Psalm 84. A Day in Your Courts

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (21:10)

Solomon's Temple (unknown artist)
Solomon's Temple (unknown artist)

I think I am drawn to Psalm 84 so strongly because the author has written a kind of love song, framed by the language of deep affection, penned by one who longs to be in God's presence always. It is a hunger, a thirst, a longing, as he says in verse 2. Read the psalm, and then let's talk about it.

"To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!
10 For a day in your courts
is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!" (Psalm 84:1-12, ESV)

A Levitical Singer in Love with the Lord

Who is this psalmist who longs for God's presence. We get some clues from the inscription. He has intended the psalm to be sung in the temple, that's clear. It is "for the director of music." We don't really know what "according to gittith" means, however, though it's probably some kind of musical reference.1

The psalmist is one "of the sons of Korah," we're told. These sons of Korah, these Korahites, were a clan of Levites who seemed to be a guild of temple singers. During a crisis in Jehoshaphat's reign, we read,

"And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites,
stood up to praise the LORD, the God of Israel,
with a very loud voice." (2 Chronicles 20:19)

The sons of Korah had various roles associated with temple worship. When they weren't singing, they served as temple gatekeepers (1 Chronicles 9:19; 26:1, 19), as well as bakers of the temple showbread (1 Chronicles 9:31). The temple was their life.

Like the priests, however, a Levite would served in the temple only a few weeks each year on some kind of rotating schedule.2 During the months they were off duty, the Levites would return to their families in one of the Levitical towns in the countryside to earn their living through subsistence farming like most Israelites.

When his group of temple workers is about to was called up for service in the temple, however, our psalmist begins to get excited. He loves his time in the temple.

And so comes the day when he and his kinsmen leave their village to journey together through the valleys and up the hills of the Judean highlands until they reached the Holy City. It is a beloved pilgrimage twice a year for temple service -- besides Passover and other festivals!

Your Dwelling Place (Psalm 84:1-4)

Perhaps he is singing as he and his friends travel the dusty roads to Jerusalem. He begins:

"How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!" (Psalm 84:1)

It is the language of love -- "How lovely!" The Hebrew adjective comes from the verb "to love," often used to express God's great love for his people.3 A related Hebrew verb is found throughout the Song of Solomon.4

The temple is loved not primarily because it is grand -- though Solomon's temple is amazing! The temple is loved because it considered is Yahweh's earthly "dwelling place."5 When I was a boy I loved to go to my grandparents' house -- partly because it was different and exciting, but mainly because that is where my beloved grandparents lived.

The Grand Titles of Yahweh in Psalm 84

Notice the title the psalmist uses for God in verse 1: "LORD of hosts" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "LORD Almighty" (NIV). "Hosts" is a military term -- ṣebā'ôt, "armies, hosts."6 God is "Yahweh of the angelic armies!" You'll remember this title from Martin Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"

"... Lord Sabaoth is his name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle."

But this isn't the only time this title occurs, nor is it the only title. Yahweh ṣebā'ôt occurs four times in this brief psalm (verses 1, 3, 8, and 12). And when you begin to examine the psalm carefully, you see titles of God scattered throughout this love song -- more often and in greater variety than you would expect. Sixteen names and titles in only 12 verses!

  1. LORD of hosts (YHWH ṣebā'ôt, verse 1).
  2. LORD (YHWH, verse 2a).
  3. The Living God (ʾēl, verse 2b).
  4. LORD of hosts (YHWH ṣebā'ôt, verse 3a).
  5. My King
  6. My God (ʾelōhîm, verse 3b).
  7. God (ʾelōhîm, verse 7).
  8. LORD of hosts (YHWH ṣebā'ôt, verse 8a).
  9. God (ʾelōhîm) of Jacob (verse 8b).
  10. God (ʾelōhîm, verse 9).
  11. God (ʾelōhîm, verse 10).
  12. LORD God (YHWH ʾelōhîm, verse 11a).
  13. Sun (verse 11a).
  14. LORD (YHWH), verse 11b).
  15. Shield (verse 11b).
  16. LORD of hosts (YHWH ṣebā'ôt, verse 12).

Why so often? Clearly, the psalmist delights in the grand and exalted titles of the Lord he loves. God's name is always on his lips. More about this in my study, Names and Titles of God (JesusWalk Publications, 2010).

