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Wednesday, July 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 132

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary


Psalms 132

David zealously laboured, and earnestly applied himself, to prepare a settled place for the sanctuary of the Lord, Psalms 132:1-5. And this striving accomplished its end, Psalms 132:6-9. This God should and will recompense for him in the revivification of his dead race and kingdom, true to the promise, which had been given to him, on account of his zeal, Psalms 132:10-12. For, he has chosen Zion, the good of which is inseparably connected with David’s posterity, and promised, that David’s kingdom must continually flourish there, and rise nobly superior above every misfortune. The Psalm falls into two chief divisions, the grounding of the prayer and hope; and the prayer and hope itself.

The Psalm is to be referred to the times of the new colony from its namelessness alone: all nameless pilgrim-songs belong to these times. It participates also in the character of these nameless Psalms: as it is a cry to God, to listen to them from the midst of their distress. Its starting point and ground is formed, as in Psalms 89, by the depressed state of David’s race and kingdom. In its form, too, it bears the character of a later time. The individual parts are light, the connection is not without difficulty. The אהל ביתי and ערש יצועי , in Psalms 132:3, the expression: we heard it, for, of it, in Psalms 132:7, could scarcely have proceeded from an older writer.

The Psalm revives again, especially in times of great depression to the church. It teaches her to hope in such times, when nothing is to be hoped for, and the rather, as the hope expressed in it concerning the revivication of David’s kingdom, on the basis of God’s word, though amid circumstances of despair, has been so gloriously fulfilled in the manifestation of Christ.

Verses 1-5

Ver. 1. A song of the pilgrimages. Remember, Lord, for David, all his trouble. Ver. 2. Who swore to the Lord, vowed to the strong one of Jacob. Ver. 3. I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor ascend the couch of my bed. Ver. 4. I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids. Ver. 5. Till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the strong one of Jacob.

The commencement is taken from the prayer of Solomon at the consecration of the temple, 2 Chronicles 6:42: “Lord God, turn not away the face of thine anointed, remember the pious deeds, חסדים (comp. 2 Chronicles 35:26), of David, thy servant.” A verbal allusion is made at the beginning of the second part, in Psalms 132:10, to the first half of that verse. It is the writer of the Psalm who refers to the passage in Chronicles, as Lampe justly notices, not the reverse, as most modern commentators. David’s trouble (ענות Inf. nominasc. in Pü.) was an internal one. The Lord had then no dwelling. The sacred tent was without the ark of the covenant, a body without a soul; and the ark was at Kirjath-jearim, deposited as in its grave, without any rites of worship, well-nigh lost sight of; comp. on Psalms 78. David himself says, in 1 Chronicles 13:3: “We did not seek after it in the days of Saul.” David tormented himself with anxiety to have this afflicting state of things brought to an end. He was dragged hither and thither by a diversity of thoughts; he was afraid that possibly the anger of the Lord was not yet passed away, that still the time of grace had not arrived; and this fear especially took possession of him, when the misfortune occurred at the first attempt to introduce the ark; comp. 2 Samuel 6:9: “And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, how shall the ark of the Lord come to me?” Meanwhile the earnest desire of David to have the dwelling of his God in his capital soon again prevailed over this fear, and would not allow him to rest till he had accomplished the desired end. Scarcely was this object gained, when the new desire awoke in David’s bosom for the erection of a solid temple, with which God was well-pleased, though he did not permit its being carried into execution by him personally. As a reward for this sincere care about his house, the Lord granted to David the promise of perpetuity to his own house, which he is here besought anew to fulfil, at a time when he seemed to have forgotten both it and the occasion of it, the godly zeal of his servant.

The designation of God: the Strength of Jacob, in Psalms 132:2 and Psalms 132:5, is taken from Genesis 49:25.

Psalms 132:3-4 is to be explained from 1 Corinthians 7:29-30: David dwelt in his house as if he did not dwell in it (comp. 2 Samuel 7:2), and slept unsoundly. Tent is used poetically for dwelling.

Verses 6-9

Ver. 6. Lo! we heard of it in Ephratah, we found it in the forest-field. Ver. 7. Now would we come to his dwelling, pray before his footstool. Ver. 8. Arise, Lord, into thy rest, thou and thy mighty ark. Ver. 9. Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness, and let thy saints rejoice.

