Nicephorus. Schürer thinks it was included under the category of Antilegornena simply owing to its absence from the Hebrew Canon, position in that list being the criterion which guided the formal reception of writings; while in the Christian Church it was regarded in some quarters with greater favour. Five Odes of Solomon are quoted in the curious Gnostic book of the third century A.D., Pistis Sophia; and St. Jerome writing against Vigilantius (cap. vi.) may possibly refer to the Psalter when he says: |Nam in commentariolo tuo quasi pro te faciens de Salomone sumis testimonium, quod Salomon omnino non scripsit, ut, qui habes alterum Esdram, habeas et Salomonem alterum.| The |Second Esdras| means a passage in the Fourth Book of Esdras (vi.81, ap. Fritz.) implying the inexpediency of certain prayers for the dead; the |Second Solomon| may perhaps indicate the following words: |Therefore this is their inheritance, Hades, and darkness, and destruction; and they shall not be found in the day of the mercy of the righteous| (Ps. xiv.6); |for their iniquities shall make the houses of sinners desolate, and sinners shall perish in the day of the Lord's judgment for ever and ever| (xv.13). Lactantius more than once quotes passages from Solomon which do not occur in the Canonical Scriptures, and are supposed to have been once comprehended among these Psalms, though no longer extant in our copies.
The Fourth Book of Esdras, which appears to have been written towards the end of the first Christian century, contains many passages which are possibly derived from the Psalter. Some of these have been collected by Hilgenfeld in his edition of our Book, and are sufficiently apposite. Ps. viii.34: |Gather together the dispersion of Israel with mercy and kindness.| Ibid. xi.3: |Stand on high, Jerusalem, and see thy children gathered once from the east and west by the Lord. They come from the north in the joy of their God; from the isles afar off God gathered them together.| 4 Esdr. i.38: |See thy people coming from the east.| Ibid. xiii.39: |Thou hast seen Him gathering to Himself another multitude in peace.| -- Ps. ix.18: |Thou, O Lord, hast put Thy name upon us.| 4 Esdr. iv.25: |What wilt Thou do to Thy name which is invoked upon us?| Ibid. x.22: |Thy name which is invoked upon us hath been profaned.| -- Ps. xvii.19: |They wandered in deserts to save their souls from evil.| 4 Esdr. xiii.41 f.: |They determined to leave the multitude of nations, and to go to a distant region, there to observe their own laws.| -- Ps. xvii.36: |Their king shall be Christ the Lord.| 4 Esdr. vii.28: |My son Jesus shall be revealed with those who are with him.| -- Ps. xvii.37: |He shall not trust in horse and rider and bow, nor shall he multiply to himself gold and silver for war, nor put his hopes in arms hoplois, Fr.) for the day of battle.| 4 Esdr. xiii.9: |Lo, when he saw the onset of the host coming against him, he raised not his hand, nor held the shield, nor any weapon of war.| -- Ps. xviii.4: |Thy chastisement shall be upon us as a first-born only-begotten son.| 4 Esdr. vi.58: |We Thy people, whom Thou hast called Thy first-born only-begotten son.|
There is one passage of the Psalter (xvii.5) which is found in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, that curious production of early Jewish Christianity. It occurs in the Testament of Judah, § 22: |For the Lord sware with an oath unto me that my crown shall not fail from my seed, all the days, for ever.| In the Psalter: |Thou swarest to him concerning his seed for ever, that his crown should not fail before thee.| In the New Testament no certain intimation occurs that the work was known to the inspired writers. The only passage which bears a close likeness to a verse in the gospel is in Ps. v.4: |One cannot take spoils from a strong man,| which is parallel to Mark xii.29: |How can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods?|
On the other hand, founded as it is on the model of the Old Testament, the Psalter is replete with references to and citations from the Canonical Scriptures. To rehearse these would be to transcribe a large portion of the whole work. But it is noteworthy that what we call Apocryphal Books are not unknown to our author. And this is the more remarkable in the case of a work written, as is justly supposed, in Palestine and in the Hebrew language; since it shows how widely extended was the influence of that literature which grew up after the close of the Canon of the Old Testament. There are reminiscences of, if not quotations from, the Book of Wisdom in the Psalter. Thus in Ps. xvi.8 the epithet |unprofitable| (anophelous) applied to sin seems to recall the word in Wisd. i.11: |Beware of unprofitable murmuring.