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

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-9

Psalms 122:0

A Song of degrees of David

          I was glad when they said unto me,
Let us go into the house of the Lord.

2     Our feet shall stand

Within thy gates, O Jerusalem.

3     Jerusalem is builded

As a city that is compact together:

4     Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel.

To give thanks unto the name of the Lord.

5     For there are set thrones of judgment,

The thrones of the house of David.

6     Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

They shall prosper that love thee.

7     Peace be within thy walls,

And prosperity within thy palaces.

8     For my brethren and companions’ sakes,

I will now say, Peace be within thee.

9     Because of the house of the Lord our God.

We will seek thy good.


Contents and Composition.—The Psalmist had rejoiced in those, who, at the close of their pilgrim-journey to Jerusalem, had expressed to him their intention of visiting the house of God. (Psalms 122:1-2). This gives occasion to him to celebrate the praise of Jerusalem, as a city unbroken and perfectly regular in its structure, whither the tribes of Jehovah, according to the law established in Israel, made their festival journeys, and which, besides this religious importance, exercised great political influence as the seat of the kingdom of David (Psalms 122:3-5). Peace and prosperity should be invoked for this city and its inhabitants, and the Psalmist sets the example of such supplication, as a companion of the people and a lover of God’s house (Psalms 122:6-9). The text, however, on account of the indefiniteness of the Hebrew tenses, has given occasion also to other explanations. But this view seems most suitable, if the Davidic authorship be held. The statement to that effect in the superscription is, it is true, not found in the Sept. et al.; but it occurs in the Heb. Text, and cannot be directly disproved from the contents of the Psalm, or from its linguistic peculiarities. For the שׁ prefixed, Psalms 122:3-4, is a poetical form which is found even in the most ancient songs.—[Alexander: “This Psalm, though so much older than the two before it, was probably placed third in the series because it was intended to be sung, and actually was sung, at the entrance of the Holy City, whereas the others were used at the commencement of the march and on coming in sight of Jerusalem.” On the other hand, Perowne prefers to look for a composition subsequent to the exile, and cannot regard the expression: “thrones of the house of David,” as a natural one in the mouth of David himself. But, apart from the evidence of the superscription, an argument against the lateness of the composition may be based upon this very expression, as has been done by Hengstenberg. For it evidently points to a time when the kingdom of David was still flourishing. Besides as Hengst. also remarks, how could the allusion to the beautiful compactness of the city be of force after the exile? Perowne very properly objects, on account of the joyful tone of the poem, to the opinion of Ewald, that it contains “a blessing on a party of pilgrims uttered by an old man returned from the exile, himself unequal to a journey across the desert.”—J. F. M.]

Psalms 122:1-2. I joyed in those that said,etc. [E. V.: I joyed when they said, etc.] The mode of expression is not favorable to the supposition that the Psalmist had just received the invitation to join the festal train, that he expresses his joy thereat, and directs his gaze to Jerusalem in hope of speedily arriving thither (Luther and most). It is a retrospect that he makes (Sept., Aquila, and the ancient versions generally). But he says neither that his joy was at an end, nor that the time when it was excited was very remote. This remains quite indefinite. The Psalmist only mentions a certain experience and the feeling thereby excited. His joyful feelings had for their direct object, not the journey, but the persons who had spoken to the Psalmist with regard to it, and whose words contained both an invitation and a positive statement. The invitation relates to a journey to be made to the house of God in company with the Psalmist; the information, to journeys previously and happily performed by the speakers, and therefore passes over into an expression of praise. This could very well have happened in the experience of David in Jerusalem, before whom the pilgrims had appeared. There is not the slightest occasion for connecting it with the absence of David and his longing after the sanctuary during the flight before Absalom (Del.). [Delitzsch merely gives this as the most suitable time, if the composition were to be assigned to David. But his opinion, more decidedly pronounced in his last edition, is that the Psalm was composed by one who was gazing upon Jerusalem restored from its ruin after the exile. He therefore renders, in Psalms 122:3 : rebuilt, instead of built.—J. F. M.] No indication of longing or of sorrow is heard; but everything breathes joy, and the assertion that the absence of the poet from Jerusalem is understood as a matter of course (Hupfeld), is wholly a product of fancy. Nor is there any occasion for taking the words as a prophecy (Calvin, Venema). Nothing points to the future. On the contrary, the participle with היה expresses duration of time, extending through the past into the present. In any case, Psalms 122:2 can be detached entirely from the one preceding, which would then be taken as the introduction, and may be understood as expressing not the words of the pilgrims, but of the poet harmonizing with them. But this view is not absolutely necessary. If it be the correct one, these words in the mouth of David could be justified only on the supposition that he speaks for the people (Hengst.), and the poet would be made to appear as a fellow-pilgrim, unknown to us from any other indications, journeying from the country outside to the Holy City, in company with the visitors at the festival, who speak in Psalms 122:1. He, arrived at the end of his journey, breaks forth in admiring praise at the sight of the glorious beauty of Jerusalem, after first expressing the delight which he had experienced at the time of the invitation in those who had addressed it to him. But this view is certainly more to be commended than the assumption that Psalms 122:2 also contains a retrospect, and that the whole poem was sung on the return from the journey (Delitzsch), or by an exile (Ewald), who, in joyful sympathy with the resolution of some pious Israelites, to undertake a pilgrimage, relapsed into reminiscences of the time when his feet too were standing in the gates of Jerusalem. [Psalms 122:1-2 are thus translated by Dr. Moll:

I took delight in those who said to me:
We will go into the house of Jehovah;
Our feet have become standing
In thy gates, Jerusalem.

This view, according to which Psalms 122:2 is a continuation of the words of the pilgrims, is the most suitable, if David be regarded as the author. Perowne, holding the other view, joins it to Psalms 122:3.—The rendering “shall stand” in E. V. is ungrammatical. The true meaning expressed freely is probably: have gained a place. On the meanings of the subst. verb with the part., see Ewald, 168 c.—J. F. M.].

Psalms 122:3. Jerusalem, thou that art built up. [E. V.: is builded.] Taken by itself, this expression would be meaningless. It has therefore often been taken emphatically: built up loftily, stately (most), or, under the supposition of a composition after the exile: thou that art rebuilt (Hupfeld, Del.). But the former is linguistically inadmissible; the latter an unsupported assumption. To gain the surest meaning, it is best to connect it with the following word by which a sentence results, somewhat halting in structure, it is true, but yet not altogether without example. But the object of the building is not that men should assemble there (Luther). The character of Jerusalem is exhibited as a city self-inclosed, adhering closely together as a community (Sept. Symmachus). The city, however, is not contrasted with the scattered dwellings of a village (Aben Ezra and many older expositors), as though the verse expressed the admiration felt by a rustic pilgrim, who, for the first time, beholds a great city (Herder, De Wette). It is mentioned, either as one which had no breaches in its wall (Hitzig, who refers specially to the building operations of Jonathan), or, generally, as one that was secure and strong on account of its compact structure. The older Rabbins, following the Targum, interpreted the expression as referring to the heavenly Jerusalem; and so it has often been applied, in the mystical sense, in the Christian Church. [Translate Psalms 122:3 : Jerusalem, thou that art built up as a city that is compact together.—J. F. M.]

Psalms 122:4. This verse is a retrospect of actual events; but it does not intimate that they had happened long, for centuries, or since ancient times, but that the tribes which, as being those of God’s people, are here called the tribes of Jehovah, had already for some time observed this custom. Accordingly the law referring to it, Exodus 23:14-15; Deuteronomy 16:16, is mentioned as a “testimony of Israel.” The term עֵדוּתִ does not imply that it was an old-established custom, but only that the tribes who formed the united Israel had already publicly professed their allegiance to this law, and abided by it. David, in the later years of his life, could express himself thus, and apply the words of Psalms 122:5, which are employed more objectively here with relation to his house, with a meaning based upon the prophecy in 2 Samuel 7:0, if the verse be not itself a prophecy.

Psalms 122:5. The thrones are not magisterial benches=courts of justice under David’s authority (Hengst.), or a court of inferior judges formed by the sons of the king (J. H. Mich. et al.), but the thrones of a judge=thrones of the king (Rosenmüller et al.); for the administration of justice was the original and principal duty of the monarch in times of peace (2 Samuel 15:2; 1 Kings 3:16). The word for is explained by the consideration that Jerusalem owed its elevation, as the religious centre of the nation, to its previous position as the civil capital (Hengst.). [Render Psalms 122:4-5 : Whither the tribes went up—the tribes of Jehovah—a law of Israel—to give thanks to the name of Jehovah. For there were set thrones for judgment—thrones for the house of David.—J. F. M.]

Psalms 122:6-7. The wishes are arranged alliteratively, and contain unmistakable allusions to the name Jerusalem and its signification=peaceful dwelling. But the word schalôm is more comprehensive than our word peace [Friede]; it includes welfare or prosperity and happiness. Psalms 122:6 does not call for an inquiry=ask after the peace (Sept. et al.), but for intercession=pray for the peace of Jerusalem. In Psalms 122:6 b. we are not to supply: saying (Isaaki, Geier); it is the wish of the speaker himself (J. H. Mich.) in behalf of those who love Jerusalem, as contrasted with those who hate Zion (Psalms 129:5). The walls or the bulwarks and the palaces are not intended to represent the outside and inside (most), but express the idea of the city itself (Psalms 48:14).

