Psalms 121


שִׁיר לַמַּעֲלוֹת אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי אֶל־הֶהָרִים מֵאַיִן יָבֹא עֶזְרִי׃   121:1

Psal. 121:1   A song for ascendance:

                        Let me lift my eyes to the mountains.

                                From where can my help come?

Almost all translators of this verse have taken a variety of liberties with its grammar.  The third Hebrew word in this verse is translated as a perfect verb in most bibles, resulting in “I lift.”.  All the bibles that correctly translate the verb as imperfect have “I will lift” (or raise).  The first three words in the second English line, “Let me lift,”  is more correct.  Then the next-to-last Hebrew word is most often translated as a perfect verb, resulting in “does come.”  The bibles in which the verb is translated as an imperfect verb have “will come.” 

I prefer my translations of both words because they better imply the message I believe the psalmist is trying to convey.  I believe the psalmist is either still in exile in Babylon or in Israel but sees the pagan practices of the Israelites on hill tops.  So I believe he is saying that he could look to the mountains for help, but instead is relying on the Lord (see the remaining verses).  In v. 3, the psalmist begins his teaching to the congregation, using the singular second-person pronoun (which I claim addresses a group).  This is a psalm conveying hope and faith.

 עֶזְרִי מֵעִם יְהוָה עֹשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ׃   121:2

Psal. 121:2   My help is from the Lord,

                                Maker of heaven and earth.

אַל־יִתֵּן לַמּוֹט רַגְלֶךָ אַל־יָנוּם שֹׁמְרֶךָ׃   121:3

Psal. 121:3   He will not give your foot over to tottering;

                                your Keeper will not slumber.

הִנֵּה לֹא־יָנוּם וְלֹא יִישָׁן שׁוֹמֵר יִשְׂרָאֵל׃   121:4

Psal. 121:4   Behold! The Guardian of Israel will not slumber or sleep.

יְהוָה שֹׁמְרֶךָ יְהוָה צִלְּךָ עַל־יַד יְמִינֶךָ׃   121:5

Psal. 121:5   The Lord is your Keeper.

                                The Lord is your Shade on your right hand.

יוֹמָם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לֹא־יַכֶּכָּה וְיָרֵחַ בַּלָּיְלָה׃   121:6

Psal. 121:6   The sun will not smite you by day,

                                or the moon by night.

The scholars consider this verse to be meant in a literal sense, not metaphorically.  Sunstroke was fairly common in Israel, and in the psalmist’s time, even up until a few hundred years ago, the moon was blamed for lunacy.

יְהוָה יִשְׁמָרְךָ מִכָּל־רָע יִשְׁמֹר אֶת־נַפְשֶׁךָ׃   121:7

Psal. 121:7   The Lord will keep you from every evil,

                                He will keep your soul.

יְהוָה יִשְׁמָר־צֵאתְךָ וּבוֹאֶךָ מֵעַתָּה וְעַד־עוֹלָם׃   121:8

Psal. 121:8   The Lord will guard your going and your coming

                                from now and until forever.


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