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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Psalms 120

 

 

Verse 1-2

1. God"s deliverance from liars120:1-2

The psalmist testified that he had prayed to God for deliverance from liars and that God had granted his request.

"After over fifty years of ministry, I am convinced that most of the problems in families and churches are caused by professed Christians who do not have a real and vital relationship to Jesus Christ. They are not humble peacemakers but arrogant troublemakers." [Note: Wiersbe, The . . . Wisdom . . ., p335.]


Verses 1-7

Psalm 120

Psalm 120-134are all "songs of ascent." This group, in turn, constitutes the major part of the Great Hallel psalms ( Psalm 120-136). The psalms of ascent received this title because the pilgrim Israelites sang them as they traveled from their homes all over the land and ascended Mt. Zion for the annual feasts. David composed at least four of these15 psalms ( Psalm 122 , 124 , 131 , , 133). Solomon wrote one ( Psalm 127), and the remaining10 are anonymous. They may not have been composed for use by pilgrims, originally; they were probably written for other purposes. However, the pilgrims used them as songs of ascent and, according to the Mishnah, during the second temple period they were incorporated into the temple liturgy. [Note: Middoth2:5.]

One scholar saw these psalms as falling into three groups of five psalms each (120-24; 125-29; 130-34). He noted that the central psalm in each group reflects royal or Zion theology: 122 (Jerusalem), 127 (the temple), and132 (David). The effect of the total collection, therefore, is to focus on the temple and the Davidic monarchy. [Note: Erich Zenger, "The Composition and Theology of the Fifth Book of Psalm: Psalm 107-145 ," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament80 (1998):92, proposed a different division that recognizes Psalm 127 as the central psalm surrounded by four groups of psalms (120-23; 124-26; 128-31; and132-34) each of which contains the divine name12times.] E. W. Hengstenberg proposed a different division that recognizes Psalm 127 as the central psalm surrounded by four groups of psalms (120-23; 124-26; 128-31; and132-34) each of which contains the divine name12times. [Note: E. W. Hengstenberg, Commentary on the Psalm , 3:409.]

In Psalm 120 , an unknown composer asked God for protection from people who wanted to stir up war (cf. Psalm 42). This psalm has been called an individual lament that anticipates thanksgiving. [Note: Leslie C. Allen, Psalm 101-150 , pp147-48.]

"Apart from the last clause in Psalm 120:1, there is not a glad note in the whole of Psalm 120." [Note: Armerding, p134.]


Verse 3-4

2. God"s destruction of liars120:3-4

The writer asked the liar what would befall him and then answered his own question. God would destroy him as a warrior who shot arrows at an enemy or as a fire devoured a dry broom tree.


Verses 5-7

3. God"s dalliance with liars120:5-7

The poet bewailed the fact that he had to continue living with people such as liars who continually stir up strife ( Psalm 120:5-6). Meshech was a barbarous nation far to the north of Israel by the Black Sea in Asia Minor (cf. Genesis 10:2; Ezekiel 38:2; Ezekiel 39:1-2). Kedar in northern Arabia was the home of the nomadic Ishmaelites who periodically harassed the Israelites ( Genesis 25:13; Isaiah 21:16-17; Jeremiah 2:10; Ezekiel 27:21). These people represented the kinds of individuals that surrounded the writer, namely, heathen liars and hostile barbarians. They seemed to be after war all the time, but he wanted to live in peace.

"If the "I" of the psalm is Israel personified, these two names will summarize the Gentile world, far and near, in which Israel is dispersed. Otherwise, unless the text is emended, they must be taken as the psalmist"s figurative names for the alien company he is in: as foreign as the remotest peoples, and as implacable as his Arab kinsmen (cf. Genesis 16:12; Genesis 25:13)." [Note: Kidner, Psalm 73-150 , p431.]

The continual antagonism of people who stir up trouble by telling lies, and in other ways, leads the godly to pray for God to deal with them. God"s will is for people to live peacefully with one another ( Matthew 5:9; 2 Corinthians 13:11, et al.).

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 120:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/psalms-120.html. 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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