The key to the interpretation of these words has been lost for over twenty-two centuries.
Commentators and critics have confessed that they can make only conjectures as to the primitive meaning and use of the word (for it is only one word in Hebrew) lamenazzeah.
The Ancient Versions attempt a rendering. The Sept. has eis to telos = unto, for, or, with a view to the end. The Arabic, Ethiopic, and Vulgate render it "at the end". The Chald. renders it (Ps. 45) "to the praise". The Talmudists hold that it related to Him Who is to come; while Aquila (one of the Sept. Revisers, A.D. 130) renders it "to Nikopoio" = to the giver of victory.
It is clear that a Person was intended by these various renderings; but they appear to be interpretations rather than translations. Regarded as the former, they may be useful in showing us how the Psalms point to Christ; for He is the end. It is He Who giveth victory; it is He Who is the Coming One : and, while the book is called Sepher Tehillim, the Book of Praises, it is He Who "inhabiteth the praises of Israel" (Ps. 22:3).
All ancient Hebrew manuscripts, with the early and best later printed editions, show no break whatever between the lines of one Psalm and another.
The Septuagint translators had been many years in Babylon, and the oldest among them must have been very young when carried away thither.
There was none who had full knowledge and experience of the ancient usages of the Temple worship.
Consequently, when they came to their task some 197 years after the latest carrying away to Babylon, there was nothing to show them where one Psalm ended and where the next began.
Hence, when they came to the word lamenazzeah, "To the chief Musician", they took it as being the first line of a Psalm, instead of the last line of the preceding Psalm which they had just translated. All subsequent Versions, in all languages, have followed them in this mistake. For mistake it was, as we may see from the only two examples of independent Psalms given us in the Scriptures : viz. Isa. 38:9-20, and Hab. 3.
In each of these isolated Psalms we have the true models on which all the other Psalms are based.
In each case we have
1. The Super-scription, or Title proper.
2. The body of the Psalm itself.
3. The Sub-scription.
In each of these two cases the word lamenazzeah forms the sub-scription, and appears at the end of the Psalm.
This is the key thus discovered by Dr. J.W. Thirtle (*1) which had been lost for so many centuries; and The Companion Bible is the first edition of the bible in which the Psalms are thus correctly presented in harmony with the two Psalm-models, Isa. 38:9-20, and Hab. 3.
The unspeakable importance of Dr. Thritle's discovery is at once seen. For it shows two things :
1. That, whatever the interpretation or application of the words may be, a Psalm which had this word in the sub-scription had a use beyond its local, temporary, or original purpose; and, being considered appropriate to the Director of the Temple worship with any instructions which might be necessary for its use.
2. That such word or words of instruction, which to-day stand in the Septuagint and all subsequent Versions of the Bible as the super-scription, belong, not to that Psalm, but to the sub-scription of the Psalm preceding it.
This, at one stroke, removes the great difficulty, and solves the heretofore insoluble problem and impossible task which all Commentators have experienced, when they struggled in the attempt to find in one Psalm the explanation of words which belong to another.
Few problems so difficult and baffling have been removed by a solution so simple and self-explanatory.
This on feature, which by Dr. Thirtle's kind permission, has been taken
over into The Companion Bible, must greatly enhance its value and
usefulness, making it unique among all existing editions of the Bible.