Sunday 19 May 2024

472) Expanding on Rabbinic Distinctions Between the Titles and Texts of the Psalms


Psalms in the Aleppo Codex showing spacing after the paratexts


This article examines how the subtle ‘textual framing’ embedded within the titles and headings of texts, and can affect texts even before they are read. Using the Psalms as a point of departure, 116 of the 150 psalms, begin with introductory titles or superscriptions also known as paratexts. An example of a paratext would be “Lamenatzeach – For the Choirmaster; or “Livenei Korach – For the sons of Korach. Depending on the editions, these paratexts are often distinguished from the base or main text of the Psalms by some form of spacing to indicate that they were not part of the original text. The purpose of these paratexts was to frame the Psalms for the reader. We first show how the Talmudic rabbis dealt with these paratexts by either heeding, ignoring, altering or challenging them. Then we attempt to extend and analogise this rabbinic approach and apply it to the ubiquitous ‘paratexts’ or ‘framing devices’ inherent, not only in the Psalms but within the presentation of all forms of theology in general. In other words, we look at the important but often unnoticed ways religion is framed and presented to the people. We also note a contemporary example of paratextual framing in a recently published popular edition of the Hebrew Psalms, which subtly interpolates a Jewish messianic reading into its English “explanatory translation.” Essentially, this study explores the paratext as an idiom for the general framing devices of religious ideology and suggests similar multifaceted responses as those adopted by the rabbis in their relationship to Psalm framing.

 Paratext vs material content

Abraham J. Berkovitz points out that all too often, those who study Book History, mainly consider the content of the text, or what he calls the “material reality” of a literary work. These scholars maintain  that: 

“the material reality of a text will have an impact upon the way in which readers engage with it” (Berkovitz 2022:31). 

However, Berkovitz questions this approach and suggests that not enough research has been done on the framing devices or paratexts which frame the “material reality.” This is particularly the case when it comes to Psalms, where the texts have generally been viewed as flawless composites with little regard for the differences between the paratext and the base text which together form the “material reality.” However surprisingly for Talmudic rabbis who are not want to disrupt the structural unity of any canonical text in the case of the Psalms, these rabbis have demonstrated their complicated relationship with, and multifaceted responses to, the Psalter’s titles or paratexts.

During Talmudic times (70-650CE), the rabbis who read the Psalms did not just engage with the “material reality” of the base texts, but they were very aware of the framing functions of the paratexts. Sometimes they seriously heeded these introductory paratexts; sometimes they ignored them; and other times they altered or blatantly challenged and opposed them.

One, therefore, has to be cognisant not just of the “material reality” of the writing but also of how the readers would have engaged and interacted with that material. These engagements with the texts are reflected within Talmudic literature. It is never enough to just look at the canonical text, but, whenever there is a literary trail in this case, the Talmud one must also ascertain how the texts were read. By examining how the Talmudic rabbis read the paratexts of the Psalms, we can go a little beyond the “material remains” (Berkovitz 2022:31) of the texts. 

The purpose of the Psalm paratexts

The 116 psalm paratexts (also called superscriptions or incipits) serve to provide a background to, and context for, the base text. These include information about the stated author, the musical setting, the historical setting, and the essential theme of the psalm. 

Positioning the paratexts within the base texts

While there are many Talmudic references to a physical collection of Psalms during the Talmudic period, there are unfortunately no archaeological records of exactly what that book would have looked like. By comparing earlier texts of the Psalms to the Talmudic references to the Psalms, it appears that from around the first century CE, the scribes began to give the paratexts their own distinct space in comparison to the base text. The earlier texts of the Psalms did not accord the paratexts a distinct space of their own (Berkovitz 2022:39).

