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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 120

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

Verses 1-7

Psalms 120:0

Introduction - Fifteen psalms (Psalms 120-134) are entitled “Song of Ascents,” or “Song of Degrees” ( שִׁ֗יר הַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת ). Scholars believe that these songs were probably sung by the Levites as they proceeded up the Temple steps. For example, Alfred Edersheim says regarding the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Herod’s Temple that there were “fifteen steps which led down from the Court of Israel to that of the Women, according to the number of the fifteen Songs of Degrees in the Book of Psalms.” [112] Amos 9:6 refers to God’s staircase in heaven.”

[112] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services as They were at the Time of Jesus Christ (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1908), 284.

Amos 9:6, “It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.”

These songs may have been sung as the children of Israel made their way up the hills to Jerusalem for the yearly feasts. Evidence of this is seen in Psalms 121:1; Psalms 122:3-4.

Psalms 121:1, (A Song of degrees.) “ I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills , from whence cometh my help.”

Psalms 122:3-4, “Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up , the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.”

Psalms 120:1 (A Song of degrees.) In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.

Psalms 120:1 Word Study on “degrees” - Strong says the Hebrew word “ma’alah” ( מַעֲלָה ) (H4609) literally means, “elevations,” and in book of Psalms it means, “a climatic progression.” Strong says this word is derived from the Hebrew verb “‘alah” ( עָלָה ) (H5927), which means “to ascend.” This noun occurs 45 times in the Old Testament Scriptures and is often translated “steps,” as in 1 Kings 10:19. In 2 Kings 20:9-11 “ma’alah” ( מַעֲלָה ) is translated “degrees,” referring to the ten steps the shadow regressed on the king’s sundial.

Psalms 120:2 Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.

Psalms 120:3 What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?

Psalms 120:4 Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.

Psalms 120:5 Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!

Psalms 120:5 “that I dwell in the tents of Kedar” - Word Study on “Kedar” The Hebrew name “Kedar” “qedar” ( קֵדָר ) (H6938) literally means, “dusky (of the skin or the tent),” and comes from the primitive root ( קָדַר ) (6937), which means, “to be ashy, i.e., dark-colored.” This name is used 12 times in the Old Testament and is translated in the KJV as “ Kedar 12. ” Kedar was the second son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13-15, 1 Chronicles 1:29-31).

Genesis 25:13-15, “And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah:”

1 Chronicles 1:29-31, “These are their generations: The firstborn of Ishmael, Nebaioth; then Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, Mishma, and Dumah, Massa, Hadad, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael.”

Comments - According to Isaiah 42:11; Isaiah 60:7, Kedar was a semi-nomadic tribe that lived at times in villages, and at other times moved about in tents with their flocks of animals. According to Ezekiel 27:21 they traded their flocks with other merchants for other goods. Thus, Jeremiah refers to their tents, flocks, curtains, vessels and camels.

Isaiah 42:11, “Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.”

Isaiah 60:7, “All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory.”

Jeremiah 49:28-29, “Concerning Kedar, and concerning the kingdoms of Hazor, which Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon shall smite, thus saith the LORD; Arise ye, go up to Kedar, and spoil the men of the east. Their tents and their flocks shall they take away: they shall take to themselves their curtains, and all their vessels, and their camels; and they shall cry unto them, Fear is on every side.”

Ezekiel 27:21, “Arabia, and all the princes of Kedar, they occupied with thee in lambs, and rams, and goats: in these were they thy merchants.”

In addition, they also seemed to have been a warlike tribe of archers who raided the good of others.

Psalms 120:5-7, “Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.”

Isaiah 21:17, “And the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: for the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it.”

The ISBE says the tribe of Kedar settled in northwest Arabia near the border with Palestine. Assyrian inscriptions have mentioned the tribe of Kedar in association with the Arabs and Nebaioth. [113]

[113] A. S. Fulton, “Kedar,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939), in The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008).

The tribe of Kedar were a semi-nomadic tribe that often dwelt in tents made of haircloth. John Gill says that the continual exposure to the sun and rain made these tents black, “and yet a number of them made a fine appearance.” He quotes Shaw who had traveled to this region of the world and observed the Bedouin tribesmen:

“the Bedouin Arabs at this day live in tents called “hhymes,” from the shelter which they afford the inhabitants; and “beet el shaar,” that is, “houses of hair,” from the materials or webs of goats’ hair whereof they were made; and are such hair cloth as our coal sacks are made of; the colour of them is beautifully alluded to, #Song of Solomon 1:5; for nothing certainly can afford (says he) a more delightful prospect than a large extensive plain, whether in its verdure, or even scorched up by the sunbeams, than, these movable habitations pitched in circles upon them; of which (he says) he has seen from three to three hundred.” [114]

[114] John Gill, Song of Solomon, in John Gill’s Expositor, in e-Sword, v. 7.7.7 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Song of Song of Solomon 1:5.

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Psalms 120". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/psalms-120.html. 2013.
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