Secrets of The Son
By Charles H. Welch
These words, so full of suggestion and meaning for the believer, we
hope to show belong to the eighth Psalm, and that they associate the Mystery
of Christ (Eph. 3:4) with Adam, the figure of Him that was to come (Rom.
5:14). Our inquiry relates particularly to the words that, in the A.V. stand
at the head of Psalm 9 and read ‘Upon Muth-labben’, words which have received
a variety of interpretations. We will subdivide our material under a series
of headings, thus:
(1) The place that the words Muth-labben occupy
Applying this principle to the book of the Psalms, we find that Psalm 3
has a superscription, but that the words of Habakkuk 3:19, instead of being
used as a subscription to the Psalm is transferred as a title for Psalm 4.
These titles and subtitles are all restored to their true places in The
Companion Bible, Psalm 8, reading:
A Psalm of David
The Psalm itself. Verses 1-9
To the Chief Musician upon Muth-labben
The words ‘Upon Muth-labben’ being the subscription of Psalm 8, not
the superscription of Psalm 9.
(2) The meaning of the words of the subscription upon Muth-labben
What the LXX saw in the words Al Muth Labben is made evident by their rendering huper ton kruphion tou huion ‘concerning the secrets of the Son’. There is another Psalm where the LXX uses these words huper ton kruphion ‘concerning the secrets’, and that is at the foot of Psalm 45, where the A.V. reads ‘Upon Alamoth’. Do these words strike any chord in the reader’s mind? Remembering that originally there was no division made between words, as now, let us put in English letters, the two subscriptions to these two Psalms.
In both, the Septuagint sees the word ‘secret’. How is this? Alalamoth is considered to mean ‘relating to the maidens’, the word almahbeing the Hebrew for a maiden.
At the close of Psalm 48, we have the words ‘unto death’ which reads in the Hebrew Almuth, but which this translation divides into two, al ‘unto’ muth ‘death’. The LXX however considered it to be one word Almuth and translates it eis tous aionas ‘for ever’, or ‘unto the ages’. The structure of Psalm 48 (see The Companion Bible) places this passage in correspondence with verse 8. Here is another instance where the word almuth ‘secrets’ has been wrongly divided to read Al muth, ‘unto death’.
How does it come about that the word almuth can mean either
‘maiden’ or ‘secret’ or ‘for ever’? The Hebrew root Alm means to hide or
conceal, and gives us ‘secret’ (Psa. 90:8); ‘hide’ (Psa. 10:1); and in the
East in old time, a maiden, damsel or virgin or youth was called almahbecause of the concealed or retired state of the unmarried of both sexes.?‘The virgins shut up in chambers’ is an expression found in the Apocrypha.
From this same root comes the word translated ‘age’ and ‘ever’, being a
period of time, whose end or duration is hidden from view. It will be seen
therefore that the rendering ‘concerning the secrets of the son’ given by the
LXX two centuries before Christ, has much in its favour.
(3) The internal evidence of the two Psalms, 8 and 45
Hebrews 1 and 2
A 1:1,2. God spoke once by the prophets. Now by His Son.
Quotation from Psalm 45
‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever’.
A 2:1-4. God spoke once by angels. Now by the Lord.
Quotation from Psalm 8
‘What is man ... or the Son of Man?’
With these evidences before us, we feel that the translations given ‘Death to the Champion’ and ‘Concerning maidens’ must give place to the ancient interpretation ‘The secrets of the Son’ and ‘Concerning secrets’, and we can read with richer and fuller understanding both the Psalms themselves and the quotations of them in Hebrews 1 and 2.
We should remember this too when reading Ephesians 3:4. While Paul allowed a knowledge of ‘the mystery of Christ’ to earlier times, his reference to Psalm 8, in Ephesians 1:21,22, where ‘all sheep and oxen’ give place to ‘all principality and power’, proves beyond question how much more he had ‘understanding in the mystery of Christ’. Paul most evidently perceived the meaning of the subscription of Psalm 8.