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Psalms, Book of


PSALMS, BOOK OF This article is arranged according to the following outline:

place in the canon
number of psalms
verse division
division into books
composition of the psalter
date of the psalter
ascription to david
types of psalms
psalms and the cult
the text
superscription and technical terminology
Those Containing Personal Names (with Affixed Lamed)
Titles with Liturgical Application
Technical Terms in the Headings
Technical Terms Within the Psalms
in the talmud and midrash
in the liturgy
Statutory Prayers
Non-Statutory Prayers
in the arts
In Literature
In Art
In Music
musical rendition in jewish tradition
Historical Sources


The English name Psalms is derived from the Latin Vulgate Liber Psalmorum or Psalmi for short. The Latin, in turn, was borrowed from the Greek ψαλμοι which is the title found in most Greek manuscripts and by which the book is cited in the New Testament (Luke 20:42; 24:44; Acts 1:20). It meant "a song sung to a stringed instrument" and seems to be a translation of the Hebrew term mizmor which occurs 57 times in the individual Hebrew captions of the book. A variant title, derived from the same Greek root, is ψαλτήριον, found in the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus (ga), which is the source of the Latin Psalterium and the English Psalter. No Hebrew name which might have served as the origin of the Greek is known, but there is evidence of a Palestinian practice to refer to all psalms as mizmorot, even when the technical term mizmor is absent (cf. tj, Ber. 4:3, 7d–8a; Shab. 16:1, 15c; Ta'an. 2:2, 65c). Closest to this is the Syriac title of the book, Kēthaba de-mazmūrē.

The Hebrew Bible does not preserve any original title for the compilation as a whole. The editorial note, Psalm 72:20, would indicate that at some period "The Prayers of David son of Jesse" designated a smaller collection of psalms, although the Hebrew term tefillah in its usual supplicatory meaning would be inappropriate to much of the contents of the present Books i and ii. Perhaps it was used in a more generalized sense of the articulated communication of man with God (cf. i Sam. 2:1; Hab. 3:1).

The universally accepted Hebrew name for the book in rabbinic and subsequent literature is Sefer Tehillim (cf. bb 14b), often contracted to Tillim (Av. Zar. 19a; tj, Suk. 3:12, 53d; Ket. 12:3, 35a) or Tille and reflected in the transliterations of the Palestinian Church Fathers as Σφαρ θελλέιμε (Origen, in Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, 6:25) and Sephar Tallim (Jerome, Psalterium juxta Hebraeos).

This Hebrew title poses several difficulties. In the first place, there is the use of the normally masculine plural ending -im for a feminine noun as against the regular feminine plural -ot (i.e., tehillot), which the word tehillah takes in the Bible (cf. Ps. 22:4; 78:4; cf. Ex. 15:11; Isa. 60:6; 63:7). Then, only a single psalm (145) is actually entitled tehillah and this, curiously, is replaced by tefillah in the Qumran scroll (11qpsa 16:1, 7). Lastly, a title based on tehillah, a song of praise, would seem to be applicable only to a selection of the compositions that make up the collection.

The oft-repeated assumption that Tehillim was artificially coined to differentiate the title of the canonical book (i.e., Psalms) from the ordinary plurality of tehillah (i.e., psalms) must now be discarded in view of the presence of tehillim in the aforementioned Qumran scroll (11qpsa 27:1, 4) in the simple sense of liturgical compositions. It must be supposed that the masculine plural form represents an internal, post-biblical Hebrew development parallel to the development of tefillim/n as the plural of tefillah in the sense of "phylactery." In any case, medieval Hebrew writers such as Mishael b. Uzziel (Kitāb al-Khilaf) and Abraham Ibn Ezra (Iggeret ha-Shabbat, 3) refer to the book as Sefer Tehillot, though whether they do so by some tradition or out of a desire to preserve the biblical Hebrew form, it is difficult to tell.

The Hebrew title itself was selected or emerged doubtless because the root hll in biblical usage is overwhelmingly characteristic of the language of psalms and, in fact, seems to have acquired in the post-Exilic books the specialized connotation of "Temple worship" (cf. Ezra 3:10–11; Neh. 5:13; 12:24; i Chron. 16:4, 36; 23:5, et al.). The popular liturgical refrain *Hallelujah, which is exclusive to the Book of Psalms, was probably an additional influence, as was the fact that the hymn plays a leading role among the categories of psalms (see discussion of technical terms, below).

place in the canon

According to an anonymous tannaitic source, the proper place of Psalms in the corpus of Ketuvim is second, following Ruth and succeeded by Job and Proverbs (bb 14b; see *Bible). The source does not give any explanation for the sequence, but the precedence of Ruth is undoubtedly due to the closing genealogy of David (Ruth 4:18–22), the reputed author of Psalms. For an exploration of the other features of the arrangement, see *Job, beginning. The importance of the book in the canon may be gauged by the fact that despite the great variety in the order of the books of the Ketuvim exhibited by the manuscripts, Psalms invariably either heads the list or is preceded only by Ruth and/or Chronicles. In the early printed editions the book always comes first and this has become the universal practice in Hebrew printed Bibles (see *Bible, table 2, cols. 829–30).

It is quite likely that this represents the oldest order of the Ketuvim for ii Maccabees 2:13 refers to "books about the kings and prophets and the writings of David…," and Philo similarly speaks of "Laws and oracles delivered by prophets and hymns and other writings" (Cont. 25). The New Testament likewise invokes "the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms" (Luke 24:44). It is reasonable to infer from this early testimony that the Psalter was looked upon as being the most important among the books of the Ketuvim.

number of psalms

Current editions of the Psalter universally contain 150 psalms. The ancient Greek version of the Jews of Alexandria has the same number even though it exhibits some different internal divisions, combining into single psalms the Hebrew 9–10 and 114–115, while dividing the Hebrew 116 and 147 each into two psalms. The Hebrew-Greek correspondences are as follows:


The coincidence of 150 psalms in the two versions, despite the differences, would seem to be significant, particularly since the Greek contains an additional composition which it designates as "supernumerary," thereby exhibiting a conscious desire to limit the canonical psalms to 150.

At the same time, there is a wealth of evidence for the existence of widely varying traditions. A Psalter of 147 chapters is mentioned as early as amoraic times (tj, Shab. 16:1, 15c; cf. Sof. 16:11; Mid. Ps. to 22:4) and is to be found in manuscripts (C.D. Ginsburg, in bibl., 18, 777) and in the first edition of the Yalkut Shimoni (Salonica, 1521–26; cf. also Jacob b. Asher, Ba'al ha-Turim, Gen. 47:28). The Leningrad Codex B and the Brescia (1494) and Naples (1491–94) Bibles all feature a division into 149 psalms, an arrangement also known to Mishael b. Uzziel (Kitāb al-Khilaf) and to Samuel ha-Nagid (J.H. Schirmann, in bibl.) and present in some Hebrew manuscripts (I. Joel, in bibl.). Others comprise divisions of 148 (ibid.), 151, 159, and even 170 psalms (C.D. Ginsburg, in bibl., 583, 536, 725).

These variations have nothing to do with the content of the Psalter which remains the same in all the editions. They merely register differences in the divisions and combinations of psalm units. That our Psalms 1 and 2 were very early conjoined is explicitly attested in rabbinic sources (Ber. 9b–10a; tj, Ber. 4:3, 8a; Ta'an. 2:2, 65c) and in New Testament manuscripts (Acts 13:33) and may possibly also be reflected in a Qumran scroll (4q 174 col. 1). The truncated alphabetic acrostic that spans Psalms 9–10 shows that the two originally constituted a single psalm in the Hebrew just as they do in the Greek. It is very likely that such a combination is behind a Palestinian amora's citation of Psalm 20:2 as belonging to the 18th psalm (tj, Ber. 4:3, 8a; Ta'an. 2:2, 65c), thus showing that a pair of our short units apart from 1 and 2 must have counted as a single entity in his Psalter.

Other documented examples of the conjoining in earlier times of what appear in our texts as individual psalms are 42–43 (cf. 42:6, 12; 43:5; Yal., Ps. 745; C.D. Ginsburg, in bibl., 725); 53–54 (ibid.); 70–71 (ibid., 18, 777); 93–94 (I. Joel, in bibl.); 94–95, 104–105, 114–115, 116–117, 117–118:4 (C.D. Ginsburg, in bibl., 18, 536, 777, 853, 873). In the case of 117, the idea of a two-versed psalm seemed preposterous (cf. Tos. to Pes. 117a) and led to its merging with either the preceding or following psalm. Yet, just as the Greek displays the breakdown of 116 and 147 each into two separate compositions, so there are manuscripts in which 118 and 119 are subdivided (C.D. Ginsburg, in bibl., 536–7, 583, 725–6).

All in all, it is quite clear that no fixed and uniform system of chapter divisions existed in ancient times. Except where a superscription intervenes, the manuscripts frequently do not in any way mark the transition from one psalm to another, thus easily permitting varieties of verse groupings. What is not clear is the significance to be attached to the variant numbers of the psalms. The most plausible explanation is that which relates them to the custom of reading the Torah each Sabbath in the Palestinian synagogues in a triennial cycle (cf. Meg. 29b). It is presumed that there also existed a similar cycle of weekly Psalter readings in association with the Torah and prophetical readings. Since the latter were not stable, but varied from community to community, this would account for the diversity in the numeration of the psalms.

verse division

In the Qumran scroll (11qpsa), all the psalms are written in prose form with nothing to indicate verse division, except for Psalm 119 where the alphabetic arrangement provides a natural indication. However, the verse division must be quite early. Other Qumran Psalms manuscripts, especially from cave 4, do reflect a practice of transmitting the text in a form in keeping with the verse structure.

According to a tannaitic report, the number of verses in the Psalter is 5,896 (Kid. 30a). This is over twice the sum of 2,527 specified in the western masorah's note at the end of the book. The eastern masorah details only three fewer due to the combination of each of the following two verses into one: 22:5–6; 52:1–2; 53:1–2; and 129:5–6, and the division of verse 1 in Psalm 90 into two (C.D. Ginsburg, in bibl., 101; Lewin, in bibl., 84). The great discrepancy between the masoretic and tannaitic traditions is to be explained by varying concepts of "verse." The former enumerates the larger poetic unit which may contain two or three stichs and which is marked off by a major stop or caesura; the latter is most likely based on a peculiar mode of writing biblical poetry in which the spacing of words and their alignment, column by column, was important (cf. Meg. 16b; tj, Meg. 3:8, 74b; Sof. 12:9). The tannaim evidently counted as a "verse" each compact cluster of words and even a caption of one or two words (S.D. Luzzatto, in bibl., 281–2). In this connection, incidentally, it should be noted that our printed editions, following the pattern fixed in the Torah (cf. Gen. 26:6), may accept three words, but not less, as a separate verse, so that a superscription of three words or more receives a separate enumeration. This is never the case in the English versions and accounts for the frequent difference of one between the Hebrew and English verse numberings.

One other distinction between the talmudic and masoretic traditions lies in the location of the middle verse of the book which is stated by the note at the end of the Psalter to be Psalm 78:36, but two verses ahead in the rabbinic computation (Kid. 30a).

division into books

The Psalter is divided into five books, each of the first four being marked off by a doxology, or formulaic expression of praise to God, as follows:

Book i, Ps. 1–41
41:14     Blessed is the Lord, God of Israel, From eternity to eternity. Amen and Amen.

Book ii, Ps. 42–72
72:18–20     Blessed is the Lord God, God of Israel, Who alone does wondrous things; Blessed be His glorious name for ever, And let His glory fill the whole world. Amen and Amen. End of the prayers of David son of Jesse

Book iii, Ps. 73–89
89:53     Blessed be the Lord to eternity. Amen and Amen.

Book iv, Ps. 90–106
106:48     Blessed is the Lord, God of Israel, From eternity to eternity. And let all the people say Amen, Hallelujah.

Book v, Ps. 107–150

This last book bears no closing formula. It is likely that Psalm 150 was regarded as a doxology for the entire Psalter.

These liturgical formulas which distinguish the various books that now make up the Book of Psalms are present in the Greek and are therefore at least as old as the second half of the second century b.c.e., by which time that translation was certainly completed. They are also definitely post-Exilic in origin as can be determined by some stylistic and terminological peculiarities. Indeed, three of the four doxologies are not integrated with the psalms to which they are attached, but form an appendage to them. It is thus reasonable to assume that they signify the close of what were once independent collections. Further support for this inference may be derived from the colophon to Book ii. It is hardly conceivable that an editor who was aware of the 18 psalms attributed to David in the subsequent books would have written that "the prayers of David son of Jesse" had come to an end (Ps. 72:20; cf. Jer. 51:64; Job 31:40). It is also unlikely that a single compiler would have duplicated individual psalms. If Psalm 14 appears again in Book ii (Ps. 53) which also repeats Psalm 40:14–18 (Book i) in the form of Psalm 70, and if parts of two psalms of Book ii (57:8–12; 60:7–14) become Psalm 108 in Book v then it should be conceded that the various books existed at some time or other as independent entities. In other words, the division of the Psalter into books may represent successive stages in the growth of the work as a whole.

There are good reasons for believing, however, that the doxology to Book iv (Ps. 106:48) constitutes the exception to the rule and that the division between Books iv and v is artificial. These books share certain characteristics which put them in contrast with the preceding ones. Eighteen of their 61 psalms bear no superscriptions as opposed to only six psalms without superscriptions in all the foregoing 89 psalms. On the one hand, not a single musical reference is to be found in the headings, while such otherwise characteristically technical terms as La-Menaẓẓe'aḥ and Selah are almost totally absent, the former occurring only three times and the latter four. On the other hand, Hallelujah appears exclusively in these two collections. In addition, the subject matter of the two is very much alike; they contain predominantly praise and thanksgiving psalms suitable for the public service in the Temple. Most telling is the fact that the doxology of Book iv seems really to be an integral part of the last psalm and need not originally have applied to the entire collection. The first and last two verses of Psalm 106 are cited in i Chronicles 16:34–36 together with the peculiar invocational rubric. Since the latter fits naturally into the situation there described it is likely that the presence of the rubric, slightly varied, at the end of Psalm 106 has been due to the influence of the Chronicles passage.

The cumulative effect of the evidence here presented is to cast grave doubt upon the originality of the book division after Psalm 106. In this connection it is of interest that the Qumran scroll (11qpsa) intersperses in Book v selections from Book iv, although in an order differing slightly from ours. While it is not at all certain that the scroll is not a sectarian liturgy or hymn book, rather than a canonical Psalter, the phenomenon may reflect a period of time before the division of Psalms 90–150 into two. At any rate, the extension of a fourfold into a pentateuchal arrangement was probably suggested by the analogy of the Torah, and may have been the result of the reading of the Psalms, week by week, in association with the triennial cycle of Torah readings. An echo of this is to be found in the rabbinic observation that "Moses gave the five books of the Torah to Israel, and David gave the five books of the Psalms to Israel" (Mid. Ps. to 1).

At all events, the liturgical character of the doxologies would seem to prove that the book divisions were originally fixed for purposes of public worship, and it can hardly be accidental that the Book of Psalms opens with a reference to the study of the Torah.

composition of the psalter

From the foregoing data it becomes evident that the present pentateuchal division is only the crystallization of a long and complex history involving the emergence of several small collections and their combination into larger units. The process of development can only be partially discerned and any reconstruction must of necessity remain conjectural to a certain extent.

The earliest collection is undoubtedly Book i, or rather Psalms 3–41 within it. Except for Psalms 10 and 33 which are anonymous, every unit is "Davidic." As has been pointed out above (on the number of psalms) the alphabetic arrangement, supported by contextual and stylistic considerations, confirms the tradition of the rabbis, the Greek translation, and several Hebrew manuscripts, that Psalms 9 and 10 originally were one. Psalm 33 has a "Davidic" superscription in the Greek which may have gotten lost in the Hebrew, although it is more likely that the psalm was inserted into Book i at a later date. (Perhaps it was influenced by the similarities between 32:11 and 33:1; kōnes (33:7) is a vocable characteristic of post-Exilic Hebrew and a late composition for Psalm 33 is also suggested by the fact that the summons to sing a new song to the Lord is put off to verse 3 instead of coming at the beginning as in Psalms 96, 98, etc.) The "Davidic" psalms would thus constitute the very first stage in the compilation of the Psalter.

The second collection is the group comprising Psalms 42–83 which is distinguished by the rarity of the use of yhwh and the frequency of the appearance of Elohim (in its absolute or suffixed forms) in its place, in striking contrast to the situation in the rest of the Psalter. Within this group of 42 psalms, the Tetragrammaton occurs some 45 times and Elohim 210 times. However, in the remaining 118 psalms (1–41, 84–150) Elohim appears only 94 times altogether, while YHWH occurs 584 times. This overwhelming preference for Elohim is so consistent that it even influences two psalms of Book i as they reappear in a second recension in this group. yhwh in Psalm 14:2, 4, 7 becomes Elohim in Psalm 53:3, 5, 7 and the same switch occurs between Psalm 40:14a, 17 and Psalm 70:2a, 5 (cf. also Ps. 50:7 with Ex. 20:2; Ps. 68:2, 8–9 with Num. 10:35 and Judg. 5:4–5). Furthermore, such otherwise unknown combinations as Elohim Elohai (Ps. 43:4) and Elohim Elohekha (Ps. 45:8; 50:7) make their appearance.

Since this phenomenon is restricted to Books ii and iii (up to Ps. 83), it is evident that the "elohistic" Psalms 42–83 once constituted an independent collection. Their superscriptions show, however, that this development resulted, in turn, from the combination of smaller "elohistic" groupings. Psalms 51–65 and 68–70 make up a second "Davidic" collection which quite probably once followed the first and to which the subscription of Psalm 72:20 was attached. Insofar as no additional psalms are ascribed to David in the "elohistic" Psalter, the colophon is accurate. The other constituents are the "Korahite" Psalms 42–49 (42–43 were originally a unit) and the "Asaphic" Psalms 50, 73–83, both collections internally arranged according to the technical terms of the superscriptions. Four other psalms (66, 67, 71, 72) belong to the "elohistic" Psalter, three of which are anonymous in the received Hebrew text; Psalm 67 is ascribed to David in some Greek manuscripts; Psalm 71 is conjoined with Psalm 70 to form one psalm in many Hebrew manuscripts, but is "Davidic" in the Greek; Psalm 72 is "Solomonic." The presence of the colophon at the end of Psalm 72 naturally influenced the bisection of the "elohistic" Psalter so that it marked off Book ii and received a doxology. To the rest of the "elohistic" group was added an appendix (Ps. 84–89) consisting of four more "Korahite" psalms, one "Davidic" psalm, and one attributed to "Ethan" to complete Book iii.

The distinguishing characteristics of Psalms 90–150 and their artificial bisection into Books iv and v have been discussed earlier. Here it may be added that this group of psalms must postdate the "elohistic" Psalter because Psalm 108 is constituted from it (Ps. 57:8–12; 60:7–14) and still retains its "elohistic" character despite its presence in a collection otherwise differentiated by the preferred use of yhwh as the divine name. Within the group of Psalms 90–150 some originally smaller collections are still discernible. The most obvious example is that comprising 15 psalms (120–134) entitled Shir ha (la)-Maʿalot. There also seems to have existed still another "Davidic" collection from which were extracted Psalms 101, 103, 108–110, and 138–145. In contrast, Psalms 90–100 are practically all anonymous and although some of them have features in common, they can hardly be said to derive from a recognizable source. Whether the "Hallelujah" psalms (104–106, 111–117, 135, 146–150) were once a separate hymnbook is a question impossible to decide with any degree of confidence.

It is extremely improbable that Psalm 1 or Psalm 2 originally formed part of Book i, if only for the reason that they are anonymous. It is far more likely that when Psalm 2 came to be messianically interpreted and associated with David it was affixed to the "Davidic" collection, just as Ruth was placed immediately before Psalms in many orders of the Ketuvim be-cause of its concluding Davidic genealogy (see discussion on place in Canon, above).

After the Psalter had been completed, Psalm 1 was added as a sort of introduction to the entire work, for a combination of various factors made it an ideal choice for the purpose. In the first place, the psalm affirms the governance of the world by a divinely ordained moral order so that the operation of providence is both inevitable and effective. It thus gives expression to the fundamental and indispensable presupposition for all meaningful communication with God, in the biblical view. At the same time it formulates the basic Pharisaic notion of the preoccupation with Torah as the response of Israel to the Divine demand, with the consequent interdependence of study and piety. In addition, the canonical form of the Hebrew Bible indicates the supremacy of Torah over the other divisions by beginning the first prophetic book, Joshua, with an injunction to Joshua to keep the Torah of Moses and read it day and night (Jos 1:7–8) and concludes the last prophetic book, Malachi, with the injunction to be mindful of the Torah of Moses with its laws and statutes (Mal. 3:22). As such Psalm 1 is the appropriate beginning for the third division of the Hebrew Bible.

The selection of what became Psalm 1 also proved to be felicitous from an external literary viewpoint, for it exhibits striking verbal associations with both Psalm 2 (Table 1) and Psalm 41 (Table 2). It could simultaneously be unified with the former, if need be (see discussion on the number of psalms above), and serve with Psalm 41 as a literary framework to Book ii.

Ps. 1verse1אַשְׁרֵי
6דֶּרֶךְ… תֹּאבֵד
Ps. 2verse12אַשְׁרֵי
12תֹּאבְדוּ דֶּרֶךְ
Ps. 1verse1אַשְׁרֵי
Ps. 41verse2אַשְׁרֵי
9לֹא־יוֹסִיף לָקוּם

date of the psalter

Critical scholarship in the 19th century generally regarded the Psalms as the product of the Maccabean-Hasmonean era. This view was grounded in the conviction of the late development of pure monotheism in Israel with its concomitant that the Psalms postdated the prophets. The numerous traces of Psalms' language in the prophetic literature were explained by the influence of the latter on the former, while the extremely individualistic consciousness that is mirrored in the psalms was taken as sure evidence for a highly developed, and hence late, stage in the history of the religion of Israel. Granted these assertions, it was not difficult to interpret allusions to historic events in the Psalter as reflections of internal and external affairs in Judea in the course of the second century b.c.e.

The 20th century witnessed the weakening of this position on the part of biblical scholars for whom the convergence of several lines of independent evidence led to a far more conservative reevaluation of the problem of the age of the Psalter.

In the first place, renewed attention has been paid to the testimony provided by the Greek version. The unchallenged prestige and prominence of the Psalter among the books of the Hagiographa (cf. ii Macc. 2:13; Philo, Cont., 25; Luke 24:44) would of itself have been a factor in its early translation into Greek. In addition, the known fact that this version was made in response to the needs of the synagogue worship makes it virtually certain that the Psalms were turned into the vernacular in Alexandria even before much of the Prophets. Ben Sira itself amply attests a knowledge of the Psalms and it may be taken for granted that his grandson, writing around 132 b.c.e., had in mind a Greek Psalter when he referred to the translation into that language of "the law, the prophecies, and the rest of the books." Since the Greek Book of Psalms is identical in order and number with the received Hebrew, the canonization of the corpus must have taken place well before the beginning of the second century b.c.e., by which date the Greek translation is now generally agreed to have existed. It is apparent, moreover, that the translators often encountered difficulty with the original language and were quite ignorant of the meaning of the Hebrew technical terminology which had become completely obsolete. This loss of the living tradition presupposes a considerable passage of time between the composition of the psalms and their rendition into Greek. It is significant that whereas Daniel 3:5ff. contains a list of characteristic musical instruments of the Hellenistic period, not one of these appears among the more than ten instruments referred to in the psalms.

All this, of course, precludes the possibility of any significant number of Maccabean psalms, influences, or historical references. Some Psalms use language that belongs to Late Biblical Hebrew (lbh). Among these are Ps. 119; 133; 144. Nonetheless, the Hebrew Psalter is completely free of Greek linguistic influences and its theology is wholly devoid of Hellenistic concepts.

This conclusion fits in precisely with the evidence to be derived from various types of literature recovered from the Judean Desert. A second-century b.c.e. Psalter (4qpsa), although fragmentary, clearly demonstrates that at least Books i and ii of the Hebrew Psalms collection had been fixed by Hasmonean times. In fact, the Psalter had gained such wide currency that it had generated an imitative literature in the form of psalms (or hymns) of thanksgiving (4qh) which are replete with the phraseology of the canonical Psalter. Nevertheless, linguistic, stylistic, structural, thematic, and theological differences between the two bodies of literature are so large as to leave no doubt of the far greater antiquity of the biblical Psalms. Moreover, the recovery of parts of the original Hebrew version of the Ben Sira from Qumran and Masada has clearly shown that the style of the Psalms belongs to a much earlier stratum of the language than that of an educated Jew of approximately 200 b.c.e.

As to historic allusions, explicit references to national events are to be found in but a handful of psalms, e.g., Ps. 137 which refers to the Babylonian exile. Of the Judahite or Israelite kings, David alone is favored with a mention in the body of a psalm (Ps. 18:51; 89:4, 36, 50; 132:1, 11, 17). Otherwise, there are allusions to foreign invasions of Israel (cf. Ps. 2, 48, 74, 79, 83, 89), but no way of pinpointing the specific event. The references to "God-Fearers" as a group distinct from Israel and the (post-Exilic) "house of Aaron" (Ps. 115:11, 13; 118:4; 135:20) reflect the post-Exilic conditions of semi-conversion to Judaism. The emphasis on Torah (Ps. 19:8–12) and its study (Ps. 1, 119) is likewise post-Exilic. In contrast, the picture of internal corruption and social injustice reflected in many of the psalms could as well mirror the same conditions inveighed against by the literary prophets as the state of affairs in Second Temple times. It is probably fair to say that the Book of Psalms has an ancient foundation, with additions made in the period of the Second Temple.

