Psalm 133:1
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
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(1) In unity.—Better, altogether. The Hebrew particle gam, here used with the word “together,” is in our version sometimes rendered “yea,” when it plainly should be taken with the adjective to intensify it exactly like our “all.” (See, for instance, Psalm 25:3; 2Samuel 19:30.) The common idiom, gam shenayîm, “all two” (i.e., both), exactly like the French tous deux, and the German alle beide, decides this. Many commentators, rendering also together, see an emphasis on the gathering for the yearly feasts: “How good and pleasant for those who are by race and religion brothers to unite for a sacred purpose” The allusion may be there, but the conjecture and purpose of the psalm, and not the form of the expression, suggest it. To a Hebrew, political and religious sentiment were always combined; and Jerusalem was the centre towards which their thoughts and eyes always turned. The translation of the LXX., “to the same place,” though not exactly rendering the Hebrew, perhaps brings out the thought, for the poet was plainly thinking of “unity at Zion.” This verse was quoted by the Roman legate at the meeting of Anselm and William II. at Windsor, Whitsunday, 1095. It was read at the reception of a new member into the brotherhood of the Knights Templars, and is by St. Augustine quoted as the Divine authority for monastic life.

Psalm 133:1. Behold, how good and how pleasant, &c. — It is good in itself, agreeable to the will of God, and therefore peculiarly pleasing to him, as it is also to all good men: it is good for us, for our honour and comfort. It is pleasant, and brings constant delight to those who experience and practise it. For brethren to dwell together in unity — For us, who are brethren, not only by nature and blood, but also by combination in one and the same commonwealth, and by the profession of the same religion. “Many things are good which are not pleasant, and many pleasant which are not good. But unity among brethren, whether civil or religious, is productive both of profit and pleasure. Of profit, because therein consisteth the welfare and security of every society; of pleasure, because mutual love is the source of delight, and the happiness of one becomes, in that case, the happiness of all. It is unity alone which gives beauty, as well as strength, to the state; which renders the church, at the same time, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners, Song of Solomon 6:10.” — Horne.133:1-3 The excellency of brotherly love. - We cannot say too much, it were well if enough could be said, to persuade people to live together in peace. It is good for us, for our honour and comfort; and brings constant delight to those who live in unity. The pleasantness of this is likened to the holy anointing oil. This is the fruit of the Spirit, the proof of our union with Christ, and adorns his gospel. It is profitable as well as pleasing; it brings blessings numerous as the drops of dew. It cools the scorching heat of men's passions, as the dews cool the air and refresh the earth. It moistens the heart, and makes it fit to receive the good seed of the word, and to make it fruitful. See the proof of the excellency of brotherly love: where brethren dwell together in unity, the Lord commands the blessing. God commands the blessing; man can but beg a blessing. Believers that live in love and peace, shall have the God of love and peace with them now, and they shall shortly be with him for ever, in the world of endless love and peace. May all who love the Lord forbear and forgive one another, as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven them.Behold - As if he looked upon such a gathering, and saw there the expressions of mutual love. This may have been uttered in the actual contemplation of such an assemblage; or it may have been a picture of the imagination.

How good - How good in itself; how proper; how suited to promote happiness, and to diffuse good influences abroad.

And how pleasant - The word used here means lovely, charming, attractive; that which fills the mind with delight, spoken of one beloved, Sol 7:6; of a friend, 2 Samuel 1:26; of a place, Genesis 49:15; of words, Proverbs 15:26; of beauty or glory, as of Yahweh, Psalm 27:4. It is descriptive of the pleasure which we derive from a picture, from a landscape, from sweet sounds and gentle voices, or from love.

For brethren to dwell together in unity - Margin, even together. Hebrew, "The dwelling of brethren also together." Perhaps the idea in the word "also" may be, that while the unity of brethren when separate, or as they were seen when scattered in their habitations, was beautiful, it was also pleasant to see them when actually assembled, or when they actually came together to worship God. As applicable to the church, it may be remarked

(1) that all the people of God - all the followers of the Redeemer - are brethren, members of the same family, fellow-heirs of the same inheritance, Matthew 23:8.

(2) There is a special fitness that they should be united, or dwell in unity.

(3) There is much that is beautiful and lovely in their unity and harmony. They are redeemed by the same Saviour; they serve the same Master; they cherish the same hope; they are looking forward to the same heaven; they are subject to the same trials, temptations, and sorrows; they have the same precious consolations. There is, therefore, the beauty, the "goodness," the "pleasantness" of obvious fitness and propriety in their dwelling together in unity.

