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Marg. "The beginning of thy word is true." But the textual reading seems to agree best with the following clause.
Ver. 165. Nothing shall offend them-Heb. "They shail have no stumbling block," or offence.
Ver. 175. Let my soul live-i. e. preserve my life.
PSALM CXX. Title-A song of degrees-which is prefixed to this and to the 14 following psalms. The word (mahaloth) rendered "degrees," means, Eterally, steps, or stairs, but is very generally applied to any kind of ascents, Bp. Lonth calls these psalms "Odes of the Ascensions ;" i. c. which were sung, either when the people came up to worship at Jerusalem, at the annual festivals, or perhaps from the Babylonish captivity. The return is certainly called the ascension, or coming up from Babylon, Ezra vii. 9. and the Syriac translator refers to this circumstance almost all the psalms that bear this inscription;....(and) many of them manifestly have a relation to it..... But we must not omit remarking also, that both in the Old and New Testaments there is scarcely a phrase more common than "to go up to Jerusalem; to go up to the feast;" and Ps. cxxii can scarcely be applied to any thing, but the celebration of some festival.
"Thine eyes in me the sheep behold,
Now listens, if perchance its ear
The shepherd's well known voice may hear:
Besides, several of these psalms bear the name of David, and others have evident reference to his time and circumstances; but few of them could therefore be composed for the return from Babylon.
Gesenius suggests, that the term may mark a pecu. liar species of Hebrew composition; and it is re. markable, that these psalms are all very short, (one only exceeding nine verses,) and in several of them there is a gradation of meaning, and a degree of point toward the close, almost epigrammic
The Rabbinical tradition, of these psalms being intended to be sung on the steps of the temple, is now gene ally rejected; besides, David lived in the time of the tabernacle, which had no steps.
Ver. 3. What shall be given, &c.-Marg. "What shall the deceitful tongue give unto thee? or what shall it profit thee?" &c. i. e. "What is to be gained by deceit and slander?"
Ver. 4. Sharp arrows-Marg, It (slander) is as the sharp arrows," &c.-With coals of juniper.See Note on I Kings xix. 4. Rosenmuller considers the juniper (Rother) of the same species with the broom, which, in Spain, retains the Arabic naine, Roterna; and St. Jerome speaks of its retaining live ashes for a whole year. See Orient. Lit. No. 804. Ver. 5. In Mesech.-It is not certain that Mesech
(E) The psalmist prays for protection against his adversaries.-The title prefixed to this and the fourteen following psalms, is, in our translation, "A Song of degrees," which is variously interpreted. The most general opinion is, that these psalms were written, either for the tribes going up in procession to worship at Mount Ziou; or, for their subsequent going up from the captivity in Babylon. The psalm before us, however, seems to have no reference to either, but to be rather of the epigrammatic cast, and to favour the notion of Professor Gesenius, that the title has reference to the poetic composition. (See Note.) It is generally supposed to have been written by David, when persecuted by the malignant slanders of Doeg, or some other malignant slanderers, whose words were like sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper," in which there is a beautiful gradation of sense, terminating in a point of severity which does not appear in the translation. Slanderous words are often compared to arrows and to sharp arrows; but the force is much increased by the bow being drawn by "a mighty man" for "as the man is, so is his strength," (Judges viii. 21.) and the force with which his weapon strikes. But what mean these "coals of juniper?" They are remarkable, it appears, for their long continued heat, and here intimate
that the wounds inflicted by the tongue of the slanderer, not only deeply penetrate, but inflame and burn for a long continuance. Hence the apostle James compares the tongue of slander to a fire enkindled from the infernal pit, and inflaming the course of nature. (James iii. 5, 6.)
(F) Help in God under all circumstances. -Bishop Lowth supposes the two first verses to be the language of a king of Israel going out to battle, and looking up to the oracle on Mount Zion for support; and the following part of the psalm he considers as the answer of the high priest from the tabernacle: but Bishop Horne considers the first verses as the language rather of an Israelite going up to the tabernacle, to keep one of the sacred festivals, and the following as an answer of peace and protection on his journey. This appears to us far the most probable: for, had the scene been a military one, we should have heard of shield, and sword, and buckler. The protection solicited and promised is from the burning heat of the sun, and the chilling influences of the moon, or the night air, both which were to be dreaded in Judea. "The meaning is, (says Bishop Horne,) that the good man, during his journey through life, shall be under God's protection at all seasons; as Israel in the wilderness was defended from
is a proper name: both Ainsworth and Bp. Horne remark that the verse may be rendered, "Woe is me, that my sojourning is prolonged: I dwell in the tents of Kedar," or of the Ishmaelites.
