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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 120

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Psalms 120:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Prayer for Deliverance from the TreacherousMT IntroA Song of AscentsPlea for Relief from Bitter FoesAn Exile's Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies(A Lament)A Prayer for HelpThe Enemies of Peace
Psalms 120:1-4Psalms 120:1-2Psalms 120:1-2Psalms 120:1-2Psalms 120:1-2
Psalms 120:3-4Psalms 120:3-4Psalms 120:3-4Psalms 120:3-4
Psalms 120:5-7Psalms 120:5-7Psalms 120:5-7Psalms 120:5-7Psalms 120:5
Psalms 120:6-7

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 120:1-4 1In my trouble I cried to the Lord, And He answered me. 2Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, From a deceitful tongue. 3What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, You deceitful tongue? 4Sharp arrows of the warrior, With the burning coals of the broom tree.

Psalms 120:1 “In my trouble” Exactly what trouble (BDB 865 I, feminine noun) is not stated but it is somehow related to

1. lying lips, Psalms 120:2a

2. deceitful tongue, Psalms 120:2b, Psalms 120:3b

The etymological root of the related verb (BDB 864) denotes that which binds or restrains. Used metaphorically of something narrow, tight, or in a constricted place. The same root is used of an adversary or foe (BDB 865 III).

This concept of “restriction” is opposite of the Hebrew imagery of spaciousness, openness, and freedom.

“I cried to the Lord” In times of distress faithful followers turn to YHWH in prayer and He hears (the verbs denote a past event). See SPECIAL TOPIC: EFFECTIVE PRAYER.

The name for Deity is YHWH, the covenant name for Israel's God. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

Psalms 120:2 “Deliver my soul” The verb (BDB 664, KB 717) is a Hiphil imperative. It denotes an intense prayer. The basic meaning of this root in the Hiphil is to “snatch away,” like prey from a predator's mouth.

The term “soul” (BDB 659) is nephesh, which denotes a life force. See full note online at Genesis 35:18.

“lying lips. . .deceitful tongue” These are in a Hebrew synonymous parallel relationship. See Special Topic: Hebrew Poetry.

Psalms 120:3 The psalmist addresses his opponents directly. He asserts that YHWH will give them what they deserve (AB, p. 196; UBS Handbook, p. 1048).

Psalms 120:4 The imagery of Psalms 120:4 is the answer to the question of Psalms 120:3. This is how YHWH will respond to these “lying tongues” (cf. Psalms 7:13).

Verses 5-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 120:5-7 5Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech, For I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6Too long has my soul had its dwelling With those who hate peace. 7I am for peace, but when I speak, They are for war.

Psalms 120:5 “Meshech. . .Kedar” These seem to be examples of exploitation (cf. Ezekiel 27:13, Ezekiel 27:21). Possibly the psalmist is attributing to his opponents the violent, sinful qualities of these national groups.

The other option is to see these as geographical opposites, one to the far north, the other to the south. If so, then it is imagery of

1. “deliver me far from these hateful people”

2. “please let me not be so far from the temple”

Psalms 120:6-7 This hints at the psalmist's attackers as being political enemies who want military conflict.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Who is attacking the psalmist?

2. Explain the imagery of Psalms 120:4.

3. Why are two ethnic groups mentioned in Psalms 120:5?

4. How do Psalms 120:6 and 7 explain or define the possible historical setting?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 120". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-120.html. 2021.
 
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