We have here before us the words which David spoke when his care for the sanctuary of the Lord had reached its immediate end, by the consecration of the sanctuary in Zion, after the introduction of the ark of the covenant.

The expression in Psalms 132:6: We heard of it, the ark, which is not expressly mentioned, indeed, in the preceding context, but presents itself to the eye of the speaker and the people, is q. d.: We knew of it only by hearsay, no one went to see it, it was almost out of mind, comp. Job 42:6, Psalms 18:44. Ephratah is always the ancient name of Bethlehem, and every other explanation is to be regarded as arbitrary. There David spent his youth, while he had as yet only heard of the invisible ark of the covenant. According to the current exposition, Ephratah must stand here for Ephraim, and the words must refer to the residence of the ark at Shiloh. But the אפרתי , the Ephraimite, in Judges 12:5, etc., is far from showing that Ephratah can stand for Ephraim; that is a pure abbreviation, which can have no place here; to say: we heard in Ephratah, for we heard that it is, would be very hard; Ephratah must rather be the place where the report of it was heard; at Shiloh the ark was anything but lost sight of, it was rather the centre of the whole nation, nor was it raised by David himself above the dignity which it there possessed; also at the time here spoken of, the Lord, according to Psalms 132:5, had no dwelling, while in Shiloh the ark was in the sacred tent. The expression: We found it, points to the circumstance, that the ark had been lost. In the forest-field, at Kirjath-jearim, a forest-town, where the ark was deposited after its return from the land of the Philistines. The forest-field is thought of, because the ark did not stand in the city, but in the suburbs, 1 Samuel 7:1, 2 Samuel 6:3-4, buried in darkness and solitude.

Psalms 132:7 must not, with Maurer, be referred to the assembling of the people at Kirjath-jearim to bring away the ark: for there neither had the Lord a dwelling, nor was supplication made to him. The words rather refer to the dedication-festival at Zion. On the ark as the footstool of the Lord, see on Psalms 99:5.

Psalms 132:8-9 are taken almost literally from Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple, to which allusion had also been made in Psalms 132:1 and Psalms 132:10. It is said there in 2 Chronicles 6:41: “And now arise, Lord, into thy rest, thou and thy mighty ark. Let thy priests, Lord, be clothed with salvation, and thy saints rejoice in goodness.” What Solomon then spoke is here, on a similar occasion, put into the mouth of David. In the expression: thou and thy mighty ark, David points to the circumstance, that the introduction of the ark into the new sanctuary might justly be regarded as the introduction of the Lord himself. The ark was no mere symbol, but an image and pledge of the real presence of God with his people. Calvin: “For it was not a dead or empty ghost, but really showed that God was nigh to his church.” The prayer, in Psalms 132:9, joins on immediately to Psalms 132:8, having special reference to the ark as the mighty. The righteousness is the matter-of-fact declaration of righteousness and justification, which is contained in the bestowal of salvation; comp. on Psalms 23:3, Psalms 24:5. Too hastily have some concluded, from the corresponding תשועה in the original passage, and ישע in Psalms 132:16, that צדק here means precisely salvation.

Verses 10-12

Ver. 10. For the sake of David thy servant! Turn not away the face of thine anointed! Ver. 11. The Lord has sworn to David truth; he will not turn from it: I will set for thee on thy throne the fruit of thy body. Ver. 12. If thy sons will keep my covenant, and my testimony, which I will teach them, then shall also their sons sit for ever upon thy throne.

That after: David thy servant, in Psalms 132:10, a mark of exclamation is to be inserted—that we are to supply: hear our prayer, avert our misery, or perhaps: fulfil that prayer of his which is given in Psalms 132:9, is clear from the original passage in 2 Chronicles 6:42: “Lord God, turn not away the face of thine anointed, remember the piety of David thy servant”—where likewise there are two independent members—and also from Psalms 132:1, which is resumed here again. What the Lord should do on account of David, or how he should for David’s sake hear his prayer, or the prayers of the, church, is first more exactly indicated in Psalms 132:11-12: a shoot of David was failing, and along therewith a channel for the divine blessings, comp. the words of Solomon in 1 Kings 8:25: “And now, Lord God of Israel, keep to thy servant David, my father, what thou saidst to him; there shall not fail a man from before me, who sits upon the throne of Israel.” For the sake of David is, according to the preceding context, and according to the standing use of this formula, in the history of the kings of Israel, ( 1 Kings 11:12-13, 1 Kings 15:4, 2 Kings 8:19, &c.,) q. d. because David was acceptable to thee through his godly zeal, the fruit of his living faith; and the remark of Stier: “it does not presuppose, perhaps, any personal desert in the historical David, but means the gracious promise made to David in 1 Kings 8:24-26,” is to be rejected. That the anointed of the second member is no other than David, is evident from the parallelism, from Psalms 132:1 and Psalms 132:17, and also from the original passage. We are not to think of a living king for this reason alone, that the non-existence of such formed the very starting-point of the Psalm. David had prayed in the preceding context. Of another anointed there is no trace in the whole Psalm. The face of the anointed is the humbly suppliant one, comp. on Psalms 84:9. With this David stands before his race and people in all necessities, and God can never, forgetting his faith and pious zeal, turn away his supplication.