Longing for the Lord (Psalm 84:2)

He has begun:

"How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!" (verse 1)

Now he reveals his deep feelings as he thinks about the temple.

"My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God." (Psalm 84:2)

Notice the emotional, even physical way the psalmist describes his love for God and a near proximity to his presence in the temple. His heart (his inner being) and his flesh (his body, his outer being) share in this longing for God. These are the verbs:

  • "Longs," "yearns."7
  • "Faints," that is "being consumed, wasting away" with longing to complete this pilgrimage, this journey to the temple mount.8
  • "Sing for joy," "cry out." This is the expression of jubilation, joy, and praise.9

The Courts of Yahweh's Temple (Psalm 84:3-4)

"My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD." (Psalm 84:2a)


Courts in Solomon's Temple (larger diagram)

The psalmist imagines the "courts10 of the Lord," that is, the various courtyards of Solomon's temple.11 The tabernacle in the wilderness had but one courtyard surrounded by posts and a cloth enclosure. Solomon's temple was more complex. Two courts surrounded the actual temple structure. The Inner Court or Court of the Priests was separated from the space beyond by a wall of three courses of hewn stone, surmounted by cedar beams. The Great Court surrounded the whole temple where the people assembled to worship (1 Kings 6:36 7:9, 12; 2 Chronicles 4:9; Jeremiah 19:14; 26:2).12

Now the psalmist remembers the birds that fill the temple courtyards with their chirpings and songs.

"Even the sparrow finds a home,13
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars,14 O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God." (Psalm 84:3-4)

While we're not sure of the exact species, the words here are traditionally translated "sparrow" and "swallow."15 Sparrows, of course, peck for food on the floor of the courtyard flitting here and there. They build their nests on the ledges and parapets of the courtyard, finding twigs and grasses wherever they can. Swallows, on the other hand, are insect eaters, swooping with great speed around the open courts. Their nests are made of mud, grass and feathers, forming a sort of open cup shape under the eaves of the wall that surrounds the courtyard.

The psalmist looks on the birds with special delight -- and not a little envy. After all, he can't stay in the temple. His service might last for a week or two. But the sparrows and swallows get to live out their whole lives and raise their families in God's house, near the sacred altar of Yahweh. Birds in the rest of Jerusalem and the surrounding country are at risk of capture for food. Bird eggs are considered a special delicacy. But within the temple precincts, the birds and their families can live unmolested, at peace.

"Blessed are those who dwell16 in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah."17 (Psalm 84:4)

The birds are blessed, fortunate, to be envied,18 because God's house is their home, and the sparrows' songs fill the courtyard with their happy chirpings. The Levite choirs, such as our psalmist would be a part of, sing at prescribed times during the day and evening hours. "Singing praise" (ESV, NRSV), "praising" (NIV, KJV, NASB) is from the Hebrew verb hālal from which we get "Hallelujah!"19 No rules govern when the birds may sing, however. Their melodies fill the temple grounds from dawn to dusk.

The Pilgrim Journey up to Jerusalem (Psalm 84:5-7)

In his mind's eye the psalmist has been thinking about the glorious temple he knows so intimately as a temple worker. But now his thoughts shift to the journey from his small Levitical village, along the roads that lead to Jerusalem. It is a trip he has taken often. Not only his feet, but his heart also is on a pilgrimage to God's House.

"5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways [to Zion.]
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion." (Psalm 84:5-7)

He is thinking of God's house as a place to focus his worship, but it is in Yahweh himself that he trusts.

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you...." (Psalm 84:5a)

It is way too easy for us humans to transfer our worship to things, to objects, to statues, to places, rather than to keep our focus on God himself. But the psalmist clearly makes that distinction here. Climbing the roads up the Judean hills is arduous, but he is trusting God for strength20 for the journey. It is not just a physical pilgrimage. It is a pilgrimage of the heart.

"... in whose heart are the highways21 [to Zion].22 (ESV, NRSV)
"... who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." (NIV)
"... in whose heart are the ways of them." (KJV)

Now the thought turns from the upward Jerusalem road to the terrain through which they are passing.

"As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools." (Psalm 84:6)

There's lots of speculation about this "Valley of Baca." Some see it as the Valley of Tears, deriving the noun bākāʾ from the verb bākâ, "to weep."23 Others see it as a place of balsam trees (Hebrew bākāʾ), perhaps the Valley of Rephaim (2 Samuel 5:22-24; 1 Chronicles 14:14-15).244 Oh, the sermon possibilities! More recently, scholars tend see this as merely a place name, ruining all the hermeneutic joys.

