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Psalms 121:1-8

Context
Psalm 121 1 

A song of ascents. 2 

121:1 I look up 3  toward the hills.

From where 4  does my help come?

121:2 My help comes from the Lord, 5 

the Creator 6  of heaven and earth!

121:3 May he not allow your foot to slip!

May your protector 7  not sleep! 8 

121:4 Look! Israel’s protector 9 

does not sleep or slumber!

121:5 The Lord is your protector;

the Lord is the shade at your right hand.

121:6 The sun will not harm you by day,

or the moon by night. 10 

121:7 The Lord will protect you from all harm;

he will protect your life.

121:8 The Lord will protect you in all you do, 11 

now and forevermore.

Malachi 4:2

Context
4:2 But for you who respect my name, the sun of vindication 12  will rise with healing wings, 13  and you will skip about 14  like calves released from the stall.

Psalms 139:9-10

Context

139:9 If I were to fly away 15  on the wings of the dawn, 16 

and settle down on the other side 17  of the sea,

139:10 even there your hand would guide me,

your right hand would grab hold of me.

The Song of Songs 4:6

Context

4:6 Until the dawn arrives 18 

and the shadows flee,

I will go up to the mountain of myrrh,

and to the hill of frankincense.

1 sn Psalm 121. The psalm affirms that the Lord protects his people Israel. Unless the psalmist addresses an observer (note the second person singular forms in vv. 3-8), it appears there are two or three speakers represented in the psalm, depending on how one takes v. 3. The translation assumes that speaker one talks in vv. 1-2, that speaker two responds to him with a prayer in v. 3 (this assumes the verbs are true jussives of prayer), and that speaker three responds with words of assurance in vv. 4-8. If the verbs in v. 3 are taken as a rhetorical use of the jussive, then there are two speakers. Verses 3-8 are speaker two’s response to the words of speaker one. See the note on the word “sleep” at the end of v. 3.

2 sn The precise significance of this title, which appears in Pss 120-134, is unclear. Perhaps worshipers recited these psalms when they ascended the road to Jerusalem to celebrate annual religious festivals. For a discussion of their background see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 (WBC), 219-21.

3 tn Heb “I lift my eyes.”

4 tn The Hebrew term מֵאַיִן (meayin) is interrogative, not relative, in function. Rather than directly stating that his source of help descends from the hills, the psalmist is asking, “From where does my help come?” Nevertheless, the first line does indicate that he is looking toward the hills for help, probably indicating that he is looking up toward the sky in anticipation of supernatural intervention. The psalmist assumes the dramatic role of one needing help. He answers his own question in v. 2.

5 tn Heb “my help [is] from with the Lord.”

6 tn Or “Maker.”

7 tn Heb “the one who guards you.”

8 tn The prefixed verbal forms following the negative particle אל appear to be jussives. As noted above, if they are taken as true jussives of prayer, then the speaker in v. 3 would appear to be distinct from both the speaker in vv. 1-2 and the speaker in vv. 4-8. However, according to GKC 322 §109.e), the jussives are used rhetorically here “to express the conviction that something cannot or should not happen.” In this case one should probably translate, “he will not allow your foot to slip, your protector will not sleep,” and understand just one speaker in vv. 4-8.

9 tn Heb “the one who guards Israel.”

10 sn One hardly thinks of the moon’s rays as being physically harmful, like those of the sun. The reference to the moon may simply lend poetic balance to the verse, but it is likely that the verse reflects an ancient, primitive belief that the moon could have an adverse effect on the mind (note the English expression “moonstruck,” which reflects such a belief). Another possibility is that the sun and moon stand by metonymy for harmful forces characteristic of the day and night, respectively.

11 tn Heb “your going out and your coming in.”

12 tn Here the Hebrew word צְדָקָה (tsÿdaqah), usually translated “righteousness” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV, NLT; cf. NAB “justice”), has been rendered as “vindication” because it is the vindication of God’s people that is in view in the context. Cf. BDB 842 s.v. צְדָקָה 6; “righteousness as vindicated, justification, salvation, etc.”

sn The expression the sun of vindication will rise is a metaphorical way of describing the day of the Lord as a time of restoration when God vindicates his people (see 2 Sam 23:4; Isa 30:26; 60:1, 3). Their vindication and restoration will be as obvious and undeniable as the bright light of the rising sun.

13 sn The point of the metaphor of healing wings is unclear. The sun seems to be compared to a bird. Perhaps the sun’s “wings” are its warm rays. “Healing” may refer to a reversal of the injury done by evildoers (see Mal 3:5).

14 tn Heb “you will go out and skip about.”

15 tn Heb “rise up.”

16 sn On the wings of the dawn. This personification of the “dawn” may find its roots in mythological traditions about the god Shachar, whose birth is described in an Ugaritic myth (see G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 126) and who is mentioned in Isa 14:12 as the father of Helel.

17 tn Heb “at the end.”

18 tn Heb “until the day breathes.”



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