PSALMS, the first in order and importance (cf. Luke xxiv. 44) of the third division of the Hebrew Old Testament, known as the "Writings." The Hebrew name of the Psalms is tehillim, or "praise-songs," which expresses a predominant, though by no means the entire, character of the collection. This anthology of Hebrew poetry also includes petitions (iv.), laments (xliv.), im precations (lviii.), meditations (cxix.), historical reviews (cvi.), and even a marriage ode (xlv.). But there can be no doubt that the purpose of the collection was to gather the sacred poetry of Israel for use in the post-exilic worship of the temple. This is shown by the technical and professional titles of the psalms, as well as by their general character and their occasional references (note the definite allusions to the destruction of Jerusalem, the exile or the dispersion in li. 18, lxxxix. 38, 44, cvi. 47, cxxvi. 1, cxxxvii. 1, cxlvii. 2).
As the book lies before us, it is a collection of collections, being divided into five books, which themselves contain certain smaller distinguishable groups of psalms. The first four books are each closed by a doxology, at least as old as the Septuagint version (second half of 2nd century B.c.). In Bk. I. (i.–xli.) practically all the psalms are ascribed to David (the exceptions can be ex plained). In Bk. II. (xlii.–lxxii.) there is more variety, xlii.–xlix. being ascribed to "the sons of Korah," 1. to Asaph, li.–lxv. to David, lxvi., lxvii. simply to "the chief musician" or choir-con ductor, lxviii.-1xx. to David, lxxii. to Solomon (lxxi. is anonymous). The editorial note at the end of this book, "Finished are the prayers of David the son of Jesse," shows there was once a col lection of "Davidic" psalms, and that there has been a rearrange ment of material bringing psalms of other groups above the rubric. In Bk. III. (lxxiii.–lxxxix.) there is an "Asaph" group (lxxiii.–lxxxiii.) followed by a miscellaneous appendix (Korah, David, Ethan). We have clear evidence of other editorial work in the overwhelming predominance of the name "Elohim" for God in Psalm xlii.–lxxxiii. as compared with the personal name, "Yah
weh" (the occurrences are 200 :43 ; in Psalms, i.–xli. 15:272) : this is confirmed by the fact that Ps. xiv. of the first Book reappears as Ps. liii., with its fourfold "Yahweh" changed into "Elohim" (so also in Pss. xl. 13-17 and lxx.). In Bks. II. and III. alone do we get psalms ascribed to guilds of temple singers. Bks. IV. and V. are divided by the doxology of cvi. 48 (cf. I Chron. xvi. 35, 36, where a liturgical formula has been trans formed into a historical statement). But the division seems arti ficial (perhaps made to get five books of psalms corresponding with the five books of the law), since Psalms cv.–cvii. are closely related in subject-matter. If, therefore, we take Bks. IV. and V. together, we find in them a distinct group of "Pilgrim" psalms (cxx.–cxxxiv.), and a scattered one of "Hallelujah" psalms (civ.–cvi., cxi.–cxiii., cxv.–cxvii., cxxxv., cxlvi.–cl.) largely litur gical. Ps. cviii. seems to have been made by combining lvii. 7-11 and lx. 5-12, which again proves the existence of separate col lections, since the same material would not originally appear twice in the same collection.
The Hebrew psalms are in rhythmical, but unrhymed verse, the most frequent type being that of the three-beat line. The other characteristic of Hebrew poetry is its parallelism ("syn onymous," li. 2; "antithetic," i. 6; "synthetic," cxxi. 4). The musical accompaniment was melodic unison, not the harmonies of modern music, so that its chief use, beyond support to the singers, was to synchronize the beats, as by cymbals (I Chron. xv. 19, xvi. 5). Six distinct instruments are named in Ps. cl. (see Wellhausen, Psalms, Appendix, "Music of the Ancient Hebrews"). The singing was by professional choirs with a response ("Amen," "Hallelujah") from the worshippers (I Chron. xvi. 36, 2 Chron. xxix. 27, 28). For a glowing description of the ritual see Ecclus.