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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Psalms 124





In this psalm we have a reminiscence of a catastrophe so tremendous, that all the combined images under which the poets of past times had figured the many vicissitudes of Israel appear insufficient. Nothing but the total ruin of the city and Temple, and the captivity of the nation, could have left an impression so deep and lasting. It is the restored remnant that thus ascribe to Jehovah their escape—so marvellous, so miraculous, that the older deliverance from Egypt colours the language in which it is described. The Aramaisms of the poem leave no room for upholding the ascription to David. The rhythm is finely varied.

Title.—“Of David.” The LXX. know nothing of this addition. The imagery recalls Davidic poems, and possibly suggested the inscription. (See Introduction.)

Verse 2

(2) If it had not been.—For this motto of the covenant, see Psalms 94:17.

Men.—Better, man. In this use of the general term, we must, as Reuss points out, see an indication of the time of composition of the psalm. One who could so speak of the whole world as separated into two parts (Jews and heathen), discloses a sense of isolation and exclusiveness which brings us far down from the time of the prophets. They, indeed, spoke of it as the ideal of the future. This psalmist regards it as an accomplished fact.

Verse 3

(3) Then.—Critics are at issue both as to the form and meaning of the word—whether it is an archaism or an aramaism, expressing time or logical sequence.

Swallowed . . . quick (alive).—No doubt an allusion to the fall of Korah (Numbers 16:32-33), where the same verb and adjective occur together. (See also Psalms 55:15.)

Verse 4

(4) Waters.—The sudden transition in the imagery from the earthquake to the flood is characteristic of Hebrew poetry. (For the flood, see Psalms 18:4; Psalms 18:16; Psalms 69:14; Psalms 144:7.)

Stream.—The torrent swollen with the winter rain. (Comp. Isaiah 8:7-8.)

Verse 5

(5) Proud.—The Hebrew presents a rare form, which is considered indicative of later composition. For the epithet, comp. Æschylus, Prom. Vinct. 717:

“And you will reach the scornful river—well it deserves

the name.”

Verse 7

(7) Snare.—Another rapid transition to a favourite figure, that of the hunter’s net. (Comp. Psalms 10:9, &c)

Verse 8

(8) Who made.—See Note on Psalms 121:2.


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 124:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

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