Psalms of Solomon by Julia Rath

When you hear “Psalms of Solomon,” you might first think of the canonical psalms Ps 72 and Ps 127 that are said to be written by Solomon. However, there is also an entire book of psalms associated with him. This article focuses on origin and content of this collection.

What are the Psalms of Solomon?

The so-called Psalms of Solomon (Pss. Sol.) consist of eighteen psalms preserved in Greek and Syriac. These psalms form part of the pseudepigrapha, which means that they were not actually composed by the legendary King Solomon but attributed to him later. Most scholars date the collection to around the first century BCE and have proposed different Judean groups as authors, for example, the Pharisees or a sect from Jerusalem. Some scholars have argued that the collection was originally written in Hebrew, but this has been challenged by recent studies, which propose that the collection was written in Greek. The Greek psalms were first published in 1626 by Juan Luis de la Cerda. The Syriac version was first mentioned by James R. Harris in 1909. Today, they are included in most modern editions of the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament.

What is the content of these psalms?

The Psalms of Solomon artfully combine elements of individual and collective psalms. They include, among others, psalms of lament, psalms of wisdom, and hymns. Consequently, this collection is not only interpreted as psalms, but also as wisdom literature and prophetic writing.

The psalms are formulated rather generally and do not include any specific names, apart from Jerusalem. As a result, they can be read on different occasions, and the identification of the alluded events is debated. They consistently adapt religious themes found also in the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint, for example, the importance of covenant, the election of Israel, and the Messiah.

The psalms as a whole move from Jerusalem’s lament of her sinful children (Pss. Sol. 1) to the anticipation of the messiah and a hymnic praise of God (Pss. Sol. 17–18). Psalms of Solomon 2; 8; 17 are historical psalms and deal with the conquest of Jerusalem, the sins of the inhabitants, and the advent of a Davidic messiah. Enemies (probably Pompey and Herodes) are depicted as instruments God uses to educate the sinful people. The messiah is sent by God to reassemble all the nations and reign in eternity. Psalms of Solomon 3–6; 12–16 describe the differences between the devout and sinners. Interestingly, the devout are not without sins. Instead, they acknowledge their sins. Psalms of Solomon 7–12 form the core of the collection and discuss central theological themes. Most importantly, they invoke God’s mercy and his education of the devout. Furthermore, they carry hope that the dispersed will be gathered and that God will remember the covenant with his people.

Overall, the Psalms of Solomon present suffering as justified because of the sins committed. Education prevents the devout from sinning again and saves them from eternal rejection. Finally, these psalms are an important historical and literary witness for the theology of the Second Temple Period and thus for the development of Judaism.

Julia Rath, "Psalms of Solomon", n.p. [cited 20 Sep 2021]. Online: https://www.bibleodyssey.org:443/en/passages/related-articles/psalms-of-solomon

Contributors

Rath-Julia

Julia Rath
doctoral candidate, Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg

Julia Rath is doctoral candidate at Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg, Germany. Her research focuses on the Septuagint and the literature of the Second Temple Period. She studies Latin philology, Catholic theology, and educational studies and is the author of the article “Exile and Diaspora in the Psalms of Solomon,” in Psalms of Solomon (Mohr Siebeck, forthcoming). Currently, she works on a ThD thesis concerning Ps. Sol. 9 as part of the Psalms of Solomon.

Belonging to the canon of a particular group; texts accepted as a source of authority.

A West Semitic language, in which most of the Hebrew Bible is written except for parts of Daniel and Ezra. Hebrew is regarded as the spoken language of ancient Israel but is largely replaced by Aramaic in the Persian period.

The set of Biblical books shared by Jews and Christians. A more neutral alternative to "Old Testament."

The religion and culture of Jews. It emerged as the descendant of ancient Israelite Religion, and is characterized by monotheism and an adherence to the laws present in the Written Torah (the Bible) and the Oral Torah (Talmudic/Rabbinic tradition).

Relating to or associated with people living in the territory of the southern kingdom of Judah during the divided monarchy, or what later became the larger province of Judah under imperial control. According to the Bible, the area originally received its name as the tribal territory allotted to Judah, the fourth son of Jacob.

A formal poetic category (see Psalms, Lamentations, prophets).

Of or related to the written word, especially that which is considered literature; literary criticism is a interpretative method that has been adapted to biblical analysis.

Also called the Hebrew Bible, those parts of the canon that are common to both Jews and Christians. The designation "Old Testament" places this part of the canon in relation to the New Testament, the part of the Bible canonical only to Christians. Because the term "Old Testament" assumes a distinctly Christian perspective, many scholars prefer to use the more neutral "Hebrew Bible," which derives from the fact that the texts of this part of the canon are written almost entirely in Hebrew.

Works that claim to be written by authors that scholars have determined did not write them.

The structure built in Jerusalem in 516 B.C.E. on the site of the Temple of Solomon, destroyed by the Babylonians seventy years prior. The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. by the Romans responding to Jewish rebellion.

A religious subgroup.

A dialect of Aramaic, common among a number of early Christian communities.

Relating to thought about the nature and behavior of God.

Writing, speech, or thought about the nature and behavior of God.

Ps 72

Prayer for Guidance and Support for the King
Of Solomon.
1Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king's son.2May he judge your people wi ... View more

Ps 127

God's Blessings in the Home
A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
1Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city, ... View more

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