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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 124


A Song of degrees of David.

The absence of any local allusions, and the very general terms in which the author clothes his description, adapt this psalm to the public use of the Church in all ages on any occasion of marked deliverance from great danger. The danger was imminent, the distress overwhelming, the deliverance sudden and timely, and indisputably from “Jehovah, who made heaven and earth.” The Hebrew title ascribes it to David, but the Septuagint and the earlier versions, except the Chaldee, make it anonymous. The spirit, boldness, and language are Davidic, and it might well enough suit the perils of his Aramaic and Edomitish wars, to which, if he wrote it, it should be assigned. But another event of great moment to the Jewish nation, more perfectly suiting the exigence and escape herein described, seems to be entitled to the higher claim their deliverance from the decree of Haman. Esther 3:0, and sequel. This gives the psalm the postexilic data to which modern commentators generally incline. The supposed Aramaic word-forms are disputed, and we pass them over. If David wrote it, as Hengstenberg and others contend, and as is, after all, possible, it was placed here among psalms of later date, undoubtedly, because it suited the struggling nation in its often-checked, imperilled efforts to reconstruct after the exile, (see besides the above, Nehemiah 4:7-15,) and because it was suitable to be placed for all time among those national ballads which celebrate the crises of their history. It is not improbable that Mordecai, or a devout Levite, may have remodelled it from the form of an old Davidic production originally penned for another occasion.

Verse 1

1. If it had not been The Hebrew is abrupt and elliptical, If not, or unless, Jehovah was for us. Alexander proposes, as tantamount, “What if the Lord had not been for us?” leaving the answer to the imagination of the reader.

Now may Israel say The particle נא , ( nah,) is intensive of the imperative, as, Israel, say I pray. It is an urgent call to confession of Jehovah’s timely aid.

Verse 2

2. When men rose up against The idea is that of a sudden rising, an open and hostile uprising.

Verse 3

3. Swallowed us up quick Literally, Swallowed us up alive. The allusion seems to be to Korah and his company, (Numbers 16:30,) “If the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth and swallow them up… and they go down alive into the pit.” See also Psalms 55:15; Psalms 69:15

Verse 4

4. The waters… overwhelmed us Probably an allusion to Exodus 14:27-28.

The stream The mountain torrent. These, in the rainy season, are terrible, and against them no art or power of man can prevail. A single thunder storm of rain will often suffice to create a flood which sweeps away habitations and families and animals. Such a seil, or flood, in the Wady Solaf, Mount Sinai, in 1867, swept away an Arab encampment, and forty persons, with many camels, sheep, and cattle, perished in the waters. Palmer and his company saw trunks of large palm trees which had been carried thirty miles down the valley by this flood. See Psalms 18:13; Psalms 18:15. The description of Isaiah 8:7-8, refers to the excessive overflow of the Nile or of the Euphrates, which, though more rare and gradual, is yet far more terrible. These perils from the great forces of nature are a fit emblem of the dangers, often as sudden as overwhelming, to which the militant Church is exposed.

Verse 7

7. Snare is broken, and we are escaped Both snare and fowler are in God’s hands, and he will not only deliver his people, but crush the power of the enemy. The figure applies only to such an escape as is from the very teeth of death. They were already in the snare the watchful fowler had only to take his prey.

Verse 8

8. Our help is in the… Lord Thus the psalm closes with a repetition of the opening statement, not now with the “ If not Jehovah was on our side,” but, “our help is in… Jehovah.” The lesson is complete. The creator of all worlds alone can redeem and protect his Church from all forms of assault in all the ages.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 124". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.