The Bible – Old Testament
1 A song of ascents. 2 The LORD answered me when I called in my distress:
LORD, deliver me from lying lips, from treacherous tongues.
3 What will the Lord inflict on you, O treacherous tongue, and what more besides?
4 A warrior’s sharpened arrows and fiery coals of brush wood!
5 Alas, I was an alien in Meshech, I lived near the tents of Kedar!
Too long did I live among those who hated peace.
When I spoke of peace, they were for war.
1 [Psalm 120] A thanksgiving, reporting divine rescue (Psalm 120:10) yet with fervent prayer for further protection against lying attackers (⇒ Psalm 120:2-4). The psalmist is acutely conscious of living away from God’s own land where divine peace prevails (⇒ Psalm 120:5-7).
2  Song of ascents: Psalm 120-134 all begin with this superscription. Most probably these fifteen psalms once formed a collection of psalms sung when pilgrims went to Jerusalem, since one “ascended” to Jerusalem (⇒ 1 Kings 12:28; ⇒ Psalm 24:3; ⇒ 122:4; ⇒ Luke 2:42) or to the house of God or to an altar (⇒ 1 Kings 12:33; ⇒ 2 Kings 23:2; ⇒ Psalm 24:3). Less probable is the explanation that these psalms were sung by the exiles when they “ascended” to Jerusalem from Babylonia (cf ⇒ Ezra 7:9). The idea, found in the Mishnah, that the fifteen steps on which the Levites sang corresponded to these fifteen psalms (Middot 2:5) must underlie the Vulgate translation canticum graduum, “song of the steps” or “gradual song.”
3  More besides: a common curse formula in Hebrew was “May the Lord do such and such evils to you [the evils being specified], and add still more to them.” Cf ⇒ 1 Sam 3:17; ⇒ 14:44; ⇒ 25:22. Here the psalmist is at a loss for a suitable malediction.
4  Coals of brushwood: coals made from the stalk of the broom plant burn with intense heat. The psalmist thinks of lighted coals cast at his enemies.
5  Meshech was in the far north (⇒ Genesis 10:2) and Kedar was a tribe of the north Arabian desert (⇒ Genesis 25:13). The psalmist may be thinking generally of all aliens living among inhospitable peoples.