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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 124


psa 124:0

The Deliverer from Death in Waters and in a Snare

The statement "the stream had gone over our soul" of this fifth Son of degrees, coincides with the statement "our soul is full enough" of the fourth; the two Psalms also meet in the synonymous new formations גּאיונים and זידונים, which also look very much as though they were formed in allusion to contemporary history. The לדוד is wanting in the lxx, Codd. Alex. and Vat., here as in Psa 122:1-9, and with the exception of the Targum is wanting in general in the ancient versions, and therefore is not so much as established as a point of textual criticism. It is a Psalm in the manner of the Davidic Psalms, to which it is closely allied in the metaphors of the overwhelming waters, Psa 18:5, Psa 18:17 (cf. Psa 144:7), Psa 69:2., and of the little bird; cf. also on לוּלי Psa 27:13, on אדם used of hostile men Psa 56:12, on בּלע חיּים Psa 55:16, on בּרוּך ה Psa 28:6; Psa 31:22. This beautiful song makes its modern origin known by its Aramaizing character, and by the delight, after the manner of the later poetry, in all kinds of embellishments of language. The art of the form consists less in strophic symmetry than in this, that in order to take one step forward it always goes back half a step. Luther's imitation (1524), "Were God not with us at this time" (Wהre Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit), bears the inscription "The true believers' safeguard."

Psalms 124:1

psa 124:1

It is commonly rendered, "If it had not been Jahve who was for us." But, notwithstanding the subject that is placed first (cf. Gen 23:13), the שׁ belongs to the לוּלי; since in the Aramaizing Hebrew (cf. on the other hand Gen 31:42) לוּלי שׁ (cf. Arab. lawlâ an) signifies nisi (prop. nisi quod), as in the Aramaic (דּ) שׁ (לואי) לוי, o si (prop. o si quod). The אזי, peculiar to this Psalm in the Old Testament, instead of אז follows the model of the dialectic אדין, Arab. iḏan, Syr. hāden (הידין, הדין). In order to begin the apodosis of לוּלי (לוּלא) emphatically the older language makes use of the confirmatory כּי, Gen 31:42; Gen 43:10; here we have אזי (well rendered by the lxx ἄρα), as in Psa 119:92. The Lamed of היה לנו is raphe in both instances, according to the rule discussed above, p. 373. When men (אדם) rose up against Israel and their anger was kindled against them, they who were feeble in themselves over against the hostile world would have been swallowed up alive if they had not had Jahve for them, if they had not had Him on their side. This "swallowing up alive" is said elsewhere of Hades, which suddenly and forcibly snatches away its victims, Psa 55:16; Pro 1:12; here, however, as Psa 124:6 shows, it is said of the enemies, who are represented as wild beasts. In Psa 124:4 the hostile power which rolls over them is likened to an overflowing stream, as in Isa 8:7., the Assyrian. נחלה, a stream or river, is Milel; it is first of all accusative: towards the stream (Num 34:5); then, however, it is also used as a nominative, like לילה, המּותה, and the like (cf. common Greek ἡ νύχθα, ἡ νεόντητα); so that תה- is related to ת- ( ה-) as נה-, מו- to ן- and ם- (Bttcher, 615). These latest Psalms are fond of such embellishments by means of adorned forms and Aramaic or Aramaizing words. זידונים is a word which is indeed not unhebraic in its formation, but is more indigenous to Chaldee; it is the Targum word for זדים in Psa 86:14; Psa 119:51, Psa 119:78 (also in Psa 54:5 for זרים), although according to Levy the MSS do not present זידונין but זידנין. In the passage before us the Targum renders: the king who is like to the proud waters (למוי זידוניּא) of the sea (Antiochus Epiphanes? - a Scholium explains οἱ ὑπερήφανοι). With reference to עבר before a plural subject, vid., Ges. 147.

Psalms 124:6

psa 124:6

After the fact of the divine succour has been expressed, in Psa 124:6 follows the thanksgiving for it, and in Psa 124:7 the joyful shout of the rescued one. In Psa 124:6 the enemies are conceived of as beasts of prey on account of their bloodthirstiness, just as the worldly empires are in the Book of Daniel; in Psa 124:7 as "fowlers" on account of their cunning. According to the punctuation it is not to be rendered: Our soul is like a bird that is escaped, in which case it would have been accented בפשׁנו כצפור, but: our soul (subject with Rebia magnum) is as a bird (כּצפור as in Hos 11:11; Pro 23:32; Job 14:2, instead of the syntactically more usual כּצּפור) escaped out of the snare of him who lays snares (יוקשׁ, elsewhere יקושׁ, יקוּשׁ, a fowler, Psa 91:3). נשׁבר (with ā beside Rebia) is 3rd praet.: the snare was burst, and we - we became free. In Psa 124:8 (cf. Psa 121:2; Psa 134:3) the universal, and here pertinent thought, viz., the help of Israel is in the name of Jahve, the Creator of the world, i.e., in Him who is manifest as such and is continually verifying Himself, forms the epiphonematic close. Whether the power of the world seeks to make the church of Jahve like to itself or to annihilate it, it is not a disavowal of its God, but a faithful confession, stedfast even to death, that leads to its deliverance.

Next: Psalms Chapter 125