The Aleppo Codex (tenth century CE) is a good example of the Psalm paratexts placed in their own lines followed by an empty space. This scribal practice would have typically allowed for an exegetical choice of whether or not to use the disjointed paratext as a subject of interpretation. Thus, after the first century, the positioning of the paratexts somewhat apart from the base texts, allowed for a certain interpretative fluidity. No longer was there the absolute necessity to interpret the paratexts as official parts of the base texts. This may have been why the Talmudic rabbis felt that they had the interpretative freedom to either heed, ignore, alter or challenge the meaning of the paratexts (Berkovitz 2022:38). We will now look at some examples of this exegetical phenomenon. 

1) Talmudic rabbis ignoring and referring to the paratexts

In some cases, the rabbis made use of the paratexts and in other cases, they ignored them: 

a) “A Psalm, a song of the Sabbath day” (Ps 92:1)

The Mishna (Tamid 6:7) lists the daily psalms that the Levites would sing in the Temple. The Mishna refers to these psalms, not by their paratext (even in instances where the paratext is unique), but by their base text (or second verse). It ignores the paratexts of the psalms of the six days of the week. However, for some reason, it makes an exception and does reference: “A Psalm, a song of the Sabbath day” (Ps 92:1), the paratext to the psalm to be recited on Shabbat. 

b) “I will sing of kindness and judgement; to you, Hashem I will sing” (Ps 101:1)

The rabbis use the first verse from Psalm 101 as a proof text for the religious concept of blessing God for both the good and bad events that life may bring. There are two Talmudic readings of Psalm 101. The first source is from the Talmud Bavli (Berachot 60b) and it ignores the paratext to Psalm 101. The second source is from the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachot 9:5) and it makes full use of the paratext to that same psalm.

Both Talmudic sources use Psalm 101 which includes the phraseחֶסֶד וּמִשְׁפָּט אָשִׁירָה לְךָ, “I will sing of kindness and judgement to teach the same lesson that one should bless (sing to) G-d for both the good (kindness) and bad (judgement) that may befall. The first text, from the Bavli, ignores the paratext “A song of David,” but the second text, from the Yerushalmi, uses the authority of David from the paratext, to promote the theological idea of blessing G-d for both the good and the bad.

The two texts follow: 

Talmud Bavli, Berachot 60b:

אָמַר רַב אַחָא מִשּׁוּם רַבִּי לֵוִי: מַאי קְרָא — ״חֶסֶד וּמִשְׁפָּט אָשִׁירָה לְךָ ה׳ אֲזַמֵּרָה״. אִם חֶסֶד — אָשִׁירָה, וְאִם מִשְׁפָּט — אָשִׁירָה

“Rav Acha said in the name of Rabbi Levi: What is the meaning of the verse ‘I will sing of kindness and judgement; to you, Hashem I will sing’ (Ps 101:1)? [He answers his own question:] If [G-d treats me] with kindness ‘I will sing,’ [and if G-d treats me] with judgement [again] ‘I will sing.’” 

In this Bavli source, there is no mention of the paratext, LeDavid Mizmor (A song of David). 

Talmud Yerushalmi, Berachot 9:5:

רִבִּי חוּנָא בְשֵׁם רִבִּי אָחָא לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר חֶסֶד וּמִשְׁפָּט אָשִׁירָה לְךָ ה׳ אֲזַמֵּרָה. אָמַר דָּוִד לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא. אִם חֶסֶד אַתָּה עוֹשֶׂה עִמִּי אָשִׁירָה. וְאִם מִשְׁפָּט אַתָּה עוֹשֶׂה עִמִּי אָשִׁירָה. בֵּין כַּךְ וּבֵין כַּךְ לַה׳ אֲזַמֵּרָה

“Rabbi Chuna said in the name of Rabbi Acha: [Regarding Ps 101:1] ‘A Psalm of David: I will sing of kindness and judgment; to you, Hashem I will sing,’ [it means that] David said before the Holy One…‘If you treat me with kindness, I will sing. Either way [however you treat me], to God I will sing.’” 

In this Yerushalmi source, the paratext is referenced and David is presented and promoted as the authoritative originator of the idea of blessing G-d for both the good and the bad.