To me, the most natural interpretation seems to suggest that the Valley of Baca (wherever it is) is an arid place that is transformed into a "place of springs"25 and refreshing pools26 where the pilgrims' strength is renewed.27

"They go from strength to strength;28
each one appears before God in Zion." (Psalm 84:7)

"From strength to strength" seems to be a Hebrew idiom that means something like "the closer they get, the stronger they become"29 (see 2 Corinthians 3:18; Proverbs 4:18).

Finally, "each one appears30 before God31 in Zion"32 (Psalm 84:7). The pilgrimage is over. They have arrived at their destination!

Look upon our King, O Lord (Psalm 84:8-9)

Until now we have listened in on the psalmist's anticipations of the Holy City and the pilgrimage to its gates. Now he presents his petition before God:

"8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!" (Psalm 84:8-9)

Notice his address to "Yahweh, God of the armies" and "God of Jacob," some of the titles of God that appear in this psalm. His actual petition is for God to "behold" and "look on" a person. The words suggest going beyond seeing a person with one's eyes, to looking upon him with favor,33 as the NIV translation suggests: "Look with favor upon your anointed one."

The psalmist asks God to look with favor upon "our shield" in the first line, then upon "your anointed" in the second line that parallels the first. In its original context, this isn't messianic. The psalmist is asking for God's favor towards Jerusalem's ruling monarch. "Shield" is used figuratively of the one who protects, sometimes of God (Psalm 3:3), but here of the king (Psalm 47:9; 89:18; Hosea 4:18).34 "Anointed" is māshîaḥ (from which we get our word, "Messiah"). Here it refers to the king who is anointed with oil as he is invested in his office (1 Samuel 10:1; 16:12; 2 Samuel 2:4; etc.).

Ultimately, of course, Jesus the is the Prince of Peace who will reign in the Holy City -- Jerusalem, the "City of Peace." Jesus is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man who will reign over the Kingdom of God forever (Daniel 7:14). But for now, it is an earthly king for whom the psalmist requests help and mercy.

A Doorkeeper in the House of the Lord (Psalm 84:10)

"10 For a day in your courts35
is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper36 in the house of my God
than dwell37 in the tents of wickedness." (Psalm 84:10)

The psalmist's heart turns again to the temple, the house of God, to which he contrasts "the tents of wickedness." The Israelites had long since settled down to live in houses. "Tent" has now become an alternate or poetic term for "house, dwelling."38 The luxurious homes of those who have gained their wealth through nefarious means may tempt some, but the psalmist would rather be a humble servant in God's glorious house, the temple. He considers just being here a high privilege indeed!

Indeed, as a Levite of the clan of Korah, he probably is a literal doorkeeper or guard at the temple gates (1 Chronicles 9:19; 26:1, 19). What a joy it is to him -- one day here in the courts of Yahweh's temple is better than thousands of days any place else! What a privilege he has! Even though he knows that God is everywhere, omnipresent, here in the temple God's presence seems that much more real to him.

Blessed Is the One Who Trusts in Yahweh! (Psalm 84:11-12)

His thoughts now turn from the glories of the temple to God himself.

"11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows39 favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!" (Psalm 84:11-12)

It is remarkable that the psalmist can see so clearly beyond the glorious temple Solomon built at huge expense. Many people's eyes are captured by objects -- great buildings, statues of the saints -- and cannot see beyond them to God himself.

The psalmist now extols the wonders of Yahweh.

  • Yahweh is a Sun who shines so brilliantly than no one can look in his face without being blinded.
  • Yahweh is a Shield, a protector to his people. An earthly king might be a shield (verse 9), but of limited strength. On the other hand, God is Yahweh of the armies of heaven (verse 12a), with unlimited power to protect, and then to win the decisive victory.
  • Yahweh bestows favor. He is known for his gracious outpouring to those in need.40 He is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6).
  • Yahweh gives honor.41 He exalts the weak and puts down the proud. Presidents award medals for valor and accomplishment. Kings bestow honorific titles. But the God of Glory is the only One who can bestow honor and glory that have any meaning beyond this earthly life.
  • Yahweh offers "good things" to his beloved people who walk before him uprightly.42 He doesn't withhold43 blessings from them, but opens the windows of heaven and pours them out abundantly!

