Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This psalm is simply entitled "A Song of Degrees." The author of it is not known, nor can the occasion on which it was written be certainly ascertained. It would seem to have been composed in a time of public distress and disaster; when the affairs of the nation were in jeopardy, and especially when the line of the monarchy seemed about to fail, and the promises made to David seemed about to come to nought. It would have been a suitable occasion for such a psalm at the time immediately preceding the captivity in Babylon, or on the return from Babylon, when the throne was tottering or had fallen, and when God seemed to be about to forsake his house, the temple - or had forsaken it, and suffered it to fall to ruin. At such a time of national disaster, when it appeared as if the house of God was to be permanently destroyed, and the government to be overturned forever, it was natural and proper thus to make mention of the zeal, the toil, and the sacrifice of him who had sought a "habitation" for God; who had planned and labored that there might be a permanent dwelling-place for the Most High, and who had received gracious promises from God himself in regard to the permanent establishment of his family on the throne. It would be appropriate, also, to recall this as a foundation for the prayer that God would again visit Zion, and would fulfill the promises which he had given to David.
The psalm therefore consists properly of two parts:
I. A statement of the zeal of David for the ark, in securing a permanent abode for it, Psa 132:1-8; and
II. A reference to the promises made to David and his posterity, and a prayer that these promises might be carried out and accomplished, Psa 132:9-18.
Lord, remember David - Call to remembrance his zeal, his labor, his trials in order that there might be a permanent place for thy worship. Call this to remembrance in order that his purpose in thy cause may not be frustrated; in order that the promises made to him may be accomplished.
And all his afflictions - The particular trial here referred to was his care and toil, that there might be a settled home for the ark. The word used would not refer merely to what is specified in the following verses (his bringing up the ark to Mount Zion), but to his purpose to build a house for God, and - since he was not permitted himself to build it because he was a man of war, and had been engaged in scenes of blood, Kg1 5:3; Ch1 22:8 - to his care and toil in collecting materials for the temple to be erected by his son and successor. It is not, therefore, his general afflictions which are here meant, but his anxiety, and his efforts to secure a lasting place for the worship of God.
How he sware unto the Lord - The solemn oath which he took that he would make this the first object; that he would give himself no rest until this was done; that he would sacrifice his personal ease and comfort in order that he might thus honor God. This oath or purpose is not recorded in the history. The fair interpretation of this would be either
(1) that these words properly expressed what was in the mind of David at the time - that is, his acts implied that this purpose was in his heart; or
(2) that this vow was actually made by David, though not elsewhere recorded. Such a vow might have been made, and the remembrance of it kept up by tradition, or it might have been suggested to the author of the psalm by direct inspiration.
And vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob - See Gen 49:24. The God whom Jacob worshipped, and who had manifested himself so signally to him as a God of might or power.
Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house - The tent of my dwelling; the place where I abide. Nor go up into my bed The couch of my bed, or where I sleep. I will make it my first business to find a dwelling-place for the Lord; a place where the ark may repose.
I will not give sleep to mine eyes ... - There is no difference here between the words sleep and slumber. The meaning is, that the house of the Lord should be his first care.
Until I find out a place for the Lord - A place for the ark of God; a place where it may constantly and safely remain. The symbol of the divine presence rested on the mercy-seat, the cover of the ark, and hence, this was represented as the seat or the house of God.
An habitation for the mighty God of Jacob - Hebrew, "For the mighty One of Jacob." The reference is to a permanent dwelling-place for the ark. It had been moved from place to place. There was no house appropriated to it, or reared expressly for it, and David resolved to provide such a house - at first, a tent or tabernacle on Mount Zion - and then, a more spacious and magnificent structure, the temple. The latter he was not permitted to build, though the purpose was in his heart.
Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah - Most probably this is the language of the contemporaries of David; or this is what they might be supposed to say; or this is what tradition reports that they did say. David's purpose, as referred to in the previous verses, is not recorded in the history, and the memory of the whole transaction may have been handed down by tradition. Or, this may be merely poetic language, expressing the feelings of those who, when sent out by David, or accompanying him, found the ark. Much difficulty has been felt in regard to this verse. There is no mention in the history of the fact that the ark was "heard of" at Ephrata, or that it was ever there. The name Ephrata - אפרתה 'ephrâthâh - is applied
(1) to a region of country to which was subsequently given the name Bethlehem, Gen 35:16-19; Rut 4:11.
(2) Properly to Bethlehem, a city of Judah, the full name of which was Bethlehem-Ephratah, Gen 48:7; Mic 5:2.
(3) It is a proper name, Ch1 2:19, Ch1 2:50; Ch1 4:4.
(4) It may perhaps be the same as Ephraim.
Compare Jdg 12:5; Sa1 1:1; Kg1 11:26. Some have supposed the meaning to be, that they found it within the limits of the tribe of Ephraim, and that the word Ephratah is used here with reference to that; but this is a forced construction. It may have been indeed true that the ark was found within the limits of that tribe, but the word Ephratah would not naturally denote this; and, besides, the tribe of Ephraim was so large, and covered such an extent of territory, that this would convey no distinct information; and it cannot be supposed that the writer meant to say merely that they found it within the limits of a tribe. Nor can it mean that they actually found the ark at Ephrata, or Bethlehem, for this would not be true. A simple and natural interpretation of the passage has been suggested, which seems to make it plain: that, in their search for the ark, it was at Ephratah or Bethlehem that they first heard of it, but that they actually found it in the fields of the wood. It may seem strange that there should have been so much uncertainty about the ark as is here implied; that David did not know where it was; and that none of the priests knew. But, while it must be admitted that it seems to be strange, and that the fact is not of easy explanation, it is to he remembered that the ark was at one time in the possession of the Philistines; that when it was retaken it seems to have had no very permanent resting place; that it may have been removed from one spot to another as circumstances required; that it may have been committed now to one, and now to another, for safe keeping; and thus it might have occurred, in the unsettled and agitated state of affairs, that its exact situation might be unknown, and that a somewhat diligent search was necessary in order to find it We know too little of the times to enable us to pronounce upon the subject with much confidence.
We found it in the fields of the wood - Continuing our search, we found it there. Perhaps Kirjath-jearim, Sa1 7:1; Ch1 13:5. It was to Kirjath-jearim that the ark was carried after it had been taken by the Philistines Sa1 6:21. The literal meaning of the passage here is, "The fields of the wood" - or of Jear, where the word in Hebrew is the same as in Kirjath-jearim. The name Kirjath-jearim means Forest Town, or, city of the woods; and the allusion here is the same as in Sa1 7:1. The interpretation, then, seems to be that they heard of the ark, or learned where it was, when they were at Ephrata or Bethlehem; but that they actually found it in the vicinity of Kirjath-jearim. The ignorance in the case may have been merely in regard to the exact place or house where it was at that time kept. Bethlehem was the home or city of David, and the idea is, that, when there, and when it was contemplated to remove the ark to Mount Zion, information or intelligence was brought there of its exact locality, and they went forth to bring it to its new abode or its permanent resting place.
We will go into his tabernacles - His tents, or the fixed resting place prepared for the ark. This is evidently language supposed to have been used on bringing up the ark into its place in Jerusalem: language such as they may be supposed to have sung or recited on that occasion.
We will worship at his footstool - See the notes at Psa 99:5. The meaning is, the footstool of God: let us bow humbly at his feet. The language denotes profound adoration. It expresses the feelings of those who bare the ark to its assigned place.
Arise, O Lord, into thy rest - Into that which is appointed for its permanent place of repose, that it may no longer be removed from spot to spot. This is spoken of the ark, considered as the place where God, by an appropriate symbol, abode. That symbol - the Shechinah - rested on the cover of the ark. The same language was used by Solomon at the dedication of the temple: "Now, therefore, arise, O Lord God, into thy resting place, thou and the ark of thy strength," Ch2 6:41.
Thou, and the ark of thy strength - The ark, the symbol of the divine power, as if the power of God resided there, or as if the Almighty had his abode there. Perhaps the language was derived from the fact that the ark, in the wars of the Hebrews against their foes, was a symbol of the divine presence and protection - that by which the divine power was put forth.
Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness - This is also substantially the same language that was used by Solomon at the dedication of the temple. See again Ch2 6:41. The idea is, that in the service of such a God, the priests, the ministers of religion, should be holy. The honor of religion demanded it. It was the first qualification of those who "served the altar;" a qualification without which all other endowments would be valueless. On the word clothed, see the notes at Psa 35:26; compare Psa 65:13; Psa 93:1; Psa 104:1; Isa 61:10; Pe1 5:5.
And let thy saints shout for joy - Thy holy ones; all who truly worship and honor thee. Let them be happy in such a God; in thy presence; in thy service. The fact that there is a God, and such a God, and that this God is ours - that we may serve him, glorify him, enjoy him - is suited to fill the mind with joy.
For thy servant David's sake - Because of the promise made to him; because of the zeal which he has shown in securing a place for the ark. Let it not be in vain that he has shown such a regard to the honor of God; let not the promises made to him fail. Such a prayer is proper now. There is nothing wrong in our beseeching God to carry out and accomplish the purposes cherished by his church for promoting the honor of his name; or for a child to pray that the purposes of a pious parent in regard to himself may not fail. It is an expression of nature - a desire that the labor and sacrifices of those who have gone before us should not be lost. This is the language of the author of the psalm, and of those for whom the psalm was composed. See Psa 132:1. In view of all that David has done, do thou now show favor and mercy.
Turn not away the face of thine anointed - As if in displeasure, or in forgetfulness. The word anointed would refer to one who was set apart as a king, a priest, or a prophet. See the notes at Mat 1:1. The word would be applicable to David himself, as the anointed king; in a higher sense it is applicable to the Messiah, the Christ. The reference here is probably to David himself, as if a failure to carry out his purposes in regard to the sanctuary, or to fulfill the promises made to him, would be a turning away the face from him; would be a mark of the divine displeasure against him. The prayer is, that God would carry out those purposes as if his face was continually turned with benignity and favor toward David.
