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date: 22 October 2019

(p. 621) “Apocryphal” Psalms in the Psalms Scrolls and in Texts Incorporating Psalms

(p. 621) Appendix I “Apocryphal” Psalms in the Psalms Scrolls and in Texts Incorporating Psalms

Peter W. Flint

The Psalms scrolls and texts incorporating Psalms contain text from fifteen or sixteen compositions that we would traditionally classify as apocryphal, plus at least two other texts. These are found in only six manuscripts, four from Cave 4 (4QPsf, Apocryphal Psalm and Prayer[4Q448], Prophecy of Joshua [4Q522]), and three from Cave 11 (11QPsa, 11QPsb, and 11QapocrPs). This appendix introduces the fifteen (or sixteen) apocryphal psalms and two works that include psalmic compositions. For the nine marked with an asterisk (*), a translation is also provided.

Two compositions containing material also found in the Hebrew Bible:

  1. 1) David’s Last Words (= 2 Sam. 23:1–7 in 11QPsa)*

  2. 2) Catena (in 11QPsa and 11QPsb)*

Five compositions in the Apocrypha or found in some early Bibles:

  1. 3) Sirach 51:13–30 (in 11QPsa)*

  2. 4) Psalm 151A (in 11QPsa)*

  3. 5) Psalm 151B (in 11QPsa)*

  4. 6) Psalm 154 (in Apocryphal Psalm and Prayer and 11QPsa)

  5. 7) Psalm 155 (in 11QPsa)

Eight or nine compositions unknown before the discovery of the Scrolls:

  1. 8) Apostrophe to Zion (in 11QPsa and 11QPsb)

  2. 9) Eschatological Hymn (in 4QPsf)*

  3. 10) Apostrophe to Judah (in 4QPsf)*

  4. 11) Hymn to the Creator (in 11QPsa)

  5. 12) Plea for Deliverance (in 11QPsa and 11QPsb)

  6. (p. 622) 13) David’s Compositions (in 11QPsa)*

  7. 14) First Song (or Incantation) against Demons (in 11QapocrPs)

  8. 15) Second Song (or Incantation) against Demons (in 11QapocrPs)

  9. 16) Third Song (or Incantation) against Demons (in 11QapocrPs)*

Two previously unknown works that include psalms:

  1. 17) Apocryphal Psalm and Prayer (4Q448)

  2. 18) Apocryphon (or Prophecy) of Joshua (4Q522)

Text 1. David’s Last Words

Text 1. David’s Last Words

The Great Psalms Scroll preserves most of the final verse of David’s Last Words (1 Sam. 23:17); the first six verses were also included but are now lost from the damaged bottom portion of column 26. The verses from this striking poem were apparently included to emphasize the Davidic character of the 11QPsa-Psalter. Three other compositions that have the same function are David’s Compositions, Psalm 151A, and Psalm 151B. In the following translation, verse 6 is added from the NRSV to supply context:

David’s Last Words (11QPsa, col. 27:1)

  • 6But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away;
  • for they cannot be picked up with the hand.
  • 7[And the one who touches them uses an iron bar
  • or the shaft of battle-axes (or, outside weapons. MT 2 Sam. 23:7 reads a spear);
  • and they are entirely consumed with fire on the spot.

Text 2. Catena

Text 2. Catena

In 11QPsa, Psalm 136 is followed by a short psalm of seven verses, six of them also found in Psalm 118. Because Psalm 118 itself is represented earlier in the scroll (frg. E:1–5, with vv. 25–29), this portion cannot be a different form of it. The Catena (i.e., a connected series of verses) is most likely a separate composition because it follows 136:26 with a small interval. (However, elsewhere 11QPsa has larger spaces between successive compositions or starts them on the next line.) The first three verses of the Catena are also preserved in 11QPsb. With almost all its contents found in Psalm 118, the verses of the Catena are numbered accordingly (vv. 1, 15, 16, 8, 9, X, 29, with X denoting an unknown verse). Furthermore, additional or variant readings are given in italics.

Catena (11QPsa, col. 26:1–7. Differences from MT in italics.)

  • 1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
  • 15Listen to the shouts of joy and victory in the tents of the righteous:
  • “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things,
  • 16The LORD’s right hand is lifted high, the LORD’s right hand has gained victory!”
  • (p. 623) 8It is better to have confidence in the LORD than to put confidence in humans.
  • 9It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
  • (X)It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in a thousand people!
  • 29Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever!
  • Praise the LORD!

Text 3. Sirach 51:13–30

Text 3. Sirach 51:13–30

Jesus ben Sira was a Jewish teacher who compiled a book of wise sayings and instructions in Hebrew somewhere between 190 and 180 bce. The author’s grandson later translated this work into Greek and added a preface. The traditional book in the Septuagint, based on this Greek translation, has fifty-one chapters and is best titled Sirach or Ecclesiasticus. The Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sira, or simply Ben Sira, denotes the original Hebrew form, which contains many differences.

The poem in Sirach 51:13–30 was previously familiar to us as the second canticle following the Epilogue. Its inclusion in a collection of Psalms shows that the canticle was still being used as an independent unit in the first century ce, long after its incorporation in the book of Ben Sira. Because it is found in two different books, the canticle may have been a “floating piece”; where it originally belonged is open to question. The form of this poem in 11QPsa is very erotic in several places (e.g., “hand” in v. 22 can mean “penis”). The Greek version revised the canticle by substituting pious ideas for such erotic images, but the Great Psalms Scroll now gives us access to the original, uncensored poem.

    Sirach 51:13-30 (11QPsa, col. 21:11–17)

  • 13When I was a young man, before I went on my travels, I looked for her.
  • 14She came to me in her beauty, when at last I sought her out.
  • 15Just as a blossom drops when grapes ripen, making the heart glad,
  • 16my feet were treading on level ground; for I have known her since my youth.
  • 17I bent my ear just a little, and so great was the captivation that I found.
  • 18So she became a wet-nurse for me; to my mistress I gave my passion.
  • 19I decided to live it up. I was so obsessed with pleasure, I could not turn back.
  • 20I set alight my desire for her, and could not turn away my face.
  • 21I kept my desire going for her, and on her heights I could not relax.
  • 22[I] uncovered my “hand,” […and] got to know her private parts.
  • 23I cleansed my “hand” […
  • 30…] your reward in its proper time.

Texts 4–5. Psalm 151A and Psalm 151B

Texts 4–5. Psalm 151A and Psalm 151B

In the Septuagint, the Book of Psalms ends with Psalm 151 (as in Orthodox Bibles). There Psalm 151 is a single composition, and in the Latin and Syriac translations based on the Greek. Among the Psalms scrolls, the Hebrew text is preserved at the end (col. 28:3–14) of the Great Psalms Scroll (11QPsa). Thus in the first century ce (the scroll was copied c. 30–50), at least some Jews were using a collection of Psalms in Hebrew that also ended with Psalm 151.

11QPsa represents the original Hebrew, which is very different from the Greek version. Psalm 151 is a single composition in the Septuagint, but in 11QPsa two distinct psalms (151A and 151B), each with its own superscription and with the second psalm beginning on a new line. Psalm (p. 624) 151A is poetic midrash on the events on David’s life found in 1 Samuel 16:1–13, and 151B covers David’s encounter with Goliath, as reported in 1 Samuel 17:17–54. The Greek translator reworked and synthesized these into a single composition, with Psalm 151A:1–7 condensed into Greek verses 1–5, and Psalm 151B:1–2 into Greek verses 6–7.