These two sources demonstrate the dynamic relationship between the paratext and exegetical process. Sometimes the framing paratext is deemed worthy but other times it is ignored (Berkovitz 2022:47). 

3) Talmudic rabbis interpreting against the paratexts

Two examples follow where the rabbis challenge and interpret against the introductory paratext: 

a) Against Shlomo as author of Ps 72 although it states it was written “לשלמה, by Shlomo

There are cases where the paratext describes a particular individual as the author of the psalm, but the rabbis reject the stated author and superimpose another individual instead. According to Vayikra Rabba 30:3: 

וְאָמַר רַבִּי אָבִין אֵין אָנוּ יְכוֹלִין לַעֲמֹד עַל אַפּוֹ שֶׁל דָּוִד, פְּעָמִים שֶׁקּוֹרֵא עַצְמוֹ עָנִי, פְּעָמִים שֶׁקּוֹרֵא עַצְמוֹ מֶלֶךְ, הָא כֵיצַד בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהָיָה צוֹפֶה וּמַבִּיט שֶׁצַּדִּיקִים עֲתִידִין לַעֲמֹד מִמֶּנּוּ כְּגוֹן: אָסָא, יְהוֹשָׁפָט, חִזְקִיָּה וְיֹאשִׁיָּה, הָיָה קוֹרֵא עַצְמוֹ מֶלֶךְ, שֶׁנֶאֱמַר (תהלים עב, א): אֱלֹהִים מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ לְמֶלֶךְ תֵּן, וּבְשָׁעָה שֶׁצּוֹפֶה רְשָׁעִים יוֹצְאִים מִמֶּנּוּ, כְּגוֹן: אָחָז, מְנַשֶּׁה, אָמוֹן, הָיָה קוֹרֵא עַצְמוֹ עָנִי, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קב, א): תְּפִלָּה לְעָנִי כִי יַעֲטֹף.

 “Rabbi Avin said: We cannot ascertain the nature of [King] David.

 Sometimes he called himself poor and other times he called himself a king! 

How is this? When he contemplated on the righteous people who would descend from him such as Asa,[1] Yehoshafat,[2] Chizekiah,[3] and Yoshiya,[4] he would call himself a king; as it states (Ps 72:1): ‘God, endow the king with Your justice.’

But when he contemplated on the wicked people who would descend from him such as Achaz,[5] Menashe,[6] and Amon,[7] he would call himself a poor man; as it states (Ps 102:1): ‘The prayer of a poor man, when he feels overwhelmed.’” 

While the Psalter’s literary correspondence between the references to מלך, ‘king’ (Ps 72:1) and עני, ‘poor man’ (Ps 102:1), provides appropriate exegetical material, the problem is that according to the paratext to Ps 72, it wasn’t David who uttered these words but Shlomo! The paratext to Ps 72 is liShlomo (by Shlomo), not David.[8] Thus, R. Avin’s exegesis only works if one goes against the paratext which ascribes the authorship to Shlomo. R. Avin may have been part of the rabbinic circle that believed that all the psalms were composed by David and this would have overshadowed any apparent references to other possible authors. Also, Psalm 72 concludes with a very Davidian reference, כלו תפילות דוד בן ישי, “The prayers of David ben Yishai have ended” (Berkovitz 2022:49).[9] 

b) Against David as author of Ps 110 although it states it was a “לדוד מזמור, A Psalm of David

R. Yishmael’s interpretation of Psalm 110 is another example of rabbis who went against the stated and attributed authorship of a psalm. Psalm 110 begins with the paratext clearly identifying David as the author, “A Psalm of David.” Notwithstanding, R. Yishmael goes against the paratext and declares Avraham as the author of this particular psalm.

