Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
A Song of Degrees
Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD,
Which by night stand in the house of the LORD.
2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary,
And bless the LORD.
3 The LORD that made heaven and earth
Bless thee out of Zion.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND COMPOSITION.—It is held by some that this Psalm is occupied with the mutual relation of blessing subsisting between God and His servants who praise Him in the sanctuary (Kimchi, J. H. Mich., Hupfeld). Other views are that it is a responsive song between the president of the Levites who hold the night-watch in the Temple, and the Levites themselves (Amyrald), or between those of the Temple-watchers who are mounting guard, and those who are retiring (Köster, Tholuck), or between the Levites on guard among themselves, in order to encourage one another to watchfulness, forming one of a class of songs of the night-watchers (De Wette). But that view is probably the preferable one which regards it as (Psalm 134:1, 2) an exhortation of the Church to the priests and Levites, who are charged with the night service, and a greeting in response (Psalm 134:3), after the priestly model (Numb. 6:24), to the Church “as one person, and to the individual members in this united Church” (Delitzsch, following older commentators, similarly, Hengstenberg and Hitzig). [DELITZSCH: “This Psalm consists of a greeting, Psalm 134:1, 2, and a reply, Psalm 134:3. The greeting is addressed to those priests and Levites who held the night-watch in the Temple. This antiphone is intentionally placed at the end of the collection of the Songs of the Ascents, in order to take the place of a final blessing.”—J. F. M.] There is no indication that it was a form employed to introduce the nightly recitation of hymns, whether by priests or other pious Israelites (Olsh.). The time of composition cannot be determined.
Psalm 134:1. Behold.—An exclamation to excite attention (Gen. 19:1), instead of pointing with the finger. Every believer is and is called a minister or servant of the Lord, but the designation: “those who stand in the house of the Lord,” is a technical expression, not for the priests and Levites generally, but for those who stand ready before Jehovah to minister in His service. The phrase: at nights, is not to be joined to the following verse (Sept. et al.), or with: “blessed” (Kimchi, Rudinger, Hupfeld). For such cases as that mentioned in Luke 2:37 form exceptions, and the idea: at all times, unceasingly, or: early and late, would require another mode of expression.
Psalm 134:2. קֹדֶשׁ is not an accusative of definition = in holiness, that is, after the hands have been washed (Rabbins), or holiness of the kind alluded to in 1 Tim. 2:8 (Junilius). Nor does it indicate the position of the worshipper = in the sanctuary (Kimchi, Luther). It is an accusative of direction, Ps. 28:2 (Sept., Jerome): towards the Holy of Holies. [So nearly all the expositors. E. V. has, by conjecture, the wrong preposition.—J. F. M.]
According to Delitzsch, the Temple-watch was arranged as follows: “After midnight the chief of the door-keepers took the key of the inner Temple, and went, with some of the priests, through the postern in the Fire-gate. In the inner court, this patrol divided itself into two companies, each carrying a burning torch, one company turning west, the other east; and so they compassed the court, to see whether all were in readiness for the following morning. At the bake-house, where the meat-offering of the high-priest was baked, they met, exclaiming: ‘all is well.’ Meanwhile, the rest of the priests arose, bathed themselves, and put on their garments of service. They then went into the square-chamber (one-half of which formed the hall of session of the Sanhedrim), where, under the direction of the Superintendent of the Lot, and of one of the Sanhedrim, surrounded by priests dressed in their robes of office, the duties of the several priests for the ensuing day were assigned them by lot.” Comp. Reland, Antiq. Sacræ, II. 5, 7; 6, 7.
Venema has supposed that בַּלֵילֹות (—in nights) is syncopated from בְּהַלֵּילֹות (=with shouts of praise). Delitzsch rightly characterizes this as a product of fancy, and says: “The Psalter contains Morning Psalms (3, 63) and Evening Psalms (4, 141); why then may it not have a Watch-Psalm?”
[Psalm 134:3. HENGSTENBERG: “That the people are addressed, is clear from the parallel passage, Ps. 128:5. Only in that case does the Psalm form a suitable conclusion to the whole Pilgrim-book. That the future is to be taken optatively, … is clear from the undeniable reference to the Mosaic blessing, Numb. 6:24. The expression: Creator of heaven and earth, comp. Pss. 121:2; 124:8, forms the counterpoise to the depth of misery and weakness in which the community of God was sunk.”—J. F. M.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
To praise God is the surest means of gaining blessing from Him.—Watching and praying are inseparably connected, and should be the concern of all believers; the ordained ministers of the sanctuary must not allow the people to put them to shame in these duties.
AUGUSTINE: If the wicked enemy is ever on the watch to tempt thee, shouldst thou not watch in order to resist him?—STARKE: He who would praise the Lord worthily must be a servant of the Lord, and, consequently, not a servant of the world and sin.—God, it is true, is present everywhere, even in the smallest peasant-huts, yea, in the most sequestered nooks, but pre-eminently in the Church.—Those outward gestures in prayer which conduce to devotion and humility, are justly to be retained, and a suppliant has no need to be ashamed of them.—If the blessing of an earthly father can build houses for his children, and extend even to children’s children, how should not still more than this be imparted by the blessing of Him who is the true Father of all that are called His children in Heaven and upon earth! (Eph. 3:15).
FRISCH: If God is so ready and willing to bestow His blessing upon thee, do not by presumption make thyself unfit or not entitled to receive it.—RICHTER: How seldom is God praised in the night!—GUENTHER: God will have the praise, and give us new life thereby.—DIEDRICH: He who has no higher wish than that God may be blessed unceasingly, shall receive from Him blessing without end.—TAUBE: God alone is so Almighty as to be able to bless us bodily and spiritually, temporally and eternally, and so compassionate as to be willing to do it.
[MATT. HENRY: It would be an excellent piece of good husbandry to fill up the vacancies of time with pious meditations and ejaculations, and surely it is a modest and reasonable demand to converse with God when we have nothing else to do.—We ought to beg those blessings not only for ourselves, but for others also; not only: the Lord bless me, but: the Lord bless thee; thus testifying our belief of the fulness of the Divine blessings, that there is enough for others as well as for us; and our good-will also to others.—BP. HORNE: Thus it is that prayer and praise, which by grace are caused to ascend from our heart to God, will certainly return in the benedictions of heaven upon our souls and bodies, our persons and our families, our churches and our country.—SCOTT: If our hearts were filled with the love of God, as His holy law commands, our mouths would be filled with His praises, and though our frail bodies would need rest, yet our souls would never be weary of His pleasant service.—BARNES: There is always in Zion—in the Church—a voice by day and night which pronounces a blessing on those who wish it well, who seek its good, and who desire to partake of the favor of God.—Go not away unblessed; go not without a token of the Divine favor; for God will bless you.—J. F. M.]
A Song of degrees. Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.