The church should the less doubt of the fulfilment of the prayer respecting salvation expressed in Psalms 132:10, as the Lord had pledged himself to it by a solemn oath: to doubt concerning it is to blaspheme God. He has sworn, as it were in answer and recompense to David’s oath. Mention is also made of the swearing in Psalms 89:4, Psalms 89:36. There, just as here, faith clings in a time of trouble to this promise of God. On the word: truth, comp. 2 Samuel 7:28, where David says, “Thou art God, and thy words are truth.” The condition of the preservation of the seed of David is brought out in Psalms 132:12, in order to explain the apparent contrariety between the idea and the reality, which presented itself to the eye. It was explained by the circumstance that the condition was not fulfilled. But whenever this hindrance should be removed, then should the promise also come into force. In the original passage, 2 Samuel 7, in 2 Samuel 7:14-15, it is expressly said, that the non-fulfilment of the condition might prove indeed a suspension, but never a withdrawal of the promise, which cannot possibly fall into abeyance for ever. On זו , comp. Ew. § 183. a. The teaching of the testimony of God, of his law revealed by Moses, is an internal one, made through the spirit, comp. Psalms 90, Psalms 19, Psalms 51, Psalms 143:10, “teach me to do thy will,” Psalms 94:12, and especially Psalms 119, which is throughout pervaded by the conviction, that in the keeping of God’s commandments nothing can be effected, that God alone can here give the will and accomplish the result.

Verses 13-18

In Psalms 132:13-18 the prayer has respect to the restoration of the race of David, and a foundation is laid for the hope of this, by referring to the divine choice of Zion, the good of which was inseparably bound up with the seed of David. As truly as God has chosen Zion, so certainly must he also raise up for David a branch, through which, to his people concentrated there, he will impart salvation. For the principle: without David no salvation for Zion, stands fast for ever.

Ver. 13. For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has selected it for his habitation. Ver. 14. “This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell, because I have selected it. Ver. 15. Its food will I bless, its needy satisfy with bread. Ver. 16. And its priests will I clothe with salvation, and its saints shall shout for joy. Ver. 17. There will I make sprout for David a horn, prepare a lamp for mine anointed. Ver. 18. His enemies will I clothe with shame, and upon him shall his crown flourish.”

The sense of Psalms 132:17 is this: there shall I (in all times of weakness) make sprout a horn for David, grant to him new power, prepare (in all times of darkness) a lamp for mine anointed, accomplish for him perpetually deliverance in misfortune. The promise here uttered found its most glorious fulfilment in Christ; however, we must not understand the declaration as exclusively Messianic, we must not conceive precisely Christ to be meant by the horn and the lamp. Against this is the original passage, Psalms 18:28, where the lamp is the image of prosperity, and also Ezekiel 29:21: “In that day will I make a horn to sprout to the house of Israel,” q. d. I will grant him power against his enemies, where the Messianic explanation is unsuitable (see Hävernick); further. Psalms 75:4, and the passages quoted there. It is a further confirmation of this view, that the promise, which is rested upon here, does not point to the Messiah alone, but to the whole line of David’s seed, as is clear already from 1 Kings 11:36. That David is the anointed, is manifest from that very place: “And to his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a lamp always before me in Jerusalem,” and the parallel passages.

For flourishing, in Psalms 132:18, several, who cannot see their way through the figurative expression, would arbitrarily substitute shining; comp. Isaiah 28:1. The suff. refers to David, who ever reigns in his posterity.

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 132". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-132.html.
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