World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
4. Behold! he who keepeth Israel will not slumber nor sleep.
A notion was prevalent among the heathen, that their gods sometimes slept, and were not then conscious of the wants of their worshippers. Elijah thus addressed in irony the followers of Baal, 1 Kings 18:27:
“Cry aloud; for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing,
or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth,
and must be waked.”
Very different was the character of the guardian of Israel. He relaxed not his watchful care over his people by indulging in light slumbers during the day, nor even by sleeping in the night, when the tired frame of man seeks and demands repose. To recall each individual to the consideration of the common covenant, he represents the Divine providence as extending to the whole body of the Church. In order that each of us for himself may be assured that God will be gracious to him, it behoves us always to begin with the general promise made to all God’s people,. This form of expression, he will not slumber nor sleep, would be improper in other languages, according to the idiom of which it should rather be, He will not sleep, yea, he will not slumber: but when the Hebrews invert this order, they argue from the greater to the less. The sense then is, that as God never slumbers even in the smallest degree, we need not be afraid of any ham befalling us while he is asleep. The design of the Prophet is now obvious. To persuade true believers that God has a special care of each of them in particular, he brings forward the promise which God made to the whole people, and declares God to be the guardian of his Church, that from this general principle, as from a fountain, each might convey streams to himself. Accordingly immediately after, (Psalm 121:5,) addressing himself to each in particular, he repeats, Jehovah is thy keeper, that no person might hesitate to apply to himself that which belonged to the whole community of Israel. Besides, God is called a defense at the right hand, to teach us that it is not necessary for us to go far in seeking him, but that he is at hand, or rather stands at our side to defend us.