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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 122

Verse 1

PSALM 122

DAVID'S THANKFUL PRAYER FOR JERUSALEM

This, the third of the Songs of Ascent is ascribed to David in the superscription; and there is no dependable contradiction of this either in the psalm itself or in the opinions of critics.

Current scholars usually assign it to some pilgrim, and some even identify it with the post-exilic period; but the fact of Jerusalem being "builded" (Psalms 122:3) is opposed to that view. Of course, scholars intent on establishing a theory merely change "builded" to "rebuilt," (without authority, we might add). Dahood found a single word in the psalm which he thought certified a very late date; but how do they know that such a word is not a gloss? or a copyist's error? The critics have no trouble at all finding such things to support their speculations! To us, it seems reasonable enough that David wrote the psalm. Who would have been any more likely to do so than the king who made it his capital and built it? One alternative view is that the psalm is Davidic in the sense of its emphasis upon "the thrones of the house of David. (Psalms 122:5) Such questions cannot now be answered with any finality.

Psalms 122:1-4

"I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of Jehovah.

Our feet are standing

Within thy gates, O Jerusalem,

Jerusalem, that art builded

As a city that is compact together;

Whither the tribes go up, even the tribes of Jehovah,

For an ordinance for Israel,

To give thanks unto the name of Jehovah."

"Let us go unto the house of Jehovah" (Psalms 122:1). The sentiments expressed here are just as appropriate on the lips of some worshipper who has traveled a long distance to attend one of the three great annual festivals in Jerusalem as they would have been in the speech of some Israelite returning from the Babylonian captivity; and, to this writer, the former circumstance seems more likely.

King David had conquered the old stronghold of Salem, had made it his capital, built and fortified the city magnificently, had brought the ark of the covenant to the site which David had purchased at great expense, and the "House of the Lord" (Psalms 122:1), which is an expression just as applicable to the tabernacle of David's day as it later was to the Temple of Solomon, here expresses the great joy of the psalmist that the time, at last, has come when he may actually attend services in the tabernacle.

"Our feet are standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem" (Psalms 122:2). The ark has been brought to the holy city. The sanctuary for all the tribes of Israel has been established; and David's heart must indeed have felt a tremendous wave of thanksgiving, for his beloved Jerusalem had indeed been glorified as the capital of the Chosen People. The ecstatic and exuberant joy of the worshippers coming in from all over the kingdom of Israel must indeed have been profound.

Moreover, there is a sequel to this. The Christian also is making a long and tedious journey to "Jerusalem." Not the earthly city as did they, "But we are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel" (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Furthermore, there is an earnest, a thrilling and beautiful token of that heavenly homecoming in every assembly of the Lord's believers when they have come to worship even now.

"Jerusalem, thou art builded" (Psalms 122:3). Dummelow stated that, "This is descriptive of the appearance of the rebuilt city."[1] However, there is nothing in the text which mentions any "rebuilding."

Verse 5

"For there are set thrones for judgment,

The thrones of the house of David."

McCaw thought "thrones" as used here was a "Plural of majesty, referring to the `great throne' of David and his dynasty."[2] Dummelow also pointed out that it might refer to, "The princes of the house of David."[3] If that meaning should be allowed here, then we have positive proof that this psalm must be identified with the reign of David and not with some later historical circumstance.

Verse 6

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

They shall prosper that love thee.

Peace be within thy walls,

And prosperity within thy palaces."

"Prosperity within the palaces of Jerusalem" does not fit the post-exilic period. During that era, Israel had no princes or kings living in palaces; and thus these verses support the superscription that makes this "A Psalm of David."

Verse 8

"For my brethren and companion's sakes,

I will now say, Peace be within thee.

For the sake of the house of Jehovah our God

I will seek thy good."

"I will seek thy good (Jerusalem's good)" (Psalms 122:9). These words cannot be made to fit the mouth of an ordinary pilgrim coming to Jerusalem to worship. The business of seeking the good of a great walled city is the business of a king, not that of an ordinary citizen.

The reasons here assigned for the concern and solicitation for the peace, prosperity and "good" of Jerusalem are: (1) for the sake of the psalmist's brethren; (2) for that of his companions; and (3) for the sake of the "house of Jehovah."

How, then did this psalm come to be among the psalms of the Little Psalter mentioned in the introduction to these fifteen psalms? There could have been nothing whatever in the way of adopting this "Psalm of David" as an appropriate addition to the little hymnal that the worshippers traveling to the three great annual festivals in Jerusalem would have found to be most appropriate.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 122". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/psalms-122.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.