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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 120

Verse 1

In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me. Psalms 120:1-7.-The first of the fifteen "Songs of degrees."

The Septuagint, not probably, translate, 'Songs of the steps' [toon anabathmoon] - namely, sung on thee fifteen steps between the court of the women and that of the men [ shiyr (H7892) hama`ªlowt (H4609): in Psalms 121:1-8, lama`ªlowt (H4609)]. They all have a general, not an individual character, referring to Israel, the literal and the spiritual, whom God's providence ever guards (Psalms 124:1; Psalms 125:5; Psalms 128:6; Psalms 130:8; 131:8 ). The state of things in many of these psalms answers to that after the Babylonian captivity, when the building of the temple was interrupted by the Samaritans. The "sanctuary," in Psalms 134:1-3, is the altar erected at the return from Babylon (536 BC), for the daily sacrifices (535 BC, Ezra 3:2-4; Ezra 3:8). The temple begun under Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest, through the Samaritan opposition, was not completed until 515 BC, with the held of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 6:14). The Hebrew for "degrees" is the regular term for 'going up' to Jerusalem, which was regarded as on a moral elevation above all other places. Literally, 'A song for THE ascendings" - namely, the stated annual journeys of successive pilgrims to the Jerusalem great feasts (cf. Psalms 122:1; Psalms 122:4; Exodus 34:24; 1 Kings 12:27-28). The simple style, the brevity, and transitions formed by retaining a word from the previous verse, are appropriate to pilgrim-song poetry. Psalms 122:1-9 is the oldest, being composed by David to supply the northern Israelites with a pilgrim-song in their journeys to Zion, where Asaph had warned them to repair, now that the ark was transferred from Shiloh there (Psalms 78:67-69). Solomon wrote Psalms 127:1-5, round which, as a center, a third poet, on the return from Babylon, grouped with David's four psalms ten other psalms, seven on one side and seven on the other.

Psalms 120:1-7.-Israel in distress cries to the Lord, and anticipates that the foes' slanders shall recoil upon and burn themselves as hot coals (Psalms 120:1-4); Israel's lament over the perpetual war in which she is forced to dwell by peace-hating foes (vv. 5,6). The Samaritans, when rejected as brethren in rebuilding the temple, by slanders interrupted the work until the reign of Darius, King of Persia, when their lying charges of treason were foiled and the temple rebuilt, (Ezra 4:1-24; Ezra 5:1-17; Ezra 6:1-22.)

In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me. The Lord's deliverance of Israel out of Babylon, already accomplished, in answer to her prayer (cf. Daniel 9:1-27), is made the ground on which the prayer of faith (James 1:6) for the completion of the nation's establishment in Jerusalem rests.

Verse 2

Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.

Deliver my soul (Psalms 116:4 ), O Lord, from lying lips - from the Samaritans, who, by lying slanders, sought to destroy Israel's national life ("soul"), by preventing the erection of the temple, the religious and political center of the theocratic nation.

(And) from a deceitful tongue - literally, a deceit-tongue, a tongue all deceit (Psalms 119:60; Psalms 31:18). Compare Psalms 120:7, 'I peace;' I am wholly for peace.

Verse 3

What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?

What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? - literally, 'What shall (He, the Lord) give unto thee? and what shall He add unto thee?' etc. There is a reference to the common oath, "God do so to thee and more also" (1 Samuel 3:17). From addressing the Lord the Psalmist turns to the slanderers. They had thought to gain by their slanders. All the gain that the Lord will 'give' them, and add in giving - i:e., give them again and again-is, He will make their slanders recoil on themselves to their ruin (cf. Psalms 120:4).

Verse 4

Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.

Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. The "sharp arrows of the mighty" are those that are "sharp in the heart of the King's enemies" (Psalms 45:5). The arrows of "the mighty" (literally, the hero or warrior) God, going forth to war with His foes (Deuteronomy 32:42; Psalms 7:13). For "juniper" translates [ retem (H7574) or rotem (H7574)], 'the broom,' or genista, which the Arabs regard as the best wood-fuel. As their slanders pierced like "sharp arrows" (cf. Psalms 57:4), and burnt like a red-hot coal; so by the law of retribution in kind, God will give them "sharp arrows" and 'hot coals' (Psalms 140:10; also 18:12-13).

Verse 5

Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!

Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! "Mesech" - i:e., the Moschi, in the regions of Iberia, Armenia, and Colchis. "Kedar" is a people of Arabis. As the Psalmist and his people could not be at once in two places so widely apart, the sense can only be figurative. I dwell among people lawless and fierce is those of Mesech or Kedar. He explains it so in Psalms 120:6 - "him (the foe) that hateth peace." Mesach was the chief vassal of Gog, the ideal representative of the pagan barbarian world. The Arabs, and so the Kedarenes, love strife, like their first father, Ishmael, of whom the Angel of the Lord prophesied, "He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him" (Genesis 16:12).

Verse 6

My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.

My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. "Long" - i:e., too long. It expresses weariness of a long-continued trial. "Dwelt;" the Hebrew adds, 'for itself' - i:e., to its sorrow 'hath dwelt,' etc.

Verse 7

I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.

I (am for) peace: but when I speak, they are for war - Hebrew, 'I peace;' my very nature is peace. So Psalms 109:4, 'I prayer.' But when I speak to recommend peace they breathe only war. They wrest my words of peace into occasion for war.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 120". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/psalms-120.html. 1871-8.