Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Prayer for the House of God and the House of David
Psa 131:1-3 designedly precedes Psalms 132. The former has grown out of the memory of an utterance of David when he brought home the Ark, and the latter begins with the remembrance of David's humbly zealous endeavour to obtain a settled and worthy abode for the God who sits enthroned above the Ark among His people. It is the only Psalm in which the sacred Ark is mentioned. The chronicler put Psa 132:8-10 into the mouth of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple (Ch2 6:41.). After a passage borrowed from Psa 130:2 which is attached by עתּה to Solomon's Temple-dedication prayer, he appends further borrowed passages out of Psalms 132 with ועתּה. The variations in these verses of the Psalms, which are annexed by him with a free hand and from memory (Jahve Elohim for Jahve, לנוּחך for למנוּחתך, תּשׁוּעה for צדק, בּטּוב ישׂמחוּ for ירנּנוּ), just as much prove that he has altered the Psalm, and not reversely (as Hitzig persistently maintains), that the psalmist has borrowed from the Chronicles. It is even still distinctly to be seen how the memory of Isa 55:3 has influenced the close of Ch2 6:42 in the chronicler, just as the memory of Isa 55:2 has perhaps also influenced the close of Ch2 6:41.
The psalmist supplicates the divine favour for the anointed of Jahve for David's sake. In this connection this anointed one is neither the high priest, nor Israel, which is never so named (vid., Hab 3:13), nor David himself, who "in all the necessities of his race and people stands before God," as Hengstenberg asserts, in order to be able to assign this Son of degrees, as others, likewise to the post-exilic time of the new colony. Zerubbabel might more readily be understood (Baur), with whom, according to the closing prophecy of the Book of Haggai, a new period of the Davidic dominion is said to begin. But even Zerubbabel, the פּחת יהוּדה, could not be called משׁיח, for this he was not. The chronicler applies the Psalm in accordance with its contents. It is suited to the mouth of Solomon. The view that it was composed by Solomon himself when the Ark of the covenant was removed out of the tent-temple on Zion into the Temple-building (Amyraldus, De Wette, Tholuck, and others), is favoured by the relation of the circumstances, as they are narrated in Ch2 5:5., to the desires of the Psalm, and a close kinship of the Psalm with Ps 72 in breadth, repetitions of words, and a laboured forward movement which is here and there a somewhat uncertain advance. At all events it belongs to a time in which the Davidic throne was still standing and the sacred Ark was not as yet irrecoverably lost. That which, according to 2 Sam. 6, Sa2 7:1, David did for the glory of Jahve, and on the other hand is promised to him by Jahve, is here made by a post-Davidic poet into the foundation of a hopeful intercessory prayer for the kingship and priesthood of Zion and the church presided over by both.
The Psalm consists of four ten-line strophes. Only in connection with the first could any objection be raised, and the strophe be looked upon as only consisting of nine lines. But the other strophes decide the question of its measure; and the breaking up of the weighty Psa 132:1 into two lines follows the accentuation, which divides it into two parts and places את by itself as being את (according to Accentssystem, xviii. 2, with Mugrash). Each strophe is adorned once with the name of David; and moreover the step-like progress which comes back to what has been said, and takes up the thread and carries it forward, cannot fail to be recognised.