    Psalm 151A (11QPsa, col. 28:3–12)

  • Superscription: Hallelujah! A Psalm of David, Son of Jesse.
  • 1 Smaller was I than my brothers, and the youngest of my father’s sons,
  • so he made me shepherd of his flock and ruler over his kid goats.
  • 2 My hands fashioned a reed pipe, and my fingers a lyre;
  • and I gave glory to the LORD. I said within my mind:
  • 3 “The mountains cannot bear witness to him, nor can the hills proclaim about him—
  • so cherish my words, you trees, and cherish my deeds, you flocks.
  • 4 For who can announce, and who can tell, and who can recount my deeds?”
  • The Lord of all has seen, the God of all—he has heard and has listened.
  • 5 He sent his prophet to anoint me, Samuel to make me great.
  • My brothers went out to meet him, so handsome of figure, tall in appearance,
  • 6 So tall in stature, and beautiful with their hair—
  • yet the LORD God did not choose them.
  • 7 But he sent and fetched me from behind the flock, and anointed me with holy oil,
  • and he appointed me prince of his people and ruler over the children of his covenant.

    Psalm 151B (11QPsa, col. 28:13–14)

  • Superscription:
  • The start of mighty d[ee]ds for [Davi]d, after the prophet of God had anointed him.
  • 1Then I s[a]w a Philistine, throwing out taunts from the r[anks of the enemy].
  • 2… I… the…

Texts 6–7. Psalm 154 and Psalm 155

Texts 6–7. Psalm 154 and Psalm 155

Psalm 154 and Psalm 155 are included in the Mosul manuscript, the oldest surviving Syriac version of the book of Psalms.1 They are Syriac Psalms II and III in the Book of Discipline by the tenth-century Nestorian Bishop Elijah of al-Anbar (with Psalm 151 as Psalm 1).

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalm 154 is represented in 11QPsa and Apocryphal Psalm and Prayer (4Q448), and Psalm 155 is found in 11QPsa, which shows that some traditions known at Qumran were preserved in the writings of Eastern or Orthodox Christianity. Comparison with the Qumran evidence shows that for Psalms 154 and 155 the Mosul copy is the most faithful Syriac version, although it contains significant variant readings against later manuscripts. 11QPsa represents the Hebrew text used by the Syriac translator, since there is a 95 percent or better, correspondence in wording.

Psalm 154 is written in poetry of biblical style and is a call to worship. One noteworthy feature is the personification of Wisdom as a woman (vv. 5 onward), which also occurs in the Hebrew Bible (notably Prov. 8:34) and in the book of Sirach (1:15). Of the psalm’s twenty verses (as found in the Syriac), verses 3–19 are preserved in 11QPsa (col. 18:1–16). In Apocryphal Psalm and Prayer (4Q448), verses 16–20 are found (col. 1:7–10) as part of a larger psalm (1:1–10). For further details on 4Q448, which includes the Prayer for King Jonathan (cols. 2:1–3:9), see under Text 17 below. (For a translation of Psalm 154, see Flint 1999: 572–73).

(p. 625) Psalm 155 is as a psalm of thanksgiving, but it incorporates a plea for deliverance and is reminiscent of Psalms 22 and 51. The composition opens with the psalmist’s cry for deliverance, and then asks for God’s protection from overwhelming situations (v. 11) and the “evil scourge” (v. 13) and asserts confidence in God’s positive response and ability to save the psalmist (vv. 15 and following).

Of the psalm’s twenty-one verses (fully preserved only in the Syriac), verses 1–19 are preserved in 11QPsa (col. 24:3–17). This is a broken (partial) acrostic psalm. With the final two verses reconstructed from the Mosul manuscript, it seems to have had twenty-one verses instead of the expected twenty-two. Moreover, the psalm ended (at least in the Mosul text) with the pe verse instead of the taw one. Of the preserved text in 11QPsa, verse 5 is the bet verse, verse 6 is the gimel verse, and verses 9–18 are the he through nun verses. However, the fourth line begins with yod (yhwh), not the expected dalet. (For a translation, see Flint 1999: 579–80).

