Psalms in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

(See DAVID; POETRY.) The Hebrew designation tehillim, "praises" or hymns," occurring only in the title of Psalm 145 and about 30 times in the body of the Psalms, applies only to some not to all the psalms. The glorification of God is the design of them all, even the penitentiary and precatory psalms; but tehilliym applies strictly to praise songs alone, tephillowt to the prayer songs; Psalm 17; Psalm 72 end, closing the second book of Psalms, Psalm 86; 90; 102 title. No one Hebrew title comprehends all. The Greek Septuagint has given the title "Psalms" (from psalloo "to play an instrument") applied to the whole collection. The Hebrew mizmor designates 65 psalms; in the Syriac version it comprises the whole (from zaamar "to decorate"), psalms of artificial, adorned structure (Hengstenberg). "A rhythmical composition" (Lowth). "Psalms," the designation most applicable to the whole book, means songs accompanied by an instrument, especially the harp (1 Chronicles 16:4-9; 2 Chronicles 5:12-13). Shir, "a joyful thanksgiving song," is prefixed only to some. The various kinds are specified in Ephesians 5:19; "psalms (accompanied by an instrument), hymns (indirect praise of God), ... spiritual songs (joyous lyric pieces; contrast Amos 8:10)." TITLES. Their genuineness is confirmed by their antiquity (which is proved by their being unintelligible to the Septuagint translators of the Hebrew into Greek), and by their presence in the greatest number of manuscripts, and in fragments of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion. Their obscurity and occasional want of connection with the psalm's contents (as title Psalm 34) are incompatible with their origination from forgers. The orientals, moreover, usually prefix titles to poems (Habakkuk 3:1; Isaiah 38:9); so David (2 Samuel 23:1). The enigmatical titles, found only in the psalms of David and of David's singers, accord with Eastern taste. They are too "poetical, spirited, and profound for any later collector" (Hengstenberg). So David's "bow song" (2 Samuel 1:18), his enigmatical designation for "the song on him expert with the bow" (2 Samuel 1:22)...

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