A song of the Ascent for David
11QPSa Col. III. Psalms 121:1-8, 122:1-9, 123-1-2
I was happy when they said to me
“we will go to the house of the Lord.”
Here we stand[i] at the gates of Jerusalem
(Jerusalem, a city built for fellowship[ii])
It was there that the tribes go up
the tribes of the Lord
As a testimony for Israel
they confess the Name of the Lord
There sits the seat of judgment,
the throne of the house of David[iii]
Ask for the peace of Jerusalem
those who love you will be at rest[iv]
There will be peace within your walls[v],
tranquility within your towers
For the sake of my brothers and my friends
I will declare peace in you
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God
I will seek what is good for you
[i] Lit. “our feet are standing…”
[ii] The phrase “יְרוּשָׁלִַ֥ם הַבְּנוּיָ֑ה כְּ֜עִ֗יר שֶׁחֻבְּרָה־לָּ֥הּ יַחְדָּֽו” is difficult to interpret. A literal translation would be “Jerusalem was built as a city united to it[self], together.” While a number of translations have understood this to be a physical description of Jerusalem, this does not seem to fit well with the context of this Psalm which seems much more focused on the intangible qualities of this city i.e. as a place that brings joy (vs.1), a place where the tribes of the Lord come and worship (vs. 4), a place of justice and of David’s throne (vs. 5), a place of peace and tranquility (vs. 6-8), a place of goodness (vs. 9). The verb חבר (joined/united) can refer to both people and things and the noun form of חבר means friend. There is a word play in the Psalms Misdrash draws out this relationship, it says this verse is describing a time “when all Israel will be friends” (עוד שהיא עושה כל ישראל חברים). The LXX translation reads “Jerusalem is built as a city whose fellowship is complete.” Both of these sources suggest that the focus of this verse was much more upon the uniting of the people within Jerusalem’s walls than it was on the physical aspects of the city itself. The NET translation notes suggest that this is “a reference to Jerusalem’s role as a city where people congregated for religious festivals and other civic occasions” or in other words a place of “fellowship” which seems far more fitting to the context of this Psalm.
[iii] In the MT “seat” is plural but it is singular in the 11Qpsa; unfortunately the singular or plural designation of the seat(s) of judgment cannot be determined in 11Qpsa because the text in near the margin was lost. In its singular form there is a strong picture of Jerusalem as the place where our final king, judge, and Messiah sits on his throne.
[iv] To be at rest (שלה) is used here synonymously with being at peace (שלום). This parallelism is again repeated in the following verse.
[v] The Hebrew word חיל can refer to a stronghold, like a walled city, the army that defends the city, or even the wealth of the city. In this usage, it refers to a place of strength paralleling the reference to the towers which are also a reference to a physical stronghold.