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 96 (95 in Vulgate and Douay-Rheims)

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 26, 2012

Please note that the Psalm numbering in this post follows that of the Latin Vulgate and Douay-Rheims translation and the links are to that translation. Numbers in square brackets [ ] which follow a psalm link are to the modern numbering, e.g., the reference (Ps 104 [105]) means that what is designated as Psalm 104 in the DR is # 105 in most modern translations.


THIS psalm is found with slight variations in 1 Chron 16:23-33 In 1 Chron 16 we have a poem composed of several psalm passages (Ps 104:1-15 [105]; Ps 105:47-48 [106]) which is said to have been sung at the bringing of the Ark from the house of Obededom to Sion. The authority of the Chronicler stands, therefore, for the ascription of this Psalm 95 [96] to David. That authority is supported by the title of the psalm in the Septuagint, ‘A poem by David when the House was built after the Captivity.’ The Septuagint title is probably based on the statements in 1 Chron 16. Direct Biblical statements like those of the Chronicler in chapter 16 cannot be set aside, and the Catholic commentator must admit that Psalm 95 [95] is substantially of Davidic origin. The points of obvious contact between this psalm and the second part of Isaias have led nearly all modern non-Catholic commentators to regard Psalm 95 [96] as post-Exilic. Against this, however, it is pointed out by Catholic writers that the apparently Isaian features of the psalm—especiallyits pronounced universalism, could well have originated from one gifted with the spirit of prophecy, like David. The Davidic origin of Psalm 95 [96] does not, however, exclude the possibility that the Davidic poem has been modified somewhat by editors. Ps 95:5 [96], for instance, which is remarkably similar to such passages of Isaiah 40:18-26; Isa 41:21-29; Isa 44:9-20, may have been inserted in the psalm subsequently to the period of Isaiah.

The structure of the psalm is simple. The first six verses (Ps 95:1-6 [96]) contain the New Song. The ancient songs are not grand enough to commemorate the great occasion of the psalm. Hence a new song is required. Its theme is the rule of Yahweh over the whole world—heathen as well as Jewish. The Messianic rule and kingdom are obviously before the poet’s mind. In the Messianic Kingdom there will be no contrast of Israel and the Nations, for all the world will equally submit to the sway of the Messianic King. Thus the beginning of the Messianic period is the beginning of the salvation of the heathens—not of their destruction. Instead of the thought that Israel is to attain world-power by victorious battles, we have here the thought that Israel has a spiritual mission to the nations. Israel must make known to all the glory of the one God, Yahweh. The heathen gods must fade away into the nothingness which they symbolise. The psalmist sees in spirit the proud works of men’s hands cast down in the dust before the face of Yahweh, while Majesty and Greatness minister in attendance about the Messianic throne.

The second part of the poem (Ps 95:7-10 [96]) depicts the jubilation of the subjects of the Messianic King when He comes to His throne. They gather together to do Him homage as they were wont to pay homage to earthly kings on their coronation-day. Yahweh is acclaimed as King of the whole world and as Judge of the nations. The poet sees the nations coming in festive procession, bringing gifts to the palace of the King.

The last three verses (Ps 95:11-13 [96]) represent Nature as joining in the nations’ cry of welcome to the Messianic King. Heaven, earth, sea, land, and forests unite with men in one great song of praise and homage.

The accession of the Messianic King is largely the theme also of
the next three psalms. All four should be read and studied together.
Psalm 97 [98] and Psalm 95 [96] are very intimately related. Psalm 45 [46], Ps 32 [33],. Ps 75 [76], and Ps 46 [47] should be compared and contrasted with Psalm 95 [96].

2 Responses to “Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 96 (95 in Vulgate and Douay-Rheims)”

  1. […] Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 96. […]

  2. […] Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Psalm 96). […]

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