| In Ps. viii.11 and in Wisd. i.16 the making a compact (sunethento sunthekas) with sin and death is common to both. |The right hand of the Lord sheltered (eskepase) me . . . the arm of the Lord saved us,| says the Psalter (xiii.1). |With His right hand shall He shelter (skepasei) them, and with His arm shall He protect them,| says Wisd. v.16. |God is a righteous judge, and will not reverence persons (zaumasei prosopon),| Ps. ii.19. |The Lord of all will not cower before persons (huposteleitai prosopon),| Wisd. vi.8. The use of the very uncommon word eustatheia in Ps. iv.11, vi.7, is probably due to a reminiscence of Wisd. vi.26. Wisd. v.23: |Iniquity shall lay waste (eremosei . . . anomia) the whole earth,| may be compared with Ps. xvii.13: |The sinner wasted (heremosen ho anomos ) their land.| The phrase, |Man and his portion are with thee by weight (en stathmo),| is verbally like, though differing in intention from, the famous passage in Wisd. xi.21: |Thou orderest all things by measure, number, and weight.| The touching appeal in Wisd. xv.2: |For even if we sin, we are Thine,| finds its echo in Ps. ix.16: |Behold, and pity us, God of Israel, for we are Thine;| and the idea, as well as the wording, of Ps. xii.8: |He will admonish (nouthetesei) the righteous man as the son of His love,| is closely parallel with those of Wisd. xi.10: |These as a father admonishing (noutheton) Thou didst prove.| Between Ps. xi. and the fifth chapter of Baruch there are many close parallelisms; but the latter is probably the borrower.
Whilst we can trace the language and conceptions of the Psalter in a great measure to preceding Scriptures, we can yet claim for the author an originality for the manner in which he has developed and built upon the hints therein given, and from the outline of the prophets has presented a fairly complete picture of the ideal son of David. A few words must first be said concerning the text and the date of the original work; and then some extracts will show the pseudo-Solomon's views on various matters of the highest interest to all who desire to acquaint themselves with the progress of Jewish thought.
The revived interest in this little Book arose from the importance attributed to it by Ewald in his history of the Jewish Church; and although, as we shall show, we think that his view of the date of its production is erroneous, the learned world is largely indebted to him for raising a discussion which has contributed greatly to our knowledge of the contents and bearing of the work. Among other points which have been established may be mentioned that of the unity of the Psalter. Of course German ingenuity has endeavoured to trace the hands of various authors in the work; but the identity of ideas, the similarity of language and phrases, the homogeneousness of the composition, show that the writer is one, though he may have uttered his songs at different periods and under varying circumstances. He is thoroughly imbued with the Hebraic spirit, and has framed his Psalms on the Biblical model, proving how this form of poetry endured to the latest times of the Jewish polity. Stichometrically written, the Psalter affords a fair specimen of Hebrew lyrics in their declining days; and, if we may judge by the occasional introduction of the musical term |Diapsalma| (xvii.31, xviii.10), the words were intended to be used in Divine service. The Psalter, as we have mentioned, was first published by La Cerda in his Adversaria Sacra (Lugd.1626), from an Augsburg MS., which has since been lost. The same text, with the addition of a few notes of no great value, was repeated by Fabricius in his Codex Pseudepigraphus V. Test. (Hamb.1713). A careful revision of the text, aided by an additional MS., was made by Hilgenfeld, and printed in Zeitschrift für wissenschaft. Theol.1868, and in Messias Judæorum libris corum illustratus (Lips.1869). Another edition with a commentary by Geiger (Der Psalter Salomo's), appeared in 1871; and the same year saw Fritzsche's Libri Apocryphi Vet. Test., which contains a revised text with various readings. The only English editions which I have met with are a translation of the Psalms in the first volume of W. Whiston's Authentick Records (London 1727), and one by Pick in the Presbyterian Review, October 1883.
That the Greek text, which alone is extant, is not the original work, but a translation from the Hebrew or Aramaic, seems to be tolerably certain. The diction is thoroughly Hebraic, and the idioms of that language are too closely represented for it to have been the work of one writing Greek hymns of his own composition. And wherever the translator may have lived, the author seems to have been a native of Palestine.