One is said to remember anything to another when he requites him something that he has done for him, or when he does for him what he has promised him. It is the post-Davidic church which here reminds Jahve of the hereinafter mentioned promises (of the "mercies of David," Ch2 6:42, cf. Isa 55:3) with which He has responded to David's ענות. By this verbal substantive of the Pual is meant all the care and trouble which David had in order to procure a worthy abode for the sanctuary of Jahve. ענה ב signifies to trouble or harass one's self about anything, afflictari (as frequently in the Book of Ecclesiastes); the Pual here denotes the self-imposed trouble, or even that imposed by outward circumsntaces, such as the tedious wars, of long, unsuccessful, and yet never relaxed endeavours (Kg1 5:17). For he had vowed unto God that he would give himself absolutely no rest until he had obtained a fixed abode for Jahve. What he said to Nathan (Sa2 7:2) is an indication of this vowed resolve, which was now in a time of triumphant peace, as it seemed, ready for being carried out, after the first step towards it had already been taken in the removal of the Ark of the covenant to Zion (2 Sam. 6); for 2 Sam 7 is appended to 2 Sam. 6 out of its chronological order and only on account of the internal connection. After the bringing home of the Ark, which had been long yearned for (Psa 101:2), and did not take place without difficulties and terrors, was accomplished, a series of years again passed over, during which David always carried about with him the thought of erecting God a Temple-building. And when he had received the tidings through Nathan that he should not build God a house, but that it should be done by his son and successor, he nevertheless did as much towards the carrying out of the desire of his heart as was possible in connection with this declaration of the will of Jahve. He consecrated the site of the future Temple, he procured the necessary means and materials for the building of it, he made all the necessary arrangements for the future Temple-service, he inspirited the people for the gigantic work of building that was before them, and handed over to his son the model for it, as it is all related to us in detail by the chronicler. The divine name "the mighty One of Jacob" is taken from Gen 49:24, as in Isa 1:24; Isa 49:26; Isa 60:16. The Philistines with their Dagon had been made to feel this mighty Rock of Jacob when they took the sacred Ark along with them (Sa1 5:1-12). With אם David solemnly declares what he is resolved not to do. The meaning of the hyperbolically expressed vow in the form of an oath is that for so long he will not rejoice at his own dwelling-house, nor give himself up to sleep that is free from anxiety; in fine, for so long he will not rest. The genitives after אהל and ערשׂ are appositional genitives; Ps 44 delights in similar combinations of synonyms. יצוּעי (Latin strata mea) is a poetical plural, as also is משׁכּנות. With תּנוּמה (which is always said of the eyelids, Gen 31:40; Pro 6:4; Ecc 8:16, not of the eyes) alternates שׁנת (according to another reading שׁנת) for שׁנה. The āth is the same as in נחלת in Psa 16:6, cf. 60:13, Exo 15:2, and frequently. This Aramaizing rejection of the syllable before the tone is, however, without example elsewhere. The lxx adds to Psa 132:4, καὶ ἀνάπαυσιν τοῖς κροτάφοις μου (וּמנוּחה לרקּותי), but this is a disagreeable overloading of the verse.
In Psa 132:6 begins the language of the church, which in this Psalm reminds Jahve of His promises and comforts itself with them. Olshausen regards this Psa 132:6 as altogether inexplicable. The interpretation nevertheless has some safe starting-points. (1) Since the subject spoken of is the founding of a fixed sanctuary, and one worthy of Jahve, the suffix of שׁמענוּה (with Chateph as in Hos 8:2, Ew. ֗60, a) and מצאנוּה refers to the Ark of the covenant, which is fem. also in other instances (Sa1 4:17; Ch2 8:11). (2) The Ark of the covenant, fetched up out of Shiloh by the Israelites to the battle at Ebenezer, fell into the hands of the victors, and remained, having been again given up by them, for twenty years in Kirjath-Jearim (Sa1 7:1.), until David removed it out of this Judaean district to Zion (Sa2 6:2-4; cf. Ch2 1:4). What is then more natural than that שׂדי־יער is a poetical appellation of Kirjath-Jearim (cf. "the field of Zoan" in Psa 78:12)? Kirjath-Jearim has, as a general thing, very varying names. It is also called Kirjath-ha-jearim in Jer 26:20 (Kirjath-'arim in Ezr 2:25, cf. Jos 18:28), Kirjath-ba'al in Jos 16:1-10 :50, Ba'alah in Jos 15:9; Ch1 13:6 (cf. Har-ha-ba'alah, Jos 15:11, with Har-Jearim in Jos 15:10), and, as it seems, even Ba'al Jehudah in Sa2 6:2. Why should it not also have been called Ja'ar side by side with Kirjath-Jearim, and more especially if the mountainous district, to which the mention of a hill and mountain of Jearim points, was, as the name "city of the wood" implies, at the same time a wooded district? We therefore fall in with Khnl's (1799) rendering: we found it in the meadows of Jaar, and with his remark: "Jaar is a shortened name of the city of Kirjath-Jearim."
The question now further arises as to what Ephrathah is intended to mean. This is an ancient name of Bethlehem; but the Ark of the covenant never was in Bethlehem. Accordingly Hengstenberg interprets, "We knew of it in Bethlehem (where David had spent his youth) only by hearsay, no one had seen it; we found it in Kirjath-Jearim, yonder in the wooded environs of the city, where it was as it were buried in darkness and solitude." So even Anton Hulsius (1650): Ipse David loquitur, qui dicit illam ipsam arcam, de qua quum adhuc Bethlehemi versaretur inaudivisset, postea a se (vel majroibus suis ipso adhuc minorenni) inventam fuisse in campis Jaar. But (1) the supposition that David's words are continued here does not harmonize with the way in which they are introduced in Psa 132:2, according to which they cannot possibly extend beyond the vow that follows. (2) If the church is speaking, one does not see why Bethlehem is mentioned in particular as the place of the hearsay. (3) We heard it in Ephrathah cannot well mean anything else than, per antiptosin (as in Gen 1:4, but without כּי), we heard that it was in Ephrathah. But the Ark was before Kirjath-Jearim in Shiloh. The former lay in the tribe of Judah close to the western borders of Benjamin, the latter in the midst of the tribe of Ephraim. Now since אפרתי quite as often means an Ephraimite as it does a Bethlehemite, it may be asked whether Ephrathah is not intended of the Ephraimitish territory (Khnl, Gesenius, Maurer, Tholuck, and others). The meaning would then be: we had heard that the sacred Ark was in Shiloh, but we found it not there, but in Kirjath-Jearim. And we can easily understand why the poet has mentioned the two places just in this way. Ephrāth, according to its etymon, is fruitful fields, with which are contrasted the fields of the wood - the sacred Ark had fallen from its original, more worthy abode, as it were, into the wilderness. But is it probable, more especially in view of Mic 5:1, that in a connection in which the memory of David is the ruling idea, Ephrathah signifies the land of Ephraim? No, Ephrathah is the name of the district in which Kirjath-Jearim lay. Caleb had, for instance, by Ephrath, his third wife, a son named Hr (Chr), Ch1 2:19, This Hr, the first-born of Ephrathah, is the father of the population of Bethlehem (Ch1 4:4), and Shobal, a son of this Hr, is father of the population of Kirjath-Jearim (Ch1 2:50). Kirjath-Jearim is therefore, so to speak, the daughter of Bethlehem. This was called Ephrathah in ancient times, and this name of Bethlehem became the name of its district (Mic 5:1). Kirjath-Jearim belonged to Caleb-Ephrathah (Ch1 2:24), as the northern part of this district seems to have been called in distinction from Negeb-Caleb (Sa1 30:14).
But משׁכּנותיו in Psa 132:7 is now neither a designation of the house of Abinadab in Kirjath-Jearim, for the expression would be too grand, and in relation to Psa 132:5 even confusing, nor a designation of the Salomonic Temple-building, for the expression standing thus by itself is not enough alone to designate it. What is meant will therefore be the tent-temple erected by David for the Ark when removed to Zion (Sa2 7:2, יריעה). The church arouses itself to enter this, and to prostrate itself in adoration towards (vid., Psa 99:5) the footstool of Jahve, i.e., the Ark; and to what purpose? The ark of the covenant is now to have a place more worthy of it; the מנוּחה, i.e., the בּית מנוּחה, Ch1 28:2, in which David's endeavours have through Solomon reached their goal, is erected: let Jahve and the Ark of His sovereign power, that may not be touched (see the examples of its inviolable character in Sa1 5:1-12, 1 Sam 6, Sa2 6:6.), now enter this fixed abode! Let His priests who are to serve Him there clothe themselves in "righteousness," i.e., in conduct that is according to His will and pleasure; let His saints, who shall there seek and find mercy, shout for joy! More especially, however, let Jahve for David's sake, His servant, to whose restless longing this place of rest owes its origin, not turn back the face of His anointed one, i.e., not reject his face which there turns towards Him in the attitude of prayer (cf. Psa 84:10). The chronicler has understood Psa 132:10 as an intercession on behalf of Solomon, and the situation into which we are introduced by Psa 132:6-8 seems to require this. It is, however, possible that a more recent poet here, in Psa 132:7-8, reproduces words taken from the heart of the church in Solomon's time, and blends petitions of the church of the present with them. The subject all through is the church, which is ever identical although changing in the persons of its members. The Israel that brought the sacred Ark out of Kirjath-Jearim to Zion and accompanied it thence to the Temple-hill, and now worships in the sanctuary raised by David's zeal for the glory of Jahve, is one and the same. The prayer for the priests, for all the saints, and more especially for the reigning king, that then resounded at the dedication of the Temple, is continued so long as the history of Israel lasts, even in a time when Israel has no king, but has all the stronger longing for the fulfilment of the Messianic promise.
