Inductive Bible Studies,

[Copyright by W. R. HARPER, 1887.]

PREPARED BY PROFESSORS W. R. HARPER (Yale University), W. G. BALLANTINE (Oberlin Theol. Sem.), WILLIS J. BEECHER (Auburn Theol. Sem.), and G. S. BURROUGHS (Amherst College).


Eleventh Study.—The Psalms of David—Second Period.

[The material of this "study" is furnished by Professor Harper.]



1. In carrying out the plan of the "Inductive Bible Studies," those who prepare them find difficulties of various sorts. Not the least among these is that of compressing into the space allotted the material that seems to demand admission. Necessarily much must be omitted. Perhaps, as it is, the "studies " have been made too comprehensive. We can only repeat what was said in connection with the third " study."

2. The "studies" are intended for students of all classes. Among those who makeuse of them there will be differences in natural capacity for work, in opportunities for study. Results will vary according to circumstances. One policy, however, must rule, whatever the circumstances: Only as much of the work outlined should be undertaken as can be mastered in the time one has to devote to it. Omit one-half, if necessary three-fourths; but learn the remainder.

3. The student has by this time learned that he is expected to do work for himself. Is not this, after all, the more satisfactory and profitable method?


1. The Superscriptions.

(1) What proportion of Psalms have superscriptions?

(2) In which books of the Psalms are superscriptions more abundant?

(3) Classify the superscriptions of the first and second books (1-41,42-72) under the following heads:

(a) authorship;

(b) musical terms;

(c) circumstances of writing.

(4) What is meant by " for the chief musician"?

(5) The authority of the superscriptions:

(a) their evident antiquity (older than Septuagint; cf. also 1 Chron. 15:20,21);

(b) the fact that in the Hebrew they are a part of the Psalm;

(c) their general agreement with the contents; (d) the fact that they are prefixed not indiscriminately, but seemingly with great care.

(6) Considerations opposing the authority of the superscriptions:

(a) disagreement of MSS. and versions (Septuagint and Syriac);

(b) superscriptions in some cases contradicted by contents;

(c) only the names of a few authors are given, when probably there were many;

(d) superscriptions concerning the circumstances of composition are given only in David's Psalms; why not in others?

(7) In view of these considerations, how may the superscriptions be supposed to have arisen, and what, in general, is their value?

2. Authorship.1

(1) David; number of his Psalms, and in what books? (2)Sons of Korah;

(a) who were they?

(b) number of Psalms ?

(c) what representation of God do these furnish (44:4; 47:2,6,7; 84:3; 45:6)?

(d) representation of Jerusalem (cf. Pss. 46; 47; 48; ; 87)?

(e) the principal ideas characteristic of these Psalms?

(f) what divine name is commonly used?

(3) Asaph;

(a) who was he? (1 Chron. 16:5; 15:17-21);

(b) number?

(c) representation of God (cf.50; 75; 76; 82; and differently, 74:1; 77:20; 78:52,71,72; 79:13;80:1;)?

(d) use of divine names?

(4) Ethan (cf. 89).

(5) Solomon (cf. 72 and 127).

(6) Moses (cf. 90).

3. Classification of Psalms according to Contents and Purpose.2

(1) Historical; study Pss. 106; 44; 46; 60; 78, noting

(a) the stand-point from which they are written,

(b) the spirit and purpose,

(c) the elements characterizing the national songs of other peoples which these lack.

(2) Personal; study Pss. 3; 4; 5; 35, noting

(a) the circumstances under which they were written,

(b) the various phases of feeling to which they give utterance,

(c) the underlying principle applicable to individuals of all times.

(3) Liturgical; study Pss. 150; 24; 95; 96; 100, noting,

(a) the evident purpose of these Psalms,

(b) their characteristic features,

(c) relation sustained to them by modern hymns.

(4) Psalms of Adoration; study Pss. 65; 8; 19; 50; 90; 104, noting

(a) the attributes of God which are celebrated,

(b) the breadth and scope of doctrinal statement,

(c) the simplicity and grandeur;

(d) distinguish between these Psalms and those classified as liturgical.

(5) Devotional; study Pss. 23; 40; 42; 63; 110, as representatives of this class, noting

(a) the recital of spiritual experience,

(b) the importance attached to the condition of the heart,

(c) the longing for communion with or light from God;

(d) the attitude assumed towards God's Word;

(e) the characteristic features of other classes of Psalms which appear also in this class.

(6) Didactic or Meditative; study Pss. 1; 15; 37; 101;'133; 139, as representatives of this class, noting

(a) the general tone and spirit,

(b) the tendency to compare the lot of the wicked with that of the righteous,

(c) the lack of the real poetical element;

(d) select Psalms of the classes already cited which might also be included in this division.

(7) Messianic; study Pss. 2; 16; 22; 72; 110, as representatives of this class, noting

(a) the historical basis,

(b) the principle of the type therein illustrated,

(c) the New Testament use of such Psalms,

(d) the complete fulfillment in the Messianic kingdom.

(8) So far as possible, classify the entire Psalter under these heads.

4. David's Psalms.

(1) Number assigned to him in each book? in all?

(2) Probability that some have been wrongly assigned him.

