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Deeper Commentary

Psa 132:1

A Song of Ascents-
Or 'degrees'. Hezekiah’s response to being granted another 15 years of life was to edit and produce the Songs of Degrees, so named after the degrees of the sundial. Four of the 15 Psalms were by David, one by Solomon; and the other 10 it seems Hezekiah wrote himself but left anonymous. These ten Psalms would reflect the ten degrees by which the sun-dial went backwards. The point to note is that Hezekiah taught others in an anonymous way in response to the grace he had received. True preaching reflects a certain artless selflessness. These songs of ascents were presumably also intended to be sung by the exiles as they returned to Zion, and then every time they went up to Jerusalem to keep a feast. But there is no evidence this happened. For they didn't return in the kind of faith implied in these Psalms. The plural "ascents" would then be an intensive plural referring to the one great ascent, to Zion. Much of the language of these Psalms is typical of David's language when under persecution by Saul. But the Psalm was reapplied to Hezekiah, and then to the exiles on their return from Babylon, and then by extension to all God's people on their journey zionwards.

This mutuality between God and man is brought out by the structure of several of the Psalms, in which God and David are shown to be involved in a dynamic, two way relationship. Consider Bullinger's analysis of Ps. 132:

A (vv 1,2) David swears to God

B (3-5) What David sware

C (6,7) Search for a dwelling place

D (8) Prayer to enter into rest

E (9) Prayer for priests

F (9) Prayer for saints

G (10) Prayer for Messiah

This was responded to by God:

A1 (v 11) God swears to David

B1 (11,12) What God sware

C1 (13) Designation of the dwelling place

D1 (14,15) Answer to prayer in D

E1 (16) Answer to prayer in E

F1 (16) Answer to prayer in F

G1 (17, 18) Answer to prayer in G.

Yahweh, remember David and all his affliction-
Ps. 132, which was written after David’s time (:8,10), includes a prayer to God to reward David for all his afflictions (:1). Even after a man’s death, faithful men prayed for his salvation; so it seems. This needs some reflecting upon as to its implications. 2 Tim. 1:16 records Paul praying that the Lord would give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus; yet the same phrase is used in v. 18 about receiving mercy at judgment day.

The "afflictions" of David are presented as a pattern for those of the exiles (s.w. Ps. 107:17). They too denied their sin initially and struggled to accept its consequences; but David's path of repentance and restoration was to be theirs. But for the most part they refused to follow this.

Psa 132:2

how he swore to Yahweh, and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob-
The idea is that despite his afflictions (:1), David was not so swamped by them that he had no thought for the work of God's house. And in this he was the pattern for the exiles. David was self aware that his afflictions had militated against his temple project, but he can conclude in 1 Chron. 22:14: "Behold, in my affliction I have prepared for the house of Yahweh".

"The mighty one of Jacob" is a phrase used to the exiles in Is. 49:26; 60:16.


Psa 132:3

Surely I will not come under the roof of my house, nor go up into my bed-
A case can be made that the psalm is not simply David being remembered and quoted; but David himself speaking. In this case, he would be asking for God to accept Solomon as the Messianic seed (:10,17) for the sake of David's hard work for the temple. But such things cannot be predicated upon the works of another. We see here David labouring under misplaced ideals. He was fixated upon his son Solomon becoming the Messianic seed, and he thought that his own works could somehow bring this about. He [and the exiles] ought to have focused more upon the promises to Abraham than those to himself.

And yet we can discern here an allusion to the words of David's faithful friend Uriah whom he effectively murdered. He refused to go up to his bed nor come under the roof of his own house because he preferred identity with God's suffering people, His "house" (2 Sam. 11:11). David later remembered these words, and alludes to them when he thinks of arranging the building of the temple. The words of Uriah haunted him, and he commendably vows to follow his noble example. In this we see David's humility and repentance.

Psa 132:4

I will not give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids-
This appears to be a studied disregard for the revelation of Ps. 127:2, which urges David and his seed not to stay up late planning to build a physical temple, but to accept sleep from God and trust Him to build him a house in the sense of a Messianic seed and family / kingdom. The  words of Prov. 6 show that Solomon's motivation for teaching God's  ways  to  his  son (Rehoboam) was because this is how his father  had  taught  him. “Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids”, he exhorts his son (Prov. 6:4), in the very language used to describe his father’s zeal for the building of the temple (Ps. 132:4).


Psa 132:5

until I find out a place for Yahweh, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob-
In the context of the exiles, the allusion may be to Jer. 29:14, which says that the repentant exiles would "find" the "place" (s.w.) of Yahweh in their return to their God and to Zion. Earlier whilst on the run from Saul, David longed to be in the "place... and dwelling" of Yahweh, at the sanctuary operated by Samuel (s.w. Ps. 26:8). There was no temple, but Yahweh still had a place and dwelling on earth. But now later in Ps. 132:5 David seems to feel that Yahweh needed a more grandiose "place... dwelling", otherwise He would have no dwelling place. Over the years, he had come to focus more upon the physical and external rather than upon the essential and the spiritual. This is a tendency for all of us. "Dwelling" is the usual word for "tabernacle". Yahweh had a dwelling place, in the tabernacle. But David seems to think that this wasn't quite enough, and there was the need for him to build some more physical structure for His presence. This is a far cry from the younger David in the wilderness, who felt that he was in the presence of Yahweh, right under His cherubic wings, although far from the physical sanctuary.    

Psa 132:6

Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah-
This clearly alludes to David's bringing of the ark to Zion. He protests that this shows his concern for the things of the sanctuary, and he sees this as coming to fuller term in his desire to build a temple and see his son enthroned as a king-priest in Zion. "Ephrathah" was another name for David's home  town of Bethlehem (Gen. 35:19; 48:7; Ruth 4:11). He may be saying that from his earliest boyhood days he had heard of the ark and had dreams for glorifying it, and he found it much later in Kirjath Jearim, "city of forests", or "Jaar".  

We found it in the field of Jaar-
"Jaar" is "forests". It could be argued that "Ephrathah" referred not only to Bethlehem, but was also the name for the area around Kirjath-jearim, "city of forests". The firstborn son of Caleb’s wife Ephrath [a form of "Ephrathah"] was Hur (1 Chron. 2:19), who is called ‘the father’ of Bethlehem (1 Chron. 4:4). Hur’s son Shobal was ‘the father’ of Kirjath-jearim, and his son Salma the ‘father’ of Bethlehem (1 Chron. 2:50,51). It was from Kirjath-jearim that David brought up the ark to Zion (1 Sam. 7:1,2; 1 Chron. 13:5,6). 


Psa 132:7

We will go into His dwelling place. We will worship at His footstool-
This initially referred to David's invitation to the people to come up to Zion and worship once he had moved the ark there. But it becomes used as an invitation for the exiles to return to Zion.

The ark is called both the throne of God and also His footstool (Ps. 94:5; 132:7,8; 1 Chron. 28:2). Above or sitting upon the cherubim, the pagan mind expected to see Israel's God. But there was (to their eyes) an empty throne. Yahweh had to be believed in by faith. And His supreme manifestation was through the blood of sacrifice. Cassuto gives evidence that the Egyptians and Hittites placed their covenant contracts in a box beneath the throne of their gods; and the tables of the covenant were likewise placed beneath the throne of Yahweh. This similarity begged the comparison yet stronger- Israel's God was not seated there. He had to be believed in by faith. Such a concept of faith in an invisible god was quite foreign to the pagan mind; and yet the whole tabernacle plan was designed to have enough points of contact with the pagan tabernacles in order to elicit this point in very powerful form: the one true God is invisible and must be believed in.

However it could also be argued that Yahweh was enthroned upon the cherubim, and the ark was His footstool, as in 1 Chron. 28:2. It was to the ark that Israel came to worship, although it was invisible to them, only visible to the priesthood. Or the footstool could be the entire sanctuary, as in Ps. 99:5.


Psa 132:8

Arise, Yahweh, into Your resting place; You, and the ark of Your strength-
In :14 God apparently confirms this; but we never know if this is David as it were putting words in God's mouth: "this is My rest for ever; here will I dwell" (:14). And there is indeed a connection between the ark and God's resting place:
- Num. 10:33  "The  ark  of  the  covenant of the Lord went before them... to search out a resting place"
- 1 Chron. 28:2 "An house of rest for the ark"
However, the real resting place of God's Name is not in the literal ark, but in the hearts of people humble to God's Word. The exiles were told: "Where is the house that you build unto Me? and where is the place of My rest?... to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My word" (Is. 66:1,2). 

It seems David thought that by bringing the physical ark to Zion, he was somehow establishing the Messianic Kingdom. But God is far beyond such external symbols of spirituality. Mark Vincent discerns how David thought that the bringing of the ark to Zion could have been its’  final homecoming- although Solomon his son let everything down in reality: “[“Arise O Lord into thy rest” in Ps. 132:8 alludes to “Rise up, O Lord” in Num. 10:35]… The words which Moses had to utter each time the ark journeyed through the wilderness would no longer be needed, for the ark had at last reached its final destination. This is why the Psalm says “Arise O Lord into thy rest”. David and his people hoped that the ark had come here for ever, and that God would dwell among and reign over His people for eternity. Alas, because of the wickedness of Israel, this was not to be” (Exploring The Psalms , Birmingham: CMPA, 2001, p. 144).