(4) Their unity is adapted to produce an important influence on the world, John 17:21. No small part of the obstructions to the progress of religion in the world has been caused by the strifes and contentions of the professed friends of God. A new impulse would be given at once to the cause of religion if all the followers of the Lord Jesus acted in harmony: if every Christian would properly recognize every other Christian as his brother; if every true church would recognize every other church as a church; if all ministers of the Gospel would recognize all other ministers as such; and if all who are Christians, and who walk worthy of the Christian name, were admitted freely to partake with all others in the solemn ordinance which commemorates the Saviour's dying love. Until this is done, all that is said about Christian union in the church is a subject of just derision to the world - for how can there be union when one class of ministers refuse to recognize the Christian standing, and the validity of the acts, of other ministers of the Lord Jesus - when one part of the Christian church solemnly refuses to admit another portion to the privileges of the Lord's table - when by their actions large portions of the professed followers of the Redeemer regard and treat others as having no claims to a recognition as belonging to the church of God, and as left for salvation to his "uncovenanted mercies."


Ps 133:1-3. The blessings of fraternal unity.

1, 2. As the fragrant oil is refreshing, so this affords delight. The holy anointing oil for the high priest was olive oil mixed with four of the best spices (Ex 30:22, 25, 30). Its rich profusion typified the abundance of the Spirit's graces. As the copious dew, such as fell on Hermon, falls in fertilizing power on the mountains of Zion, so this unity is fruitful in good works.

1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

Psalm 133:1

"Behold." It is a wonder seldom seen, therefore behold it! It may be seen, for it is the characteristic of real saints, - therefore fail not to inspect it! It is well worthy of admiration; pause and gaze upon it! It will charm you into imitation, therefore note it well! God looks on with approval, therefore consider it with attention. "How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" No one can tell the exceeding excellence of such a condition; and so the Psalmist uses the word "how" twice; - Behold how good! and how pleasant! He does not attempt to measure either the good or the pleasure, but invites us to behold for ourselves. The combination of the two adjectives "good" and "pleasant," is more remarkable than the conjunction of two stars of the first magnitude: for a thing to be "good" is good, but for it also to be pleasant is better. All men love pleasant things, and yet it frequently happens that the pleasure is evil; but here the condition is as good as it is pleasant, as pleasant as it is good, for the same "how" is set before each qualifying word.

For brethren according to the flesh to dwell together is not always wise; for experience teaches that they are better a little apart, and it is shameful for them to dwell together in disunion. They had much better part in peace like Abraham and Lot, than dwell together in envy like Joseph's brothers. When brethren can and do dwell together in unity, then is their communion worthy to be gazed upon and sung of in holy psalmody. Such sights ought often to be seen among those who are near of kin, for they are brethren, and therefore should be united in heart and aim; they dwell together, and it is for their mutual comfort that there should be no strife; and yet how many families are rent by fierce feuds, and exhibit a spectacle which is neither good nor pleasant!

As to brethren inspirit, they ought to dwell together in church fellowship, and in that fellowship one essential matter is unity. We can dispense with uniformity if we possess unity: oneness of life, truth, and way; oneness in Christ Jesus; oneness of object and spirit - these we must have, or our assemblies will be synagogues of contention rather than churches of Christ. The closer the unity the better; for the more of the good and the pleasant there will be. Since we are imperfect beings, somewhat of the evil and the unpleasant is sure to intrude; but this will readily be neutralized and easily ejected by the true love of the saints, if it really exists. Christian unity is good in itself, good for ourselves, good for the brethren, good for our converts, good for the outside world; and for certain it is pleasant: for a loving heart must have pleasure and give pleasure in associating with others of like nature. A church united for years in earnest service of the Lord is a well of goodness and joy to all those who dwell round about it.

Psalm 133:2

"It is like the precious ointment upon the head." In order that we may the better behold brotherly unity David gives us a resemblance, so that as in a glass we may perceive its blessedness. It has a sweet perfume about it, comparable to that precious ointment with which the first High Priest was anointed at his ordination. It is a holy thing, and so again is like the oil of consecration which was to be used only in the Lord's service. What a sacred thing must brotherly love be when it can be likened to an oil which must never be poured on any man but on the Lord's high-priest alone! It is a diffusive thing: being poured on his head the fragrant oil flowed down upon Aaron's head, and thence dropped upon his garments till the utmost hem was anointed therewith; and even so doth brotherly love extend its benign power and bless all who are beneath its influence. Hearty concord brings a benediction upon all concerned; its goodness and pleasure are shared in by the lowliest members of the household; even the servants are the better and the happier because of the lovely unity among the members of the family. It has a special use about it; for as by the anointing oil Aaron was set apart for the special service of Jehovah, even so those who dwell in love are the better fitted to glorify God in his church. The Lord is not likely to use for his glory those who are devoid of love; they lack the anointing needful to make them priests unto the Lord. "That ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard." This is a chief point of comparison, that as the oil did not remain confined to the place where it first fell, but flowed down the High Priest's hair and bedewed his beard, even so brotherly love descending from the head distils and descends, anointing as it runs, and perfuming all it lights upon. "That went down to the skirts of his garments." Once set in motion it would not cease from flowing. It might seem as if it were better not to smear his garments with oil, but the sacred unguent could not be restrained, it flowed over his holy robes; even thus does brotherly love not only flow over the hearts upon which it was first poured out, and descend to those who are an inferior part of the mystical body of Christ, but it runs where it is not sought for, asking neither leave nor license to make its way. Christian affection knows no limits of parish, nation, sect or age. Is the man a believer in Christ? Then he is in the one body, and I must yield him an abiding love. Is he one of the poorest, one of the least spiritual, one of the least lovable? Then he is as the skirts of the garment, and my heart's love must fall even upon him. Brotherly love comes from the head, but falls to the feet. Its way is downward. It "ran down," and it "went down": love for the brethren condescends to men of low estate, it is not puffed up, but is lowly and meek. This is no small part of its excellence, oil would not anoint if it did not flow down, neither would brotherly love diffuse its blessing if it did not descend.