But if the language and locality of the original work may be regarded as ascertained, the date of the writer is a difficult question, and one that has been the subject of much controversy. Whiston boldly cuts the knot by asserting that the author is a certain Solomon who is mentioned in the Fourth Book of Esdras as rebuilding Jerusalem and restoring the true worship, after the Persian captivity, about the thirtieth year of Artaxerxes Mnemon, i.e. B.C.375. This assertion has no support external or internal, and has been maintained by no scholar of eminence. The controversy really lies between those who refer the work to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and those who assign it to the days of Herod or of Pompey. The determination depends entirely upon internal evidence; and we all know how uncertain this is, and how prone are critics to read their own views into the words upon which they build their argument. This is very evident in the present case. Ewald and others, who adopt the Maccabæan period as the date, found their theory especially on the language of Ps. i. ii. and xvii . In these passages the poet utters his lamentation over the oppression of his people, complains urgently of the heathen who lord it over Israel, and expresses a hope that God would raise up from another race one to be their saviour. From these same passages other critics argue for the era of Pompey; and indeed the expression suit either period. Some other criteria therefore must be found in order to settle the much disputed date.
Without entering at length into the historical question, we will just note the aspect of affairs represented in the Psalter, and then compare it with the events in Jewish history to which it seems most closely to correspond. The work opens with the bitter cry of the Hebrews oppressed by the sudden attack of an enemy (i.1, 2); a generation to which no promise of David's throne had been made had seized the royal. crown (xvii.), and triumphed in the subjection of the nation. But Israel had been guilty of grievous sin; king, judge, and people alike were involved in the offence; and they were justly punished by intestine war and other calamities. These troubles were repressed by inviting foreign aid; a man of another stock rose up against them (xvii.); and the infatuated people met the foreigner with joy (viii.), opened the gates and bade him enter in peace. And this stranger from the ends of the earth entered in friendly guise, as a father visits the house of his sons; but after he had secured himself, he broke down the walls with the battering-ram (ii.1), seized on the towers, poured out the blood of the inhabitants like water. Jerusalem was trodden down by the Gentiles, the altar profaned, of the prominent men some were put to death, many were made captives and sent as slaves into the far west. But retribution followed. The Dragon who took Jerusalem was himself slain in Egypt, his body cast forth on the shore, dishonoured and unburied.
Now, though isolated expressions in the Psalter suit events that happened at various dates of Jewish history, yet, taking the references as a whole, and especially regarding the mention of the chief oppressor's fate, we cannot forego the conclusion that the poet has before his eyes the actions and death of Pompey. On the decease of Hyrcanus I., B.C.106, his son Aristobulus seized the supreme power and assumed the title of king. He was succeeded by Alexander Jannæus, his brother, who, attaching himself strongly to the Sadducaic faction, would be considered by the Pharisees (to which sect the pseudo-Solomon evidently belongs) as an enemy and a sinner. Besides this, being an Asmonæan, and not of the family of David, he had usurped a throne to which he had no just claim. A civil war ensued, and great atrocities were committed. Jannæus died B.C.79; and then arose a contest for the sovereignty between his two sons, Hyrcanus II. and Aristobulus -- the former a partisan of the Pharisees, the latter of the Sadducees. These intestine calamities might justly have been regarded as a punishment for the laxity which had been allowed and fostered of late. Gentile customs were introduced, mixed marriages permitted, and a general corruption of morals followed as a necessary consequence. In the midst of these domestic troubles, and when Hyrænus, having defeated Aristobulus with the aid of Aretas, king of Arabia, was besieging him in the temple at Jerusalem, news arrived that the victorious Roman general, Pompey, was advancing on the city. Both brothers sent ambassadors to secure his aid; but Pompey deferred his decision, and Aristobulus, presuming that it would be unfavourable to his interest, shut himself up in the temple fortress and prepared for a siege. Hyrcanus, on the other hand, received the Roman with every demonstration of joy-throwing open to him the gates of the city, and putting it entirely at his disposal. Pompey sent for his military engines from Tyre, and besieged the temple. At the end of three months his battering-rams destroyed one of the largest towers, and he made his way into the fortress. A cruel massacre ensued; the priests were cut down even while ministering at the altar, and Pompey