Psalms 123 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Psalm 123
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

This psalm has been beautifully called Oculus Sperans (the Eye of Hope). That it reflects the feelings of Israel under foreign oppression there is no doubt, but there is no indication of precise time, unless we are to adopt the Hebrew margin, and see in the concluding word a reference to the Ionians, which would bring the psalm within the Macedonian period. The step-like rhythm is not very marked; but the psalm so abounds in assonance that it has been called the “Rhyming Psalm.”

A Song of degrees. Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.
(1) O thou that dwellest.O thou throned one.

Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.
(2) Eyes.—As the eyes of the slave are fixed on the hand of the master or mistress, waiting for a sign or direction, so Israel waits, expectant of the hint of Divine interference to deliver from the tyrant. The picture will be so familiar to readers of Oriental stories as hardly to need actual illustration; but Savary’s (Letters on Egypt, p. 135, quoted by Perowne) description exactly reproduces the intention of the poet: “The slaves stand silent at the bottom of the rooms, with their hands crossed over their breasts. With their eyes fixed upon their master, they seek to anticipate every one of his wishes.” Comp. “Cave oculos a meis oculis quoquam demoveas” (Ter. Adelph. Ii. 1, 16).

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.
(3) Exceedingly filled.—Or, sated more than enough.

Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.
(4) The scorning.—The Hebrew offers a rare use of the article—probably it should be reproduced by our demonstrative, this scorning. The LXX., however, have, “The scorn for those at ease, and the contempt for the proud,” which requires only the substitution of a letter, removes an anomaly in construction, and gives a better sense: “Let our desire be satisfied to the full with the scorn for those at ease, and the same contempt for the proud.” Notice how the figure is retained. The oppressors are the masters and mistresses, living in luxury, while the slaves wait. Gesenius quotes Sallust (secundis rebus ferox) in illustration of the wantonness of secure and luxurious power. As we read the verse, we seem to feel

“The whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely.”

Courtesy of Open Bible