Bible Commentaries
Psalms 124

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 124:0


Prayer for Rescue from EnemiesMT IntroA Song of Ascents,of DavidThe Lord the Defense of His PeopleThanksgiving for a National DeliveranceGod the Protector of His PeopleThe Savior of Israel
Psalms 124:1-5Psalms 124:1-5Psalms 124:1-5Psalms 124:1Psalms 124:1-3
Psalms 124:2-5
Psalms 124:4-5
Psalms 124:6-8Psalms 124:6-8Psalms 124:6-7Psalms 124:6-8Psalms 124:6-7
Psalms 124:8 Psalms 124:8

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 124:1-5 1”Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,” Let Israel now say, 2”Had it not been the Lord who was on our side When men rose up against us, 3Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their anger was kindled against us; 4Then the waters would have engulfed us, The stream would have swept over our soul; 5Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.”

Psalms 124:1-5 This is a liturgical strophe related to the deliverance of national Israel from a foreign invader. The exact historical setting is not stated.

The psalmist uses powerful imagery to convey YHWH's deliverance.

1. He is on their side, Psalms 124:2

2. the enemy would have swallowed Israel, Psalms 124:3a

3. the enemy had their anger kindled against Israel, Psalms 124:3b

4. the enemy, like a flood, would have engulfed Israel, Psalms 124:4-5

Psalms 124:1 “Let Israel now say” This is a Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense. The response would have been quoted at a national victory celebration (cf. Psalms 129:1).

Psalms 124:3a This imagery of “swallowing” (BDB 118, KB 134) comes from

1. the personification of the earth (i.e., death, Sheol cf. Exodus 15:12) swallowing the rebellious Levites during the wilderness wandering period (cf. Numbers 16:30, Numbers 16:32; Deuteronomy 11:6)

2. the attack of a predatory animal (cf. Psalms 35:25; Proverbs 1:12; Amos 2:16); this is stated specifically in Psalms 124:6b

Psalms 124:3b The imagery of anger as burning is first used in Genesis 39:19. Fire is used often as a means of

1. judgment

2. anger

3. cleansing


Psalms 124:4-5 The imagery of water/flood as life problems is recurrent in the OT (i.e., Job 22:11; Job 38:34; Psalms 32:6; Psalms 66:12; Psalms 69:2; Psalms 144:7; Isaiah 43:2; Lamentations 3:54). It is used of an invasion in Isaiah 8:7-8 and Jeremiah 51:34, as it is in this Psalm. As flood waters cover the land, so do invading armies. The other common metaphor for this was a locust infestation (i.e., Joel).

Whenever water is seen as an enemy of humanity, there may be an allusion to YHWH's defeat of watery chaos (cf. Psalms 29:3, Psalms 29:10; Psalms 74:12-17; Psalms 89:9-10; Psalms 93:3-4). This theme is part of YHWH as creator (cf. Psalms 124:8).

Verses 6-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 124:6-8 6Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth. 7Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken and we have escaped. 8Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

Psalms 124:6-8 YHWH is blessed (BDB 138, KB 159, Qal passive participle) for His deliverance of national Israel. The deliverance is characterized as

1. escape from a predatory animal (i.e., Psalms 7:2)

2. escape from a bird hunter/trapper (cf. Psalms 91:3; Psalms 119:110; Proverbs 6:5)

Psalms 124:7b One wonders if this line of poetry is meant to convey the destruction of the invading army.

Psalms 124:8a The name stands for the person. See Special Topic: “The Name” of YHWH.

Psalms 124:8b This is a set phrase (cf. Psalms 102:25; Psalms 121:2; Psalms 124:8; Psalms 134:3; Psalms 146:6) asserting the uniqueness of Israel's God. See SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 124". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.