Vayikra Rabbah (25:6) records R. Yishmael describing how God originally intended for Malchitzedek to be the first of the line of priesthood. When Malchitzedek did not rise to the occasion, the priesthood was passed on to Avraham. According to R. Yishmael, Psalm 110 has God saying to Avraham: “שב לימיני, sit at my right hand (Ps 110:1)… אתה כהן לעולם, you are a priest forever (Ps 110:4),” completely disregarding the paratext proclaiming David as the subject of this psalm.[10]

It is also possible to read this interpretation of R. Yishmael and his blatant disregard for the Davidic paratext in light of Jewish-Christian polemics. Psalm 110 was used in Christian theology to have David support the Christian Messiah: “David himself declared Sit at my right hand’…” (Mark 12:36). This Christian interpretation of David endorsing Jesus’ priesthood in Psalm 110, may have been the reason why R. Yishmael felt comfortable removing David from the narrative of the psalm and, instead, transferring authorship of the psalm to Avraham. Contradicting a mere paratext was a small price to pay to counter the known Christological reading of the psalm (Berkovitz 2022:50).

In the previous two examples, we have seen how the apparent and stated authorship of Shlomo and David in the paratexts to Psalm 72 and Psalm 110 respectively, had been reconstructed by the rabbis. In Ps 72, Shlomo became David and in Psalm 110, David became Avraham. 

4) Aramaic Targum to Tehillim

The Aramaic translation, Targum,  of the Hebrew Psalms was compiled between 450 and 750 CE. This Targum often also exhibited its dissatisfaction with the Hebrew paratexts to the Psalms. Whenever the Targum noticed that the contents of the paratext deviated from the corresponding body of the Psalms, it felt free to change the paratext to make it fit the psalm better: 

“In essence, the first poetic line [after the paratext] became the hermeneutical control that determined the meaning of the incipit [paratext] instead of the incipit’s [paratext’s] shaping the meaning of the text that followed” (Berkovitz 2022:51).[11] 

In other words, the Targum worked backwards. It first read the beginning of the base text of the psalm and then went back to the title to reconstruct the paratext. It considered the ‘correct’ and ‘appropriate’ framing by the paratext of the base text to be very important. Psalm 60, with its rather lengthy paratext, serves as a good example of this revisionist methodology.

The paratext to Psalm 60 describes how David’s nephew, Yoav who also served as the commander of David’s army returned from battle against Aram and killed twelve thousand Edomites at the Valley of Salt: 

וַיָּ֤שׇׁב יוֹאָ֗ב וַיַּ֣ךְ אֶת־אֱד֣וֹם בְּגֵיא־מֶ֑לַח שְׁנֵ֖ים עָשָׂ֣ר אָֽלֶף 

The Targum translates this into Aramaic with some significant changes: 

בָּתַר כֵּן תָּב יוֹאָב וּמְחָא יַת אֱדוֹמָאֵי בְּמִישׁוֹר מִלְחָא וּנְפַלוּ מִן חֵילֵיהוֹן דְדָוִד וְיוֹאָב תְּרֵיסַר אַלְפִין 

The Targum writes that Yoav returned from battle against Aram and lost twelve thousand of his own Israelite soldiers. The reason for turning the Hebrew depiction of a victory into an Aramaic depiction of a defeat was simply the next verse: 

“God you have forsaken us and broken us down; you have been angry. Restore us” (Ps 60:3). 

In the Aramaic Targum, the base text, or opening body of the psalm, thus determined the appropriate paratext. If the original Hebrew paratext didn’t correspond to the base text, it could be changed to comply with the tenor of the base text. In this case, the Hebrew paratext depicting a victory was changed in the Targum to reflect a defeat. 

The dynamic relationship between the paratext and the text

We have seen that the rabbis maintained a sometimes unpredictable and dynamic relationship between the framing paratexts and the base texts of the Psalms. This is why Berkovitz suggests that it is not enough to just look at the “material remains” of the paratexts of the Psalms but to additionally try and ascertain how those Psalms would have been read: 

“Ultimately, paratexts and their various potential framing functions lie dormant until activated by a reader, and these actualizations cannot be entirely predicted by the material layout of a paratext” (Berkovitz 2022:54). 

Framing the Messiah into a contemporary edition of the Psalms

An example of contemporary framing of the ‘paratexts’ and ‘contents’ of the Psalms, can be found in a publication of the Psalms entitled “The Weiss Tehillim.” This edition of the Psalms is published by a Chassidic movement known for their good work and messianic enthusiasm. The Hebrew text of the Psalms is presented on the right-hand side of the page and an English “Blended Translation-Explanation” on the left-hand side.

Throughout the book are numerous references to the “Mashiach” or Messiah embedded within the English translation although there is no corresponding mention of the Messiah in the Hebrew text. Some examples follow: 

Psalm 21 is attributed to David, and verse 2 reads ה׳ בְּעׇזְּךָ֥ יִשְׂמַח־מֶ֑לֶךְ, which is usually translated as “God, the king rejoices in Your strength…” The Weiss edition reads “God, the kingMashiach will rejoice…” (Weiss 2019:58). 

Psalm 45 is attributed to the Sons of Korach, and verse 1 reads שִׁ֣יר יְדִידֹֽת, which is usually translated as “a love song.” The Weiss edition reads “It is a song describing God’s affection for Mashiach” (Weiss 2019:126). 

Verse 13 of the same Psalm reads וּבַֽת־צֹ֨ר ׀ בְּ֭מִנְחָה פָּנַ֥יִךְ יְחַלּ֗וּ עֲשִׁ֣ירֵי עָֽם, which is usually translated as “Daughter of Tyre, the wealthiest people will court your favor with gifts.” The Weiss edition reads “Even the daughter from the kingdom of Tyre, the richest and most important of people, will come to you, Mashiach…” (Weiss 2019:128). 

Verse 18 of the same Psalm reads אַזְכִּ֣ירָה שִׁ֭מְךָ בְּכׇל־דֹּ֣ר וָדֹ֑ר, which is usually translated as “I commemorate your fame for all generations.” The Weiss edition reads “Mashiach, I will mention your name and await your arrival in every generation” (Weiss 2019:129). 

Psalm 53 is attributed to David, and verse 6 reads הֱ֝בִשֹׁ֗תָה כִּֽי־אֱלֹקִים מְאָסָֽם׃, which is usually translated as “You shamed [all of my foes], for God rejected them.” The Weiss edition reads “And you, Mashiach, will shame the oppressors of the Jewish Nation, because God has become disgusted by them” (Weiss 2019:151). 

These messianic insertions into the English translations of a “Youth Edition” of the Psalms, could very easily create the impression in the minds of readers not familiar with the text, that the Psalms essentially and historically carry these meanings. In this sense, the messianic insertions serve as framing devices and have a similar function to the paratexts that act as hermeneutical controls over the base texts. 

Understanding the broader definitions and implications of a paratext

The study of paratexts goes far deeper than just analysing the relationship between a title and a text. There is something far more ethereal and universal at stake than either the clever manipulation or even blatant disregard of a paratext when defined narrowly as a heading or title. Gérard Genette (1997) describes paratexts as “thresholds of interpretation.” Similarly, 

“the paratext can control both deliberately and oft times unwittingly the reading and reception of the text” (Holm 2017:2). 

A paratext is the ‘framing function’ which sets the tone for the main or base text. Subliminally, the title and overall external presentation of a work, already influence the reader even before they read the text. Sometimes titles can prevent the reader from engaging with the text in the first instance. A paratext is: 

“a ‘vestibule’ that offers the world at large the possibility of either stepping inside or turning back” (Genette 1997:2). 

At other times, the reader is drawn into the text by the effective and enticing use of the framing paratext, titles or general presentation.