So often we seek wealth and honor from the world. We pander to men and women who can advance us. But the real blessings, the ones that last, come only from our loving God.

God's House Represents His Presence

Again and again we see the back-and-forth between extoling God's dwelling place and praising him directly.

"How lovely is your dwelling place ...
My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God" (verses 1-2)

"Even the sparrow finds a home....
Blessed are those who [are] ever singing your praise." (verses 3-4)

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you."
They travel on pilgrimage until
"Each one appears before God in Zion." (verses 5-7)

"Hear my prayer...."
Look with favor upon our king (verse 8-9)

"A day in your courts" gives way to praise of Yahweh --
"A sun and shield" who doesn't withhold any good thing from his people (verses 10-11)

The psalmist sums it all up with a word of praise directly to Yahweh himself, the Lord of the armies of heaven.

"O LORD of hosts,
blessed44 is the one who trusts in you!" (Psalm 84:12)

We are blessed indeed, for the God of heaven has come to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, to redeem us from sin, to seat us in heavenly places alongside his throne, and to grant to us eternal life in his Kingdom, in that Glorious City of God described in Revelation 22. Indeed, we are blessed!

Prayer

Father, turn our eyes to You, the only One who offers the true blessings. Let us find our delight in You. Let us dwell with You, as did the sparrows and swallows in the temple of old. Let us serve You humbly and bask in Your presence. For in You is our Life. All we need is You. We love You. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Endnotes

References and Abbreviations

[1] "It is most likely a musical term, referring to a melody, instrument, or perhaps a ritual action" (Rolf A. Jacobson in Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner, The Book of Psalms (New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT); Eerdmans, 2014), p. 121, fn. 4; Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100 (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 20; Word, 1990), p. 351).

[2] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services As they Were at the Time of Christ (1874; reprinted by Eerdmans, 1958); chapter 4.

[3] "Lovely" (ESV, NRSV, NIV), "amiable" (KJV) is yādîd, "beloved, lovely." The basic meaning of the noun is "one greatly loved" by God or by man. The noun is derived from the verb "love" (ydd) (Ralph H. Alexander, TWOT #846a).

[4] Dôd, "beloved," found throughout the Song of Solomon, is from the presumed Hebrew root dwd, related to ydd, according to BDB, p. 391.

[5] "Dwelling place" (ESV, NIV, NRSV), "tabernacles" (KJV) is mishkān, "tabernacle," the portable sanctuary constructed by the Israelites in the wilderness described in some detail in Exodus 25-31 and Exodus 35-40. The verb shākan means "to dwell tabernacle," literally to spread one's tent. Another Hebrew verb yāshab (as in verse 4) also means "to inhabit, dwell" (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT #2387c. Also Holladay, p. 219).

[6] Sebā'ôt from ṣābāʾ, "fight, serve" (John E. Hartley, TWOT #1865b).

[7] "Longs" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "yearns" (NIV) is the Niphal stem of kāsap, "yearn for, long after" (TWOT #1015). "Deeply long for" (Holladay, p. 162).

[8] "Faints" is the Qal stem of kālâ, "accomplish, cease, consume, determine, end, fail, finish." The basic idea of this root is "to bring a process to completion" (John N. Oswalt, TWOT #982). Holladay gives five meanings: (1) come to an end; (2) become finished, complete, (3) disappear, perish, (4) be destroyed, ruined; (5) be determined, resolved; (6) become weak, languish; and (7) be consumed, waste away" (Holladay, p. 158).

[9] "Sing for joy" (ESV, NRSV, NASB), "cry out" (NIV, KJV) is the Piel of rānan, "cry out, shout for joy." Rānan appears in parallel poetry with nearly every term for "joy," "rejoicing" and "praise." The jubilation which is the main thrust of the root is elsewhere also in a context of music (William White, TWOT #2179).

[10] "Courts" is the plural of ḥāṣēr, "court, enclosure." Solomon's building complex at Jerusalem included: the "inner" court of the temple (1 Kings 6:36; 7:12); the court of the palace (1 Kings 7:8), perhaps the "middle" court of 2 Kings 20:4 (following the Qere); and the "great" court covering the entire area of the complex (1 Kings 7:9, 12; Edwin Yamauchi, TWOT #922a).

