Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The resolution of a godly man, Psa 121:1, Psa 121:2. The safety and prosperity of such, as they and theirs shall be under the continual protection of God, Psa 121:3-8.
This appears to be a prayer of the Jews in their captivity, who are solicitous for their restoration. It is in the form of a dialogue.
Psa 121:1, Psa 121:2. The person who worships God speaks the two first verses, "I will lift up mine eyes-my help cometh," - Psa 121:1, Psa 121:2.
Psa 121:3. The ministering priest answers him, "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved." "He that keepeth thee will not slumber," Psa 121:3.
To which the worshipper answers, that he knows that "he who keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep," Psa 121:4; but he seems to express a doubt whether he shall be an object of the Divine attention.
Psa 121:5 etc. The priest resumes; and, to the conclusion of the Psalm, gives him the most positive assurances of God's favor and protection.
Unto the hills - Jerusalem was built upon a mountain; and Judea was a mountainous country; and the Jews, in their several dispersions, turned towards Jerusalem when they offered up their prayers to God.
My help cometh from the Lord - There is no help for me but in my God; and I expect it from no other quarter.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved - The foundation, God's infinite power and goodness, on which thou standest, cannot be moved; and whilst thou standest on this basis, thy foot cannot be moved.
He that keepeth Israel - The Divine Being represents himself as a watchman, who takes care of the city and its inhabitants during the night-watches; and who is never overtaken with slumbering or sleepiness. There is a thought in the Antigone of Sophocles, that seems the counterpart of this of the psalmist,
Ταν σαν, Ζευ, δυναμιν τις ανδρων
Ταν ουθ' ὑπνος αἱ -
ρει ποθ' ὁ παντογηρως,
Ακαματοι τε θεων
Antig. ver. 613, Edit. Johnson.
Shall men below control great Jove above,Whose eyes by all-subduing sleep
Are never closed, as feeble mortals' are;But still their watchful vigil keep
Through the long circle of th' eternal year?
The sun shall not smite thee by day - Thus expressed by the Chaldee: "The morning spectres shall not smite thee by day, during the government of the sun; nor the nocturnal spectres by night, during the government of the moon." I believe the psalmist simply means, they shall not be injured by heat nor cold; by a sun-stroke by day, nor a frost-bite by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil - Spiritual and corporeal, natural and moral.
He shall preserve thy soul - Take care of thy life, and take care of thy soul.
Thy going out and thy coming in - Night and day - in all thy business and undertakings; and this through the whole course of thy life: for evermore.