PSALM ONE HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR
Outline
  1. Israelís Safeguard against Extreme Peril (vv.1-5)
  2. Israelís Release from the Snare (vv.6-8)
TITLE A Song of Ascents, of David ( ryvi [n.m.s.] tAl[]M;h; [def.art.w/n.f.p. hl'[]m ma-alah, what comes up; "Ascents"] dwId'l [prep.w/pr.n.]).
Israelís Safeguard (vv.1-5)

VERSE 1 "Had it not been the LORD who was on our side ( yleWl. [prep., unless, except; "Had it not been"] hw"hy [pr.n.] hy"h'v [Qal.pf.3.m.s., hayah, to be; "was"] Wnl' [prep.w/1.c.s.sf.; toward, for; "on our side"])",

"Let Israel now say ( an"-rm;ayO [Qal.impf.3.m.s., amar, say, + prep.; "now"] `laer'f.yI [pr.n., Israel means: "God prevails"]),

VERSE 2 "Had it not been the LORD who was on our side ( yleWl [prep., unless: "Had it not been"] hw"hy [pr.n.] hy"h'v [Qal.pf.3.m.s., hayah; "who was"] Wnl', [prep.w/1.c.s.sf.; "on our side"])

When men rose up against us ( ~WqB [Qal.infin.cstr. ~wq qum, to rise] ~d'a' [n.m.s., man] Wnyle[ [prep.w/1.c.s.sf.; "against us"]);

VERSE 3 Then they would have swallowed us alive ( yz:a] [adv., then] WnW[l'B. [Qal.pf.3.c.p.w/1.c.p.sf. [lB bala, swallow] ~yYIx; [adj.m.s., chay, alive]),

When their anger was kindled against us ( tArx]B; [Qal.inifn.cstr., hrx charah, be hot, burn, furious] ~P'a [n.m.s.w/3.m.p.sf., aph, anger] `WnB' [prep.w/1.c.p.sf.; "against us"]);

VERSE 4 Then the waters would have engulfed us ( yz:a [adv., then] ~yIM;h [def.art.w/n.m.p., mayim, water] WnWpj'v [Qal.pf.3.c.p.w/1.c.p.sf. @jv shataph, wash, engulf]),

The stream would have swept over our soul ( hl'x.n: [n.m.s., nachelah, torrent, wadi] rb;[ [Qal.pf.3.m.s., abhar, pass over] `Wnvep.n:-l[; [prep. + n.f.s.w/1.c.p.sf., nephesh]);

VERSE 5 Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul ( yz:a] [adv., then] `~ynIAdyZEh [def.art.w/n.m.p. !Adz" zadhon, arrogance; "raging"] ~yIMh; [def.art.w/n.m.p., mayim, water] rb;[' [Qal.pf.3.m.s., abhar, pass over] Wnvep.n:-l[; [prep. + n.f.s.w/1.c.p.sf., nephesh, soul])."

ANALYSIS: VERSES 1-5

  1. Psalm 124 is applicable over the course of Israelite history.
  2. David faced any number of threats to his kingdom, of which this psalm could have been the inspiration.
  3. The psalm is timeless, but will have special application in "the time of Jacobís trouble" (Jer.30:5-7) when the race will face its greatest survival test ever.
  4. At that time, Satan will convince the anti-Semitic nations to annihilate the hope of Israel in a final confrontation.
  5. In the opening half-line (v.1a) a priestly cantor urges the congregation or choir to take up the body of the song (vv.2-5).
  6. The very repetition (vv.1a and 2a) serves to emphasize that they have no help but Yahweh.
  7. Without Him Israel would have surely perished from the scene any number of times in her long and crisis-laden history.
  8. Israel is called upon to recall this all-important factor in her uncanny ability to survive one satanic threat after another.
  9. This song is a morale booster and a reminder that Israelís survivability depends upon her Maker (Ps.95:5; Isa.54:5; Hos.8:14).
  10. We overhear the priestly cantor with his opening line, then bringing the congregation in to thunder it out again in v.2.
  11. Verse 1b could be rendered: "Let Israel repeat it" (cp. Ps.129:1).
  12. In v.2-5 the congregation sings of the certain disaster that loomed so near on any number of occasions.
  13. Several metaphors are used to represent the seriousness of her assailants.
  14. "When men rose up against us" refers to every occasion when the integrity of the promises of the special covenants to Israel were threatened.
  15. The hatred that often was in the hearts of Israelís attackers was that of total annihilation of the race (cf. Ps.83:4).
  16. The first metaphor is that of some large monster large enough to swallow its prey in a single gulp (v.3a).
  17. Israel has faced, and will face, danger so great that only the miraculous power of God can turn away the threat.
  18. Verse 3a makes mention of the satanic propaganda that fuels the anti-Semitism over the course of her history.
  19. This hatred against the positive remnant will be at a fever pitch in the Tribulation (Rev.12:17).
  20. If Satan could destroy the race or even negate one of the promises made under the covenants, then he would be able to claim victory in his long war against God.
  21. He tried to wipe out the infant Jesus through his unwitting agent, Herod the Great, but failed (Rev.12:5).
  22. Surveying their history, Godís people acknowledge that they owe their existence to His preservation from deathís mouth (v.3a) and drowning waters (vv.4,5).
  23. The flood metaphor is used in Rev.12:15, but God counters with the jaws of a fissure which swallows up Israelís pursuers.
  24. As in the hymn: "Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing".
  25. Yahwehís protective grace is the secret of the corporate raceís survival until now, in the face of crises that would have long ago made them an extinct people.
Israelís Release from the Snare (vv.6-8)
VERSE 6 Blessed be the LORD ( %WrB' [Qal.pass.pt.m.s., barak, bless] hw"hy> [pr.n.]),

Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth ( aL{v, [prep.w/neg.; absolute prohibition] Wnn"t'n> [Qal.pf.3.m.s.w/1.c.p.sf., nathan, give] @r,j, [n.m.s., tereph, prey; "to be torn"] `~h,yNEvil [prep.w/n.m.dualw/3.m.p.sf., shen, tooth, ivory, talon]).

VERSE 7 Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper (Wnvep.n [n.f.s.w/1.c.p.sf., nephesh, soul] hj'l.m.nI [Niphil.pf.3.f.s., malat, slip away, escape] rAPciK [prep.w/n.f.s., tipor, bird] xP;mi [prep.w/n.m.s.cstr., pach, snare] ~yviq.Ay [Qal.pt.m.p. vqy yaqash, to lure; "trapper"]);

The snare is broken and we have escaped ( xP;h [def.art.w/n.m.s., pach, snare] rB'v.nI; [Niphil.pt.m.s. rbv shabhar, break] Wnx.n:a]w [conj.w/indef.pro., "we"] `Wnj.l'm.nI: [Niphil.pf.1.c.p. jlm malat, slip away]).

VERSE 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD ( Wnrez>[, [n.m.s.w/1.c.p.sf., ezer, help] ~veB. [prep.w/n.m.s.cstr., name] hw"hy> [pr.n.]),

Who made heaven and earth ( hfe[o [Qal.pt.m.s., ashah, make] ~yIm;v' [n.m.p., shamim, heaven] `#r,a'w" [conj.w/n.f.s., earth]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 6-8

  1. The songís second strophe reiterates vv.2b-5, but in positive tones of praise and testimony.
  2. The reversal of doom-laden danger by means of incredible rescue is dramatically described in terms of a helpless bird that surprisingly regains its freedom.
  3. The metaphor of v.6b is that of the agony of a grinding and painful death.
  4. Israelís enemies are portrayed as rapacious beasts who use their teeth to tear apart their kill (cp. Ps.27:2).
  5. The last metaphor most vividly presents the ordeal as that of one who is in the death grip of the enemyís army awaiting certain death.
  6. But inexplicably the snared bird regains its freedom when the trap is broken.
  7. And so Israel survives all her life-threatening crises to live another day in accordance with Godís eternal plan and prophetic word.
  8. Divine aid is more real and potent than the most advanced weapons of the day and the superior numbers that are gathered against the pupil of Godís eye (cf. Isa.54:17; Zech.2:8).
  9. "The snare is broken and we have escaped" is the wonderful epitaph of a people facing insurmountable odds throughout their checkered history.
  10. The greatest and most outstanding example is yet ahead of them.
  11. The bird will fly free to enjoy Millennial blessing.
  12. The closing verse bears witness to divine help, using a standard formula of faith (cf. Ps.121:2).
  13. The cries of Godís people will not go unheard.
  14. Time and again He came to their aid.
  15. What are human enemies when the Creator is on their side?
  16. The One who gives life and meaning to the universe keeps the wolves at bay and against all odds has preserved His chosen people alive.
  17. This same protection and assurance is for the Royal Family (cf. Mt.16:18; 28:20).
  18. The Church has survived her centuries of persecution, and those who have committed their souls to a faithful Creator will not be disappointed (1Pet.4:19).
 

 

END: PSALM ONE HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR
JACK M. BALLINGER
NOVEMBER, 1997
 

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