Above all, it is in the realm of the religious ideas of the Psalter, or rather in the inexplicable omission of certain concepts, that a late date for the collection becomes highly dubious. There is no clear notion of eschatological judgment upon the wicked and no trace of the characteristic eschatological terminology such as "the end of days," "the day of the Lord," "in that day." The motif of national sinfulness is lacking, and the theme of the absolute supremacy of morality over the cult, which has no intrinsic worth without morality, does not find unambiguous expression. There are no prayers for the restoration of the Davidic line or for the ingathering of the exiles. Were the prophetic activities and teachings indeed the source of inspiration for the psalmist, and if he composed during the life of the Second Temple, then the absence of all these would be very strange, especially since they all appear as characteristically dominant features of the known literature of the period. There is an exception which proves the rule. The lateness of the Books iv and v of Psalms was stressed above; and near the very end of Book v it is found that Psalm 147, which, among other signs of lateness, borrows extensively from older psalms, is also replete with echoes of Deutero-*Isaiah, including, at the beginning, praise of the Lord for rebuilding Jerusalem (cf. Isa. 44:28) and for healing the brokenhearted (cf. Isa. 57:15, 18; 61:1). But even when the other echoes from Deutero-Isaiah are added they fall far short of the extent to which Deutero-Isaiah and other prophets make use of various psalms, which are thereby proved to antedate them (see, e.g., Ginsberg, in bibl.).

The argument concerning the supposedly late date of the highly individualistic and personal spirit that animates the religion of Psalms has increasingly lost its validity in the wake of the progressive discovery of a huge psalms' literature of the Ancient Near East. Most of it antedates by far the appearance of Israel on the scene of history, yet it exhibits exactly the same individualized and personal qualities as does the Hebrew Psalter.

Finally, there are several psalms and parts of psalms that combine genuinely archaic language with religious concepts that undermine the Jewish monotheism of the post-Exilic period. Psalm 29 has the bene elim, "the sons of the gods," blessing Yahweh in phraseology at home in the cult of the ancient Syrian storm god (Ginsberg, 1969), while Ps. 19:2–7 uses sungod imagery (Sarna).

ascription to david

The Book of Psalms contains neither superscription nor colophon and nowhere in the Hebrew Bible is there any indication of its Davidic authorship. Seventy-three of 150 psalms are designated le-David, but the precise connotation of this term is uncertain. It could well have reflected a tradition of authorship ("by David"); it might equally have related to some tradition connecting the content with an event in the life of David ("concerning David"; cf. la-Nevi'im in Jer. 23:9 and the headings of Jer. 46:2; 48:1; 49:1, 7, 23, 28). The existence of such exegesis is apparent in the superscriptions to Psalms 3, 7, 18, 34, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 63, and 142. That it was once more widespread is evident from the headings in the Greek version of Psalms 27, 71, 97, 143, and 144. However, such an interpretation of le-David might be of secondary origin and in any case does not of itself preclude an original understanding of the phrase as implying Davidic authorship of the individual psalms involved. Other possibilities include a dedication to David, a tune or style supposedly Davidic in origin, or a composition taken from the repertoire of a Davidic guild of singers.

If le-David indeed originally indicated authorship, then it is of interest that the form is unique to the psalms' literature (cf. Hab. 3:1) for the ascription of no other biblical book to a historic personality ever involves the use of the lamed formula (cf. Song, Proverbs). Yet the Psalter is internally consistent in its employment of the same construction with other names such as the Korahites (Ps. 42, et al.), Asaph (Ps. 50, et al.), Solomon (Ps. 72), Heman (Ps. 88), Ethan (Ps. 89), and Moses (Ps. 90).

Whatever its original meaning, there cannot be any doubt that le-David was very early interpreted in the sense of authorship. This can be demonstrated by the heading of Psalm 18 which explicitly declares that David "addressed the words of this song to the Lord" (cf. the parallel in ii Sam. 22:1 which lacks le-David). Another proof is provided by the editorial colophon to the second book of Psalms (72:20): "End of the prayers of David son of Jesse." Since 56 of the 73 occurrences of the formula appear in the first two books, it must be assumed that this remark is a sure indication of how that term was understood very early in the history of the development of the canon of Psalms.

In the course of time, the claim for Davidic composition was extended to the entire Psalter. ii Maccabees 2:13 mentions "the writings of David," apparently in reference to the Book of Psalms. The Greek version extends the Davidic heading to psalms not so marked in the received Hebrew text (viz., 33, 43, 71, 91, 93–99, 104, 137). How the idea of Davidic authorship could be applied to the entire collection can now be illustrated by the epilogue of the large Qumran scroll (11qpsa, 27:4–5, 9–10) which ascribes to David a library of 3,600 "psalms" (tehillim) and 450 "songs" (shirim), although its use of the Davidic superscription does not differ greatly from that of the standard Hebrew text. The first explicit claim to the Davidic origin of the entire Psalter is to be found in rabbinic literature which draws a comparison between the five books of Davidic psalms and the Pentateuch of Moses and was not perturbed by the incidence of other names in the headings (Mid. Ps. to 1:2; bb 14b, 15a; cf. Pes. 117a).

There can be no doubt that the association of David with psalmody rests upon very ancient traditions. The king had a reputation as a skillful player on the lyre in his early youth (i Sam. 16:16–23), an inventor of musical instruments (Amos 6:5; Neh. 12:36; i Chron. 23:5; ii Chron. 29:26–27), as a composer of dirges (ii Sam. 1:17; 3:33), and as a "sweet singer of Israel" (ii Sam. 23:1; cf. 6:5). His role in the establishment of Jerusalem as the supreme, national, religious center (6:2–17; i Chron. 13:3–14; 15:1–16:2) is beyond dispute, and although the sources making David responsible for the organization of the guilds of Temple singers and musicians and for the institution of the liturgy are post-Exilic (Neh. 12:24; i Chron. 6:16ff.; 16:4–7, 41–42; 25:1, 5; ii Chron. 7:6; 8:14; 23:18; 29:26–27, 30), there is every reason to believe that they rest upon a solid kernel of historical fact. Indeed, other ancient Near Eastern kings were credited with the composition of hymns including Ammiditana (1683–1647) of Babylon and Assurbanipal of Assyria (669–627; COS I, 445).

types of psalms

The Psalter presents a picture of unusual variety and complexity in its literary typology. Any attempt, however, to effect a systematic generic classification based upon considerations of a commonality of theme, mood, occasion, and style is bound to be more an exercise in convenience than precision. The choice of categories will be influenced by subjective or exegetical factors; sometimes the lines between one class and another cannot be clearly drawn; sometimes a single psalm can be simultaneously subsumed under more than one heading; many psalms are a fusion of two or more types; many are susceptible of diverse interpretations; the tense system, for example, is still imperfectly understood and it is difficult at times to decide whether one is dealing with a prayerful description of present troubles or grateful enumeration of afflictions now happily over; lastly, external criteria might favor one arrangement, whereas a determination of the original life-setting (Sitz im Leben) of a psalm might disclose an unsuspected generic affinity with other compositions.

The leading genre is the hymn. Broadest in scope, it invades other groups as well and its preeminence helped provide the most popular title of the book (see discussion on title, above). In essence, it is a poem of praise celebrating the majesty, greatness and providence of God. Examples of such include Psalms 8, 19a, 29, 33, 65, 66, 92, 100, 104, 113, 114, 117, 135, and 145–150. Several psalms specifically extol God's royal role in the universe and so may be regarded as forming a special category within the hymn (Ps. 47, 93, 96–99). They are often referred to as "enthronement psalms." Another group (Ps. 46, 48, 76, 84, 87, 122) glorifies God's city, His holy mount in which He has placed His abode, and is thus designated "Zion Songs." Two psalms (19b, 119; cf. 1) acclaim God's Torah and laud its attributes and its beneficial effects on those who study and observe it.

About one third of the Psalter is given over to laments in which the speaker may be either the individual or the community. The latter type bewails situations of national oppression or misfortune (e.g., Ps. 44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 89c, 94); the former comprises about 40 psalms in all and is distinguished by personal complaints of bodily or mental suffering which may frequently be accompanied by protestations of innocence and integrity and are usually coupled with a strong plea for divine help (Ps. 3, 5, 6, 7, 9–10, 13, 17, 22, 25–28, 31, 35, 36, 38, 39, 41, 42–43, 51, 52, 54–57, 59, 61, 63, 64, 69, 71, 77, 86, 88, 102, 120, 123, 130, 140–143). A distinctive feature of many of the laments is the expression by the worshiper of the absolute certainty that His prayers will be heard. These "psalms of confidence" may be both collective (e.g., Ps. 46, 125, 129) or individual in nature, the latter being more frequent (e.g., Ps. 4, 11, 16, 23, 27, 62, 91, 121).

Closely related to the hymn and the lament is the genre of thanksgiving psalms. Here, again, community songs are relatively rare (e.g., Ps. 66, 67, 118, 136). This may be due to the fact that many of the hymns may have had their origin in a national song of thanksgiving. Psalms in which the speaker is an individual are 9–10, 18, 30, 34, 40, 111, and 138. In Psalm 107 it is difficult to know whether the speaker is a single worshiper or the congregation as a whole. Similarly, in Psalm 144the speaker employs both the singular and plural forms of address. Many psalms of thanksgiving also contain descriptions of the original misfortune which has now given way to new circumstances. They thus combine two or more types of psalmody into a cohesive union (e.g., 6, 13, 22, 28, 30, 31, 36, 41, 54, 55, 56, 61, 63, 64, 69, 71, 86, 94, 102, 130).

A class in itself is the "royal psalms" in which the center of attention is the anointed one of God, the earthly king of Israel. His relationship to God, his ideal qualities, the misfortunes that befall him, and the woes that afflict him may all be the themes of the song (Ps. 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 110, 132, 144; cf. 28, 61, 63, 84). Psalms 44 and 101, which, in contrast to royal psalms in the greater ancient Near East contain no direct reference to the reigning monarch (see Starbuck) but which appear to have been liturgies recited by him, probably belong within this same category. The numerous royal hymns in the Psalter are in marked contrast to the scarce references to the king in the Torah (Deut. 28:14–20; 28:36).

One other major category is provided by those compositions which betray the influence of wisdom literature or which have a distinctly pedagogic function or character. They may be reflective or sententious (Ps. 1, 34, 36, 37, 49, 73, 78, 112, 127, 128, 133) or descriptive of the kind of conduct pleasing to God (Ps. 15, 24, 32, 40, 50). They may also be historical retrospectives which either directly or inferentially project the lessons to be derived from the past and which are deemed to be relevant to the occasion of the psalm (Ps. 78, 81, 105, 106, 114).

psalms and the cult

The detailed and elaborate prescriptions of the Pentateuch's Priestly Code contain almost no reference to any recitations by the priest or the worshiper in the course of the performance of the daily and festival rituals. Conversely, none of the psalms provides any explicit information on the type of cultic priestly ceremony to which it might have been attached. It is not clear whether this reflects differences in the cult as conceived respectively by the writers of the Torah and the psalmists, or whether the explanation for the difference is literary.

It is of interest that the Chronicler carefully and consistently differentiates the origin of the sacrificial system which he ascribes to Moses, from the institution of its musical-recitative accompaniment which is attributed to Davidic innovation (ii Chron. 23:18; see section on ascription to David, above). The Psalter, significantly, never associates any psalm with the Aaronide priests. Given the post-Exilic origin of the priesthood of *Aaron, this is a further argument for the early date of much of the book of Psalms.

There is ample evidence to show that the verbal element did constitute an aspect of the worship of both the pre-Exilic period and the post-Exilic periods. The pre-Exilic priestly benediction (Num. 6:22–26) is one example, the cultic liturgy of the first fruits offering (Deut. 26:1–11) is another. Hannah's personal prayer in the Sanctuary at Shiloh (i Sam. 1:10–13) could not have been exceptional. Solomon's post-Exilic Temple dedication address repeatedly refers to "prayer and supplication" (i Kings 8:28ff.), and both early and late evidence from Isaiah shows the Temple to have been, indeed, a place of a multitude of prayers (Isa. 1:15; cf. 56:7). Amos (5:23) makes it quite clear that song set to musical accompaniment was part of the cult at the temple at Beth-El. It is not regarded as illegitimate as such, and there is no reason to believe that it was unique to this place. Jeremiah describes the chanting of a well-known refrain during the bringing of the todah offering to the Jerusalem Temple (Jer. 33:11; cf. Ps. 100:1, 4–5; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1ff.). The prophet of the late Babylonian Exile describes the Temple as "a house of prayer" (Isa. 56:7).

All this suggests a close and ancient connection between cult and liturgy. In fact, without some association between the two it would be extremely difficult to account for the preservation and transmission of the individual compositions over long periods of time until they became gathered into collections and ultimately canonized as a corpus.

Two basic forces operated simultaneously in anchoring the psalms to the cult. First, most of them clearly answer to specific situations in the life of the individual or the community. The ability to categorize them according to a relatively few major and minor types (see above) and to recognize a recurrent use of a limited number of fixed patterns and conventional modes of expression strongly suggest standardized liturgies available for recitation, when the need arose, either at the central Temple or at the provincial shrines that existed throughout most of the period of the Monarchy. The great national festivals which were fundamental to the religious life of Israel would have been the natural occasions for the public recitation of many of the psalms.

Once a liturgical tradition is assumed within the Israelite cult, and it must be so assumed, then the analogy of Near Eastern temples can be drawn upon. In Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ugarit, and Canaan, guilds of singers and musicians connected with the temples enjoyed official status and were highly organized. There is good reason to believe that similar guilds existed in Israel, and there is ever-increasing evidence to support the view that the Davidic date for their establishment as claimed by the Chronicler may not be very wide of the mark (i Chron. 6, 15, 16, 25, 29; ii Chron. 35:15), if anachronistic in detail.

Proof for the well-rooted and extensive tradition of music and psalmody in Israel in the period of the First Temple comes from several sources. King Hezekiah of Judah included male and female musicians among the tribute he paid to Sennacherib of Assyria (c. 701 b.c.e.; Annals of Sennacherib, 3:46–48; Pritchard, Texts, 288; COS ii, 303) and no fewer than 200 lay singers of both sexes were among those who returned from the Babylonian Exile with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:65, 70), apart from the 148 Asaphites (Ezra 2:41; Neh. 7:44). The latter are connected with several psalms (Ps. 50, 73–83) and are said to have been appointed by David to be in charge of the service of the song in the Temple at Jerusalem (i Chron. 6:16, 24). At any rate, their presence in the list of returnees can prove that they had functioned as professional singers in the First Temple. Another guild of Temple servitors from the same period is called "the Korahites" (i Chron. 6:7, et al.) and their name, too, appears in the superscriptions of several psalms (Ps. 42, 44–49, 84–85, 87–88). Their existence as Temple functionaries, in the times of the late Monarchy at least, is now attested by the appearance of their name among the inscribed Hebrew ostraca discovered in the temple of Arad.

There can be no doubt of the involvement of musical guilds in the public worship of Israel in the days of the kings. Inevitably, each guild would develop its own liturgical repertoire and thus constitute another important factor in the presentation and transmission of Hebrew psalmody, rooted in the cult as it naturally was anyway.

the text

It is unlikely that the standard Hebrew text is free of the corruptions that inevitably beset all ancient literature in the course of scribal transmission. Hundreds of years elapsed between the editio princeps of a given psalm and its earliest witnesses, and while the special circumstances of its connection with the cult must certainly have reduced its susceptibility to gross error, it cannot be gainsaid that many of the textual cruxes owe their origin to the carelessness of intermediaries. At the same time, so long as no autograph is available there can be no way of knowing the extent, if any, of editorial activity behind the smoothest text. That such occurred is the inescapable conclusion from a comparison of Psalms doublets (Ps. 14 = Ps. 53; Ps. 18 = ii Sam. 22; Ps. 31:2–4 = Ps. 71:1–3; Ps. 40:14–18 = Ps. 70; Ps. 57:8–12 = Ps. 108:2–6; Ps. 60:7–14 = Ps. 108:7–14).

At the same time, there can also be no doubt that the consonantal text of Psalms has proved to be far more reliable than an earlier age of textual criticism had judged. Northwest Semitic inscriptions and comparative Near Eastern literature have opened up new vistas in the understanding of the biblical poetic idiom and in ancient Hebrew orthography, lexicography, grammar, and syntax. The result has been a considerable diminution in the number of instances previously deemed to be corruptions of the text.

This conclusion intermeshes with the observation that, unlike the case with some other biblical books, a comparison of the received Hebrew of Psalms with the Greek, Latin, Aramaic, and Syriac versions shows that all known witnesses to the text basically constitute a single recension. This conclusion is, in turn, in perfect agreement with the evidence from the scrolls of the Judean Desert. About 30 exemplars in various stages of preservation have been uncovered in the library of Qumran, more copies than of any other part of the Scriptures. While numerous variations from the standard Hebrew text may be registered, the overwhelming number are merely orthographic in character and very rarely present significant differences in meaning or interpretation. In no instance can a recension different from that of the earliest Ben Asher manuscripts be detected. The text of the Massadah Scrolls is, in fact, virtually identical in content and orthography with the received Hebrew text.

It is clear that this latter enjoys a traceable history of over 2,000 years. Its great prestige and constancy must derive from its use in the liturgy of the Second Temple times, a powerfully conservative factor in the preservation of a text.

superscription and technical terminology

Only 24 psalms have no headings of any sort. Psalms 1, 2, 10, 33, 43, 71, 93–97, 99, 104, 105, 107, 114–119, 136, and 137 may thus be termed "orphan psalms" (Av. Zar. 24b). In each instance, the lxx repairs the Hebrew deficiency, though in Psalms 105, 107, 114–119, and 135 the addition consists solely of an initial "Hallelujah." In all but Psalms 115 and 118 this term belongs in the Hebrew to the preceding composition.

The titles of the psalms are for the most part obscure. For the sake of convenience they may be classified as follows:

Those Containing Personal Names (with Affixed Lamed)

Usually the preposition le must indicate either authorship or a collection identified with a guild. However, in Psalm 72 it must mean "about" or "dedicated to," and Psalm 102 le-ʿani can only mean, "for [recitation by] the afflicted man."


Seventy-three psalms are connected with the name David, distributed as follows:

Book i, 37 (3–9, 11–32, 34–41).

Book ii, 18 (51–65, 68–70).Book III, one (86).

Book iv, two (101, 103).

Book v, 15 (108–110, 122, 124, 131, 133, 138–145).

The lxx omits the Davidic reference in Psalms 122, 124, 131, and 133, but adds it to Psalms 33, 42 (ga), 43, 67, 71, 91, 93–99, 104, and 137. It is of interest that 96, 105, 106, and 107 are connected with Davidic activity in i Chronicles 16, yet they do not have Davidic superscriptions in the Hebrew text.

A unique feature of the Davidic ascription is the tendency, found 13 times, to connect a psalm with some event in the life of that king: Psalms 3 (ii Sam. 15–19), 7 (? ii Sam. 18:21), 18 (ii Sam. 22), 34 (i Sam. 21:14), 51 (ii Sam. 11–12), 52 (i Sam. 22:9), 54 (i Sam. 23:19; 26:1), 56 (?i Sam. 21:11; 27:2), 57 (i Sam. 22:1; 24:3), 59 (i Sam. 19:11), 60 (ii Sam. 8:13; i Chron. 18:1–12), 63 (i Sam. 23:14; 24:1; 26:2), 142 (i Sam. 22:1; 24:3). Here, again, the lxx extends this practice by connecting Psalms 27, 71, 97, 143, and 144 with David's biography, but apart from 144 (cf. i Sam. 17) the references are indeterminate.

It should be noted that in some instances the connection between the Hebrew superscription and the body of the psalm is very tenuous. It is possible that the reference may often be to some tradition rooted in a biography of David not included in the biblical narratives and now lost.


Twelve psalms are associated with Asaph (50, 73–83). If the reference is to Asaph rather than to the Asaphites (Ezra 2:41; 3:10, et al.) it is probably because he was a contemporary of David, appointed by him to a prominent position in the leadership of the Temple (Neh. 12:46; i Chron. 6:24; 15:19, et al.).

the korahites

There are 11 Korahite psalms (42, 44–49, 84–85, 87–88). The Korahites (cf. Num. 26:11) are first recorded as participating in the public worship of the Temple in the time of Jehoshaphat (ii Chron. 20:19). They are not listed among the returnees from Babylon (Ezra 2; Neh. 7), so that they operated only during the First Temple period. The appearance of the Korahites among the ostraca of Arad confirms the existence of the guild in the Monarchy period.

heman, ethan

Only one psalm each is assigned to Heman and Ethan (Ps. 88, 89). Both are entitled "Ezrahite" (lxx, "Isra-elite"). They are both leaders of the Temple musicians under David (i Chron. 2:6; 6:18, et al.). Both names are otherwise mentioned as personages famous for their wisdom (i Kings 5:11). Psalm 88 is also ascribed to the Korahites, indicating a double tradition.


It appears that in the case of Psalm 72 the reference to Solomon is to the content rather than the authorship and was so understood by the Greek translators. In Psalm 127 the presence of "Solomon" in the title (omitted in lxx) was conditioned by the mention of "the building of the house."


The attribution to Moses in Psalm 90 is probably based on the affinities between verse 1 and Deuteronomy 33:27, verse 10 and Exodus 7:7, and verse 13 and Exodus 32:12.


At first sight Psalms 39, 62, and 77 appear to be ascribed to Jeduthun who, according to the Chronicler, was a levitical singer in David's time (i Chron. 16:38, 41, 42; 25:1, 3, 6; ii Chron. 5:12). However, not only are the first two also attributed to David and the third to Asaph, implying a combination of variant traditions, but the preposition ʿal (62–77) is difficult to reconcile with a personal name. It is possible, therefore, that a musical instrument is intended.

Another interpretation connects the term with the verb ydh, "to confess," and presumes some confession liturgy or ritual.

Eight names are listed, at most, to which the Septuagint adds "Zechariah" in Psalm 137 and "Haggai and Zechariah" in Psalms 146, 147:1, 147:12, and 148.

Titles with Liturgical Application

The heading of Psalm 30 mentions "the dedication of the Temple" which must be an allusion to the occasion of its public recitation. The identification of the reference, however, is not clear (cf. Sof. 18:2). Psalm 100 implies a liturgy for the todah offering (cf. Jer. 33:11). Psalm 92 indicates a Sabbath reading. The Greek Psalter further reflects liturgical traditions by affixing additional superscriptions indicating that Psalms 24, 48, 94, and 93 were read, respectively, on the first, second, fourth, and sixth days of the week (cf. Tam. 7:4; rh 31a). It also, strangely, designates Psalm 38 "for the Sabbath" and appends to Psalm 29 the notice, "on the going forth of the Tabernacle," perhaps a reference to a custom of reading this hymn on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. However, the rubric may also allude to a tradition connecting Psalm 29 with David's bringing of the ark to Jerusalem, since the verses supposedly sung on that occasion (i Chron. 16:28–29) betray a close affinity with verses 1–2. Another possibility in explanation of the Greek annotation may be that the original Hebrew rubric containing the term ʿaẓeret was mistakenly identified with the eighth day of Tabernacles (cf. Lev. 23:36), whereas it is the rabbinic term for Pentecost. Indeed, the reading of Psalm 29 on this festival is attested (Sof. 18:3).

The Greek rubric to Psalm 96, "when the house was built after the captivity," would imply some tradition not otherwise known. Totally obscure is the Septuagint annotation to Psalm 97, "when the land was established."

Technical Terms in the Headings

The superscriptions are remarkably rich in the number and variety of technical terms, most of which are shrouded in obscurity. Their meanings were already lost in early times for the Greek translators were generally ignorant of them, even in the days of the Second Temple, and rabbinic literature and medieval commentators present an assortment of interpretations. The explanation for this severance of tradition may lie, at least partially, in the fact that the terminology was rooted in the technical jargon of the different guilds of singers and musicians who jealously guarded their professional secrets until they, themselves, went out of existence (cf. Yoma 3:11).


The term mizmor appears exclusively in the Book of Psalms, always as a title and never in the body of a psalm. It is never attached to those psalms found elsewhere in biblical literature. With a single exception (Ps. 98:1, but lxx adds "of David") it is always used in conjunction with a proper name preceded by lamed. Why it is restricted to 57 psalms cannot be known. It was translated psalmos by the Septuagint and by Theodotion and so came down in English as "psalm" lending its name to the entire book (see discussion on title, above). The verbal form appears outside Psalms only in Judges 5:3, ii Samuel 22:50 (= Ps. 18:50), Isaiah 12:5, and i Chronicles 16:9 (= Ps. 105:2) and always in a liturgical context (cf. Isa. 51:3). It appears 44 times alone, 13 times together with shir, and also frequently in parallelism with that term (cf. Ps. 21:14; 27:6; 57:8; 68:5, 33; 104:33; 108:2; Judg. 5:3; Amos 5:23). It is also used in connection with the lyre (Ps. 71:22; 98:5; 147:7; 149:3), the harp (33:2; 144:9; cf. Amos 5:23), and the timbrel (81:3; 149:3). There can be no doubt that mizmor refers to liturgical music.


