Psalm 122

This song of ascents is attributed to David. In view of the reference to “throne(s) of the house of David,” however, the original composition may have been adapted to the circumstances existing when Psalm 122 was placed in the collection of sacred songs. This psalm, like the other songs of ascents, may have been sung by those going up to Jerusalem for worship.

The psalmist delighted to go to the sanctuary. To hear others say, “let us go to YHWH’s house,” brought him joy.

Along with other worshipers of YHWH, the psalmist, with reference to the city gates, spoke of standing inside Jerusalem. (While the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint read “our feet,” the largest one of the Dead Sea Psalms scrolls [the Great Psalms Scroll] says “my feet.”) Because the area for building within the city was limited by reason of the terrain, the houses were built close together. This may be why the psalmist referred to Jerusalem as “bound firmly together” (NRSV), “ one united whole” (NJB), or “knit together.” (Tanakh) For the three annual festivals, all the tribes of Israel would assemble. These were occasions for giving thanks to the “name of YHWH,” the Almighty who had revealed himself in the events of history as the bearer of this name. All the men were under obligation to attend the festivals, and translators have commonly understood the words “a testimony to Israel” (also thus rendered in the Septuagint) as meaning “as was decreed for Israel” (NRSV), “the duty laid on Israel” (REB), “as was enjoined upon Israel” (Tanakh), “according to [God’s] command” (TEV), “an ordinance for Israel” (NASB), and “according to the statute given to Israel.” (NIV) In the Great Psalms Scroll, however, these words are missing, and the passage reads, “to which the congregation of Israel [ascends] to give thanks to the name of YHWH.”

The expression “thrones of judgment” parallels “throne(s) of the house of David,” and evidently points to the judicial role of the Davidic dynasty. In view of the city’s role as the seat of government and, more importantly, as the center of worship, its prosperity, peace, and security had a direct bearing on the nation. Accordingly, the psalmist requested the Israelites to pray for the “peace of Jerusalem.” He included the petition that all those loving the city, being genuinely concerned about its welfare, would enjoy security. His prayer was that peace would prevail within the city walls, and security within the city’s fortifications. Because of what the city meant to his brothers and friends, the psalmist prayed for its peace or well-being. On account of its vital role as the center for worship, the location of “the house of YHWH our God,” he would continue “to work for” (CEV) or “seek” its “good.”


Regarding YHWH, see Psalm 1.

The Great Psalms Scroll, in verse 3, does not include the word “together” and, in verse 5, has the singular “throne of the house of David.”