Psalms 122:8 shows that no reproach of selfishness or private interest could possibly be made. The welfare of all the members of the Church lies close to the heart of the Psalmist (comp. Jeremiah 29:7). It is doubtful whether in the second member the rendering should be: pronounce peace over thee, i.e., wish and pray for thee peace (Sept., Luther and most) or: speak peace, for peace in thee (Calvin, Geier, Venema, Hupfeld) or: say, peace be in thee (Piscator, Köster, Hengst., Olshausen).


He who loves the people of God must not only be willing to build and protect for them the house of God, but must also invite them thither, and walk thither with them.—Peace rules only where the God of peace dwells; cleave thou then to the city of peace which is the Church of the living God.—When we go out of our houses, let us see well to it, (1) with whom, (2) whither, (3) for what purpose.—The greatest glory of a city is not that it is large, strong and magnificent, but that it gathers, protects and builds up God’s Church within it.—He who delights to give thanks, will also delight to pray, and that not only for himself, but also with and for others. Blessed is the man for whom attendance upon the house of God is a season of delight and an occasion of thanksgiving, praise and prayer.—Blessed are the people whose national life has for its centre the sanctuary of God.

Calvin: When the welfare of our brethren is dear to us, when we have religion in our hearts, then we must, as far as in us lies, care for the prosperity of the Church.

Starke: The true worship of God and the exercise of righteousness are strong pillars of a city or state.—The ministers of God’s word have not only to pray themselves for the welfare of the Church, but also to exhort their people diligently to do the same.—Peace, with its delights, is one of the most precious of earthly blessings. But what is more abused?—The true members of the Church possess that inward spiritual peace which includes all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.—How blessed is the communion of saints! Daily and hourly can a citizen of the spiritual Jerusalem enjoy thousands of wishes of peace, uttered for him by believers throughout the whole world.—Those are the true patriots who, without seeking their own advantage, seek and entreat help for the well-being of their fellow-countrymen and the furthering of true religion.

Frisch: A place is made illustrious and glorious only by a good government and the true worship of God.—Arndt: God blesses His people with peace and all blessings when they manifest brotherly love; but see who the true brethren of Christ are.—Rieger: Prayer must be made continually, that good regulations in the Church and in schools may not fall into disuse, that good plans may not be marred by discord.—Reichel: All the regulations which David made had a reference to the house of the Lord. He devoted every day of his latest years to building it up and directing its services. He delighted in all that spoke to him of it, and enjoyed its worship.—Tholuck: David prepared a dwelling-place for the Lord upon Zion, because he loved it, and his heart clung more to that place, because he had prepared a dwelling-place there for God.—Diedrich: Wherever men assemble, according to God’s appointment, to enjoy in common what He reveals, there is Jerusalem.—Taube: David’s city is the city of God; for in David’s person is represented a two fold type —the God-ordained king and the servant of the Lord.—David desired to have one thing implored for his beloved city—peace, that it might prevail in the city of peace—without before the walls, within in each dwelling.—Lyncker: Concerning pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem, (1) what joy it excites (Psalms 122:1-3); (2) what prospects it opens (Psalms 122:4-5); (3) what obligations it involves (Psalms 122:6-9).

[Matt. Henry: They that rejoice in the Lord, will rejoice in calls and opportunities to wait upon Him.—We should desire our Christian friends, when they have any good work in hand, to call for us and take us along with them.—We must pray for Jerusalem, not out of custom or for fashion’s sake, but out of a principle of love to God’s government of man, and man’s worship of God. And in seeking the public welfare we seek our own; for so well doth God love the gates of Zion, that He will love all those that do love them; and therefore they cannot but prosper; at least their souls shall prosper, by the ordinances they so dearly love.—Whatever lies within the sphere of our activity to do for the public good, we must do it, else we are not sincere in praying for it.—Scott: Satan’s maxim always has been, to divide that he might conquer, and few Christians have been sufficiently aware of his design.—Barnes: The heart of a pious man is in the Church of God; his main delight is there; his arrangements will be made so as best to enjoy the privileges of the sanctuary; and his plans of life will all contemplate the welfare, the extension, and the influence of the Church of God.—J. F. M.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 122". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-122.html. 1857-84.
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