Psa 132:9

Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, let Your saints shout for joy!-
This is the language of God's Kingdom upon earth (Ps. 149:5). It was God who would make this happen (:16), rather than David's manipulation of the physical ark, and getting the people to shout for joy. But as discussed on Ps. 132:8, David mistakenly thought that merely bringing the ark to Zion meant this would come about.

Solomon prayed to God in the terms and language of his father (2 Chron. 6:41,42 cp. Ps. 132:1,8,9). He was familiar with his father’s Psalms- after all, all Israel sung them. It must have been like being the son of a world-famous singer. The words were even in Solomon’s subconscious it seems, for when he tells his son “Give not sleep to thine eyes nor slumber to thine eyelids” (Prov. 6:4) he is alluding unconsciously, it seems (in that it is out of context) to David’s promise not to give sleep to his eyes until he had found a resting place for the ark (Ps. 132:4).


Psa 132:10

For Your servant David’s sake, don’t turn away the face of Your anointed one-
Whoever prayed Ps. 132:10 asked to be heard “for Your servant David’s sake”- he or she believed that God would remember David and for his sake respond favourably [and how much more powerful is prayer uttered for the sake of the Son of God!]. This opens the question of how far will God accept others for the sake of the prayers of [or mere existence of] sympathetic third parties. But if these are the words of David himself, then we seem to have him here asking God to accept Solomon as the "anointed one", the Messianic seed. For Solomon is in view in :11. But this was not to be- for personal spirituality is always required, no matter what good folks are praying for us. And Solomon ultimately lacked that.


Psa 132:11

Yahweh has sworn to David in truth, He will not turn from it: I will set the fruit of your body on your throne-
This and the following verses could be extra revelation from God confirming David's understanding of the promises made to him in 2 Sam. 7. But they could also be David's speculations about what God intended rather than actual replication of some extra Divine revelation. For example, unlike the covenant with Abraham, God didn't "swear" in the sense of confirming those promises with an oath. Although Ps. 89:3,39,45 could be taken as saying that He did in fact do so, although unrecorded in 2 Sam. 7. David clearly has the view that his immediate son Solomon was to be the fulfilment of the promises of a Messianic seed reigning eternally on his throne. He indulges this speculation in Ps. 72, but it was not to ultimately come about in Solomon. 


Psa 132:12

If your children will keep My covenant, My testimony that I will teach them, their children also will sit on your throne forever-
This repeats the conditional element in the promises to David, which Solomon failed to fulfil. But the covenant with David is here expanded into "My testimony that I will teach them", information not contained in the text of the promises to David. Those promises originally focused upon one individual, whom the New Testament interprets as the Lord Jesus. But David here in Ps. 89:30; 132:12 and Solomon in 1 Kings 8:25 chose to understand the "seed" as the Davidic dynasty down the generations. This loss of focus upon the future Lord Jesus was what led David and Solomon to focus instead upon their own dynasty, rather than upon the future individual son of David who would reign eternally upon David's throne. His personal  immortality came to be interpreted as the eternal continuance of the Davidic dynasty as kings of Israel throughout future generations.


Psa 132:13

For Yahweh has chosen Zion, He has desired it for His habitation-
God's promise was that the Messianic seed would reign eternally upon David's throne in Jerusalem. But David appears to interpret this as meaning that God had some geographic preference for Zion and would desire to eternally live there. But the New Testament emphasizes that He has no such concept of sacred space. His dwelling is in the hearts of individuals. It seems to me that David's personal fondness for the hill of Zion was transferred by him onto God. See on Ps. 78:67. This is not to say that Zion has no significance for God; in the restored Kingdom, He will "choose Jerusalem again" (Zech. 2:12), although "Jerusalem" there is paralleled with "Judah". It is the people of Jerusalem and Judah in whom He shall dwell, rather than having some more intense metaphysical 'manifestation' on one geographical spot rather than on any other.


Psa 132:14

This is my resting place forever. Here I will live, for I have desired it-
As discussed on :13, it is hard to know whether these words are Yahweh's direct revelation to David, or his interpretation of what he thought the promises to him implied. Zion was not God's eternal resting place at that time; for Ezekiel sees the shekinah glory removing from Zion and going into exile. It seems to me that David's personal fondness for the hill of Zion was transferred by him onto God. The word for "desire" is always used of human desire, never of God; it is the word used of David's desire to drink water from the well in Bethlehem (2 Sam. 23:15). Solomon was to be a "man of rest" (s.w. "resting place"; 1 Chron. 22:9). David imagined therefore that Solomon was to be the king at the time of this eternal "resting place". But he seems to be confusing his desires for his son's glory with God's intentions in His own Son the Lord Jesus. 


