Psalm 123

Psalm 123
Tuesday of Holy Week – A Women’s Lectionary


A SongA of Ascents.B

To you I lift upC my eyes,D
    O you who are enthronedE in the heavens!F

Notes on superscript - verse 1

A “song” = shir. From shir (to sing; one who is singing or leading others in song). This is song or singer.
B “ascents” = ma’alah. From ma’aleh (ascent, platform, slope, stairs, cliff, elevation, a rise; figuratively, a priority); from alah (to go up, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is something that arises, elevation, a journey to a higher pane. This can be used figuratively to mean having a though or being of a superior status. It is often used in a specific sense for something the mounts to a climax. This is step, stair, or high degree.
C “lift up” = nasa. This is to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
D “eyes” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
E “enthroned” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.
F “heavens” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.

GAs the eyes of servantsH
    look to the handI of their master,J

Notes on verse 2a

G {untranslated} = hinneh. From hen (lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise). This is to draw attention, show suddenness or surprise, or to emphasize the importance of the coming statement. See! Lo! Behold!
H “servants” = ebed. From abad (to work, serve, compel; any kind of work; used causatively, can mean to enslave or keep in bondage). This is a servant, slave, or bondservant.
I “hand” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
J “master” = adon. From a root that means ruling or being sovereign. This is lord, master, or owner.

as the eyes of a maidK
    to the hand of her mistress,L
soM our eyes look to the LordN our God,O
    until he has mercyP upon us.

Notes on verse 2b

K “maid” = shiphchah. Root may mean to spread out – it would be the same root used in mishpachah, which means family or clan. This is maidservant, female slave, or female bondslave.
L “mistress” = geberet. 9x in OT. From gebir (lord or master); from gabar (to be strong or mighty; to prevail or be insolent). This is lady or mistress.
M “so” = ken. Perhaps from kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is to set upright. Generally used figuratively to mean thus, so, afterwards, rightly so.
N “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
O “God” = Elohim.
P “has mercy” = chanan. This is to beseech, show favor, be gracious. Properly, it is to bend in kindness to someone with less status.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
    for we have hadQ more than enoughR of contempt.S

Notes on verse 3

Q “had” = saba. To be satisfied or full in a literal or figurative sense. Also, to have plenty of.
R “more than enough” = rab. From rabab (increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.). This is abundance, many, elder, exceedingly, great. It refers to abundance of amount, rank, or status.
S “contempt” = buz. 12x in OT. From buz (to disrespect, hate, scorn). This is contempt, laughingstock, shame, or hated.

Our soulT has had more than its fillU
    of the scornV of those who are at ease,W
    of the contempt of the proud.X

Notes on verse 4

T “soul” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
U “had…fill” = saba. Same as “had” in v3. See note Q above.
V “scorn” = laag. 6x in OT. From laag (to mock, deride, or laugh; to stammer or speak incomprehensibly as though imitating a foreigner; to scorn or mock). This is mocking, scoffing, derision.
W “at ease” = shaanan. 10x in OT. From shaan (to rest, be quiet, be peaceful). This is secure, quiet, undisturbed. It can also be arrogance.
X “proud” = gaayon. 1x in OT. From gaah (to rise up, increase, triumph; figuratively, to be majestic). This is proud or haughty.

Image credit: “Butterfly Kisses” by jeri leandera, 2007.

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