Behold, he that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Slumber nor sleep.—This repetition, with the addition of a synonym, offers a very good instance of the step-like style supposed by many critics to give their name to these psalms. But it must be carefully noticed that there is no climax in the force of the two words, the first, if anything, being the stronger. It is used of the sleep of death (Psalm 76:5).
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.
to be moved—(Compare Ps 38:16; 66:9).Genesis 28:15. So Homer (k) represents Jupiter as not held by sleep, while other gods and men slept all night; and hence Milton (l) has the phrase of "the unsleeping eyes of God": but the Phrygians had a notion that their god slept in winter, and was awake in summer (m). Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 4. - Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The assurance rises from the particular to the general. It is not one Israelite alone over whom God will watch unceasingly, but the whole people of Israel. Psalm 5:5; Isaiah 33:14; Judges 5:17. The Moschi (משׁך, the name of which the lxx takes as an appellative in the signification of long continuance; cf. the reverse instance in Isaiah 66:19 lxx) dwelt between the Black and the Caspian Seas, and it is impossible to dwell among them and the inhabitants of Kedar (vid., Psalm 83:7) at one and the same time. Accordingly both these names of peoples are to be understood emblematically, with Saadia, Calvin, Amyraldus, and others, of homines similes ejusmodi barbaris et truculentis nationibus.
(Note: If the Psalm were a Maccabaean Psalm, one might think משׁך, from משׁך, σύρειν, alluded to the Syrians or even to the Jewish apostates with reference to משׁך ערלה, ἐπισπᾶσθαι τὴν ἀκροβυστίαν (1 Corinthians 7:18).)
Meshech is reckoned to Magog in Ezekiel 38:2, and the Kedarites are possessed by the lust of possession (Genesis 16:12) of the bellum omnium contra omnes. These rough and quarrelsome characters have surrounded the poet (and his fellow-countrymen, with whom he perhaps comprehends himself) too long already. רבּת, abundantly (vid., Psalm 65:10), appears, more particularly in 2 Chronicles 30:17., as a later prose word. The להּ, which throws the action back upon the subject, gives a pleasant, lively colouring to the declaration, as in Psalm 122:3; Psalm 123:4. He on his part is peace (cf. Micah 5:5, Psalm 119:4; Psalm 110:3), inasmuch as the love of peace, willingness to be at peace, and a desire for peace fill his σου; but if he only opens his mouth, they are for war, they are abroad intent on war, their mood and their behaviour become forthwith hostile. Ewald (362, b) construes it (following Saadia): and I-- although I speak peace; but if כּי (like עד, Psalm 141:10) might even have this position in the clause, yet וכי cannot. שׁלום is not on any account to be supplied in thought to אדבּר, as Hitzig suggests (after Psalm 122:8; Psalm 28:3; Psalm 35:20). With the shrill dissonance of שׁלום and מלחמה the Psalm closes; and the cry for help with which it opens hovers over it, earnestly desiring its removal.
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