Psa 132:15

I will abundantly bless her provision-
"Bless her provision" is a phrase only used elsewhere about the blessing of Isaac given to his sons for their hunting  venison / provision (Gen. 27:7,19,25,30,31,33). The phrase is used six times in Gen. 27. But that blessing of Isaac was later revealed not to be that significant; it was not the Messianic blessing of the true seed of Abraham. And Jacob effectively gives it back to Esau as unnecessary for him (see on Gen. 33:11). So again we get the hint that David is talking in very material terms.

I will satisfy her poor with bread-
Solomon speaks often of how hard work will "satisfy with bread" (Prov. 12:11; 20:13; 28:19). David his father uses the phrase in the context of saying that being 'satisfied with bread' is part of God's gracious blessing (Ps. 132:15). We see here how Solomon became focused upon works, rather than faith in the blessings which come from Divine grace. And yet he uses the words his father had used; but he interprets them as justification of works rather than acceptance of grace.

The ending of poverty meant a time when Israel were obedient to the covenant (Dt. 15:4). But they weren't, and the returning exiles experienced famine (Hag. 1:6). The fulfilment is therefore reapplied to the things of the Lord Jesus.

Psa 132:16

Her priests I will also clothe with salvation, her holy people will shout aloud for joy-
This is the language of God's Kingdom upon earth (Ps. 149:5). It was God who would make this happen, rather than David's manipulation of the physical ark (:8,9). But as discussed on :8, David mistakenly thought that merely bringing the ark to Zion meant this would come about. The exiles could have fulfilled this in a restored kingdom (Is. 61:10); but most preferred to remain in exile, and those who did return were impenitent and didn't build nor operate the temple system as commanded in Ez. 40-48.

Although there was a special priesthood, it was clearly God's intention that all Israel should be like priests; they were to be a "Kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6). Israel were all “saints”, and yet saints and priests are paralleled in passages like Ps. 132:16. Israel in the wilderness had clothes which didn’t wear out- just as the Priestly clothes didn’t, and were handed down from generation to generation (so Ex. 29:29 implies).


Psa 132:17

There I will make the horn of David to bud. I have ordained a lamp for my anointed-
David understood the Lord's anointed as his son Solomon, his horn who would bud in Messianic glory. Hence David is specific that this budding forth will be in Zion. He begins asking for this in :10, speaking of Solomon as Yahweh's anointed. But now he assumes his prayer has been heard, and this will indeed be the case. David is losing his focus upon the Lord Jesus, the seed who would be his great horn and eternal light in Zion. Lk. 1:69 defines the horn of David as the Lord Jesus; for Solomon failed to be as David hoped. He was the "branch of righteousness" which would "bud [AV "grow up"] unto David" (Jer. 33:15). In the context of the exiles, this individual who would "bud" could have been Zerubbabel, who could have rebuilt the temple as required for it to be filled with God's glory (s.w. Zech. 6:12). But he too failed. The fulfilment has to be in the Lord Jesus, the eternal lamp or light of the world. "Ordained a lamp" is the phrase only elsewhere used for the ordering of the lamps upon the candlestick (Ex. 40:4; Lev. 24:4). The idea is that this Messianic horn of David was to reign as a king-priest amongst the candlestick of the holy place; an image used in Rev. 1 of the Lord Jesus, as Solomon clearly didn't fulfil this.      

But a burning lamp is a metaphor for the preservation of the dynasty (Ps. 18:28; 1 Kings 11:36; 15:4; 2 Sam. 21:17). David's idea was that his dynasty would not end; but this didn't come about, for the Davidic line of rulers ended at the captivity. It was only to come true in the person of the Lord Jesus.


Psa 132:18

I will clothe his enemies with shame, but on himself, his crown will be splendid-
This again assumes that Solomon is to reign in glory and his enemies shamed. David reasons likewise in Ps. 72. These things were not fulfilled in Solomon, ultimately, for he turned away. But the words are not untrue; they come true in the Lord Jesus, although this was not the fulfilment which David had in mind at the time. "Splendid" is the word usually translated "blossom", continuing the figure of 'budding' in :17.

The word for "crown" is unusual in that it is also used of the high priest’s diadem (Ex. 29:6). The verb for "splendid" means also to sparkle or glitter, and is the word used of the glittering plate of gold bearing the inscription “Holiness to Yahweh” which the High Priest wore, called in Ex. 29:30, “the plate of the holy diadem”. The impression is that this king will be a priest-king, after the order of Melchizedek (cp. Jer. 30:21; Zech. 6:11-13).