[11] I believe this psalm was written prior to the Exile, because of the prayer for the king in verse 9. There is lots of speculation about the date, however, surveyed in Tate, Psalms (Word), pp. 351-352.

[12] Herod's Temple where Jesus worshipped had even more courts: the Priests Court surrounding the temple building, the Court of the Israelites where the men would gather, the Court of the Women, and the Court of the Gentiles.

[13] "Home" (ESV, NIV, NRSV), "house" (KJV) in both verses 3 and 4 is bayit, "house, household, home, place, temple, inward, family, et al." (TWOT #241). Also verse 10.

[14] "Altars" is the plural of mizbēaḥ, "altar, place of sacrifice" (TWOT #525b).

[15] "Sparrow" is ṣippôr, "bird." This word for bird is related to the "chirping" sound that a bird makes (John E. Hartley, TWOT #1959a). "Swallow" is derôr, "swallow" (TWOT #454c). "Kind of bird," traditionally a swallow or dove (Holladay, p. 73). Used only here and in Proverbs 26:2: "Like a sparrow (ṣippôr) in its flitting, like a swallow (derôr) in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight." "Nest" is qēn, "nest" (TWOT 2042a).

[16] "Dwell" is the Qal stem of yāshab, "sit, remain, dwell" (TWOT #922).

[17] "Selah" perhaps indicates an interlude of some kind, though we're not sure (Tremper Longman III, Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity Press, 2014), p. 31).

[18] "Blessed" (ʾashērî) is used 3 times: vs. 4, vs. 5, and vs. 12. The Hebrew for "blessed" could be rendered, "fortunate, blessed" or "O the happiness of" the person who fears the Lord. The interjection "fortunate, blessed is (he who)" (Holladay, p. 31). The verb ʾāshar in the Piel stem means "to bless," a synonym of bārak with some differences. Bārak is the word usually used when God blesses, whereas ʾāshar is reserved for man and a word of envious desire, "to be envied with desire is the man who trusts in the Lord." God never pronounces a man "blessed" (ʾashrê). With bārak, the initiative comes from God; man doesn't have to deserve it. To be blessed (ʾashrê), man has to do something. Finally, bārak is a benediction, ʾāshar more of a congratulation (Victor P. Hamilton, ʾāshar, TWOT #183a).

[19] The Piel stem of hālal, "praise." This root connotes being sincerely and deeply thankful for and/or satisfied in lauding a superior quality(ies) or great, great act(s) of the object (Leonard J. Copps, TWOT #500; Holladay, p. 80).

[20] "Strength" is the noun ʿōz, "strength" from ʿāzaz, "be strong" (TWOT #1596b). There is a different word for strength in verse 7a, ḥayil, but I don't see much difference in overall meaning intended, just variety. Notice, the emphasis on the heart, the inner person, excited about this journey.

[21] "Highways to Zion" (ESV, NRSV, NASB), "pilgrimage" (NIV, NJB), "ways" (KJV) is just a single noun: mesillâ, "highway." The primary meaning of the root sālal seems to be "cast up, lift up, exalt." Patterson speculates, "It is probably a denominative from Akkadian sulū "highway, raised way" (from salū "to throw up/off/out"). The theme of casting up a highway is utilized by the prophets. The figure, derived from building a road higher than the adjacent terrain, is natural (R.D. Patterson, TWOT #1506d).

[22] Though "Zion" is clearly the destination, the word doesn't appear in the Hebrew text here but in verse 7.

[23] Bākāʾ TWOT #243. The Latin Vulgate, Syriac, and Greek Septuagint translations take this as coming from the Hebrew root bkh meaning "tears."

[24] Bākāʾ, "balsam tree" (TWOT #242); "Baca, Vale of," ISBE 1:402. Tate, Psalms (Word), p. 353, cites Cohen (Psalms (London: Soncino Press, 1985) to this effect.

[25] "Springs" (ESV, NIV, NRSV), "well" (KJV) is maʿyān, "spring," a flow of water from an opening in a hillside or valley (Carl Schultz, TWOT #1613a).

[26] "Pools" is berākâ, "pool, pond," from bārak, bless" (TWOT #285c; Holladay, p. 50).