Psalm 133:3

"As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion." From the loftier mountains the moisture appears to be wafted to the lesser hills: the dews of Hermon fall on Zion. The Alpine Lebanon ministers to the minor elevation of the city of David; and so does brotherly love descend from higher to the lower, refreshing and enlivening in its course. Holy concord is as dew, mysteriously blessed, full of life and growth for all plants of grace. It brings with it so much benediction that it is as no common dew, but as that of Hermon which is specially copious, and far-reaching. The proper rendering is, "As the dew of Hermon that descended upon the mountains of Zion," and this tallies with the figure which has been already used; and sets forth by a second simile the sweet descending diffusiveness of brotherly unity. "For there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore." That is, in Zion, or better still, in the place where brotherly love abounds. Where love reigns God reigns. Where love wishes blessing, there God commands the blessing. God has but to command, and it is done. He is so pleased to see his dear children happy in one another that he fails not to make them happy in himself. He gives especially his best blessing of eternal life, for love is life; dwelling together in love we have begun the enjoyments of eternity, and these shall not be taken from us. Let us love for evermore, and we shall live for evermore. This makes Christian brotherhood so good and pleasant; it has Jehovah's blessing resting upon it, and it cannot be otherwise than sacred like "the precious ointment," and heavenly like "the dew of Hermon."

O for more of this rare virtue! Not the love which comes and goes, but that which dwells; not that spirit which separates and secludes, but that which dwells together; not that mind which is all for debate and difference, but that which dwells together in unity. Never shall we know the full power of the anointing till we are of one heart and of one spirit; never will the sacred dew of the spirit descend in all its fulness till we are perfectly joined together in the same mind; never will the covenanted and commanded blessing come forth from the Lord our God till once again we shall have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Lord, lead us into this most precious spiritual unity, for thy Son's sake. Amen. THE ARGUMENT.

This Psalm was composed by David upon the happy occasion of the ending of the civil war between the two houses of Saul and David; in which, having felt the sad effects of discord and division, both the king and people were more sensible of the great blessing of reconciliation and unity.

David extolleth the benefit and excellency of the unity and brotherly communion of the faithful.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is! you have been harassed by a civil war, take notice of this blessed change with thankfulness to God for it.

For brethren; for us, who are brethren, not only by nature and blood, but also by combination in one and the same commonwealth, and by the profession of the same religion.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is,.... Aben Ezra thinks the word thing should be supplied; the thing is what follows;

for brethren to dwell together in unity: which the Targum interprets of Zion and Jerusalem, as two brethren; Aben Ezra of the priests; Kimchi of the King Messiah and the priest; and Jarchi, and Kimchi's father, of the Israelites; which is best of all, especially of those who are Israelites indeed; for this is not to be understood of all mankind, who are in some sense brethren, being all of one blood, and among whom peace is to be cultivated; nor merely of those of the same nation, under one and the same government, who should endeavour to live peaceably and quietly; nor of brethren in a strict natural state, who belong to the same family, and are of the same parents, and should be kindly affectioned one to another; but rather of such who are so in a spiritual sense, who have God for their fatherly adoption and regeneration, are related to Christ the firstborn among many brethren, and are members one of another, in the same church state; all which are a reason why they should love as brethren, and endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, Matthew 23:8, 1 Peter 2:17; and "to dwell together in unity"; even as one man, as if one soul actuated them all; it is not only to dwell and abide in the house of God, where they have all a name and a place; but to associate together there, to go up to the house of God in company, and with delight to join together in acts of religious worship; to serve the Lord with one consent, with one mind and mouth to glorify God, and to be of one accord, having the same love; and to do all kind and good offices one to another in the most hearty and cordial manner; serving each other in love, bearing one another's burdens, sympathizing with each other in all circumstances, forgiving each other offences committed, praying with one another, and building up each other in their most holy faith, stirring up one another to love and to good works: now this is both "good" and "pleasant"; it is good, as being according to the will of God, the new command of Christ; what evidences the truth of regeneration, and of being the disciples of Christ; what makes the communion of saints comfortable and edifying, and without which a profession of religion is good for nothing: and it is pleasant to God and Christ, to angels and men, to the ministers of the Gospel, and to all about them and in a connection with them; and it is this which makes any particular dispensation in time delightful and agreeable; as the first times of the Gospel, and the latter day glory, the Philadelphian church state, which has its name from brotherly love; yea, it will be the glory and delight of heaven. Now this is ushered in with a note of attention and admiration, "behold", and with a note of exclamation, "how"; the psalmist pointing at some instance or instances of this kind, which were very amiable, and worthy of imitation; and suggesting that such a case is rare and wonderful, and inexpressibly good, profitable, and pleasant. Gussetius (z) renders it, "how good is the sabbatism of brethren, even gathered together"; for the exercise of religion, prayer, praise, &c.

