Psalm 132 is identified as a “song of ascents.” It may have been one of psalms the Israelites sang when they journeyed to Jerusalem (situated about 2,500 feet above sea level) to observe the annual festivals.
The context suggests that all the “affliction” or “humiliation” (“gentleness” or “meekness,” LXX) of David relates to his efforts to secure a permanent location for the ark of the covenant. Before David captured the stronghold of Zion, the Jebusites taunted him. Later, his initial attempt to transfer the ark to the tent he had set up in Zion failed. Contrary to the instructions requiring the Kohathite Levites to carry it by the poles that served this purpose, the ark was transported on a wagon. On the way, the draft animals appear to have caused the ark to move. Seemingly fearing that the ark could fall, Uzzah reached out in an effort to steady it and lost his life in the process. When the ark was successfully transferred to Zion and David danced joyfully in the procession, his wife Michal thereafter chided him for acting in a manner unbecoming his royal status. (2 Samuel 5:6, 7; 6:2-20)
Although not being allowed to build a temple because of having shed much blood in warfare, he did make a large contribution for the project and undertook extensive preparations for the work. In 1 Chronicles 22:14, David is quoted as having done this in his “misery” or “oppressed situation” (“low condition,” LXX). In view of the history associated with developments involving the ark, the psalmist’s words about David’s “affliction” or “humiliation” are most appropriate. For YHWH to remember all of David’s trouble would mean for him to look favorably upon it and, therefore, also upon his representative place of dwelling and those who worshiped there.
The psalmist portrayed David’s intense desire for a permanent place as YHWH’s representative place of dwelling. He vowed to the Most High, the “Mighty One of Jacob” (the forefather of the Israelites who was a worshiper of the true God), promising to spare no effort to attain his desired objective. David would not enter his house, lie down on his bed, or close his eyes to sleep until he had found a place for YHWH, a “dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
“Ephrathah” may be another name for Bethlehem or, besides the village itself, may also designate the surrounding area. The inhabitants heard about the whereabouts of the ark. According to 1 Chronicles 13:5, it was in Kiriath-jearim when David first arranged for it to be transported to Zion. The name Kiriath-jearim means “city of forests,” which links it to the “fields of the thicket” or “forest” (LXX). Instead of “forest,” numerous modern translations use a proper name, and some also supply “ark,” which is the object suggested by the context but not specifically mentioned in the text. “In Bethlehem we heard about the Covenant Box, and we found it in the fields of Jearim.” (GNT, Second Edition) “We heard that the Ark was in Ephrathah; then we found it in the distant countryside of Jaar.” (NLT) “We heard about the Ark in Bethlehem. We found it at Kiriath Jearim.” (NCV)
The psalmist includes himself among worshipers purposing to go to God’s tabernacle, there to bow down at his “footstool.” In this case, the “footstool” may refer to the ark, where YHWH was regarded as representatively sitting above the cherubs. His arising and going to his “resting place” may denote manifesting his presence at the sanctuary. The “ark of his might” would be the ark of the covenant. As the symbol of his presence, it would also be representative of his might. The Septuagint, however, uses the expression “ark of your sanctuary.”
To represent YHWH, who is the ultimate standard of righteousness or justice, the priests, in performing their sacred duties, should be “clothed with righteousness.” In all their actions, they should be upright and just as if dressed with righteousness as with a garment. All “holy ones” or devoted servants of the Most High are to shout for joy, for this is the fitting response of all who delight to serve him.
The psalmist petitioned YHWH not to turn away the face of his anointed one or the king in the line of David. Such turning away of the face would mean refusing to grant favorable attention. The basis for the appeal was God’s covenant with David for a kingdom, as the psalmist introduced the appeal with the words, “for the sake of David your servant” and thereafter mentioned this covenant.
YHWH swore to David, attaching his oath to the promise, and would never turn back from fulfilling his word. That oath-bound promise assured that offspring from David would sit upon his throne.
For those of the royal line, the throne would be secure, provided that they observed God’s covenant and the “testimonies” or decrees that he would teach them. Their sons would then sit upon David’s throne for all time to come.
As the location of the ark of the covenant, Zion proved to be the place that YHWH had chosen. It was the site he desired as his representative dwelling place. Being the location where his presence was manifest, Zion was also his resting place for all time to come. The psalmist spoke of YHWH as determining to dwell there, as he desired it.
God’s choosing of Zion, according to the psalmist, brought benefits to the inhabitants. His abundantly blessing the “provisions” (tsáyid) of Zion would mean that the people would not experience any lack. The poor would be satisfied with bread. (See the Notes section about the Septuagint rendering and other comments on verse 15.)
For YHWH to clothe Zion’s priests with salvation could mean that he empowered them to provide sound instruction and guidance that would result in blessings for the people, including deliverance from their enemies. On account of their significant role in teaching God’s law, the priests would be clothed with salvation or in possession of what could mean salvation or deliverance for those who followed their instruction. The holy ones of Zion or YHWH’s devoted servants would shout for joy, benefiting from his abundant blessing. In the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint, the superlative degree of the shouting for joy or the rejoicing is revealed by repeating the verb.
YHWH would cause the “horn” of David to sprout or grow, granting strength to the royal line of David. The “anointed one” denotes the anointed king of David’s house. God’s preparing or setting up a lamp for his anointed one would indicate that the royal line would continue, not being extinguished. This proved to be the case, as the permanent heir, the Messiah, did come through David’s line.
The enemies of God’s anointed one would be clothed with shame, for YHWH would bring them to their end. As for the anointed one’s diadem, which represented his royal position, it would “shine,” reflecting the dignity and splendor of one divinely authorized to rule. According to the Septuagint, God’s holiness would blossom or flourish upon his anointed one.
Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.
In verse 15, the Septuagint has a form of the word théra, meaning “prey” or “game.” The Hebrew term tsáyid can have this significance. In different contexts, tsáyid often refers to “hunting” or “venison.” Both in the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint, the thought of abundantly blessing is indicated by a repetition of the words for “bless.”