The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 24 (23 in the Vulgate)

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 19, 2010

Note: the following comes from Father Patrick Boylan’s THE PSALMS: A STUDY OF THE VULGATE PSALTER IN LIGHT OF THE HEBREW TEXT. Because Father Boylan is following the Vulgate text his numbering of the Psalms will probably differ from most modern bibles. What we call Psalm 24 is Psalm 23 in the Vulgate; likewise, his reference to Psalm 14 corresponds to Psalm 15 in most modern translations. Here is a handy reference chart for your convenience.It should be noted that even today there is not agreement as to how the Psalms should be properly divided and, therefore, numbered. Most modern bibles follow the Hebrew numbering merely as a matter of convenience. See footnote 1 to Psalms 9-10 in the NAB.

THE verses 4-6 answer the question; “Who is the friend and guest of the Lord?”‘ (like Ps 14). The answer is: “He whose thoughts and acts are pure.” In verses 1-2 the majesty of the Lord, the Founder of the universe, is described. The sixth verse would form a very natural ending to what precedes; and a very neat and beautiful poem, similar in theme to Ps 14, might be regarded as completed in verses 1-6.

In verses 7-10 is celebrated a solemn entry of the Lord into His Sanctuary. Thus the second part of Psalm 23 deals, like the first (verses 1-6), with entrance into the Sanctuary, but the first part (1-6) deals with the ethical conditions demanded from Israelites who will sojourn there; while the second (7-10) speaks of the glorious entrance of the Lord into His own shrine. The poetical structure differs in the two parts of the psalm, and the view has often been expressed that we have in this psalm a combination of two poems which had originally nothing to do with each other. It might be well maintained that the second part of the psalm was chanted for the first time when David brought the Ark to Sion, and that it was afterwards sung whenever the Ark was being carried back to its sanctuary at the close of a victorious military campaign, in which the Ark, as the symbol of God, had been carried on the battlefields. The words of the second part of the psalm would find a very natural explanation if they could be regarded as part of the liturgy recited at the return of the Ark from victorious warfare, but there is, unfortunately, no direct evidence that the Ark was carried out to battle during the monarchical period.

Some recent commentators have conjectured that the whole psalm was composed for an annual Feast of Dedication of the Temple at which the Ark was carried out from its shrine, and borne back to it again. But there is no trace of such an annual festival in ancient Israel.

The structure of verses 3-6 and of verses 7-10 is obviously dramatic and liturgical. A procession in both parts approaches the Temple, and voices from without and within are heard in question and reply. The translation suggests the order of speakers or singers (I’ve reproduced this below). Cf. Ps 14 (i.e., Ps 15); Isa 33:14-16 ; Micah 6:8 ff.

1.  On the First day of the week. A psalm of David.

2.  The world is the Lord’s, and all that it holds; The universe and everything that dwells therein. For He hath established it upon the seas; And upon the waters He hath made it firm.

(The procession asks)
3. Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place?

(The Priests at the Temple-entrance respond)
4. He that is clean of hands, and pure of heart; He that setteth not his desire on vanity, And sweareth not treacherously to his neighbour.
5. Such a one will receive blessings from the Lord, And graciousness from his God, who is so rich in help.
6. Such are the men who seek Him, Who seek the face of the God of Jacob .

(The procession with the Ark)
7. Open, O Princes, your gates! And raise yourselves, ye everlasting gates!
That the glorious King may enter in!

(A voice from within the sanctuary)
8a. Who is this glorious king?

(The procession)
8b. The Lord, the Mighty and Strong, The Lord who is powerful in battle!
9. Open, O Princes, your gates! And raise yourselves ye everlasting gates! That the glorious King may enter in.

(Voice within)
10a. Who is this glorious king?

(Procession)
10b. The Lord of Hosts is the glorious King.

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5 Responses to “Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 24 (23 in the Vulgate)”

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