Solomon, Psalms of

views updated May 21 2018


SOLOMON, PSALMS OF , a collection of 18 pseudepigraphical psalms, extant in Greek and Syriac, but seemingly written in Hebrew. The ascription to Solomon, which stems from the Greek version, has no historical basis, and indeed the psalms themselves make no reference to Solomon. The psalms deal with a number of diverse subjects which include a personal poem, a lament on the nation's troubles, and a hymn of messianic hope, while others deal with social, religious, and political themes.

Psalm 1 speaks of an unexpected war that came to a prosperous nation because of its sins. Psalm 2 relates an attack by gentiles on Jerusalem and the Temple. Although this evil befell the Jews because of their shameful practices, the wicked one who attacked them would receive his deserts. In Psalm 3 the poet discusses the fate of the wicked, who, unlike the righteous, will forfeit the world to come. Psalm 4 attacks the godless who associate with the righteous, censures their transgressions, and looks forward to their destruction by God. (Attempts have been made to equate this with historical situations, but suggestions made so far are without any firm basis.) Psalms 5, 6, and 7 describe God's greatness and His help for the righteous, and entreat Him to help His people. Psalm 8 again describes the tumult of war in sinful Jerusalem and the treatment the city receives at the hands of the conqueror. Psalm 9 again asks God to defend His people. Psalm 10 praises God who rebukes and chastises but who has pity upon the righteous. Psalm 11 contains a vision of the redemption and of the return of the Jewish exiles to Jerusalem. Psalms 12, 13, and 14 praise the righteous and their deliverance, while censuring the wicked and describing their punishment. Psalm 15 presents a description of the crimes of the wicked and of their punishment on the Day of Judgment. In Psalm 16, the poet begs God to keep him from sin, and to show him kindness and deliver him. In Psalm 17 the poet awaits God's judgment and the restoration of the promised kingdom of David, which had been usurped by sinners. However, these are punished by a foreigner (apparently Pompey, see below) who inflicts evils upon Jerusalem, after which, at the end of days, God's salvation will be shown. Psalm 18, the last one, is also filled with messianic hope.

The historical meaning and value of the psalms depends upon the determination of the date of composition. The generally accepted view is that they were compiled about the middle of the first century b.c.e., the political allusions in them reflecting the conquest of Judea by Pompey (63 b.c.e.) and the events connected with it. These can be explained in the light of certain contemporary events, like the verses in Psalm 17 that speak of the promise of the kingdom of David, of its plunder by sinners (the *Hasmoneans), and their punishment by a foreigner (Pompey) who exiled them to the West (Italy). The first verses of the second psalm, which depict a wicked man who broke into Jerusalem and defiled the Temple, refer to a similar situation. Most commentators think that verses 25–29 allude to the fate of Pompey who was murdered in 48 b.c.e. when he went to Egypt after being defeated by Julius Caesar. This interpretation attaches great significance to the criticism of the sins of the Hasmoneans which stigmatizes them as having stolen the kingdom from the dynasty of David. This leads many scholars to believe that the author of the psalms was a *Pharisee, although one must remember that hostility to the Hasmoneans was not restricted to the Pharisees.

There is also considerable historical importance in the eschatological spirit prevalent in the psalms, and in the description of the pious, the righteous, and the God-fearing, who are possibly a collective group that included the author himself. The chief eschatological teaching of the book is found in Psalms 17–18, which give an extensive description of the hoped-for Messiah of the House of David. This section was greatly influenced by Isaiah, chapter ii. The author also preached the doctrine of resurrection (16:12; 15:13). J. Ephron attempted to reject this interpretation completely and postulated that the psalms are Christian. The psalms became known only at the beginning of the 17th century, when the Greek text was published by J.L. de la Cerda from a manuscript. Since then, additional Greek manuscripts have been discovered and further editions have appeared. A Syriac translation has also been discovered but it is of limited value since it was made from the Greek text, not from the Hebrew original.


O. Gebhardt, Die Psalmen Salomo's (1895); Gray, in: Charles, Apocrypha, 2 (1913), 625–52; H.B. Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (1914), 282–3, 288; M. Aberbach, in: jqr, 41 (1950–51), 379–96; Ephron, in: Zion, 30 (1964/65), 1–46; O. Eissfeldt, The Old TestamentAn Introduction (1965), 610–3 (contains bibliography); A. Rahlfs (ed.), Septuaginta-Studien (19658), 471–89.

[Uriel Rappaport]

Solomon, Psalms of

views updated Jun 11 2018

Solomon, Psalms of. A collection of pseudepigraphical psalms ascribed to the Israelite King Solomon. Originally written in Hebrew, the eighteen psalms now exist only in Gk. and Syriac versions. They probably date from the 1st cent. BCE.