The title la-menaẓẓe'aḥ occurs in 55 psalms invariably in the initial position. Outside the book it appears only in Habakkuk 3:19, also a liturgy. Its absence from ii Samuel 22 and its presence in Psalm 18 shows that it has to do with the liturgical performance. Medieval Jewish commentators generally point to the verbal usage in the sense of overseeing labor (Ezra 3:8, 9; i Chron. 23:4; ii Chron. 2:1, 17; 34:13) and so understand the term to mean "director, overseer, choirmaster" or the like. Its connection with music is established by i Chronicles 15:21 and ii Chronicles 34:12. However, the Septuagint took it to mean "eternity" (cf. Heb. la-neẓaḥ), the other Greek versions and Jerome connecting it with victory (cf. Heb. niẓẓaḥon). The Targum understood it to mean "to praise."


Thirty psalms are entitled shir. The feminine shirah appears but once (Ps. 18:1; cf. Ex. 15:1; Num. 21:17; Deut. 31:19, et al.). Shir is not restricted to psalms and may be used for secular as well as religious songs (cf. Isa. 23:16). However, the invocation "sing ye!" (shiru) is exclusively liturgical. The term shir, unlike mizmor, may also appear in the body of the psalm itself (Ps. 18:1; 28:7; 33:3, et al.). Only in Psalm 46 is it found alone. In five instances it is followed by mizmor (Ps. 48, 66, 83, 88, 108) and in seven (or eight) others the order is reversed (30?, 65, 67, 68, 75, 76, 87, 92). The significance of the sequence is unknown. The emphasis in its use would be on the words set to a rhythm since the Hebrew uses the phrase "to speak a song" (Judg. 5:12; cf. 11qpsa 27:9, 11), but whether it indicates a special mode of presentation is a matter of conjecture.

Shir ha-Maʿalot

Shir ha-maʿalot appears at the head of a cluster of 15 psalms (Ps. 120–134; Ps. 121 la-maʿalot). lxx and Jerome translate it "degrees" (cf. ii Kings 20:911), but what was understood by that is not clear. Some assume a reference to some peculiar gradational style of musical execution. The rendering "ascents" assumes a connection with the return from Babylon (cf. Ezra 7:9), but only Psalm 126 would be suitable to such a context for in Psalms 122 and 134 the Temple is still standing. Similarly, only Psalm 122 would be appropriate to a "pilgrim psalm" interpretation which would better fit other psalms (e.g., 15, 24, 43, 84) not so designated. The Mishnah appears to understand maʿalot as "steps" (cf. Ex. 20:26 [23]; i Kings 10:19, 20) and to find a connection with the 15 steps joining the court of the Israelites to the court of women in the Second Temple on which the levitical musicians used to stand during the ceremony of the "drawing of water" on Sukkot (Suk. 5:4; Mid. 2:5). These psalms may also have derived their designation from their use in some festal procession.


Featured in the headings to 13 psalms, maskil never appears without a proper name with a prepositional lamed (Ps. 32, 42, 44, 45, 52–55, 74, 78, 88, 89, 142). The lxx understood it to mean "instruction" (cf. Ps. 32:8). It must be assumed to refer to some special skill required in the manner of musical performance (cf. Ps. 47:8). From the context of Amos 5:13 and the contrast between the maskil and the mourning rites (5:16–17), the term might well indicate some type of song.


The term neginot appears six times (Ps. 4, 6, 54, 55, 67, 76) preceded by la-menaẓẓe'aḥ and with the preposition be- (cf. Hab. 3:19), and once in the singular preceded by ʿal (Ps. 61). From i Samuel 16:16, 23 it would clearly seem to indicate stringed instruments (cf. Ps. 68:33; Isa. 23:16; Ezek. 33:32).


All six appearances of the term mikhtam are attached to le-David (Ps. 16, 56–60). lxx and Theodotion rendered it stēlographia which most likely represents its original meaning as "an inscription upon a slab." It is probably interchangeable with the title mikhtav in Hezekiah's thanksgiving psalm (Isa. 38:9). Some connect the word with the Akkadian verb katāmu, meaning "to cover," "to conceal," and assume a connection with some ritual.


Despite the epilogue to the second book of Psalms (72:20) which speaks of "the prayers [tefillot] of David" and the more than a score of appearances in the body of the psalms, the term tefillah is found only in the superscriptions to five psalms (17, 86, 90, 102, 142) and to Habakkuk 3.

Al Shoshannim

Al Shushan Edut, El Shoshannim Edut. Al shoshannim may be translated "On the lilies" (Ps. 45, 69), al shushan edut "On the lily of testimony" (Ps. 60), and el shoshannim edut "To the lilies of testimony" (Ps. 80). They may be cue-words, i.e., the incipits or titles of some well-known songs to the tune of which the psalm was sung. The reference may also be to a six-stringed or six-bell instrument shaped like the lily.

Al Tashḥet

Found in the headings of Psalms 57–59, al-tashhet means "do not destroy" and may be an incipit, perhaps of some old vintage song (cf. Isa. 65:8). Since it is accompanied by mikhtam (see above) in three of its four occurrences, it has been suggested that it may be an adjuration against altering or destroying inscriptions.

Al ha-Gittit

The ancient versions generally connect the term al ha-gittit in Psalms 8, 81, 84 with the winepress (gat). It may indicate a tune sung by the grape treaders (cf. Isa. 16:10; Jer. 25:30), or it may be a musical instrument derived from the Philistine city of Gath (so Targum).

Al ha-Sheminit. Meaning literally, "on the eighth," al ha-sheminit may refer to an eight-stringed instrument in Psalm 6, 12 (cf. Ar. 13b; Tosef., Ar. 2:7). It cannot mean an octave as the division into eight modes was unknown. The reference in i Chronicles 15:21, "with lyres on the sheminit" in parallel with verse 20, "with harps on ʿalamot" (see below) has suggested a quality of the voice, perhaps a low bass.


The appearance of the term lehazkir in i Chronicles 16:4 in a context of public worship strongly suggests a liturgical or cultic meaning in the headings of Psalms 38, 70. However, the precise circumstances cannot be determined for the verb is elsewhere used of invoking the divine name (cf. Ex. 20:21; Isa. 26:13; 48:1; 62:6; Amos 6:10; Ps. 20:8), of recalling sinfulness (cf. Gen. 41:9; Num. 5:15; i Kings 17:18; Ezek. 21:28, 29; 29:16), and in connection with the meal offering or incense burning (cf. Lev. 2:2; 24:7; Num. 5:15, 26; Isa. 66:3).

Al Maḥalat

If al maḥalat is not a cue-word identifying the tune to which Psalms 53, 88 were to be sung, it may indicate a wind instrument (cf. i Kings 1:40, et al.) or some choreographic direction (cf. Judg. 21:23, et al.). It might also be translated, "for sickness" (cf. i Kings 8:37) and imply some accompanying ritual.

Al Alamot

The term al alamot is found as a heading only once (Ps. 46). However, another occurrence of al alamot may be the obscure al-mut in our received Hebrew text of Psalm 48:15, which might belong to the next psalm, as well as in the title of Psalm 9 (see below al mut la-ben). Its connection with public worship is attested by i Chronicles 15:20. It could refer to a musical instrument such as a small flute or pipe or express a quality of the voice, i. e., "youthful" (cf. almah, "a maiden"), perhaps high pitched or soprano.

Al Mut la-Ben

Al mut la-ben could either mean "male soprano" or be a cue-word in its single appearance (Ps. 9).

El ha-Neḥilot

Either a wind instrument (cf. al-maḥalat above) or a cue-word could be intended by el ha-neḥilot in Psalm 5. The variant ʾel for the frequent al cannot be explained.

Al Ayyelet ha-Shahar

Al ayyelet ha-shaḥar is almost certainly a cue-word, the psalm (22) being set to the tune of a well-known song entitled, "On the hind of the morning."

Al Yonat Elem Reḥokim

Al yonat elem reḥokim too (Ps. 56) must be a cue-word that may be translated, "On the speechless dove far-off," or, "On the dove of the far-off terebinths [elim]." The Septuagint seems to have understood "dove" as an epithet for the people of Israel and have read elim, and construed it as "gods" or "holy beings."

Shir Yedidot

The title shir yedidot, "a love song," is appropriate to the occasion of Psalm 45 which celebrates the marriage of an Israelite king to a Tyrian princess.


Lelammed means literally "to teach." Its use in Psalm 60 is reminiscent of the similar introductions to songs in Deuteronomy 31:19 and ii Samuel 1:18.


The meaning "to afflict" indeed connects with the theme of Psalm 88. Leʿannot might refer to some ritual of penance (cf. Lev. 23:27, 29). It could also be an intensive form of the verb anah ("to chant"; cf. Ex. 15:21; 32:18), and might indicate some antiphonal arrangement in the performance of the psalm.


Shiggayon (Ps. 7) also appears in the plural form in the heading to Habakkuk 3. On the basis of the Akkadian šigû, "lamentation," "type of prayer" (cad, Š / II, 413–14) it has been understood as meaning a psalm of lamentation, and is an Akkadian loanword.


The term tehillah, which gave the book its most popular Hebrew title, occurs only in Psalm 145 (see discussion on title, above).


Ten psalms begin with the term Hallelujah (106, 111–113, 135, 146–150) which is not strictly a title but an invocation (see *Hallelujah).

Technical Terms Within the Psalms

Two terms appear within the body of the psalms themselves.


The term selah occurs 71 times in 39 psalms mainly in the "elohistic" psalms, and three times in Habakkuk 3 (verses 3, 9, 13). In 31 of these psalms la-menaẓẓe'aḥ also appears, as it does in Habbakkuk 3. It is never to be found at the beginning of a verse, but occasionally comes in the middle (Ps. 55:20; 57:4; cf. Hab. 3:3, 9). Otherwise, its position is at the end of the verse and four times even at the end of the entire psalm (Ps. 3, 9, 24, 46). It may appear more than once in the same psalm (Ps. 3, 32, 46, 66, 68, 77, 89, 140). The lxx adds selah also at Psalms 34:11; 39:8; 50:15; 80:8; 94:15.

There is no agreement among the ancient versions and medieval Jewish commentators as to its meaning and function. There is no certainty that its current position in a psalm is always original and not sometimes the work of a later scribe or editor. The etymology is obscure and even the masoretic vocalization seems to be secondary.

The Septuagint, Theodotion (usually), and Symmachus all translated selah as δίάψάλμά. However, the meaning of the Greek is as enigmatic as the Hebrew, and the usual rendering "interlude" is not at all sure. The Targum, Aquila, and Jerome all understood it as part of the text of the preceding verse in which it appears and rendered it as "always," or "for eternity." The present vocalization of the Hebrew word seems to reflect this tradition for it is the same as that of the usual word for eternity (neẓaḥ), and the accentuation connects the term with the preceding. The same interpretation is to be found in the Talmud (Er. 54a), and in the employment of selah in the Hebrew prayer book. It also finds support in the comments of Saadiah, Jonah ibn Janaḥ, and Rashi.

A different explanation is given by Kimḥi (Sefer Shorashim) who connects it with the use of the Hebrew root sll in the sense of raising up (cf. Isa. 57:14; Ps.68:5). The term would then be an instruction for the singers or musicians. Abraham Ibn Ezra (to Ps. 3:3) believes it to be a liturgical response on the part of the worshipers, affirming the truth of the sentiments previously stated in the psalm.

Some scholars have suggested a derivation from sal ("basket"), concluding that at certain points in the service a basket-shaped drum was beaten. Others believe the term to be an acrostic. No solution to the enigma of selah is possible in the present state of our knowledge.


The term higgayon appears together with selah in Psalm 9:17 and with a musical instrument in Psalm 92:4. It is found as part of the text in Psalm 19:15 where it implies "utterance," or "musings." The basic root meaning seems to be "to make a sound" (cf. Isa. 16:7; 31:4; 39:14). Higgayon may therefore be an instruction to the musicians to produce a murmuring glissando or a flourish.

The Psalms, with their messianic references real and imagined, played a significant role in Jewish-Christian polemic as early as the New Testament (Matt. 22:21–46). The responses of the medieval Jewish biblical commentators to Christian Psalms interpretation, extremely valuable resources for the history of Jewish-Christian relations, were censored out of earlier editions of rabbinic Bibles but are now available in the excellent edition of M. Cohen (ed.), Mikra'ot Gedolot "ha-Keter" Tehillim (2 vols., 2003).

