Category Archives: Psalms of Solomon

Scratchpad: Before and After

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We are preparing for two exegetical papers in NT 1 class – One on a Gospel and one a catholic Epistle. I have chosen Mark for my first paper. Each week, a question regarding the Exegesis is asked, and of course, answered.

Gorman writes about the importance of situating the text for exegesis in its immediate context (the pericope right before and after) as well as the larger section. Write two paragraphs that discuss the immediate and larger context of your passage and write about one insight that you gain from the context that helps you understand your passage better.

My answer:

Mark’s dramatic storytelling is done so with a mission – to speak more to the life of Christ. I note Philip G. Davis’ take on Mark’s overall narrative:

“Indeed, it is striking that many of the most notable Markan ‘omissions’ involve matters which are not susceptible of imitation, including the virginal conception and the pre-eschatological resurrection. Mark’s whole story of Jesus can be read as a blueprint for the Christian life: It begins with baptism, proceeds with the vigorous pursuit of ministry in the face of temptation and opposition, and culminates in suffering and death oriented towards an as-yet unseen vindication.” (p. 109)[1]

I am not so much concerned with Mark’s omissions (as some of those require a series of redefinitions), but am concerned with Mark’s narrative in which Christ is seen performing a series of very ordered actions with a pointed goal. Of course, the same could be said with each Evangelist, who in responding to the needs of their respective community, told the story differently, I believe that Mark’s goal was to showcase Christ performing a certain action related to Messianic Expectation, namely, cleansing (the land of Israel) of impurity. I turn again to the (in my opinion) single most important pre-New Testament document for examining the Messianic Expectation which met the writers of the Gospel, the Psalms of Solomon.

In the 17th Psalm (which along with the 18th is the most openly Messianic), the Psalmist writes

And gird him with strength to shatter in pieces unrighteous rulers, to purify Ierousalem from nations that trample her down in destruction. (v22)

And he shall have the peoples of the nations to be subject to him under his yoke, and he shall purify Ierousalem in holiness as it was at the beginning. (v30

Further, in 18.5, the Psalmist notes that God will cleanse Israel before He brings up the Messiah,

May God cleanse Israel for the day of pity with blessing, for the day of election when he brings up his anointed one.

Preceding my selected passage of Mark 5.1-10, is the story in which Christ calms the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Following the selected passage is the story of healing and resurrection. The first passage, Mark 4.35-41, is one which is anchored in the imagination next to Jonah 1.1-16. Unlike the ill-fated prophet though, Mark’s Messiah is able to rest in the middle of the storm, in the middle of the storm, and further, able to calm the storms by his mere words, escaping being thrown overboard as a sacrifice to the sea gods. Not only is this the image which we are to receive, but so to the fact that the Davidic Psalmist had long ago written that YHWH was the master of the winds and the seas (Ps 107.29). This no doubt stirred the listeners to the Gospel (more so than we latter day readers) as they felt the climatic action build as Mark was able to show that Christ was plainly in charge (unlike later when he would become the crucified criminal, losing all control) and on a mission. This must be carried through my selected passage in that following the casting out of the demons into the swine, both impure objects; Christ rids Israel of two impurities: the blood-mired woman and the impurity of the dead girl. He heals the woman and restores life  to the dead, purifying Israel for his eventual assumption to Mt. Calvary.

By understanding the expectation of the Messiah (in both what the community was expecting in a Messiah and what they were expecting from the Messiah) in Mark’s community and aligning it with a text which shows the expectation’s foundations, I believe that the insight gained is that the story of the casting out of Legion of the ‘demon possessed’ man is further revealed to be not a random insertion, or lapse in chronological memory of the author(s) but fits well with the direction in which Jesus is progressing, both typographically and missionally. It is about cleansing Israel of impurities.


[1] Philip G. Davis, “Christology, Discipleship, and Self-Understanding in the Gospel of Mark,” in Self-Definition and Self-Discovery in Early Christianity:  A Study in Shifting Horizons, Essays in Appreciation of Ben F. Meyer From His Former Students, ed. David J. Hawkin and Tom Robinson (”Studies in Bible and Early Christianity,” 26; Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990), 101-19.

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Palm Branches: Intertextually Reading Revelation, Psalm 118, Maccabees and the Psalms of Solomon

Last night during our small group study on the Book of Revelation, the leader who happens to be the pastor of the congregation, said something that caught my attention. He mentioned the use of palm branches in Revelation 7.9 and the use of the palm as a symbol of Jewish nationalism during the Maccabean period. Both of these subjects – Revelation and Intertestamental literature – interest me to the point of being an obsession.

