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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Psalms 133

 

 

Verses 1-3

Psalm 133

A Song of Degrees of David

Behold how good and how pleasant it is

For brethren to dwell together in unity!

2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head,

That ran down upon the beard,

Even Aaron’s beard:

That went down to the skirts of his garments;

3 As the dew of Hermon,

And as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion:

For there the Lord commanded the blessing,

Even life for evermore.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Contents and Composition.—The praise of fraternal unity ( Psalm 133:1), as it diffuses blessings and communicates them by mutual influence. It is compared first to the refined oil with which Aaron was anointed at his consecration ( Exodus 30:22 f.) and whose abundant and exuberant fulness is brought further into special prominence, ( Psalm 133:2); and then to the abundant and refreshing dew of the mountains, flowing down from the lofty Hermon to the lower heights of Zion, where the blessing ordained by God is to be found, even eternal life ( Psalm 133:3).

The Psalm applies to brothers and friends sitting together in peace, and may also be applied to the union of tribes and races previously separated. The idea is primarily not that of domestic and political, but of religious unity and communion in God’s worship. But it is not necessary to suppose that the Psalm is a liturgical formulary (Olshausen) for the celebration of the high Festivals which united all Israel at the sanctuary in Jerusalem. In David’s life there may be found abundant points of connection with the Psalm; but the use of the relative שׁ with the participle, which is unknown to the usage of the language before the Exile, is in especial unfavorable to the opinion that he was its composer. The title “by David” is not found, moreover, either in the Chald. or the Alex, version. [These two arguments are taken from Delitzsch. Their insufficiency is easily perceived. No other commentator that I have consulted has noted this exceptional use of שׁ; nor was there reason for doing so. It is probable that if any of the writers before the Exile had had occasion to employ the combination here cited, he would have done so. There was nothing in the analogy of pure Hebrew to prevent it. Besides, that form of the relative does not occur frequently enough to justify such an inference, based upon usage, from this unusual construction. As there is not the slightest clue given in the Poem, to lead us to the date of its composition, the only refuge is the superscription. But Hengstenberg, who holds to its correctness, has, strange to say, very few to support him.—J. F. M.]

Psalm 133:2.—Aaron’s beard. It is not the priests generally who are designated by this name (De Wette, Hupfeld), but Aaron himself is brought before us in person (Hengst.). For the priests were called anointed ( Numbers 3:3) only because their clothes were sprinkled with the anointing oil and with the blood of a ram. Even Aaron’s sons were only sprinkled with the oil. But this oil was poured upon the head of Aaron himself ( Exodus 29; Leviticus 8.). Its abundance, as well as its good quality ( Isaiah 39:2; Ecclesiastes 7:1) are here presented to the mind by the statement that it flowed down upon the beard, which being, according to Leviticus 21:5, permitted its natural growth, allowed the oil to run down upon the garments, not merely to the upper edge, the opening for the head, but to the lower one. For this simile is intended to illustrate the possibility even of an external union, by appropriate means, of those widely separated. For this reason the relative is not to be referred to the beard (J. H. Mich, et al, Hupfeld, Hitzig), but to the oil (Del. and most).

There Isaiah, however, no necessity of explaining: along the garments (Venema), or: which descends over his whole length (Böttcher), as though the beard were as long as his body (Sachs). These explanations are the rather to be avoided, as the person of Aaron is not brought into view simply as representing Aaron himself, but as being the type of the High-priesthood (Ewald) in the fulness of its divine consecration ( Leviticus 21:10), so that here any representative of that dignity is called Aaron, as a descendant of his ancestor of that name, just as the king of David’s family ( 1 Kings 12:16; Hosea 3:5) is himself called David (Hitzig). Delitzsch cites as parallel to this a sentence from the Haggada: “Two drops of the sacred anointing oil remain forever upon Aaron’s beard like two pearls, as an image of reconciliation and peace.”

[Perowne: “The point of the comparison does not lie in the preciousness of the oil, in its all-pervading fragrance, but in this: that being poured upon the head, it did not rest there, but flowed to the beard, and descended even to the garments, and thus, as it were, consecrated the whole body in all its parts. All the members participate in the same blessing. Comp 1 Corinthians12 … Other thoughts may be suggested by the comparison, as that a spirit of concord, both in a state and a family, will descend from those who govern to those who are governed, or again, that concord is a holy thing like the holy oil, or sweet and fragrant like the fragrant oil; but these are mere accessories of the image, not that which suggested its use.”—J. F. M.]