Although we dealt with the technical relationship between the paratexts of the Psalms and the main body or content of their base texts, this is also an idiom for how we generally approach not just texts but even ideas. When concepts are presented to us, they are also ‘framed’ in particular ways consciously or otherwise. In literature, paratexts serve as introductory framing and they precede written texts. Translations and illustrations also serve as paratexts (Holm 2017:3). But framing functions can also be verbal or even non-verbal. Non-verbal framing occurs when mannerisms, culture and even dress code are used to effectively portray authority to fascinate the presentation of ideas: 

Audio, digital and other mediums are not immune to the influence of the paratext” (Holm 2017:3). 

We underestimate the powerful influence of presentation and framing, which is well-used and sometimes manipulated by the presenters and peddlars of ideas of all sorts. Religion is no different. Authoritative framing devices are used in our everyday speech. Instead of simply stating an idea, it is far more effective to frame it by opening with expressions like: “My teacher told me…,” “According to the Talmud…,” “Rav so-and-so said….” or “Jewish mysticism teaches…” Books, too, sell better to their intended audiences if they carry the correct framing indications and approbations. The adage, “Never judge a book by its cover,” whilst popular, is not always accurate or true (Holm 2017:4).

Regarding the spine of a book the only section visible if the book is on a bookshelf there has always been a debate as to which is better, a vertical or horizontal title. Because it is easier to read horizontal writing, some writers wrote longer books so that tile could be presented horizontally (Genette 1997:26). 

During the classical period, books were covered by a leather binding that was generally inornate except for a short depiction of the title. One of the first printed book covers dates as recently as 1825: 

“At that time the [inside] title page was the main site of the publisher's paratext, but once the possibilities of the cover were discovered, they seem to have been exploited very rapidly” (Genette 1997:23).[12] 

These framing devices are sometimes more effective than their content. Framing can even override such content, that were it not for the accepted and authorised framing may have been considered objectionable under ordinary circumstances. This is where the subtle paratext can become more powerful than the base text itself. Gérard Genette, who meticulously studied paratexts, wrote: 

“Several years of frequenting the paratext have at least convinced me of one thing that was not at all obvious to me a priori, and that is the great conscientiousness with which writers perform their paratextual duty” (Genette 1997:409). 

The effort put into the framing and presentation of paratexts, in its broader definitions, must not be lost to any reader. The large leatherbound and voluminous early printed Talmudic tractates, for example, were presented in an official-looking style to reflect the authoritative ledgers used by government officials during the sixteenth century.  The framing of a text or an idea, especially in religion, is part of the theological endeavour. At best, it is a map. But the map is not the territory. Sometimes the framing is overemphasised by the religious system and over-anticipated by the willing followers: 

“[T]he paratext sometimes tends to go beyond its function and to turn itself into an impediment, from then on playing its own game to the detriment of its text's game” (Genette 1997:410). 

Sometimes the issue of agency is also at play: 

“Paratexts may reveal different types of agents at work, depending on their nature” (Gürçağlar 2011:3). 

This means that on some occasions “paratextual mediation serves [as] ideological closure” (Gürçağlar 2011:2).[13] This must be the case because the “text is rarely presented in an unadorned state” (Genette 1997:1). Those at the receiving end of religious teachings, whatever they may be, would do well to consider not just the “material reality” (Berkovitz 2022:31) of texts and ideas, but the process of the presentation as well. 


A reader or follower cannot influence the “material reality” of theological writings or concepts, but he or she must interact dynamically with or at least be aware of the influences of the framing functions of paratexts and subtle presentation methodologies. These paratexts and presentations may or may not always relate to the base text or the actual theology. In this study, we extended the superscriptions or paratexts of the Psalms to act as analogies for the framing devices of all forms of theological presentations.

Our study of the dynamic relationship between the paratexts and the base texts of the Psalms has shown how the classical rabbis had set fascinating precedents on how to deal with paratexts and perhaps with other theological framing devices as well. Learning the lessons of the Talmudic rabbis, this means that all presentations of religious thought which act as paratexts and framing devices in their multiple mediums need to be interrogated; and after conscious consideration, either heeded, ignored, altered or challenged.