The seventh chapter of Revelation occurs as an interlude between the sixth seal and the opening of the seventh seal which contains silence and the seven trumpeters. In this interlude, after the great destruction brought on by the sixth seal, John is allowed to see the victorious people of God during the peace that God had proscribed (Pax Romana?) for the earth in preparation for the final assault. During this heavenly scene, John heard a number of the sealed of Israel, but didn’t see them. This list which was given has been argued over as it excludes two of the tribes and gives Levi an inheritance. However, while John only heard the number of Israelites which were to be sealed, he saw a great numberless multitude from the Gentile nations. I have to wonder if this places John in a more Gentile community than previously thought, seeing that he heard a number and must proceed with that on faith, but for the Gentiles, he was able to see the countless souls saved. It is verse nine, however, which catches my attention:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; (Rev 7:9 NASB)

If we were to read Revelation 7.9-10 intertextually with Psalm 118 (an important Psalm for the New Testament authors), we note a few similarities, at the very least in the adoration of YHWH. While I don’t want to fully explore the use of Psalm 118 and Revelation 7 at the moment, I will note that during tribulation/affliction (Psalm 118.5; Rev 6.12-17) the Psalmist and John were both brought into a broad space (spaciousness, NETS) and given a time of rest. While Psalm 118.10-14 seems counter to that of Revelation 7.9-10, we see in this section the union of nations which surround the divine speaker. I note in Psalm 18, the nations are imagined as bees and a blaze of fire, perhaps symbolizing a noisy number. An important connection at the end of Psalm 118.26-28 is also to be found in Revelation 7.9-10 in that we see palm branches being used as a celebratory offering to the King and in the latter’s case, the Lamb as well (but notice that the Lamb in Revelation is still not on the throne). In Revelation 7.10, they complete the Psalmist’s instructions in Psalm 118.28-29.

Returning to the palm branches however, we find a connection made between them and the Jewish nationalism in the Maccabean period (as well as the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on the even of his Passion). When the Maccabean army recaptured Jerusalem, they celebrated with branches of the palm tree:

Those who were in the citadel at Jerusalem were prevented from going in and out to buy and sell in the country. So they were very hungry, and many of them perished from famine. Then they cried to Simon to make peace with them, and he did so. But he expelled them from there and cleansed the citadel from its pollutions. On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel. Simon decreed that every year they should celebrate this day with rejoicing. He strengthened the fortifications of the temple hill alongside the citadel, and he and his men lived there. (1Ma 13:49-52 NRS)

And later, when they rededicated the Temple,

Now Maccabeus and his followers, the Lord leading them on, recovered the temple and the city; they tore down the altars that had been built in the public square by the foreigners, and also destroyed the sacred precincts. They purified the sanctuary, and made another altar of sacrifice; then, striking fire out of flint, they offered sacrifices, after a lapse of two years, and they offered incense and lighted lamps and set out the bread of the Presence. When they had done this, they fell prostrate and implored the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes, but that, if they should ever sin, they might be disciplined by him with forbearance and not be handed over to blasphemous and barbarous nations. It happened that on the same day on which the sanctuary had been profaned by the foreigners, the purification of the sanctuary took place, that is, on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which was Chislev. They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the festival of booths, remembering how not long before, during the festival of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals. Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year. (2Ma 10:1-8 NRS)

Notice the direct, and maybe purposed, symbolism between this dedication and ritual acts proscribed in Psalm 118.26-29. (This might be paralled to Tobit‘s purposed fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy:

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psa 118:26-1 NRSV)

There is a lot of intertextual thought between Revelation, the Maccabean books and John’s Apocalypse, but not enough space to explore it here. However, I believe that John is pointing to Psalm 118 here with the political overtones of Jewish nationalism. He heard the number of the Israelites but saw the multitude of Gentiles saved.

From here, however, I want to explore the shared imagery between Revelation 7 and the 17th Psalm of Solomon, although not specifically dealing with palm branches.

In Pss 17.26-29, the Messiah is seen gathering together the Holy People and judging the tribes (v26). Compare that to the tribes in Revelation 7 wherein they are given a border (compare Pss 17.28). However, in verse 29, the Messiah is said to now judge the peoples (tribes) and the nations (Gentiles). The pattern is followed in laying out the victorious in Revelation 7 with the number of the tribes heard first and the Gentiles seen later.  Interesting enough, Pss 7.30-34 unites Revelation 7 and 21 where the New Jerusalem is the center of the new world (order).  Note, then, Pss 17.35-36 and Revelation 19.5:

For he shall strike the earth with the word of his mouth forever;
He shall bless the people of the Lord in wisdom with joy.
And he himself shall be pure from sin so that he may rule a great people, that he may rebuke rules and remove sinners by the strength of his word (Pss 17.35-36 NETS)

From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. (Rev 19:15 NASB)

Drawing this back to Revelation 7, we see in  Rev 7.15-16 the promised care of the victorious people of God being cared for by the Lamb/Messiah. However, note the specific connection between Revelation 7.17 and Pss 17.40:

for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd (ποιμανεῖ ), and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:17 NRS)

He shall be strong in his works and mighty in the fear of God, shepherding (ποιμαίνων) the flock of the Lord faithfully and righteously, and he shall not let any among them become weak in their pasture. (Pss 17.40 NETS)

John follows the pattern of the Psalms of Solomon and Psalm 118. Always, the Jewish peoples are first. Second, the Nations. Reading Revelation 7 next to Psalm 118, we find several connections, namely, that both authors see themselves in that moment of spaciousness between tribulations. Further, both are calling for judgment and justice. The Solomonic Psalmist, as opposed to the Davidic Psalmist sees that the nations, the Gentiles, will be ruled by the King (Ps)/Messiah (Pss)/Lamb (Rev). Existent as well is the political symbol of Jewish nationalism as an opposition to the Roman rule and the symbol of ritual sacrifice/dedication which we see developed in the Maccabean books – the palm branches. Reading Paul, I do not believe that he saw that the Messianic believers were any less Jewish, but more so. Perhaps John is picking this up as he draws both Jews and Gentiles under the rule of the Lamb.