Ver. 7. I am for peace (Marg. " a man of peace") they are for war-Is not this epigrammic? PSALM CXXI. Ver. 1. I will lift.-The margin reads interrogatively, "Shall I lift up mine eyes to the hills, whence should come my help i. e. to the idols worshipped in the mountains.-But we prefer
Ver.3. Foot to be moved-Lowth, "To stumble."
Ver. 5. Thy shade, &c.- Lowth, "The Lord will shade thee with his right hand."
Ver. 6. The sun.-Sun-strokes are very fatal in those hot countries. "It is a fact, too, that the moonbeams have a pernicious influence. Meat, exposed to moonlight, will not take salt, but taints and spoils." Letter from India, Christ. Observer, vol. viii. p. 751. Milton attributes parching to the night air: (Par. Lost, ii. 594.)
The parching air
Burns frore, and cold performs th' effect of fire." The effects of fire and frost on the human body, are known to be very similar.
A Song of degrees of David.
WAS glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.
2 Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:
4 Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.
5 For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.
7 Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.
8 For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.
9 Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good. (G) PSALM CXXIII.
A Song of degrees.
UNTO thee lift I up mine eyes, O
thou that dwellest in the heavens. 2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.
3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.
4 Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud. (H)
the burning heat of the sun by the moist and refreshing shadow of the cloud; and secured against the inclement influences of the nocturnal heavens by the kindly warmth and splendour diffused from the pillar of fire. Be thou with us, thy servants, O Lord, in the world, as thou wast with Israel in the wilderness; suffer not our virtue to dissolve before the sultry gleams of prosperity; permit it not to be frozen by the chilling blasts of adversity."
(G) The joy of attending the house of God. This psalm, as Bishop Lowth observes, was evidently written on occasion of some public festival at Jerusalem, whither all the tribes were required to go up three times in the year. Jerusalem was a type of the Christian church; and as the former was compacted together," so the latter, being "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets," is "fitly framed together," and "groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord." (Eph. ii. 20, 21.) As it was an object of the earnest desire of true Israelites to attend the typical solemnities of the law; so is it of Christian believers to meet their Lord in the more
spiritual services of the New Testament church; but their ultimate desire is to meet him in the New Jerusalem which is above. Bishop Horne mentions of Theodore Zuinger, a learned physician of the sixteenth century, that, on his death-bed, he took leave of the world in a Latin paraphrase of this psalm, which was translated by Mr. Merrick, and from which we copy the last verse, which is an apostrophe to the New Jerusalem.
"Let me, blest seat, my name behold
(H) Confidence in God, and prayer for deliverance.-The attention of servants (or slaves) to their masters, is, and perhaps always was, in the east, very particular and minute. Dr. Pococke says, that "at a visit in Egypt, every thing is done with the greatest decency, and the most profound silence; the slaves, or servants, standing at the bottom of the room with their hands joined before them, watching with the utmost attention every motion of their mas
PSALM CXXII. Ver. 4. The testimony of Israel -That is, the ark of the testimony, Exod. xl. 3, 20. Ver. 5. The thrones of the house of Israel-That is, of the heads of the several tribes,
PSALM CXXIII. Exceedingly filed with con. tempt.
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (I)
A Song of degrees.
THEY that trust in the LORD shall
be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.
2 As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth, even for ever.
3 For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.
4 Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.
5 As for such as turn aside unto
ter, who commands them by signs." Another traveller (La Motraye,) says, "that the Eastern ladies are waited on even at the least wink of the eye or motion of the fingers, and that in a manner not perceptible to strangers." (Orient. Customs, No. 186.) Supposing this, or somewhat like it, to have been the practice in Judea, the psalmist might borrow hence the imagery of this psalm; in which he is represented as watching the indications of the divine will, so narrowly as a servant (male or female) watched the orders that were expressed by the hand of their master or mistress. Even so "our eyes wait upon the Lord our God.”
From the latter part of this psalm, we are led to conclude that it was composed during a period of great contempt and scorn toward Israel from their heathen enemies. Bishop Patrick thinks it was probably at the period of Rabshakeh's blasphemy, when Hezekiah and the pious Jews watched the motions of divine providence (if we may so speak) with the most diligent attention. If so, it was probably written by Isaiah. (See 2 Kings xix. 1—5.) If the Lord's servants apply to him for relief or for redress under injuries, it is ne
cessary that they should watch as well as pray; or "look up," as David himself expresses it. (Psalm v. 3.)
