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The Deuterocanon
Old Testament - Holy Bible


Psalm 151

Introduction | Psalm 151


To the traditional Hebrew Psalter, the Septuagint (LXX) adds Ps 151, with a superscript describing it as "outside the number" (i.e., of the 150 Psalms); this is the basis of the NRSV translation. It is found in the fourth-century CE Greek Codex Sinaiticus with a different superscription and in the sixth-century Codex Alexandrius (with a superscription, "The 151 Psalms of David"). In Syriac, Ps 151 is is the first of a series of psalms (Ps 151-155) about the heroic exploits of David in 1 Sam 16-17.

Besides these hundred and fifty Psalms, there is one additional in the Syriac, Septuagint, AEthiopic, and Arabic. A Hebrew version of psalm is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (11 QPs). This Hebrew version is made up of two distinct psalms: Ps 151A (=LXX Ps 151) is a poem based on 1 Sam 16.1-13, about David the shepherd becoming Israel's king, with a superscription; this psalm is truncated in the Greek and Syriac versions. Ps 151B is the fragmentary beginning of another psalm, also with a superscription, that must have followed Ps 151A in the original scroll; it apparently deals with David's contest with Goliath (1 Sam 17), a story that is also the subject of LXX Ps 151.6-7.

In form, Ps 151A is not a hymn or a petition, but a narrative (cf. Ps 78), an autobiographical poem in which David, the youngest of his brothers, speaks of his shepherding care for his father's flocks, of his psalms praising God, and of his anointment as Israel's king. The superscription of the Hebrew poem ("A Hallelujah of David the son of Jesse") is similar to the superscriptions of Ps 145 ("Praise. Of David") and the introductory "Hallelujah" of Ps 111-113, 146-150, and thus serves to integrate this psalm into the end of Psalms.




Psalm 151

This psalm is ascribed to David as his own composition (though it is outside the number), after he had fought in single combat with Goliath.

1 I was small among my brothers,

and the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

2 My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

3 And who will tell my Lord?

The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

4 It was he who sent his messenger

and took me from my father’s sheep,

and anointed me with his anointing oil.

5 My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

6 I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

7 But I drew his own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.