[27] Franz Delitsch writes: "The most gloomy present becomes bright to them: passing through even a terrible wilderness, they turn it into a place of springs, their joyous hope and the infinite beauty of the goal, which is worth any amount of toil and trouble, afford them enlivening comfort, refreshing strengthening in the midst of the arid steppe" (Carl Friedreich Keil,. and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (German 1861; T & T Clark, 1891; Kindle version), in loc.

[28] "Strength" (twice in verse 7) is ḥayil, "might." The basic meaning of the root ḥûl is "to be firm, strong." Ḥayil can be variously translated from the basic idea of "strength," from which follow "army" and "wealth" -- "might, strength, power; able, valiant, virtuous, valor; army, host, forces; riches, substance, wealth; et al." (Carl Philip Weber, TWOT #624a). This is a different word for strength than ʿōz in verse 5, but probably just for variety.

[29] Longman, Psalms (TOTC), p. 311.

[30] Niphal imperfect 3rd person of rāʾâ, "see, look at, inspect," in the Niphal "to be seen, or to reveal oneself." The subject could be either the pilgrim or God. (Robert D. Culver, TWOT #2095).

[31] Each one "appears before God" Vs. 7, ESV, NIV, KJV), "the God of gods will be seen in Zion" (NRSV). *#096;El *#096;elohim could be a prepositional phrase ("to/toward God"; so Beth Tanner, Psalms (NICOT), p. 651, fn. 12), or "God of gods" (so Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity Press, 1975). p. 306).

[32] Zion is the name of the original fortress city that David conquered.

[33] "Behold" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "Look upon" (NIV) is the Qal imperative of rāʾâ, "see, look at, inspect," used here in the metaphorical sense of "to provide for" or "have mercy on" (Robert D. Culver, TWOT #2095). "Look on" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "look with favor on" (NIV) is the Hiphil stem of nābaṭ, "look, regard." The root represents that which one does with the eye, embracing everything from a mere glance, to a careful, sustained, and favorable contemplation. It is frequently paralleled to rāʾâ (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #1282).

[34] "Shield" is māgēn, "shield, buckler, defense, ruler, armed, scales," now also suzerain is suggested. God is the shield of Israel, the one who protects them. "The word māgēn is also used figuratively of princes as protectors of the realm" (James E. Smith, TWOT #367c).

[35] Hāṣēr, "court, enclosure" (TWOT #722a).

[36] Sāpap, "stand at the threshold." Denominative verb, occurring only here (Hithpoel), from sap, "threshold, sill, door." The KJV, ASV, RSV "doorkeeper," understands the office; newer translations which use the definition given here intend either the Psalmist's practice (cf. LXX) or attitude (R.D. Patterson, TWOT #1538c).

[37] "Dwell" is dûr, "stay, dwell." The noun dôr, "circular (tent-) camp, dwelling place" (Isaiah 38:12; Robert D. Culver, TWOT #418).

[38] "Tent" is ʾōhel, "tent, tabernacle," then "dwelling, home." "The word ʾōhel continued to be used for a habitation or home long after the Israelites had adopted more permanent dwellings" (Jack P. Lewis, TWOT #32a).

[39] "Bestows" is the Qal imperfect of nātan, "give" (TWOT #1143).

[40] "Favor" (ESV, NRSV, NIV), "grace" (KJV) is ḥēn, "favor grace," from ḥānan, be gracious, pity." The verb ḥānan depicts a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need (Edwin Yamauchi, TWOT #694a).

[41] "Honor" (ESV, NRSV, NIV), "glory" (KJV) is kābôd, "glory, honor" The basic meaning is "to be heavy, weighty," then a "weighty" person in society, someone who is honorable, impressive, worthy of respect (John N. Oswalt, TWOT #943d).

[42] "Uprightly" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "blameless" (NIV) is tāmîm, "complete," from tāmam, "be complete." Related adjectives refer to integrity. Tāmîm means "complete, used of animals that are without blemish; also translated as such related adjectives as "full, whole, upright, perfect." It represents the divine standard for man's attainment (J. Barton Payne, (TWOT #2522d).

[43] "Withhold" is mānaʿ, "withhold, keep back, refrain, deny, keep restrain, hinder" (G. Lloyd Carr, TWOT #1216).

[44] "Blessed" is ʾashērî that we saw in verses 4 and 5 -- "fortunate, blessed" or "O the happiness of" the person who fears the Lord (Holladay, p. 31; Victor P. Hamilton, ʾāshar, TWOT #183a).

Copyright © 2020, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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