Apocryphal Psalms of David

The Dead Sea Scrolls: Apocryphal Psalms of David

4QPsf=4Q88, 4QapPs=4Q448, 11QPsa-b=11Q5-6
Paraphrase and comments by Martha S. McCabe & Michael D. Hall


The following sections of the Dead Sea Scrolls are commonly referred to as the Apocryphal Psalms or the Apocryphal Psalms of David. The scrolls were found in the caves at Qumran, along with many others. These specific scrolls were discovered in caves 4 and 11. These scrolls tell of the great deeds of God and of David, as they praise the works and actions of both. Included in the scrolls containing the Apocryphal Psalms of David are Psalms 151 and 154, which are not normally found in the Bible, in which the book of Psalms ends with Psalm 150. The scrolls can be found in books containing translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in Bibles which include the Apocrypha, and in some books containing songs and prayers which are not usually found in a conventional Bible. Much of the contents of the caves were discovered by bedouins or nomadic people. However, the majority of the excavation of those same caves was handled by professionals, trained to take special care of the precious contents of these ancient caverns. Many of the scrolls which will be explained herein are only partial, due to the deterioration caused by time and neglect. As a result of this, the reader is left with fragments of the original texts. But, luckily, much of what remained of the scrolls was still readable for a small group of highly trained scholars.

The contents of cave 4 were discovered in 1952. This cave is commonly regarded to be the central library of the Qumran community. The find included 15,000 fragments which came from roughly 550 different manuscripts.[1] Cave 11 was found to contain manuscripts in January 1956. The contents of both of these caves proved to be quite lucrative for the people who found these scrolls and cared for them before their eventual sales to both museums and private collectors.

A scroll, found in Cave 11, commonly known as 11Q6 Column 19, was one of the longer pieces which was found at Qumran. Its surface was the thickest of any of the scrolls because it is possible that it was written on calfskin, rather than on sheepskin as were the majority of other scrolls. While the script of this particular scroll was of very fine quality, several of the lines of the bottom of the scroll were missing.[2]


Column XVIII

Psalm 154

Praise God in a loud voice. Testify to his glory in the assembly.
Lift up His name with the righteous and speak of His greatness with the faithful.
Become one with the perfect and the good to praise the Lord.
Join and worship together to tell of His salvation.
And be swift in making known His fortitude and His righteousness to all the simple.
Knowledge is granted so that we may praise the Lord and tell of his greatness.

She[3] is made known to mankind, to speak of His strength and tell of his greatness to the ignorant, who have strayed from her gates and have sinned.
For God is the Lord of Jacob and his grace is seen in all his works.
A person who praises God is recognized by Him because the worshiper brings and offering and sacrifice of livestock, because the worshiper fills the altar with gifts.
Her voice and her songs are heard and sung by the righteous.

When they feast together, she is mentioned.
Their thoughts are on the Law of God and they speak to testify of His strength.
The evil and the rebellious are far from her grace.
See how God has mercy on the good, and it is great for those who praise Him; He is their soul’s salvation from
Praise the Lord who saves the meek from the grasp of the unknown and delivers the righteous from evil,
Who lifts up a horn from Jacob and a moderator from Israel.
He wants his gathering place to be in Zion, and He picks Jerusalem for all eternity.

Column IX
[ . . . ]
The masses
will worship God because He has come to judge everything and to rid the earth of evil, so that sinners shall find no repose, the heavens shall give their due, and there will be no wrong doings there. The earth will produce crops in its season and they shall not fail. The fruit trees shall [ . . . ] of their vineyards and their springs will not dry up.
The poor will eat for those who follow YHWH shall not go hungry.

Column X
[ . . . ]
[ . . . ] meanwhile the heavens and earth will praise together And all the evening starts will then adore.
Rejoice, Judah, be happy!
Be glad and let your joy shine forth!
Keep your feasts[4] and your oaths because within you there is no Belial.[5]
Raise your hand, make your right hand strong. See, your foes shall be eliminated.
And all evil doers shall fell.
But you, YHWH, shall remain forever.
Your glory is everlasting.

Hallelujah. Of David, son of Jesse.

