Psalm 131

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2006-04-17 11:41.

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This psalm is attributed to David. As a “song of ascents,” it may have been one of the compositions the Israelites sang when they traveled to Jerusalem for worship at the temple.

The psalmist directed his words to YHWH, giving evidence of his complete confidence in having maintained the proper attitude. In saying his heart was not exalted or “lifted up,” he indicated that, in his deep inner self, he did not have a lofty or prideful opinion of himself. He did not assume an arrogant bearing, with his head carried in an aloof manner. Therefore, his eyes reflected no haughtiness. They were not “raised” or “lofty.”

Because of estimating himself aright, he did not spend time on matters that were beyond his ability and understanding. He recognized what was “too great” and “too marvelous” or “too sublime” (NAB) for him and acted in harmony with his limitations.

Based on the reading of the extant Hebrew text, the psalmist had to put forth effort to acquire humility. He spoke about calming and quieting his “soul” or himself. This suggests that, when arrogant thoughts or attitudes surfaced, he subdued them. He likened his soul or himself to a weanling at his mother’s breast. Upon first being weaned, a child may fuss and cry because of being deprived of its mother’s milk. Soon, however, the weanling becomes accustomed to the change and finds contentment in its mother’s warm embraces. Like such a contented infant, the psalmist or his “soul” had become.

Unlike the extant Hebrew text, the Septuagint places the weanling in a negative light. “If I had not been lowly minded but exalted my soul like a weanling upon its mother, [it would be] as retribution upon my soul.” This rendering suggests that, if the psalmist had acted like a displeased, fussy weanling, he would have been deserving of retribution.

As the concluding verse implies, he had learned to wait patiently on YHWH and avoided arrogantly taking matters into his own hands. Consequently, he urged fellow Israelites, God’s people, to put their hope in YHWH both then and for all ages to come, always trusting him for help in times of need.

Note: See Psalm 1 regarding the divine name (YHWH).