Messianic Pre-Existence in the Psalms of Solomon

Only sharing snippets of what I am working on ‘behind the scenes’…. I brought this topic up last week on Facebook and received some interesting answers, so maybe we can do it here as well. What does pre-existence entail? If God is God enough to say, ‘let there be light’ and with no pattern before Him (remember, the Tabernacle and the Temple are patterned after heavenly things; cf Hebrews) there was Light, then we are dealing with concepts beyond the human understanding. We measure pre-existence only by physical manifestation, but what if pre-existence was only the Logos in the mind of God? The Logos was God’s thought and plan, and thus without physical manifestation, it pre-existed?

The pre-existence of Christ is seen by many Christians as an essential belief in orthodox Christianity, noting that Christ was ontologically with the Father since eternity. Taking several passages in the New Testament[1], Christians have based their notion of pre-existence on their own ontology, deciding that a physical manifestation must have occurred in regards to pre-existence. In the 17th Psalm of Solomon, pre-existence is applied to the Messiah, but without an ontological expression. Instead, pre-existence is implied, but only as a thought or plan in which God has prepared for Israel.

In the 72nd canonical psalm, a Psalm of Sololmon, we find a hymn dedicated to the future Son of David[2]. We find much of the same imagery as we do in our present consideration. A king comes and delivers Israel from her enemies as the sole representative on earth of God. While the future king is pictures as acting out the destruction to Israel’s enemies[3], in the end, it is God who said to have accomplished the works (v18). Verse 5, 7 and 17 are the focus on scrutiny, however, when discussing the pre-existence of the King. The Targum Psalms translates the 17th verse (which mirrors and combines the 5th and the 7th) ‘as before the sun came to be his name was determined’. Horbury[4] cites 1st Enoch 48.3 as another example of the Messiah’s name being given beforehand. We find pre-existence in the Psalms of Solomon put forth in 17.21, 42 and 18.5.

In the seventeenth psalm, the author implores God to

ἰδέ κύριε καὶ ἀνάστησον αὐτοῖς τὸν βασιλέα αὐτῶν υἱὸν Δαυιδ εἰς τὸν καιρόν ὃν εἵλου σύ ὁ θεός τοῦ βασιλεῦσαι ἐπὶ Ισραηλ παῖδά σου

Compare with v42, in which the same author states that God ἔγνω. The issue here is that this verse is cast in the future:

αὕτη ἡ εὐπρέπεια τοῦ βασιλέως Ισραηλ ἣν ἔγνω ὁ θεός ἀναστῆσαι αὐτὸν ἐπ᾽ οἶκον Ισραηλ παιδεῦσαι αὐτόν

It is here that we come to 18.5, where a physical pre-existence is almost implied,

καθαρίσαι ὁ θεὸς Ισραηλ εἰς ἡμέραν ἐλέους ἐν εὐλογίᾳ εἰς ἡμέραν ἐκλογῆς ἐν ἀνάξει χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ[5]

Pre-existence in the Psalms of Solomon should not be seen as an ontological expression, but as one where the λόγος is in the mind of God. The community sees the current troubles as one cleansing Israel for the full expression of God’s plan, especially in relation to the Deuteronomistic covenant (chapter 18), which as we have seen was in the mind of the author.


[1] John 1.1 and Phil 2.5-11

[2] It is clearly written in expectation of peace, when Israel would be restored. Cf v3 and v9.

[3] For the author of Psalm 72, his enemies are more traditional than Rome and the fellow Jews which the author of Pss Sol encountered.

[4] Horbury, 95

[5] May God cleanse Israel for the day of pity with blessing, for the day of election when he brings up his anointed one

Thoughts on Rahlfs Emendation on Psalms of Solomon 17.32

In 1935, Alfred Rahlfs published his Septuaginta. Id Est Vetus Testamentum grace iuxta LXX interpretes, 2 vols (Stuttgart:Wurttembergische Bibelanstalt). In his massive volume, he included the emendation to Psalm 17.32’sχριστὸς κύριος to be χριστὸς κυρίου. He did so on the basis of Lamentations 4.20 which he counted as scribal error adopting an older suggestion by A. Carriére[1]. In doing so, he failed to consider Luke 2.11 which reads as the unchanged text as does the Syriac. M. de Jonge speculated that it was of the addition of a later Christian scribe[2], but this view was well challenged by Robert Hann[3]. Horbury[4] presents a concise argument against the emendation. He argues that later Christian copyists ‘would not necessarily be impelled to alter the form with -ou when writing out Old Testament books. Probably, then, Christians used kyrious as a royal title which was already associated with the Messiah’. The perceived ‘error’ in Lamentations 4.20 could be a particular translation choice, or only the start of the error which carried over into the Psalms of Solomon; however, based on Luke 2.11, I would have to challenge the emendation as it presents a starting point for the association of the divine title with Christ, especially given the fact that the 17th Psalms already presents enough pre-Christ fertilization for Messianic Expectation.