[Nahum M. Sarna]

in the talmud and midrash

The rabbis reduced the traditional number of psalms to 147 (Mid. Ps. 22:19; 104:2) merely for homiletical purposes as is evident from the passage in Berakhot 9b–10a. The Talmud explains that Psalm 19:15 was instituted to be recited after the 18 benedictions of the *Amidah since it comes at the end of the 18th Psalm. Whereupon the Talmud asks, "But this is the 19th Psalm, not the 18th," and answers that Psalms 1 and 2 constitute one psalm. It brings evidence for this in the statement that David first uses the word Hallelujah at the end of the 103rd Psalm, where in fact it is in Psalm 104:35. It is therefore evident that at that time Psalms 1 and 2 normally constituted two psalms, and Psalms 19 and 104 were numbered as they are today. That homiletical purpose seems clear. It is reflected in the statement "Moses gave the five books of the Torah to Israel, and corresponding to them, David gave the five books of the Psalms to Israel" (Mid. Ps. 1:2). In order to emphasize this relationship, the number of psalms was reduced to 147, probably in order to make it correspond to the number of sedarim in the Bible according to the triennial cycle current in Ereẓ Israel. The other two cases of two psalms which were combined in one were probably 114 and 115 (see Kimḥi in loc.) and 117 and 118 (see Buber in Mid. Ps. 22 note 88).

The Book of Psalms includes the compositions of ten earlier authorities, Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, Heman, Jeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korah (bb 14b, 15a, variants are given in Eccles. R. 7:19.4). Nevertheless the Book of Psalms was called after David because "his voice was pleasant" (Songs R. 4:4 no. 1 referring to ii Sam. 23:1). All the psalms were inspired (Pes. 117a) and music helped to bring the inspiration: "A harp was suspended above the bed of David. When midnight came the north wind blew on it and it produced music of its own accord. Immediately David arose and occupied himself with Torah." That "Torah" consisted of songs and praises, however, since "until midnight he occupied himself with Torah; and from then with songs and praises" (Ber. 3b). The psalms are both individual and general; those in the singular are personal, those in the plural are of general application (Pes. 117a).

Various psalms and groups of psalms are singled out for special mention in the Talmud. They are the *Hallel, Psalms 113–118, the only psalms which formed part of the liturgy in talmudic times (see below; Psalms in Liturgy) and also known as the "Egyptian Hallel" (Ber. 56a), to distinguish it from Psalms 145–150 and Psalm 136 which are also variously referred to as Hallel (Shab. 118b), or, the latter, Hallel ha-Gadol (Pes. 118a); the seven psalms which were "the psalms which the levites used to recite in the Temple" (Tam. 7:4) and which have been included in the liturgy; and the Fifteen Songs of Degrees 120–134 (shir ha-maʿalot). Such importance was attached to the alphabetical Psalm 145, that it was stated that "he who recites it three times a day is certain to be vouchsafed the world to come" (Ber. 4b). Psalm 16 compresses into 11 principles the whole of the Torah (Mak. 24a). The Tamnei Appei (lit. "eight faces"), i.e., Psalm 119, the eightfold alphabetical acrostic psalm which in later ages is given a special importance (see below), is only mentioned en passant (ibid.).

The almost complete neglect of the psalms in the liturgy during talmudic times may give a wrong impression of the enormous importance with which the psalms were invested by the rabbis. A suggestion has been made that in some places there was a triennial cycle of the reading of psalms, corresponding to the triennial cycle of the reading of the Pentateuch, which would explain, inter alia, the comparison made between the Five Books of Moses and the Five Books of Psalms, and the equalization of the number of psalms with the pericopes of the Pentateuch. It was, however, in their homilies and preaching that the psalms were most heavily relied upon. The Midrash states that Ben Azzai "strung together [as a row of pearls] the words of the Pentateuch with those of the prophets, and of the prophets with the Hagiographa, and words of Torah rejoiced as on the day they were given at Sinai" (Lev. R. 16:4). Although it refers to the Hagiographa in general, there is no doubt but that Psalms was the favorite book of that section of the Bible employed. This method of "stringing together" the verses of Psalms with those of the Pentateuch is reflected in the proems to the classical *Midrashim, the overwhelming majority of which are expositions of verses of the psalms which are linked with the pentateuchal verse under discussion. As a result, even disregarding *Midrash Tehillim (Midrash Psalms), which is a running commentary on the whole Book of Psalms, and which in any case is largely a compilation based on earlier material, there is not a single chapter of Psalms and hardly a single verse which is not expounded in the Talmud and Midrash (cf. A. Lavat, Beit Aharon ve-Hosafot, 1881).

in the liturgy

The penetration of the psalms into the liturgy represents a gradual process extending over the centuries, the effect of which can be seen in the fact that whereas in the talmudic period the statutory prayers included no psalms whatsoever on Sabbaths and weekdays, and the only psalms recited were the Hallel on the three Pilgrim Festivals and Ḥanukkah, and later, despite a specific rubric to the contrary (Arukh 10a), on the *New Moon, the authorized Daily Prayer Book of the United Hebrew Congregation of England (Singer) gives an index of 73 psalms and part of another included in the various services. In part, at least, this inclusion of the psalms into the liturgy came as a result of popular demand. Of the Daily Psalm, for instance, there is the statement that "the people have adopted the custom of including it" (Sof. 18:1) and with regard to the choice of Psalm 136 as the psalm for the Passover "the people have adopted the custom of reciting this psalm, though it is not the best choice" (ibid. 18:2).

Statutory Prayers

The process whereby the recitation of psalms became an integral part of the statutory prayers consisted of regarding every reference to the recitation of psalms in the Talmud, either as acts of special piety performed by individuals, or as part of the Temple service, as a justification for making them part of the statutory service. To this class belong the *Pesukei de-Zimra and the Daily Psalm. The Pesukei de-Zimra consisted originally only of the six last psalms, the Hallelujah Psalms 145–50. The process of inclusion is clearly seen in the fact that whereas their recitation is mentioned in the Talmud by R. Yose as an act of especial piety (Shab. 118b; and it is the later authorities who decide that the Hallel to which he refers are those psalms), in the post-talmudic tractate *Soferim, they are called simply "the six daily psalms" which are already part of the statutory service (Sof. 17:11). Both these passages, however, confine the Pesukei de-Zimra to those six psalms. On the principle, however, that there was more leisure on Sabbaths and festivals, both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi rites add a considerable number on those days: the former adds nine (19, 34, 90, 91, 135, 136, 33, 92, and 93) and the Sephardi 14 (103, 19, 33, 90, 91, 98, 121–124, 135, 136, 92, 93; some rites include the first two in the weekday service).

The same process is seen with regard to the Daily Psalm. They are mentioned in the Midrash as "the psalms which the levites used to sing in the Temple" (Tam. 7:4). By the time of Soferim they are already part of the daily prayers, "the people having adopted the custom" (18:1). However, here again, once the transfer was made to the synagogue, it was extended to special psalms for every festival (for the text see Soferim 18 and 19 and for a variant, Baer, Avodat Yisrael, last unnumbered page). In the course of time a large number of individual psalms were added: Psalm 30 before the Pesukei de-Zimra, Psalm 100 on weekdays in the Pesukei de-Zimra, Psalm 6 in the supplicatory prayers, Psalm 24 on weekdays when the Sefer Torah is returned to the ark, and 29 on Sabbaths and festivals. Psalm 20 was included in the last portion of the daily service. Some rites have psalms added to the evening service parallel to the Daily Psalm in the morning (see Singer, 133–40). Psalm 27 was instituted for the penitential period from the second day of Elul to *Hoshana Rabba, 144 and 67 for the Service of the Termination of the Sabbath, etc.

Two groups of psalms have to be mentioned: Psalms 104 and the Fifteen Songs of Degrees, included in the Sabbath afternoon service during the winter months, instituted in the 12th century, and the latest addition of all, which spread with remarkable rapidity, Psalms 95–99 and 20, for the Inauguration of the Sabbath. Instituted by the kabbalists of Safed in the 16th century – although the author of the liturgical work Matteh Moshe published in 1615 makes no mention of it, and 15 years later the author of Yosef Omeẓ, while praising it as "a good and beautiful custom," refers to it as "a new one, lately come up" – it has become standard in all Ashkenazi services (most Sephardi rites confine themselves to 29). This list, however, though incomplete, does not exhaust the inclusion of Psalms in the statutory service. Some of the prayers consist merely of a mosaic of single verses from Psalms of which the most notable are two passages which precede the Psalms of the Pesukei de-Zimra, called by their opening words Romemu and Yehi Khevod. Both consist entirely of verses from Psalms (except for one verse from Prov. 19:21 and one composite verse (Adonai Melekh) consisting of three parts, two of which are from Psalms) and of verses selected from the five books into which Psalms is divided. Only the second book has no verse in the Yehi Khevod, but the Yemenite rite adds Psalm 46:12 from this book, and this is probably the original version, already mentioned in Soferim (17:11). It would appear that this selection is deliberate. In all, no less than 250 individual verses from Psalms are thus added to the liturgy (A. Berliner, Randbemerkungen, p. 9).

Non-Statutory Prayers

It can safely be said that there is no special or non-statutory service which does not include one or more psalms. They include the introduction to the Grace after Meals, prayers for drought (Baer, appendix, p. 87), before going on a journey, the night prayer before retiring to rest, prayers for and by the sick, the burial service, the prayer in the house of mourning, the memorial service for the dead, and the service at the consecration of a tombstone which, apart from the memorial prayer, consists of a selection of psalms. The custom has been followed in all forms of service added in recent years, of which Singer includes the services on the occasion of making collections for hospitals, of thanksgiving of a woman after childbirth, and on the consecration of a house. They are naturally included in the prayers for Independence Day. Custom has developed, under the influence of the Kabbalah, especially in Israel, with regard to Psalm 119, the eightfold alphabetical psalm. At memorial services the verses are recited which make up the name of the deceased and his father, with the addition of the verses the letters of which form the word neshamah ("soul").


The regular reading of Psalms was not confined to services. The recital of the whole Book of Psalms is widespread, whether as an act of piety by saintly individuals, or by groups of unlearned people. For this purpose "societies of reciters of psalms" (ḥevrot tehillim) were formed, and in recent times a special society has been formed in Jerusalem whereby two separate groups recite the whole Book of Psalms daily at the Western Wall. The Psalms are included in their entirety in all large prayer books. A prayer has been composed to be recited prior to and at the conclusion of each of the five books as well as for its reading on Hoshana Rabba which specifically equates them with the Five Books of Moses (Baer, Introduction to Psalms in Avodat Yisrael, pp. 5–8). Baer concludes with a list of psalms which it is customary to recite on Sabbath to correspond with the weekly portion "in the manner of the haftarah," thus "stringing together" Pentateuch, Prophets, and Psalms (last page, unnumbered).

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]

in the arts

In Literature

From the early Middle Ages the Book of Psalms has had an incalculable influence on literature, art, and music. Its impact has, perhaps, been greatest on writers. J.G. *Herder stated that "it is worth studying the Hebrew language for ten years in order to read Psalm 104 in the original" and Israel *Zang-will even claimed that the psalms "are more popular in every country than the poems of the nation's own poets. Besides this one book with its infinite editions… all other literatures seem 'trifles light as air'…" (1895). Literary treatment of Psalms has taken several forms: translation and paraphrase in verse and prose, imitation, and the composition of hymns and epics inspired by the themes and style of the original. Many of the first European translations of Psalms possess considerable literary merit and importance and some helped to mold the languages in which the sense of the Hebrew was conveyed. Among the earliest known are the versions in Anglo-Saxon (eighth century), Old Church Slavonic (ninth century), and Old High German (tenth century). During the 13th–15th centuries many more versions of the Psalter appeared in lands throughout Europe; and translations of Psalms were among the first books printed in some countries, notable examples being Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples' French Psalter (1509), Jan Kochanowski's Psałterz Dawidów (1578) and Maciej Rybiński's Psalmy monarchy i proroka światego Dawida (1598) in Poland, and the Psalter of the Brasov friar Coresi (1578–80) in Romania. Together with other portions of the Old Testament, the Psalms were translated from the Hebrew by 15th-century Judaizing sects in Russia, and a version in Yiddish was published in Venice by the pioneer Hebrew grammarian and author Elijah *Levita (1545).

From the early 16th century the Psalms inspired the highest degree of literary creativity in England and France. Thomas Sternhold headed a team of scholars who published The Whole Booke of Psalmes; collected into Englysh metre… conferred with the Ebrue… (London, 15512, 1562), which ran to literally hundreds of editions during the 16th–18th centuries; and this version was first used for the Church of Scotland's metrical Psalmsof David (Edinburgh, 1650), which has remained one of the standard collections for Protestants throughout the English-speaking world. Another verse translation of the 16th century was that by Sir Philip Sidney and his sister, Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, whose Psalmes of David was, however, only published in 1823. The pioneering French translation was that prepared by the poet Clément Marot (later in collaboration with the Geneva Reformer Théodore de Bèze): Trente Pseaulmes de David mis en francoys (1541) and Cinquante Pseaulmes de David (1543), which ran to dozens of editions from 1560 onward. Marot's version, with its "sober, solemn music," became an integral part of the French Protestant liturgy and enjoyed an extraordinary vogue, not only at the Protestant court of Navarre but even at the Catholic French court, where it was officially banned by the Sorbonne. French writers who paraphrased or reinterpreted the Book of Psalms include Agrippa d'Aubigné, Jean Antoine de Baïf, Jean Bertaut, Honorat de Bueil, Jean de la Ceppède, Jean Baptiste Chassignet, Philippe Desportes, Guy *Le Fèvre de la Boderie (whose works include many verse paraphrases from the Hebrew), and François de Malherbe.

