corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Psalms 121



Verse 1




Practically all of the psalms in this group are brief, but they are "exquisitely beautiful," as Dummelow phrased it. Spurgeon remarked that, "It is a soldier's song, as well as a traveler's hymn."[2]

Psalms 121:1

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains;

From whence shall my help come?"

"Unto the mountains" is here a reference to Jerusalem. In Ezekiel, we became familiar with this designation of the holy city. This designation of Palestine developed from the contrast, "Between the Mesopotamian plain and `the mountains of Israel.'"[3] "Thus, the `hills' (or mountains) became synonymous for the holy city."[4]

The pilgrim singing this song was not thinking of getting "help" from those mountains, but of getting "help" on his journey to them.

Martin Luther translated the second clause, "From whence cometh my help," a translation which Delitzsch rejected in favor of the rendition here.[5]

Verse 2

"My help cometh from Jehovah,

Who made heaven and earth."

In these first two verses, the poet looks to the mountains of his native land; and, when he longingly asks, `Whence will my help come'? His longing desire itself returns the answer, that his help comes from no other quarter than from Jahve, the Maker of heaven and earth, and whose power reaches the remotest ends of His creation.[6]

Verse 3

"He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:

He that keepeth thee will not slumber."

"He that keepeth thee." The words "keep," "keeper" and "keepeth" appear six times in these eight verses; and this is the reason for our selection of the first title of the psalm.

Verse 4

"Behold, he that keepeth Israel

Will neither slumber nor sleep.

Jehovah is thy keeper:

Jehovah is thy shade."

"Keeper ... Shade." "Such tides of God are virtually promises."[7] What a consolation there is in the very names which God has applied to himself. He reveals himself as our Sun, Shield, Strong Tower, High Tower, Hiding Place, and our Portion. So it is with Jesus Christ: the Light of the World, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Resurrection, the Bread of life, Redeemer, etc.

Since God is our keeper, what is there that we should fear? The conclusion is quite natural, as Delitzsch said, "That the life of him who stands under such universal and unbounded protection can suffer no injury."[8]

Verse 6

"The sun shall not smite thee by day,

Nor the moon by night."

The simple meaning of this is that the soul under God's protection is protected alike, "from the dangers of the day and of the night."[9] God's protection should not be understood merely as protection from sunstroke and from being moonstruck.

This mention of dangers from the moon at night is doubtless related to the almost "universal superstition,"[10] as Dummelow called it, that moonlight can be dangerous. This writer has no information about such "danger," but it cannot be denied that for countless generations the human family has accepted the proposition that, under certain circumstances, moonlight can be dangerous. Our word lunacy, meaning insanity, comes from the word lunar, `pertaining to the moon.'

There are well-attested traditions that such alleged lunar damage to men is a reality; but we find nothing in our text here which confirms any such thing. There is entirely too much that men do not know to justify the common designation of such ancient traditions as "merely superstition."

Verse 7

"Jehovah will keep thee from all evil;

He will keep thy soul.

Jehovah will keep thy going out and thy coming in

From this time forth and forevermore."

"Jehovah will keep thee from all evil" (Psalms 121:7). Here is stated the actual meaning of verse 6.

"He will keep thy going out ... coming in" (Psalms 121:8). "This is the equivalent of, `The Lord shall preserve thee in all thy ways' (Psalms 91:11)."[11]


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 121:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology