New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 124:1

A Song of Ascents. By David-
Psalms originally written by David are reappropriated to the exiles, and used at the restoration. For the "ascent" in view is that to Zion. Worshippers are spoken of as 'going up' to Zion. Before then it was probably used by Hezekiah to glory in the victory over the Assyrians, which was associated with the ascent and descent of the sun on his sundial. For his sickness was at the same time as the Assyrian destruction.

If it had not been Yahweh who was on our side, let Israel now say-
This is very much the spirit of David personally in Ps. 94:17: "Unless Yahweh had been my help, my soul would have soon been silenced". But the exiles were to follow the path of David, in devotion to God's word, repentance and thence restoration.

Psa 124:2

if it had not been Yahweh who was on our side when men rose up against us-
The rising up of men is developed into the rising up of flood waters against God's people (:4,5). These flood waters represented the Assyrians at the time of Hezekiah, and then later all the Gentile enemies of Israel. But the first reference was to the way that Saul "rose up" against David (s.w. 1 Sam. 25:29).

Psa 124:3

then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their wrath was kindled against us-
The reference may be to Ahithophel's plan to swallow up David at the time of Absalom's rebellion (2 Sam. 17:12,16 s.w.). David's prayer of Ps. 35:25; 69:15; 124:3 not to be swallowed up / destroyed was answered, but he was devastated at the answer- for it meant the death of Saul [which he lamented] and then later of his son Absalom. Again David has Job in mind, who had his 'brethren' arguing that he should be swallowed up / destroyed without cause (Job 2:3 s.w.). But being swallowed alive was the fate of the apostate amongst Israel in the wilderness (s.w. Num. 16:30). So the idea may be that God's people were saved from rightful condemnation- by Divine grace.

Psa 124:4

then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul-
The reference in the Hezekiah context is to the waters of the Assyrians flooding the whole of Judah and coming up to the neck of those in Jerusalem (Is. 8:8). The language of floods overwhelming a man is used by David about his various persecutions.

Psa 124:5

then the proud waters would have gone over our soul-
We note that the Assyrians are characterized by pride. We might rather have stressed their aggression or idolatry. But God is so sensitive to pride, that this is the lead sin perceived in them.

Psa 124:6

Blessed be Yahweh, who has not given us as a prey to their teeth-
The imagery changes from overflowing waters, to a beast of prey with teeth which were about to close upon God's people. This was clearly the case when the Assyrian beast encircled Jerusalem and appeared to be moments away from sinking teeth into the prey. This may look forward to the deliverance from the latter day Assyrian around Jerusalem, by the return of the Lord Jesus to earth to save His repentant people.

Psa 124:7

Our soul has escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare. The snare is broken, and we have escaped-
Often David likens his enemies' plans to catch him as snares, gins etc. set for birds (e.g. Ps. 84:3; 102:6; 124;7; 140:5)- all the language of hunting birds. He had probably done plenty of this as a youngster caring for the sheep, and the influence of those formative years remained. The Babylonian captivity was "the snare of the fowler" just as much as were the judgments for sin which came upon the wilderness generation, from which Joshua was delivered (Ps. 91:3). The exiles were intended to follow Joshua's example. The Hezekiah reference is clear- Jerusalem was surrounded by the snare of the Assyrian encirclement, but this was broken in a moment by the Angel destroying their army in a moment.

Psa 124:8

Our help is in the name of Yahweh, who made heaven and earth-
Again, God's power as creator is used as an encouragement to believe that the God who created all can quite easily save His people from any predicament, no matter how humanly impossible. Any attempt to rationalize or dilute His creative power at the beginning will have negative implications for our faith in His abilities in our lives today.