[1] De Psalterio Salmonis disquistionem historic-criticam scripsit, Strasbourg

[2] M. de Jonge, ‘The Expectation of the Future in the Psalms of Solomon’, Jewish Eschatology, Early Christian Christology and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Leiden: Brill 1991

[3] Robert Hann, Christos Kyrious in PsSol 17.32: “The Lord’s Anointed’ Reconsidered”, New Testament Studies (1985), 31 : 620-627 Cambridge University Press

[4]Horbury, 144-145

Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 17-18 – Analysis

Psalm 17 – A Psalm. Pertaining to Salomon. With an Ode. Pertaining to the king.

The seventeenth psalm represents the culmination of the community’s hopes and their ideal fruition to the wrath of God which they are currently experiencing at the hands of the Romans. While there are hints at a figure which would be king over Israel in the fifth and eleventh psalm, here, the figure takes shape as a king from the royal line of David, fulfilling the promises of God not only to David but to the people[1]. It uses the canonical Psalm 2 as the overarching theme, expounding upon it to usher in a Messiah that is not bent upon war, but brings peace. Much like the Gospel account, the Messiah is seen as the exemplar Son of David, a king which will defeat the kings of the earth and rule the nations[2].

The author begins, and ends, with his petition to God who is ‘king forever and ever,’ compares the life expectancy of a person’s life with the eternality of the ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν[3], and reminds God of the covenant made with David (v4). For nearly a hundred years, the Hasmoneans had not only been kings, but priests as well, taking what a minority had seen as the role of the coming king. The author sees the Hasmonean dynasty as a result of Israel’s sins, and the destruction of the dynasty as a result of their sins. Pompey is not mentioned here, but Herod the Great is, as is the genocide he attempted on the Hasmonean line (v7-9)[4]. Now, the community was reminding God, and maybe themselves, that it was supposed to only be a member of David’s line[5]. They retell the destruction which befell the community, but this time, the destruction is not to either Jerusalem or the Temple, but to the palace – the throne of David (v6). They reissue the calls made in previous psalms for the judgment of God recounting the injustice which had occurred to them (v7-20). For a large portion of the psalm, the author makes a prayer (v21) for the restoration of the Davidic line and pictures what this new reign would look like (v22-43). The post-script presents what might be a personal touch from the author (v43), a final prayer, and returning to the statement that the Lord is king.

The canonical Psalm 2 comes into focus first in v23-24 in which the Messiah is seen with the ῥάβδῳ σιδηρα which is the weapon of choice in Psalm 2.9 and in verse 27 where the Messiah will remove the ἄνθρωπος μετ᾽ αὐτῶν εἰδὼς κακίαν γνώσεται which corresponds with the final verse of Psalm 2. Further, verse 30 -34 should be read parallel with the Psalm 2.6-8 where we see that the ἐθνῶν will be given for a possession, and all will come ἀπ᾽ ἄκρου τῆς γῆς (Psalm 2.8 reads πέρατα τῆς γῆς). In verse 35, the author quotes, somewhat, Isaiah 11.4 which appears to use Psalm 2 as well, which was later used in Revelation 19.14. God is seen using λόγῳ τοῦ στόματος to rule the earth, but the λόγῳ τοῦ στόματος is the Messiah-King who will bless the people of the Lord.

The Messiah in the seventeenth Psalm is a divine agent but very human. He, the Messiah, is supported by 21-25) and subordinate to God (v34), able to accomplish the victory single-handed (v33), taught by God (v32), pure from sin (v35)[6], but is mortal. While the Messiah’s end is not numbered, the promise for him to not ἀσθενήσει ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις is given once in v37. While he is given the spirits mentioned in Isaiah 11.2 (cfv37) he still must hope upon God v39. He is human, but in his divine attributes, he carries the Isaianic attributes (Isaiah 11.2-5), is the source of blessing (v35), and cannot be seen as a king apart from God. He is God’s vicar, embodied with divine attributes, representing God to the people. One might say that if they see the Messiah-King, then they see God. The Messiah-King, the χριστὸς κυρίου, will accomplish much during his tenure. He will, according to Nickelsburg[7], remove the foreign oppressors and the Gentiles (v22-24); gather the dispersed (v26, 44); and restore the old boundaries (v28). He will be, as was called for in Ezekiel 34, a ‘ruler, judge, and shepherd, exalting Israel above all, fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah 60 and Daniel 7.27. The land will be free of sin, entering into a Messianic Age of peace and prosperity akin to the age of Solomon.

The author of the seventeenth psalm does not expect to happen soon or at least soon enough for him. Perhaps he is old, as he writes in the v44 with a future expectation that those who see it will be happy, indicating that he doesn’t expect too. As in the second verse, there is a bleed through of the author, in which he first ponders how long he has left and then almost regrets that he will not be able to see the Messiah.

Psalm 18 – A Psalm. Pertaining to Salomon. Again of the Anointed of the Lord.

