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120. Psalm 120

In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.

2Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.

3What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?

4Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.

5Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!

6My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.

7I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.

5. Alas for me! that I have been a sojourner in Mesech. David complains that he was doomed to linger for a long time among a perverse people; his condition resembling that of some wretched individual who is compelled to live till he grows old in sorrowful exile. The Mesechites and Kedarenes, as is well known, were Eastern tribes; the former of which derived their original from Japhet, as Moses informs us in Genesis 10:2; and the latter from a son of Ishmael. (Genesis 25:13.) To take the latter for a people of Italy, who were anciently called Hetrurians, is altogether absurd, and without the least color of probability, Some ‘would have the word Mesech to be an appellative noun; and because מש mashak, signifies to draw, to protract, they think that the Prophet bewails his protracted banishment, of the termination of which he saw no prospect. 5555     This is the sense in which the word is rendered in most of the ancient versions. Thus the Septuagint has ἡ παροικία μρυ ἐμακρύνθη, “my sojourning is protracted;” and it is followed by the Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic versions. Aquila has προσηλύτευσα ἐν μακρυσμῷ I was a stranger for a long time;” and Symmachus, παροικῶν παρίλκυσα “I have protracted sojourning.” Bishop Patrick and Dr. Hammond, following these authorities, render משך, mesech, adverbially. But though this is a meaning which the word will bear, yet as Calvin observes, there is little room for doubting that it is here a proper name. The parallelism which enables us in many instances to determine the accurate interpretation of a word in Hebrew poetry when other helps entirely fail, decidedly favors this interpretation. The term corresponding to משך mesech, in the next hemistich, is קרר kedar; and as it is universally admitted that this is the name of a place, it cannot be justly questioned that such is also the case with respect to משך mesech. To render it otherwise is destructive of the poetical structure of the passage. “If,” says Phillips, “the adverbial sense be intended, then the expression should not have been גרתי משך, but something analogous to רבת שכנה in the next verse. Many localities have been mentioned for the geography of Mesech, as Tuscany, Cappadocia, Armenia, etc., which proves that the particular district called by this name is uncertain.” It is however obvious that some barbarous and brutal tribes of Arabs are intended. But as immediately after he adds Kedar, by which term the Ishmaelites are unquestionably intended, I have no doubt that Mesech is to be understood of the Arabians who were their neighbors. If any one is of opinion that the Mesechites obtained this name from their dexterity in shooting with the bow, I will make no objections, provided it is admitted that the Prophet — as if he had been confined within a country of robbers — expresses the irksomeness of an uncomfortable and an annoying place of residence. Although he names the Arabians, yet under the terms employed he speaks metaphorically of his own countrymen, just as he elsewhere applies the appellation of Gentiles to the corrupt and degenerate Jews. 5656     A similar mode of speaking is not uncommon in our own day. Thus we are accustomed to call gross and ignorant people Turks and Hottentots. But here, with the view of putting still more dishonor upon his enemies, he has purposely selected the name by which to designate them from some of the savage and barbarous nations whose horrible cruelty was well known to the Jews. From these words we are taught, that scarcely a more distressing evil can befall the people of God, than for them to be placed in circumstances which, notwithstanding their living a holy and an inoffensive life, they yet cannot escape the calumnies of venomous tongues. It is to be observed, that although David was living in his own country, he yet was a stranger in it, nothing being more grievous to him than to be in the company of wicked men. Hence we learn that no sin is more detestable to God, by whose Spirit David spake, than the false accusations which shamefully deface the beauty of God’s Church, and lay it waste, causing it to differ little from the dens of robbers, or other places rendered infamous from the barbarous cruelty of which they are the scene. Now if the place where the uprightness of good men is overwhelmed by the criminations of lying lips is to the children of God converted into a region of miserable exile, how could they have pleasure, or rather, how could they fail to feel the bitterest sorrow, in abiding in a part of the world where the sacred name of God is shamefully profaned by horrible blasphemies, and his truth obscured by detestable lies? David exclaims, Alas for me! because, dwelling among false brethren and a bastard race of Abraham, he was wrongfully molested and tormented by them, although he had behaved himself towards them in good conscience. 5757     “D’autant que dcmeurant entre des faux freres et une race bastardc d’Abraham, a tort il est par eux molest4 et tourment( cornroe ainsi soit th’envers eux il se porte en bonne conscience.” — Fr. Since, then, at the present day, in the Church of Rome, religion is dishonored by all manner of disgraceful imputations, faith torn in pieces, light turned into darkness, and the majesty of God exposed to the grossest mockeries, it will certainly be impossible for those who have any feeling of true piety within them to lie in the midst of such pollutions without great anguish of spirit.

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