(z) Ebr. Comment. p. 829.

<> Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell {a} together in unity!

(a) Because the greatest part was against David, though some favoured him, yet when he was established king at length, they joined all together like brothers: and therefore he shows by these similarities the convenience of brotherly love.

1. Behold &c.] The Psalmist seems to have before his eyes some instance of the blessing and the beauty of brotherly concord which prompts his song. May it not have been the enthusiasm of those who volunteered to dwell in Jerusalem, when Nehemiah was restoring its civic and religious organisation (Nehemiah 11:2)?

for brethren to dwell together in unity] Lit. the dwelling of brethren also together: i.e. that the tie of intimate relationship denoted by the name of brethren should find outward expression in the gathering of Israelites to make their home in the mother-city, or, if the reference of the Psalm is to the great Feasts, in the reunions of the members of the nation at these periodical gatherings. By brethren he does not mean the members of a single family, but the members of the larger family of Israel, the whole nation. In unity is doubtless a correct interpretation of the Psalmist’s meaning, though it goes beyond the strict sense of the Heb. word, which only means together.Verse 1. - Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! The unity described appears to be existent, and to present itself to the psalmist's vision. Hence the opening, "Behold!" All may see it, and see how blessed and pleasant a thing it is. "Brethren" is used in the wide sense of descendants of a common ancestor (Genesis 13:8; Exodus 2:11; Acts 7:26, etc.). The "for the sake of David" is here set forth in detail. אמת in Psalm 132:11 is not the accusative of the object, but an adverbial accusative. The first member of the verse closes with לדוד, which has the distinctive Pazer, which is preceded by Legarmeh as a sub-distinctive; then follows at the head of the second member אמת with Zinnor, then לא־ישׁוּב ממּנּה with Olewejored and its conjunctive Galgal, which regularly precedes after the sub-distinctive Zinnor. The suffix of ממּנּה refers to that which was affirmed by oath, as in Jeremiah 4:28. Lineal descendants of David will Jahve place on the throne (לכסּא like לראשׁי in Psalm 21:4) to him, i.e., so that they shall follow his as possessors of the throne. David's children shall for ever (which has been finally fulfilled in Christ) sit לכסּא to him (cf. Jeremiah 9:5; Jeremiah 36:7). Thus has Jahve promised, and expects in return from the sons of David the observance of His Law. Instead of עדתי זוּ it is pointed עדתי זו. In Hahn's edition עדתי has Mercha in the penult. (cf. the retreat of the tone in זה אדני, Daniel 10:17), and in Baer's edition the still better attested reading Mahpach instead of the counter-tone Metheg, and Mercha on the ultima. It is not plural with a singular suffix (cf. Deuteronomy 28:59, Ges. 91, 3), but, as זו equals זאת indicates, the singular for עדוּתי, like תּחנתי for תּחנוּתי in 2 Kings 6:8; and signifies the revelation of God as an attestation of His will. אלמּדם has Mercha mahpach., זו Rebia parvum, and עדתי Mercha; and according to the interpunction it would have to be rendered: "and My self-attestation there" (vid., on Psalm 9:16), but zow is relative: My self-attestation (revelation), which I teach them. The divine words extend to the end of Psalm 132:12. The hypotheses with אם, as the fulfilment in history shows, were conditions of the continuity of the Davidic succession; not, however - because human unfaithfulness does not annul the faithfulness of God - of the endlessness of the Davidic throne. In Psalm 132:13 the poet states the ground of such promissory mercy. It is based on the universal mercy of the election of Jerusalem. אוּהּ has He mappic. like ענּה in Deuteronomy 22:29, or the stroke of Raphe (Ew. 247, d), although the suffix is not absolutely necessary. In the following strophe the purport of the election of Jerusalem is also unfolded in Jahve's own words.
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