(3) Various methods of testing whether or not a particular Psalm is to be regarded as Davidic.3

(4) David's style3

(a) "terse, vigorous, rapid;"

(b) "easy, limpid, showing no trace of conscious effort;"

(c) "marked by unity of treatment and consecution of thought."

(5) David's language, classical, i. e., pure and without the Aramaic forms which characterize the later writers.

5. Variation, Repetition and Change.

(1) In Septuagint Pss. 9 and 10 (of Hebrew) make one Ps.; 114 and 115 make one Ps.; 116 makes two (vs. 1-9, 10-19); 147 makes two (vs. 1-11, 12-20); one is added, viz., 151.

(2) Probability that Pss. 42 and 43 were originally one; likewise Pss. 113 and 114.

(3) Possibility that Ps. 24 (vs. 1-6, 7-10); Ps. 27 (vs. 1-6, 7-14); Ps. 32 (vs. 1-7, 8-11) were each originally two.

(4) Compare the repetition with minor variations seen in the case of

(a) Ps. 18 and 2 Sam. 22; (b) Ps. 70, with latter part of 40;

(c) Pss. 53 and 14;

(d) Ps. 108 and 57:8-12; 60: 7-14.

(e) 1 Chron. 16:8-36, and Pss. 96; 105; 106:1,47.

(5) Probability that verses were sometimes added at a later date, e. g., Ps. 51:18,19.

(6) What conclusions may be based upon a consideration of these facts?

6. Use of the Psalms in the New Testament.4

1) Study Ps. 2:1,2, noting,

(a) the meaning of the passage if interpreted of David or Solomon, viz.: A great rebellion against an authorized ruler;

(b) the meaning taken in Acts 4:25-28, viz.: Hostility to Christ of Herod and Pilate;

(c) the principle in accordance with which both these interpretations may be accepted as correct, i. e., the type;

(d) the testimony of Acts 2:25, in reference to the author and the source of the Psalm.

2) Study Ps. 22:1. noting,

(a) its meaning in the mouth of David (or Jeremiah); what kind of a cry?

(b) the use made of it by the Saviour, Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34;

(c) the explanation of this latter usage.

3) Study Ps. 91:11,12, noting

(a) the natural meaning of the passage in its connection,

(b) the application made in Matt. 4:6; Luke 4:10,11;

(c) the principle underlying this application.

4) Compare in the same way the following:

(a) Ps. 8:5-7 with Heb. 2:6-8;

(b) Ps. 16:8-11 with Acts 2:25-28,31; Ps. 110:1 with Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42,43; Acts 2:34,35; 1 Cor. 15:25,27; Heb. 1:13;

(c) Ps. 22:18 with John 19:24;

(d) Ps. 69:4 with John 15:25.

5) On the ground of these passages, and others with which you are familiar, formulate two or three principles in accordance with which at least a large proportion of the quotations may be explained.

6) As a matter of fact, the New Testament quotation often varies in form from the Hebrew, or the Septuagint, or both; how is this to be explained?


1. Read carefully the Psalms supposed to refer to the removal of the ark to Jerusalem, viz.: 15; 24; 30; 101 (comparing, perhaps, 68; 132), and make notes under the following heads:

1) Circumstances under which they seem to have been written (see superscriptions).

2) Expressions which they have in common.

3) Phases of character or feeling to which they give utterance.

4) Expressions indicating the writer's ideas of God, of God's relations to man, of man's relations to God.

5) Expressions which might seem to oppose the alleged circumstances under which the Psalm was written.

2. Read those Psalms which, perhaps, may have been written during his wars, viz., 2(?); 20; 21; 60 (?); 110, and make notes under the heads given above.

3. Treat Pss. 20 and 21 according to the outline given of Ps. 56, in the tenth " study," considering in order

(1) the special expressions which need explanation,

(2) the parallelism of each verse,

(3) the meaning of each individual verse,

(4) the logical connection existing between the several verses,

(5) the theme and analysis of the Psalm,

(6) the superscription in its relation to the contents,

(7) the contents in view of the Davidic authorship,

(8) the important teachings of the Psalm.

4. Read Pss. 51 and 32 in connection with the story of David's sin (2 Sam. 11; 12), and make notes under the following heads:

1) The circumstances under which these Psalms were written:

(a) Ps. 51, immediately upon his coming to realize the enormity of his sin;

(b) Ps. 32, " a review of his experience somewhat later, in which he dwells upon the blessedness of forgiveness obtained, and describes the misery he had suffered while his sin was still unconfessed and unrepented of."

2) The expressions contained in each which relate

(a) to the character of the sin;

(b) to his appreciation of his sinfulness;

(c) to his desire to be forgiven;

(d) to God's attitude towards sinners.

3) The support given by the contents of these Psalms to the statement of the superscriptions that they are Davidic.

4) The apparent impossibility that vs. 18,19 of Psalm 51 could have been written by David.


1) See articles in Smith's Bible Dictionary, Korah, Asaph, etc.; also Perowne's Commentary on Psalms, pp. 92 seq., and introductions to all commentaries.

2) See Isaac Taylor's " Spirit of Hebrew Poetry," ch. ix. (a most instructive treatment).

3) Murray, " Origin and Growth of the Psalms," pp. 133-143.

4) Cf. Toy, "Quotations in the New Testament," Chas. Scribner's Sons; Smith's "Bible Dictionary," Old Testament, III.