The great crescendo that was the seventeenth psalm is followed by a suitable post-script in the eighteenth. It returns to the view that Israel is God’s πρωτότοκον and μονογενῆ[8].  Because this, they can accept discipline which washes them, preparing them for the ἡμέραν ἐλέους and the ἡμέραν ἐκλογῆς (v5) which will see the χριστοῦ come. It repeats some of the attributes of χριστοῦ the previous psalm (v7) and then dramatically shifts to a hymn celebrating the control which God has over the cosmos.


[1] 2nd Samuel 7.10-16

[2] For a fuller discussion on the use of Psalm 2 during this time period, see You Are My Son: The Reception History of Psalm 2 in Early Judaism and the Early Church, Leuven ; Walpole, Mass.

[3] It must be noted that this is the first time in biblical literature that the phrase which is found so often in the New Testament is mentioned.

[4] For a discussion on Herod and the 17th Psalm see, On the Herodian Origin of Militant Davidic Messianism at Qumran: New Light from Psalm of Solomon 17 Kenneth Atkinson Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 118, No. 3 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 435-460 Published by: The Society of Biblical Literature.

[5] The failure to mention the Son of Joseph who found a cultic following as well should solidify the notion that it was the Pharisees who contributed to this document.

[6] The author demands purity from sin in order that the Messiah can rule and rebuke, καὶ αὐτὸς καθαρὸς ἀπὸ ἁμαρτίας τοῦ ἄρχειν λαοῦ μεγάλου ἐλέγξαι ἄρχοντας καὶ ἐξᾶραι ἁμαρτωλοὺς ἐν ἰσχύι λόγου

[7] Nickelsburg, 243

[8] Cf Exodus 4.22



Psalms of Solomon, Psalms 12-16 – Analysis

Psalm 12 – Pertaining to Salomon. Against the tongue of the transgressor of the Law.

Starting with the twelfth psalm we find a low point of despair felt by the community, both corporately and individually, until suddenly in the seventeenth psalm, hope breaks loose. The focus on this psalm should center on a new word in the Greek, ἐπαγγελίας. Here, as it is in 2nd Maccabees 2.17-18, it is seen as something secured by God but comes through the Law. The same word is found in several New Testament passages[1], all dealing with the promises of God. It is possible that the final verse also alludes to Isaiah 53 (among other passages in Isaiah in which Israel is seen as a Servant) which was the traditional interpretation, only later adopted by Christians to interpret the Christ-event.

Psalm 13 – Pertaining to Salomon. Comfort for the Righteous

James Dunn continuously points out the dichotomy of community in passages such as Psalm 13. Those inside are clearly righteous and will receive God’s goodness while those on the outside are sinners, deserving the all the punishment from God. For the righteous, their receive their discipline in  περιστολῇ[2] which keeps the sinners from rejoicing. This viewpoint is not only found in the Psalms of Solomon, but in Wisdom of Solomon[3] as well, has common enough that Paul would address it in Romans 2-4. The δεξιὰ κυρίου is seen as a shelter of the righteous, which is finds a counterpart in the New Testament where Christ is said to sit at the right hand of God[4]. Again, as in Psalm 12, we find Israel to be personified as a υἱὸν ἀγαπήσεως and πρωτοτόκου, both terms later applied to Jesus by the writers of the New Testament.

Psalm 14 – A Hymn. Pertaining to Salomon.

Nickelsburg rightly calls this a ‘paraphrase of the canonical Psalm 1.[5]’ Much of the same forward motion is used to describe the journey of the righteous and the slowing of the sinner. It is also replete with images of the afterlife of those who obey Leviticus 18.5 and those who do not, which find its way into later theological development. Most notable are the τὰ ξύλα τῆς ζωῆς (v3) and the inheritance of the sinners which is αὐτῶν ᾅδης καὶ σκότος καὶ ἀπώλεια καὶ οὐχ εὑρεθήσονται ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐλέους δικαίων (v9).

Psalm 15 – A Psalm. Pertaining to Salomon. With an Ode

As the author(s), or collectors, approach the seventeenth psalm, the despair of the community and the desire to see the sinners punished rises in a crescendo. This psalm is filled with several themes found in Christian eschatology, such as the φλὸξ πυρὸς (v4), the σημεῖον τοῦ θεοῦ for the Righteous (6), and the σημεῖον τῆς ἀπωλείας ἐπὶ τοῦ μετώπου αὐτῶν  (v9) for the sinners. This is reminiscent of Genesis 4.15 and Exodus 12.21-23, followed later by Christian eschatological separation of the righteous and the sinners in Revelation 14. Much as the picture presented in Revelation, there is no hope for the sinners. In this psalm, the Righteous will overtake and destroy the sinners, including the weapons of the sinners which are similar to the Four Horsemen of Revelation 6, famine, war, and death.

Psalm 16 – A Hymn. Pertaining to Salomon. Regarding help for the devout.

The final psalm in the series of self-pity, self-righteousness, and the calls for the destruction of the sinners centers on the election of the individual and community. The fifth verse is key to the psalm, stating, ἐξομολογήσομαί σοι ὁ θεός ὅτι ἀντελάβου μου εἰς σωτηρίαν καὶ οὐκ ἐλογίσω με μετὰ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν εἰς ἀπώλειαν. The author does not see what later Christian theologians would call ‘eternal security’ however, recognizing that he could fall into transgression with the aid of a γυναικὸς παρανομούσης(v8). He asks for protection with the truth against his tongue and lips (v10) ending the hymn with a plea for strength, noting that if the righteous endures until the end of the trial, then he would receive mercy from God[6].


