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Psalm 124

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Rescue from Enemies
MT Intro
A Song of Ascents,
of David
The Lord the Defense of His People Thanksgiving for a National Deliverance God the Protector of His People The Savior of Israel
124:1-5 124:1-5 124:1-5 124:1 124:1-3
      124:2-5  
        124:4-5
124:6-8 124:6-8 124:6-7 124:6-8 124:6-7
    124:8   124:8

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: 124:1-5
 1"Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,"
 Let Israel now say,
 2"Had it not been the Lord who was on our side
 When men rose up against us,
 3Then they would have swallowed us alive,
 When their anger was kindled against us;
 4Then the waters would have engulfed us,
 The stream would have swept over our soul;
 5Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul."

124:1-5 This is a liturgical strophe related to the deliverance of national Israel from a foreign invader. The exact historical setting is not stated.

The psalmist uses powerful imagery to convey YHWH's deliverance.

1. He is on their side, Ps. 124:2

2. the enemy would have swallowed Israel, Ps. 124:3a

3. the enemy had their anger kindled against Israel, Ps. 124:3b

4. the enemy, like a flood, would have engulfed Israel, Ps. 124:4-5

 

124:1 "Let Israel now say" This is a Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense. The response would have been quoted at a national victory celebration (cf. Ps. 129:1).

124:3a This imagery of "swallowing" (BDB 118, KB 134) comes from

1. the personification of the earth (i.e., death, Sheol cf. Exod. 15:12) swallowing the rebellious Levites during the wilderness wandering period (cf. Num. 16:30,32; Deut. 11:6)

2. the attack of a predatory animal (cf. Ps. 35:25; Pro. 1:12; Amos 2:16); this is stated specifically in Ps. 124:6b

 

124:3b The imagery of anger as burning is first used in Gen. 39:19. Fire is used often as a means of

1. judgment

2. anger

3. cleansing

See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE.

124:4-5 The imagery of water/flood as life problems is recurrent in the OT (i.e., Job 22:11; 38:34; Ps. 32:6; 66:12; 69:2; 144:7; Isa. 43:2; Lam. 3:54). It is used of an invasion in Isa. 8:7-8 and Jer. 51:34, as it is in this Psalm. As flood waters cover the land, so do invading armies. The other common metaphor for this was a locust infestation (i.e., Joel).

Whenever water is seen as an enemy of humanity, there may be an allusion to YHWH's defeat of watery chaos (cf. Ps. 29:3,10; 74:12-17; 89:9-10; 93:3-4). This theme is part of YHWH as creator (cf. Ps. 124:8).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 124:6-8
 6Blessed be the Lord,
 Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth.
 7Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper;
 The snare is broken and we have escaped.
 8Our help is in the name of the Lord,
 Who made heaven and earth.

124:6-8 YHWH is blessed (BDB 138, KB 159, Qal passive participle) for His deliverance of national Israel. The deliverance is characterized as

1. escape from a predatory animal (i.e., Ps. 7:2)

2. escape from a bird hunter/trapper (cf. Ps. 91:3; 119:110; Pro. 6:5)

 

124:7b One wonders if this line of poetry is meant to convey the destruction of the invading army.

124:8a The name stands for the person. See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

124:8b This is a set phrase (cf. Ps. 102:25; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 146:6) asserting the uniqueness of Israel's God. See SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM.