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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 124:1

 

 

"Had it not been the LORD who was on our side," Let Israel now say,

Adam Clarke Commentary

If it had not been the Lord - If God had not, in a very especial manner, supported and defended us, we had all been swallowed up alive, and destroyed by a sudden destruction, so that not one would have been left. This might refer to the plot against the whole nation of the Jews by Haman, in the days of Mordecai and Esther; when by his treacherous schemes the Jews, wheresoever dispersed in the provinces of Babylon, were all to have been put to death in one day. This may here be represented under the figure of an earthquake, when a chasm is formed, and a whole city and its inhabitants are in a moment swallowed up alive.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/psalms-124.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side - Unless it was Yahweh who was with us. The idea is, that someone had been with them, and had delivered them, and that such was the nature of the interposition that it could be ascribed to no one but Yahweh. It bore unmistakeable evidence that it was his work. The deliverance was of such a kind that it could have been accomplished by him only. Such things often occur in life, when the intervention in our behalf is so remarkable that we can ascribe it to no one else but God.

Now may Israel say - May well and truly say. The danger was so great, their helplessness was so manifest, and the deliverance was so clearly the work of God, that it was proper to say that if this had not occurred, ruin would have been inevitable and entire.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/psalms-124.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

PSALM 124

PRAISING GOD FOR THE RESCUE OF ISRAEL FROM ENEMIES

This psalm is ascribed to David in the superscription; and, "There is nothing in it to render it improbable that it was composed by him."[1] Nevertheless, a number of current scholars, under the influence of the critical dictum that alleges Aramaisms as evidence of a late date, place the psalm in post-exilic times.

Such later dating is only through lack of knowledge that Aramaisms are totally worthless as evidence of date. They are found in both early and later books of the Old Testament and were in use throughout Palestine as early as 1400 B.C. "Aramaisms cannot be made a criterion for determining date."[2] This conclusion regarding Aramaisms is mandatory since the discovery of the, "Ras Shamra corpus of Canaanite religious poetry dating back to 1500 to 1400 B.C."[3]

Therefore, conclusions of scholars like Allen, McCullough and others who, from the existence of Aramaisms in this psalm, propose a post-exilic date of it are evidently in error.

The psalm itself favors Davidic authorship, as Delitzsch noted, "It is written in the Davidic style."[4]

The occasion of the psalm was evidently that of some remarkable deliverance of the nation of Israel from some threatening national disaster. Dummelow placed it in the Persian period, "Following their deliverance from Haman."[5] Rawlinson suggested the times of Absalom's rebellion.[6]

Without exploring these and other proposals as to the occasion, we submit the following from Derek Kidner which appears to us as the best "guess" regarding the occasion.

"As a psalm of David, this psalm gives us rare insight into the early peril of his kingdom, particularly from the Philistines, who had thought to see the last of Israel when they shattered the kingdom of Saul. In 2 Samuel 5:17ff is shown how serious the threat was, and how little confidence David placed in his own power to survive it. This (the expedition of the Philistines) was no mere raid to gain territory; it was meant to put an end to David and the hope of Israel."[7]

Psalms 124:1-5

"If it had not been Jehovah who was on our side,

Let Israel now say,

If it had not been Jehovah on our side,

When men rose up against us;

Then they had swallowed us up alive,

When their wrath was kindled against us:

Then the waters had overwhelmed us,

The stream had gone over our soul;

Then the proud waters had gone over our soul."

"If it had not been Jehovah ... on our side" (Psalms 124:1). This expression regarding God's being "on our side" evidently inspired Martin Luther's great hymn in the second verse, "Were not the right man on our side, the man of God's own choosing; Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus it is he"![8]

"When men rose up against us" (Psalms 124:2). This line tells us what the danger was. It was a hostile army, not an earthquake, a monster, or a flood. Evil, hostile men were the problem.

"Then they had swallowed us up alive" (Psalms 124:3). Men do not swallow their enemies alive, so here we have the metaphor of some terrible monster swallowing its victims.

"The waters ... the stream ... the proud waters had gone over our soul" (Psalms 124:4-5). The problem is the same, namely, an approaching army of ruthless enemies; but the metaphor describing it is in these lines a destructive, overwhelming flood. This was an often used figure for a conquering army. Isaiah compared the ravaging armies of the Assyrians to the Euphrates river at flood stage (Isaiah 8:5-8).

These verses not only describe the terrible danger that threatened Israel, they also identify the sole reason for their survival from such a threat, "Jehovah" who was "on their side." The balance of the psalm is devoted to the praise of their Deliverer.


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-124.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,.... Or, "was for us"F8לנו "pro nobis", Vatablus. . The Syriac version is, "that rose up for us"; against their enemies, that rose up against them, as in Psalm 123:2, or, "was with us", as Kimchi and Ben Melech; to help and assist, support and supply, strengthen and defend: or, "was among us", as the Arabic version; as their King, Protector, and Saviour. This implies that he was on their side; was for them, with them, and among them, and took their part against their enemies; see Psalm 118:6; which if he had not done, their case would have been miserable and deplorable; or if any other had took their part, and not he, let them be who they would, angels or men. If God is on the side of us, it matters not who is against us; but if he is not on our side, or against us, it signifies nothing who is for us; see Romans 8:31. It suggests that the case of Israel now was so very forlorn and distressed, that none but the Lord himself could help them. Jehovah is on the side of his people in a spiritual sense, or otherwise it would be bad for them: God the Father is on their side; his love and relation to them engage him to be so; hence all those good things that are provided for them, and bestowed on them; nor will he suffer any to do them hurt, they being as dear to him as the apple of his eye; hence he grants them his gracious presence, supports them under all their trials and exercises, supplies all their wants, and keeps them by his power, and preserves them from all their enemies; so that they have nothing to fear from any quarter: Christ is on their side; he is the surety for them, the Saviour of them; has took their part against all their spiritual enemies, sin, Satan, the world, and death; has engaged with them, and conquered them; he is the Captain of their salvation, their King at the head of them, that protects and defends them here, and is their friend in the court of heaven; their Advocate and interceding High Priest there, who pleads their cause against Satan, and obtains every blessing for them: the Spirit of Jehovah is on their side, to carry on his own work in them; to assist them in their prayers and supplications; to secure them from Satan's temptations; to set up a standard for them, when the enemy comes in like a flood upon them; and to comfort them under all their castings down; and to work them up for, and bring them safe to, heaven: but were not this the case, what would become of them?

now may Israel say; this was a public case the psalmist here records, in which all Israel were concerned; and whom he calls upon to take notice of it, and directs them what to say on this occasion.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-124.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

"A Song of degrees of David." If [it had not been] the LORD who was a on our side, now may Israel say;

(a) He shows that God was ready to help at need and that there was no other way to be saved, but by this means alone.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/psalms-124.html. 1599-1645.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1.But for Jehovah, who was on our side. Some expositors think that this Psalm describes the very sad and calamitous condition of the Church when the, residue of the people were carried away into Babylon. This opinion is, however, without any good foundation for the complaints made, apply with equal propriety to the persecutions which the Church suffered under the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes. It is another objection to this interpretation, that the Psalm bears in its inscription the name of David, and historically recounts the deliverance which the people had obtained from extreme danger by the power of God. To get quit of this difficulty they observe, that what had not yet come to pass is described prophetically; but this is a forced conjecture, for the Prophets usually speak of things to come in a different manner. It is more probable that David here sets forth a known history, and exhorts the faithful to reflect upon the divine succor which they had already actually experienced. I dare not, however, limit what is here spoken to David’s time. It is indeed true that the heathen nations often waged war against the people of God, armed with such power as to come rushing upon them with the impetuosity of a deluge; but as David does not specify any particular instance, he is not, I conceive, to be understood as celebrating only some one deliverance, but in general all the instances in which God had succoured his Church. The heathen at many different times, as is well known, rose up against the Church, with such mighty hosts, that she was brought almost to the verge of destruction. David then represents as in a mirror the uncertain and changeable condition of the Church, just such as it had been from the beginning, to teach the faithful that its stability had not been owing to its own intrinsic strength, but that it had been preserved by the wonderful grace of God; and to habituate them to call upon God in the midst of dangers.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/psalms-124.html. 1840-57.

Scofield's Reference Notes

A Song of degrees of David

(See Scofield "Psalms 120:1").


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These files are considered public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available in the Online Bible Software Library.

Bibliography
Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Psalms 124:1". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/psalms-124.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 124:1 « A Song of degrees of David. » If [it had not been] the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say;

Ver. 1. If it had not been the Lord, &c.] God may far better say than our Henry VIII, Cui adhaereo, praeest, He whose part I take is sure to prevail. But Christ hath ever been the Church’s champion, and hence she is insuperable. The Chaptain of the Lord’s hosts is Captain of our salvation, Joshua 5:14, Hebrews 2:10.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-124.html. 1865-1868.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

CONTENTS

It should seem from several expressions in this Psalm, that it was written upon some occasion of deliverance from trouble; for which the sacred writer blesseth God; ascribing all the glory to him.