Text 8. Apostrophe to Zion

Text 8. Apostrophe to Zion

Many passages in the Hebrew Bible focus on Jerusalem, both in the Psalms (e.g., 46, 48, 76, 87) and elsewhere (the address in Isa. 54:1–8). The Apostrophe to Zion invokes blessings on Jerusalem, affirms the defeat of her enemies, and looks forward to her salvation and everlasting righteousness. This is an acrostic composition, each successive verse beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

The Apostrophe is found in three scrolls. In 11QPsa, all twenty-two verses are preserved. However, this is in eighteen verses rather than the expected twenty-two because several components are short and some verses include more than one of them (cf. col. 22:1–15), while 4QPsf contains text from the ‘alep to gimel verses (col. 7:14–17) and from the mem to šin verses (col. 8:2–15). In 11QPsb the he and zayin verses are represented (frg. 6.1–2). (For a translation, see Flint 1999: 576–77).

Texts 9–10. Eschatological Hymn and Apostrophe to Judah

Texts 9–10. Eschatological Hymn and Apostrophe to Judah

The Eschatological Hymn and Apostrophe to Judah were unknown to scholars prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls but are now available to us in 4QPsf. In DJD 16 (Skehan, Ulrich, and Flint 2000), they are published as two separate works: the Hymn in column 9:1–15 and the Apostrophe in column 10:4–15. Some scholars view both pieces as parts of a single composition, possibly a broken acrostic poem; compare Psalm 155 (Text 7 above). One further point is that the Halleluyah in column 10:15 marks the end of the psalm in that column.

The Eschatological Hymn is a psalm on the Last Days. It offers praise to God and celebrates the end of the wicked and of evil, the fruitfulness of the heavens and earth, the feeding of the poor, and how those who fear the LORD will be satisfied. The Apostrophe to Judah is also eschatological, but with a special focus on Judah; like the Apostrophe to Zion (Text 8 above), it is addressed to a place. Heaven and earth are to give praise in this psalm, which is highly anthological, containing many words and phrases known form other parts of the Hebrew Bible. (p. 626)

    Eschatological Hymn (4QPsf, col. 9:1–1, here 4–14)

  • …then they will extol the 5the name of the LORD,
  • [f]or he comes to judge 6every ac[ti]on,
  • to do away with the wicked 7from the earth,
  • [so that the children of] iniquity will no longer 8be found.
  • [And] the hea[v]ens [will give] their dew,
  • 9and there will be no ev[il within] their borders.
  • And the earth 10will offer up its fruits in season,
  • and will not 11fall short of its [pro]duce.
  • The 12fruit trees [will…] their vines,
  • and […] will not fall short of their […13…]
  • The 14oppressed will eat,
  • and those who fear the LORD [will be satisfied]

    Apostrophe to Judah (4QPsf, col. 10:4–15, here 5–15)

  • 5…So heaven and earth give praise as one,
  • 6let all the stars of twilight give praise!
  • 7Rejoice, O Judah, in your joy;
  • 8be glad in your gladness, and dance in your dance.
  • 9Make your pilgrimages, fulfil your vows,
  • for 10Belial is nowhere in your midst.
  • May your hand be lifted up!
  • 11May your right hand prevail!
  • See, enemies will 12perish,
  • and all 13who carry out will be scattered.
  • But you, O LORD, are eter[nal];
  • 14your glory endures forev[er and ev]er.
  • 15Praise the Lord!

Text 11. Hymn to the Creator

Text 11. Hymn to the Creator

This is a wisdom poem, a category in which Sirach 51:13–30 (Text 3) and Psalm 155 (Text 7) also belong. Only nine verses survive in 11QPsa (col. 26:9–15).

The psalm praises God as Creator. Lines 14–15 are a rearrangement of Jeremiah 10:12–13 and Psalm 135:7. More generally, it has affinities with Psalm 104 because both Psalms draw on cosmic and creation themes from Genesis 1. Verse 6 (“decking out hills with produce, good food for every living being,” line 11) is quoted in a modified form in the Admonition of the Flood (4Q370) column 1:1: “So he decked out the mountains with pro[duce, heap]ing up good food upon them,…”. (For a translation, see Flint 1999: 582–83).

Text 12. Plea for Deliverance

Text 12. Plea for Deliverance

This is a prayer seeking God’s forgiveness, protection, and deliverance from the power of Satan. It also includes praise and thanksgiving for God’s kindness and faithfulness. The style, vocabulary, and ideas are similar to other prayers and pleas in the Hebrew Bible. For example, the argument that God should spare a man his life because in death no one can praise God makes use of similar phrases in Isaiah 38:18–19 and Psalm 6:4–5. The mention of “Sheol,” the domain of the afterlife, may also be noted.

The complete psalm originally had twenty-four or twenty-five verses. In 11QPsa (19:1–18), nineteen are preserved, and the second half of a twentieth. About five lines are missing from (p. 627) the beginning and one more or so at the end. Less text is preserved in 11QPsb frgs. 4–5. Lines 3–15 preserve text from sixteen verses (= 11QPsa 19:1–15), but lines 1–2 have some letters from the verses missing at the beginning of 11QPsa. Line 2 reads: “[Poor] and weak am I, since […] ” (For a translation, see Flint 1999: 573).

Text 13. David’s Compositions

Text 13. David’s Compositions

This important piece forms a prose epilogue to the 11QPsa-Psalter, even though it is found in the second-last column (27) of 11QPsa. It describes the extensive literary activity of King David, as author of the book of Psalms, the apocryphal psalms, and many others as well. With a total of 4,050 songs or psalms (line 10), David was even more prolific than Solomon, who composed 4,005 pieces (3,000 proverbs plus 1,005 songs; see 1 Kings 4:34 [Hebrew 5:12]).

The songs (psalms) of David were inspired: “All these he composed through prophecy…” (line 11). This text implies that David is the author of the collection in 11QPsa (and thus the 11QPsa-Psalter), and that its arrangement and compositions were inspired by God himself.

The 364 songs for the daily sacrifice and other items (fifty-two Sabbath songs, and thirty songs for monthly offerings and festivals) show that this Psalter was arranged in accordance with the year, weeks, and months of the 364-day solar calendar. Thus David is associated with the calendar evident in the books of 1 Enoch and Jubilees, and used by the Yahad Essenes at Qumran and elsewhere.

David’s Compositions (11QPsa, col. 27:1–11)

2Now David, son of Jesse, was wise, and he shined like the light of the sun. And he was a scribe,

3and discerning, and blameless in all his ways before God and humankind. The LORD gave

4him a discerning and shining spirit, so that he wrote:

  • 5Psalms: 3,600.
  • Songs to sing before the altar over the daily 6perpetual offering for all the days of the year: 364.
  • 7For the Sabbath offerings: 52 songs.
  • For the new moon offerings, 8all the festival days, and the Day of Atonement: 30 songs.
  • 9The total for all the songs that he composed was 446.
  • Also, songs 10for making music over people afflicted by demons: 4.
  • And the sum total (Psalms and Songs) was 4,050.
  • 11All of these he composed through prophecy, which was given to him by the Most High.

Texts 14–16. Three Songs (or Incantations) Against Demons

Texts 14–16. Three Songs (or Incantations) Against Demons

The manuscript known as 11QApocryphal Psalms (11QapocrPs or 11Q11) was copied 50–68 ce and contains text from four psalms (possibly five) for use in exorcisms against demons. Many scholars regard these as the Four Songs for Making Music over People Afflicted by Demons (11QPsa 27:9–10) mentioned in David’s Compositions (Text 13). Another text found at Qumran that involves exorcism is Against Demons (4Q560).

The first three exorcism songs were unknown until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but the fourth is found in the Hebrew Bible and modern Bibles as Psalm 91. This is the most prominent psalm connected with exorcisms of demonic forces in both Jewish and Christian traditions. In some rabbinic texts (b.Shebu’ot 15b and y.Sabbat 16.8), this Psalm is referred to as (“the song of/for people afflicted by demons”).

