Psalm 133 translation and comment

A song of ascents or degrees For David

Oh how good and delightful it is

When brothers dwell together as one!

Like fine oil on the head

Flowing on to the beard,

The beard of Aaron;

Flowing down the border,

The edge of his robes.

Like the hill- dew of Hermon,

The dew that flows down

Upon the mountains of Zion.

For there Yahweh has begun a blessing:

Life for evermore.

This brief and beautiful psalm focuses on the blessing of God. The two similes are unanchored in the Hebrew, attached neither to the first verse nor the last, but may be taken as referring to both and linking them: God’s blessing includes the unity of the brothers, perhaps the separated brothers Israel and Judah United in a single kingdom.

The force of the similes is to emphasise that blessings flow down from Yahweh in profusion. The “life for evermore” is not eternal life but unbroken peace for Yahweh’s people. In the second last line, most translators say that God has “instituted” a blessing; I have used a little poetic license, to give the sense of the blessing being new and unfinished.

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