[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).
Thirty-Third Study.—The Psalms of Asaph.
[The material of this "study" is edited by Professor Harper.]
I. PRELIMINARY NOTES.
1. This class of Psalms may, perhaps, as well be considered here as anywhere. It includes pieces of different centuries.
2. The following literature will be of service in this and the following lesson: Perowne's Psalms, Introduction, vol. 1, pp. 75-80; Murray, Origin and Growth of the Psalms, pp. 232-246 and 192-208; Binnie, The Psalms, pp. 70-73; and the various commentaries on the particular psalms.
II. INTRODUCTORY TOPICS.
1. Psalms of Asaph.
III. BIBLICAL LESSON.
1. Read carefully Pss. 50, 73-83. Make notes on the following points:
IV. SPECIAL STUDY OF PSALM 50.
1. Read it carefully two or three times, note connection of thoughts and logical divisions (cf. study 10), frame a title descriptive of the contents and picture the judgment-scene.
2. Examine the following textual points: (1) "God, even God the Lord " (cf. marg. and Josh. 22:22). Why the accumulated titles? (2) "Out of Zion" (cf. Pss. 48:1-3; 76:2). (3) "He shall call." Purpose? (Deut. 4:26;. Isa. 1:2.) (4) "Covenant by sacrifice" (Ex. 24:5; Num. 10:10). (5) "Glorify me." (6) "The wicked." Jews or Gentiles? (7) "Declare my statutes." (8) "Mother's son." Evidence of polygamy? (9) "Ordereth his conversation." Other translations?
3. Notice the manifestation of God in v. 2, a theophany. Other theophanies: Deut. 32:2; Hab. 3:3. Study the scene, learn the meaning and purpose of a theophany and observe its prominent place in Hebrew history.
5. Is there anything in the form or thought of the Psalm inconsistent with its being written by Asaph the " seer"?
V. SPECIAL STUDY OF PSALM 73.
1. Seek in this Psalm to explain the following: v. 4, " no bands in their death;" v. 6, " pride is as chain;" 8, " utter oppression;" v. 10, " his people; " " waters of a full cup are wrung out;" v. 17, " sanctuary of God;" v. 20, " despise their image."
2. Endeavor to realize the situation of the writer both outwardly-surrounded by arrogant and scoffing atheists (heathen?) and himself suffering and needy-and inwardly, struggling with a spiritual difficulty as to the moral government of the world. Is there anything in the Psalm to indicate that it has any other than a personal bearing?
3. Consider this problem of "the prosperity of the wicked under the divine government" and the writer's solution (vs. 17-26). Compare with Job (42:12), Pss. 37:21-26; 49:12-20, and decide which of these passages represents the highest point reached by O. T. thought on this subject. What is the N. T. teaching (Mk. 10:23-31; Rom. 2:4; etc.)?
4. Study vs. 23-26, noticing carefully the expressions used: (a) do they yield a thought of earthly communion with God merely, or (b) does the writer believe in an unending personal relation to God? Cf. Ps. 16:5,9-11; 49:15. Other passages?
VI. GENERAL TOPICS.
1. As a study in criticism collect all the internal evidence bearing on the date of Pss. 74, 75, 76, 80 and 83 and compare with events in Jewish history which might serve as the occasion for writing each Psalm: e. g., in Ps. 74,
2. From passages such as Pss. 50:7-23; 73:12-26; 76; 77:13-20; 80:8-15, etc., form a general idea of the intellectual and spiritual characteristics of Asaph and the Asaphic school.
3. Give briefly a summary of the contribution of these Psalms to the religious thought and life of Israel and through them the ethical and spiritual teachings for our times, e. g., spiritual conceptions of religion, principles of divine judgment, witness of history to God's providence (Ps. 78), etc.