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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 123


psa 123:0

Upward Glance to the Lord in Times of Contempt

This Psalm is joined to the preceding Psalm by the community of the divine name Jahve our God. Alsted (died 1638) gives it the brief, ingenious inscription oculus sperans. It is an upward glance of waiting faith to Jahve under tyrannical oppression. The fact that this Psalm appears in a rhyming form, "as scarcely any other piece in the Old Testament" (Reuss), comes only from those inflexional rhymes which creep in of themselves in the tephilla style.

Psalms 123:1

psa 123:1

The destinies of all men, and in particular of the church, are in the hand of the King who sits enthroned in the unapproachable glory of the heavens and rules over all things, and of the Judge who decides all things. Up to Him the poet raises his eyes, and to Him the church, together with which he may call Him "Jahve our God," just as the eyes of servants are directed towards the hand of their lord, the eyes of a maid towards the hand of her mistress; for this hand regulates the whole house, and they wait upon their winks and signs with most eager attention. Those of Israel are Jahve's servants, Israel the church is Jahve's maid. In His hand lies its future. At length He will take compassion on His own. Therefore its longing gaze goes forth towards Him, without being wearied, until He shall graciously turn its distress. With reference to the i of היּשׁבי, vid., on Psa 113:1-9, Psa 114:1-8. אדוניהם is their common lord; for since in the antitype the sovereign Lord is meant, it will be conceived of as plur. excellentiae, just as in general it occurs only rarely (Gen 19:2, Gen 19:18; Jer 27:4) as an actual plural.

Psalms 123:3

psa 123:3

The second strophe takes up the "be gracious unto us" as it were in echo. It begins with a Kyrie eleison, which is confirmed in a crescendo manner after the form of steps. The church is already abundantly satiated with ignominy. רב is an abstract "much," and רבּה, Psa 62:3, something great (vid., Bצttcher, Lehrbuch, ֗624). The subjectivizing, intensive להּ accords with Psa 120:6 - probably an indication of one and the same author. בּוּז is strengthened by לעג, like בּז in Eze 36:4. The article of הלּעג is restrospectively demonstrative: full of such scorn of the haughty (Ew. ֗290, d). הבּוּז is also retrospectively demonstrative; but since a repetition of the article for the fourth time would have been inelegant, the poet here says לגאיונים with the Lamed, which serves as a circumlocution of the genitive. The Masora reckons this word among the fifteen "words that are written as one and are to be read as two." The Kerמ runs viz., לגאי יונים, superbis oppressorum (יונים, part. Kal, like היּונה Zep 3:1, and frequently). But apart from the consideration that instead of גּאי, from the unknown גּאה, it might more readily be pointed גּאי, from גּאה (a form of nouns indicating defects, contracted גּא), this genitival construction appears to be far-fetched, and, inasmuch as it makes a distinction among the oppressors, inappropriate. The poet surely meant לגאיונים or לגּאיונים. This word גּאיון (after the form רעיון, אביון, עליון) is perhaps an intentional new formation of the poet. Saadia interprets it after the Talmudic לגיון, legio; but how could one expect to find such a Grecized Latin word (λεγεών) in the Psalter! dunash ben-Labrat (about 960) regards גאיונים as a compound word in the signification of הגּאים היונים. In fact the poet may have chosen the otherwise unused adjectival form גּאיונים because it reminds one of יונים, although it is not a compound word like דּביונים. If the Psalm is a Maccabaean Psalm, it is natural to find in לגאיונים an allusion to the despotic domination of the יונים.

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