During the 17th century, too, the Psalms retained their fascination for many writers. They inspired German hymns by Paul Gebhardt; the so-called Teitsch-Hallel, a Yiddish composition based, at least in part, on contemporary Protestant hymnology; and the first important work printed in New England, the Bay Psalm Book (Cambridge, 1640), a metrical (and highly literal) translation from the Hebrew for those who wished to "sing in Sion the Lord's songs of prayse according to his own wille." In the 18th century a Spanish verse paraphrase (Espejo fiel de Vidas que contiene los Palmos de David in Verso, London, 1720) was published by the ex-Marrano Daniel Israel Lopez *Laguna; and a German Jewish translation was prepared by the philosopher Moses *Mendelssohn (1783). Directly and indirectly many writers of the 19th and 20th centuries have been influenced by the Book of Psalms. Thomas Carlyle maintained that the Psalms of David "struck tones that were an echo of the sphere-harmonies." Even greater praise was expressed by the British statesman William Ewart Gladstone, who unfavorably contrasted "all the wonders of Greek civilization" with "the single Book of Psalms," claiming that the "flowers of Paradise… blossomed in Palestine alone" (The Place of Ancient Greece, 1865). The same source has provided perennial inspiration for Jewish writers, including Penina *Moise, whose metrical renderings of the Psalms were adopted by U.S. Reform congregations; Heinrich *Graetz; and Samson Raphael *Hirsch, whose German neo-Orthodox edition of the Book of Psalms appeared in 1882. Jewish writers of the 20th century who dealt with the same theme included Nachman Heller, who published an edition of the Psalms together with a rhymed Hebrew paraphrase, English and Yiddish translations, and English notes (1923); Izak *Goller, whose original verse translation of Ps. 113–118, Hallel – Praise, was published in 1925; and the U.S. rabbi Gershon Hadas who published a new translation for "the modern reader" (1964).

[Godfrey Edmond Silverman]

In Art

Among Christians of the Middle Ages the Book of Psalms was the most popular section of the Hebrew Bible and it was frequently illustrated in illuminated manuscripts such as Psalters, Bibles, breviaries, and Books of Hours. A particularly popular subject was King David the Psalmist playing on his harp or, occasionally, on other instruments. In the English 13th-century Rutland Psalter he is shown playing the organ. Carolingian Psalters and Bibles and manuscripts of the following two centuries often depict David surrounded by Asaph, Heman, Ethan, and Jeduthun, his four musicians, symbolizing Jesus with the four evangelists. A charming representation of David the Psalmist is the introductory miniature to a 15th-century north Italian Book of Psalms, part of a Hebrew miscellany volume in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The king is shown seated in a garden near a wood from which deer emerge, charmed by his playing. The subject was revived in northern Europe in the 17th century. There are paintings by Rubens (Staedelmuseum, Frankfurt), Pieter Lastman (Gallery Brunswick), and *Rembrandt (Kaplan Collection, New York). Modern works include those by Dante Gabriel Rosetti (Llandaff Cathedral) and by Jozef *Israels (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam).

The Middle Ages have also left manuscript illuminations of other subjects taken from the Psalms; and these are often extremely literal in interpretation. Some illustrations to Psalm 27:1 ("The Lord is my light") show David turning toward Jesus or the hand of God, and pointing to his own eyes. Psalm 53:2 ("The fool hath said in his heart: 'There is no God'…") is illustrated by a half-naked medieval jester with a bauble in his hand or wearing a jester's long-eared cap. Sometimes he swallows a stone or bites a dog by the tail. In the 16th-century Henry viii Psalter (British Museum) David is shown as Henry and the fool as his court jester. In some cases, however, the fool is David himself feigning madness before Abimelech. Psalm 69:2–3 ("Save me, O God; For the waters are come in even unto the soul…") takes the form of a naked crowned monarch submerged up to the waist or shoulders, his hands raised in supplication. Psalm 81:2 ("Sing aloud unto God, our strength") is illustrated by David striking on bells with a hammer, playing his harp, or dancing before the ark. Psalm 137 ("By the rivers of Babylon") likewise formed the subject of manuscript illustrations, but also of paintings by the 19th-century French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix (in the dome of theology of the Palais Bourbon, Paris) and the German academician Eduard Bendemann (Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne). Psalm 150:1 ("Praise God in His sanctuary") inspired the basreliefs of choristers by Luca della Robbia (15th century; Florence Cathedral).

In Music

The singing of psalms was the chief medium of personal and communal devotion during the formative period of Christianity and has retained an important position in its liturgy ever since. In both the old Eastern and Western denominations, as in Jewish traditions, the melodies of the psalms are built on the principle of psalmody and show many similarities (see Musical Rendition, below). In the Christian traditions they are correlated with a rigid system of melodic theory, that of the Eight Modes or Tones, i.e., eight basic melodic-scalar patterns. The roots of this system also lie in the Near East; the psalmodic patterns have been the least affected by changes in style or creative initiative, since they were to all effect "canonized" no less than the liturgical texts. Their earliest notation in the West is found in the anonymous treatise, Commemoratio brevis de tonis et psalmis modulandis, dating from about the second half of the ninth century, and their final forms, preserved thereafter by notation and usage, are those established shortly after the turn of the first millennium. As in Jewish tradition, the performance of the Psalms in the Christian liturgies shows many forms of responsorial and antiphonal divisions (soloist-group, group-group) and various relationships and means of musical linkage with the hymns and prayers of the service. An important feature is the florid rendition of the Alleluia, interpolated between the half clauses or the verses (cf. *Hallelujah), often spun out into a long, wordless melisma on the final a, the so-called Jubilus, and the extension of the psalm-odic principle to form the very melismatic chants of the Tractus ("drawn-out") category. Special psalmodic formulas are also used for the rendition of certain hymns from the Bible and the New Testament, such as the Songs of Moses – Auditecoeli (Haʾazinu, Deut. 32:1–43) – and the Song of Mary – the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55).

The Protestant Reformation and its related movements, basing its liturgy on the vernacular, created rhymed paraphrases of the Psalms, which were furnished with new melodies, i.e., newly composed, taken over from secular songs, or reshaped to the meter from a traditional ("Gregorian") melody. The major composers who took part in the creation of this new tradition were Loys Bourgeois (c. 1510–c. 1561), Claude Le Jeune (1528–1600), and Claude Goudimel (c. 1515–1572), in France and Switzerland, for the psalm paraphrases by Marot and Calvin; Jacobus Clemens Non Papa (c. 1510–c. 1556) in Holland, with his three-part arrangements of folk tunes to the Dutch rhymed Psalter (the Souterliedekens – "little Psalter songs"); and Martin *Luther and the members of his circle for the psalm paraphrases among the German chorales. The continental tunes were largely taken over into the English and Scottish repertoire (Sternhold Psalter, 1563), and then with local additions, migrated with the Puritans to North America, where the earliest book of music instruction published was A very plain and easy introduction to the whole Art of Singing Psalms by John Tufts (1712, 174411). Almost from the outset, the Protestant and related movements linked their psalm and hymn collections with art music (and no doubt also popular harmonizing practices) by publishing them in three- or four-voice part settings, a practice which still continues.

Art music compositions for the Psalms appear much later than for the other parts of the service, in the early 15th century, since most of the Psalm texts appear in those parts of the service which are less frequently the occasion for artistic elaboration, such as Vespers. The polyphonic settings of the Psalms "do not constitute a musical category, but are the sum of all those musical categories and forms which stand in any relationship to the biblical Psalms, to their text (original, translated, paraphrased, rhymed, reinterpreted, or taken as the base for an instrumental interpretation), or, in a more narrow sense, to their liturgical melodies" (L. Finscher). It is therefore hardly possible to trace the history of these compositions separately from the mainstream of European art music, from the strictly liturgical-functional harmonizations of the Psalm tones, through the golden ages of the continental motet and the English verse anthem (16th–17th centuries), to the free settings of modern composers. The Psalms have always appealed to composers not only as the "essence of sacred music" but also through their balance of the individual and communal expression of joys and sorrows, which challenges each composer anew. Psalm settings are found in the works of almost all major composers from the 16th century onward. The tradition has been continued by such works as Igor Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms (1930, to the Latin text), and Leonard *Bernstein's Chichester Psalms (1965, specified by the composer to be sung only in Hebrew).

[Bathja Bayer]

musical rendition in jewish tradition

Historical Sources

It is most probable that some of the components of the so-called psalm titles, i.e., the verses or half verses prefaced to many of the psalms, indicate certain musical aspects: shir, mizmor, and their combinations (see above; see also *Music). The simple recurring response ki le-olam hasdo ("For His mercy endures forever") in Psalms 136, 118:1–4, 106:1, etc., may have been sung to an equally simple melodic formula (by the levitic choir or by the public) after the more elaborate rendition of the first part of the verse by a soloist or by the choir. The refrain or response verses did not have to be written out explicitly if the performers and the public knew them by tradition, and the same was true for the practice of interjecting the praise Hallelujah, once, or several times, after each verse or group of verses. Present-day traditional usages show many instances of the use of one verse as response or refrain, the intercalation of extraneous sentences as refrains, and the addition of Hallelujah in both Jewish and Christian traditions.

The version of Psalm 145 found in Cave 11 at Qumran (11QPsa) may be an early documentation of the practices. A refrain-like clause ("Blessed be God and blessed be His Name forever and ever"), not found in the masoretic text or in the versions, is added after each verse. This refrain is obviously related to verse 1 and could have been intoned as a response. The talmudic sources offer a number of fairly detailed references to psalm singing. Especially important are those references that refer to the various possible divisions of performance between soloist and choir (or public) in the Hallel (Sot. 5:4, elaborated in Tosef., Sot. 6:2; tj, Sot. 5:6, 20c; Sot. 30b; Mekhilta Shirata 1). The discussion centers upon the rendition of the Song of the Sea which is said to have been performed "as the Hallel is sung." The information may therefore be applied to the contemporary performance of the Hallel.

The historical notated sources begin rather late, as compared to the notations of masoretic cantillation (see *Masoretic Accents). A specimen of psalm-cantillation motives according to the masoretic accents was notated sometime during the first half of the 17th century by Jacob Finzi, cantor in Casale Monferrato. Four psalm melodies – three Italian-Sephardi and one Italian-German – were among the 11 synagogal melodies notated by Benedetto Marcello in Venice and published in his Estro poetico armonico (1724–27 and subsequent editions). More than half of the compositions in Salamone de' *Rossi's Ha-Shirim asher li-Shelomo (Venice, 1622–23) are settings of psalms (for three or more voices) with Psalms 92 and 111 set for a double choir of four-plus-four voices. Many freely composed settings of Hodu (Ps. 136) appear in the early cantor's manuals, beginning with the manuscript of Juda Elias of Hanover (1740). Similar to Rossi's works, these also belong to the province of art music; but the cantoral specimens frequently feature the beginning of the traditional intonation as a point of departure for their late-baroque flights of fancy.

Since the practice of psalm singing was taken over by Christianity from the synagogues of the surrounding Jewish communities in the Near East (and not from the art music of the Second Temple), many fruitful – and often problematic – attempts have been made to discover the "common heritage" by comparative methods. A survey of the oral traditions shows that the melodic content of psalm singing is extremely varied. On the other hand, all the truly traditional styles and practices of psalm singing do fall into a very limited number of categories as regards the melodic structure, relationship between melody and text, response and refrain, usages, and the influence of external musical and non-musical factors.


About 90% of the existing melodies follow the pattern which musicologists call psalmody (Gr. Πσ´άλμὸδίά, "singing of psalms"), i.e., a simple two-wave melodic curve corresponding to the parallel-clause structure of the majority of the psalm verses (two hemistichs). According to the still accepted definition established by medieval European church-music theory, psalmody consists of the following: initium, the opening rise; tenor (or tonus currens, or tuba) the holding tone for the recitation of the main parts of the verse; mediant (or flexa), the midpoint "dip" between the two hemistichs, with a kind of secondary initium leading to the reappearance of the tenor for the second hemistich; and finalis (or punctum), the closing formula (see ex. 1). The tenor may be repeated for as long as necessary to cover a varying number of words, and the system is applied with enough flexibility to cover even those psalm verses which are actually not bipartite but tripartite. The realization of the psalmodic principle in the Jewish traditions is frequently more complex than in the Christian ones in several respects:

(1) many melodies have not one but two tenors, and there are also some "double" melodic formulas (see ex. 2);

(2) the tenor, or tenors, are often covert, appearing as one or several long notes, or as the axis of a series of melismatic movements, or otherwise hidden beneath a florid elaboration;

(3) in the second half of the verse, the structure is often disturbed by subtraction, addition, or other departures from the pattern; the ending, however, will always come to obey the convention of the finalis (see ex. 3). On the other hand, there are also many very simple and presumably archaic melodies which follow the psalmodic pattern faithfully: examples are known from Tunisia, Morocco, Persia, Yemen, and even Europe.

