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Psalm 122

Song of Praise and Prayer for Jerusalem

A Song of Ascents. Of David.


I was glad when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the L ord!”


Our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.



Jerusalem—built as a city

that is bound firmly together.


To it the tribes go up,

the tribes of the L ord,

as was decreed for Israel,

to give thanks to the name of the L ord.


For there the thrones for judgment were set up,

the thrones of the house of David.



Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May they prosper who love you.


Peace be within your walls,

and security within your towers.”


For the sake of my relatives and friends

I will say, “Peace be within you.”


For the sake of the house of the L ord our God,

I will seek your good.

1 I was glad when they said to me. God had often told Moses, that his Sanctuary would one day have a certain and fixed place of abode; yet from the time of Moses, for the space of more than a thousand years, the Ark of the Covenant had been carried about from place to place, as if it had been in a state of pilgrimage. At length it was revealed to David, that mount Zion was the spot where God would have his ark to be settled, and his temple built. Now, as David himself received this revelation with exceeding great joy, so he affirms that he was glad to find the whole people with one consent agreeing thereto. This circumstance has not been duly considered, and the consequence is, that interpreters have given the unhappy translation—I was glad with those that said to me. Such a rendering, however, only renders the sense a little obscure; but the translation of the Septuagint and the Vulgate, which puts upon the second verb of the verse a neuter signification, entirely vitiates the meaning, I was glad in the things which, were said to me. I indeed admit that literally the reading is—I was glad in those who said to me; but it is no uncommon thing for the letter ב, beth, which commonly signifies in, to be resolved into the adverb of time when; and here the scope of the text requires such a rendering. David testifies that he felt in his heart a double joy on observing that the whole people concurred in yielding obedience to the oracle which declared mount Zion to be the place which God had chosen for his solemn worship. By this example we are taught, that our joy, in like manner, should be doubled, when God by his Holy Spirit not only frames each of us to the obedience of his word, but also produces the same effect upon others, that we may be united together in the same faith. So stubborn and rebellious is human nature, that the great majority of mankind invariably murmur against God whenever he speaks. We have, therefore, no small ground for rejoicing when all harmoniously rank themselves with us on the side of God. Such as translate, with those who said to me, deduce this meaning: I take delight in the company of those who allure me to the service of God, and offer themselves to me as companions, that we may go to the sanctuary together. But from the second verse it will be still more obvious, that the joy of which David speaks proceeded from his seeing the people, with the ready obedience of faith, giving their consent to the utterance of the heavenly oracle, respecting the spot chosen to be the lawful and permanent scat of the ark of the covenant. For it immediately follows —

2. Our feet shall be standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem! In the Hebrew text the verb is indeed in the past tense, which it would not be unsuitable to retain; but as it makes little difference as to the meaning whether the one reading or the other is adopted, I have no difficulty in leaving my readers to their own choice. David rehearses the language in which all the godly in common expressed themselves — that they should at length stand with sure footing in Jerusalem, because it was the will of God there to establish his Sanctuary, which hitherto had often changed its lodgings, and had been carried from place to place. By such a pilgrimage state of the ark, God reminded the people that he had not without cause spoken by Moses what I have a little ago adverted to. Thus, whenever the ark of the covenant was conveyed from one place to another, God thereby stirred up the hearts of his servants to desire and pray that a certain settled place might be appointed to it. Moreover, this fixing of its seat was not a matter of small moment. As while it was frequently changing its abode, the faith of the people hung in suspense, so after God had chosen for it a permanent residence, he by this testified more unequivocally that he would be the ever, lasting and unchangeable protector of his people. It is, therefore, not surprising to find the faithful gratefully acknowledging that their feet, which had hitherto been wont to run from place to place, should henceforth stand steadfast within the gates of Jerusalem. The ark, it is true, dwelt a long time in Shiloh, (1 Samuel 1:3,) but God having made no promise concerning that place, it could not be the permanent abode of that symbol of the divine presence. On the contrary, since, as we shall see on Psalm 132:14, it was said of mount Zion — “This is my rest for ever,” the faithful, depending upon that promise, confidently boast that their feet shall hereafter be at rest and stand firm. Farther, as Christ,

“in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” (Colossians 2:9,)

and who is our true Immanuel, (Isaiah 7:14,) now resides amongst us, he has furnished us with matter of more abundant joy. We are, therefore, ungrateful and stupid, if that promise —

“Lo, I am wit you always, even unto the end of the world,”
(Matthew 28:20,)

does not ravish us with exceeding joy, and especially if we see it in any place received publicly and with common consent. What I have just now quoted concerning the rest or repose of the Lord, has been at length accomplished in the person of Christ, as is evident from Isaiah 11:10 — “His rest shall be glorious;” where the Prophet does not speak of the burial of Christ, as some interpreters erroneously suppose, but of the future distinction of the Church.