(I) Acknowledgments of divine mercy received. This is a psalm of David, but it is not necessary, nor perhaps possible, to ascertain the occasion of its being written. David was frequently distressed by the inroads of numerous armies of his enemies, as by the Philistines when they spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim; and when the Ammonites and Syrians combined against him like the billows of an overwhelming sea; but the Lord was on his side, and they were defeated. (See 2 Sam. v. 17-25; x. 6-19.) Christians can have no difficulty in making a proper use of passages like these. "The great lesson which this Psalm inculcates (says Bishop Horne) is, that for every deliverance, whether of a temporal or spiritual nature, we should, in imitation of the saints above, ascribe salvation to God and to the Lamb."
"Our help is in Jehovah's name,
Who form'd the earth and built the skies:
PSALM CXXIV. Ver. 4. Then the waters had overwhelmed us-Meaning, the army of the enemy. Compare Is. lix. 19.
PSALM CXXV. Ver. 3. The rod (or sceptre, see
then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.
3 The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
4 Turn again our captivity,O LORD, as the streams in the south.
5 They that sow in tears shall reap # in joy.
6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, a bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (L)
(K) The final prosperity of Zion, and destruction of her enemies.-In this psalm the church is comforted with the promises of God's protection and defence; and to remove, in due time, the band of persecution from them, so that the rod (or sceptre) of the wicked (or of wickedness) shall not rest permanently on the lot (or portion) of the righteous. The reason given is, "lest the righteous put forth their hands to iniquity:" that is, lest from the universal prevalence of iniquity, they also should be drawn into the vortex of crime. Dr. Hammond quotes Aben Ezra as applying this psalm to the kingdom of the Messiah, when" the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains," (Isa. ii. 2.); while those who turn aside to the “crooked ways” of idolatry, shall be led forth to punishment with other workers of iniquity. But " peace shall be upon Israel;" or as we should rather render it, "Peace be on Israel!" (See Gal. vi. 16.)
(L) This psalm is generally, and we think justly, applied to the first return from captivity, which to many must be so unexpected, and appear so marvellous, that it must seem rather a dream than a reality. The decree of Cyrus, doubtless, filled their "mouth with songs," and even those of the heathen around them with admiration."The Lord hath done great things for them," said they; and the Jews replied, "True! indeed the Lord hath done great things for us, and we are glad." The prayer which now arose in their hearts (for our
mercies should teach us to pray as well as praise) will bear a two-fold interpretation. By" streams in the south," Bishop Louth understands the torrents produced by the periodical raius in the south of Judea, which dried up during the beat of summer; but, when the time came round, returned again from the same cause, and filled the same channels. So Israel were now about to return to their country. But Dr. Durell gives rather a different turn to the words, which he renders, "The turning of our captivity, O Lord, is as streams in the south," or desert of Judea; equally welcome and delightful as rain upon the thirsty sands.
The Israelites now going forth from Babylon, are compared to husbandmen sowing with tears, lest they should not be permitted to reap the fruit of their industry. A traveller in that country remarks: "In Palestine we have often seen the busbandman sowing, accompanied by au armed friend, to prevent his being robbed of the seed." Mr. Harmer observes, that these Israelites were in similar circumstances they had reason to fear that their enemies would defeat their efforts; but the author of this psalm (perhaps Ezra) predicts a happy issue to their efforts, and promises them a joyful harvest. (See Harmer's Observ. vol. i. p. 87.
Bishop Horne remarks, that "the return of Israel from Babylon holds forth a figure of the same import with the Exodus of that people from Egypt. And this psalm, like the prophecies of Isaiah, representeth the blessed effects of a spiritua redemption, in words primarily alluding to that temporal release.'
PSALM CXXVI. Ver. 1. When the Lord turned again-" Returned the returning of Zion."
Ver. 2. Hath done great things for them-Heb. "Hath magnified to do with them."
Ver. 5. Reap in joy-Marg. "With singing;"
which is no doubt to be understood literally, as a our harvest homes; but with this difference, the they sung songs of praise to the true God, and n to Bacchus, or Ceres, &c. as is too common in ou rejoicings. See Ruth ii. 4.