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Psalm 123

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for the Lord's Help
MT Intro
A Song of Ascents
Prayer for Relief From Contempt Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies
(A Lament)
A Prayer for Mercy Prayer in Distress
123:1-2 123:1-2 123:1-2 123:1-2 123:1-2b
        123:2c-f
123:3-4 123:3-4 123:3-4 123:3-4 123:3-4b
        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.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 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.

123:1 This is similar to Ps. 121:1 (lifting up one's eyes was a gesture of prayer). In Ps. 121:2 "heaven" referred to the atmosphere above the earth (cf. Gen. 1:1), but here to the throne of God (cf. Ps. 11:4; 103:19; Isa. 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."

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 Gen. 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 Ps. 123:3-4. He is patient that God will act on his behalf (Qal imperfect). He calls on God in prayer twice in Ps. 123:3 (two Qal imperatives) to act on his behalf in compassion and mercy (BDB 335, KB 334).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 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.

123:3b-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., Isa. 32:11; Amos 6:1). Their actions fill him with "contempt" (BDB 100) and "scoffing" (BDB 541). It is surely possible that Psalms 122 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 3-4 implies that the enemies are foreigners, not fellow Israelites." But I see nothing in Ps. 123:3-4 that proves this, and the problems of post-exilic Jerusalem fit this context better.