I will lift up mine eyes - Margin, "Shall I lift up mine eyes to the hills? Whence should my help come?" The expression would properly denote a condition where there was danger; when no help or aid was visible; and when the eyes were turned to the quarter from which help might be expected to come. What the danger was cannot now be ascertained.
Unto the hills - Hebrew, the mountains. To the quarter from where I look for assistance. This (as has been shown in the Introduction) may refer
(1) to the mountains from where one in danger expected help; or
(2) to heaven, considered as high, and as the abode of God; or
(3) to the hills on which Jerusalem was built, as the place where God dwelt, and from where aid was expected.
The third of these is the most probable. The first would be applicable to a state of war only, and the second is forced and unnatural. Adopting the third interpretation, the language is natural, and makes it proper to be used at all times, since it indicates a proper looking to God as he manifests himself to people, particularly in the church.
From whence cometh my help - A more literal rendering would be, "Whence cometh my help?" This accords best with the usage of the Hebrew word, and agrees well with the connection. It indicates a troubled and anxious state of mind - a mind that asks, Where shall I look for help? The answer is found in the following verse.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
My help cometh from the Lord - From Yahweh. This is the answer to the anxious inquiry in Psalm 121:1. It indicates
(a) a consciousness that help could come only from God;
(b) a belief that it would come from him; and a confident yet humble reliance on him.
Which made heaven and earth - The great Creator of the universe. He must, therefore, be able to protect me. The Creator of all can defend all.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved - He will enable you to stand firm. You are safe in his protection. Compare the notes at Psalm 38:16. This, with the remainder of the psalm, seems to be of the nature of an answer to the anxious question in Psalm 121:1 - an answer which the author of the psalm, in danger and trouble, makes to his own soul, imparting confidence to himself.
He that keepeth thee will not slumber - He will be ever watchful and wakeful. Compare Isaiah 27:3. All creatures, as far as we know, sleep; God never sleeps. Compare Psalm 139:11-12. His eyes are upon us by day, and in the darkness of the night - the night literally; and also the night of calamity, woe, and sorrow.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel - The Keeper - the Guardian - of his people. The psalmist here passes from his own particular case to a general truth - a truth to him full of consolation. It is, that the people of God must always be safe; that their great Guardian never slumbers; and that he, as one of his people, might, therefore, confidently look for his protecting care.
Shall neither slumber nor sleep - Never slumbers, never ceases to be watchful. Man sleeps; a sentinel may slumber on his post, by inattention, by long-continued wakefulness, or by weariness; a pilot may slumber at the helm; even a mother may fall asleep by the side of the sick child; but God is never exhausted, is never weary, is never inattentive. He never closes his eyes on the condition of his people, on the needs of the world.
The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The Lord is thy keeper - Thy Preserver; thy Defender. He will keep time from danger; he will keep thee from sin; he will keep thee unto salvation.
The Lord is thy shade - The Lord is as a shadow: as the shadow of a rock, a house, or a tree, in the intense rays of the burning sun. See the notes at Isaiah 25:4.
Upon thy right hand - See Psalm 16:8; Psalm 109:31. Perhaps the particular allusion to the right hand here may be that that was the place of a protector. He would thus be at hand, or would be ready to interpose in defense of him whom he was to guard. It is possible, however, that the idea here may be derived from the fact that in Scripture the geographer is represented as looking to the east, and not toward the north, as with us. Hence, the south is always spoken of as the right, or at the right hand (compare the notes at Psalm 89:12); and as the intense rays of the sun are from the south, the idea may be, that God would be as a shade in the direction from which those burning rays came.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The sun shall not smite thee by day - The Septuagint renders this, "shall not burn thee" - συγκαύσει sungkausei. So the Latin Vulgate. The Hebrew word means to smite, to strike, as with a rod or staff, or with the plague or pestilence; and then, to kill, to slay. The allusion here is to what is now called a "sun-stroke" - the effect of the burning sun on the brain. Such effects of the sun are often fatal now, as doubtless they were in the time of the psalmist.
Nor the moon by night - The psalmist here refers to some prevalent opinion about the influence of the moon, as endangering life or health. Some have supposed that he refers to the sudden cold which follows the intense heat of the day in Oriental countries, and which, because the moon rules the night, as the sun does the day, is either poetically or literally attributed to the moon. Lackmann and Michaelis suppose that there is some allusion to the influence of the moon in producing various kinds of disease, and especially lunacy - an idea which gave origin to that name. Compare the notes at Matthew 4:24. See Matthew 17:15; Mark 9:17; Luke 9:39. Knapp supposes the idea is, that from the moon's not giving a clear and full light like the sun, travelers trusting to its guidance may be led into rivers or quagmires. Macrobius refers to a custom among the Orientals of covering the faces of children when asleep, from some imagined effect of the moon on the health of the child. Andersen (Orient. Reise-Beschreib. i. 8) refers to an effect, which he says is common, and which he had often seen, of sleeping in the moon-beams, of making the neck stiff, so that it could not be turned from side to side as before. See Rosenmuller, Morgenland, in loc. Others have supposed that the allusion is to the effect of the moon, and of sleeping under the open air, in producing ophthalmia - a disease very common in the East - an effect guarded against by covering the face. The influence of the moon, in producing madness or disease - the general influence of it on health - is often referred to. Thus Shakespeare says:
"The moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound."
Midsummer Night's Dream, ii.2.
"It is the very error of the moon;
She comes more near the earth than she was wont,
And makes men mad."
Othello, v. 2.
Some of these things are evidently purely imaginary. The true idea seems to be that there were effects to be dreaded from the sudden changes from the heat of day to the cold of night, and that these effects were attributed to the moon. See Genesis 31:40. The meaning is, that God would be a Protector alike in the dangers of the day and of the night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil - This is an advance of the thought. The psalmist had in the previous verses specified some particular evils from which he says God would keep those who put their trust in him. He now makes the remark general, and says that God would not only preserve from these particular evils, but would keep those who trusted in him from all evil: he would be their Protector in all the perils of life.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
The Lord shall preserve thou going out and thy coming in - Preserve thee in going out and coming in; in going from thy dwelling, and returning to it; in going from home and coming back; that is, everywhere, and at all times. Compare Deuteronomy 28:6. See the notes also at Job 5:24. "From this time forth, and even forevermore." Through this life and for ever. This is the gracious assurance which is made to all who put their trust in God. At home and abroad; in the house, in the field, and by the way; on the land and on the ocean; in their native country and in climes remote; on earth, in the grave, and in the eternal world, they are always safe. No evil that will endanger their salvation can befal them; nothing can happen to them here but what God shall see to be conducive to their ultimate good; and in the heavenly world they shall be safe forever from every kind of evil, for in that world there will be no sin, and consequently no need of discipline to prepare them for the future.
"In foreign realms, and lands remote,
Supported by thy care,
Through burning climes they pass unhurt,
And breathe in tainted air.
When by the dreadful tempest borne,
High on the broken wave,
They know thou art not slow to hear,
Nor impotent to save.
The storm is laid - the winds retire,
Obedient to thy will;
The sea that roars at thy command,
At thy command is still.
In midst of dangers, fears, and death,