3. Jerusalem is built as a city. Here David begins to celebrate the praises of Jerusalem; and he does this with the design of encouraging the people to persevere with uniform steadfastness in their obedience. It was of great importance for the minds of the godly, instead of being drawn hither and thither, to be kept constantly fixed on that city, which was the bond of a holy unity. When the people came to be divided into two bodies, that was the commencement of melancholy devastation. It is not surprising, then, to find David commending with such earnestness the place which God had chosen, knowing, as he did, that the prosperity of the Church depended upon the children of Abraham worshipping God there in purity, according to the appointed observances of the law; and next, upon their acknowledging the royal seat which the same God had erected there by his own authority, and had taken under his own protection When it is said that Jerusalem is built as a city, it is not to be understood as referring only to the walls, or towers, or ditches of that city, but chiefly to the good order and holy polity by which it was distinguished, although I allow that there is some allusion to its ancient state. Salem, indeed, had been a noted town even from the beginning; but when God selected it to be the head of the kingdom, it changed its appearance, and in a manner its nature, so that then it began to deserve the name of a well-regulated city. At first sight it may seem a poor commendation to call Jerusalem a city; but it is to be observed that it is here exhibited as it were standing alone in the whole world — taking the precedence of all other cities, which will in vain attempt to equal it. David, certainly, in thus speaking, does not intend to divest other cities of the rank to which they may be entitled, but he raises Jerusalem higher, that it may appear conspicuous above them all, even as we find Isaiah, (Isaiah 2:2,) when speaking of mount Zion, asserting that it “shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills.” In that passage the Prophet, to magnify this little hill, brings down the loftiest mountains of the world, that they may not obscure its glory. In like manner David here affirms that Jerusalem is compacted as a city, to induce the faithful, instead of gazing in all directions around them, to rest contented with the city which God had chosen, since they would nowhere find its equal. After having humbled all other cities, he shows, in a few words, the excellence of Jerusalem, representing it as regularly built, or fitly and neatly joined together in all its parts. Some take these words as expressing literally and without figure, that its citizens live together in peace and unity; but I see no impropriety in supposing that they describe, metaphorically, the peaceable state of a city. Thus the mutual concord which reigns among the citizens of a city, and by which they are united to each other, is compared to buildings, compacted together by a skillful and elegant workmanship, so that there is nothing imperfect, in joined together, or rent, but throughout a beautiful harmony’. By this David teaches us, that the Church can only remain in a state of safety when unanimity prevails in her, and when, being joined together by faith and charity, she cultivates a holy unity.

4. Thither the tribes ascended. David here invests Jerusalem with two titles of honor, calling it the sacred and regularly appointed place for calling upon the name of God; and next, the royal sea, to which the whole people were to have recourse for obtaining justice. All our salvation depends upon these two points; first, that Christ has been given to us to be our priest; and, secondly, that he has been established king to govern us. This God showed to his ancient people under figures. The sanctuary erected on mount Zion was intended to keep their faith fixed upon the spiritual priesthood of Christ; and in like manner, by the kingdom of David, there was presented to their view an image of the kingdom of Christ. The Psalmist, therefore, says in the first place, that the tribes or families of God shall come to Jerusalem; and then he immediately adds, that there the seat of judgment is erected, on which he and his posterity will sit. The reason why it was the will of God that there should be only one temple and one altar was, that the people might not fall away to various superstitions. David therefore here declares that this place was appointed by God’s own mouth, that all the families of God, or the twelve tribes, might there assemble from all quarters. To express more plainly how important it was, for this form of God’s worship to be preserved pure and complete, he says that it was for a testimony The noun employed comes from the verb עוד, ud, which signifies to bear witness, or to covenant. Now by the word in this place is denoted a mutual declaration or agreement between God and the people. When the tribes shall come thither, says the Prophet substantially, it will not be at random, because their fancy thus leads them, but because God by his own mouth invites them. The amount therefore is, that the holy assemblies which shall be kept at Jerusalem will not be vain and unprofitable, since God has made a covenant with his people, determining and appointing that place for his service. Whence we learn, that in judging of the true temple of God, it is necessary to take into account the doctrine taught. With respect to the time in which David lived, as God had adopted the Jewish people, and as it was his will that they should be employed in the external worship of his name, he prescribed to them a rule from which it was unlawful for them to deviate. Thus when the faithful assembled on mount Zion, it was not foolishness or inconsiderate zeal, or the impulse of their own minds, which brought them thither, as if they resembled those men whom we daily see inventing for themselves, out of their own heads, numberless kinds of divine worship; but they were led thither by the command of God, that they might worship him on mount Zion, by which word the Prophet intimates, that all other temples are unholy, and all other religions perverse and corrupt, because they do not correspond with the rule laid down in God’s word. He next subjoins the end of this contract or covenant, which was that the name of God might be praised. And, indeed, as to yield to God the glory of all good things is the end of our adoption, so it is the end of all our actions.

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