Psalm 122 – The Peace of the City of Peace

Psalm 122 Bible with Lily's 55 Percent Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate

Today’s Chocolate:  Lily’s 55% Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagePsalm 122

Like yesterday’s psalm, the first verse of this psalm has inspired a contemporary English worship song. I will not, however, be linking to a recording of it, because here are the lyrics:

I was glad when they said unto me,
I was glad when they said unto me,
I was glad when they said unto me,
“Let us go into the house of the Lord.”

So glad (so glad), so glad (so glad), so glad (so glad), so glad (so glad)

(repeat until dead)

The lyricist behind Psalm 122, thankfully, had a little more to say than that, so let’s take a look. The theme of his pen here is Jerusalem.

As the capitol of the kingdom of Israel, Jerusalem was of paramount importance to ancient Israelites. Known as the Holy City and the City of David, its position in the Judaean Mountains required an uphill journey to reach it, and as the home of Solomon’s temple, it played a central role in Jewish religious life for centuries. The psalmist shows Jerusalem’s prominent place when he describes it as a city “to which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord—an ordinance for Israel—to give thanks to the name of the Lord” (122:4). Jerusalem is a place for gratitude and unity.

The second half of the psalm is a prayer for peace and prosperity in Jerusalem. The name “Jerusalem” is related to the Hebrew word shalom, “peace,” and some translators would give its meaning as “foundation of peace.” So when the psalm commands the people, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (122:6), in my limited understanding of Biblical Hebrew, I might render the line, “Pray for the peace of the city founded on peace.” Moreover, the word for “pray” here is shaal. Look at the line in Hebrew:

שַׁ֭אֲלוּ שְׁל֣וֹם יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם יִ֝שְׁלָ֗יוּ אֹהֲבָֽיִךְ׃

Even without a full grasp of the Hebrew alphabet, I can see the repeated שְׁל֣, a “shal” sound. The line is highly alliterative, punctuating this prayer for peace and prosperity.

I’m no scholar of Jewish history, but even with my limited knowledge, I know Jerusalem has been through some ups and downs. I could cite Rezin and Pekah’s assaults against it that we saw in Isaiah, or the siege of the city in 70 AD, or its modern conflicts, of which I know even fewer details. But I know God is at work for peace in the world, and he intends someday to bring peace to all of humanity. And when I pray for peace, I’d do well to remember Jerusalem.

 

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2 thoughts on “Psalm 122 – The Peace of the City of Peace

  1. More good work! I would have said that Jerusalem was capitol of Judah (southern kingdom) rather than Israel (northern ten tribes kingdom post Rehoboam). But it occurred to me that I don’t know whether the kingdom of David, Solomon, Rehoboam wasn’t called Israel. Israel is used to signify many things in Hebrew bible. Hope I remember to browse First of Samuel and Chronicles later. Dad

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    1. The terminology doesn’t always make things easy. I tend to use the terms “Jews,” “Hebrews,” and “Israelites” interchangeably when preceded with the word “ancient,” but there are probably nuances and particulars there that I’m neglecting. In all probability, I could stand to be more careful with my wording!

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