A Song of Degrees of David.


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Bibliography
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/psalms-124.html. 1828.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 124.

The church blesseth God for a miraculous deliverance.

A Song of Degrees of David.

Title. המעלות שׁיר Shiir hammangaloth.] This psalm was composed by David; but the particular occasion of it is not known with any certainty. Dr. Delaney conjectures, that he wrote it upon the victory mentioned 2 Samuel 5:20. David said upon that occasion, The Lord hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as a breach of waters: and he thinks this conjecture seems probable by comparing this expression with the third and fourth verses of this psalm: the objection to which is, that in the psalm the allusion of the breach of waters is applied to David's enemies; in the history, to God. This psalm was so agreeable to the state of their circumstances at that time, that it was constantly used by the Levites at the return of the Jews from their captivity; and it is, as Dr. Hammond observes, very suitable to any other eminent deliverance wrought by God for his servants.

Psalms 124:1. If it had not been the Lord who was, &c.— Unless the Lord had been with us, now, &c. and so the 2nd verse. Houbigant.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/psalms-124.html. 1801-1803.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1. If it had not been—The Hebrew is abrupt and elliptical, If not, or unless, Jehovah was for us. Alexander proposes, as tantamount, “What if the Lord had not been for us?” leaving the answer to the imagination of the reader.

Now may Israel say—The particle נא, (nah,) is intensive of the imperative, as, Israel, say I pray. It is an urgent call to confession of Jehovah’s timely aid.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/psalms-124.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Canticle of thanksgiving, relating to the times of the Messias, (Abenezra) or to the Jews, who overcame the attempts of the nations at their return, 2 Esdras iv., and vi. (Ven. Bede, &c.) (Calmet) --- It exhorts all to confide in God. (Berthier) --- Trust. The Jews complied not with this condition, and are become vagabonds; but the faithful inherit this promise, (Hebrews x. 19.; Berthier) which is verified in the Catholic Church. (St. Augustine) --- To be secure, like Sion, which is defended by other mountains, we must belong to her society. (Worthington) --- The situation of Jerusalem was very advantageous. It was difficult to bring any cavalry against it, except by the way of Idumea. A handful of men might defend the passes leading to the north, as we see in the history of the Machabees.


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/psalms-124.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Title. See note on Title of Psalm 120.

the LORD. Hebrew. Jehovah. See App-4.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/psalms-124.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say;

Psalms 124:1-8.-Israel declares how inevitably she must have been swallowed up if the Lord had not been on our side (Psalms 124:1-5); she blesses Him for escape frown the snare, His name being her sole help (Psalms 124:6-8).

David was the author, as the title declares. The occasion in his reign when Israel was in extreme jeopardy, was in the Aramaic or Syrian and Edomite war, (Psalms 44:1-26; Psalms 60:1-12.) The mild air of the psalms after the captivity does not appear in this psalm, but somewhat of David's impetuosity.

If (it had not been) the Lord who was on our side (Psalms 56:9, end) - If it had been any one else who undertook to help us, such was the power of the enemy and so imminent was our peril, nothing could have saved us from destruction.


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/psalms-124.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say;
(Title
&) A Song. It is uncertain what the particular deliverance was which is celebrated in this Psalm. Some refer it to the deliverance of Hezekiah from Sennacherib; and others to the return from the Babylonian captivity; while Dr. A. Clarke refers it to that of the Jews from the massacre intended by Haman.
120:1; 121:1; 122:1; 123:1; 124:1; 125:1; 126:1; 127:1; 128:1; *titles; 129:1; 130:1; 131:1; 132:1; 133:1; 134:1; *titles
The Lord
27:1; 46:7,11; 54:4; 56:9; 118:6,7; Exodus 15:1; Isaiah 8:9,10; Romans 8:31; Hebrews 13:5,6
now may
129:1

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/psalms-124.html.

A Song of the Pilgrimages.

By David. Ver. 1. Had not the Lord remained with us, thus may Israel say.

There occurs here and in the second verse an aposiopesis: it would have happened so and so; exactly as in Psalms 27:13, "had I not believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." . . . . comp. at the passage. The ש is not superfluous, but it is to be explained, "if he had not been who still was ours = whom we still have, comp. at Psalms 56:9.


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Bibliography
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 124:1". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/psalms-124.html.

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