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Wednesday, July 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 123

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Psalms 123:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Prayer for the Lord's HelpMT IntroA Song of AscentsPrayer for Relief From ContemptPrayer for Deliverance from Enemies(A Lament)A Prayer for MercyPrayer in Distress
Psalms 123:1-2Psalms 123:1-2Psalms 123:1-2Psalms 123:1-2Psalms 123:1-2b
Psalms 123:2c-f
Psalms 123:3-4Psalms 123:3-4Psalms 123:3-4Psalms 123:3-4Psalms 123:3-4b
Psalms 123:4c

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. Etc.

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 123:1-2 1To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! 2Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the Lord our God, Until He is gracious to us.

Psalms 123:1 This is similar to Psalms 121:1 (lifting up one's eyes was a gesture of prayer). In Psalms 121:2 “heaven” referred to the atmosphere above the earth (cf. Genesis 1:1), but here to the throne of God (cf. Psalms 11:4; Psalms 103:19; Isaiah 66:1). See Special Topics

1. SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN

2. SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEAVENS AND THE THIRD HEAVEN

As is so common in the Psalter, there is a fluidity between the individual and the corporate. This Psalm starts out with “I” but moves rapidly toward “us.”

Psalms 123:2 The word “hand” (BDB 388, see SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND) is an idiom of power over (i.e., master, mistress). YHWH is the ultimate source of power and lordship. His people look to Him.

“the Lord our God” This is similar to the title first used in Genesis 2:4, which combines YHWH and Elohim. Eloh is probably the singular form. This double title combines two characteristics of Israel's God.

1. creator, sustainer, provider of all life on this planet - Elohim

2. savior, covenant-making God - YHWH

See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

“Until He is gracious to us” The psalmist's situation is described in Psalms 123:3-4. He is patient that God will act on his behalf (Qal imperfect). He calls on God in prayer twice in Psalms 123:3 (two Qal imperatives) to act on his behalf in compassion and mercy (BDB 335, KB 334).

Verses 3-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 123:3-4 3Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us, For we are greatly filled with contempt. 4Our soul is greatly filled With the scoffing of those who are at ease, And with the contempt of the proud.

Psalms 123:3-4 As so often in the Psalter the author feels attacked (here he expresses the corporate aspect also). Here it is wealthy, powerful fellow Israelites (i.e., Isaiah 32:11; Amos 6:1). Their actions fill him with “contempt” (BDB 100) and “scoffing” (BDB 541). It is surely possible that Psalms 122:0 and 123 reflect the period of Ezra, Nehemiah. Often these kinds of people act as if they are the masters but the psalmist knows YHWH is the true and ultimate master. Life is often unfair and demands patient prayer and a proper worldview!

The UBS Handbook (p. 1059) asserts that “the language of verses Psalms 123:3-4 implies that the enemies are foreigners, not fellow Israelites.” But I see nothing in Psalms 123:3-4 that proves this, and the problems of post-exilic Jerusalem fit this context better.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 123". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-123.html. 2021.
 
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