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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Psalms 133



Verses 1-3


In the superscription this Psalm is attributed to David. It has been thought by some that it was composed on the occasion of the coming of the elders of Israel to Hebron to anoint him king over all the tribes of Israel (2Sa ; 1Ch 12:38-40). Others have opined that the assembling of the people in great multitudes at Zion to celebrate the great religious festivals gave rise to the Psalm. But it is impossible to come to any certain conclusion as to the date or occasion of its composition.

Herder says that this Psalm "has the fragrance of a lovely rose;" and Perowne: "Nowhere has the nature of true unity—that unity which binds men together, not by artificial restraints, but as brethren of one heart—been more faithfully described; nowhere has it been so gracefully illustrated, as in this short ode. True concord is, we are here taught, a holy thing, a sacred oil, a rich perfume which, flowing down from the head to the beard, from the beard to the garments, sanctifies the whole body. It is a sweet morning dew, which lights not only on the lofty mountain-peaks, but on the lesser hills, embracing all, and refreshing all with its influence."


By unity we do not mean uniformity, or the harmony which is brought about by regulations and restrictions. We are unable to discover any beauty worth speaking of in the unity which is the result of artificial and mechanical arrangements. It is the unity of life and activity and variety which is here celebrated. Uniformity is monotonous, wearisome; but unity is refreshing and beautiful. The only unity worth contending for is "the unity of the Spirit." We have seen an orchestra with five thousand musicians and singers playing and singing magnificent choruses with the most inviolate and enrapturing harmony. There was a great diversity of instruments, and of performers upon them, and of voices, yet there was a sublime and splendid unity. Unity of spirit and aim it is that is insisted upon in the Scriptures. (See Eph .)

The Psalmist sets before us—

I. The propriety of this unity. "Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." Those who form part of one family, should surely live together in peace and harmony. All mankind are children of one father, and are "made of one blood," and should therefore live in peace and harmony. The words of Abram to Lot are applicable between man and man all the world over: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee; for we be brethren." "He that soweth discord among brethren" is "an abomination unto the Lord." This unity is specially binding upon and appropriate amongst Christian brethren. Barnes: "They are redeemed by the same Saviour; they serve the same Master; they cherish the same hope; they are looking forward to the same heaven; they are subject to the same trials, temptations, and sorrows; they have the same precious consolations. There is, therefore, the beauty, the ‘goodness,' the ‘pleasantness' of obvious fitness and propriety in their dwelling together in unity."

II. The comprehensiveness of this unity. Perowne holds that it is this which the poet intends to set forth by the figures of the anointing oil and the dew. He says, "The first figure is taken from the oil which was poured on the head of the high priest at his consecration (Exo ; Lev 8:12; Lev 21:10). The point of the comparison does not lie in the preciousness of the oil, or in its all-pervading fragrance; but in this, that being poured on the head, it did not rest there, but flowed to the beard, and descended even to the garments, and thus, as it were, consecrated the whole body in all its parts. All the members participate in the same blessing. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 12) This is the point of the comparison.… If, as is commonly assumed, the point of comparison lay in the all-pervading fragrance of the oil, the addition to the figure, which descended upon the beard … which descended to the edge of his garments, would be thrown away. But understand this as typifying the consecration of the whole man, and the extension of the figure at once becomes appropriate, and full of meaning." Luther remarks:—"In that he saith ‘from the head,' he showeth the nature of true concord. For like as the ointment ran down from the head of Aaron, the high priest, upon his beard, and so descended unto the borders of his garment, even so true concord in doctrine and brotherly love floweth as a precious ointment, by the unity of the Spirit, from Christ, the High Priest and Head of the Church, unto all the members of the same. For by the beard and extreme parts of the garment, he signifieth that as far as the Church reacheth, so far spreadeth the unity which floweth from Christ, her Head." Perowne holds that in the figure of the dew, the same idea is conspicuous. "Here, again, it is not the refreshing nature of the dew, nor its gentle, all-pervading influence, which is the prominent feature. That which renders it to the poet's eye so striking an image of brotherly concord, is the fact that it falls alike on both mountains: that the same dew which descends on the lofty Hermon descends also on the humbler Zion. High and low drink in the same sweet refreshment. Thus the image is exactly parallel to the last; the oil descends from the head to the beard, the dew from the higher mountain to the lower."

III. The joyousness of this unity. Anointing with oil was practised by the Jews on occasions of rejoicing and festivity. From this custom it became an emblem of prosperity and gladness. (Comp. Psa , and Isa 61:3.) As Perowne thinks that the comprehensiveness of the unity is the chief feature in the comparison, so Barnes regards the joyousness of the unity. He says, "There is no other resemblance between the idea of anointing with oil and that of harmony among brethren than this which is derived from the gladness—the joyousness—connected with such an anointing. The Psalmist wished to give the highest idea of the pleasantness of such harmony; and he, therefore, compared it with that which was most beautiful to a pious mind—the idea of a solemn consecration to the highest office of religion." Discord and strife are painful things; peace and concord are delightful.

IV. The influence of this unity. This is represented as—

1. Delightful. The anointing oil was beautifully perfumed, and, when it was poured forth, it diffused its fragrant odours to the great delight of all who were near. Unity is not only good and pleasant in itself, but it agreeably affects all who behold it. When the world beholds a truly united Church, it will speedily be won to Christ. (Joh .)

2. Gentle. "As the dew." Quiet, yet most mighty, is the influence of unity. We may apply to it the words of Tennyson—

"Right to the heart and brain, though undescried,

Winning its way with extreme gentleness

Through all the outworks of suspicious pride."

3. Refreshing. "As the dew." In eastern climes, because of its refreshing effects upon vegetation, the dew is inestimably precious. So unity cheers and invigorates the heart.

4. Powerful. "Union is strength." "A threefold cord is not quickly broken." "Separate the atoms which make the hammer, and each would fall on the stone as a snowflake; but welded into one, and wielded by the firm arm of the quarryman, it will break the massive rocks asunder. Divide the waters of Niagara into distinct and individual drops, and they would be no more than the falling rain; but, in their united body, they would quench the fires of Vesuvius, and have some to spare for the volcanoes of other mountains."—Dr. Guthrie.

5. Securing the Divine blessing. Where true brotherly unity is, "the Lord commands the blessing, life for evermore." A life of peace and love is Divine and everlasting.

CONCLUSION.—"Behold, how good and pleasant it is," &c.

1. Behold, and admire.

2. Behold, and imitate.


(Psa )

Christian union is my theme on this occasion. Christian union—not simply the union which should prevail among the members of any particular denomination of Christians, but the love and unity which ought to exist among all the real people of God.

I. Its nature.

1. Unity in sentiment.

2. Union of feeling.

3. Union of effort.

II. The desirableness, or importance, of Christian union.

1. The teachings of Scripture.

2. The example of the early Christians.

3. The evils of division.

4. Christians are engaged in the same cause.

5. Union is strength.

6. Union is promotive of happiness.

7. It is only by the exercise of that love, which is the substratum of union, that one can resemble God and become imbued with the spirit of heaven.—W. C. Whitcomb, in "The Preachers' Treasury."


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 133:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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