himself entered the sacred courts, and penetrated into the Holy of Holies. On his return to Rome, after demolishing the walls of Jerusalem, he took with him a large number of Jewish prisoners to grace his triumph (eis empaugmon, |for mockery |), among whom were Aristobulus and his two sons and daughters. Thus was the independence of Judea overthrown. That the reference is not to Titus. and his conquest of Jerusalem is evident from many circumstances, more especially from the fact that the destruction of the city and temple is nowhere mentioned. The man from a strange land, who carried away captives to the far west, is the same whose end is so exultingly told in the Psalter. This allusion cannot be doubted. The manner of Pompey's death is well known. After his defeat at Pharsalia, he sought refuge in Egypt, but was treacherously murdered as he was landing on the shore; his head was cut off, and his body was left naked and dishonoured: |when,| as pseudo-Solomon says (ii.29 ff.), |the pride of the Dragon was disgraced, and he was stabbed in the mountains of Egypt, utterly despised by land and sea, and his body was left to rot on the shore, and there was no man to bury him.|
It will be seen at once how close is the correspondence between the Psalter and this chapter of Jewish history. If we had space for further detail, that correspondence would appear still more striking; but enough has been said to show that some portion of the work, especially Ps. ii., was written after Pompey's death,and probably very soon after, while the event was still uppermost in men's minds. We may therefore fix the date of its composition at B.C.48 at latest. Some of the Psalms are doubtless of earlier origin, dating probably from B.C.63; and none exhibit any certain trace of Christian interpolations.
Taking then as proved the ante-Christian origin of the Psalter, we are prepared to find therein valuable intimations of the belief of the Hebrews in the age just preceding the time of Our Lord. And we are not disappointed in our anticipations. It must be observed that the writer is a strict Pharisee, and that his notion of perfect religion is Pharasaic Judaism. Righteousness with him implies scrupulous performance of all legal and ceremonial enactments, and when he inveighs against transgressors, his ground for censure is that they have not observed the ordained prescriptions. The current opinions about the Messiah, the Resurrection, the Future Life, are plainly set forth. The way in which these subjects are introduced is briefly this: -- The notion of the writer throughout is that God is a righteous judge, both of His own people and of the heathen. He punishes the former as a tender father chastises the son of his love; the heathen meet with the stern correction which their wilful sins deserve. These two aspects of corrective and vindictive discipline are shown by an appeal to history. The fate of the Maccabæan dynasty, the usurpation of the Asmonæans, the invasion and supremacy of the Romans, are regarded as the punishment of national sins; the fate of Pompey is a specimen of the destruction which awaits paganism. This leads the writer to look forward to a day when Israel's supremacy shall be assured by the appearance of Messiah, and to express his belief in the resurrection and reward of the righteous and the future punishment of sinners. This premised, let the Psalmist here speak for himself. The following are some of his utterances concerning the Messiah and His kingdom: --
Behold, O Lord, and raise up for them their King,
The Son of David, at the time which Thou, our God, knowest,
That Thy Servant (paida) should reign over Israel;
And gird Him with power to beat down unrighteous rulers . . .
And He shall gather together the holy people which He shall guide in righteousness,
And shall judge the tribes of the people hallowed by the Lord His God.
And He shall not suffer unrighteousness to dwell in the midst of them,
And no wicked man at all shall abide with them;
For He will know them that they are all the children of God,
And He will distribute them in their tribes upon the land.
And the stranger and the foreigner shall no more sojourn among them;
He shall judge the peoples and nations in the wisdom of His righteousness.
He shall have the peoples of the Gentiles to serve Him under His yoke,
And he shall glorify the Lord by the submission of all the earth,
And he shall cleanse Jerusalem with sanctification as from the beginning,
That Gentiles may come from the ends of the earth to see his glory,
Bringing as offerings her way-worn children,
Yea, to see the glory of the Lord wherewith God hath glorified her.
And He is the righteous King over them, taught of God.
There is no injustice in His days in their midst,
For they shall all be holy, and their King shall be Christ the Lord.
He shall not trust in horse or rider or bow,
Nor multiply to Himself gold and silver for war,
Nor gather hope from arms in the day of battle;
The Lord Himself is His King, the hope of the Mighty One is in the hope of God,
And He will set all the nations before Him in fear;
For He will smite the earth with the word of His mouth for ever,
And bless the people of the Lord in wisdom with gladness.
