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Psalms 126:1-3

Context
Psalm 126 1 

A song of ascents. 2 

126:1 When the Lord restored the well-being of Zion, 3 

we thought we were dreaming. 4 

126:2 At that time we laughed loudly

and shouted for joy. 5 

At that time the nations said, 6 

“The Lord has accomplished great things for these people.”

126:3 The Lord did indeed accomplish great things for us.

We were happy.

1 sn Psalm 126. Recalling the joy of past deliverance, God’s covenant community asks for a fresh display of God’s power and confidently anticipate their sorrow being transformed into joy.

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 “turns with a turning [toward] his people.” The Hebrew noun שִׁיבַת (shivat) occurs only here in the OT. For this reason many prefer to emend the form to the more common שְׁבִית (shevit) or שְׁבוּת (shÿvut), both of which are used as a cognate accusative of שׁוּב (shuv; see Ps 14:7). However an Aramaic cognate of שְׁבִית appears in an eighth century b.c. Old Aramaic inscription with the verb שׁוּב. This cognate noun appears to mean “return” (see J. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Treaties of Sefire [BibOr], 119-20) or “restoration” (see DNWSI 2:1125). Therefore it appears that שְׁבִית should be retained and understood as a cognate accusative of שׁוּב. In addition to Fitzmyer (119-20) see L. C. Allen, who offers the literal translation, “turn with a turning toward” (Psalms 101-150 [WBC], 170). Allen takes שְׁבִית as construct and understands “Zion” as an objective genitive.

4 tn Heb “we were like dreamers.” This could mean the speakers were so overcome with ecstatic joy (see v. 3b) that they were like those who fantasize about pleasurable experiences in their sleep (see Isa 29:7-8). Since dreams are more commonly associated in the OT with prophetic visions, the community may be comparing their experience of God’s renewed favor to a prophet’s receiving divine visions. Just as a prophetic dream sweeps the individual into a different dimension and sometimes brings one face-to-face with God himself (see Gen 28:11-15; 1 Kgs 3:5-15), so the community was aware of God’s presence in a special way in the day of Zion’s restoration. Though the MT as it stands makes good sense, some choose to understand a homonymic root here meaning “to be healthy; to be strong” (see BDB 321 s.v. I חָלַם) and translate, “we were like those restored to health.” This reading appears to have the support of several ancient translations as well as 11QPsa. See L. C. Allen (Psalms 101-150 [WBC], 170-71) for a discussion of the viewpoints.

5 tn Heb “then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with a shout.”

6 tn Heb “they said among the nations.”



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