Psalm 151[6]

My brothers were bigger than me and I was the youngest of my father’s sons;
He made me the master of His flocks, and shepherd of his goats. My hands created a flute, my fingers a lyre, and I praised God. I told myself that neither the mountains nor the hills tell me of the glory of God, nor the trees His words, nor the flocks His actions.[7]
Who, then will tell of God’s deeds? God saw all He heard all and listened. He sent his prophet to anoint me, Samuel, to sift me up. My brothers went out to meet him, well built, beautifully presented. They were very tall and had lovely hair, but the Lord did not pick them, He sent for me from tending the flock and anointed me with holy oil and made me a ruler of His people and of the sons of His covenant.
[ . . . ]
First of David’s exploits after the Lord’s prophet had anointed[8] him Then I saw a Philistine threatening from enemy lines [ . . . ]

Column XIX

Fragment A

Impoverished and feeble am I for [ . . . ]
For not even a worm can praise You nor insects recount Your grace The living can thank You and those who fall shall praise You highly.
You show them the ways of Your holiness and grace for You care for the souls of every living thing;
You provide for all living things. Judge us, O God, with Your kind ways, Your grace, and Your
Justice. The Lord hears the please of his followers.
He has not shunned them. Praise be to God who does good things and rewards his followers with His kindness. May my spirit lift up Your Name, to recount with joy Your righteous deeds, and proclaim Your eternal steadfastness.

Fragment B

And in Your grace, I have sought sanctuary. The images of Your might life up my heart. I find peace in Your righteousness.
Forgive me, Lord, and free me from my sins.
Give to me a sense of honor and knowledge. May I not be shamed in ruin.
Protect me from unclean spirits, save me from pain and temptation.
For You, O Lord, are my salvation, and I praise You everyday.
My people rejoice with me and are awestruck by Your power.
I will adore You and worship You for all eternity.


[1] Martínez, xlii.

[2] Psalms Scroll, 12-06-98.

[3] This was the first instance in this scroll that spawned a great deal of debate. There does not appear to be a direct antecedent for the feminine pronouns in this section. It was hypothesized that the pronouns would be referring to the wisdom or knowledge of or about God. It could also be a reference to divine androgyny, although this is unlikely because of the time period in which this scroll was written. Also, the feminine pronouns could mean the “Law of the Most High” as it appeared in the original text. In addition to all of these options, it could have been a result of translations from the
original texts, and the words in the original scrolls were feminine, such as nouns are in many romance languages of today. Because of this, previous translators may have left the feminine pronouns in the text as was done in this case.

[4] In this case, the author wrote, “Celebrate your feasts and pay your vows.” (Vermes, 309) The use of the word ‘feasts’ led to speculation about the intent of the definition of the word once again. While ‘feasts’ could simply mean food, it could also be referring to celebrations or traditions of a religious or even secular nature. Because of uncertainty, the word was left intact in the text.

[5] A biblical name of the devil or one of the fiends.

[6] This psalm can be found in a Bible containing the Apocrypha.

[7] There are two conflicting punctuation techniques on this phrase. Martinez translates, My hands made a flute. my fingers a lyre, and I gave glory to YHWH.
I said to myself:
the mountains do not witness in his favour . . . (p. 310.)
However, Vermes wrote, My hands have made a pipe and my fingers a lyre.
I have rendered glory to the Lord; I have said so in my soul.
The mountains do not testify to him, and the hills do not . . .(p. 302.)
In the first version, the author writes as if the speaker talks about the mountains to himself. In the second version, it seems as if he glorified God to himself. While these differences may seem insignificant, they can lead to debate-causing confusion.
[8] Because of the uncertainty about the original author’s intent for the definition of the word anointed, whether it was meant to be construed as meaning to baptize or to christen, to elect as a chosen one, or to literally rub something on the individual. As a result of this enigma, the original word “anoint” was left in this translation. This occurred a couple of times in this text.


Martínez, Florentino García. The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated. Trans. Wilfred G. E. Watson. Leiden, the Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1996.
Psalm 151, http://www.hti.umich.edu/bin/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=4563162, 12-04-98.
Psalms Scroll,
http://metalab.unc.edu/expo/deadsea.scrolls.exhibit/Library/psalms.html, 12-04-98.
Vermes, Geza. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Middlesex, England: The Penguin Press, 1997.
Wise, Michael, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1996.


prepared for Intro. to the Hebrew Bible by Martha S. McCabe and Michael D. Hall

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