He Himself is pure from sin that He may govern a great people,
Rebuke princes, and remove sinners by the power of His word.
And, trusting upon His God, He shall not be weak in His days
Because God hath made Him mighty by His Holy Spirit,
And wise in the counsel of prudence, with power and righteousness.
And the blessing of the Lord shall be with Him in power,
And His hope in the Lord shall not be weak;
And who shall prevail against Him?
Mighty is He in His works, and strong in the fear of God.
Tending the flock of the Lord in faith and righteousness,
He will let none among them in their pasture to be weak.
He shall lead them all in holiness,
And there shall be among them no arrogance to oppress them. (xvii.23 ff.)
May God purify Israel against the day of mercy by His blessing,
Against the day of their election in the presence of His Christ.
Blessed are they who live in those days,
To see the good things of the Lord which He will do in the generation to come,
Under the rod of the correction of Christ the Lord in the fear of His God,
In the wisdom of the spirit and of righteousness and power.
A good generation shall there be in the fear of God An the days of mercy. (xviii.6-10.)
From these passages we may gather the writer's sentiments. He is deeply afflicted by the calamities of his people. The oppression of the heathen, the ruin of his city, the pollution of the temple, the reign of paganism, the supremacy of unrighteousness, have broken his patriotic heart; and while he owns that his countrymen are justly punished for past iniquities, iniquities shared by prince and priest and people, he all the more looks forward to the coming Messiah, who shall bring salvation unto Israel. From their lost independence, from their present weakness and insignificance, he turns his longing gaze to better times; he hopes for supernatural help; he glows with anticipations of the glories of Messianic victories. This hope is based on God's promise to David of eternal dominion, which, though for a time diverted into another channel (the Asmonæan dynasty), should be restored in due time under David's greater Son. The time is come for the revelation of God's mercy to His chosen nation; Israel is at its lowest point of misery; this is the Lord's opportunity. Let Him send Messiah to expel the unrighteous rulers, to cleanse the holy city from the heathen, yea, to drive them out of the holy land, and to gather together in one the dispersed of the people. But the large promises of God are not satisfied by Messiah's reign over Israel alone. His kingdom is over all the earth. He unites all peoples under His rule, and magnifies the name of God by extending His dominion wherever man has his dwelling-place; and this, not for a time only, but for ever.
Thus far the poet has exhibited only the earthly aspect of Messiah's kingdom, His conquests and power, obtained without weapons of war, by the word of His mouth. But lest this idea of Christ should seem too worldly, he hastens to show the significance of this universal sway, and its moral and religious effects. Messiah is Himself sinless, and reigns in a sinless kingdom. All unrighteousness shall be abolished; there shall be no iniquity in the restored Israel. Peace shall reign, and holiness shall triumph. Violence and injustice shall be found no more; the pride of sinners shall be extirpated. So grand an idea of wisdom and purity shall be exhibited in Israel, that distant nations shall flock to Jerusalem to see her glory and to learn her ways.
All this is to happen in God's good time, which, in the author's view, is not far distant, even as the apostles of the Lord thought that the end was near, and expected to see the great consummation in their own days.
The Messiah, in this pseudo-Solomon's conception, is not very and eternal God. It is indeed not always clear whether God or the Christ is the subject of some of his paragraphs; but, taking one passage with another, we conclude that he regarded Messiah as the agent and organ of God, but not God Himself. He is God's deputy and executes His will; but Jehovah is the supreme King, and appoints Him as ruler and judge. Here we see the defective view of the nature and work of Messiah which meets us in the Jews of the New Testament. The faith is strong, the expectation is immediate, but the idea is erroneous, worldly, carnal, very far inferior indeed to that in the Book of Enoch, which is much more spiritual and nearer the truth.
