Psalm 120

A song of accent


In my distress, I called out to the Lord and he answered me.

Lord deliver my soul[i] from those with lying lips and deceitful tongues.

What is given to you and what will be gained by a lying tongue?[ii]

Only the sharp arrows of mighty men and the burning embers of their fire.

Woe is me because my stay has been prolonged, I continue to dwell in the tents of gloom[iii].

For too long my soul has remained with those who hate peace.

I am peace[iv] but when I speak, they are ready for war.

[i] Lit. Snatch away my soul.

[ii] While most versions see Yahweh as the agent, it is equally possible that the lying tongue is the agent; the latter provides better continuity with vs. 2. See “Baker commentary on the Psalms, Vol 3”

[iii] John Goldingay notes that Kedar and Meshek are very different places, in the opposite directions from Canaan. Meshek is in Turkey, to the northwest. Kedar is a nomadic shepherding tribe in the Arabian Desert, to the east and south of Canaan. These two peoples were not thought of as more warlike or hostile to Judeans than many others. Additionally, In Hebrew it is sometime difficult to know when a proper name is intended because most names are composed of words that form the normal everyday Hebrew vocabulary. The LXX translation of this verse gives us a hint that a proper name may not have been intended, it reads“my stay has been prolonged, I have lived among the tents of Kedar” suggesting that at least Meshek was understood as something other than a proper name at a very early point in History. The context itself suggests that the author many not have intended to name specific places but instead wanted to speak of the gloom that confronted those in the diaspora.

[iv]  Most Hebrew Mss. Read “אני שלום” (I am peace) but BHS notes that two Mss. read “אני לשלום” (I am for peace). The LXX differs here significantly and reads as follows “with those hating peace, I am peaceful.”

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