Life-Study of Psalms, by Witness Lee

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Psalm 120 is the praise of a saint in his going up to Zion concerning Jehovah’s deliverance of him from his distress.

A. The Fifteen Psalms of Ascents
Being the Favorites of Hezekiah’s Singing

According to history, Psalms 120 to 134, fifteen Psalms of Ascents, were the favorites of Hezekiah’s singing (cf. Isa. 38:20). He used to sing these psalms with stringed instruments in the temple at Jerusalem.

B. Meshech, a Place Far to the North in Assyria,
and Kedar, a Place to the South in Arabia

Psalm 120:5 says, "Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech,/I dwell among the tents of Kedar." Here we have two proper nouns—Meshech and Kedar—referring to two places. Meshech was a place far to the north in Assyria, and Kedar was a place to the south in Arabia (Isa. 21:13, 16; Ezek. 27:21). Both may refer to the places in which the psalmist was captured in the Assyrian invasion (2 Kings 18:11; 2 Chron. 32:1). This indicates that Psalm 120 is related to the Assyrian invasion. The Assyrians invaded Israel and took the capital of Israel, Samaria. The writer of this psalm was among the captives in Meshech and Kedar.

C. The Psalmist’s Suffering of Afflictions
in Captivity

How could a godly Israelite have been in Meshech, a place far to the north, and in Kedar, a place to the south? The answer must be that the psalmist was among the godly Jews who had been taken into captivity by the Assyrians. The "distress" in verse 1 may refer to the suffering of afflictions in the psalmist’s captivity. Here the psalmist said, "In my distress I called out to Jehovah,/And He answered me." Verse 6 may indicate that his captivity was for a long time: "Long has my soul had its dwelling/With him who hates peace." Those who hated peace were first the Assyrians and later the Babylonians and the Persians, both of whom invaded Israel. The invading Assyrians were not for peace but for war. Thus, in verse 7 the psalmist went on to say, "I am for peace; but when I speak,/They are for war." Because these invaders also were liars, the psalmist prayed, "O Jehovah, deliver my soul from lying lips,/From a tongue of deceit" (v. 2). The first of the Psalms of Ascents, therefore, describes the suffering of the psalmist in his captivity.

(Life-Study of Psalms, Chapter 41, by Witness Lee)