Psalm 120

Psalm 120


A SongA of Ascents.B

In my distressC I cryD to the Lord,E
    that he may answerF me:

Notes on superscript - verse 1

A “Song” = shir. From shir (to sing; one who is singing or leading others in song). This is song or singer.
B “Ascents” = ma’alah. From ma’aleh (ascent, platform, slope, stairs, cliff, elevation, a rise; figuratively, a priority); from alah (to go up, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is something that arises, elevation, a journey to a higher pane. This can be used figuratively to mean having a though or being of a superior status. It is often used in a specific sense for something the mounts to a climax. This is step, stair, or high degree.
C “distress” = tsarah. From tsar (properly, a narrow or constricted place; figuratively, trouble, a pebble, an enemy, anguish, or distress); from tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). This is tightness, distress, affliction, trouble, or adversary.
D “cry” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
E “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
F “answer” = anah. This is answer, respond, announce, sing, shout, or testify. It means to pay attention, which implies responding and, by extension, starting to talk. Used in a specific sense for singing, shouting, testifying, etc.

“DeliverG me,H O Lord,
    from lyingI lips,J
    from a deceitfulK tongue.”L

Notes on verse 2

G “deliver” = natsal. This is to snatch someone or something away in a good sense – as rescue, defend, or deliver – or in a bad sense – as strip or plunder.
H “me” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
I “lying” = sheqer. This is deception, lie, or disappointment. It can also be something that is vain or wrongfully.
J “lips” = saphah. This is lip, edge, border, bank – used for a boundary. It can also be speech or language.
K “deceitful” = rmiyah. 15x in OT. From ramah (to betray, deceive, beguile). This is deceit, treachery, or guile. It could also mean idle or slothful.
L “tongue” = lashon. This is tongue, talker, language, or wedge. It can also be a tongue of flame or a water cove.

What shall be givenM to you?
    And what more shall be doneN to you,
    you deceitful tongue?
A warrior’sO sharpP arrows,Q

Notes on verses 3-4a

M “given” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
N “done” = yasaph. This is to add, increase, continue, exceed.
O “warrior’s” = gibbor. From gabar (to be strong or mighty; to prevail or be insolent). This is strong, mighty, or powerful. This can imply a warrior, hero, or tyrant.
P “sharp” = shanan. 9x in OT– including Deuteronomy 6:7 “recite them to your children.” This is to pierce, sharpen, or whet. It is often used for sharp arrows or being pricked in the heart. Figuratively, it can mean to teach diligently.
Q “arrows” = chets. From chatsats (to divide, chop, pierce, distribute, shoot an arrow, an archer). This is an arrow or archer, shaft, staff. Properly, it is someone or something that pierces, such as an arrow. It can imply a wound. Used figuratively of God’s thunder bolt.

    with glowing coalsR of the broom tree!S
WoeT is me, that I am an alienU in Meshech,V

Notes on verses 4b-5a

R “coals” = gechel. 18x in OT. Root may mean to glow or kindle. This is a cot or hot ember.
S “broom tree” = rethem. 4x in OT. From ratham (to attach, yoke, bind). This is a broom plant or tree, or a juniper. It is perhaps retama raetam.
T “woe” = oyah. 1x in OT. From oy (a mournful cry – woe, alas); perhaps from avah (to desire, crave, wish for, lust after). This is woe.
U “am an alien” = gur. Properly, this is the act of turning off the road for any reason. So, it means sojourning, becoming a guest. It can mean being fearful since one is outside of home territory. It can also mean dwelling, living, or inhabiting if one has turned off the root to encamp for a longer duration. This word is where the Hebrew “ger” comes from, which is the word translated “stranger” or “resident alien.”
V “Meshech” = Meshek. 9x in OT. From mashak (to draw, drag, or pull; to sow, march, remove, draw along, continue, extend, or prolong) OR from meshek (price, precious) OR perhaps related to Mushki or Mekshi (Anatolian or Georgian tribe; perhaps meaning “worker” or “agriculturalist”). This is Meshech or Meshek, referring to the person, their descendants, and their territory. It means “departed” or “drawn out.” See &  &

    that I must liveW among the tentsX of Kedar.Y
Too longZ have IAA had my dwellingBB

Notes on verses 5b-6a

W “live” = shakan. This is to settle down in the sense of residing somewhere or staying there permanently. It can mean abide or continue. “Mishkan,” taken from this verb, is the Hebrew word for the Tabernacle (as a place where God abided).
X “tents” = ohel. Perhaps from ahal (to shine, be clear). This is a tent, covering, home, or side pillar.
Y “Kedar” = Qedar. 12x in OT. From qadar (to be dark, grow black; ashy or otherwise having a dark color; can also imply mourning, wearing sackcloth). This is Kedar, perhaps meaning “swarthy,” “dark,” “turbid,” or “dusky.” It referred to Bedouins. Darkness may refer to the tents they lived in or the tone of their skin. See
Z “too long” = rab. From rabab (increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.). This is abundance, many, elder, exceedingly, great. It refers to abundance of amount, rank, or status.
AA “I” = nephesh. Same as “me” in v2. See note H above.
BB “had…dwelling” = shakan. Same as “live” in v5. See note W above.

    among those who hateCC peace.DD
I am for peace,
    but when I speak,EE
    they are for war.FF

Notes on verses 6b-7

CC “hate” = sane. This is to hate, an enemy. It is a personal hatred and not an abstract one.
DD “peace” = shalom. From shalam (to be complete or sound; to have safety mentally, physically, or extending to one’s estate; so, if these things are safe and complete, the implication is that one would be friendly; and, if being friendly, one would make amends and that friendship would be reciprocated). This is completeness, soundness, welfare, favor, friend, good health. It is to be safe and figuratively well, happy, at peace, friendly. Abstractly, it includes the ideas of welfare and prosperity (not in excessive wealth, but in having enough).
EE “speak” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.
FF “war” = milchamah. From lacham (to eat or feed on; figuratively, to battle as a kind of consumption/destruction). This is battle, war, fighting, or one who fights (i.e. a warrior).

Image credit: “Ashurbanipal on horseback drawing a bow” – between 668 and 627 BC.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply