Asking questions in Psalm 121


The Verse of the Day for September 11, 2016 is a familiar passage from one of the most recognized Psalms of David, as we examine Psalm 121: 1-2 in the Message Bible:

[A Pilgrim Song] I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

The passage is rendered this way in the familiar King James Version:

Psalm 121:1-2

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

In contrast to the statement that opens Psalm 121 in the King James Version, the Message Bible raises a question in verse 1 and offers a response in verse two. In a previous blog post, I also indicated that verse one should be more precisely rendered as a question. I pointed out that KC Pillai, converted Hindu scholar whose area of biblical studies included Orientalisms or customs from the Eastern sectors of the world, and other scholars also raise questions about the opening verses of the celebrated psalm.  Pillai suggests that the verse should be read: “Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills? From whence comes my help?”  The answer follows in verse two: “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

The previous post goes on to discuss other aspects of Psalm 121 in this excerpt:

This particular psalm is said to be among the Psalms of Degrees or Songs (Psalms) of Ascent. Psalms 120-134 comprise a “hymn book” from which pilgrims sang as they were ascending Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem, the place of celebration of the annual feasts mandated by God for the Children of Israel.  Paul Stroble, in his blog devoted to this psalm points out that “Clift McCann writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible that these psalms are all short enough to be memorized and several contain references to everyday life, implying that these psalms reflect the experiences of everyday people traveling or arriving at Jerusalem.”

Stroble, also mentions that various writers refer to Psalm 121 as “the psalm for the journey of life,” and “the psalm for sojourners.”  He continues his discussion of the merits of this psalm that he finds especially meaningful “because of the comfort of its promises as one travels literally and figuratively.”

On the 15th anniversary of the life-altering events of 9-11, as we endeavor to stand in midst of the turmoil of the perilous times that are so difficult to deal with, we find strength and encouragement from Psalm 121 in its entirety in the Amplified Bible:

I will lift up my eyes to the hills [of Jerusalem]—
From where shall my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber [briefly] nor sleep [soundly].

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun will not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your life.

The Lord will guard you’re going out and your coming in [everything that you do]
From this time forth and forever.

We close with a musical compositions inspired by Psalm 121 and offered by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:


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