Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 122

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Verses 1-2


After his personal view on the LORD and the encouragement it gave him in the previous psalm, in this psalm he sees with great joy that there are fellow pilgrims. Here we hear about fellow pilgrims for the first time in the songs of ascents. This applies both to the remnant returning to the promised land and to the faithful Israelites in the land who are on their way to Jerusalem because of the feasts of the LORD.

While prophetically the chosen people from the ten tribes make their way to Jerusalem as pilgrims from all directions (Matthew 24:31), they encounter fellow pilgrims. They encourage one another with the prospect of soon being in Jerusalem (Psalms 122:1-Numbers :) and begin to pray together for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalms 122:6-1 Samuel :).

This is a song of the single person, “I” (Psalms 122:1), who takes courage at the sight of fellow pilgrims. It is the experience of Paul who, when he is a prisoner on his way to Rome, just before Rome, at the Market of Appius and Three Inns, sees his fellow brothers. This leads him to give thanks to God and to take courage (Acts 28:15).

The Joy of the Pilgrim

Of this “Song of Ascents”, the third, we know who the poet is (Psalms 122:1). This song is “of David”. He expresses his joy about it when “they” say to him: “Let us go to the house of the LORD” (cf. Hebrews 12:2). His God-fearing peers tell him of their intention to go up to God’s house, the temple in Jerusalem, on the occasion of one of the feasts (cf. Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 26:16). His heart leaps for joy when he hears of this desire. How good it does a heart when it meets like-minded believers.

In Psalms 122:2, the pilgrims see themselves in faith as having arrived in the city. This is how faith can speak, because faith is sure that what is promised will happen. They address the city as a person, so excited are they about being back there.

They see their feet standing in the gates of the city. To stand with one’s feet somewhere means to take possession of it and declare it property (Joshua 1:3). Often the gate is the place of jurisdiction (Ruth 4:1; Ruth 4:11; Amos 5:10; Amos 5:12Amos 5:15). The pilgrims have the right to enter the city; they belong there.

They can enter through the gates because by confessing their sins they are fit to enter God’s presence. Both at the gate of a city and at the gate of the temple there are gatekeepers. They are to prevent unauthorized persons from entering (cf. 2 Chronicles 23:19).

Now that the LORD is both King and Priest in Jerusalem, the distinction between the city of the great King and the house of God, the temple, becomes less sharp. It is noteworthy that the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – translates ‘gates’ with ‘court’.

While in the Old Testament the temple is the house of God, where the LORD has made His Name to dwell, in the realm of peace the whole city will be the place where the LORD dwells. Then Jerusalem will have a new name, namely, “the LORD is there” (Ezekiel 48:35).

Verses 3-5

The Thanksgiving of the Pilgrim

Full of admiration they look at the city and notice that it is “compact together” (Psalms 122:3). It is with it as with the curtains of tent that lie over the tabernacle, which are also so fastened together that they form one whole. There the same word “compact together” is used in Hebrew (Exodus 26:6; Exodus 26:9Exodus 26:11). It expresses the unity and close fellowship of the people of God under their King and God.

In faith the faithful see the totality of the people who are now so divided and scattered. The people of God are formed by “the tribes”, that is, the twelve tribes, which are emphatically called “the tribes of the LORD” (Psalms 122:4). This means that Judah, the two tribes, and Israel, the ten tribes, are joined together (Ezekiel 37:21-Song of Solomon :).

Normally we speak of the tribes of Israel. So it is striking that here they are called the tribes of the LORD. This emphasizes that they are His property. Not only are they rightfully His because He formed them, they are also His because He bought and redeemed them with His precious blood. They belong to Him because He has chosen and acquired them for Himself to be together His people.

This they will become aware of in the end times, when they come face to face with their Messiah.
“Every eye will see Him”, – that is, the whole world, whereas now only we see Him (Hebrews 2:9) –
“even those who pierced Him” – i.e. the two tribes (cf. Zechariah 12:10) – “and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him” – i.e. all the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 24:30) –
“So it is to be. Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

The city has great appeal for them. That attraction is in what and Who is there. They come there to praise His Name. It is about Him. It is He through Whom they are bound together as tribes and together form His people. They meet there with Him.