[1] Acts 7.5; Tit. 1:2; Jas. 1.12, 2.5; 1 Jn. 2:25

[2] distinction, NETS Pss Sol 13.8; Liddell-Scott, ‘probably secret.’

[3] See Wis. 11.9-10, 12.22, 16-910; Dunn, 219

[4] Cf Hebrews 1.3

[5] Nicklesburg, 246

[6] cf Matthew 10.16-22

Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 11 – Analysis

Psalm 11 – Pertaining to Salomon. Regarding Expectation.

Nickelsburg does not see a reference to a Davidic King in this Psalm[1], roundly missing the first and the sixth verse in which we have a reference first the Elijah anti-type and then to Psalm 5.19, where a personified Glory is said to be the King of Israel. We find that the δόξης θεοῦ αὐτῶν presents an image of Exodus 33.20-23 in which Yahweh is said to allow Moses only to see his glory. Here, that same Glory will be God’s visitation to Jerusalem, which is given instructions mimicking that of a bride who is preparing herself (v7) for her groom. In the first verse, we see a commendation to φωνὴν εὐαγγελιζομένου, a hallmark of Messianic Expectation[2] during this era[3]. Coupled with a reference back to Psalm 5.19, the superscription makes sense then, in that this Psalm pertains strictly to the expectation of the Son of David, Solomon.

This Psalm is also about the gathering of the tribes of Israel from the Diaspora, finding a parallel in Baruch 4.36-5.9. Both passages speak of the gathering of the lost tribes, the garments of Jerusalem, ordering Jerusalem to the high place to watch for her children returning and the leveling of the mountains. Further, Baruch also mentions the τοῦ θεοῦ δόξῃ (Bar 4:37) as a divine attribute. For the author of the Psalm, just as the author of this section of Baruch, a divine agent accomplishes the reunion of the sons of Jacob.

Psalms of Solomon 11:1 Of Solomon; in anticipation. Blow in Zion on the trumpet to summon (the) holy ones. Proclaim in Jerusalem the voice of him who brings good news, for God has had pity on Israel in visiting them.

2 Stand on the height, O Jerusalem, and behold your children. From the east and the west, gathered together by the Lord.

3 From the north they come in the gladness of their God. From the isles afar off God has gathered them.

4 High mountains has he abased into a plain for them. The hills fled at their entrance.

5 The woods gave them shelter as they passed by. Every sweet-smelling tree God caused to spring up for them,

6 in order that Israel might pass by in the visitation of the glory of their God.

7 Put on, O Jerusalem, your glorious garments. Make ready your holy robe; for God has spoken good concerning Israel, forever and ever.

8 Let the Lord do what he has spoken concerning Israel and Jerusalem. Let the Lord raise up Israel by his glorious name.

9 The mercy of the Lord be upon Israel forever and ever.

36 Look toward the east, O Jerusalem, and see the joy that is coming to you from God.

37 Look, your children are coming, whom you sent away; they are coming, gathered from east and west, at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing in the glory of God.

NRS Baruch 5:1 Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.

2 Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;

3 for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.

4 For God will give you evermore the name, “Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.”

5 Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them.

6 For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne.

7 For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.

8 The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command.

9 For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

(Bar 4:36-9 NRS)


[1] Nickelsburg, 241

[2] See Malachi 3.1 and Mark 1.2-3

[3] Matthew 17.10-12

Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 8-10 – Analysis

Psalm 8- Pertaining to Salomon. Regarding Victory

This Psalm is parallel with the second Psalm, in which we do not see an eschatological destruction, but a recounting of a recent event set against the backdrop of a perceived judgment of God. It is tells the story of Pompey’s entrance into the city, invited in by the Hyrcanus (v16-18), who would then proceed to profane the altar of the Lord. This, according to the author of the psalm, was not a free will choice, but directed by God (14-15) as an act of righteous judgment[1]. It does not mention the death of Pompey, which leads Nickelsburg to postulate that this was written before the second psalm[2].

In verse 23, God is pictured as being made ἐδικαιώθη. VanLandingham argues that this term means ‘make righteous’ rather than acquit[3]. If this is so, then it holds that God must accomplish the destruction of Jerusalem through Pompey, allowing even the profaning of his alter, in order that he would be considered righteous for upholding the covenant. Finally, it is worth noting the allusion to Isaiah 53.7 found in verse 23. The devout are seen as innocent lambs in the midst of all the troubles. It was not their sins that caused the destruction of Jerusalem under Rome’s boot, but it is the community who ‘justifies’ the name of God even in the midst of the correction.

Psalm 9 – Pertaining to Salomon. Regarding Rebuke

The psalm opens with a recount of the recent exile into Babylon, picturing it s a necessity for God to remain righteous. In the fourth verse we find a thought which seems to counter post-Reformation era thinking. Here, the only ἔργα which concerns the community are those of free will. For the author, ἔργα are found in the individual’s ability to choose to do what is right or what is wrong, forcing God to react. Those that do what is righteous θησαυρίζει for himself a life with the Lord while those who ‘practice[4]’ injustice will find only destruction[5].

