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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 123

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


The prayer and faith of the godly, 1, 2.

They desire to be delivered from contempt, 3, 4.


This Psalm is probably a complaint of the captives in Babylon relative to the contempt and cruel usage they received. The author is uncertain.

Verse Psalms 123:1. Unto thee lift I up mine eyes — We have no hope but in thee; our eyes look upward; we have expectation from thy mercy alone.

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 123:2. As the eyes of servants — We now wait for thy commands, feeling the utmost readiness to obey them when made known to us. The words may be understood as the language of dependence also. As slaves expect their support from their masters and mistresses; so do we ours from thee, O Lord! Or, As servants look to their masters and mistresses, to see how they do their work, that they may do it in the same way; so do we, O Lord, that we may learn of thee, and do thy work in thy own Spirit, and after thy own method. Some think that there is a reference here to the chastisement of slaves by their masters, who, during the time they are receiving it, keep their eyes fixed on the hand that is inflicting punishment upon them, professing deep sorrow, and entreating for mercy. And this sense seems to be countenanced by the following words:-

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 123:3. Have mercy upon us, O Lord — Chastise us no more; we will no more revolt against thee.

We are exceedingly filled with contempt. — We not only suffer grievously from our captivity, but are treated in the most contemptuous manner by our masters.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 123:4. Those that are at ease — The Babylonians, who, having subdued all the people of the neighbouring nations, lived at ease, had none to contend with them, and now became luxurious, indolent, and insolent: they were contemptuous and proud.


The oppressed followers of God make application to him for mercy. In this application they express three things: -

I. Their confidence in God.

II. Prayer for mercy.

III. An account of their oppressors.

I. Their trust in God.

1. "Unto thee lift I up mine eyes." We trust in thee alone.

2. "O thou that dwellest in the heavens." Infinitely raised above us; but affected with our miserable condition, and always ready to help us.

This he shows by a double similitude: -

1. "As the eyes of servants," i.e., men-servants, "look unto the hand of their masters."

2. "As the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress:" both might be beaten; and here both beg to be saved from farther stripes.

3. "So our eyes," c. God's children are always looking up to him.

4. "Until that he have mercy" abate his stripes, and take off his hand.

II. Their prayer for mercy.

1. Before they lifted their eyes to God, but now they cry for mercy.

For this crying, they give the following reasons: -

1. "We are exceedingly filled with contempt." To suffer contempt is much; to be filled with it is more; and to be exceedingly filled with it is worst of all.

2. We are scorned: they join words and actions to show how much they despise us.

III. They give the character of those by whom they suffer.

1. They are at ease - loaded with wealth, and sunk in indolence.

2. They are proud - puffed up with a sense of their own importance; and this leads them to despise others. Proud men are for the most part empty, shallow-pated men: and contempt and scorn from such wounds deeply; especially if they rise, as they often do, from the dunghill. The sick lion in the fable found it extremely galling to be kicked by the foot of an ass.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 123". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-123.html. 1832.
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