In our day there are Jewish and Christian bookstores full of writings of people of faith. We can find fiction and non-fiction on a variety of topics, all related to faith in God and living the teachings of the Bible. In ancient times, books were far less common, of course, but there was literature written for the people by people of the time about the faith. Recently I introduced the topic of the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha, Jewish writings from the Second Temple period. See “An Apocryphal Prayer” for more. The topic today is Psalm 151.
I believe that those who wrote the apocryphal books sometimes used a literary device, pretending they were Enoch or Abraham and writing in their voice. I do not think they were trying to fool anyone. I believe it was well-known that these were contemporary writings cast in the voice of ancient people.
If you get into writing in this way, it is only a matter of time until someone will write a 151st psalm. And someone did. Here it is:
I was small among my brothers,
and the youngest in my father’s house;
I tended my father’s sheep.
My hands made a harp;
my fingers fashioned a lyre.
And who will tell my Lord?
The Lord himself; it is he who hears.
It was he who sent his messenger
and took me from my father’s sheep,
and anointed me with his anointing-oil.
My brothers were handsome and tall,
but the Lord was not pleased with them.
I went out to meet the Philistine,
and he cursed me by his idols.
But I drew his own sword;
I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.
Consider that the Psalms are largely a product of David’s writing. Even the ones written later than David were inspired by his example and his early works. Psalm 151 celebrates the early life of David, the young shepherd destined to be king.
Scholars think Psalm 151 was written sometime between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. No one can say exactly when.
In his Introducing the Apocrypha, David deSilva says this about Psalm 151:
David’s anointing reminded an Israel that no longer stood tall in stature amidst the nations of the world that God was not impressed with appearances and sought, rather, a worshipful heart.
As this apocryphal psalm says, “My brothers were handsome and tall, but the Lord was not pleased with them.” So Israel is tiny and surrounded by giants. Yet if Israel would sing to God in worship again, if the harp would return and the choirs would sing hallelujahs once more . . .
. . . one greater than David would come.