The phrase, ἔθου τὸ ὄνομά σου ἐφ᾽, found in the ninth verse is reminiscent of the Hebrew found in 2nd Chronicles 7.14, נִֽקְרָא־שְׁמִ֣י , possible serving to calling attention to covenant (v10) made between God and Solomon concerning the Temple. While this psalm concerns the covenant, and thus election, made by the Name of God, the author sees the possibility of even the sinner repenting of his or her sins, although it is arguable that the confessor in verse 6 is one inside the community.

Psalm 10  – Among Hymns. Pertaining to Salomon

The Community has appealed to self-humiliation, accepting their punishment as a due reward, seen their Temple defiled, and their sovereignty gone. Now they are appealing to God’s covenant and the testimony therein (v4) that any wrath would be short lived, serving as a correcting measure. The entire Psalm is centered on the fourth verse, with it acting as a zenith of the song. It is worth noting that the phrase διαθήκης αἰωνίου (v4) is found also in Hebrews 13.20, a book heavily influenced by Deuterocanonical material. It ends with an expectation for the salvation of the Lord (v8).


[1] Dunn calls attention to the rhetorical parallels between Pss Sol 8-14, which lists the sins of the people, and Psalm 50.16-21, Philo Conf 163, TLevi 14.4-8 and CD 6.16-17 which is similarly found in Romans 2.17-24). Dunn, 167

[2] Nickelsburg, 240

[3] Chris VanLandingham, Judgment & Justification In Early Judaism And The Apostle Paul, Peabody: Hendrickson Press 2006, 246, 252.

[4] 9.5 NETS

[5] A similar parallel is found in Matthew 6.19-20

Psalms of Solomon, Psalms 4-7 – Analysis

Psalm 4 – Discourse of Salomon. Pertaining to the men-pleasers.

It might be better superscribed to the Hellenizers and those Jews who sided with the Romans or maybe even the Herods. The psalm is divided into four sections (1.8; 9-13; 14-22; 23-25) and directed against a single individual, although he is difficult to place. This unknown individual (or representative of a community) is a religious hypocrite[1]. The author notes from the beginning that the individual is one of their own, seemingly, as he sits ‘in the council of the devout.’ King Hyrcanus II was sympathetic to the Pharisees but was a powerless man who eventually was stripped of his authority and given a figurehead position. The Jews would have blamed him for the Roman occupation because it was constant fighting with his brother which brought them in.

Psalm 5 – A Psalm. Pertaining to Salomon

The fifth psalm is close in nature to the canonical psalms in which the author spends the entire psalm singing the praises of God. It is a psalm composed, no doubt, in a melancholy mood, in which the author would settle for a ‘μέτριον’as a blessing. The highlight of the psalm is found in the final verse, which reads,

εὐλογημένη ἡ δόξα κυρίου ὅτι αὐτὸς βασιλεὺς ἡμῶν

The King is not the Lord Himself, but the glory of the Lord, which is echoed by the writer of Titus 2.13,

τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

It is possible that the personified Glory of the Lord sets the stage for a semi-divine Messiah figure which is introduced later on, only testifying to the unified story telling found in the Psalms.

Psalm 6 – In Hope. Pertaining to Solomon.

Name Theology is prevalent in the sixth psalm. The phrase, or similar phrases, τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου is found several times throughout the short song. It is one familiar to Paul’s writings, and Johannine Christology[2], as a key to the Christian message, in which the Name of the Lord is transferred to Christ, focusing on Joel 2.28-32. Here, it is treated no differently than that which would be found in the New Testament, where the Name of the Lord freely flows from something to be feared (v5) and a quasi-personification of a divine attribute (v4).

Psalm 7 – Pertaining to Salomon. Of Returning

Psalm seven forms a parallel to the preceding psalm by focusing on where the ὄνομα dwells. Again, we can find a parallel to Deuteronomy where the focus is the dwelling of the Name (chapter 12). Beginning with a plea to God that he ‘ἀποσκηνώσῃς’, the community becomes worried for losing the Name of the Lord. They are worried about exile (v3) in which even their name will be lost. In a reference to Exodus 39.7 found in verse 6, the author must be thinking again (as the author(s) of the first and second psalms was) of Deuteronomy 28, were we find connection through the use of ἰσχύσει πρὸς. We find the same promise of God in Deuteronomy 28.7-25 to reflect the pleas of the community.


[1] Nickelsburg, 244-245

[2] James McGrath, The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 61-64. McGrath notes that the personification of the name was not uncommon during this time, citing the Apocalypse of Abraham.

Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 3 – Analysis

Psalm 3 – A Psalm. Pertaining to Salomon. Concerning the Righteous.