Paratexts are not base texts and do not have to be accepted at face value. This writer suggests that all shapes and forms of paratexts require two responses:

1) to determine the extent a particular paratext serves as a framing device.  

2) once identified as a subliminal framing device, to engage with it in a manner of conscious choice (like the Talmudic engaged with the Psalm paratexts) and determine whether to heed, ignore, alter or challenge it.   


Berkovitz, A.J., 2018, ‘Beyond Attribution and Authority: The Case of Psalms in Rabbinic Hermeneutics’, in Rethinking ‘Authority’ in Late Antiquity: Authorship, Law, and Transmission in Jewish and Christian Tradition, Edited by Abraham J. Berkovitz and Mark Letteney, Routledge, London.

Berkovitz, A.J., 2022, Paratextuality Between Materiality, Interpretation and Translation: The Case of Psalm Incipits in Jewish Late Antiquity, Book History, vol. 25, no. 1, Johns Hopkins University Press, 31-62.

Genette, G., 1997, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, Translated by Jane E. Lewin, Combridge University Press.

Gürçağlar, S.T, 2011, Paratexts, Handbook of Translation Studies 2011, John Benjamins Publishing Company. 

Holm, R., 2017, Gérard Genette Meet Revolve Girl: Paratexts and the Bible. Online source: Retrieved 16 May 2024. (The original article does not have page numbers. I have inserted page numbers for easier reference.)

Michal, G., 2024, Rabbinic Approaches to the Psalms, Old Testament Essays, vol. 35. No. 1, 84-110.

The Weiss Tehillim, 2019, Tehillim – The Book of Psalms, Living Lessons, Special South African Edition, 2019.


[1] King Asa was a descendant of David and the third king of Judah.

[2] King Yehoshafat was the son of Asa, and the fourth king of Judah.

[3] King Chizkiah (Hezekiah) was the son of Ahaz and the thirteenth king of Judah. 

[4] King Yoshiya was the sixteenth king of Judah.

[5] The evil King Achaz was twelfth king of Judah.

[6] The evil King Menashe was the fourteenth king of Judah.

[7] The evil King Amon was the fifteenth king of Judah.

[8] It is possible to read liShlomo as ‘to Shlomo’ thus maintain the authorship of David, but the problem would still be that if it was written for Shlomo, he is excluded from both lists of good and evil kings (Shlomo could be considered good for building the Temple and evil for having many wives). It therefore seems reasonable to ascribe authorship in this case to Shlomo. Furthermore, Psalm 72 is not the only psalm that refers to David as a king. There are other psalms that R. Avin could have easily chosen for his exegesis linking David to kings, such as Ps 21:2 and 8; Ps 33:16; Ps 45:2; Ps 61:7 and Ps 105:20. For more on the possible readings of prepositions to personal names in the Psalms, see Michal (2022:94)

[9] The Talmud (b. Pesachim 117a) comments on this last verse of Psalm 72: אַל תִּיקְרֵי ״כׇּלּוּ״, אֶלָּא ״כׇּל אֵלּוּDo not read [the verse as] ‘ended’ (kalu) but rather [as] ‘all of these’ (kol elu).” In other words, all the all the words in the Psalms come from David. However, not all rabbis followed this sweeping view because psalm authorship was governed by ‘a constant tension between 1) assumed ascription of the entire work to David; 2) the multiple different attributions indicated by individual psalm titles; and 3) a traditional overlay that asserts certain psalms to be the work of unspecified composers, such as Adam and Abraham’” (Berkovitz 2018:58).

[10] Supporting this interpretation that Avraham is the author of this psalm, is the fact that Ps 110:4 contains a reference to what can be read either as “a righteous king” or as “Malchitzedek.” The latter reading would place the psalm in the context of Avraham.

[11] Square brackets are mine.

[12] Square brackets are mine.

[13] Square brackets are mine.

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