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|New American Bible|
2002 11 11
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1 A song of ascents. 2 The
LORD answered me when I called in my distress:
LORD, deliver me from lying lips, from
3 What will the Lord inflict on you, O
treacherous tongue, and what more besides?
4 A warrior's sharpened arrows and fiery coals
of brush wood!
5 Alas, I was an alien in Meshech, I lived near
the tents of Kedar!
Too long did I live among those who hated
When I spoke of peace, they were for war.
1 [Psalm 120] A thanksgiving,
reporting divine rescue (Psalm 120:10) yet
with fervent prayer for further protection against lying attackers
(⇒ Psalm 120:2-4). The psalmist is acutely conscious
of living away from God's own land where divine peace prevails
(⇒ Psalm 120:5-7).
2  Song of ascents: Psalm 120-134
all begin with this superscription. Most probably these fifteen psalms once
formed a collection of psalms sung when pilgrims went to Jerusalem, since one
"ascended" to Jerusalem (⇒ 1 Kings
12:28; ⇒ Psalm 24:3;
⇒ 122:4; ⇒ Luke 2:42) or
to the house of God or to an altar (⇒ 1 Kings
12:33; ⇒ 2 Kings 23:2;
⇒ Psalm 24:3). Less probable is the explanation that
these psalms were sung by the exiles when they "ascended" to
Jerusalem from Babylonia (cf ⇒ Ezra 7:9). The idea,
found in the Mishnah, that the fifteen steps on which the Levites sang
corresponded to these fifteen psalms (Middot 2:5) must underlie the Vulgate
translation canticum graduum, "song of the steps" or "gradual
3  More besides: a common curse
formula in Hebrew was "May the Lord do such and such evils to you [the
evils being specified], and add still more to them." Cf
⇒ 1 Sam 3:17; ⇒ 14:44;
⇒ 25:22. Here the psalmist is at a loss for a
4  Coals of brushwood: coals made
from the stalk of the broom plant burn with intense heat. The psalmist thinks
of lighted coals cast at his enemies.
5  Meshech was in the far north
(⇒ Genesis 10:2) and Kedar was a tribe of the north
Arabian desert (⇒ Genesis 25:13). The psalmist may
be thinking generally of all aliens living among inhospitable peoples.
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