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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 122

Verse 1


David professeth his joy for the church, and prayeth for the peace thereof.

A Song of Degrees of David.

Title. המעלות שׁיר Shiir hammangaloth.] Dr. Chandler is of opinion, that this psalm was composed by David after he had settled the ark in mount Sion; when, being informed that many of his people were arrived at Jerusalem to attend on the sacred annual solemnities, and others resorted to it for the same religious purposes, to express his satisfaction on so joyful an occasion, and the pleasing prospect that he had of the city's prosperity, and the future happiness of his people, he composed the following most excellent ode. It is intitled, A song of Ascensions; and the nature of it seems to point out the reason of the title, and to shew that it was one of those hymns which were to be sung by the people when they ascended, or came up from their cities and dwellings to the yearly festivals at Jerusalem; as the very learned Bishop Lowth has observed in his excellent performance of the sacred poetry of the Hebrews; and the ode is a very elegant and lively one. Bishop Lowth's words are, "This is one of those fifteen psalms which are inscribed A Song of Ascensions; i.e. which were sung when the people ascended to Jerusalem; either to celebrate the yearly festivals, or when they returned from the Babylonish captivity." See his 25th Prelection, and the note on the title to the 120th psalm.

Psalms 122:1. Let us go into the house, &c.— Let us travel away, &c. Mudge; who understands the psalm differently from Dr. Chandler. The first verse, says he, expresses the pleasure with which the author received the proposal for going up to Jerusalem. In the second he arrived there: Our feet are standing within thy gates, &c. The third, fourth and fifth are a description of it arising from the sight of it: The four last are wishes for its prosperity.

Verse 3

Psalms 122:3. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact The verb חבר chaber, denotes the connection or joining of things aptly and closely to each other. Thus it is used of the coupling of the curtains of the tabernacle together, Exodus 36:18. Hence it is used to denote the connection and society of friendship, affection, and purpose, Genesis 14:3.Hosea 4:17; Hosea 4:17. In the place before us, both senses seem to be united. Jerusalem is compact as to its buildings, and the inhabitants of it firmly united by mutual harmony and friendship. Chandler. Mudge renders it: As a city that is placed in the centre of union. Jerusalem, the great seat and centre of religion and justice, was the centre of union to all the tribes; the palace the centre of the city, and the tabernacle of the palace. Blessed and happy is that nation whose prince is the centre of union to his people; and God, or true religion, the common centre and cement both of people and prince. See Delaney's Life of David, book 2: chap. 12.

Verse 4

Psalms 122:4. Whither the tribes go up, &c.— There the tribes ascend the tribes of the Lord; there is the testimony of Israel; that they may make their acknowledgments to the name of Jehovah. The testimony of Israel means the ark. Chandler.

Verse 5

Psalms 122:5. For there are set thrones "There sits the Sanhedrim, and there resides the royal house of David." Mudge.

Verse 6

Psalms 122:6. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem Mr. Schultens hath shewn, that the word rendered peace, signifies pure unmixed prosperity; undisturbed, and free from the corruption of any calamities, See his Origin. vol. 2: p. 63. This psalm is in the title ascribed to David, and it is worthy the pen of so elegant a writer. From the beginning of it, it plainly appears, that when he had placed the ark in its proper habitation, and so far finished his buildings, as that the city was capable of receiving the people who should come up to celebrate their first festival there, he had been informed that they expressed a general desire of ascending to it, and visiting the house of the Lord; a privilege which they were seldom sure of obtaining before. I was glad, &c. Psalms 122:1. When they were actually come up to the city, and had just entered the gate, they are represented as crying out with triumph, in the height of their surprise and joy, when from the gate they beheld the buildings which presented themselves to their view: "Jerusalem is built! 'Tis a city well compact within itself, stately, beautiful, and regular!" The description, as it were, places us under the very gate; and the houses and palaces rise almost conspicuous to our view. What added to their joy, when they beheld the city, was, the presence of the ark in it, the courts of judicature, and the several other circumstances mentioned in the psalm. How natural and affecting also is the sudden change, from admiration into devotion, breathing out ardent prayers for the peace and prosperity of a city which so many considerations united to endear to them, and render them solicitous for its safety. The Psalmist closes the ode with a solemn assurance to his people, whom he stiles his brethren and friends, that for their sakes, and the high reverence which he bare to the house of God, he would himself both pray for the prosperity, and in the whole of his government endeavour to secure the tranquillity and welfare of the city. And indeed this psalm has ever been admired by the best judges, both for the composition and the matter of it. Chandler.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, They who love God, cannot but delight to draw near unto him in the ordinances of his worship.

1. The Psalmist expresses his joy at the invitation given by other gracious souls like his own. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord, the earthly sanctuary, typical of the church of God; where believers with gladness continue to assemble themselves for public worship, stirring up each other to greater diligence and liveliness in the blessed work. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem, and find there a happy rest after our travels; but how much more delightful when the faithful shall enter the streets of the new Jerusalem, and find the eternal rest which there remaineth for the people of God!

2. He describes this happy place. Jerusalem is builded as a city, that is compact together; firm the foundation, the houses regularly built, by art and nature strongly defended. Thus is the Church of God built on the rock of age, the members closely united in love, and protected by the arms of Omnipotence: whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, obedient to his commands, and thrice a year appearing before him at the temple, to the testimony of Israel, to the ark, the symbol of the divine presence, to consult his mind and will, and to give thanks unto the name of the Lord, offering their sacrifices and praises before him. For there are set thrones of judgment, the courts of judicature, and the royal residence of Israel's kings, the thrones of the house of David. In the gospel-church, Jesus places his word, and promises his Spirit, as the ark of the testimony, to direct and guide us; there he erects his throne also, reigning as king in the hearts of his people; prescribing the rule of their conduct, and the ordinances of his worship; and with him the thrones of the faithful will shortly be placed; when brought to the heavenly Zion, they shall reign with him in glory everlasting.

2nd, David calls upon every pious Israelite,
1. To pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for the prosperity of all who dwelt therein, and for the nation who resorted thither. Note; (1.) We are bound to pray for our place and nation, for in the peace thereof we shall have peace. (2.) The prosperity and peace of God's church will be the first concern and prayer of all the friends of David's Son.

2. The blessing of such prayers will return on those who offer them. They shall prosper that love thee, their souls shall be refreshed with the graces they beg for others, and they shall spiritually increase with the increase of God.

3. The proper prayers are suggested. Peace be within thy walls, outward peace from enemies, the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and mutual peace and love, which no dispute, discord, or divisions may ever interrupt: Oh when shall it yet be! and prosperity within thy palaces, for it will then go well with the church of God, when they, who by eminence of station are most exalted, abound with gifts and graces, for the government and edification of the body.

4. He resolves that this shall be his own prayer and practice; I will say, Peace be within thee, and not only with heart desire it, but with hand labour for it; I will seek thy good. Note; To pray one way, and act another, is arrant hypocrisy. Two reasons he suggests why he should thus do, [l.] For my brethren and companion's sake; the saints of God, high or low, rich or poor; David counted them as brethren, delighted in their company, and sought their happiness; and so should we. [2.] Because of the house of the lord our God; God's glory was his first pursuit, the enlargement of his church his great desire, and therefore he could not but pray for it, and labour to promote it. The Lord help us to go and do likewise.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 122". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.