Psalm 132 translation and comment

A psalm of ascents or degrees

Remember,Yahweh, for love of David, all his labours:

How he swore a solemn oath to Yahweh

Made a vow to Jacob’s Warrior:

“I will not inhabit my tent-house

Nor bask in my couch-bed

I will not give sleep to my eyes

Nor slumber to my eyelids,

Until I win a place for Yahweh

A good dwelling for Jacob’s Warrior.“

Yes, our ears had evidence of it in Ephrathah;

We found it in the fields of Ya-ar.

Let us go into his good dwelling place

Let us fall down before his footstool.

Rise up, Yahweh, to your resting place

You and the Ark of your royal power!

Your priests, let them be arrayed with right action

And your saints sing for joy.

For the sake of David your slave

Do not turn away Your Anointed One.

Yahweh swore an oath to David,

A truth from which he will not turn back:

“A son of your body I will set upon your throne.

If your sons keep my covenant

And the instructions which I will teach them

Their sons also will sit

For all time upon your throne.”

For Zion is the place that Yahweh wanted;

He desired it as his dwelling;

“This will be my resting place forever;

I will settle here for I have desired it.

In blessing her with abundance I will bless her;

I will fill her poor with food.

I will dress her priests with deliverance

And her saints will sing, they will sing for joy.

There I shall raise a dynasty for David,

Light a lamp for my Anointed.

I will dress his enemies with disgrace

But a diadem will adorn his head.

This is a celebration of Israel’s hope in the line of David, from which will come an anointed king, a Messiah, who will bring God’s deliverance. Interestingly, Israel is not mentioned by name. Perhaps because the hope of a Davidic Messiah was maintained in the psalmist’s time outside the ruling caste of Israel.

The psalmist uses a deliberately ornate, poetic rhetoric which presents the messianic hope with an exuberant swing. I have tried to reproduce this I’m my translation.

The rhetoric of abundance points to the feeding of the poor as well as the dressing of the priests with right action. The use of the infinitive absolute of the verb is part of this rhetoric: blessing I will bless, singing they will sing. The same richness is seen in Yahweh “dressing” the priests and also his enemies. Everything becomes overt and visible.

The Davidic narrative behind the psalm is the recovery of the Ark and its return to Jerusalem. It is God’s “dwelling”. The rejoicing of David and the people on that occasion is transmitted to the priesthood of the psalmist’s own time.

The story of Nathan’s prophecy to David when he wanted to build a “house” , a temple, for God, is also referenced: “God says, you will not build me a house (temple), but I will build you a house( dynasty).” The psalm emphasises that Yahweh has chosen Zion, and also the Davidic Dynasty to fulfil his purpose.

It’s not my favourite sort of psalm , but it fairly crackles with confidence.

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