The "for the sake of David" is here set forth in detail. אמת in Psa 132:11 is not the accusative of the object, but an adverbial accusative. The first member of the verse closes with לדוד, which has the distinctive Pazer, which is preceded by Legarmeh as a sub-distinctive; then follows at the head of the second member אמת with Zinnor, then לא־ישׁוּב ממּנּה with Olewejored and its conjunctive Galgal, which regularly precedes after the sub-distinctive Zinnor. The suffix of ממּנּה refers to that which was affirmed by oath, as in Jer 4:28. Lineal descendants of David will Jahve place on the throne (לכסּא like לראשׁי in Psa 21:4) to him, i.e., so that they shall follow his as possessors of the throne. David's children shall for ever (which has been finally fulfilled in Christ) sit לכסּא to him (cf. Jer 9:5; Jer 36:7). Thus has Jahve promised, and expects in return from the sons of David the observance of His Law. Instead of עדתי זוּ it is pointed עדתי זו. In Hahn's edition עדתי has Mercha in the penult. (cf. the retreat of the tone in זה אדני, Dan 10:17), and in Baer's edition the still better attested reading Mahpach instead of the counter-tone Metheg, and Mercha on the ultima. It is not plural with a singular suffix (cf. Deu 28:59, Ges. 91, 3), but, as זו = זאת indicates, the singular for עדוּתי, like תּחנתי for תּחנוּתי in Kg2 6:8; and signifies the revelation of God as an attestation of His will. אלמּדם has Mercha mahpach., זו Rebia parvum, and עדתי Mercha; and according to the interpunction it would have to be rendered: "and My self-attestation there" (vid., on Psa 9:16), but zow is relative: My self-attestation (revelation), which I teach them. The divine words extend to the end of Psa 132:12. The hypotheses with אם, as the fulfilment in history shows, were conditions of the continuity of the Davidic succession; not, however - because human unfaithfulness does not annul the faithfulness of God - of the endlessness of the Davidic throne. In Psa 132:13 the poet states the ground of such promissory mercy. It is based on the universal mercy of the election of Jerusalem. אוּהּ has He mappic. like ענּה in Deu 22:29, or the stroke of Raphe (Ew. 247, d), although the suffix is not absolutely necessary. In the following strophe the purport of the election of Jerusalem is also unfolded in Jahve's own words.
Shiloh has been rejected (Psa 78:60), for a time only was the sacred Ark in Bethel (Jdg 20:27) and Mizpah (Jdg 21:5), only somewhat over twenty years was it sheltered by the house of Abinadab in Kirjath-Jearim (Sa1 7:2), only three months by the house of Obed-Edom in Perez-uzzah (Sa2 6:11) - but Zion is Jahve's abiding dwelling-place, His own proper settlement, מנוּחה (as in Isa 11:10; Isa 66:1, and besides Ch1 28:2). In Zion, His chosen and beloved dwelling-place, Jahve blesses everything that belongs to her temporal need (צידהּ for זידתהּ, vid., on Psa 27:5, note); so that her poor do not suffer want, for divine love loves the poor most especially. His second blessing refers to the priests, for by means of these He will keep up His intercourse with His people. He makes the priesthood of Zion a real institution of salvation: He clothes her priests with salvation, so that they do not merely bring it about instrumentally, but personally possess it, and their whole outward appearance is one which proclaims salvation. And to all her saints He gives cause and matter for high and lasting joy, by making Himself known also to the church, in which He has taken up His abode, in deeds of mercy (loving-kindness or grace). There (שׁם, Psa 133:3) in Zion is indeed the kingship of promise, which cannot fail of fulfilment. He will cause a horn to shoot forth, He will prepare a lamp, for the house of David, which David here represents as being its ancestor and the anointed one of God reigning at that time; and all who hostilely rise up against David in his seed, He will cover with shame as with a garment (Job 8:22), and the crown consecrated by promise, which the seed of David wears, shall blossom like an unfading wreath. The horn is an emblem of defensive might and victorious dominion, and the lamp (נר, Sa2 21:17, cf. ניר, Ch2 21:7, lxx λύχνον) an emblem of brilliant dignity and joyfulness. In view of Eze 29:21, of the predictions concerning the Branch (zemach) in Isa 4:2; Jer 23:5; Jer 33:15; Zac 3:8; Zac 6:12 (cf. Heb 7:14), and of the fifteenth Beracha of the Shemone-Esre (the daily Jewish prayer consisting of eighteen benedictions): "make the branch (zemach) of David Thy servant to shoot forth speedily, and let his horn rise high by virtue of Thy salvation," - it is hardly to be doubted that the poet attached a Messianic meaning to this promise. With reference to our Psalm, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, changes that supplicatory beracha of his nation (Luk 1:68-70) into a praiseful one, joyfully anticipating the fulfilment that is at hand in Jesus.