Psalm 151 - Introduction
To the traditional book of Psalms, the Greek translation known as the Septuagint (LXX) adds Ps 151 , although the introductory superscription or title of the psalm describes it as “outside the number” (i.e., of the 150 Psalms); this is the basis of the NRSV translation. In some Greek manuscripts this superscription is different, and in the Syriac translation Ps 151 is the first of a series of psalms (Ps 151–155 ) about the heroic exploits of David in 1 Sam 16–17 .
A Hebrew version of the psalm is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (11QPsa). This Hebrew version is made up of two distinct psalms: Ps 151A (= LXX Ps 151) is a poem, with a superscription, based on 1 Sam 16.1–13 , about David the shepherd becoming Israel's king; this psalm is abbreviated in the Greek and Syriac versions. Ps 151 B is the fragmentary beginning of another psalm, with its own superscription, that must have followed Ps 151 A 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 .
Psalm 151 A is not a hymn or a petition, but a narrative poem (like some of the canonical psalms, such as Ps 78 ). In it, David speaks of shepherding his father's flocks as the youngest of his brothers, of his music making, and of his having been anointed as Israel's king. It is probably to be dated to the Persian or early Hellenistic period, no later than the third century BCE. Verses 1–4 concern David the shepherd, and vv. 5–7 concern David the king. The superscription of the first Hebrew poem (“A Hallelujah of David the son of Jesse”) is similar to the superscription of Ps 145 (“Praise. Of David”) and the introductory “Hallelujah” (“Praise the LORD”) of Ps 146–150 , and thus serves to integrate this psalm into the end of the book of Psalms.