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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 84



Verses 1-12

LXXXIV. A Pilgrim Psalm.

Psalms 84:3. sparrow (rather "little bird" generally) and swallow are metaphorical for pious Jewish pilgrims. As the birds find their nests and homes, so the Jew, worthy of the name, finds his rest and joy in proximity to the altars of his God. "Altars" may be a poetical plural, like "holy places" in Psalms 68:35 (cf. especially Psalms 132:5; Psalms 132:7). To take the words as if they meant that the birds in the literal sense found a home at the altar would involve manifest absurdity. The swallow still haunts the temple-mosque at Jerusalem, but an altar with its crowd of worshippers and its sacrifices by fire is surely the last place which a bird would choose for its nest or even as a favourite resort.

Psalms 84:5. Read, "in whose heart are ascents" (LXX), i.e. pilgrimages to Jerusalem on the height.

Psalms 84:6. The meaning is very doubtful. The "valley of balsam shrubs" (? cf. mg.) is mentioned only here. Possibly there was such a valley on the way to Jerusalem. The Psalmist by a play of words thinks of it as a vale of weeping, barren and repulsive. Cf. Bab el Mandeb, "Gate of lamentation," at the narrow and perilous entrance of the Red Sea. Read, perhaps, "As they pass through the valley of Baca, He (i.e. God) maketh it a spring."—blessings: read "pools." The early rain falls in October, before the new farming year begins.

Psalms 84:7. Instead of growing weary, the pilgrims are strengthened by that journey. Read, "seeth God in Zion."

Psalms 84:9. Translate "O God, behold our shield and look," etc. The "anointed one" may be the High Priest (see Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16; Leviticus 6:15).

Psalms 84:10. Read, "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand away"; mg. gives better the sense of what follows.

It has been thought that Psalms 84:9; Psalms 84:11 f. have been in whole or part interpolated into this Ps. as a liturgical conclusion.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Psalms 84:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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