Psalm 133:3.—The dew of Hermon. As Jeremiah ( Psalm 18:14) was aware of a connection between the waters of Lebanon and the snow of Lebanon, so the Psalmist here recognizes a similar connection between the dew of Hermon and the moistening of the mountains which surround Zion. “What we read in Psalm 133. of the dew of Hermon falling upon the mountains of Zion is now made quite plain to me. Sitting here at the foot of Hermon, I was able to understand how the particles of water, which ascend from its wood-crowned peaks and from its highest gorges filled with perpetual snow, after they have been rarified by the beams of the sun and the atmosphere has been moistened by them, fall in the evening in the form of a heavy dew upon the lower mountains which lie around it at its projecting ridges. One must behold Hermon, with its light-golden crown glistening in the blue heaven, before he can understand this image. In no part of the whole country is such a heavy dew observed as that which falls in the districts near Hermon” (Van de Velde, Reise, 1:97). If the north wind bears the rain-clouds southwards ( Proverbs 25:23), it may also carry the dewy mist ( Isaiah 18:4) in the same direction (Hitzig). We may also take into comparison the widely traceable effects of the atmosphere of the Alps (Del.). Under these considerations there is no need of denying the physical relation between the dew of Hermon and the same dew as flowing down upon Mt. Zion, which is acknowledged even by Olshausen. Some of the expositors who do so endeavor to arrive at a solution by repeating in Psalm 133:3 b. against the rules of grammar and parallelism, the words: “as the dew,” in order to show that two altogether independent descents of dew are referred to (Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Geier, J. H. Mich, De Wette). Others give a figurative explanation equally inadmissible, and either interpret the mountains of Zion as meaning parched mountains (Döderlein, Dathe), or the dew of Hermon as pleasant dew in general (Stier, Köster, Hengst.). Others, finally, import into the expression: “dew of Hermon” the idea of the “blessing of the height,” and at the same in Psalm 133:2-3 regard the first כְּ=as, the second כְּ= Song of Solomon, by which the descent of the blessing upon Zion, already expressed figuratively, is supposed to be set forth by a comparison with the flowing down of the holy oil, which is likewise symbolical (Isaaki, Hupf.). At most it may be said that the image employed in Psalm 133:3 may have been occasioned by the thought of the northern and southern tribes coming together in Jerusalem, and being there united in fraternal communion, and with an influence upon one another made mutually beneficent through the Divine blessing (Herder, Delitzsch). The for of the last sentence is best explained under this view. For the conclusion of the Psalm declares not every place of fraternal gathering (Flam, Amyrald, Geier, Rosenm, De Wette), but Zion (Kimchi and most) to be the place where God has ordained by His command the blessing which bestows life which it was designed to convey. [Perowne: “Here again it is not the refreshing nature of the dew, nor its gentle, all-pervading influence, which is the prominent feature. That which renders it to the poet’s eye so striking an image of brotherly concord is the fact that it falls alike on both mountains, that the same dew which descends upon the lofty Hermon descends also upon the humble Zion. High and low drink in the same sweet refreshment. Thus the image is exactly parallel to the last: the oil descends from the head to the beard; the dew from the higher mountain to the lower.”—J. F. M.]

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Fraternal unity: (1) how it is most attractively exhibited; (2) what is its firmest foundation; (3) how it is most securely strengthened and maintained until the end.—Concord should not merely be praised with the lips and desired with the heart, it must also be striven after in life, and be exhibited in action.—The Church of the Lord is the place where the blessing from above, Divinely ordained, is won by prayer, and imparted, received, and spread abroad in fraternal communion.—The blessing of fraternal concord grows only upon the soil of God’s kingdom in this divided world.

Starke: True brotherly love and all fraternal and sisterly concord receive mercy and blessing from God, and are praised and honored by the world.—As long as a man remains unconverted he does not know what true love is.—Inward peace with God is truly a dew upon us, so that we bloom as the rose.—A place where spiritual and temporal peace are united, is an earthly paradise, and a foretaste of the heavenly.—Our love is not a ground of eternal blessedness, but those who truly love are, for the sake of Christ’s merit, to be heirs of eternal life.—Tholuck: The blessing of this unity rejoices the feelings and strengthens the heart; and as it flows forth and is all-embracing in its influence, even the most insignificant are supported by it.—Richter: All unity comes down from above as a blessing of God, and produces further blessings.—In the world, self-seeking and hatred prevail; but in Zion, among God’s children, true unity reigns.—All party and sectarian discord are carnal.—Guenther: The love which gives the greatest happiness is not that which makes the least sacrifices, but that which, with the greatest cheerfulness, offers the most. But like every good result, this is not accomplished of itself, but by the mercy of God.—Diedrich: The holy communion of believers. The blessing of heaven has united their souls. God’s gracious Spirit is the atmosphere and dew of their lives. Their love returns to Him like clouds of incense, floating upwards; while their hearts are strengthened with renewed energy.—Taube: The delightful blessing of fraternal inter-communion.

[Matt. Henry: Behold and wonder that there should be so much goodness and pleasantness among men, so much of heaven upon earth!—Holy love is in the sight of God of great price, and that is precious indeed which is so in God’s sight.—Our love to our brethren should not stay for their’s to us; that is publican’s love; but should prevent it; that is Divine love.—They that dwell in love not only dwell in God, but dwell already in heaven. As the perfection of love is the blessedness of heaven, so the sincerity of love is the earnest of heaven.—J. F. M.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 133:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/psalms-133.html. 1857-84.

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