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Psalms: Chapter 133

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A song of ascents. Of David.

1How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together. 2It is like fine oil on the head running down onto the beard, the beard of Aaron, that comes down over the collar of his robe; 3like the dew of Hermon that falls upon the mountains of Zion. There the LORD ordained blessing, everlasting life.

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Ps. 133 :

A short psalm, difficult to interpret; its precise point is uncertain, since the meaning of its images, and their connection, are debated. Its focus on Zion, however, is common in the Songs of Ascents. Like several other of these poems, phrases in one line are repeated in the next (vv. 1–2 “tov,” good, fine; vv. 2–3 “y‐r‐d,” running down, comes down, falls). The images used combine to produce a picture of great blessing in Zion. This psalm, together with the previous one, mentions rituals concerning the king and high priest, who shared power in the postexilic period (see Zech. 6.13 ).

1 :

While often taken to refer to brotherly harmony in a general sense, the v. is better understood as a hope for the reunification of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (see Ezek. 37.15–28 ).

2–3 :

It is uncertain if the oil and dew are being compared to the dwelling together, as this translation suggests, or if they are only being compared to each other (Like fine oil…is the dew of Hermon). On the oil used for anointing Aaron, see Exod. 30.22–33 ; the depiction of the overflowing, effulgent nature of this anointing is lacking in the Torah. Mount Hermon, on the northern tip of Israel, was very high, and therefore received much dew. This is the only reference to mountains (plural!) of Zion— perhaps the hills surrounding Jerusalem are meant, though the Dead Sea Psalms scroll reads the more usual “mountain.” Zion might here be associated with Mount Hermon, as one of the northern mountains, as in 48.3 (see n. there). Blessing refers to fertility, as in Lev. 25.21 ; the word blessing anticipates the theme of the following psalm. Everlasting life is hyperbolic; the Dead Sea Psalms scroll instead concludes this psalm; “There the LORD ordained blessing forever; May all be well with Israel” (see Pss. 125.5; 128.6 ).

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