A psalm of Solomon; concerning the righteous. Why do you sleep, O my soul, and do not bless the Lord? Sing a new song, to God who is worthy to be praised.
Sing and be wakeful against his awaking, for good is a psalm (sung) to God from a glad heart.
The righteous remember the Lord at all times, with thanksgiving and declaration of the righteousness of the Lord’s judgments
The righteous despise not the chastening of the Lord; his will is always before the Lord.
The righteous stumbles and holds the Lord righteous: he falls and looks out for what God will do to him; he seeks out when his deliverance will come.
The truth of the righteous is from God their deliverer. There lodges not in the house of the righteous sin upon sin.
The righteous continually searches his house, to remove utterly (all) iniquity (done) by him in error.
He makes atonement for (sins of) ignorance by fasting and afflicting his soul, and the Lord counts guiltless every pious man and his house.
The sinner stumbles and curses his life, the day when he was begotten, and his mother’s travail.
He adds sins to sins in his life, the day; he falls — for evil is his fall — and rises no more.
The destruction of the sinner is forever, and he will not be remembered, when the righteous is visited.
This is the portion of sinners forever. But they that fear the Lord will rise to life eternal. And their life (shall be) in the light of the Lord, and will come to an end no more.

The Righteous is introduced in the third psalm and stand in contrast to the sinners. The first verse which speaks of one who sleeps combined with the second verse with the command to awaken finds its parallel in Ephesians 5.14, where Paul quotes (διὸ λέγει· introduces a quote, see Ephesians 4.8 and James 4.6) an unknown source. While the third psalm does not provide an exact quote for Paul, it does hold the same imagery. Along with this is the crowning achievement in later chapters of the Messiah, it is plausible that Paul may have been quoting, at least in part, these verse. Further, the Paul mentions the singing of hymns, psalms and spiritual songs while making a melody from the heart. Again, the same image is found in Psalm 3.1-2;

ἵνα τί ὑπνοῖς ψυχή καὶ οὐκ εὐλογεῖς τὸν κύριον ὕμνον καινὸν ψάλατε τῷ θεῷ τῷ αἰνετῷ

ψάλλε καὶ γρηγόρησον ἐπὶ τὴν γρηγόρησιν αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἀγαθὸς ψαλμὸς τῷ θεῷ ἐξ ἀγαθῆς καρδίας (Pss Sol 3.1-2)

λαλοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς [ἐν] ψαλμοῖς καὶ ὕμνοις καὶ ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς, ᾄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν τῷ κυρίῳ, (Ephesians 5.19)

The rest of the Psalm is filled with a comparison between the Righteous and the laborious atonement which occurs while waiting for God and the sinner which, like the impious in the Wisdom of Solomon 2-6, sees nothing after this life. The Psalm finishes with a warning to the sinner who will suffer destruction forever (v11) while the righteous will have everlasting life, a dichotomy which figures heavily in the New Testament.

Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 2 – Analysis

Psalm 2 – A Psalm, Pertaining to Salomon, Concerning Ierousalem

Psalm 2 is the verdict of the judicial reviewing of Psalm 1, in which the ‘sinner[1]’ ransacks Jerusalem and profanes the Holy of Holies. While the author(s) of the Psalms mention various parts of the Temple, but only the extreme cultic uses, they fail to mention the Temple as something vital to the Jewish life. The importance of the Temple that we find in Tobit and Revelation, as well as the Gospel accounts, cannot be found in this collection, and this Psalm explains why. In verses 1-2, we find that the Holy of Holies had been violated by Pompey. Josephus[2], and the later Roman Historian Tacitus[3], recounted that when Pompey had defeated Aristobolus and his supporters, he took with him several men and entered into room where only the High Priest could go. This Psalm is a direct result of watching the myth that no one but a pure High Priest could enter the קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים without being slain by God[4], yet the Gentile sinner had done so, and nothing happened.

Verse 18 contains the phrase θαυμάσει πρόσωπον, which is also found in Deuteronomy 28.50 lxx. In Deuteronomy 28.45-57 speaks of a foreign nation, ‘like the swoop of an Eagle’ (Deut 28.49 NETS), which will descend upon Israel to take away her sovereignty for failure to obey God’s covenant. While this is the limit of written connection to Deuteronomy, the connection between disobedience and punishment from God by an outside force remain. By the end of the Psalm, Pompey has met his own defeat (through Caesar) learning Jerusalem to await a time in which God will remember her. This literature is neither prophetic, since the events have already happened, nor is it eschatological, because here, the community is still waiting on God Himself to end the punishment, and is only praying for understanding (2.33). Here, it is not the world system out of control which threatens God’s people, but God himself as a result of the failure to obey the Covenant.


[1] ‘Sinner’ may either mean the opposing faction (4.8; 13.6-12) or Gentile, which it does in this case. See James Dunn’s Echoes of Intra-Jewish Polemic in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2008 227-246, and Luke T. Johnson’s The New Testament’s Anti-Jewish Slander and the Conventions of Ancient Polemic, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 108, No. 3 (Autumn, 1989), pp. 419-441 Published by: The Society of Biblical Literature

[2] Josephus Ant. xiv 14.71-72

[3] The first Roman to subdue the Jews and set foot into their Temple by right of conquest was Gnaeus Pompey: thereafter it was a matter of common knowledge that there were no representations of the gods within, but that the place was empty and the secret shrine contained nothing” (Hist. 5.9)

[4] See Exodus 28.31-35; Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9.7