To turn to another point. The writer has a strong faith in the Resurrection of the righteous in the time of Messiah, though he does not give expressly his notion of the sequence of events at that period. That sinners shall rise again does not enter into his view; nor does he state what shall be the fate of the unbelieving portion of the Gentile world in the great future; though he probably held with his contemporaries that exclusion from the kingdom of Messiah was equivalent to eternal death or annihilation. But the righteous are to rise again in order to share the blessings of the Messianic reign, and to shine with an everlasting light, and, as another pseudo-Solomon says (Wisd. iii.7), |to run to and fro like sparks among the stubble.| In the other world retribution is to fall upon the sinners; they shall be condemned in the day of judgment, and be destroyed as by fire. And sinners, in his view, are not merely those who are guilty of moral offences or vulgar wickedness; he calls by this name the hypocrites and men-pleasers (anthropareskoi) of his own nation. Against these he inveighs in the bitterest terms. They are profane, unclean as the very heathen whose vices they imitated; their heart is far from the Lord; they have provoked the God of Israel to anger, so that He has grievously afflicted His people for their sake. And he calls for vengeance upon them in this world as well as in the next. May their life, he prays, pass in poverty and distress; may their sleep be vexed with pain and their waking with misery; may the work of their hands never prosper; may their old age be childless; may their dead bodies be cast forth dishonoured, and may ravens pick out their eyes. |So may God destroy all those who work iniquity; for the Lord is a Judge, great and mighty in righteousness| (Ps. iv.).
While thus uncompromising in his denunciation of iniquity and in his assurance of God's inflexible justice, the writer is not insensible to the hope that exists for sinners when they repent. If a man is ashamed of his sins and confesses them, God will forgive him and cleanse his soul. But he must be patient under the rod, and take the chastisement as the merciful correction of his error: |He that prepareth his back for the scourge shall be justified from iniquity; for the Lord is good to those who endure discipline| (Ps. ix., x.).
These are the Psalmist's words concerning the resurrection: --
They that fear the Lord shall rise again (anastesontai) to life everlasting.
And their life shall be in the light of the Lord, and shall fail no more. (iii.16.)
For the Lord will spare His holy ones,
And will blot out their offences by chastisement;
For the life of the righteous is for ever;
But sinners shall be taken away for destruction,
And their memorial shall no more be found;
But the mercy of the Lord is upon the holy,
And His mercy upon them that fear Him. (xiii.9-11.)
The holy of the Lord shall live in Him for ever;
The Paradise of the Lord, the trees of life, are His holy ones.
The holy of the Lord shall inherit life in gladness. (xiv.2, 7.)
Thus also he speaks concerning the retribution that awaits the unrighteous: --
Not so are sinners and transgressors. . . .
Who have not remembered God,
That the ways of men are always known unto Him,
And He understandeth the treasure-chambers (tamieia) of the heart before they are made.
Therefore their inheritance is Hades, and darkness, and destruction;
And they shall not be found in the day of the mercy of the righteous. (xiv.4-6.)
He raises me up unto glory,
But He lays the proud to sleep unto eternal destruction in dishonour,
Because they knew Him not. (ii.35.)
The mercy of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, while He executes His judgment,
To sever between the just and the sinner,
To repay sinners for ever according to their works;
And to have mercy on the righteous while the sinner is humbled,
And to repay the sinner for what he did to the righteous. (ii.37-39.)
He fall; because evil was his fall and he shall not rise to life again;
The destruction of the sinner is for everlasting,
And God shall not remember him when He visits the righteous;
This is the portion of sinners for everlasting. (iii.13-15.)
They who do iniquity shall not escape the judgment of the Lord,
They shall be seized as by skilled enemies;
For the mark of destruction shall be upon their foreheads,
And the inheritance of sinners shall be destruction and darkness,
And their iniquities shall pursue them onto Hades beneath;
Their inheritance shall not be found for their children,
For their iniquities shall make the horse of sinners desolate;
And sinners shall perish in the day of the Lord's judgment for ever,
When God shall visit the earth in His judgment,
To repay sinners for everlasting. (xv.9 ff.)
It will be seen that the destiny of a man is made to depend entirely upon his doings during life. He has the power of deciding upon his own course. |O God,| it is said (Ps. viii.), |our works are at our choice, and we have power over our soul to do righteousness or iniquity with the works of our hands.|
The Psalter ends with a hymn of praise to God as the Creator, Preserver, and Ruler of all things, who, as the writer has already said, from present confusion and calamity evolves harmony and peace.
Great is our God and glorious, dwelling in the highest,
who hath ordained lights in the path of heaven to divide the time from day to day,
And they have never strayed from the way which Thou commandedst them.
In the fear of God hath been their way every day,
From the day in which God created them, and shall be for evermore;
And they have wandered not from the day in which God created them,
From the generations of old they have never forsaken their way,
Save when God bade them at the command of His servants. (xviii.11-14.)