(p. 628) The manuscript is very damaged and is preserved in four fragments and six columns. The fourth song is Psalm 91, of which all thirteen verses are represented in column 6:3–13. For a translation of the first two songs, see Flint (1999: 539–40). The third song is translated below. Poorly preserved in column 5:4–14, it is clearly attributed to David and uttered against a demon or evil spirit. The reference to this demon’s horns in line 7 is noteworthy in view of popular notions that the devil has horns.

Third Song (or Incantation) Against Demons (11QapocPs, col. 5:4–14)

Superscription: 4A Psalm of David. Again[st…An incanta]tion in the name of the Lor[d. To be invoked at an]y time 5to the heav[ens…

  • When] he comes to you at nig[ht], you will [s]ay to him:
  • 6”Who are you? [Depart from] humanity and from the offspring of the ho[ly one]s!
  • For your face is a face of 7[delu]sion, and your horns are horns of [fan]tasy.
  • You are darkness, not light, 8[wicked]ness, not righteousness […]
  • the Commander of the Army, the lord [will bring] you [down 9into] deepest [Sheo]l,
  • [and he will close the] two [ga]tes of bronze th[rough which n]o 10light [can enter],
  • and [the] sun [will] not [appear for you] tha[t shines 11upon the] righteous to […”
  • And] then you will say: “[…12…the right]eous, to come […]a de[mon] harms him,
  • [13…of tr]uth from […because] he has [righ]teousness […
  • 14…] and…”

Text 17. Apocryphal Psalm and Prayer

Text 17. Apocryphal Psalm and Prayer

Apocryphal Psalm and Prayer (4Q448) is in the appendix because it features Psalm 154 and another composition. The original scroll never contained all of Psalm 154; of the psalm’s twenty verses (as found in the Syriac) this text preserves verse 16–20 (col. 1:7–10) as part of a different psalm altogether (1:1–10).

There follows a Prayer for King Jonathan (cols. 2:1–3:9), apparently the Hasmonean Alexander Jannaeus, who ruled from 103–76 bce. This king also appears in the Commentary on Nahum (4Q169), where he is twice described as the “Lion of Wrath” (frgs. 3–4 col. i, lines 5–6). The fact that the Prayer suggests a positive attitude toward him is in contrast to the Commentary’s negative view of Jannaeus, who was a violent ruler and persecuted the Pharisees. (For a translation of both columns, see Wise, Abegg, and Cook 2005: 506–507.)

Text 18. Apocryphon (or Prophecy) of Joshua

Text 18. Apocryphon (or Prophecy) of Joshua

The Apocryphon (or Prophecy) of Joshua (4Q522) is in the appendix because it includes Psalm 122 and other material. One earlier preserved section (in frgs. 8 and 9) contains a list of cities in Canaan and the tribes to which they are assigned. A later portion (col. 2:1–13) praises God’s choice of Mount Zion for the building of the Temple. Psalm 122 comes at the end of the manuscript, or what remains if it. The overall focus of these three sections is on God’s blessing of the land of Israel, Jerusalem the Holy City, and the Davidic dynasty.

In the second portion (col. 2:1–13), from the author’s standpoint Jerusalem is still ruled by the Amorites (line 4), and Eleazar son of Aaron is the officiating priest (line 13; cf. Josh. 14:1), and the Tabernacle is in Bethel (line 13). However, the son of Jesse (David) will choose the rock of Zion and drive the Amorites from Jerusalem, so that the Temple can be built, which will be (p. 629) carried by his younger son (lines 3–6). (For a translation of both sections preceding Psalm 122, see Wise, Abegg, and Cook 2005: 532–33.)



(1) . A Nestorian manuscript in Mosul/Baghdad, Library of the Chaldaean Patriarchate 1113 (cf. Sanders 1965: 53; 1967: 103).


(1) . A Nestorian manuscript in Mosul/Baghdad, Library of the Chaldaean Patriarchate 1113 (cf. Sanders 1965: 53; 1967: 103).