The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David - He has made a gracious promise, confirmed by an oath, which we may plead in our present necessities. That promise was made "in truth," that is, sincerely - so that it will certainly be carried out - so that we may appeal to God, on the ground of his faithfulness, to keep his word.
He will not turn from it - We may be certain that he will carry it out. We may appeal to him on the basis of that promise with the utmost confidence.
Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne - Margin, as in Hebrew, "of thy belly." The throne would descend to his posterity, Sa2 7:12; see the notes at Psa 89:3-4.
If thy children will keep my covenant ... - This was the condition implied in the promise - that they were to keep the law of God, and to serve and obey him. If they did not, they could not, of course, plead the promise. This principle is universal. We cannot plead any promise of God in our behalf, or in behalf of our children, unless we obey his commands, and are ourselves faithful to him. See the sentiment in this verse illustrated in the notes at Psa 89:30-37.
For the Lord hath chosen Zion - He has selected it as the place where he will abide; the seat of his religion. This is a new plea or argument, and shows that the psalm had reference to Zion or Jerusalem, as then in danger, or as having been in danger. See the notes at Psa 48:1-2.
He hath desired it for his habitation - A place where to abide. Its had selected this as the permanent place of his worship.
This is my rest for ever - My home; my permanent abode. I will no more remove from place to place - as when the ark was carried in the wilderness, and as it has been since; but Zion shall now be the fixed seat of religion. See the notes at Psa 68:16.
Here will I dwell ... - Permanently; constantly.
I will abundantly bless her provision - Margin, surely. Hebrew, "Blessing I will bless," a strong affirmation, meaning that he would certainly do it; that he would do it in every way; that every needed blessing would be imparted. The word rendered provision is a cognate form of the word in Psa 78:25, translated meat: "He sent them meat to the full." It properly refers to food for a journey, but it is applicable to any kind of food. The original idea is that of food obtained by hunting - as game, venison: Gen 25:28; Job 38:41. The meaning here is, that God would provide abundantly for their support.
I will satisfy her poor with bread - I will give them what they need. See the notes at Psa 37:25.
I will also clothe her priests with salvation - See the notes at Psa 132:9, where - instead of the word which in Ch2 6:41, as here, is "salvation," we find the word "righteousness." The promise here corresponds to the prayer in Psa 132:9. It is a reason why God should interpose. What they prayed for Psa 132:9, had been expressly promised, and that promise is now urged as a plea why the prayer should be granted.
And her saints shall shout aloud for joy - See Psa 132:9. In Ch2 6:41 the prayer is, "And let thy saints rejoice in goodness." The sense is not materially varied. The Hebrew is, "And let thy saints rejoicing rejoice;" that is, let them shout, shout; let them be full of joy.
There will I make thy horn of David to bud - The horn was an emblem of power; and then, of success or prosperity. See the notes at Luk 1:69. The word rendered "to bud" means to grow, or to shoot forth as a plant, or as grass grows; and then it may be applied to anything which shoots forth or grows. The allusion here would seem to be to a horn as it shoots forth on the head of an animal. So David would be endowed with growing strength; would have the means of defending himself against his enemies, and of securing victory. The language had no original reference to the Messiah, but it is not improperly applied to him (as springing from David) in Luk 1:69. On the word horn, see the notes at Psa 75:4. Compare Psa 89:17, Psa 89:24; Psa 92:10; Psa 112:9; Dan 7:8; Dan 8:5.
I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed - Margin, a candle. I have appointed; that is, I have given him that which will always be as a lamp or guide to him; that by which he will see to walk. I have given him true and precious promises, which will be to him as a lamp, a candle, a lantern is to one walking in the night. See Psa 18:28, note; Psa 119:105, note.
His enemies will I clothe with shame - They shall be so confounded that shame shall seem to cover them as a garment. See the notes at Psa 109:29. That is, David would be triumphant.
But upon himself shall his crown flourish - His crown shall be as a fresh, blooming garland. The Hebrew word used here may mean either to glitter, or to flower, to fiourish or bloom. As applied to a crown, it may mean either that it would sparkle or glitter, as set with precious stones - or (under the idea of a garland) it may mean that it would appear to bloom or blossom. In either case it denotes success, joy, triumph - and is a promise of prosperity to David as a king. This was a part of the promise referred to by the psalmist, and a ground of the plea in the psalm. God had made these precious promises to David and his posterity; and now, in a time of sorrow and disaster, when the glory of the crown seemed about to pass away, the psalmist, in the name of the people, and in language to be used by the people, prays that those ancient promises might be remembered and fulfilled. So, in a time of general religious declension, we may plead the promises, so rich and so abundant, which God has made to his church, as a reason for his gracious interposition, for his coming to revive his work.