The character and complexity of the melody are linked with the liturgical function. A certain psalm may thus be sung to various melodies. The exceptions are the two psalms of national mourning ("Asaph, O God the heathen are come into Thine inheritance"), and Psalm 137 ("By the rivers of Babylon") and Psalm 79 ("A psalm of often Psalm 91 ("Psalm of the afflicted individual"). The traditional intonations these have acquired in each community are so strongly associated with their contents that they cannot be transferred to the more joyful and festive texts of other psalms. The daily reading in the synagogue, or in private devotions, is the simplest and most closely follows the principle of psalmody. For the group of psalms sung in the morning prayer (Pesukei de-Zimra), different melodies are chosen for weekdays, Sabbath, and feasts. With the increasing festiveness of the occasion, the melodies tend to become more elaborate, especially when the rendition is given to the ḥazzan. Examples are the Hallel in the synagogue and psalms sung at weddings (especially Ps. 45). On extraordinarily festive occasions, the ritual will consist mostly of appropriately chosen psalms, and here virtuoso composition and performance are given the freest rein – as in a festive prayer for the sovereign (which will feature Ps. 21 and similar texts) and in the ceremony for the dedication of a new synagogue (where Ps. 118 is prominent).

In home rituals, such as in the Hallel sung at the seder, or

for those parts of the above-mentioned ceremonies in which the congregation is expected to participate the simplest psalm-odic melodies will retain their place by the force of tradition and for obvious practical reasons (cf. Volunio Gallichi's manuscript score for the inauguration of the Siena synagogue in 1786 (ed. I. Adler, 1965)) which, in addition to an elaborate composition of Open to me the Gates of Righteousness (Ps. 118) and of various poems, has also preserved the traditional intonation for the "obligatory" prayers of the ceremony, including those for Psalms 32 and 95 (Lekhu nerannenah).

The psalmodic pattern may be overlaid by non-psalmodic elements as an effect of liturgical function. In the Ashkenazi Lekhu nerannenah, for example, the original psalmody seems to have been stretched by successive generations of ḥazzanim toward the nusaḥ of the "Reception of the Sabbath" (cf. Idelsohn, Melodien 8, no. 27, and A. Baer, Ba'al T'fillah, no. 320). "If…a psalm was used as an introduction to or interlude between prayers in a certain mode, that mode was, as a rule, transferred also to the Psalms – a procedure called by the precentors me-inyana [מענינא – "of the relevant subject," a talmudic technical term]" (Idelsohn, Music, p. 60). The all-important end clause in the Ashkenazi *nusaḥ intonation is truly psalmodic and it has been maintained that the nusaḥ system itself developed out of psalmody. Another instance of me-inyana is the singing of Psalms 92 and 93 in Yemen at the onset of the Sabbath, in the intonation of the study of the Mishnah, since the mishnaic passage Ba-Meh Madlikin is read there, asin many other communities, immediately preceding, as a kind of bridge between the afternoon and evening prayer.

Psalmodic melodies are also used for texts which are not psalms, as in the *Seliḥot (of all communities) and in various prayers for Rosh Ha-Shanah and the Day of Atonement (among the Ashkenazim). Some of these may be better classified as a litany, which is an even simpler form than psalmody but closely related to it. In any case this again supports the contention of the relationship between prayer and psalmody.

Although the psalms are furnished with accents in the masoretic texts, the question, whether they were ever, or still are, sung according to the accents is still moot. Even the 17th-century Italian notation of accent motives for Psalms and the claims of present-day informants that they sing according to the accents are not conclusive. Most scholars think that the system of the accents is too sophisticated to be followed precisely or that there was a "lost art" of psalm cantillation. It may even be that some present-day practices of following the accents approximately are a back-formation phenomenon: since the accents were there, it was felt that they had to be obeyed somehow, and after many generations some characteristic motives became attached to the accent-signs in coexistence with the overall psalmodic line. Some modifications, such as those which occur in Mizmor Shir le-Yom ha-Shabbat (Ps. 92) in many communities, can only be explained by the influence of the accents.


In traditional group singing the psalm is sung in unison (or, as in Yemen, in the organum-like folk polyphony of that community). In most non-Ashkenazi communities the text is "metricized" in a precisely proportioned succession of the short and long syllables, as done with almost all prose or prose-like liturgical texts when sung by the congregation. As the oldest sources attest and contemporary practices still show, the psalms are also frequently sung in various forms of alternation: solo and group (responsorial psalmody), alternating or succeeding soloists, group against group (antiphonal psalm-ody), with response and refrain verses and intercalations of Hallelujah between the verses or even after each half clause (see *Music, ex. 4). The point of alternation is not always at the end of the verse or after each half clause: often the performers alternate only at the half-clause point, apparently disregarding the primary verse divisions. In some cases a singer will end his part with the word bearing a masoretic accent of major divisive status inside the verse (not the etnaḥta at the half clause). For the waving of the lulav (palm branch) on *Sukkot, verses of Psalm 118 are sung to an extended melody to allow for the waving in six directions (cf. Suk. 37b; A. Baer, Ba'al T'fillah, no. 814ff., for the Western and Eastern Ashkenazi melodies; and ex. 4 a melody from Djerba).

Some communities are particularly rich in psalm melodies: Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, Cochin, Syria, Turkey, Italy, and the "Portuguese communities" of Western Europe. In Yemen groups of psalms are sung most artistically in the prayer meetings called ashmorot (at dawn on the Sabbath), very similar to the singing of hymns by the Near Eastern communities in the *bakkashot. The Egyptian repertoire is less varied, but many of the melodies are extremely florid and linked to the *maqāma system; it is a moot point whether the practice is rooted in the same old tradition from which Christianity derived its extended "Jubilus" (the wordless prolongation of Hallelujah) or acquired more recently from Arabic art song. Among the Ashkenazi communities hardly any true psalmodies have survived, and the home rituals for the singing of the psalms have absorbed many folk tunes from the surrounding cultures. In the realm of the ḥasidic niggun, psalm verses furnish some of the texts, with no particular distinction as to the choice of melody (cf. the well-known "neo-ḥasidic" Yismeḥu ha-Shamayim).

In the "ordered ḥazzanut" of the 19th century in Western Europe, the psalms were set to music in a manner not different from the style of the prayers and often as showpieces for the choir, somewhat in the manner of the Anglican anthem. In Reform Judaism where the text was paraphrased as a rhymed poem in Western meters, the result followed the precedents of the Protestant chorale and even utilized its tunes. At this stage the survey of the traditions of the musical rendition of the Psalms passes into the history of musical composition, discussed under Psalms in the arts (see above).

[Avigdor Herzog]


general: Kaufmann Y., Toledot, 2 (1947), 200–6, 646–727; A.R. Johnson, in: H.H. Rowley (ed.), The Old Testament and Modern Study (1951), 162–209; S. Mowinckel, in: vt, 5 (1955), 13–33; M.H. (Z.) Segal, Mevo ha-Mikra, 4 (1955), 517–85; A.S. Kapelrud, in: Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute, 4 (1965), 74–90; H.H. Rowley, Worship in Ancient Israel (1967); N.M. Sarna, in: M. Buttenwieser, The Psalms (1969), xiii–xxxviii. title: B. Jacob, in: zaw, 16 (1896), 162–3. place in canon: C.D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (1966), 1–8. number of psalms: Schirmann, Sefarad, 1 (1954), 92, 101; I. Joel, in: ks, 38 (1962), 125; J. Heinemann, in: Tarbiz, 33 (1963/64), 362–8; C.D. Ginsburg, Introduction… (1966), 18, 777. verse division: S.D. Luzzatto, Peninei Shadal (1888), 281–2; Lewin, Oẓar, 9 (1939), 84; P.W. Skehar, in: vts, 5 (1957), 153–5. division into books: I. Abrahams, in: jqr, 16 (1903–04), 579; H. St. J. Thackeray, The Septuagint and Jewish Worship (1921); A. Hurwitz, The Identification of Post-Exilic Psalms by Means of Linguistic Criteria (1966); J.A. Sanders, The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave 11 (11QPsa) (1965); idem, The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll (1967). composition of the psalter: R.G. Boling, in: jss, 5 (1960), 221–55; W.F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), 31–33. date of the psalter: C.L. Feinberg, in: Bibliotheca Sacra, 104 (1947), 426–40; M. Tsevat, A Study of the Language of the Biblical Psalms (1955); S. Holm-Nielson, Studia Theologia, 14 (1960), 1–53. ascription to david: Albright, Arch Rel, 121–5. types of psalms: H. Gunkel and J. Begrich, Einleitung in die Psalmen (1933); S. Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 1–2 (1962); C. Westerman, The Praise of God in the Psalms (1965). psalms and the cult: H.L. Ginsberg, in: basor, 72 (1938), 13–15; idem, in: L. Ginzberg Jubilee Volume (1945), 159–71; W.F. Albright, in: A. Marx Jubilee Volume (1950), 66; Albright, Arch Rel, 121–5; A. Weiser, The Psalms (1959), 23–35; H.J. Kraus, Worship in Israel (1966); Y. Aharoni, in: ba, 31 (1968), 11; idem, in: iej, 17 (1967), 272; J. Liver, Perakim be-Toledot ha-Kehunnah… (1968). superscription and technical terminology: B. Jacobs, in: zaw, 16 (1896), 129–82; R.B.Y. Scott, in: Bulletin of the Canadian Society of Biblical Literature, 5 (1939), 17–24; R. Gyllenberg, in: zaw, 58 (1940–41), 153–6; H.G. May, in: ajsl, 58 (1941), 70–83; H.L. Ginsberg, in: L. Ginzberg Jubilee Volume (1945), 169–71; N.H. Snaith, in: vt, 2 (1952), 43–56; A. Guilding, in: jts, 3 (1952), 41–55; H.D. Preuss, in: zaw, 71 (1959), 44–54; W. Bloemendaal, The Headings of the Psalms in the East Syrian Church (1960); S. Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship, 2 (1962), 207–17; J.J. Glueck, in: Studies on the Psalms (1963), 30–39; L. Deleket, in: zaw, 76 (1964), 280–97; S.E. Loewenstamm, in: vt, 19 (1969), 464–70; J. Blau and J.C. Greenfield, in: basor, 200 (1970), 11–12. in the talmud and midrash: L. Rabinowitz, in: jqr, 26 (1935/36), 350–68; idem, in: hj, 6 (1944), 109–22; K. Kohler, Studies, Addresses and Personal Papers (1931). musical rendition in jewish tradition: Sendrey, Music, nos. 982–1058, 1079–1297, 6760–6912; Idelsohn, Music, 58–64; E. Gerson-Kiwi, in: Festschrift Bruno Stablein (1967), 64–73; Adler, Prat Mus, 36, 48, 49, 256; A. Herzog, in: M. Smoira (ed.), Yesodot Mizraḥiyyim u-Ma'araviyyim ba-Musikah be-Yisrael (1968), 27–34; E. Werner, in: mgwj, 45 (1937), 319–416; idem, in: huca, 15 (1940), 335–66; idem, in: Review of Religion, 7 (1943), 339–52; H. Avenary, in: Tatzlil, 5 (1965), 73–78; idem, in: Musica Disciplina, 7 (1953), 1–13; A. Herzog and A. Hajdu, in: Yuval, 1 (1968), 194–203; L. Levi, in: Scritti sul' Ebraismo in memoria di Guido Bedarida (1966), 105–36; Dukhan, 5 (1954), papers of conference devoted to Psalms. add. bibliography: H.L. Ginsberg, in: ErIsr, 9 (1969), 45–50; P. Craigie, Psalms1–50 (Word; 1983); L. Allen, Psalms 101–150 (Word; 1983); J. Kugel, in: A. Green (ed.), Jewish Spirituality from the Bible through the Middle Ages (1986), 113–42; M. Tate, Psalms 51–100 (Word; 1990); J. Limburg, in: ABD, 5:522–36; P. Miller, Jr., They Cried to the Lord: The Form and Theology of Biblical Prayer (1994); N. Sarna, On the Book of Psalms (1995); D. Howard, Jr., in: D. Baker and B. Arnold, The Face of the Old Testament: A Survey of Contemporary Approaches (1999), 329–68; R. Starbuck, Court Oracles in the Psalms: The So-Called Royal Psalms in the Ancient Near East Context (1999); idem, in: B. Batto and K. Roberts (ed.), David and Zion … Studies J.J.M. Roberts (2004), 247–65; A. Greenstein, in: EncRel, 11 (2005), 7460–66 (incl. bibl.).

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