Psalms 19 and 8 – David’s Early Works?

Alexander Maclaren’s The Life of David as Reflected in His Psalms

Part 1 of 5

Do we have any Psalms from David’s teenage years, from his time as a shepherd?

When Alexander Maclaren studied the issue, he found none that he could say for sure were written so early. But he did find some that might have been. If not, they were at least “echoes of his thoughts in those first days.”

He noted that a few of David’s psalms were “unlike his later psalms in the almost entire absence of personal references, or of any trace of pressing cares, or of signs of a varied experience of human life.”

“In their self-forgetful contemplation of nature,” Maclaren wrote, “they sound like the outpouring of a young heart at leisure from itself, and from pain, far from men and very near God.”

Among such possible early psalms, Maclaren counted the 8th and the 19th.

Because Psalm 19 changes tone in the middle, other scholars thought it was a compilation, not an original work. In Maclaren’s view, however, it’s both original and brillant. It shows that although David saw nature as “the garment of God,” he was firmly rooted in the more sure word of prophecy.

“The turn from the outer world to the better light of God’s word, is most natural; the abruptness of it is artistic and impressive; the difference in style and measure gives emphasis to the contrast.”

The following few lines from Psalm 19 are especially poignant if we hear them as coming from the young David. He was aware of his great potential, but also of the great damage he was capable of doing.

“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!”

Psalm 8 also makes sense as the work of the young shepherd.

Remember that David didn’t immediately leave home after the prophet Samuel showed up at his father’s house and anointed him to be the next king. He went back to work, maybe the very next day. He went back to the fields and sheep, with plenty of time to think about what had happened.

Instead of saying, “Who am I that I should be king?” He had larger vision even then. He asked, “What is man that You are mindful of him?

We can’t know for sure when these two Psalms were written. But it’s interesting to read them as possible windows into the young prophet’s soul.

Psalm 19 (ESV)

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 8 (ESV)

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

A Biography Written in Prayer

Alexander Maclaren’s The Life of David as Reflected in His Psalms

Introduction

Psalms 19 and 8 – David’s Early Works?

Psalm 22 – David Grows as a Prophet

Psalm 110 in Historical Context

Psalms 41, 39, and 55 – A Sick and Weary King Observes the Gathering Storm

Psalms 3, 4, and 63 – How David Got His Kingdom Back

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