A Proposal for Daniel as the Author of Psalm 119 from Pastor Brian

This coming Lord’s Day I will be preaching to our young people from the book of Daniel.  I will make reference to Psalm 119.  Copies of this will be available this Lord’s Day, but for those who want to explore it before then… here you go:

A Proposal for Daniel as the Author of Psalm 119
Brian Borgman (4/17/05)

There is no superscription identifying the author in Psa 119.  It is an anonymous Psalm. Jewish tradition has suggested Ezra or one of his disciples.  Christian tradition has generally assumed Davidic authorship.  It seems clear however, from internal evidence that the author was living under conditions which were hostile to his faith.  Franz Delitzsch (who thinks it was written during the Maccabaean period) says, “It is natural to suppose that the composition of the Psalm falls in those times of the Greek domination in which the government was hostile, and a large party from among the Jews themselves, that was friendly towards the government persecuted all decided confessors of the Torah.”

A few considerations make Daniel a good candidate.  Delitzsch is certainly right about the hostility, but it seems that the hostility is directed towards an exile.  There is no mention of the Temple (or Tabernacle), sacrifices, etc.  The Psalmist seems to be in a strange land.  David was from time to time on the run, but ultimately the hostility shown to David was not because of his commitment to Torah, or his faith, but his throne.  The Jews in the Maccabaean period were dominated in their own homeland.  Ezra and his disciples would also have been returnees.  The situation which was both hostile and exilic was the Babylonian exile, of which Daniel was a deportee.

Internal Evidence
Psa. 119:1-2 cf. Dan. 1:8-9
Psa. 119:9, 11, 30, 101 cf. Dan. 1:8
Psa. 119:19 cf. Dan. 1:3-4
Psa. 119:23, 78, 85, 86, 95, 110, 157, 161 cf. Dan. 3:8; 6:4-5
Psa 119:46 cf. Dan. 2:27-28

It appears to me that the tone, the petitions, the confessions, et al reflect Daniel and his situation.  In other words, the evidence is more than just linking up individual verses, but rather getting a “feel” for Daniel’s character in the book of Daniel and then seeing that character expressed in the piety and circumstances of the Psalmist.

Psa. 119:17 cf. Dan. 1:12-16;
Psa 119:29 cf. Dan. 1:4;
Psa 119:36-37 cf Dan 2:48; 5:16;
Psa 119:63 cf. Dan 3:17-18;
Psa 119:87 cf Dan. 6:10, 16;
Psa. 119:98-100 cf Dan. 1:4, 17-20; 2:24;
Psa 119:119 cf Dan 6:24;
Psa. 119:136 cf Dan 9:5-6;
Psa 119:18, 27, 169 cf Dan. 9:1-3

The internal evidence seems to me to point most consistently to Daniel.  However, since it is anonymous we cannot be dogmatic.  Professor George Zemek helpfully states, “Therefore, if for no other reason than illustration, it is suggested that the reader ‘think Daniel’ as we roam through this sacred territory.’”