The city is not only the center of worship, but also the center of justice (Psalms 122:5). To this “the thrones … for justice” refer. Justice is directly connected to “the house of David” (Isaiah 9:8; Isaiah 11:3-Deuteronomy :). This refers to the royal jurisdiction of the house of David. The LORD is then in truth the King of righteousness (Hebrews 7:2) in Jerusalem.

Just as Solomon as King was also the highest judge, the Lord Jesus as King will also judge on His throne (Matthew 25:31). There is mention of thrones, plural. This indicates that there are multiple thrones. They are there because there are others who may reign with Christ (Matthew 19:28; Revelation 4:4).

Verses 6-9

The Prayer of the Pilgrim

After the thrones of justice, which emphasizes maintaining justice, there can be peace (Psalms 122:6). Peace is based on justice. While the tribes are there, they ask to pray “for the peace for Jerusalem” (cf. Jeremiah 29:7), for it is not yet the situation of the realm of peace. Peace is more than just the absence of war. It is harmony and prosperity under the government of the Prince of peace.

When an Israelite meets another Israelite, they wish peace to each other with the greeting shalom. When an Israelite enters a house, he wishes “God’s peace” to that house. Even as the pilgrims enter the city of Jerusalem, they wish peace to Jerusalem, so that Jerusalem will in truth be ‘the city of peace’ according to the meaning of its name. Then the title of the Lord Jesus will also be King of Salem, that is, the King of peace (Hebrews 7:2). True peace is possible only when the Prince of peace is actually King.

A wish for blessing is attached to the prayer for peace: “May they prosper who love you.” Those who love Jerusalem, the city of peace, love peace. Therefore, for them the LORD can be asked to make them prosperous (cf. Matthew 10:40-Luke :). Jerusalem means “city of peace”, but since a brief period of peace under the reign of Solomon, there has never been peace in the city. That peace will only become a reality when the city opens its gates to the Prince of peace.

There is a great desire for “peace be within your walls” and “prosperity within your palaces” (Psalms 122:7). That there are walls (cf. Psalms 48:13-2 Chronicles :) means that although there are enemies, they are no longer a threat (Isaiah 26:1). There can be peace and rest when the heart is in fellowship with the LORD.

For a local church, a situation of peace and rest can also be a reality (cf. Acts 9:31). This will be the case when believers put themselves personally under the authority of the Lord Jesus. They will then experience “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

Those who personally have that peace and rest will also wish it for their “brothers” and their “friends” (Psalms 122:8). Paul does the same in the opening words of almost all his letters. He has with them a common love for Jerusalem and the temple, that is, for Him Who dwells there. Together they serve and worship Him. This shows that at the deepest level it is not about buildings, but about people. The peace of the city must ultimately result in the peace of the people toward God and among themselves.

This aspect is also important for the church. We are called “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), for we are with all believers “held together by what every joint supplies” (Ephesians 4:16).

The ultimate desire for peace has to do with the fact that in the city is “the house of the LORD our God” (Psalms 122:9). This is the motivation of the God-fearing to seek the good for the city. This psalm is emphatically about the house of the LORD. The psalm begins with it in Psalms 122:1 and it ends with it in Psalms 122:9.

That there is mention of the testimony in Psalms 122:4, connected with the Name of the LORD, makes it clear that this psalm is about the place the LORD has chosen “to establish His Name there” (Deuteronomy 12:5). That place is what the psalmist loves.

In the same way, we must be concerned with the Lord Jesus. Where He is glorified and worshiped, there is also our place. We know from the New Testament that we have come to the spiritual Mount Zion (Hebrews 12:22-Isaiah :; cf. Galatians 4:24). This drawing near denotes an atmosphere into which we enter. The atmosphere at “Mount Zion” is one of grace and peace, of inviting love, where all fear is absent (1 John 4:18). This is characteristic of the company of the children of God.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 122". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-122.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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