Psalm 123 translation and comment

A song of degrees or ascents

To You I raise my eyes, Yahweh,

Inhabitant of the heavens.

See! how the eyes of slaves are set on the master’s hand:

How the eyes of a slave girl are set on her mistress’ hand:

So our eyes are set on Yahweh our God

Until he gives us his favour.

Your favour, please, Yahweh, your favour to us,

for we have had our fill of contempt.

Our souls have been stuffed

With the contempt of the comfortable

And the put-downs of the proud.

The metaphor of slave and master is used here in a more than conventional way. The slave with no rights must watch the master’s hand for news of punishment or reward. Israel’s faith looks to Yahweh for favour, but is by no means certain of it. The national experience of defeat, enslavement, poverty and weakness is feelingly noted here. Yahweh should take note of the humiliation of his people, and act. Any terribly crushed people, like those of Myanmar, Syria, Sudan, or Congo could use this prayer.

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