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This and the fourteen psalms which follow, are entitled, “Songs of Mahaloth, or degrees.” Kimchi, and some of the rabbins say, they were so called because they were sung on the steps of the second temple, which were fifteen in number, and stood between the court of the men, and of the women. Dr. Lightfoot has adopted this opinion. For the same reason most of the Greek Versions denominate these psalms, songs of ascension.
Psalms 120:5 . Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech, and dwell in the tents of Kedar; two races descended from Ishmael, and famed for wickedness. The words are therefore figurative of the Hebrews, who equalled them in wickedness.
David evidently wrote this psalm while in exile in the desert of Maon, and resident among the wicked and litigious children of Mesech, a descendant of Japhet, and of Kedar, the second son of Ishmael. Genesis 10:2. But who this lying tongue was is not named; for the part that Doëg acted was so notorious, that there was no need to offend by the mention of his name. The slanders which this man daily whispered in the ears of Saul, were keener to David than almost any other part of his affliction.
The punishment of lying and slander is dreadful in its nature. This prophecy of Doëg’s fall was, it is feared, literally accomplished. He fell, as is not doubted, with Saul on Gilboa; and not unlikely by some of the expert archers who wounded the king. And oh, what became of his soul? His salvation was difficult, because he made no reparation of his faults. Surely, if deep repentance did not take place, coals of juniper, or of every hard wood, which makes the hottest fire, awaited him in hell. This should induce all persons who have slandered or misrepresented their neighbours’ character, to make haste and undo their crime.
When good men are at a distance from the house of God, or driven into camps and garrisons, where they hear nothing but the language of cursing and carnal mirth, they should mourn, and look mentally towards God’s sanctuary, and in due time he will help them out of their misery, and bring them to his house. When a good man has a misunderstanding with a neighbour, or is embroiled with a faction, after explanation, he wishes to hear no more of it; but the wicked are always prepared for war. They hatch mischief, and strife is the food of their depravity.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 120". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19