posted on Nov, 26 2021 @ 05:01 PM
Psalm 132 is a very important ceremonial psalm evidently celebrating the occasion (2 Samuel ch6) when David set out to bring the ark of the Lord back
into Jerusalem. In fact, reading between the lines, it might even preserve remnants of the ceremonies of that day.
Or two days. As we read in 2 Samuel, the journey of the ark was interrupted by the accident which occasioned the death of Uzzah, and there was an
interval of three months before the project was completed.
It is easy to guess that the psalm must have had a place in the celebrations of the anniversary of the dedication of the temple. I’m convinced that
the sequence of “Songs of Ascent” was used in the ceremonial of the second temple, and I’m inclined to think that most of them originate from
that period. However, this particular psalm is so firmly focussed on the role of the kings that it must have roots, at least, in the ceremonial of the
first temple. Its history may go back to the very day when David danced before the Lord.
V1 “Remember, O Lord, in David’s favour, all the hardships he endured.”
As we discover in the following verses, this refers to the hardships he endured in bringing back the ark. He is claiming the merit earned by that
David swore a solemn oath that he would not go to bed and sleep, that he would not even enter his house again, until he had found a proper
dwelling-place for [the ark representing the presence of] the Lord, the Mighty One of Jacob.
I suggest that this oath was a public declaration made on the day when David led the procession to collect the ark from Kiriath-Jearim, where it had
settled after being returned by the Philistines. He would have gathered the people at the starting-point close to Jerusalem, and the announcement of
this oath would have been the official beginning of the day’s events. “Now follow me, everyone.” It would have seemed like a very easy oath to
make, because he would have been aware, of course, that he had already made arrangements to complete the task in one day. However, the three-month
interruption would mean that the oath was not quite fulfilled according to plan.
V6 “Lo, we heard of it in Ephratah, we found it in the fields of Jaar.”
Ephratah is known for its association with Bethlehem. Jaar is usually taken as an abbreviation of Kiriath-Jearim. At first glance, this appears to say
that WE were in Ephratah when we heard a report that the ark was in Jaar, which is where we found it. In other words, though everybody knew where the
ark was located, they were acting out a “search” for it.
However, these two lines ought to be equivalent, according to the usual conventions of Hebrew poetry. They should be different ways of saying the same
thing. So the verse makes more sense if Ephratah is a region, approximately south and west of Jerusalem, including both Bethlehem and Kiriath-jearim.
Then the first line means “We had heard that the ark was in Ephratah””, and the second line locates it more specifically.
V7 “Let us go to his dwelling-place; let us worship at his footstool.”
This verse could have several different settings, even independently of its place in this psalm. It might even go back to the days of the tabernacle
at Shiloh. It could have been used in the journey to “find and bring back the ark” described in 2 Samuel ch6. It would have been appropriate
subsequently whenever people were on their way to worship in Jerusalem, or in Jerusalem as they went to worship in the temple.
V8 “Arise, O Lord, and go to thy resting-place, thou and the ark of thy might.”
I can think of at least three occasions when the people may have given this invitation.
Firstly, it was surely part of the ritual when the procession had found the ark at Kirith-Jearim and the Levites were about to take it up and carry
it towards Jerusalem. Perhaps again on the final leg of the journey, after the unplanned interval.
Secondly, it would undoubtedly have been used again when Solomon dedicated his newly-built temple and the ark was brought into it.
Thirdly, it is likely that the whole psalm was being used annually, on the anniversary of the dedication of the temple. The original event took place
in the “harvest-celebration” seventh month, which is now the month of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, etc. I imagine that the second temple was
deliberately dedicated on the same date, so that the question of “Which anniversary do we celebrate?” would not have arisen.
It is even possible that there was an annual procession (at least in the time of the first temple) in which the ark was carried around the environs of
Jerusalem before being returned to the temple. This could combine a post-harvest visit to the adjacent fields with a celebration of the original
incoming of the ark. If the present psalm was being sung during this procession, then this verse could introduce the return leg of the journey.
Some such procession is implied by Psalm 24, which includes the question “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?” and then lays down what looks
like a ritual dialogue between the priests accompanying the ark and the priests at the temple gate (vv7-10);
Ark-priests; Lift up your heads, O gates… that the king of glory may come in.
Gate-priests; Who is the king of glory?
Ark-priests [or both parties together); The Lord strong and mighty… He is the king of glory!
The rest of this psalm claims the promises of the Lord relating to his presence with his people.
If the priests are clothed with righteousness, so that they will judge the people and be safe guides around God’s law, then this will be a reason
for the people to shout for joy.
V10 “Do not turn away the face of thy anointed one.” (RSV)
The original “anointed one”, in the time of the kingdom, was the current king of the house of David.
If the anointed one’s face was “turned away”, that would mean that he was failing to help and support his people (which the king does by
providing justice and defending them against their enemies). Other translations have “Do not reject your anointed one”, as if the original
expression was “Do not turn away your own face FROM him”, but (as far as I can tell) the RSV rendering seems to be following the Hebrew better.
Either way, here is a prayer that the institution of kingship should not be taken away from them. This prayer is made “for thy servant David’s
sake.” They are asking the Lord to honour the oath to David which is summarised in the following verses. In 2 Samuel ch7, this oath follows the
chapter in which David brings back the ark, because he then raises the question of building a temple. It is presented as the Lord’s response to that
suggestion. So the two themes (the ark and the line of David) are very closely connected.
Perhaps vv13-18 are a later addition in the development of the psalm, because they transfer attention to the concept of Zion. It is Zion that is
chosen by the Lord as a resting-place. It will be amply provided with food, and that includes the poor. Finally Vv16-18 give the Lord’s response,
point by point, to the prayers of vv9-10.